The campaign that ended in the battle of Ager Sanguinis was born out of Frankish strength rather than weakness. It was the complacency and overconfidence of that strength which caused the Antiochene army to behave in a way which broke with the established norms of crusader campaigning. The protocols were clear: muster locally to restrict the enemy’s movements, call for reinforcements from the other Christian states and behave cautiously until help arrived. In the meantime, wait for the Muslim forces to make a mistake or hope that they would be forced to retire as their irregular troops lost heart in the absence of easy plunder.
The strength of the initial position arose from the pressure Prince Roger of Antioch and his frontier barons had been exerting on Aleppo. There was always a struggle between Aleppo and Antioch to control the crucial frontier zone which separated them. Aleppo is approximately 90km to the east of Antioch. The two cities were linked by an ancient Roman road but the ‘natural’ mid-way frontier point between the two is characterised by a series of difficult hills, the Jabal Talat: the major settlements and fortifications in the region had naturally formed to the east and west of this difficult terrain.
To the west of the Jabal Talat lay the settlements of Artah, ‘Imm and Harim, all under Frankish control. The other potential ‘natural’ border was only 30km from Aleppo itself. By 1119 this eastern frontier zone was largely in Christian hands too. Frankish forces were based in Sarmada and were in control of other key points, having taken al-Atharib and Zardana in 1111. Disturbingly for the local Muslim states, Prince Roger and his frontier lords were using this position of strength to try to encircle Aleppo. In 1118 even the important town of ‘Azaz, to the north of Aleppo, was surrendered to them.
In subsequent negotiations the Aleppans were forced to hand over lands to the north and east to the Antiochenes, and to reinstate the protection money they paid, in the form of a monthly tribute, to the Franks. But even that was not enough. Early in 1119 the Franks managed to capture the town of Buza’a, to the north-east of Aleppo. The Franks were leaving the Aleppans with very few options. Their city was almost surrounded. It was increasingly clear that Frankish intentions to capture Aleppo could no longer be contained by conventional means.
The Aleppans were facing a dilemma with two possible solutions, neither of which was very attractive to their ruling class. On the one hand, as the Franks were clearly looking for more than a mere tributary relationship with Aleppo, the city could accept the inevitable and surrender to Antioch. There was still a large Christian minority in Aleppo itself, and in the surrounding countryside, so this outcome would not have been universally unpalatable to many of the ordinary people. On the other hand, to avoid surrender to the Christians, Aleppo could give up its independence in return for massive military aid from a Muslim power with access to bigger and better Turkic armies. This solution was not ideal. For most of the Aleppan population, Turkic rulers and their troops were just as foreign as the Franks.
But they were largely Muslim, as were the ruling class of Aleppo and the majority of the townsfolk. Faced with no better choice, the Aleppans called for help from the Turkic warlord, Il-Ghazi. Unstable, unpredictable, sadistic and borderline alcoholic, Il-Ghazi was never going to be an ideal candidate for the role of ‘white knight’. But the Aleppans were desperate and he was the least bad option under the circumstances.
Il-Ghazi raised an army that was spectacular in its size and ferocity. Sources talk of 20,000–80,000 steppe warriors, supplemented by the local ‘askars, mercenaries and volunteers.68 This was an extremely powerful force, fast, numerous and very dangerous: hard men inured to a hard and often violent life. All nomadic armies were fragile and volatile too, however, and here Il-Ghazi’s numbers counted against him. This vast force needed booty and fodder, and in huge quantities. If they did not get these, and if they were not led to towns they could plunder, his army would quickly begin to disperse. They were formidable fighters, but their lack of discipline and the fact that most were fighting a long way from home meant that they needed to be used quickly.
To face them, Prince Roger had a good solid core of veteran troops, spearheaded by his superb heavy cavalry. Efforts had been made to increase the number of available troops but there were still far too few men. Walter the Chancellor, who was not only with the army but also had a hand in organising it, estimated that the Antiochene army consisted of 700 knights, and 3,000 foot soldiers, together with ‘many others who had gone to battle for the sake of pay or on account of greed for enemy wealth’.
We know from later events that there was a substantial body of Turcopoles with the army, and in other battles these could constitute as much as 50 per cent of the total cavalry force. A local Syrian chronicler suggested that the Antiochene cavalry force consisted of ‘six hundred Frankish cavalry [and] five hundred Armenian cavalry’, which gives an interesting sense of the proportions.
Whatever the exact details, it is clear that Roger had the field army of the principality with him and that his main striking force was a good-quality cadre of some 3,000–4,000 men, drawn broadly equally from Frankish feudal troops and local Christians. To boost the size of the army without totally denuding his castles, he had had to scrape the barrel, and had recruited possibly the same number again of untrained volunteers and scavengers. This was a substantial force by crusader standards, but the numbers were deceptive.
They were still hugely outnumbered by Il-Ghazi’s force, probably by about three to one, or more, although they almost certainly did not fully understand this at the time: crusader estimates of the size of the Muslim army were only written after the enormity of the defeat became apparent. The large number of ‘volunteers’ that Roger had brought with him would make the army look more intimidating from a distance, and might be useful for activities such as foraging, but their value in a pitched battle was highly questionable, and could even be counter-productive if they panicked and fled through the more experienced units of the army.
At first, things went well for the Franks. Roger mustered his army and moved across the Orontes at the Iron Bridge. They then moved down to Balat, near Sarmada, and made camp. Up to this point everything was going according to the normal Frankish defensive protocols. Messengers were sent to ask the other crusader states for help. A suitable forward camp was established, close enough to Il-Ghazi to inhibit the movement of his army, and to intimidate his foraging parties. The camp was not perfect from the point of view of provisions, but it was good enough, and preparations were immediately made to ensure that its natural defences were improved. Walter the Chancellor, who was with the army at the time, explicitly says that ‘some of our men were sent to fortify the camp outside’. Roger and his men could sit out the Turkic onslaught, prepare for the arrival of reinforcements and wait, perhaps for a few weeks or a couple of months, until the Muslim army dispersed.
This situation was not ideal. It never was. The invaders would have time to lay waste the frontier, destroying crops, killing and capturing peasants. But it was just as problematic for Il-Ghazi. If he could not give his troops access to plentiful booty (and that meant destroying armies and towns, rather than just local villages that were already operating barely above subsistence level) he would lose his men. And it could be several years before he might gather such a host again.
He knew that he needed to provoke the Franks into action. On 26 June, Il-Ghazi moved his men to besiege the important castle of al-Atharib. The Franks believed this was primarily a feint to draw them away from their relatively well-defended position at Balat, and this was to some extent echoed in the accounts of the Muslim chroniclers. An attack on al-Atharib was a predictable but powerful incentive for the Christian forces to leave camp. The Muslim attack was made in force, however, and it may be that what the Christians thought to be a diversion was in fact a real attempt to capture it.
From Il-Ghazi’s perspective it was probably a bit of both. If the Franks refused to take the bait, he stood to capture one of the main fortifications threatening Aleppo: a major victory for his campaign and a significant setback to the Frankish frontiers. If they came to the town’s aid, he might have an opportunity to attack them on the difficult approaches to the town, outnumbered and off-guard.
Roger was still responding cautiously at this stage. Rather than break camp and send his whole army off to al-Atharib, he sent a detachment to its relief. The troops set off on the night of 26–27 June and, as they needed to move fast, it was primarily a cavalry force. They presumably had orders to liaise with the garrison, move in to help with the defence if the siege looked serious or, if circumstances permitted, to try to coordinate an attack on Il-Ghazi’s forces.
Arriving at first light, the young commanders of the crusading forces decided that a coordinated attack on the besieging army from two sides might drive them off or, at the very least, delay preparations for the siege. The Muslim army ‘suddenly saw the knights of al-Atharib and a band of infantry of that castle and certain of our men, who had come there by night, arriving close by in the manner of defenders as if to challenge them to battle’.
Walter the Chancellor was present when the leader of the reinforcements and his household knights returned to the camp, and told the waiting leaders of the action at al-Atharib. He was able to give us a uniquely detailed account of how the fighting had developed.
The infantry from the garrison came out first and formed a defensive line.74 An initial charge by the Frankish knights started well and the shock of impact inflicted heavy casualties on the more lightly armed Turkic troops: ‘Our men . . . drew their shields close to their sides, brandished their lances, sank in their spurs . . . and charged into the middle of the enemy. Dealing violent blows in knightly fashion they cast some down to the ground, some again, with blood pouring forth, they drove down . . . with fatal wounds.’
A knight called Robert of Vieux-Pont seems to have led the attack by the reinforcements from the field army. We know that he was already a seasoned fighter, having campaigned against Mawdud in previous invasions, and was a member of a renowned Sicilian Norman family whose ancestors had fought alongside William the Conqueror. He was famous, even in the west, as an ‘indefatigable soldier who often raided the gentiles’ lands with his military following’.
Although the initial impact caused the Turkic troops to recoil, their greater numbers and mobility meant that the shock was eventually absorbed. Lances, used to best effect in the opening seconds of a charge, were dropped as the fighting came to closer quarters, degenerating into a mêlée where swords were more useful. The Frankish troops quickly got bogged down, and Robert himself was wounded and unhorsed. As Walter wrote, during ‘these skirmishes Robert of Vieux-Pont . . . charged many of them as they rode in troops and struck them, and at once, after he had broken his lance on one of them he drew his sword and struck others of them again, and only when he himself had been struck in return by many, and his horse pierced by many different weapons, did he fall, brought down by irresistible force’. His men managed to get to him before he was completely overwhelmed, however, and got him another horse.
While Robert’s knights retreated and regrouped behind the infantry, the Muslim cavalry likewise recovered and formed up again. Some of the Turkic cavalry, presumably those more heavily armoured, prepared to charge the Christian ranks before they could regroup, no doubt helped in this by their lighter cavalry moving in to outflank and potentially surround the small Christian force. The Frankish cavalry did not want to be caught stationary by an enemy attack, as the initial shock of their momentum was the major advantage of a knightly charge. Robert managed to reform his men just in time and launched a counter-charge.
Casualties were heavy on both sides and, once again, the fighting quickly deteriorated into a series of small mêlées, with knots of soldiers fighting around their comrades. Robert, as ever, was leading from the front. He was once again unhorsed and ‘he hit the ground protected by his shield, and . . . escaped death’.79 The Frankish garrison troops also charged and counter-charged, led by their young lord, Alan of al-Atharib. Described as a ‘youth’ in 1115, he was probably still in his late teens at this point, but was keen to lead his men into battle.
The fighting outside al-Atharib was eventually called off. The Frankish infantry remained on the defensive, creating a line behind which the knights could be protected from enemy archery prior to a charge, and behind which they could regroup if the charge failed to break the enemy. The essentially passive but vital nature of their role was widely recognised, despite their social inferiority. Ironically, although their actions were less glamorous than those of the knights, and certainly largely ignored as they made their ‘after-battle reports’, the infantry component of the garrison seems to have suffered the most casualties, particularly from the archery of the Turkic horse archers as they became separated from the knights in the course of the two charges: ‘the poor are believed to have been hurt by the least more than the rich by the greatest’.81 That is, the infantry suffered more casualties from the ‘least’ of the Muslim army, the lighter armed horse archers, while the relatively well-protected knights took fewer casualties from the heavier cavalry that they contacted in their charges.
The garrison and the wounded eventually withdrew back into al-Atharib while others ‘returned to the army’ to report on the action and to give Roger more information about the enemy’s movements and likely intentions. In fact, the battle reports of Robert of Vieux-Pont and his seemingly successful attacks on Il-Ghazi’s troops outside al-Atharib may have been at the root of the disaster that lay ahead. The fighters were almost all young. The garrison commander was probably a teenager. And they were keen for glory and the opportunity to demonstrate their prowess.
Until Robert and his troops returned on the evening of 27 June, the Frankish army had been safely encamped in the traditional way, in a semi-fortified position with good access to water. It was not entirely comfortable: the ravages of the invaders were galling for the frontier lords and their men, and food supplies were not over-abundant. But the army was safe, its presence was restricting the enemy’s ability to manoeuvre and substantial reinforcements were on the way from the other crusader states. Il-Ghazi could not keep such a huge army in the field for long. All Roger and his men had to do was to be patient and the crisis would pass.
But patience is not a young man’s virtue, and particularly not a young knight’s. Walter the Chancellor was there when Robert’s men returned to camp and began to tell their stories of the action to the prince and his courtiers. The drinking and bragging inevitably began. The knights could not contain their snobbish exuberance, and stressed that it was the hereditary knights, rather than the paid soldiers of the garrison, who had performed best. Their ‘post-match’ analysis emphasised that ‘it was not the hangers-on, but the true-born knights [‘naturales milites’] who by dealing blows and overthrowing the enemy were all of them kept busy . . .’
They ‘reported to the courtiers that the deeds of the past day had brought honour to their knighthood; as a consequence, as is the fixed habit of knights, everyone lamented who had not been there’. This was an army of confident, probably overconfident, young men, looking for a fight. Everyone was elated to see how easily a small Frankish force had been able to ‘defeat’ a Turkic army. They all wanted a piece of the glory that was to be had by doing so again the next day. The frontier lords naturally argued to protect their own lands, but they were pushing at an open door. Only the clerics, led by the patriarch, advocated caution. Roger and the army were having none of it.
Although the reports from Robert of Vieux-Pont and his knights spoke of victory and an easily intimidated enemy, Il-Ghazi’s withdrawal from al-Atharib was probably a calculated move on his part. Hoping that the Frankish army would march to al-Atharib the following day, he used the opportunity to disengage his troops and send them on wide outflanking manoeuvres to the east and west of the likely Frankish line of march. Robert’s troops and the garrison of al-Atharib would be unable to follow such movements as they regrouped after the fighting. Il-Ghazi’s massive light cavalry forces were easily able to mask the manoeuvre. If Il-Ghazi was correct, the Christian army would be walking into a trap.
The Franks were almost certainly still unaware of the sheer scale of the forces they were facing and the most optimistic view of the day’s events was that the pressure was now off. The Muslim troops were behaving like a raiding party, albeit an exceptionally large one, rather than an army of conquest. The withdrawal from al-Atharib may have convinced Roger that Il-Ghazi and his men were more interested in easy plunder than a full-scale battle.
The fighting at al-Atharib had been fierce but it had at least demonstrated an appropriately aggressive spirit and, so Roger thought, kept the besiegers off balance. He was keen to keep the pressure up. Walter records that at the planning meeting of the Antiochene leadership on the night of 27 June, the prince said that they should ‘march to al-Atharib tomorrow, and approach nearby, for if they should come, the knights . . . will not fear the host of the heathen . . . and if they don’t come, we may take counsel on the following day [i.e. 29 June] and turn our march against their tents’. It is clear that, although he was heavily outnumbered, Roger thought he had the upper hand and held the strategic initiative. He was keen to move towards al-Atharib to meet the Muslim troops in battle on Thursday, 28 June or, if they fell back, to pursue them and attack them as they retreated.
Walter took a note of Roger’s orders. He was probably involved in writing them down in full, and conveying them to the different divisional commanders. The main army was to move quickly to al-Atharib at first light the next day and camp there for the night. At that point, depending on information about the enemy’s movements, further decisions could be made about how to proceed. Preparations for the march were quickly put in place, ‘and they chose that same night to send both cavalry and infantry to [al-Atharib], and decided that first thing in the morning [of 28 June] Mauger of Hauteville was to sortie with forty knights beyond the district and to direct ten knights as scouts to the tower situated on the top of the hill so that if the enemy should approach al-Atharib once more, it might be announced to the prince by way of a swift horse and a shrewd knight’.
These orders look sensible, at least on the surface. But there were serious problems. The core of the problem was a lack of intelligence about the enemy. Perhaps not surprisingly, given the very large numbers of light cavalry which Il-Ghazi could deploy, Frankish long-range scouting was extremely limited.
The Turcopoles were the first units roused in the morning, so there could be some scouting ahead of the army, but only in its immediate vicinity and along the route of march as the Frankish light cavalry were still based in the camp at this stage. Similarly, Mauger of Hauteville’s mission was sensible as far as it went but was also limited in its nature. Mauger came with a good fighting heritage from the eminent de Hauteville family in Italy. With a force of forty knights, perhaps accompanied by a number of auxiliary cavalry, maybe some eighty men in total, this was essentially a small advance force of medium and heavy troops, rather than a swarm of skirmishers gathering intelligence about the enemy’s numbers and movements. Mauger’s main role was probably to trigger prematurely any ambushes that might be set along the Franks’ proposed line of march. With a force of that size, the expectation must have been that he had enough men to fight his way out and withdraw in good order to warn the army.
Similarly, the small force of knights which Roger despatched to a tower in order to watch out for hostile activity was a prudent step but, given the scale of the enemy he was facing, entirely insufficient. We know that the tower itself was not far forward, because Roger stopped in there while he was still out hunting at first light. The Franks had some tactical and operational sense of the enemy’s movements, but on a more strategic level they were almost completely blind-sided.
Before Roger and Walter finally went to bed there were other arrangements to be made, and more orders to be issued. In an interesting insight into the way in which medieval marches were planned and orders transmitted, Walter and some of Roger’s other men stayed up long into the night to organise the following day’s order of march and dispositions. After the nobles and their men had been sent back to get what sleep they could, ‘the prince called the household [his equivalent of staff officers] and ordered that what had been decided should be brought to its intended conclusion speedily, and he showed them what and where and how it should be done’. Even after the household had finished their tasks, Roger and Walter worked on through the night, trying to finalise plans. As Walter dryly put it, Roger ‘secretly called his chancellor and settled with him what should properly be done for the business in hand about those things which seemed burdensome to the warriors’.
But there was a sense of foreboding in the air. Roger ordered that all ‘the precious vessels and all burdensome goods should be taken away by night to the tower of Artah’. He tried to appear confident to his men, but in private he knew that there could be trouble ahead. By sending the valuables and most of the baggage train back to Artah, rather than bringing them with the army to the stronghold of al-Atharib, Roger showed he was marching in full expectation that he could be facing a fight. He wanted to move fast and he knew the terrain could be difficult in places. He did not want to have to worry about a slow-moving baggage train, while at the same time trying to prepare for a pitched battle or avoid springing an ambush.
Walter may have got almost no sleep, but the rest of the army was also up before dawn. While the Turcopoles mounted and set out, the others gathered for communion and blessing. Word had been sent the previous night ‘to all the army that they should all come together to the chapel [i.e. the portable shrine that accompanied the army]’, where they could hear mass and receive Holy Communion to prepare them spiritually before they entered into combat.
Roger himself made confession with Archbishop Peter of Apamea and gave alms to the poor, purifying himself for the fight ahead. While the army adjusted its equipment and gradually set off, Roger and his household knights found time for a little hunting, taking out his ‘small hounds’ and falcons, ostentatiously relaxed in front of his men, to calm their pre-battle nerves, but also taking the opportunity to get a sense of the terrain along the line of march.
The route they took, and the battlefield itself, echoed the same limitations of intelligence gathering within the Frankish army. Roger was prudent enough to ensure that he maintained a good sense of his army’s immediate environment. There were no local or tactical surprises. But the mass of enemy light cavalry masking Il-Ghazi’s movement ensured that the Franks remained unclear about the scale of the army they faced, or its strategic deployment. This was no narrow or wooded valley, where the Franks could be beguiled into an ambush. Such terrain would hinder the largely cavalry-based Muslim army almost as much as the Antiochenes. On the contrary, the Frankish line of march to al-Atharib was through an open plain, surrounded by hills.
The element of strategic surprise lay in the way in which Il-Ghazi had been able to deploy his forces. These were split into three main bodies, any one of which was probably equal in size to the entire Christian army. But it was not just about numbers. Each of these divisions had been able to scout and advance down routes through the hills that the Christians thought impassable to cavalry. When the trap was sprung, there was little tactical surprise but the Antiochene army found itself outnumbered, surrounded and outmanoeuvred, in an open space with no immediate reinforcements to hand and no castle or fortified camp close by where they could take refuge.
Roger’s preparations the night before showed just how uneasy he was. He had to hide his feelings from the men, but Walter noticed how anxious he was. Afterwards he wrote that Roger’s ‘future appeared before him’. Filled with foreboding, Roger brought his hunting to an abrupt close, and decided to visit the hilltop tower where he had sent the ten knights to act as a scouting party the previous night. As he was leaving it, however, ‘a messenger came up to him who had ridden at great speed’. Roger’s uneasiness was not helped by the messenger’s panic. The Frankish scout reported that he had seen ‘enemy hordes all over the mountain slopes and inaccessible valleys’. There were Muslim cavalry in places ‘not even accessible to the tracks of wild beasts’.
The sense of danger was palpable. Roger was told that the Muslims were ‘approaching us quickly from three directions . . . and . . . that innumerable columns, distinguished both by standards and by other displays of cyphers, are following the first ones’. The scout was entirely correct. The Aleppan chronicle of Kamal al-Din gives an uncannily similar account of what was happening, writing that ‘as dawn broke they saw the Muslim standards advancing to surround them completely’.
Roger and his men had believed the sides of the plain could not be negotiated by large groups of cavalry and ‘were convinced that no one could get to them because the access was so difficult’.98 They thought the Muslim army, whose size they probably underestimated significantly, would continue to withdraw from al-Atharib in search of easier plunder elsewhere. Or that, if they did want a fight, they would move towards the Franks, and meet them headlong on their line of march.
They were wrong on every count. Instead they found themselves surrounded on three sides, with the vanguard of the highly mobile Muslim forces advancing on them at speed. Il-Ghazi had ‘set out towards them and his men entered [the area] by the three routes [through the mountains, and] . . . before they were aware of it, the Muslim advance guard was upon them’. The speed of the Muslim approach meant that orders for deployment needed to be transmitted quickly. Everyone was uneasy. The tension of the decision-making made it difficult to keep the army confident and calm. Everyone knew something was wrong. Things were moving far too fast.
Two bugle sounds were established as the initial commands: the first for the final fitting of arms and equipment, the second for forming up into battle lines. At the sound of a third bugle, the main lines, vanguard, centre and rear, were told to advance, with each unit marching behind its standard bearer. They were ordered to form up in battle formation using the portable shrine, which seems to have been with Roger in the central battle line, as their main point of alignment.
But the situation was so fluid that Roger had difficulty in keeping up with changing circumstances. Another jittery messenger arrived while the first scout was still being debriefed. The news was getting worse. The nervous and excited soldier said that ‘they are on this side of the Sarmadan district, very close’. The Turkic cavalry had already wheeled round their flanks and they were increasingly surrounded.
Roger realised that he had much less time to deploy his troops than he had thought. He immediately ‘ordered everyone to be warned by the sound of the bugle. There was no delay: at the first signal they were alerted, at the second they were made ready, at the third they assembled; they assembled and presented themselves to the prince in front of the chapel, where the Cross was.’ In most battles, such as at Tell Danith, this would have been the moment for a rousing speech and for the last-minute briefing of unit commanders. But events were spiralling out of control. There was no time.
Some of Mauger of Hauteville’s troops were beginning to filter back and ‘Alberic, the deputy-steward . . . appeared as the third messenger, to forewarn our men’. The news they brought with them was deeply troubling and, perhaps for the first time, Roger became aware of the size of the enemy force he was facing. Alberic was extremely agitated and the men were beginning to smell panic in the air. Walter, who was there when he galloped into camp, described him as being so distressed by what he had seen that he looked like ‘a person . . . who had been struck by a lance in his face and pierced by an arrow almost in his eye’. He had been with the advance party sent to scout out Il-Ghazi’s intentions. They had encountered large groups of enemy cavalry and most had been killed. Two of their most eminent knights, Jordan of Jordan, one of whose descendants later became constable of Antioch, and Eudes of Forestmoutiers, from Picardy, had been captured and beheaded. Most of the rest had died in fierce fighting.
The commander of the detachment, Mauger of Hauteville, was another of the survivors. He rode into camp soon afterwards, accompanied by just one other knight. They were in a bad way. As was often the case when fighting nomadic cavalry, their horses were severely wounded, ‘struck with arrows, overpowered by . . . missiles’. The animals were so weakened by their ordeal that they died before their riders could finish reporting their news to Prince Roger. The news was not good. Muslim troops were close, much closer than they had expected. As feared, they were approaching ahead and on both flanks, ‘divided into three parts’. The battle had not yet started, but the Antiochenes were already almost surrounded.
In stark contrast to the Franks’ efforts, Il-Ghazi’s reconnaissance and intelligence activity had been extremely effective. Muslim scouts were prominent in the campaign, and had been present in increasing numbers around the Frankish camp at Balat. Il-Ghazi knew that he needed to entice the Franks out from behind their defences. He had to provoke Roger into action quickly, before reinforcements arrived from the other crusader states. The greater mobility of his forces allowed him to take greater risks, and his men, mainly light cavalry, could extricate themselves relatively easily from contact with slower-moving troops. The siege of al-Atharib, a desirable objective in its own right, had the additional benefit of baiting a trap for the Antiochene army. He knew the route by which they were likely to march to try to relieve the siege and he made sure that his men were well positioned to surround them.
This was not without dangers of its own. He was dividing his army in the face of the enemy. But he had numbers on his side. The risks were further mitigated by the way in which he could flood the area with light cavalry scouts and use them to make detailed arrangements for troop movement along little-known tracks. After the event, it was all too obvious that as well as trying to identify the plans and dispositions of the Franks, there was also a particular emphasis on investigating minor routes ‘by which they could attack the prince with greater safety for themselves and greater damage to our men [i.e. the Franks]’.