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“Gathered together and finally free, with a dim hope of promised lands, they were as if drunk. They stormed through villages and cities, taking everything… and they killed all the Jews they came upon here and there and stripped them of their possessions.

‘Why the Jews?’ I asked Salvatore. He answered, ‘And why not?’ He explained to me that all his life preachers had told him the Jews were the enemies of Christianity and accumulated possessions that had been denied the Christian poor. I asked him, however, whether it was not also true that lords and bishops accumulated possessions through tithes, so that the Shepherds were not fighting their true enemies. He replied that when your true enemies are too strong, you have to choose weaker enemies. I reflected that this is why the simple are so called. Only the powerful always know with great clarity who their true enemies are. The lords did not want the Shepherds to jeopardize their possessions, and it was a great good fortune for them that the Shepherds’ leaders spread the notion that the greatest wealth belonged to the Jews.

I asked him who had put into the crowd’s head the idea of attacking the Jews. Salvatore could not remember. I believe that when such crowds collect, lured by a promise and immediately demanding something, there is never any knowing who among them speaks.”


Pulled from chapter eight of Umberto Eco’s 1995 novel The Name of the Rose. One should note that the “Shepherds” here are the Pastoreaux, Salvatore’s gang of crusaders, not guys who look out for livestock for a living.

Image: Wikicommons