Battle of Abu Klea

The Battle of Abu Klea by William Barnes Wollen

(January 16-18, 1885)

The fierce Battle of Abu Klea was fought between British soldiers of the Gordon Relief Expedition and dervishes in the Sudan. The dervish onslaught, aided by British command and control problems, broke the British units deployed in the square formation in a battle characterized by courage on both sides.

A British expeditionary force was formed in the fall of 1884 under the command of General (later Field Marshal Viscount) Lord Garnet J. Wolseley to rescue Major General Charles G. Gordon, who was besieged in Khartoum. Gordon had been sent on a mission to assess the feasibility of evacuating Egyptians from the Sudan after the spread of Islamic fundamentalism. In December 1884, to hasten the relief, Wolseley divided his force into two elements. The first was the River Column, which was to follow the Nile River, and the second was the Desert Column, under the command of Brigadier General (later Major General) Sir Herbert Stewart, with Lieutenant-Colonel Frederick G. Burnaby as second in command. The camel-mounted Desert Column was to cross the Bayuda Desert from Korti and reach Metemmeh on the Nile by January 7, 1885.

The Desert Column was delayed due to water and supply shortages, and Stewart planned to reach the wells at Abu Klea on January 16, 1885. Dervish forces contested his advance, and Stewart’s force halted and built a zareba (a stone redoubt enclosed by a thorny mimosa bush hedge) that night.

Stewart left soldiers wounded by dervish harassing fire, as well as baggage, in the zareba and formed his 1,450-man force into a hollow square formation to advance. The front face of the square contained two Mounted Infantry Regiment companies, guns, and Coldstream and Scots Guards companies. Guards and Grenadier troops, Royal Marines, and soldiers of the Royal Sussex Regiment formed the right face of the square. On the opposite side were two companies of the Mounted Infantry and one of the Heavy Regiment, and the rear had four companies of the Heavy Regiment and the naval brigade with its rapid- firing Gardner gun in the center. The soldiers were formed in double ranks on each side of the square and numbered 235 rifles on the left face and 300 or more on each of the other three faces. Staff and supply elements, with about 150 camels, were in the center of the square.

The square advanced slowly over the undulating ground and soon halted to reform because the camels in the center were delaying the rear side of the square. As this was taking place, about 5,000 dervishes in two columns attacked the left front corner of the square. British fire forced the dervishes to veer off course and join other dervishes, who were attacking the left rear corner of the formation.

The ensuing action was chaotic. It seems that Burnaby ordered the companies on the left face of the square to open up a gap to permit the Gardner gun to move outside the square and open fire. As the dervishes assaulted, the Gardner gun jammed and was overrun. The dervishes poured through the gap in the square, killing Burnaby by a spear thrust to the neck, and forced Heavy Regiment soldiers back against the camels in the center of the square. This stopped the momentum of the dervish onslaught. Fierce hand-to-hand fighting took place, and the rear ranks of the soldiers on the square’s right face turned around and began firing rapidly into the densely packed groups of dervishes inside the square. As the dervishes in the rear saw the piles of their dead comrades to their front, they wavered and finally broke off their attack. Dervish cavalry made a last attempt on the right rear corner of the square, but withering rifle fire drove them off.

After this sharp, fifteen- minute engagement, about 1,100 dead dervishes were found in and near the British square. The Desert Column lost 74 all ranks (officers and enlisted ranks) killed and 94 wounded, two of whom later died. These significant losses did not prevent the Desert Column from continuing to advance the next day and had little overall impact on the outcome of the campaign.

Further Reading Barthorp, Michael. War on the Nile: Britain, Egypt, and the Sudan, 1882-1898. Poole, UK: Blandford, 1984. Keown- Boyd, Henry. A Good Dusting: A Centenary Review of the Sudan Campaigns, 1883-1899. London: Guild, 1986. Neillands, Robin. The Dervish Wars: Gordon and Kitchener in the Sudan, 1880-1898. London: John Murray, 1996. Robson, Brian. Fuzzy Wuzzy: The Campaigns in the Eastern Sudan, 1884-85. Tunbridge Wells, UK: Spellmount, 1993.

Herbert Stewart, (1843-1885)

Major-General Sir Herbert Stewart was a leading cavalry commander of his day. He was mortally wounded during the Gordon Relief Expedition.

Born on June 30, 1843 in Hampshire, Stewart was educated at Winchester and was commissioned in the army in 1863. He served in India with the 37th Regiment, and when he returned to England in 1873, he exchanged into the 3rd Dragoon Guards. He attended the Staff College in 1877 and in 1879 saw ser vice in the Anglo- Zulu War as a brigade major of a cavalry brigade. Ostensibly disgusted with the slow rate of promotion and poor career opportunities, Stewart was considering retirement when General Sir Garnet J. Wolseley arrived in July 1879 to assume command of the troops in South Africa and made him his military secretary.

After the conclusion of the Anglo- Zulu War, Wolseley’s Transvaal Field Force at- tacked the stronghold of the Pedi leader Sekhukhune in a campaign that lasted two months. Stewart remained on Wolseley’s staff, and when Wolseley returned to England in 1880 and was replaced as governor and commander- in- chief of Natal and the Transvaal by Major- General Sir George Pomeroy Colley, Stewart became Pomeroy Colley’s chief of staff. At the Battle of Majuba Hill (February 27, 1881), Stewart was captured by the Boers and briefly held prisoner.

When Wolseley was appointed commander of the British force sent to Egypt in 1882 to suppress the Urabi Rebellion, he selected many of the members of his “Ashanti Ring,” plus Stewart and a few others, to accompany him. Stewart served as chief of staff of the cavalry division, and after the Battle of Tel el- Kebir (September 13, 1882), he was responsible for the rapid pursuit of the vanquished enemy to Cairo and the surrender of Urabi.

Stewart, then a brigadier general, commanded the cavalry in the British force commanded by Major-General Sir Gerald Graham, V. C., that arrived in Egypt in early 1884 to help fight the dervishes. He led, rather impetuously, the charge of two regiments at El Teb on February 29, 1884, and was knighted for his services in the Sudan.

In the fall of 1884, when Wolseley was commanding the expedition to relieve Major-General Charles G. Gordon in Khartoum, Stewart returned to the Sudan. When Wolseley formed the River and Desert Columns in December 1884 to hasten the relief, Stewart was given command of the latter. Stewart’s Desert Column fought a fierce battle at Abu Klea on January 17, 1885, and two days later, at Abu Kru, in another fight with the dervishes, Stewart was wounded. The wound turned out to be mortal, and he died in the desert on February 16, 1885, shortly after he had been promoted to major-general. Wolseley bemoaned Stewart’s death: “I feel as if I had lost my right arm in this business & I cannot hope to see his like again” (Preston, 1967, p. 149).

Further Reading Barthorp, Michael. War on the Nile: Britain, Egypt, and the Sudan, 1882-1898. Poole, UK: Blandford, 1984. Kochanski, Halik. Sir Garnet Wolseley: Victorian Hero. London: Hambledon Press, 1999. Laband, John. The Transvaal Rebellion: The First Boer War, 1880-81. London: Pearson, 2005. Lehmann, Joseph H. All Sir Garnet: A Life of Field- Marshal Lord Wolseley. London: Jonathan Cape, 1964. Maxwell, Leigh. The Ashanti Ring: Sir Garnet Wolseley’s Campaigns, 1870-1882. London: Leo Cooper/Secker & Warburg, 1985. Preston, Adrian W. In Relief of Gordon: Lord Wolseley’s Campaign Journal of the Khartoum Relief Expedition, 1884-1885. Lon- don: Hutchinson, 1967. Symons, Julian. England’s Pride: The Story of the Gordon Relief Expedition. Reprint. Lon- don: White Lion, 1975.


Drusus in Germania

The only portrait of Drusus known to have been carved in his lifetime appears on the Ara Pacis in Rome. On the south facing enclosure wall, one figure in the procession is conspicuous by his attire. He is the only male figure shown wearing the paludamentum, the military cloak, in contrast to the others who wear togas; and caligae, the robust, open sandals worn by soldiers, which compare to the others who wear closed civilian boots. The consensus opinion is the figure is that of Nero Claudius Drusus since he was active on military campaign while the altar was being carved and at the time of the inauguration on 30 January 9 BCE. If the identification is correct, this is the only portrait of Drusus which can be securely dated to his lifetime. He is shown as a confident and relaxed individual in the company of his family. With her head turned to look at him is the figure of Antonia Minor, who holds the hand of a small boy identified as Ti. Claudius Nero (better known as Germanicus) who would have been nearly six years old at the time of the consecration ceremony.

Map of military operations in Magna Germania 10 BCE.


Map of the Roman Empire 16–9 BCE.

Roman Propraetor Decimus Claudius Drusus’ mind was on matters far from Rome. Perhaps inspired by the consuls of old or the lure of military glory, Drusus was intent on leaving the city at the earliest opportunity to continue the war.

He returned to Lugdunum in the spring of 10 BCE. The Tres Galliae continued to function as expected and there were no reports of unrest. His legates, meantime, had wasted no time in Germania. The Lippe River was now being lined with forts and logistics depots to relay supplies along the river delivered from Vetera. Work on Oberaden continued. A new supply depot to support the fortress was established a few kilometers downstream at Beckinghausen. Discovered in 1911 on a steep slope falling towards the river, it was subsequently excavated and an oval shaped encampment was uncovered measuring 185 meters (606.9 feet) by 88 metres (288.7 feet), encompassing an area of approximately 1.56 hectares, although the landing place for loading and unloading rivercraft has yet to be found. The main campaign this year would not, however, be driven along the Lippe River. Drusus now shifted the tactical thrust into Germania from a base further up the Rhine. A few weeks later he arrived with his entourage in Mogontiacum eager to launch an offensive to the Elbe via the River Main (Moenus or Menus). There were two legions at the camp, XIV Gemina and XVI Gallica. They may have been joined by vexillations of other legions from Fectio, Oppidum Ubiorum, Novaesium and Vetera. Detachments of these already made up at least two garrisons inside Germania. They would have been under orders to engage in simultaneous operations to drive deeper thrusts of their own into the territories building on the previous two campaign seasons; and to consolidate their gains with the construction of new forts, watch towers and roads. A skeleton crew would also have to be left at Mogontiacum (and the other Rhine fortresses) to guard it and manage the supply chain of provisions going to the front. Thus in practice the force for the new invasion along the Main River might have numbered as few as 10,000 men plus cohorts of auxiliaries.

A new fort may have been established at Frankfurt-am-Main-Höchst at the confluence of the Nidda and Main Rivers. As in the previous campaigns, Drusus used rivers to ferry much of the supplies his invading force needed by boat. The Main River is 524 kilometres (325.6 miles) long and a major tributary of the Rhine, with its source near Kulmbach, which is in turn fed by two minor tributaries the Red Main and White Main. The invasion plan was conceived with the usual Roman attention to detail, and logistics in particular. A supply depot was established at Rödgen near Bad Nauheim on the east bank of the Wetter River close by its source, about 60 kilometres (37.3 miles) east of the Rhine. It was polygonal in shape with a double ditch, 3 metres (9.8 feet) deep and wood-and-earth rampart structure 3 metres (9.8 feet) high and 3 metres (9.8 feet) wide at the base, enclosing an area of 3.3 hectares. Archaeologists found that the gateway, flanked by substantial towers, was wide enough for two wagons to pass through. These would have delivered corn and fresh produce brought up from Mogontiacum for storage in the warehouses and granaries inside the compound. There was also a well-equipped workshop. In the centre of the fortified camp was a principia, praetorium and barrack blocks sufficient for about 1,000 men but the size of the storage capacity meant it would feed many more mouths than its garrison. The nearby fort at Friedburg may have been connected with it.

The invasion route took them headlong into conflict with the Chatti who were a strong opponent. Unlike the previous campaign season, they had finally formed an alliance with the Sugambri and combined forces, having abandoned their own country, which the Romans had apparently given them. The Chatti were tough fighters and the ensuing conflict with the Romans was bloody and brutal. On the far northeastern edge of Chatti territory the Roman army established a major summer camp at Hedemünden near modern Göttingen, some 240 kilometres (149.1 miles) northest of Mogontiacum. Military surveyors laid out a narrow oval fortress taking full advantage of the Burgberg, a hill overlooking a bend on the Werra River, which is a tributary of the Weser. The defensive enclosure measured 320 metres (1,049.9 feet) long by 150 metres (492.1 feet) wide encompassing an area of 3.215 hectares. The 760 metre (2,493.4 feet) long circuit of wall measuring 5–6 metres (16.4–19.7 feet) at the base with a ditch outside was pierced by one gateway on each of the west and south sides, two on the east side with a curved but ungated northern end on the crest of the hill. There was an adjoining annex, also surrounded by a protective wall and ditch, which swept down to the riverside and may have been used for animals and supplies. The site, which has been partly excavated, has already produced over 1,500 iron objects carried by Roman troops, including exceptionally well preserved dolabra and pugiones, flat bladed spear points, the bent metal shank of a pilum, pyramid-shaped catapult bolts, nails, chain, hooks and even tent pegs with rings for tying the leather straps to. More personal items were also found such as iron hobnails – 600 in all – from caligae and a bronze phallic good luck charm. That the Romans were in the area on active campaign and taking prisoners is attested by an exquisitely nasty set of iron fetters. Shaped like the letter P the loop fitted around the neck and the hands were locked in two cuffs attached to the shaft. The short length of the shaft meant the captive wearer had to keep his arms up high across his chest – where they could be clearly seen by the guards – to avoid discomfort to the neck.

Anticipating his people might suffer a similar fate, one tribal leader took proactive steps to avoid conflict with the invaders. That year an enterprising noble from the Marcomanni nation named Marboduus or Marabodus, who was educated at Rome and once enjoyed Augustus’ patronage, returned to his people – or perhaps was taken there under Roman escort – and became their leader. He took back with him ideas about how the Marcomanni might introduce Roman-style law, government and military science. He had come to know the Romans well and understood what motivated them. Rather than challenge Rome or be subjugated by her, Marboduus decided upon a radical strategy. In a remarkable move, he convinced his tribe to relocate far from Roman temptation. Joining his people on the migration to a new homeland in Bohemia (Bohaemium) were the Lugii, Zumi, Butones (or Gutones), Mugilones and Sibini nations, a combined force of some 70,000 men on foot and 4,000 horse.

For those standing in Drusus’ path, the choice was ally with him or be prepared to fight. While the invading Roman army continued to attack and defeat any opposition as it progressed through the country, Drusus engaged in dazzling displays of single combat.

Waging war was a central defining characteristic of Roman culture. There was prestige and profit to be had in a successful campaign and to advance in politics meant showing courage and ability on the battlefield. Fifty-three years earlier Cicero had exhorted

preëminence in military skill excels all other virtues. It is this which has procured its name for the glory of the Roman people; it is this which has procured eternal glory for this city; it is this which has compelled the whole world to submit to our dominion; all domestic affairs, all these illustrious pursuits of ours, and our forensic renown, and our industry, are safe under the protection of military valour. The highest dignity is in those men who excel in military glory.

One way a commander could prove his worth was to engage his opponent in face-to-face combat, defeat him and strip his body bare of its arms, armour and personal effects. These rich spoils were called the spolia opima. They were then hung decoratively from an oak tree trunk as a trophy (tropaea) and the victor brought the display back to Rome and presented it as victor to the shrine of Iupiter Feretrius on the Capitoline Hill. Their exalted place in the Roman psyche was due to their extreme rarity. Legend had it that the first spoils were taken by Romulus from Acro, king of the Caeninenses in 752 BCE following the incident in which the Sabine women were raped. The second spolia were those of Lars Tolumnius, king of the Veientes, taken by A. Cornelius Crossus. The decaying linen cuirass and accompanying inscription were still in existence in Augustus’ time and they actually came to light during the renovation of the temple of Iupiter Feretrius at the request of the princeps.

The last recorded Roman commander to be recognised for wrenching the spoils from his fallen adversary was M. Claudius Marcellus (c.268–208 BCE). He was a distant relative of Drusus and as a child he would have heard the thrilling story, which is preserved by Plutarch, of how he captured them in 222 BCE.143 Day and night, the story went, Marcellus pursued the Gaesatae, a Gallic tribe, which had invaded the Lombardy region of northern Italy to assist their allies, the Insubres. He finally intercepted 10,000 of them at Clastidium. Unfortunately, Marcellus had with him just 600 lightly armed troops, as well as a contingent of heavy infantry and some cavalry. Viridomarus, king of the Insubres, thinking that his side had the advantage of greater numbers and proven skill in horsemanship, set out to squash the Roman invader without delay. The Gauls were now heading en masse at speed towards Marcellus’ forces. Fearing he would be overwhelmed, the consul deployed his men into longer, thinner lines with the cavalry placed at the wings. His own horse, however, was terrified by the ululations of the advancing Gauls and turned tail, carrying Marcellus back in the direction of the Roman lines. This did not look at all good in front of his own men, so thinking quickly on his feet, he made as if he was praying to the gods and promised to Iupiter Feretrius the choicest of the Gallic king’s weapons and armour. Meanwhile, Viridomarus standing in his war chariot and wearing his striped trousers had spotted Marcellus by the splendour of his kit and charged out to slay him. Seeing the gleaming silver and gold of the Gaul’s armour and the elaborate coloured fabrics of his tunic and cloak, and recalling his vow to the Roman god, Marcellus now charged atViridomarus.The adversaries raced closer and closer together. Marcellus saw an opportunity but he had to act quickly. With all his might, he hurled his spear. The slender iron tipped weapon sliced through the sky and found its prey. The blade pierced the Gallic king’s cuirass and the force of the impact thrust him off his chariot and crashing to the ground. Marcellus charged up on his steed and dismounted. With two or three stabs, Marcellus dispatched the man. He hacked off the dead man’s head, removed the torc from his severed neck in the manner of the Celts, and stripped the dead man of his splendid gear. Lifting them skywards Marcellus proclaimed,

“O Iupiter Feretrius, who observest the deeds of great warriors and generals in battle, I now call thee to witness, that I am the third Roman consul and general who have, with my own hands slain a general and a king! To thee I consecrate the most excellent spoils. Do thou grant us equal success in the prosecution of this war”.

The Roman cavalry then charged the Gallic horse and infantry and won a great victory, made all the more so on account of the small number of Marcellus’ force and the greater odds it faced. The Gaesatae withdrew and surrendered Mediolanum (Milan) and other cities under their control and sued for terms. The senate awarded Marcellus a triumph in which the spoils were prominently displayed to cheers from the spectators. The sight of Marcellus carrying the trophy adorned with Viridomarus’ spectacular armour to the temple of Iupiter Feretrius was “the most agreeable and most uncommon spectacle”, writes Plutarch. Some 175 years later a descendant of Marcellus who was a tresvir monetalis used his position to commemorate the event on a special denarius.

There was another ancestor on Drusus’ mother’s side whose story probably inspired the young commander to uncommon acts of bravery on the battlefield. That was the story of how his family acquired its cognomen Drusus. One of his ancestors had dueled a Gallic chieftain named Drausus and by killing him “procured for himself and his posterity” the name.

These tales of heroism and glorious deeds evidently left a deep impression on the young Claudian. The German War provided Drusus with numerous opportunities to win his own rich spoils. Suetonius remarks that he was eager for glory and “frequently marked out the German chiefs in the midst of their army, and encountered them in single combat, at the utmost hazard of his life”. Drusus may have been successful in his quest, “for besides his victories”, writes the biographer of the Caesars, “he gained from the enemy the spolia opima”. If indeed Drusus was successful – when and against which opponent is not recorded in the surviving accounts – this was an extraordinary honour. The last person to claim the honour was M. Licinius Crassus (the grandson of the triumvir) who had defeated an opponent in Macedonia in 29 BCE. His achievement was downplayed, however. Politics got in the way of him collecting his trophy. The honour was deemed too distracting to Octavianus’ efforts to consolidate his political power. Crassus was denied his eternal glory and fobbed off with a triumph. By the time Drusus had taken the rich spoils from his Germanic enemy Augustus’ power base was more solid and he could afford to allow his young stepson the public recognition. Indeed, it would have been first rate propaganda for here was a member of his own household who had achieved what only three other illustrious men had in the entire course of Roman history.


Notwithstanding his grief at losing Drusus, Augustus was still intent on concluding the German War in Rome’s favour. Florus remarks that the Germanic nations were defeated but not yet subjugated, and that they respected the Romans’ moral qualities (mores) under Drusus’ rule more than they did Rome’s military might. It now fell to Tiberius to assume command of the Rhine army and in 8 BCE he departed for the front. Where Drusus had generally preferred the gladius to bring the German to his will, his older brother’s favoured weapon was diplomacy backed by the threat of force. It had served him well in Parthia and he evidently felt it would be worth trying again in Germania. Indeed, it was an insightful judgement. Hearing that Tiberius had mobilized his forces and crossed the Rhine, the nations living in the region bounded by the Ems, Lippe and Weser rivers sent emissaries to him to sue for peace. Initially absent, however, were the Sugambri. According to Dio, Augustus told Tiberius he would not accept terms from the Germans unless the Sugambri were part of the peace deal. The Romans and Sugambri embarked on a course of brinkmanship lasting several weeks. The Sugambri sent envoys who seemed unwilling to, or had been instructed not to, take the negotiations with the gravity the Romans expected. His patience tried, Tiberius had the Sugambrian delegation arrested, split up and distributed among the cities of Tres Galliae. The imprisoned ambassadors were very distressed by this unexpected turn of events and allegedly committed suicide (though that may have been cynical propaganda spin on a series of grubby behind-closed-doors executions). The stakes having now risen to the point where outright war might once again break out, the Sugambri finally returned prepared to negotiate terms. The result was a stunning U-turn by the Germanic nation that had for a generation led the offence against Rome. Tiberius’ calculated gamble had paid off. It provided timely propaganda the princeps needed for the audience at home. Displaying his talent for propaganda, Augustus states in his own memoirs that Maelo of the Sugambri was one of several named kings that “sent me supplications”. The terms offered to the Sugambri were different than those offered to the other nations. Like the Ubii before them, the Sugambri agreed to be relocated across the Rhine – Eutropius mentions 40,000 people – to the vicinity of Vetera where they became known as Ciberni, Cuberni or Cugerni, under the watchful eyes of the men of Legiones XVII and XVIII. Soon the Sugambri, like the Ligures, Raeti and Vindelici of the Alps before them, were supplying men for the Roman army. The cohors Sugambrorum quickly earned a reputation as a fierce fighting unit characterised by blood chilling war chanting and clashing of weapons before battle. Of the fate of Maelo the warchief, history is silent. Perhaps he settled in to a quiet life as a Romano-Germanic gentleman farmer, or he may have led one of the new military units under his own name and found adventure far from his new home.

For his victories, Augustus granted Tiberius the title of imperator and an equestrian triumph. He then took up his second term as consul with Cn. Calpurnius Piso. In his address to the senate on 1 January 7 BCE Tiberius set out his aspirations for the year and among them was the repair of the Temple of Concordia. Upon its entablature, he said, would be written a dedication from both himself and his brother Drusus. The session concluded, he rode his horse as triumphator along the via Sacra to the adulation of cheering crowds, enjoying a well-deserved occasion for public recognition, before ascending to the Temple of Iupiter Capitolinus for a feast with members of the senate.

Later that year he returned to Germania to deal with fresh disturbances there: despite the peace treaties of the previous year, the natives were ever restless. They rebelled again in 1 CE while L. Domitius Ahenobarbus – the first official legatus augusti pro praetore appointed by Augustus to provincia Germania – was campaigning. Ahenobarbus (‘bronze beard’) achieved what Drusus had not by crossing the Elbe River. He engaged the Hermunduri, whom he relocated to the region of Bohaemium in part of the territory already occupied by the Marcomanni. The Romans met no opposition from Marboduus’ people and even formed a “pact of friendship” with them. At the marketplace of the Ubii on the Rhine River Ahenobarbus set up an altar to Roma et Augustus, replicating the one Drusus had established at Lugdunum. The town changed its name from Oppidum Ubiorum to Ara Ubiorum to reflect its new status as a cult centre and Ahenobarbus also set up his provincial headquarters there. He attempted to negotiate for a number of hostages held by the Cherusci, but the involvement of other tribes as intermediaries resulted in failure and brought contempt for the Romans among the Germanic nations.

All was not well in the imperial household, however. Tiberius had thrown a fit for reasons scholars still debate and went into a self-imposed seven year exile to Rhodes. Only after a reconciliation with Augustus did Tiberius return again to deal with the situation in Germania in 4 CE. Sharing command of the campaign with Tiberius this time was G. Sentius Saturninus, the new legatus augusti pro praetore, who had been a legionary legate under Drusus.105 During the next two years, Oberaden was abandoned and the legions moved to new forward positions at Anreppen and Haltern and along the Lippe, while the unit that had been stationed at Dangstetten was subsequently moved to Oberhausen near Augsburg in 9 BCE, and transferred again to a new 37 hectare site at Marktbreit am Rhein in Bavaria eighteen years later. An amphibious campaign retraced the route taken by Drusus which took the fleet via the North Sea to the Elbe and sailed it upstream. Meanwhile, a land invasion led to the Cherusci, Chatti and others suing for peace terms. Under the energized force of Roman military might it seemed Germania Libera would finally bow to the Roman yoke. Indeed, the process of Romanisation of Germania had already begun. In large part due to Drusus’ explorations, the Romans had a much better understanding of the extent of Germania Magna and its peoples. Writing in the 80s and 90s CE Tacitus mentions forty tribes by name, almost five times the number recorded in Iulius Caesar’s Gallic War. Civilian settlements were being established. The remains at Waldgrimes in the Lahn valley discovered in 1993, complete with a basilica and forum dated using dendrochronology to 4 BCE, are proof of this.109 Other similar settlements may yet lie awaiting discovery by archaeologists.

In Rome Augustus’ carefully laid plans for succession had begun to unravel. In 2 CE Lucius died and three years later his brother Caius passed away. Faced with the prospect of dying without a successor, on 26 June 4 CE Augustus adopted both Tiberius and Agrippa Postumus (the youngest and only surviving son of Vipsanius Agrippa and Iulia). That same year, at the princeps’ request, Tiberius adopted Drusus’ eldest son, Germanicus, who was now 19 years’ old. In 5 or 6 CE, while Tiberius was waging war again over the Rhine, Germanicus and Claudius laid on gladiatorial games in honour of their father, to which the public responded with approval “for this mark of honour” feeling “comforted” by the recognition. In another public display of pietas for his brother, in 6 CE Tiberius dedicated the Temple of Castor and Pollux in his own name and that of Drusus, now dead since fifteen years. In the same year both Augustus and Tiberius were acclaimed imperator and the governor Sentius Saturninus was granted triumphal honours for brokering not one but two truces with the Germanic nations. In late 6 CE, Tiberius executed his own plan to take on the Marcomanni in their homeland of Bohaemium. It was the largest operation ever conducted by the Roman army, with at least twelve legions involved. However, hardly had they advanced north a rebellion in Pannonia – triggered by resentment at the punitive tribute levied on its peoples – stopped the massed army in its tracks and it had to be recalled. It would take three years of blood and treasure to quell the revolt. Taking part in suppressing that violent insurgency was a young noble of the Cherusci leading a Roman cavalry unit. He had received privileges directly from Augustus himself and assumed the name C. Iulius Arminius.

In 7 CE, Quinctilius Varus was appointed legatus augusti pro praetore of Germania. The son of the impoverished patrician family had done rather well for himself. In the complex world of political favours, Augustus tended to promote men from within his own family and social network. Varus was now married to Augustus’ great niece, Claudia Pulchra. Varus’ task was to pacify the region and transform it into a province. Perhaps he did the job too well. As the summer of 9 CE turned to autumn word reached Rome from Germania of a terrible disaster. At a place few Romans had ever heard of called saltus Teutoburgiensis reports came of a military catastrophe. Three legions – Legiones XVII, XVIII and XIX, all of them once under Drusus’ command – had been destroyed by a coalition of Germanic bandits. Incredibly the reports stated that the rebels had been led by C. Iulius Arminius, who was supposedly a trusted Roman ally. Cunningly he had used his position of status and trust to trick Varus and his intimate knowledge of Roman military doctrine to wipe out the governor’s army. As remarkably, it was a repeat of the same ambush tactic Drusus had suffered at Arbalo almost two decades before, except this time the Cherusci had not wavered and the Romans had lost. The Roman population panicked: barbarians were not supposed to be able to outwit them and now there was little between the Rhine and the Tiber to stop an invasion of Germanic hordes. Many recalled with terror the stories they had heard from grandparents about the Cimbri and Teutones. Where in this time of need was their Marius? A state of emergency was declared. Citizens were to be called up and given rudimentary training on the Campus Martius before being dispatched to Tres Galliae. When the appeal for volunteers went unheeded, Augustus drew men’s names by lot. When that failed to produce enough men he began ordering executions, and enlisted freedmen to the colours – a measure of how desperate the situation had become. It was then that he fired his German bodyguard. The feared invasion never came, but the trauma of the clades Variana remained for years. The few survivors from the three ambushed legions struggled back with tales of horror at the hands of blood-crazed Germani. That kind of talk was corrosive to public morale, decided Augustus: by edict, all survivors were banned from entering the Italian homeland for fear they would scare the local communities. The stain of shame would live with those men until their deaths. Augustus himself took the news personally and very badly. “Qinctilius Varus!” he was heard to cry as he tore at his hair and clothes, “give me back my legions!” It seemed his dream of a Roman Germania and beyond lay in tatters, yet Tiberius returned the following year and, with Germanicus’ support, after two years’ campaigning restored Roman control, at least along the river.

As his reign drew to a close, Augustus’ interest in annexing Germania waned and he attended to more modest enterprises. Before he died he is said to have made his successor promise not to overextend the boundaries of the empire: the Romans had their Lebensraum – let that be enough.

Admiral Count Yamamoto Gonbee

(Yamamoto Gonnohyoe, 1852-1 933)

was the architect of modern Japanese naval power. He was born and grew up in the castle town of the Satsuma domain, Kagoshima. As a boy of sixteen, he fought with the Satsuma army in the Restoration war at Toba-Fushimi and in northern Honshu (1868). He was one of the first to be graduated from the new Naval Academy, in 1874, and took a midshipman cruise to San Francisco. Like other navy leaders, he had significant foreign experience. After his cruise he served for over a year on the warships Vineta and Leipzig of another fledgling navy, the German, circumnavigating the globe and passing both the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Horn. As a junior officer he had duty aboard five different vessels (1878-81). He became second in command of the screw-corvette Asama, 1882-85, and occupied the same position on the cruiser Naniwa when it was brought to Japan in 1886 after its construction in Britain.

His first command, the sloop Amagi, followed. In 1887, as aide to Nav Minister Saigo, he undertook extended visits to Europe and the United States. He made the rank of captain in 1889 and subsequently commanded the cruisers Takao and Takachiho. His career began to take a political direction when he was appointed director of the Navy Ministry’s Secretariat in 1891 . Because of his administrative skill he was made rear admiral and chief of the Naval Affairs Department of the ministry in 1895. He attained the rank of vice admiral in 1898 and admiral in 1904. He served as navy minister, 1898-1906, and as prime minister, 1913-14 and 1923-24.

Navy Minister, 1898-1906

In a memorial to the throne on national defense, Yamamoto Gonnohyoe (1852-1933), the navy minister, described how the emperor’s contribution of personal funds for building warships had brought about victory in the war with China. He declared,

It would seem that in the lands of the Orient, ominous clouds and baleful mists have now been happily cleared away, but I fear that in all prob ability the situation in China and Korea contains seeds of disaster imminently threatening the peace. At present the Imperial Navy may be said to reign supreme in the Orient, but military preparations of the powers are advancing rapidly. This is true especially of the neighboring power that has recently expanded its ‘navy and plans before long to have a fleet in the Orient many times stronger than the empire’s. If an emergency should arise, will the sea-girded empire of Japan be able to sleep in peace?

Yamamoto asked for a total of 115 million yen with which to build and equip three first-class battleships, three first-class cruisers, and two second-class cruisers. Needless to say, the power against which Japan had to defend itself was Russia, whose eastward advance was deplored by the genrō when they approved this request for naval expansion.

“In the budget for next year,” Navy Minister Yamamoto Gonnohyoe declared in early 1906, “nothing more has been attempted than to make provisions for replacing what had been destroyed or impaired in the war.” “But after that,” the navy’s most important bureaucrat suggested, “it would be necessary to consider . . . new undertakings.” Within five years of Yamamoto’s prophetic utterance, all in Japan’s elite political circles knew what Yamamoto had alluded to by the somewhat cautious and guarded phrase “new undertakings”; massive naval expansion on a scale not previously undertaken in Japan. Conferring with Seiyukai leader Hara Kei four years later at the end of a navy-inspired, pro-naval expansion propaganda campaign, Prime Minister Katsura Taro revealed just what he felt naval expansion and the navy’s political machinations to secure large-scale budgetary increases meant for politics and the nation of Japan: instability. Predicting that the navy would shortly introduce a massive expansion plan based on the purchase and construction of Dreadnought class warships, the army General turned Prime Minister claimed that the naval expansion proposal had been “hatched [by Yamamoto] out of an ambition to break up the tie between the government and the Seiyukai,” a relationship that had resulted in political stability since 1905. Katsura’s assumptions proved correct on both counts and the navy’s political engagement to secure greater appropriations significantly influenced elite level politics after 1905.

Army-Navy Rivalry

An example illustrating this type of army thinking towards the navy occurred in 1894, when Vice Chief of the Army General Staff, Kawakami Soroku, devised war plans against China that emphasized the navy’s support role, Yamamoto Gonnohyoe pointedly asked Kawakami a simple but loaded question, “Is it true the army has engineers?” Taken aback, Kawakami replied, “Yes . . . of course we do.” To this, Yamamoto responded, with no little sarcasm, “Then it should be no trouble [for you] to build a bridge from Yokubo in Kyushu to Tsushima and then to Pusan in Korea, to now send our army to the continent.”

Siemens Incident

Allegations that high-ranking officers in Japan’s Imperial Navy had received bribes from the German munitions firm Siemens Schuckert caused a political crisis that culminated in the resignation of the premier, Admiral Yamamoto Gonnohyoe (1852-1933) and his cabinet on 24 March 1914. The Siemens incident was indicative of the competition, which was especially bitter in 1905-1915, among rival factions associated with Japan’s army and navy commanders as well as among rival party organizations. The subject of heated public discussion and official debate, the scandal also marked a step toward greater government accountability in the early history of parliamentary democracy in Japan.

On 23 January 1914 Japanese newspapers printed reports of the trial in Berlin of a former Siemens employee who was charged with stealing confidential company documents from files in the firm’s Tokyo office. The defendant testified that he had sold the documents to a Reuters News Service reporter in order to expose a duplicitous deal between Japanese naval officers and the British firm Vickers, represented by a Japanese company, Mitsui Bussan. By accepting an offer from Vickers of regular secret “commissions” of 25 percent of the value of equipment procurement contracts placed with the firm, the naval officers contravened an agreement reached with Siemens earlier to place large orders for ammunition and communications equipment with the German firm in exchange for kickbacks of 15 percent of the value of the orders.

Admiral Yamamoto, premier since February 1913, had authorized a program of lavish expenditures on naval expansion. Critics of his generosity seized on the information released in Berlin to confirm suspicions of corruption in connection with naval spending. In a Diet session on 23 January 1914, Shimada Saburo, a leading member of the opposition Doshikai, opened a twomonth period of public debate and political crisis by calling Yamamoto to account with a series of embarrassing questions about the navy’s purchasing practices.

During February and March, Yamamoto succeeded in maintaining his position, partly by dismissing naval officers implicated in the allegations of corruption. But the admiral’s position was irretrievably weakened by opposition within the upper house of the Diet, the army, and the public.

The Siemens incident contributed to greater instability in Japan’s parliamentary politics by ousting the majority party, the Seiyukai, from the premiership and the cabinet. Yamamoto’s government survived a nonconfidence vote on 10 February, but failed to survive the loss of support in the upper house of the Diet, where the peers had slashed the naval expansion budget and refused to yield to the principle that only the lower house had authority over the budget. In an arrangement brokered by Yamagata Aritomo and other senior leaders, a new cabinet was installed in April 1914 with the veteran parliamentarian Okuma Shigenobu (1838- 1922) as premier. Competition for budgetary appropriations between the navy and army continued to be a bone of contention within Japan’s government, even at the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Corruption connected to public contracts with foreign firms continued as well, although it did not precipitate another political crisis until the Lockheed scandal of 1976.

Bruce’s Revolt (1306–1314)

The face of Robert the Bruce by forensic sculptor Christian Corbet

Depiction of the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 from the Holkham Bible

PRINCIPAL COMBATANTS: Forces of England’s Edward I vs. forces of Scotland’s Robert Bruce

PRINCIPAL THEATER(S): Scotland and northern England

MAJOR ISSUES AND OBJECTIVES: Bruce led a Scottish rebellion against English rule.

OUTCOME: Partial eviction of the English from Scotland

APPROXIMATE MAXIMUM NUMBER OF MEN UNDER ARMS: Variable, but Bruce was consistently outnumbered; he may have had 10,000 men at most.

Robert Bruce (1274-1329) was the grandson of an earlier claimant to the throne of Scotland. He had fought on the side of the Scots rebel William Wallace (1272?-1305) (see WALLACE’S REVOLT) but shifted allegiance to England’s Edward I (1239-1307) by 1302. Wallace was executed in 1305, and the following year, although still nominally in the service of Edward I, Bruce defiantly crowned himself king of Scotland at Scone. At this, an enraged Edward invaded Scotland and engaged Bruce’s forces at the Battle of Methven, northwest of Perth, on June 19, 1306. Edward easily routed Bruce’s outnumbered rebels, and Bruce, after a second defeat at Dalry (August 11), fled to remote Rathlin Island off the coast of Ireland. It is said that during his exile Bruce observed a spider weave its web with infinite patience. Somehow inspired by this example, he returned to Scotland in 1307 and quickly found an eager band of followers. He led them against English cavalry at the Battle of Loudoun Hill at Ayr, southwestern Scotland, in May 1307. With arrogant recklessness, English knights charged Bruce’s pikemen and were duly decimated. The defeat at Loudon Hill outraged the aged and infirm Edward I, who, sick as he was with a wasting disease, personally led a campaign into Scotland. However, on July 7, 1307, he died at Burgh-by-Sands, near the Solway Firth. Edward I’s son, Edward II (1284-1327), made a half-hearted foray into Scotland in 1310 but soon withdrew. Bruce used the interlude of peace to mend fences with enemies and to consolidate his forces for operations to clear the remaining English out of Scotland. Often he ventured into northern England on hit-and-run raids.

In 1311 Bruce attacked Durham and Hartlepool, evicting the English from these places, and by 1314 only Stirling, Dunbar, and Berwick remained under English control. By this time Bruce had secured recognition from France and had the backing of the Scots clergy. At this point most historians mark the conclusion of Bruce’s Revolt and the commencement of the SCOTTISH WAR (1314–1328).

10th May 1307 Battle of Loudon Hill

Having rallied his supporters, King Robert was back in business again and came up against his old adversary Aymer de Valence, now Earl of Pembroke, ten miles north of Kilmarnock in Ayrshire. This time the English soldiers were obliged to approach their enemy over bogland, and rapidly fell victim to the spears of Bruce’s men. Over one hundred were killed before the remainder rapidly dispersed.

22nd May 1308 Battle of Inverurie (sometimes known as the Battle of Barra)

King Robert was taken ill on his march north towards Aberdeenshire after his victory at Loudon Hill, but the spring of 1308 nevertheless found him and his army camped at Meldrum, close to Inverurie. John Comyn, 3rd Earl of Buchan, was a cousin of the murdered John Comyn, Lord of Buchan, and determined to bring the King to justice. However, he proved indecisive. Many of his followers had been assured that the King was too ill to fight and when King Robert appeared before them, Buchan’s men turned and fled. Buchan himself escaped to England where he died the same year.

Circa 1308/1309 Battle of the Pass of Brander

This was a conflict between King Robert I and the Macdougalls of Argyll, kinsmen of the murdered John Comyn. There is variance as to exactly where (Brander or Ben Cruachan) and when the incident took place, but it is generally understood that the Macdougalls were caught in a vice between King Robert and Sir James Douglas and put to flight.

Further reading: Christopher Rothero, Scottish and Welsh Wars 1250-1400 (London: Osprey, 2000); Ronald McNair Scott, Robert the Bruce: King of Scots (New York: Carroll and Graf, 1996).

Flying VCs

James Allan Ward

There were 182 VCs awarded in the Second World War. For each one a certain amount of time passed between the commission of the act and the official gazetting of the award. This `lag-time’ between act and gazette date varied from as low as eight days to as high as 2084 days. The median average of lag-time was 90 days. Eighty-six (47.7 percent) had a lag-time between 60 and 120 days. One hundred and thirty of the awards (72 percent) were gazetted between 30 and 150 days after the act. Of the medals that fall outside this majority, only 13 Crosses (7.2 percent) were published in less than 30 days. Thirty-seven VCs (20.5 percent) were granted following a lag-time of more than 150 days.

These long lag-times for the latter category can be explained in a variety of ways. In some cases the individual was either killed or taken prisoner, as were the witnesses to the act. In such cases the recommendation could not be made until the release of the eyewitnesses at the end of the war. Thus the heroism of Honorary Captain John Weir Foote, Canadian Chaplain’s Service during the raid on Dieppe, 19 August 1942, was not gazetted until 14 February 1946:

Captain Foote coolly and calmly during the eight hours of the battle walked about collecting the wounded, saving many lives by his gallant efforts and inspiring those around him by his example. At the end of this gruelling time he climbed from the landing craft that was to have taken him to safety and deliberately walked into the German position in order to be taken prisoner so that he could be a help to those men who would be held in captivity until the end of the war.

Not until the release of POWs at the end of the war could the true intentions of his actions be determined from the accounts of the men he accompanied into captivity.

In some instances the recommendation might be held up by circumstances beyond anyone’s control. Such was the situation for Lieutenant Cairns, the officer who had disarmed a sword-wielding Japanese officer in March 1944. His recommendation was in the dispatch pouch accompanying General Orde Wingate when he died in an air crash. Consequently, the particulars of the recommendation were not obtained until well after the end of the war; Cairns was not gazetted until 20 May 1949, the last of the Second World War’s awards.

The quick vetting of some of the recommendations cannot be attributed to some force of fate or enemy action. Speeding the wheels of bureaucratic entropy required pressure from above. Thirteen Crosses were gazetted in under 30 days. For some reason these awards were hurried through an adjudication process that was normally slow and deliberate.

Seven of those 13 went for air operations; six of those seven were generated by Bomber Command. Five of those six went to missions against high-profile targets. Flight Lieutenant Roderick A. B. Learoyd bombed the Dortmund-Ems Canal, one of the highest- priority targets mentioned in Harris’s memoirs, and in the process demonstrated Bomber Command’s proficiency in precision bombing. Nettleton’s raid on Augsburg was the trial by fire for unescorted bombers. Likewise was the daring daylight raid on the port of Bremen, led by Wing Commander Hughie I. Edwards on 4 July 1941.

Wing Commander Guy Gibson got a Cross for dam-busting. The large dams at Mohne, Sorpe and Eder were tempting targets. As `Mutt and Jeff’ [Captain `Mutt’ Summers and `Jeff’ – Barnes Wallis, the creator of the dambuster bomb] explained in Gibson’s initial briefing, these dams supplied water for drinking and industrial uses and generated electrical power for a large portion of the heavily industrialized Ruhr River Valley. Not only would their destruction reduce the Reich’s power production and industrial output, but the flood damage resulting from their sudden rupture had the potential to do `more damage to everything than has ever happened in this war.’Massive destruction of enemy production, power generation, and civilian workforce from a single air strike would vindicate Harris’s position on the effectiveness of strategic bombing.

Bomber Command’s salvation of England in destroying the invasion barges won a VC for Sergeant John Hannah, whose efforts to extinguish a fire aboard his aircraft allowed the pilot to bring the crippled aircraft to a safe landing. Harris saw these barges as a distinct threat to British security, but `the War Office seems to have lacked appreciation of how they could be used to put troops across the Channel or of the enormous number of them available.’ The gun is not smoking, but the barrel is warm and there is a scent of cordite in the air. It appears the RAF was using the VC to validate the high command’s doctrine.

This having been said, it is necessary to point out that the political steering of the types of heroism granted official recognition does not detract from the heroism displayed by the winners. Each of the `quick’ RAF winners displayed extreme valour and courage. In some instances, such as with the sixth of the quick winners, it was nothing less than phenomenal:

The sergeant [James Allen Ward, Royal New Zealand AF] crawled out through a narrow astro-hatch, scrambled onto the back of the starboard engine which was alight, and smothered the flames with an engine cover. His crawl back over the wing in which he had previously torn hand and foot-holes, was more dangerous than the outward journey, but he managed it with the help of the aircraft’s navigator. The bomber was eventually landed safely.

Close-up of the damage caused to Vickers Wellington Mark IC, L7818 ‘AA-V’, of No. 75 (New Zealand) Squadron RAF, at Feltwell, Norfolk, after returning from an attack on Munster, Germany, on the night of 7/8 July 1941. Sergeant James Allen Ward, the second pilot, volunteered to tackle the fire by climbing out onto the wing via the astro-hatch (B). With a dinghy-rope tied around his waist, he made hand and foot-holds in the fuselage and wings (1, 2 and 3) and moved out to the wing from where he was eventually able to extinguish the burning wing-fabric.

Unfortunately, Ward did not live to receive the Cross he won the night of 7 July 1941. He died in a raid on Hamburg ten weeks later, before the official award ceremony.



Peter the Hermit

Preacher and leader of one of the so-called people’s expeditions during the First Crusade (1096-1099). He was also known as Peter of Amiens, having been born in or near that city in northern France.

Peter the Hermit is one of the most problematic individuals associated with the entire crusade movement. The contemporary sources for the First Crusade are unanimous in presenting him as the leader of one of the armies of the crusade. The “French” chroniclers, notably Fulcher of Chartres, Peter Tudebode, Raymond of Aguilers, and the anonymous author of the Gesta Francorum, report nothing of his activities until his arrival at Constantinople (mod. Istanbul, Turkey). There, according to the Anonymous and Tudebode, his undisciplined troops carried out acts of violence until Alexios I Komnenos, the Byzantine emperor, had them ferried across the Bosporus to Asia Minor. There, they allegedly continued their wrongdoings and, under the inadequate command of Peter, who lacked authority, strayed too far into Turkish territory and were slaughtered at Kibotos (22 October 1096). The emperor, not sorry to be rid of them, rescued the survivors (among them Peter) and had them disarmed. For many historians, both medieval and modern, Peter’s subsequent role in the crusade was a minor one.

All the sources, however, agree that Peter later acted as ambassador of the entire crusade armies to the Turkish emir Karbughā, while they were being besieged by him at Antioch (mod. Antakya, Turkey) in June 1098. They were starving and had lost most of their horses, but were comforted by the discovery of the Holy Lance that had been predicted by visions. Their fate depended on Peter’s mission: his aim was to obtain either the conversion of Karbughā or a single combat, their only plausible chances of salvation. Yet according to some of the “French” sources, Peter had previously tried to desert from the army along with William the Carpenter (January 1098). One can only wonder that the mission to Karbughā should have been entrusted to Peter, who was discredited by his incompetence and his ignominious flight. Karbughā refused the crusaders’ demands, and the ensuing battle was won by the crusaders, miraculously assisted, it was claimed, by celestial warriors (28 June 1098). According to Raymond of Aguilers, Peter was also chosen to receive and distribute the tithes that the crusade leaders arranged for the relief of the poor within the army. Finally, most sources highlight Peter’s important role in Jerusalem after the capture of the city (15 July 1099). While the majority of the crusaders left Jerusalem in order to intercept a Fāţimid relieving army from Egypt, which they defeated at Ascalon (mod. Tel Ashqelon, Israel) on 12 August 1099, the leaders gave Peter the responsibility of organizing, among the Latin and Greek clergy in Jerusalem, the processions and propitiatory prayers that they hoped would bring them victory. Peter was thus evidently assigned the biblical role of Moses, who prayed to God while Joshua fought against the Amalekites.

These indubitable facts call for a reexamination of those accounts that are more favorable and more detailed with respect to Peter, particularly that of Albert of Aachen, once neglected but now rehabilitated as a source of the first order. According to Albert, while undertaking a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, Peter had experienced a vision of Christ asking him to preach in favor of an expedition to rescue the Christians in the East and to liberate the Holy Sepulchre. Peter is said to have received a letter from the patriarch of Jerusalem confirming this calling, and, upon his return, to have informed the pope of his divinely ordained mission before going to preach in Berry and the Amiénois, as well as the Moselle and Rhine regions, exhibiting letters that had supposedly fallen from the sky, in an atmosphere of wonder and exaltation.

The chronicler Guibert of Nogent, who actually met Peter, gives a description of him that highlights his charisma and his great popularity: the crowd saw him as a quasi-divine character and venerated him so much that they even pulled hairs from his mule to use as relics. The Jewish sources confirm his power over crowds as well as his use of letters: Peter indeed possessed a letter from the French Jews “advising” other Jewish communities to provide him with the financial help he asked for. According to several German sources, he assembled 15,000 men, and soon found fanatical emulators: the priests Volkmar and Gottschalk and Count Emicho of Flonheim each assembled forces of several thousand men. These forces, especially those of Emicho, carried out terrible pogroms among the Jewish communities of the Rhineland and also of Prague; these occurred for reasons of cupidity, because of the identification of Jews with Muslims as “enemies of Christ,” and also because of a desire to fulfill, by force if necessary, a prophetic tradition that announced the conversion of Jews at the end of time. Emicho indeed evidently styled himself as the king of the last days who was to unite the Greek and Latin churches and present Christ with his crown at the Mount of Olives. These troops were finally dispersed during their passage through Hungary and Bulgaria by the armies of local rulers. The expedition led by Peter the Hermit, which preceded the others, does not seem to have taken part in these pogroms.

In March 1096, Peter and his army marched along the Rhine and the Danube, without any incident other than a skirmish in Semlin. They arrived at Constantinople on 1 August. Emperor Alexios I allowed them to camp outside the city walls, received Peter cordially the next day, and gave him money in recompense for the treasury that had been seized by the Byzantine governor at Niš Alexios had them transported over the Bosporus to the Asian shore; there they were meant to await the arrival of the main crusade armies, which were due to depart from their homes on 15 August. The emperor promised to provide them with fresh supplies and recommended that they not stray too far from the coast. According to Albert of Aachen, Peter was in Constantinople negotiating for supplies when some reckless crusaders brought about the slaughter of his troops by going against the orders of his second-in-command. It thus seems that neither Peter not the emperor bore the responsibility for this disaster. Neither Albert nor Anna Komnene, the daughter of Alexios, states that Peter’s troops carried out any plundering in Constantinople, although they emphasize the damage caused by those of Godfrey of Bouillon. Anna sees Peter as the real initiator of the First Crusade; according to her, he preached it so that he might complete a previous, unfinished pilgrimage.

These sources thus present Peter as a charismatic individual invested with a mission that he claimed he had received directly from Christ. The subversive dimension of his character, his independence from the pope, the slaughter of his troops (sometimes regarded as a divine judgment), and his agreement with the Byzantine emperor probably led some chroniclers to minimize the part he played in the crusade. The Gesta Francorum certainly does so, and most of the “French” sources follow this account. However, this source was written when Prince Bohemund I of Antioch, the master of the anonymous chronicler, went to France with the aim of securing help against Emperor Alexios, his enemy (1105-1106). The author evidently sought to discredit the emperor and those favorable to him, including Peter. This motive could well explain the report of his alleged flight from Antioch. It is mentioned by seven sources: the Gesta Francorum, Peter Tudebode, Robert of Rheims, Guibert of Nogent, Baldric of Bourgueil, Orderic Vitalis, and the Historia Belli Sacri; however, all of these are dependent on the anonymous author of the Gesta Francorum, with the (possible) exception of Tudebode. Conversely, Peter’s desertion is not mentioned by seven independent chroniclers (Fulcher of Chartres, Raymond of Aguilers, Albert of Aachen, Radulph of Caen, Gilo of Paris, Ekkehard of Aura, and William of Tyre) or in any of the surviving letters sent by participants of the crusade. Moreover, according to the Gesta Francorum, the two deserters at Antioch were brought back to the camp by Tancred, Bohemund’s nephew; yet Radulph of Caen, a source close to Tancred, names the deserters as William the Carpenter and Guy the Red. In 1105 Guy was an important personage: he was seneschal of France and was endeavoring to marry his daughter to the king of France, a marriage that did indeed take place before being annulled by the Council of Troyes (1107). It would be understandable that the author of the Gesta Francorum would choose to replace the name of such an important person with that of the humble hermit Peter.

By this stage in the crusade, Peter’s prestige had been largely lost. Whether this was a result of the disillusion caused by disappointed eschatological hopes is not known. It is even uncertain what became of Peter after the conclusion of the crusade. There was a tradition, based on a few much debated documents, that on his return he founded a church at the monastery of Neufmoutier in Huy. This was supposedly where he died (perhaps around 1113) and was buried. Later legends that depict him as a nobleman, an erudite knight, and tutor to the Flemish princes are based on obvious forgeries.

Bibliography Blake, Ernest O., and Colin Morris, “A Hermit goes to War: Peter the Hermit and the Origins of the First Crusade,” Studies in Church History 22 (1985), 79-107. Coupe, Malcolm D., “Peter the Hermit, a Reassessment,” Nottingham Medieval Studies 31 (1987), 37-45. Flori, Jean, “Faut-il réhabiliter Pierre l’Ermite?,” Cahiers de Civilisation Médiévale 38 (1995), 35-54. —, Pierre l’ermite et la premiere croisade (Paris: Fayard, 1999). Hagenmeyer, Heinrich, Peter der Eremite (Leipzig: Harrassowitz, 1879). —, Le vrai et le faux sur Pierre l’ermite (Paris: Société Bibliographique, 1883). Morris, Colin, “Peter the Hermit and the Chroniclers,” in The First Crusade: Origins and Impact, ed. Jonathan Phillips (Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 1997), pp. 21-34. Wallenborn, Hélene, “Pierre l’ermite aux origines du Neufmoutier?,” Annales du Cercle Hutois des Sciences et Beaux Arts 48 (1994), 221-239.



The failure of the Second Crusade was demoralizing for everyone involved. In its wake the Europeans searched for someone on whom to fix the blame. Some said that a traitor had been bribed to encourage the armies to attack at the wrong place. Others said that Raymond of Antioch, angry that Louis hadn’t agreed to his plans, had used his influence to cause the disaster. Bernard of Clairvaux was castigated for preaching the crusade; his reputation never recovered completely. As the news of the disaster spread west, the rumors grew. Many believed that it was the sinful behavior of the participants that caused their downfall. Conrad blamed the Jerusalemites. Gerhoh of Reichersberg was certain that all had been led astray by the Devil. None of these allegations were backed up with facts.

It didn’t help that a much less prestigious Christian army had invaded the Spanish peninsula and taken the city of Lisbon from the Moors. Their feat was celebrated in the West as the Reconquista of Spain continued. This made the contrast to the failure in the East all the more striking.

Before everyone left the Holy Land for Europe, Baldwin III made an attempt to convince the Crusaders to try again. This time they would attack Ascalon he insisted. He knew it would work. But no one was willing to make the attempt. The young king did not have the military prestige of his father and grandfather.

Although Melisende was at the council at Acre, we don’t know if she agreed with the decision to attack Damascus. Her father had tried more than once to take it and settled for tribute and truce. Of all the unconquered Muslim cities, it was the one that had always been most willing to compromise and arrange treaties with the Latins. But it was also a tempting prize. Whether she was for or against the attack, she was never accused of being part of any plot to thwart the crusaders.

The Muslims were cheered by the fact that the rulers of Europe were unable to defeat them, but this didn’t change the political dynamics of the region as much as some may have thought. The main result of the Second Crusade was that Nur ad-Din gained more influence in the region and, eventually, he was able to absorb Damascus into his lands.

The real disaster was the reaction of the faithful in Europe. The story of the failures and infighting among the leaders of the crusade disgusted many who might have donated to the cause or come to fight. Writing thirty years later, William of Tyre notes that fewer pilgrims of any sort came to Jerusalem even in his time, and “those who do come fear lest they be caught in the same toils [as the armies of Louis and Conrad] and hence make as short a stay as possible.”

In terms of manpower and funds for arms, the Latin States had always been dependent on frequent infusions from the West. Despite this uncertain support, the Franks continued to attempt to expand their power. But the attack on Damascus had triggered something that had been growing by fits and starts among the Muslims for several years. The opposing Sunni and Shi’ite sects and feuding families began to form serious non-aggression pacts and, even more, promises of mutual aid. So when, in June 1149, Raymond of Antioch set out to lay siege to the Aleppan fortress of Neva, Nur ad-Din wrote Damascus for help. The emir, Anar, was busy arranging for grain from the area to be brought for storage in Damascus, but he sent a battle-hardened lieutenant and army at once. It seems to have been enough to keep the emir of Aleppo content.

Raymond of Antioch may have made too many enemies among his own people, or, as William suggests, “he was a man of undaunted and impetuous courage who allowed himself to be ruled by the advice of no one in matters of this kind.” He didn’t bring enough soldiers to accomplish his mission and didn’t bother asking any of the other lords for help. Raymond and his outnumbered army met Nur ad-Din and the armies of Aleppo and Damascus on June 29, 1149. The Antiochenes were routed. Raymond was killed and his head and right arm sent to Baghdad as trophies. Antioch was once more left with a young woman and minor child in authority.

Raymond may have had character flaws, but his military reputation was impressive. Far away in England, William of Newburgh had heard of his valor and had a fond memory of hearing tales of his exploits from a monk who had once been in Raymond’s service.

Unlike her mother, Constance was the reigning princess. She was barely into her twenties and had already produced four children, two girls and two boys. After Raymond’s defeat, Nur ad-Din advanced to Antioch, camping outside the gates in the hope of starving them out. Constance had few defenders of the city since most of the forces of Antioch had gone with Raymond. It’s not certain how many soldiers returned, but not enough. She sent messengers to her aunt and cousin in Jerusalem asking for help. In the meantime, she organized the people to keep the enemy from breaking into the city.

Meanwhile Nur ad-Din scoured the area around Antioch and went as far as the sea, which he had never seen before. He raided monasteries and fortresses, gathering booty to pay his army and provisions to keep them during a siege of Antioch.

Constance and the Latin Patriarch Aimery, as well as most of the townspeople, prepared to defend the city, although they also sent offers of treasure to bribe Nur ad-Din to retreat to Aleppo and leave them in peace. Constance knew well what measures to take to save her city.

When he received word of Raymond’s death, King Baldwin III was called upon to go up to Antioch as his father and grandfather had done, to sort things out. But the young king wasn’t made of the same stuff. He did what he could, gathering what men he had available, and headed up to Antioch. In an effort to encourage the people of the city to take heart, Baldwin laid siege to the nearby Muslim fortress of Harim, hoping to draw Nur ad-Din from Antioch. But, “after spending several days there without success, he gave up and returned to Antioch.” Nur ad-Din eventually lifted the siege once he felt that he had depleted their supplies and will power, satisfied that he had crippled his nearest enemy. Antioch would not pose a threat to Aleppo for years.

It’s not clear if Baldwin assumed any formal authority in Antioch. William says that he “remained at Antioch until affairs were reduced to order as far as time and place permitted.” Constance, with the help of the citizens of Antioch, then took over governing the principality, but they were still very short of manpower.

Another casualty of Raymond’s death was Jocelyn II, former count of Edessa. The prince of Antioch would have been pleased that his old nemesis suffered as a result of his downfall. Upon learning of Raymond’s defeat, the sultan of Iconium, north of Edessa, decided to take advantage of the confusion and attack Jocelyn’s home of Tel Bashir, which he still held. In response to Jocelyn’s call for help, Baldwin, busy at Antioch, sent his constable, Humphrey of Toron, to assess the military needs there.

This action shows the first major crack in the joint rule of Melisende and her son. Manasses of Hierges was still Melisende’s constable in Jerusalem, but it appears that Baldwin was spending more time in Acre, setting up a rival court, which he took with him to Antioch. Now nearly twenty, the young king was tired of ruling only with his mother’s consent. But the defeat at Damascus and the young king’s failure in subsequent endeavors had not allowed him to gain the support he needed to take over on his own.

Since not enough help was forthcoming, Jocelyn managed to pay off the sultan with suits of armor and the return of prisoners taken in one raid or another. Afterward, the count went to Antioch to thank Baldwin personally for sending Humphrey and perhaps to see if his experience was needed in protecting the principality. Baldwin and Constance turned down his offer.

On his way home, Jocelyn was captured by Nur ad-Din’s men. Ibn al-Athir says that he was out hunting and a local Turkomen took him prisoner, knowing that Nur ad-Din would pay a high price for him.13 Michael the Syrian says that God caused a tree to grow where there had never been one before so that Jocelyn fell over the roots and was captured for his many sins. William, who disliked Jocelyn more than either of the others did, tells us that he was taken when he “turned aside to relieve the needs of nature.”

Taken to Aleppo in chains, Jocelyn eventually died in prison. His wife, Beatrice, was left to hold Tel Bashir as best she could, “far beyond the strength of a woman, she busied herself in strengthening the fortresses of the land and supplying them with arms, men and food.” Eventually, she would be forced to sell her estates to the Greeks in return for a pension to support herself and her children.

William laments the fact that the two remaining Latin States in the north were now under the control of women, “in punishment for our sins.”

Edessa was lost but in Antioch the archbishop, Aimery, took charge of the military, using his own money to pay mercenaries and to feed the regular guards until Nur ad-Din decamped. Constance assumed the civil power and governed with no known complaint from the Antiochenes.

Once things were less chaotic, the threat from Nur ad-Din over and daily life back to normal, the next important task was to find a new husband for Constance. Baldwin III and his counselors felt that it was essential to select someone who could defend the territory as well as remain loyal to the king, unlike too many of the other men who had controlled the principality. The emperor Manuel also felt he had a stake in whom the next prince would be. Since Raymond had been forced to submit to Manuel’s suzerainty to avoid invasion, Antioch was technically a vassal state of the Byzantine Empire.

They forgot that Constance was no longer a child and had ideas of her own.

The Assisses of Jerusalem, laws compiled in the thirteenth century but based on early customs, have a section that is unique. There is no parallel in Western Europe, Byzantium, or the Muslim world. I believe that it grew from the abundance of women in the Latin States who were in charge by default. It also may have had something to do with the number of them who refused to be treated as marriage pawns. This law states that an heiress must be offered three choices of a husband by the king. If none appeal to her, then the king must find three more men. If she refuses them all, she is allowed to choose her own husband.

That is just what Constance did. The king chose three men that he knew would be loyal to him: Ives de Nesle, Walter of Falkenberg, and Ralph de Merle.19 She turned them all down. The Emperor Manuel sent a certain John Roger to Antioch to marry Constance. She took one look at him and announced that he was too old. Poor John Roger returned to Constantinople and entered a monastery.

“The princess dreaded the yoke of marriage and preferred a free and independent life,” William of Tyre said with scorn. He believed that she was shirking her responsibilities, but I certainly don’t blame her. She had already been cast upon the altar of duty once. Like her mother and aunt, Constance may have been confident in her own ability to make decisions. No outside lord could understand her principality as well as she. Her first charter, made at Latakia, undid a gift her mother had unjustly made to Guarner of Burgo of land that belonged to Ralph Boer. Unfortunately, Guarner’s children had already sold the land to the Hospitallers. Constance, “who had the jurisdiction of this land,” decided how the case should be settled and “confirmed it with the seal of the principate.”

That doesn’t sound as if Constance was living a “free and independent life.” It sounds as if she was attending to her responsibilities as princess of Antioch.

Nevertheless, her cousin Baldwin and many others felt that she needed a man. The king called a council that met in Tripoli in 1150. Melisende attended, although by then there was an open break between her and her elder son. They had set up separate chanceries and were each issuing their own charters.

Aimery, Patriarch of Antioch, came to the council along with many other church officials. How he felt about Constance remaining single isn’t known, but a new prince would reduce the current power that the Patriarch was wielding. The assembly had many pressing matters to discuss, including Baldwin’s desire to invade the territory of the Fatimids and capture Ascalon. But the main goal of the meeting was to force Constance to come to a marriage decision. Jerusalem couldn’t concentrate on southern expansion if the northern border state of Antioch had no able military leader.

Constance held firm. “Neither the king, nor the . . . queen nor the countess of Tripoli, her two aunts, was able to induce her to yield and thus provide for herself and her land.” Brava Constance!

It’s possible that neither Melisende nor Hodierna tried very hard to make their niece marry against her will. Neither of them had found much joy in marriage, Hodierna was at that time at the point of leaving her husband, Raymond of Tripoli.

The council broke up, chagrined at the young princess and at a loss as to what to do next. Constance went back to Antioch. If she remarried, the choice would be hers. In 1153, she married a charming newcomer who had fought with Baldwin III. His name was Reynaud de Chatillon. He seems to have been disliked by most of the men he knew but women adored him.

After the council, Hodierna refused to stay any longer in Tripoli with her husband. No one seems to know what had happened between the couple. I’ve found no account that says what Raymond might have done. Hodierna would have known from the women around her that a husband’s adultery was not cause for a wife to leave. My guess is that it might have something to do with the ferocity that Raymond showed after his father, Pons, died. He may have had a temper that was let loose on his wife and children as well as Syrian villagers. But that’s only a guess. Melisende seems to have reconciled the pair somewhat, but it was decided that Hodierna would benefit from an extended time away from her husband. Raymond apparently made no effort to keep his wife in Tripoli.

Melisende offered to let Hodierna come live with her in Jerusalem. The count either rode with them for a while and turned back home or was out on another task. The two women were still on the road when a messenger raced after them with the news that Count Raymond of Tripoli had been murdered by a party of Assassins at the Tripoli city gates as he was returning with two friends, who died with him. This unexpected tragedy brought about a torrent of xenophobia in Tripoli, in which mobs of Franks “without discrimination put to the sword all those who were found to differ in language or dress from the Latins.”