Henri de Marcy

The Lateran Council over, Henri de Marcy, now a cardinal, crossed the Alps in the spring of 1181 to take up again the struggle against heresy. He came as a papal legate, the first in history to raise and lead an army on a military expedition in a Christian territory. Henri had taken his vows at Clairvaux in 1156, three years after the death of Bernard, became abbot of one of its important daughter houses (Hautecombe in the Savoy) only four years later and returned to Clairvaux as abbot in 1176. What he had seen in 1178 in Toulouse – to him ‘the mother of heresy and the fountain-head of error’ – gave substance to the nightmare that he had inherited from Bernard of ‘the order of heretics, an army of apostates, irreverently reviling the troops of the living God, impiously presuming to blaspheme against the majesty of the Lord’. Henri had been influential in preparing the Lateran decree against heresy, and he and his successors continued to regard the campaign against it in this region as a special responsibility, and popes to entrust them with it. In consequence the Cistercians largely moulded both the church’s perception of the nature of heresy in the region at the end of the twelfth century and, through their letters and reports, modern understandings of it.

The mission of 1178 had been dispatched in response to an appeal for help from Raymond V of Toulouse against those whom he called heretics and their patrons. His real target was a political alliance formed against him after his occupation of Narbonne the previous year. The war that he had triggered by this action had raged intermittently ever since, and would continue until the mid-1190s. It was conducted by mercenary soldiers employed on all sides:

the Brabanters, Aragonese, Navarrese, Basques, Cotereaux and Triaverdins, who practise such cruelty upon Christians that they respect neither churches nor monasteries, and spare neither widows, orphans, old or young nor any age or sex, but like pagans destroy and lay everything waste.

Thus Lateran III had condemned these mercenaries in the same canon as the heretics and imposed the same penalties on ‘those who hire, keep or support them’. According to Stephen of Tournai, travelling through the region on his way to meet the papal legate, ‘we see nothing but the burned villages and ruined houses; we find no refuge; all threatens our safety and lays ambush for our lives.’ Afterwards he remembered how ‘passing there not long ago I saw the terrible fiery image of death, churches half destroyed, holy places in ashes, their foundations dug up. The houses of men had become the dwellings of beasts.’

The misery and devastation that Stephen witnessed were real and his horror genuine, but by this time the armies of every king and prince in Europe were made up of mercenaries like these. Armies were no longer composed, if they ever had been, of gallant knights giving loyal service to their lords. What Stephen saw and the council had condemned was not a new evil but the sight of familiar forces out of what they regarded as proper control, compounding the miseries of the countless petty wars and feuds endemic in a deeply fragmented society, too many of whose young men had nothing to lose but their ‘honour’.

Cardinal Henri’s army laid siege to Lavaur, a stronghold of Vicomte Roger Trencavel of Béziers currently under the command of his wife, Adelaide. Roger immediately agreed to stop protecting heretics and made a start by handing over Bernard Raymond and Raymond de Baimac, who had taken refuge in Lavaur after their encounter with Peter of St Chrysogonus in Toulouse in 1178. Brought before a council of the church at Le Puy, they were so moved by the eloquence of Henri de Marcy (he recounted) that they broke down, undertook to reveal the secrets of their sect and were allowed to return to Toulouse as canons respectively of St Etienne and St Sernin. Both were reported still to be leading praiseworthily religious lives in those positions six or seven years later; Bernard Raymond witnessed several acts of the chapter of St Etienne between 1184 and 1197.

Siège de Lavaur 1211

These events, including the confession, were described by Henri de Marcy in a letter now lost but used by the Limousin chronicler Geoffrey of Vigeois, who died in 1184, and another Cistercian abbot, Geoffrey of Auxerre, three or four years later. The account of Geoffrey of Vigeois contains two important novelties. He was the first to describe the heretics as Albigensians, meaning specifically heretics living in the area of Albi. After the Albigensian Crusade was launched in 1209, this became the name commonly used by northerners for all adherents of the (supposedly) dualist heresy against whose protectors it was directed, and by historians until the term ‘Cathar’ came into vogue in the second half of the twentieth century.

Geoffrey of Vigeois’s report of the confession itself is more sensational. Having described the heresy which the two converts recanted at Le Puy as rejecting, predictably enough, the teaching of the Roman church on the sacrifice of the Mass, the baptism of infants, marriage and the other sacraments, he quotes them as saying that it taught that

Satan, the Great Lucifer, who because of his pride and wickedness had fallen from the throne of the good angels, is the creator of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible, and of the evil spirits. It was he who had given the law of Moses. Christ had only the appearance of humanity; he did not experience hunger, thirst or other bodily needs; he did not undergo the passion, was not crucified, did not die and has not risen again. Everything claimed by the Gospels and the apostles is fantasy.

Raymond and Bernard also claimed that the heretics indulged in sexual orgies and justified abortion and infanticide on the ground that giving life was the work of the devil. For good measure Geoffrey of Vigeois throws in the story that the wife of a local noble who had left her husband to join the heretics was initiated by being vigorously debauched by fifty of their senior members. Geoffrey of Auxerre adds that, according to Bernard and Raymond, the heretics dismissed infant baptism as valueless because adults must undergo their own ritual imposition of hands from their elect, and that they attacked alms to churches and condemned prayers for the dead as a mercenary racket invented by clerks.

Thus far Bernard and Raymond had reiterated for the most part a familiar combination of anticlerical and anti-ecclesiastical sentiments deriving from literally understood biblical precepts whose implications were exaggerated either by the heretics themselves or their accusers. It was embellished by the routine monastic invective that Henri de Marcy had used to describe the Toulouse he entered in 1178, in which every form of pollution, from heresy to leprosy, sodomy and bestiality, was merged into a single diabolically inspired menace to the divine and social order.

In its vivid and explicit description of Satan as the creator of the earth and the giver of the law of Moses, on the other hand, the confession made a major contribution to the emerging account of the heresy as not merely another set of doctrinal errors springing from apostolic enthusiasm and anticlericalism but a counter-church with its own ritual and hierarchy and a theology and mythology based on the belief in two principles. That such a counter-church indeed existed in the lands between the Rhône and the Garonne has often been inferred, with varying plausibility, from some of the earlier accusations discussed in this book. It is here asserted directly and explicitly for the first time. It became henceforth the model for Cistercian accounts of the Albigensian heresy and was eventually taken up by the inquisitors of the thirteenth century. But it is not clear where it came from. It is possible that as repentant heretics Raymond and Bernard were simply reporting what they knew from experience to be true, but it is also possible that they hoped to win pardon and favour (as, in fact, they did) by confirming the expectations of their interrogators. If so, they would have been neither the first nor the last converts to do so.

It was not the tradition of Bernard of Clairvaux, whose interest was in the moral and sacramental consequences of heresy rather than its theological basis, that led Henri de Marcy to look for dualism. Nor are the rumours of dualist preaching in Toulouse before 1178 substantiated by the accounts of the mission of that year, though they had been reported, as rumours, by Peter of St Chrysogonus. It would have been in Peter’s retinue, rather than that of Henri de Marcy, that we would expect to find clerks from the Paris schools, where rebuttal of the ‘Manichaean’ heresy, based on the descriptions of it by St Augustine and other early fathers of the church, was by now a routine academic exercise. Be that as it may, it looks as though it was from the mission in 1178, though not directly from his own experience or observation during it, that Henri de Marcy learned to anticipate the abomination that in 1181 he confirmed to his own satisfaction and fed into a regular place in the rhetoric of his order.

Konya [Iconium] City-Fortress

Konya [Iconium] City Walls

With the entry of the Seljuk State into Anatolia, the area of its domination began to expand gradually. During this period, there began to struggle with the Byzantines in order to seize Konya and its surroundings. As a result of these struggles, the Seljuks took the city of Konya and Gevele Castle from the Byzantine governor named Romanus Makri. Since then, Konya has been the center of the Anatolian Seljuk State. The castle of Gevele is very important both in terms of its location and its strategic location. Because of this, the city of Konya was generally defended from the Gevale Castle and was first met in the attacks on Konya.

The Konya Fortress is also believed to have been constructed in the Roman period. However, due to the restorations and addition of new sections, the fortress and the city walls, which are believed to have been built in 2nd century AD, have almost lost their original plans and their architectural features. Although they have reinforced it against the anticipated First Crusade, the Seljuks made initially almost no changes to the fortifications when they conquered the city. Today nothing is preserved from the city walls surrounding the Alaeddin Tepesi (Alaeddin Hill).

Physical changes in Alaeddin Hill and its close surroundings, in the second half of 19th century up to 1897, when the railway line is connected to the city. It shows the inner city wall [i.e.the “keep”] as constructed previously.

Especially during the period of Izzettin Keykavus I and Alaeddin Keykubat I restorations were made to the Byzantine walls substantially. During these restorations one of the first examples of an `exhibition’ in the history of museology occurred when the spolia and the Antique period materials found near the Alaaddin Hill were displayed on a stand set in front of the walls. In this way the Sultan synthesized his own culture with the preceding one. Even more, the fact that the materials used in the city walls were contradictory to Islamic philosophy was tolerated. Displaying spolia with erotic figures on the walls was a clear indication of Seljuk tolerance. Another significance is that it displayed iconography on the walls. During Medieval time sultans believed that this could protect their citizens from enemies. There are two kinds of enemy. One of them is the visible enemy – because they are human like them. The other enemies are the invisible ones, and the city could be protected from these by talismans. There are many medieval stories about talisman present in Islamic culture, i. e. Gog and Magog versus Alexander.

Byzantine Cities, Villages and Fortifications

Konya Museums and Ruins


Konya from Total War Medieval 2

The Disaster at La Forbie I

Kingship in medieval times was a thing apart, remote from ordinary human preoccupations, touched with divinity. A king did not walk or talk like ordinary mortals; still less did he make decisions like them, for he saw himself walking with God at his side. While the emperors of Byzantium were most keenly aware of their divine power, even the kings of small states like Cyprus believed they were especially blessed. As a consequence, the king stood at the greatest possible distance from his subjects. He rarely knew what they were thinking, and rarely cared.

From the very beginning the pope had hoped that kings would lead the Crusade. Their splendor, their majesty, their semi-divine powers were needed as much as their armies were for the final conquest of the Holy Land. Their mystical armor preserved them from the arrows of the Saracens. In the imagination of the Vatican, the kings always rode ahead of their knights and infantrymen, and there was always a papal legate beside the king to warn, to console, to bless, and to guide.

In 1234, at the midpoint of the truce arranged between the Emperor Frederick and Sultan al-Kamil, Pope Gregory IX found himself once more putting his trust in a Crusade of kings. He appealed to the kings of France, England, Aragon, Castile, and Portugal. He wanted all of them to assemble their armies in Italy and then to sail off to the Holy Land in order to secure the Kingdom of Jerusalem finally and unalterably. The appeal was urgent, for the principalities in Palestine were dangerously unstable, capable of drowning each other in a sudden bloodbath. Bohemond V ruled over Antioch and Tripoli, but without his father’s flair for vigorous government and legal scholarship. Various members of the Ibelin family ruled over Beirut, Arsuf and Jaffa. In Acre, the merchant colonies of Genoa, Pisa, and Venice elected consuls whose administration extended over the greater part of the city, which was nominally the capital of Richard Filanghieri, whom Frederick had appointed as his viceroy. Tyre was in the hands of Philip of Montfort. The Templars and Hospitallers also had their independent principalities, which consisted of vast chains of fortresses dotted across the length and breadth of Palestine. The Holy Land was fragmented, and its two kings, Conrad and John of Brienne, were both in Italy.

The pope’s call for a Crusade of kings produced only one king. This was Thibault IV, Count of Champagne, who became, in 1234, king of Navarre. He was a faithful servant of the Church, (he burned heretics). He was witty and improvident, generous to a fault, but without much talent as a war leader. He had one virtue as a military commander: he was cautious not out of cowardice, but because he wanted to save as many lives as possible.

Before taking part in the Crusade, the king of Navarre wrote to the barons of the Kingdom of Jerusalem and asked some sensible questions. He wanted to know whether they regarded the truce to be valid; whether the new Crusaders would be welcomed; which were the best ports of departure; and whether he would be able to find supplies in Cyprus. They answered that the truce was invalid, for the Saracens attacked whenever they pleased; the best ports were Genoa and Marseilles; there were plentiful supplies in Cyprus. Moreover, once they reached Cyprus, they were in a position to strike at Syria or Egypt according to the opportunities at the time of their arrival. He would be warmly welcomed, and they hoped he would come soon.

The army reached Lyons in the summer of 1239. The muster roll included some of the most prominent names of French chivalry, Hugh IV, Duke of Burgundy, among them. The king of Navarre had planned to lead his army across Italy and to set sail from Brindisi, but the pope and Frederick were still quarreling bitterly and he had no desire to be caught in the middle. The army, numbering about twelve hundred knights and eight or nine thousand foot soldiers, marched down the Rhone Valley, some taking ship at Marseilles and others at Aigues-Mortes.

All went well at the beginning. However, as they approached the Holy Land, the ships were scattered by a sudden storm; some were blown onto the shores of Cyprus, while others drifted all the way to Sicily. But the portly figure of the king was seen stepping off his flagship at Acre on September 1, 1239, with the walls streaming with banners and the crowds cheering.

The Sultan al-Kamil had died in March, 1238. He had led his army against Damascus in January, captured it, and then set about organizing his empire, which stretched from southern Egypt almost to the Euphrates. But the effort was too much for him. His death at the age of sixty precipitated another civil war. A nephew, al-Jawad, seized power in Damascus, while his elder son, as-Salih Ayub, marched against Damascus with the help of Khwarismian tribesmen and quickly put an end to the rule of al-Jawad. As-Salih Ayub’s younger brother, al-Adil II, formerly viceroy of Egypt, appointed himself Sultan at the time of his father’s (al-Kamil’s) death. Enamored of a handsome young Negro, al-Adil II surrendered most of his powers to the youth, which would later bring about the enmity of the emirs and most of the population. In May 1240 the tent of the sultan and the youth would be surrounded, and they would both be killed. As-Salih Ayub, who would lose Damascus to his uncle, as-Salih Ismail, would then become sultan of Egypt. With one as-Salih in Cairo and another in Damascus, the civil war between the two branches of the family would begin in earnest, complicated by the presence of marauding Khwarismian tribesmen.

By dying, al-Kamil had made civil war inevitable; and by inviting Khwarismians to enter his army, his elder son had made it inevitable for those hordes of tribesmen to sweep across the country.

On the surface it might have seemed that the war between Damascus and Cairo was favorable to the Christians. But the Christians were themselves engaged in smoldering, haphazard civil wars, which flared up at intervals and subsided quietly: between the followers of Frederick and the Frankish barons who detested him, between the Temple and the Hospital, and between the local principalities. The king of Navarre was not the powerful charismatic leader capable of welding the kingdom into a single fighting force. The kingdom resembled an animal with too many heads and too many legs. The Arabs could survive their civil wars; it was becoming increasingly doubtful whether the Christians could survive theirs.

In an unhappy time, the king of Navarre did his best. His coming coincided with two events of considerable significance. Jerusalem fell to al-Nasir Daud, King of Transjordania. This was believed to be the fault of Richard Filanghieri, Frederick’s viceroy, who had neglected to fortify the city or had done so only halfheartedly in the belief that the truce of Jaffa would be maintained. That the siege lasted as long as twenty-seven days testified to the determination of the garrison troops. That it took place at all testified to the lack of leadership at Acre. No attempt was made to send a relief force. No arms or provisions were sent. Al-Nasir allowed the Christians to go free but none were allowed to remain in Jerusalem; and he dismantled the Tower of David. The fall of Jerusalem seemed to take place in a strange silence, without anyone being aware of it.

The second event which took place at this time was the fall of Damascus to as-Salih Ismail. This was not an event that could possibly pass unnoticed. As long as al-Kamil’s elder son remained alive, he could be depended upon to stir up civil war. At this time, al-Adil II, degenerate and luxury-loving, was still ruling Egypt. In these circumstances, the King of Navarre, with his small council of advisers, had to decide whether to attack Egypt or Damascus. The council consisted of the master of the Temple, the patriarch of Jerusalem, the bishop of Acre, the master of the Teutonic Order, and Gauthier IV of Brienne, Count of Jaffa, the nephew of John of Brienne, King of Jerusalem. Gauthier, who was married to the daughter of Hugh I of Lusignan, King of Cyprus, was coming into prominence as one of the leading barons of the kingdom.

The decision of the council was to attack Egypt first and Damascus second. An attack on Jerusalem was discussed briefly, and there was even some talk of a foray against Safed, overlooking the Sea of Galilee. But the general opinion was that an attack on Alexandria or Damietta would be most profitable, since it was known that al-Adil II was unpopular with his people. The former empire of al-Kamil was in ruins, but the various pieces of it were still formidable. The king of Navarre was aware that an attack on Egypt presented grave problems, and his most important task was to keep his army intact. He would not, if he could possibly avoid it, permit any of his officers to engage in reckless adventures. The lesson of Hattin had finally been learned.

On November 2, the king’s army marched out of Acre with the intention of attacking the Egyptian outposts of Ascalon and Gaza. The army numbered about four thousand knights and about twelve thousand foot soldiers; and although the foot soldiers were comparatively few, this was one of the largest armies that had ever set out against the Saracens. Some of the local barons took part; the Templars and the Hospitallers were also represented; the army was well armed, but there were not enough horses, and many of the knights were forced to walk; provisions were low, but spirits were high. To ride against the enemy under a king was an experience the Crusaders had not enjoyed for many years.

While they were marching on Jaffa, Peter of Dreux, Count of Brittany, learned from a spy that a rich caravan was moving up the Jordan Valley toward Damascus. Included in the caravan was a great herd of cattle and sheep intended to provision Damascus in the event of a Crusader attack, which as-Salih Ismail had been expecting for some time. The count of Brittany decided that the herd could be put to better use by the Crusaders. Without asking permission of the king of Navarre, he detached about two hundred knights from the main army to form a raiding party. He rode off into the hills the same evening, and at dawn found himself close to the castle where the caravan, which was well guarded by bowmen and cavalry, had camped for the night. The spy had given the count of Brittany an accurate report of the castle and the approach roads, and it was therefore possible to set up an ambush. One of the approach roads entered a narrow defile, and the count hoped that the caravan would pass through the defile. He divided his troops, posted himself in the defile, and gave Ralph of Nesles command of the alternate road. What was certain was that the caravan would have to pass along one of those roads.

The caravan came along the road that led to the defile, and here the count of Brittany pounced upon it. There was some savage hand-to-hand fighting, during which the count of Brittany was nearly killed. The bowmen were too close to the Crusading knights to be able to discharge their arrows, and the knights were always at their best in close combat. There were probably fewer than three hundred men in the raiding party, and only half of these were attacking in the defile. The horn was sounded. Ralph of Nesles brought up his troops in time to decide the battle. The enemy fled to the castle, pursued by the knights, who seized the herds of cattle and sheep, killed many of the defenders, and made others captive. For the rest of the day, and for two more days, the Crusaders guarded the herds on the way to Jaffa.

Meanwhile the king of Navarre learned that the sultan of Egypt had sent an army to Gaza. Al-Adil II was not witless; he had large armies and was prepared to use them; and he was well aware of the threat posed by the king’s arrival in the Holy Land. Some of the knights, dazzled by the success of the count of Brittany’s raiding party, began to think of a raid on Gaza. Hugh IV, Duke of Burgundy, was one of those who favored the raid, and his standing among the knights was almost as high as that of the king of Navarre. When the ever-cautious king of Navarre discovered this plan, he objected strongly. So did the Templars and Hospitallers. But it appeared that there were only a thousand enemy troops at Gaza and, according to the conspirators, it would be easy to overwhelm them. Let them go forward, attack Gaza, and if the signs were propitous, march into Egypt. The king of Navarre insisted that the army should move forward as a single unit. The count of Brittany and the heads of the military orders protested just as strenuously. The king reminded them that they had all taken an oath to obey him as their military leader. They were rebellious and refused to listen.

The Disaster at La Forbie II

The Battle of La Forbie, also known as the Battle of Harbiyah, was fought in 1244 between the allied armies (drawn from the Kingdom of Jerusalem, the crusading orders, the breakaway Ayyubids of Damascus, Homs and Kerak) and the Egyptian army of the Ayyubid Sultan as-Salih Ayyub, reinforced with Khwarezmian mercenaries. the Egyptians was victorious over their enemies. Art by Zvonimir Grbasic for Medieval Warfare VI.5

The rebels rode off with Count Henry of Bar in command. The king held a council of war, where it was decided that at first light the main army would march south in the hope that they would be able to protect these foolhardy knights.

From Jaffa the rebels rode all night, swept past Ascalon, reached the brook that formed the frontier of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, crossed it, and continued along the coast in the direction of Gaza. It was a bright moonlit night, very beautiful, and every shrub or tree stood out clearly among the shimmering sand dunes. They took no precautions at all. They spread cloths on the sand and sat down for supper, while others slept and still others groomed their horses. They had sent out no patrols and they were totally unaware that they were being watched at every moment. Suddenly there was an uproar. The Egyptian army came out above the dunes, bowmen and slingers shouting at the top of their voices.

Even then it was possible to make decisions. Gauthier of Brienne and the duke of Burgundy believed they could still fight their way back to Ascalon. Count Henry of Bar and Amaury of Montfort argued that they must stand firm, because only the cavalry could escape and they had no intention of abandoning the foot soldiers. Gauthier of Brienne and the duke of Burgundy and a small handful of knights slipped away. The rest fought under appalling conditions. There were wild skirmishes in the sand. Count Henry used his bowmen well, but they were no match for the enemy. Amaury of Montfort saw a steep passage between two dunes where he thought he could take shelter from the enemy bowmen. He threw his cavalry into the passage defended by Egyptian infantry. The cavalry cut down most of the infantry, but at the other end of the passage the Egyptian cavalry was waiting for them. The Egyptian cavalry then performed a classic maneuver. They fled, with the Frankish knights in full pursuit. Then the Egyptians blocked the passage with their infantry, and their cavalry swung around and charged the knights.

This was the end of the battle of the dunes. For miles around the sands were strewn with the dead. Count Henry of Bar was killed, Amaury of Montfort was taken prisoner, and eighty knights were captured. Altogether twelve hundred Crusaders were killed and half as many were taken prisoner.

There was madness in the moonlit battle, and when the king of Navarre reached Ascalon and met Gauthier of Brienne and the duke of Burgundy, he quickly became aware that everything had happened as he thought it might—a disaster that was totally senseless and totally explicable.

At Ascalon he held a council of war which ended in tentative decisions: to advance, to retreat, to wait for more information? What happened, perhaps inevitably, was that they did all these things. Finally the king decided to advance across the brook in order to help the scattered fugitives. Then he advanced deeper to see the battlefield and to make contact with the enemy, and when the enemy pulled back, the king’s forces withdrew all the way back to Acre. The king himself was inclined to attack Gaza, but the Templars and Hospitallers pointed out sensibly that the enemy would probably cut the throats of all the prisoners if they did so. The prisoners had become hostages for the good behavior of the king’s army.

It has been suggested that the king of Navarre had no reason to retreat to Acre, and it might have been better if he had strengthened the fortifications of Ascalon, or captured Gaza, or made one last effort to take possession of Jerusalem. The Rothelin manuscript, a document that details these events, describes the misery of the people as they watched the great cavalcade on its way back to Acre. “In all the places they passed through there was great weeping and great crying out because so many great Christians were returning after having accomplished nothing at all.” It was precisely because of this sense of futility that they returned to Acre, the largest and most powerful city belonging to the Crusaders.

There was also another reason for returning to Acre. The interminable wars between Damascus and Cairo were about to begin again with undiminished fury. As-Salih Ayub had taken refuge in Kerak with al-Nasir Daud, King of Transjordania. His uncle, as-Salih Ismail, had Damascus completely under his control. Suddenly in May 1240, with the assassination of al-Adil II and the return of as-Salih Ayub to the Egyptian throne with the help of the king of Transjordania, it was clear that there would be a fight to the death between uncle and nephew. By moving back to Acre, the king of Navarre was placing himself at an equal psychological distance from Cairo and Damascus so that he could bargain with both of them, extract concessions from them, and perhaps arbitrate between them.

The political map of the Saracenic Near East at this time showed remarkable fragmentation. Between Damascus and Cairo there were about a dozen principalities. Some were at war with one another; others were searching for allies; still others were quite capable of abandoning their alliances at a moment’s notice. In this way it happened that Muzaffar, Prince of Hama, having fought a border war with the prince of Aleppo, sent an ambassador to Acre, promising that, in exchange for help against Aleppo, he would give the use of his castles to the Christians and all his people would become Christians. The prince of Hama wanted the King of Navarre to send troops to his aid, or at least to make a show of force. The King of Navarre led his troops northward along the coastal road to Tripoli, and he seems to have intimidated the prince of Aleppo. Although the prince of Hama reneged on his promise to let the Crusaders use his castles and convert his subjects, there were indications that more useful alliances would soon be formed.

A few weeks later, when the king of Navarre’s army was encamped at Sephoria in the Galilee, an ambassador arrived from as-Salih Ismail of Damascus with an offer to surrender the castles of Belfort, Tiberias, and Safed, and large areas of the Galilee and the hinterland of Sidon, in exchange for an agreement that the Christians would make no truce with Egypt and that they would defend Jaffa and Ascalon against the Egyptian forces. The king of Navarre agreed to these terms, and marched to Jaffa, where, strangely enough, his army was met by a large detachment of the army of Damascus.

What happened at Jaffa has never been satisfactorily explained. The army of Damascus seems to have melted away after some desultory fighting with the Crusaders, who had meanwhile occupied most of the Galilee and its powerful fortresses. Then as-Salih Ayub, now sultan of Egypt, sent an embassy to win the Franks over to him, with an offer to release all the prisoners taken in the moonlit battle at Gaza and to confirm that the Crusaders had possession of Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

Like Frederick II, the king of Navarre had accomplished by diplomacy what he had failed to accomplish by force of arms. The Kingdom of Jerusalem had been restored to its historical limits, except for the regions around Nablus and Hebron. The king had accomplished his purpose. He rode to Jerusalem to pay his respects to the tomb in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and then returned to Acre for a last meeting with the barons before sailing back to Spain. Somewhere in the Mediterranean, his small fleet would pass the much larger fleet of Richard, Earl of Cornwall and brother of King Henry III of England, who would take the king of Navarre’s place as the acknowledged leader of the continuous Crusade.

Richard, Earl of Cornwall, was one of those curious men who go through life wearing great titles they can never live up to. His uncle was Richard the Lion Heart; his father the lackluster King John; his mother Isabelle of Angoulême, who after her husband’s death married Hugh of Lusignan, Prince of the Galilee; his sister, another Isabelle, was married to the Emperor Frederick. He therefore had wide family connections with the Holy Land, and since he came as a kind of royal legate on behalf of his brother, King Henry III of England, he seemed to be invested with kingly power and the barons of Jerusalem accepted him as they had accepted the king of Navarre.

He was intelligent and affable, and he had very few illusions about the Kingdom of Jerusalem. In one of his letters home he wrote, “In the Holy Land peace has been replaced by discord, unity by division, concord by civic loathing. The two fraternal orders, although they were brought into being in defence of their common mother, are swollen with pride because they have an excess of wealth, and they quarrel mercilessly in her breast.” Apparently the relations between the Hospitallers and the Templars were strained to the breaking point. The Hospitallers were concentrated at Acre, the Templars at Jaffa. The Hospitallers favored Egypt, while the Templars were in alliance with Damascus. Richard, who had brought eight hundred knights with him, represented a third force, which held the balance of power.

November saw a turning point. Richard threw in his lot with the Hospitallers and came to an understanding with Sultan as-Salih Ayub of Egypt, who confirmed the agreements reached with the king of Navarre. There was a brief period of euphoria. It seemed that the kingdom was secure and that all the disruptive forces might be held in check. Richard was the balance wheel. For a few months he represented the power and might of the Crusader army, the more powerful because it was in alliance with Egypt.

Actually it was Frederick II who was acting behind the scenes, although Richard became the beneficiary. During that winter, Frederick sent two ambassadors to as-Salih Ayub. They came with a retinue of a hundred men, laden with expensive gifts for the sultan. This embassy was greeted as no other embassy had ever been greeted before. The sultan ordered that everyone in Cairo should welcome the ambassadors and their retinue, who were given Nubian horses from the sultan’s own stables. The streets and the public buildings were illuminated. There were parades and audiences and celebrations, and the sultan spoke kindly to the ambassadors and their retinue, lodged them in his palaces, and gave them mountains of gifts. The members of the embassy were invited to go on hunting expeditions, to practice with their crossbows, to amuse themselves as they pleased. Winter is always the best time of the year in Cairo, and as-Salih Ayub seemed determined to impress Frederick with his liberality and generosity in a good season.

Richard, well aware of the success of the embassy, seems to have felt that his services were no longer needed. He fortified Ascalon, did his best to resolve the quarrels of the barons, and in May 1241 he returned to England, taking his knights with him.

With the balance wheel gone, the barons of Jerusalem leaped at each other’s throats: The Templars fought the Hospitallers, there were murderous raids by the Templars into the territory of al-Nasir Daud, and by the Hospitallers against Aleppo; Richard Filanghieri, the imperial viceroy, was thrown out of Tyre by a consortium of barons, who were incensed when he attempted to organize a coup d’état in Acre. Balian of Ibelin was emerging as the chief of the barons. Neither King Conrad, who reached the age of fifteen in 1243, nor the aging John of Brienne were able to exercise kingship in the Holy Land, and the barons decided that the title Queen of Jerusalem should be granted to Queen Alix of Cyprus, who became regent. The barons were in the ascendant, with no king of Navarre or earl of Cornwall to curb their recklessness, their stupidity, or their avarice. Each was prepared to defend his own property against all comers. The Kingdom of Jerusalem scarcely existed, there was only the sum of its parts.

If the barons had been united under a war leader of proven excellence—another Godfrey, another Leper King, another Richard the Lion Heart—it would have made very little difference during the days that followed the departure of the earl of Cornwall. The forces confronting the kingdom were vast and incalculable, and even the Templars, with their network of spies and secret agents in Damascus and Cairo, could not measure the extent of the horrors about to be visited on them.

In June 1244, the Khwarismian horsemen swept out of the Hauran, invaded the Galilee, captured Tiberias, put all the Christians to the sword, and then swung toward Nablus and Jerusalem. This long column, more than ten thousand strong, had crossed the Euphrates in boats made of animal skins earlier in the year. They had been summoned by Syltan as-Salih Ayub, who wanted them to create havoc in their southward march, join the Egyptian army at Gaza, and then march north against the Christians along the seacoast and east against Damascus. With the help of the Khwarismians, he hoped to destroy both the Christians and the armies of his uncle, as-Salih Ismail.

The Khwarismians were mercenaries, out for plunder, living off the land. They wore wolfskins and sheepskins; they survived on boiled herbs, water, milk, and a little meat. They were admirable bowmen, skilled lancers; they were quick, with their short hunting knives, at cutting throats. They brought their women and children with them, and the women fought beside the men. They sacked Tiberias and Nablus, but these were small towns. Jerusalem was not so easily sacked by wild tribesmen.

The Christians had been slow to realize the danger. Robert, Patriarch of Jerusalem, now hurried to the holy city with the masters of the Temple and the Hospital, hoping there was time to put the defenses in order. Part of the Christian population was evacuated. Then, on July 11, 1244, the Khwarismians broke into the city, murdering and plundering as they raced through the narrow streets. They reached the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, desecrated the tombs of the kings of Jerusalem, and cut the throats of the priests who were celebrating mass at the high altar. They opened the graves of the kings, searching for treasure; they found only bones, which they threw into a fire. But the garrison held out for a few weeks. The Crusaders made a surprisingly vigorous defense, and they did not surrender until August 23. The Khwarismians then offered to let the Christians go free. About eight thousand survivors of six weeks of murder and pillage took the road to Jaffa.

They had gone only a little way down the road when they looked back and saw Frankish flags waving on the walls. Thinking that Jerusalem had somehow been recaptured by the knights, they turned back, only to fall into an ambush carefully laid by the Khwarismians, who had had second thoughts about letting the Christians go free. They amused themselves with another massacre. The Arab tribesmen in the neighborhood smelled blood. The Christians who survived the massacre were hunted down by the tribesmen and killed. Only three hundred survivors, out of the eight thousand, reached Jaffa.

In this way Jerusalem fell finally and completely into the hands of the Muslims. Except for an anomalous six-month period in 1300, 673 years would pass before a Christian army would enter the city again. On December 9, 1917, the Turks surrendered the city to General Sir Edmund Allenby.

The Khwarismian invasion brought about changes in the fragile system of alliances. The barons threw in their lot with Damascus; the king of Transjordania and the prince of Hims joined the Christians; the Templars and the Hospitallers seemed to bury their quarrels. When the prince of Hims arrived in Acre, he was welcomed with enthusiasm and jubilation; cloths of gold, silks, and carpets were spread out before him wherever he walked or rode through the city. He was known to be an excellent soldier and a master of diplomacy; and he liked and understood the Christians.

Gauthier of Brienne, Count of Jaffa, and Philip of Montfort, Lord of Tyre, commanded the expedition, which consisted of about a thousand knights and six thousand foot soldiers; the prince of Hims brought two thousand cavalry, and the king of Transjordania about an equal number of Bedouin. A real alliance had been forged: the Christians and Muslims marched together in good spirits; there was no bickering as the three columns drove toward Gaza, where the Egyptians and the Khwarismians were waiting for them.

The armies met near the village of La Forbie on the sandy plains northeast of Gaza. Gauthier of Brienne became commander in chief of the allied forces. A young Mameluke officer, Baibars, formerly a slave, commanded the combined Egyptian-Khwarismian army. The opposing armies were about equal in numbers and equipment. The best military strategists on the field were Baibars and the prince of Hims.

At a war council before the battle, the prince of Hims insisted that they should take up defensive positions and transform the camp into an armed fortress. The Khwarismians generally avoided fortified strongpoints. Confronted by an unyielding wall of knights and foot soldiers, they could be expected to melt away, and the Egyptian army was too small to attack without them. But Gauthier of Brienne, always quick to act, decided upon an immediate attack.

The Franks were massed on the right wing, near the sea; the prince of Hims with his detachment of Damascenes occupied the center, and the king of Transjordania with his mounted Bedouin were on the left. The battle lasted two days, from the morning of October 17, 1244, to the afternoon of the next day. During the first day, the knights made repeated charges against the army of Baibars, which held its ground. There were skirmishes with the Khwarismians, thrusts and sallies all along the line. On the following day the Khwarismians attacked the Damascenes in the center, and this concentrated attack of extraordinary ferocity punched a hole in the allied line which could never be filled up. The Damascenes fled. Then the Khwarismians wheeled around against the Bedouin and cut them to pieces. The army of the prince of Hims fought well, almost to the last man. Seventeen hundred of them fell to the Khwarismians, and the prince of Hims rode off the field with only 280 men. Having disposed of the Damascenes, the cavalry of the prince of Hims, and the Bedouin, the Khwarismians turned on the Christians with the relish of men who, having feasted well, look forward to the sweetmeats at the end of dinner.

Sandwiched between the Khwarismians and the Egyptians, the Franks were torn to shreds. They charged and were thrown back, and every charge produced a mountain of dead horses and dead riders. Over five thousand Christians died in the sands. The losses at La Forbie were even greater than the losses on the Horns of Hattin. Only thirty-three Templars, twenty-seven Hospitallers, and three Teutonic Knights survived the battle. Eight hundred prisoners were taken, including Gauthier of Brienne. The Khwarismians tortured him and then surrendered him to the Egyptians in the hope of a large ransom. He died in a dungeon in Cairo, murdered by some merchants who felt that he had raided too many caravans moving between Cairo and Damascus.

The losses among the great officers of the kingdom were staggering. The Master of the Temple, the archbishop of Tyre, the bishops of Lydda and Ramleh, and the two cousins of Bohemond of Antioch, John and William of Botrun, perished; their heads were cut off to decorate the gates of Cairo. Philip of Montfort and the patriarch of Jerusalem, who had carried the True Cross into battle, escaped to Ascalon. The Egyptians celebrated in Cairo with a triumphal procession, fireworks, illuminations, and a grand parade in which the captured emirs of Damascus were seen roped together with their heads bent low and their faces grey with despair. Cairo went wild with joy.

The disaster at La Forbie signified the end of the Crusaders’ offensive military power. They would continue to hold castles and fortified cities for a little while longer, but never again were they able to put a large army in the field. They had been bled white at La Forbie; the body politic had suffered so many shocks that it seemed to be dazed, exhausted, without willpower.

One more king, arrayed in the mysterious panoply of majesty, would come to the Holy Land and attempt after more terrible defeats to put its affairs in order. Meanwhile the Crusaders, crouched behind their fortress walls, murdered each other, sent occasional raiding parties into the hinterland, and sometimes they managed to believe that the kingdom was in the care of the Holy Trinity and would endure for eternity.

King Baldwin III and the Heroic Age

Baldwin III was one of the key Christian leaders who were involved in the Second Crusade, although one of its first acts was a failure in front of the walls of Damascus.

Of all the kings of Jerusalem Baldwin III is the one we know best. Contemporary historians were awed by the young king who seemed to have no vices, to be at once intelligent, deeply religious, and gentle to all people. Moreover, he possessed the gift of command. He was born at exactly the right time, for his kingdom was in danger of dissolution, and only by superb ability and great gifts of mind could it be maintained. Even so, before he died he may have known that the end was in sight.

William of Tyre, who described him minutely, remembered that in his youth he was an inveterate gambler and that throughout his life he was astonishingly frank, abruptly rebuking high officers of state in public rather than in private, making enemies unnecessarily. These were dangerous elements in his character, and they were to have dangerous consequences.

One of his major gambles took place in 1152, when he quarreled violently with his mother, who had held the regency for seven years which was past the time when Baldwin should, by law, be the single sovereign. Baldwin at twenty-two performed all the military offices demanded of him, presided over the court, and acted in public as though he possessed the real power. Yet he remained under the tutelage of his formidable mother. It was an absurd situation, and the king at long last decided to assert himself.

Queen Melisende was at that time under the influence of a certain Manasses of Hierges, a clever nobleman from the region of Liege, whom she had appointed Constable of the kingdom. Manasses was rich, powerful, and insolent, determined to retain his privileged place at all costs.

Baldwin set about his assumption of real power in two stages. First, he had himself crowned secretly in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, in the presence of only a handful of his knights, thus preventing his mother from being crowned with him. Secondly, the king decided on war. Manasses was closely besieged in his castle at Mirabel near Jaffa. He was captured, brought into the king’s presence, and spared on condition that he leave the kingdom and never return. Queen Melisende fortified Jerusalem against the king’s army and barricaded herself in the citadel, appealing to the people, the nobles, and the clergy for their assistance in her righteous war against her son. The people and the nobles had grown weary of her; the clergy were deeply indebted to her. After a few days of token resistance, she surrendered and was allowed to leave for Nablus on condition that she, too, never return to Jerusalem. Baldwin had been perfectly prepared to take the citadel by force; he had mounted siege engines and hurled rocks against the walls, and, if necessary, would have killed his mother. This was a gamble that had to be taken to save the kingdom.

In Antioch, the Princess Constance still ruled, headstrong, improvident, pleasure-loving, and without any skill in government. A new Prince of Antioch had to be found for her, and Baldwin presented her with a list of three noblemen who possessed the requisite qualities of courage and resourcefulness. She wanted none of them. In her own good time she would choose a husband suitable to her needs. She found such a husband in Reynald of Châtillon, the feckless younger son of the count of Gien, who had accompanied Louis VII during the Second Crusade. Reynald was young, handsome, possessed of great courage, and to all outward appearances he would have made an excellent Prince of Antioch. Constance was in love with him and appears to have married him secretly even before securing the permission of the king, who was her suzerain. Baldwin appears to have permitted the marriage reluctantly. He had hoped she would marry someone closer to her own rank.

Reynald of Châtillon was one of those men who rise from obscure origins and somehow change the course of history. He, more than anyone else, was responsible for the fall of the kingdom. He endangered everything and everyone who came near him and seemed oblivious to the damage he caused. He could be counted upon to do improbable, absurd, and terrible things with a kind of casual grace, never realizing the cost.

He proved very early that he could be extremely vicious. As Prince of Antioch he regarded himself as the sole ruler whose judgments must never be questioned. The Patriarch Aimery of Limoges sometimes did question them in private, and unhappily these private conversations were reported to the prince. Reynald had the patriarch stripped and scourged till the blood came, then had him placed on the roof of the citadel and smeared all over with honey so that flies settled all over him while the sun burned him. The patriarch was in ill-health but remarkably resilient. Somehow he survived the punishment. News of Reynald’s act of revenge reached Baldwin III in Jerusalem. The king was outraged and at once sent two of his councillors posthaste to Antioch with orders that Aimery should be released from captivity and permitted to resume his patriarchal functions. Reynald obeyed. Aimery left Antioch, and it was many years before he returned.

Reynald was the prince of the second most important city in the Holy Land. Left to itself. Antioch could have added to its great wealth and stability. Reynald, however, possessed the instincts of a bandit chieftain. The Byzantines were warring against the Armenians in Cilicia; Reynald joined the Byzantines, hoping to add Cilicia to his princedom. When it became clear that the Byzantines regarded Cilicia as their own, he turned against them and sent an expedition to Cyprus, which belonged to Byzantium. The expedition was well organized and had one purpose: to obtain booty. The Cypriot army quickly collapsed; monasteries and nunneries were seized; nuns were raped; costly vestments, gold and silver vessels, and jewels were heaped up and carted away to the waiting ships. The raiders remained on the island for only a few days, but the damage was incalculable. Manuel Comnenus, the Byzantine emperor, then busy in Europe, quietly decided to take revenge upon an insolent and treacherous prince.

Meantime, Nur ed-Din continued to attempt to forge a united Muslim army against the Christians. Like his father, Zengi, he could be cruel and implacable; unlike him, he possessed a deeply contemplative temperament. He lived like an ascetic, fasted, and sometimes found himself in a state of religious exaltation. He was a man who lived on many levels: administrator, warrior, mystic. His mysticism was perhaps given strength by his chronic ill-health, while his intense religious feeling gave strength to the holy war he conducted against the Christians.

Baldwin III had a profound understanding of his most implacable enemy. His spies gave him accurate reports, and he sometimes took advantage of the periods when Nur ed-Din was bedridden. In theory the prince of Antioch was charged with defending the northeast, while the king defended Samaria, Judaea, and the Negev. In fact Baldwin III was in overall command of Christian territory in the Holy Land.

From the beginning of his reign Baldwin III meant to conquer Ascalon, which was heavily defended by the Egyptians because it was their northernmost outpost along the Palestinian coast. The people of Ascalon were all trained in arms. High walls, barbicans, and towers protected thecity on the landward side, and it was not easily approachable by sea because there were low shelving sands, the winds whipped up high waves, and there was no proper harbor. Nevertheless supplies could be brought into the city on small boats.

Baldwin proceeded with great care and intelligence. The navy of the kingdom patrolled the sea approaches; the royal fleet was under the command of Gerard of Sidon, and consisted of fifteen ships. Other ships were bought, stripped of their masts, and disassembled: from the wooden strakes they made siege engines and moving towers, covered with hides to prevent them from catching fire. On January 25, 1153, the king with his entire army, together with the grand masters of the Hospital and the Temple, the archbishops of Tyre, Caesarea, and Nazareth, and the patriarch holding high the True Cross, appeared outside the walls of Ascalon. With this formidable army it was hoped that Ascalon would yield within a month.

It took much longer, for the people of Ascalon were far better prepared than the Christians had expected. They could not be starved out, they had plentiful supplies of fresh water, and no surprise night attacks were possible because they had ingeniously lit up the walls with oil-lamps which were shielded against the wind by glass containers. But more important than anything was the fact that the defenders were in high spirits and believed their walls were impregnable. They had excellent sources of information, and they knew that the army outside their gates were outnumbered two to one by their own army. One day an Egyptian fleet of seventy vessels appeared, and the small Christian fleet made no effort to attack them. The Egyptians landed supplies and provisions, and Ascalon was stronger than ever.

After two months, Baldwin III realized to his dismay that he had not even made a dent in the walls of Ascalon. That Easter, the influx of Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land was much larger than usual. The king ordered that the pilgrims and sailors must all assist in the siege of Ascalon; they would be paid from the royal treasury. All ships coming to the Holy Land must join the fleet of Gerard of Sidon. In this way, the army and the fleet increased in numbers. But three more months passed before there was any significant change.

One day toward the end of July, the defenders crept out of the city and set fire to the great wooden tower which topped the walls of Ascalon. But as the Christians watched in amazement, the wind changed and the flames began licking the walls. The Christians decided that if the walls could be burned by fires the enemy set, how much more would they burn if set by them. They heaped faggots and cord wood and wood from the surrounding orchards in the space between the burnt-out tower and the wall, poured pitch and oil on them, and then set fire to them. About dawn, as they had hoped and expected, part of the wall fell with a thunderous roar that awakened the army.

Through this breach in the wall some forty Templar knights rushed into the city, some of them standing guard to prevent any other Christians from entering. In their madness, a handful of Templars believed they could conquer the entire city. At first, the people of Ascalon took fright; then they formed ranks, and it was a simple matter to round up these proud Templars and butcher them. That night, they mended the breach in the wall with huge balks of timber from their own ships, while the bodies of the dead Templars were dangled over the walls in the full sight of the Christian army; the bodies were left there for the birds to peck at.

Ascalon seemed to be lost. A vast despair seized the Christians, who debated whether it was worth their while to continue battering a city that seemed impregnable. The army of Ascalon, thinking the Crusaders would reel back, made sorties on the third day after the Templars were hung on the walls. The Crusaders counterattacked with fury and desperation, as though all their pent-up strength and all their frustration were released in the counterattack. From their walls, the people of Ascalon, who had been so sure of themselves, so certain of ultimate victory, witnessed a massacre. The attack was so devastating that there was scarcely anyone in the city who was not bereaved. The elders of Ascalon asked for a truce to give them time to bury their dead. Having counted the dead, they sent envoys to sue for peace. Baldwin III, sitting in council, agreed that if they left the city within three days, they could take their movable belongings with them: what he required was total evacuation. On the third day they poured out of the city in the thousands, while the king’s standard flew from the highest tower. He gave them guides as far as al-Arish. Beyond this town, a Turkish chieftain promised to lead them into Egypt. They followed him willingly and lived to regret it, for once the king’s guides had returned to Ascalon, the chieftain attacked them and despoiled them of their possessions. When we last see them they are wandering helplessly in the desert.

The lordship of Ascalon was given to the king’s younger brother Amaury, Count of Jaffa. Since Gaza had already been captured by Baldwin III, the entire coast of Syria and Palestine was in the possession of the Crusaders. Ascalon was a kingpin, and its capture spread alarm and terror in the camps of the Muslims.

The capture of Ascalon, however, was offset by the loss of Damascus to the Christians’ most deadly enemy, Nur ed-Din. For many months, Nur ed-Din had been at work attempting to undermine the authority of the reigning sultan. He saw Damascus as the launching ground of an expedition that would sweep the Crusaders out of Syria. The logic of his argument appealed to the Damascenes, who were disturbed by the fall of Ascalon; and when Nur ed-Din entered Damascus, he was greeted like a conqueror who was also a friend. There were no exactions; and everything went on as before except that there was no longer any sultan. Nur ed-Din appointed one of his most trusted generals to be governor of the city.

In May 1157, Nur ed-Din attacked the Crusader castle at Banyas in the Upper Galilee. The castle occupied an important position at the foot of Mount Hermon. Nur ed-Din twice captured it, and was twice repulsed. So much blood was spilt in and around the castle, that it became a symbol of the intransigence on both sides. There were sudden surprise attacks carried out faultlessly by the king’s army, and there were equally sudden surprise attacks by Nur ed-Din’s army.

The massive skirmishes for Banyas showed that the Crusaders and the Muslims were evenly balanced. The logic of the situation demanded a truce. Instead they went on fighting. One small advantage was given to Baldwin III. Nur ed-Din fell ill. It was not an advantage that could be relied upon, however, for Nur ed-Din was perfectly capable of directing battles from his sickbed. On the frontiers of Antioch and in the Galilee, there were continual raids and excursions, but no real advantages were gained. The war in the Holy Land seemed to have reached a stalemate.

Baldwin, searching for new allies, had long contemplated an alliance with Byzantium. From the beginning of the Crusades, such an alliance had been discussed and for various reasons abandoned. The Emperor Manuel Comnenus was known to have a high opinion of Baldwin III and the worst possible opinion of the present prince of Antioch. It would be necessary to tread cautiously, in the Greek manner, but it was also necessary to break the stalemate. Baldwin III sent an embassy to Constantinople, asking for the hand of a Byzantine princess. Discussions went on for many weeks; at last a suitable princess was found in the person of Theodora, the daughter of Isaac Comnenus, who was Manuel’s elder brother. Thirteen years old, radiantly beautiful, very tall, with thick fair hair, she possessed a natural elegance of manner. Her dowry, her bridal outfit, her wedding gown, her ropes of pearls, the coffers full of jewelry, tapestries and silken stuffs, carpets and gold vessels, were worth a fortune.

Thus equipped, and accompanied by her ladies-in-waiting and the envoys of the king of Jerusalem, she reached Tyre in September 1158. In great state she traveled to Jerusalem, where she was married to the twenty-seven-year-old Baldwin, who delighted in his bride and is said to have remained faithful to her as long as he lived.

That same autumn, the emperor set out from Constantinople at the head of an immense army, and about the beginning of December he marched into Cilicia, which the Armenians called Lesser Armenia. The emperor regarded Cilicia as a province of his empire and he was determined to take possession of it. The Armenian Prince Thoros had seized Cilicia and his army commanded strongly fortified castles. The emperor’s army approached so quietly that Thoros, who was staying at Tarsus, barely had time to flee to the neighboring mountains. Reynald, Prince of Antioch, realized that he had nowhere to go. The emperor was determined to punish him for his savagery in Cyprus, and he knew that the only way to escape punishment was by making a public and humiliating submission. He therefore hurried to the emperor’s camp at Mamistra in Cilicia, where he appeared, barefoot, wearing a woolen tunic cut short at the elbows, with a rope around his neck, and a sword with the point resting on his breast and the hilt turned outward in his hand. The emperor took the sword by the hilt, whereupon Reynald flung himself violently to the ground, where he lay prostrate for a long time. The emperor was pleased by this self-indulgent theatrical display because he believed in the sincerity of the prince’s submission. He did not know that Reynald submitted to no authority except his own.

Baldwin III arrived in Mamistra a few days later with a large retinue. The emperor gave the king the kiss of peace. They spent ten days together. Among the subjects they discussed was the Armenian Prince Thoros, who was brave and had fought many battles against the Turks. The king acted as mediator; Thoros was permitted to retain Cilicia after swearing fealty to the emperor, who saw himself in those days as the kindly, all-forgiving father of an empire so powerful that he could afford to be kindly and all-forgiving.

The king returned to Antioch, while the emperor spent Easter in Cilicia. In April 1159, the emperor descended upon Antioch accompanied by his army, wearing the imperial jeweled cap with pendants and an embroidered robe so weighted with jewels he could hardly move. Trumpets blared; drums boomed; flags waved; and all the dignitaries of Antioch came out to meet the emperor, riding stiffly on horseback, with Reynald of Châtillon, Prince of Antioch, walking by his side and holding the bridle in token of complete submission. Behind the emperor rode the king of Jerusalem and his brother Amaury. The day of the emperor’s triumphal entry into Antioch was one of intense celebration and festivity, with gifts showered on the people and everyone vying for the honor of being able to set eyes on the man who possessed such vast power and an empire so ancient that it seemed to be a permanent fixture on earth. All favor and honor flowed from the emperor. During those days he was lord of Antioch, suzerain of the king of Jerusalem and all the Christian principalities of the Holy Land.

The emperor enjoyed the baths of Antioch, which were among the most luxurious of their time; he also enjoyed hunting. One day, when he was hunting with King Baldwin, there was an accident. The king’s horse, racing over rough ground covered with low-growing shrubs, stumbled and threw Baldwin headlong to the ground. His arm was broken; suddenly the emperor hurried up, knelt beside him, and began to tend the broken arm like a doctor. The emperor prided himself on his knowledge of medicine and he liked to put his knowledge to use.

These hunting parties, processions, feasts, and visits to the bathhouses emphasized the bonds between Byzantium and the Holy Land. It was felt that the eight days spent by the emperor in Antioch implied the promise of immediate military assistance. Yet it was not so. He had not the least intention of throwing his army against the Turks; he had come to demonstrate the imperial power of Byzantium to Christian and Turk alike. He made the motions of beginning an advance on Aleppo, leading the combined forces of Antioch, Jerusalem, and the Byzantine empire, and then halted abruptly. Through envoys, he arranged a truce with Nur ed-Din, who promised an exchange of prisoners, and then, hearing of a plot against him in Constantinople, he began the homeward march across Asia Minor.

That he had shown himself without engaging in battle was entirely in the Byzantine character. The Byzantines were skilled diplomats, masters of many ruses, and they knew that a show of force was sometimes more effective than force itself. The emperor’s tactic offered little consolation to the king of Jerusalem and the prince of Antioch.


The wild and daring Reynald decided to take matters in his own hands and march at the head of a column into the territory of Nur ed-Din’s brother in the Marash region. Someone told him that there were immense herds of sheep and goats, many Christians, and almost no Turks. This was true, but his progress had been watched and reported to Aleppo. Their lightly armed cavalry was sent against him. The Turks found him in camp, laden with booty. He could have abandoned the treasure, fled, and saved himself. Instead he elected to fight, and he had the bad luck to be captured. Slung on the back of a camel, he was carried off to a dungeon in Aleppo where he spent the next sixteen years of his life. They did not kill him only because they believed he might prove useful in future bargaining. Neither the king nor the emperor made any effort to ransom him, knowing perhaps that the ransom would be so large that they could not afford to pay it. The king became regent of Antioch, and little more was heard of Constance, Reynald’s wife.

The chessboard was being swept clean. Queen Melisende died of a lingering illness; the king was inconsolable. A few months later the king fell ill while on a journey through Tripoli, and died, possibly poisoned by a doctor sent by the count of Tripoli to attend him. His body was borne to Jerusalem with the appropriate pomp and ceremony, to be buried beside the other kings of Jerusalem in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. His subjects stood beside the road in silence; and Muslims came down from the hills to wail and lament his passing. For eight days the cortege made its way to Jerusalem amid sighs and lamentations. It was reported that Nur ed-Din was advised by his captains to attack the kingdom during these prolonged ceremonies. William of Tyre tells us that Nur ed-Din refused, saying, “We should pity them, for they have lost such a prince as the world no longer possesses.” It is possible that he said these words; it is also possible that it was he who paid to have the king poisoned.

With Baldwin Ill’s death in January 1162, the heroic age of the Crusades came to an end. He became a legend. In him, there had been combined a youthful gentleness and a youthful cruelty, reasoned audacity, a kingly beauty. He was soldier and statesman, student and philosopher, and William of Tyre was only exaggerating a little when he wrote, “There is no record in any history, nor does any man now living recall, that such deep and poignant sorrow was ever felt over the death of any other prince of our own or other nations.”


In early May 1097 about two-thirds of the crusading army set out for Nicaea. The forces led by Godfrey, Robert of Flanders, Hugh of Vermandois, and the southern Italian Normans, currently in the care of Tancred, first congregated at the town of Nicomedia. Here they were joined by Peter the Hermit, beleaguered leader of the People’s Crusade, who had been eking out an existence around Constantinople and Bithynia since October 1096. Peter must have been glad to approach Nicaea from the north, rather than retrace his ill-fated steps from Civetot – a group of crusaders who took that route some weeks later were horrified and saddened to discover ‘many severed heads and bones of the dead lying on the plains near [the] sea’, the unholy graveyard of Peter’s followers. Coming from Nicomedia, the main army chose to follow the ancient Roman road running south over the mountains to Nicaea. This route was direct, but heavily overgrown, so 3,000 men were sent ahead to clear the way with axes and swords, and then mark the route with crosses, establishing a well-defined line of communication back towards Constantinople. On 6 May Godfrey and his companions reached Nicaea, but even at this late stage, as the crusaders approached their first Muslim target, they were woefully unprepared for what one contemporary would later call ‘the first storm of war’.

Serving the emperor

The crusade was still operating as a rough conglomeration of Latin armies, with little or no central co-ordination, much less organisation. Godfrey, Hugh, Tancred and Robert of Flanders seem to have moved on Nicaea without establishing a coherent plan of action, and their arrival was badly mistimed. When the city was reached on the 6th, their forces were left camped before it, isolated and inert, for eight dangerous days. It was not until the 14th, by which time Bohemond had arrived to solve the initial logistical problems surrounding the supply of food, that the crusaders moved in to lay siege to Nicaea. Even then they were fighting under strength, and it would be another two weeks before the full complement of the First Crusade’s armies was brought to bear. This rather ramshackle, piecemeal deployment was extremely risky. Only Kilij Arslan’s continued absence prevented an uncomfortable delay from becoming a potential disaster. The crusaders’ lack of co-ordinated action and purposeful leadership was to some extent a symptom of their relationship with Byzantium.

In besieging Nicaea, the crusaders were carrying out the emperor’s will. They had come to Constantinople with half-formed ideas of aiding the eastern Churches and marching on Jerusalem, perhaps expecting the emperor himself to take personal command of the expedition. Alexius had other ideas. He certainly wanted to direct and make use of the crusading armies – after all they had come east, at least partially, in response to his call for military aid – and his primary goal was the recovery of Nicaea. The Seljuq capital was far too close to Constantinople for comfort, but the city had stubbornly resisted all of Alexius’ attempts to recapture it. Indeed, one Greek source even suggested that ‘the emperor, who had thoroughly investigated Nicaea, and on many occasions, judged that it could not possibly be captured’. His plan was to throw his new weapon, the crusading horde, against the city, and then watch what happened from a safe distance. Alexius had absolutely no intention of leading the campaign in person, judging the ‘barbarian’ Franks to be too unpredictable and suspecting that this weapon might turn on its master. By avoiding direct involvement, Alexius was also able to maintain a thin façade of impartiality, leaving a door open for diplomacy and détente with Kilij Arslan should the siege fail. So it was that Alexius, ever the shrewd and calculating politician, established his camp at Pelekanum, to the west of Nicomedia.

It is true that the emperor put the interests of his empire above those of the crusade, even that he coldly exploited the Franks to further his own ambitions, and, on this basis, most modern historians have painted a picture of immediate tension and distrust when characterising the crusaders’ relationship with Byzantium at Nicaea. This image has been shaped by eyewitness sources, who wrote with the benefit of hindsight, knowing how later events would poison relations. In reality, the siege of Nicaea was a largely collaborative venture, in which Latins and Greeks co-operated effectively, and the crusaders willingly fought for the Byzantine Empire. Even though Alexius refused to participate in person, it was of course in his interests to see the crusaders succeed at Nicaea. To this end, he nominated military advisers to support and oversee the Franks. Manuel Boutoumites, one of his most experienced lieutenants, accompanied Godfrey and the first group of crusaders to arrive at Nicaea. Indeed, Manuel was initially granted entry into the city to discuss a negotiated surrender, but, when this fell through, he lent his military expertise to the Latin siege preparations. A few weeks later, a second adviser, Taticius, arrived at the head of 2,000 Byzantine troops, to command the Nicaea campaign. Later he would become Alexius’ chief representative among the crusaders. Taticius was an interesting choice; a member of the imperial household and experienced in battle, he was reportedly ‘a valiant fighter, a man who kept his head under combat conditions’, but he was, at the same time, a eunuch. He had an excellent knowledge of Nicaea’s defences, having led the last Greek assault on the city more than a decade earlier. Taticius was a striking figure – born of half-Arab, half-Greek parentage, his nose had been cut off earlier in his military career and he wore a metal replica in its place.

Alexius also took steps to ensure that the crusaders had ready access to food and supplies. On his orders, the poorer Franks were given money and free provisions. Merchant ships were brought from across the Mediterranean to set up markets at the port of Civetot, where corn, meat, wine, barley and oil could be bought, while the traffic along the road back to Nicomedia must have been nearly constant. The Greeks were obviously committed to this complex web of logistical support, because, in spite of the immense size of the crusader army, we hear few reports of severe shortages or starvation. Later sieges would not always be so efficient.5

Even with Byzantine support, Nicaea’s defences presented a formidable challenge. Today the ancient city has crumbled to become little more than a backwater village. Iznik, as it is now named in modern Turkish, is still surrounded by decrepit fortifications, but its quiet, unassuming pace of life gives little sense of its place in history. It is hard to imagine that this was once one of the great cities of Rome and Byzantium. In 325 CE the first Christian emperor of Rome, Constantine the Great, held a monumental Church council at Nicaea, attended by more than 300 bishops from across the known world, at which the Nicene Creed, which still serves to define the Christian faith, was adopted. When the First Crusade arrived in 1097 Nicaea remained an imposing stronghold. One Frankish eyewitness later recalled:

Nicaea [was] a city well protected by natural terrain and clever fortifications. Its natural defences consisted of a great lake lapping at its walls and a ditch, brimful of runoff water from nearby streams, blocking the entrance on three sides. Skilful men had enclosed Nicaea with such lofty walls that the city feared neither the attack of enemies nor the force of any machine.

Located in a fertile basin, surrounded by hills, Nicaea lies on the eastern shore of the massive Askanian Lake, which stretches to more than forty kilometres in length. To the north, east and south a defensive wall, five kilometres long, enclosed the remaining three sides of the city, reaching to ten metres in height, punctuated by more than a hundred towers, and reinforced by a double ditch. Its capture would be no simple task, but the crusaders had one major advantage – sheer weight of numbers. When the siege began, in mid-May, the Franks were able to blockade only the city’s northern and eastern gates, but by early June, with the majority of the crusader forces now assembled, it became possible to encircle Nicaea’s land walls.

In command of the masses

This was the first time that the main army of the First Crusade had come together. Franks, Greeks and Muslims alike were awestruck by the spectacle. One Byzantine contemporary described the crusaders as ‘a countless multitude of locusts, so great as to resemble clouds and overcast the sun when it flew’. A Latin eyewitness recalled, ‘Then the many armies there were united into one, which those who were skilled in reckoning estimate at 600,000 strong for war. Of these there were 100,000 fully armed men [and a mass of] unarmed, that is clerics, monks, women, and little children.’

Medieval writers were notoriously poor judges of manpower, and these figures were probably a gross exaggeration, wild guesses designed to convey the enormous scale of the army. Even so, the First Crusade did represent the largest single mobilisation of European troops in centuries. At our best estimate, some 75,000 Latins gathered at Nicaea, of whom perhaps 7,500 were fully armed, mounted knights and a further 5,000 were infantry. This was, of course, a composite force, one mass made up of many smaller parts. All shared a common faith – Latin Christianity – but in other ways they were quite disparate, drawn from across western Europe, born into diverse political and cultural surroundings. Many had been enemies before the expedition began. They even faced a profound communication barrier: Fulcher of Chartres remarked, ‘Who ever heard such a mixture of languages in one army, since there were French, Flemings, Frisians, Gauls, Allobroges, Lotharingians, Allemani, Bavarians, Normans, English, Scots, Aquitanians, Italians, Dacian, Apulians, Iberians, Bretons, Greeks and Armenians? If any Breton or Teuton wished to question me, I could neither understand nor answer.’

To make matters worse, the crusade had no single leader. The pope’s legate, or representative, Adhémar of Le Puy, could claim spiritual primacy, but overall strategic command could be contested by up to seven of the most powerful crusading lords, or princes. By the dictates of military logic, this would appear to have been a recipe for disaster. At Nicaea, the crusaders were, for the first time, forced to confront this problem. The Emperor Alexius might be the nominal leader of the campaign, but he had absented himself from the siege and, while his lieutenant Taticius was the official commander-in-chief, in practice he never wielded total power. From Nicaea onwards, the crusaders were forced to feel their way towards an organisational structure, through a process of experimentation and innovation. Within a few weeks they instituted a new decision-making structure – a council of princes – in which the highest echelon of crusade leaders, men such as Raymond of Toulouse and Bohemond of Taranto, met to discuss and agree policy. On the whole, this system was remarkably successful. One of its first pronouncements saw the creation of a common crusader fund through which all plunder could be channelled and redistributed.

It was the council of princes that decided to adopt what might be termed a combined siege strategy to overcome Nicaea’s defences. In this method two styles of siege warfare were deployed simultaneously. On the one hand, the Franks sought to blockade the city, cutting it off from the outside world and grinding it into submission through physical and psychological isolation, in a close-encirclement siege. At the same time, the crusaders actively pursued the more aggressive strategy of an assault siege. This involved building various machines of war – catapults, battering-rams, bombardment screens – which might allow them literally to bludgeon their way into the city through direct attack. On 14 May 1097 Bohemond and the southern Italian Normans made camp before Nicaea’s northern gate, while Godfrey of Bouillon and Robert of Flanders were deployed to the east, and work began on a series of siege engines.

The crusaders’ arrival terrified the Turkish garrison of Nicaea. The city would probably have been manned by no more than a few thousand troops, each aware that Nicaea offered irresistibly ripe pickings to the massive Frankish horde. Kilij Arslan’s capital stood not only as a bastion of the sultan’s military and political pride, it was also home to his treasury. Under these circumstances, the garrison rightly judged that the crusaders would throw every resource into the siege. Against such odds, the Turks could not hope to prevail, and so in the second week of May they came close to agreeing terms with Manuel Boutoumites, the emperor’s envoy. But, suddenly, they changed their minds and expelled him from the city.


“Battle of Nicaea (1097)”, Igor Dzis

The first challenge

It was only on 15 May that the Franks found out why, when two Turkish spies were caught in the Frankish camp masquerading as Christians. One was killed during capture, but the other was immediately taken for interrogation. Threatened with torture and death, he quickly confessed everything. Kilij Arslan had returned from the east. Having finally realised how dangerous the crusaders might be, he had gathered a large army from across the sultanate of Rüm, and was even now camped in the steep hills to the south of the city, planning a counterattack the very next day. Contact had already been established with the Turks in Nicaea – hence their change of heart – and these two spies had been sent to observe the Frankish army and then carry final battle instructions to the garrison. Kilij Arslan’s plan was to charge out of the southern hills at the third hour after dawn, enter Nicaea through the unblockaded south gate, regroup and then launch an immediate combined counterattack. Having told this story, the Turkish spy pleaded for his life, weeping, begging and even offering to convert to Christianity should he be spared, and eventually the princes took pity on him.

The princes reacted quickly to these shocking revelations. They knew that Raymond of Toulouse and the Provençal army were already en route to Nicaea, and were, at that very moment, perhaps less than a day’s march away to the north, along the road from Nicomedia. As dusk approached, messengers were dispatched urging haste, and the Frankish host kept nervous watch through the night. Finally, at dawn on 16 May, Raymond’s men appeared out of the north. The crusaders’ careful preparation of the old Roman road had paid off – news had reached the Provençals quickly and they had then been able to march along the clearly marked route through the night. In fact, Raymond of Toulouse arrived just in time. His army was still in process of setting up camp before Nicaea’s southern gate when, just as the spy had predicted, Kilij Arslan’s forces came pouring out of the hills.

He had come prepared for victory – his men carried ropes with which to bind the crusaders once they were taken captive – but, even without the Provençal reinforcements, Kilij Arslan would have been hard pressed to overcome the massive Latin army. With Nicaea’s southern gate blocked, his troops were both outnumbered and isolated. He led an archetypal Seljuq Turkish army: thousands of lightly mounted, fast-moving archers, armed with powerful bone-and-horn composite bows. Faced with staunch resistance from the Provençals led by Raymond and Baldwin of Boulogne, hemmed in by the lake to the west and struck in the flank by Godfrey’s and Bohemond’s fierce cavalry charge from the east, the Turkish attack soon faltered. Realising that he was hopelessly outnumbered, Kilij Arslan fled the field south. It would be his only attempt to break the siege of Nicaea. In the days that followed, the renegade Turkish spy, whose predictions had proved to be accurate, went through a ritual of conversion and became a regular guest of the Frankish princes, to whom he was an intriguing curiosity. Soon his guards became relaxed in his company and in one careless moment took their eyes off him. Instantly seizing the opportunity, he ‘flew across the city moat with a nimble-footed leap’ and was soon pulled over the walls on a rope.

In spite of this minor betrayal, the crusaders’ first battle with a Muslim force had been a resounding success. Even Anna Comnena, not usually given to praising the Franks, described it as ‘a glorious victory’. In truth, although the crusader defence had been well co-ordinated, Kilij Arslan escaped with most of his army intact. The real damage was done to his military prestige and the morale of Nicaea’s garrison. In the aftermath of the fighting, ‘the Christians cut off the heads of the dead and wounded and as a sign of victory they brought them back to their tents with them tied to the girths of their saddles’. Some were stuck on the ends of spears and paraded before the city walls, others were actually catapulted into the city ‘in order to cause more terror among the Turkish garrison’. One Latin contemporary even suggested that a thousand Turkish heads had been sent to Alexius as a sign of victory.

Any medieval army knew the profound significance of morale amid the slow grind of siege warfare, and exchanges of horrific acts of brutality and barbarism were commonplace. For its part, the Turkish garrison soon retaliated, adopting a rather macabre tactic. The crusaders began to lead direct assaults upon the city and inevitably sustained some losses. One Latin eyewitness was disgusted by the Turks’ treatment of these dead: ‘Truly, you would have grieved and sighed with compassion, to see them let down iron hooks, which they lowered and raised by ropes, and seize the body of any of our men that they had slaughtered in some way near the wall. None of our men dared, nor could, take the body from them.’ These corpses were robbed and then hung from the walls to rot, so as ‘to offend the Christians by this inhuman conduct’.

Closing in

With the first threat from Kilij Arslan repulsed, the crusaders sought to prosecute a direct assault. This would be a dangerous and exhausting process for defender and aggressor alike, and we hear that in the midst of the fighting, ‘often, some of the Turks, often, some of the Franks, struck by arrows or by stones, died’. When early attempts to storm Nicaea’s defences with ladders had failed, the crusaders concentrated their efforts almost exclusively upon creating a physical breach in the city’s walls. This could be achieved through a variety of means. The safest, but technologically most advanced, was bombardment from a distance. The Franks built some stone-throwing machines, known as petraria or mangonella, which propelled missiles through the use of torsion or counterweights. Powerful machines could hurl massive rocks against their target, eventually causing walls to buckle and collapse, but at Nicaea the crusaders lacked the skills and craftsmen to build engines massive enough to damage the city’s stout walls. Their bombardment was designed, instead, to harass the Turkish garrison and provide covering fire, under which they could employ a second technique.

If a besieging army could not topple walls from a safe distance, then the only alternative was to get in close and undermine the defences by hand. Just approaching the walls was, however, a lethal affair. The Turkish garrison had ballistae – giant crossbow-like devices used to hurl stones – and archers with which to defend their city: ‘The ballistae of [Nicaea’s] towers were so alternately faced that no one could move near them without peril, and if anyone wished to move forward, he could do no harm because he could easily be struck down from the top of a tower.’ One crusader knight, Baldwin of Calderun, who had made many ‘daring and rash’ attempts to assault the city, ‘breathed his last when his neck was broken by the blow of a hurled stone’. Another, Baldwin of Ganz, died during ‘a careless rush at the city, his head pierced by an arrow’. If a crusader did, somehow, manage to reach the foot of the walls alive, he then faced an onslaught from above, as defenders atop the battlements gleefully rained rocks and a burning mixture of grease, oil and pitch down upon his head.

The Franks experimented with a range of devices to combat these problems of direct assault, with varying degrees of success. Two prominent Latin lords, Henry of Esch, a member of Godfrey’s contingent, and the German Count Hartmann of Dillingen, who had participated in the Jewish pogrom at Mainz, approached the challenge of this first crusader siege with enthusiasm. They pooled their resources and built what one contemporary called a vulpus or fox, to their own design and with their own money. This was apparently some form of bombardment screen, constructed of oak beams, under which infantry troops could advance on the walls, protected from Turkish missiles. Henry and Hartmann shrewdly decided to sit out the first test run of this contraption, and had to look on in horror as twenty of their men were crushed to death when ‘the beams, the uprights and all the bindings came to pieces’ and the vulpus collapsed at the foot of the walls.

The Provençals adopted a more professional approach. Raymond of Toulouse employed a master craftsman to design and build a testudo or tortoise, a much sturdier, sloping-roofed bombardment screen. Under this protection, southern French crusaders were dispatched to undermine a tower on Nicaea’s southern walls. One eyewitness described how, when they reached the fortification, ‘sappers dug down to the foundations of the wall and inserted beams and pieces of wood, to which they set fire’. If carried out correctly, the siege technique they were attempting – that of sapping – could be extremely effective. The idea was to dig a tunnel beneath a section of wall, carefully buttressing the excavation with wooden supports as one went along. Once complete, the void was packed full of branches and kindling, set alight and left to collapse, thus bringing down the wall above it. Raymond’s sappers managed to bring down a small section of one tower as night fell on around 1 June, but the Turkish garrison worked through the night to rebuild the defences so that by daybreak ‘there was no chance of defeating them at that point’.

In the end, the crusaders’ best efforts at assault were thwarted by Nicaea’s almost impregnable fortifications and the sheer energy and ferocity of the Turkish defence. Even Raymond of Aguilers, a chaplain in the Provençal army, was forced to admit that the Muslim garrison had made a ‘courageous’ effort. We hear, for example, of one unnamed Turkish soldier who went berserk and continued fighting, peppered with twenty crusader arrows. Even after 3 June 1097, when the Latin army was further strengthened by the arrival of the northern French, under Stephen, count of Blois, and Robert, count of Flanders, the city still refused to fall.

By the second week of June, the crusaders realised that a new strategy was needed. Up to this point they had encircled Nicaea’s three landward walls, but the fourth, westward face of the city, on the banks of the great Askanian Lake, lay open and unblockaded. The sheer size of this lake meant that its banks could not be effectively patrolled, and it became apparent that Turkish boats were bringing all manner of supplies into Nicaea without fear of attack. If this situation persisted and the city’s walls held, Nicaea’s garrison might realistically hope to hold out indefinitely. Around 10 June, the crusader princes met in council to discuss this problem, and within hours a messenger had been sent to the Emperor Alexius, carrying an audacious proposal. Control had to be taken of the Askanian Lake, but no navigable river offered ships access to its waters. The princes’ solution sounded simple: if vessels could not be sailed to the lake, they would have to be carried. In practice, of course, the process of portaging large sailing boats almost thirty kilometres from the coast at Civetot to the shores of the Askanian Lake was no mean feat. Alexius agreed to supply the boats, under the command of Manuel Boutoumites and manned by a force of Turcopoles – well-armed Byzantine mercenaries of half-Greek, half-Turkish stock. Special oxen-drawn carts were constructed to bear this strange cargo through the hills of Bithynia. Late in the day of 17 June they reached the lake, but waited until the following dawn to set sail so that a combined lake- and landbased attack could be launched on Nicaea. The plan was to terrify the Turkish garrison into submission, driving home their isolation and the utter hopelessness of continued resistance. To this end, Alexius equipped the small Greek flotilla with more standards than were usual – so that the boats might appear more numerous than they really were – and a selection of trumpets and drums with which to create an intimidating racket. One Latin eyewitness described the scene:

At daybreak there were the boats, all in very good order, sailing across the lake towards the city. The Turks, seeing them, were surprised and did not know if it was their own fleet or that of the emperor, but when they realised it was the emperor’s they were afraid almost to death, and began to wail and lament, while the Franks rejoiced and gave glory to God.

The shock broke the Turkish garrison’s will, and within hours they were suing for peace. After holding out for five weeks, Nicaea capitulated on 18 June. It was, however, the emperor’s men, Manuel Boutoumites and Taticius, who actually took surrender of the city and raised the imperial standard. After all their efforts, the crusaders were left waiting outside the walls. Byzantine Turcopoles were set to guard the city’s treasury and the crusaders were denied any chance of plunder. It was a precarious moment for Alexius’ envoys: they may have had nominal authority over the campaign, but they were outnumbered both by the barely subdued Turkish garrison inside the city and by the acquisitive Frankish horde without. Had either side chosen to rebel, the Greeks would have been annihilated. As it was, the crusader princes kept their promise to return the city to the emperor, and the leading members of the Turkish garrison were quickly ferried out in small, manageable groups to Constantinople. There were some complaints among the Latin rank and file, worried that the captured Turks would soon be ransomed and thus free to fight the crusaders on another day, but even these were quickly silenced by the emperor’s extravagant largesse. He knew only too well how to keep this ‘mercenary’ crusading army under control. One Frank recalled that, ‘because he kept all, the emperor gave some of his own gold and silver and mantles to our nobles; he also distributed some of his copper coins, which they call tarantarons, to the footsoldiers’.

The fall of Nicaea was a product of the successful policy of close co-operation between the crusaders and Byzantium. The Franks would probably have enjoyed little success without Greek aid, while Alexius had needed the might of the Latin army to overcome Kilij Arslan’s capital. One contemporary, reflecting upon the siege, wrote, ‘Now that the storm of war had thus abated . . . the army of the living God spent the day in great rejoicing and exultation right there in the camp, because everything so far had gone well for them’. Their success had, however, been bought at a price. Many crusaders died in battle or from illness during the campaign. An eyewitness in Bohemond’s army recalled that ‘many of our men suffered martyrdom there and gave up their blessed souls to God with joy and gladness, and many poor starved to death for the Name of Christ. All these entered Heaven in triumph, wearing the robe of martyrdom.’ Even at this early stage in the expedition to Jerusalem it seems that the crusaders believed that fighting and dying in the name of God cleansed them of sin and brought the gift of everlasting life.

Jerusalem, June–August 1099 Part I

Nearly three years after leaving their homes in the west, on 7 June 1099 the crusader forces finally reached their objective, Jerusalem. Fulcher of Chartres, who would live there for more than a quarter of a century after 1100, describes the Holy City as he knew it.

The city of Jerusalem is located in a mountainous region which is devoid of trees, streams, and springs excepting only the Pool of Siloam, which is a bowshot from the city. Sometimes it has enough water, and sometimes a deficiency due to a slight drainage. This little spring is in the valley at the foot of Mount Sion in the course of the Brook Kedron which, in wintertime, is accustomed to flow through the centre of the valley of Josaphat.

The many cisterns inside the city, reserved for winter rains, have a sufficiency of water. More, at which men and beasts are refreshed, are also found outside the city.

It is generally conceded that the city is laid out in such proper proportion that it seems neither too small nor too large. Its width from wall to wall is that of four bowshots. To the west is the Tower of David with the city wall on each flank; to the south is Mount Sion a little closer than a bowshot; and to the east, the Mount of Olives a thousand paces outside the city.

The aforesaid Tower of David is of solid masonry half-way up, of large squared blocks sealed with molten lead. Fifteen or twenty men, if well supplied with food, could defend it from all assaults of an enemy.

In the same city is the Temple of the Lord, round in shape, built where Solomon in ancient times erected the earlier magnificent Temple. Although it can in no way be compared in appearance to the former building, still this one is of marvellous workmanship and most splendid appearance.

The Church of the Lord’s Sepulchre is likewise circular in form. It was never closed in at the top but always admits the light through a permanent aperture ingeniously fashioned under the direction of a skilful architect.

I cannot, I dare not, I know not how to enumerate the many objects which it now contains or contained in the past lest in some way I deceive those reading or hearing about the matter. In the middle of the Temple, when we first entered it and for fifteen years thereafter, was a certain native rock. It was said that the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant along with the urn and tables of Moses was sealed inside it, that Josiah, king of Judah, ordered it to be placed there, saying, ‘You shall never carry it from this place.’ For he foresaw the future Captivity.

But this contradicts what we read in the descriptions of Jeremiah, in the second Book of the Maccabees, that he himself hid it in Arabia, saying that it would not be found until many peoples should be gathered together. Jeremiah was a contemporary of King Josiah; however, the king died before Jeremiah.

They said that the angel of the Lord had stood upon the aforesaid rock and destroyed the people because of the enumeration of the people foolishly made by David and displeasing to the Lord. Moreover this rock, because it disfigured the Temple of the Lord, was afterwards covered over and paved with marble. Now an altar is placed above it, and there the clergy have fitted up a choir. All the Saracens held the Temple of the Lord in great veneration. Here rather than elsewhere they preferred to say the prayers of their faith although such prayers were wasted because offered to an idol set up in the name of Muhammad. They allowed no Christian to enter the Temple.

Another temple, called the Temple of Solomon, is large and wonderful, but it is not the one that Solomon built. This one, because of our poverty, could not be maintained in the condition in which we found it. Wherefore it is already in large part destroyed.

There were gutters in the streets of the city through which in time of rain all filth was washed away.

The emperor Aelius Hadrian decorated this city magnificently and fittingly adorned the streets and squares with pavements. In his honour Jerusalem was called Aelia. For these and many other reasons Jerusalem is a most renowned and glorious city.

The siege of Jerusalem lasted from 7 June until the city was taken by storm on 15 July. The crusader army divided into two main groups: Raymond and the Provençals camped before the Sion Gate to the south of the city while the rest, under Godfrey of Bouillon and Robert of Normandy, laid siege first to the north-western corner of the city before transferring to positions opposite the Damascus Gate in the northern walls. The two eyewitness accounts – the Gesta Francorum and Raymond of Aguilers – reflect this division, even though both seem to have most information from the Provençal army.

Early assaults failed to make an impression on the city walls. Only after timber and engineers arrived from a Christian fleet that had put in at Jaffa could effective siege engines be constructed. After a religious procession around the walls on 8 July, preparations for a major attack began, fuelled by rumours of an Egyptian relief army. The final assault was launched on two sides of the city at once, the crusaders keeping in touch by means of signallers on the Mount of Olives. A breach in the northern wall on 15 July soon led to the capitulation of the city and one of the most grotesque massacres in medieval warfare, ‘the wine press of the Lord’, as Raymond of Aguilers, quoting from the Book of Revelation, described it.

The Gesta Francorum

We, rejoicing and exulting, came to the city of Jerusalem on Tuesday 6 June and established a very thorough siege. Robert the Norman took up his station on the north, next to the church of St Stephen the Protomartyr, who was stoned there for the name of Christ, and Robert count of Flanders was next to him. Duke Godfrey and Tancred besieged the city from the west. The count of St Gilles was on the south, that is to say on Mount Sion, near the church of St Mary the mother of the Lord, where the Lord shared the Last Supper with his disciples.

On the third day some of our men – Raymond Pilet, Raymond of Turenne and many others – went off to fight, and found two hundred Arabs. The knights of Christ fought against these misbelievers, and by God’s help bravely defeated them, killing many and capturing thirty horses. On the Monday we pressed upon the city in such a vigorous assault that if our scaling-ladders had been ready we should have taken it. We did indeed destroy the curtain wall, and against the great wall we set up one ladder, up which our knights climbed and fought hand-to-hand with the Saracens and those who were defending the city, using swords and spears. We lost many men, but the enemy lost more. During this siege we could not buy bread for nearly ten days, until a messenger arrived from our ships, and we suffered so badly from thirst that we had to take our horses and other beasts six miles to water, enduring great terror and apprehension on the way. The Pool of Siloam, at the foot of Mount Sion, kept us going, but water was sold very dearly in the army.

After the messenger from our ships arrived, our leaders took counsel and decided to send knights who might provide a faithful guard for the men and ships who were in the harbour of Jaffa. At dawn a hundred knights set out from the army of Raymond, count of St Gilles. They included Raymond Pilet, Achard of Montmerle and William of Sabran, and they rode confidently towards the port. Then thirty of our knights got separated from the others, and fell in with seven hundred Arabs, Turks and Saracens from the army of the amir. The Christian knights attacked them bravely, but they were such a mighty force in comparison with ours that they surrounded our men and killed Achard of Montmerle and some poor foot-soldiers. While our men were thus surrounded and all expecting death, a messenger reached the others, saying to Raymond Pilet, ‘Why are you staying here with your knights? Look! All our men are trapped by the Arabs and Turks, and perhaps at this very moment they are all dead, so bring help, bring help!’ When our men heard this they rode at once as hard as they could, and came quickly to where the others were fighting. When the pagans saw the Christian knights they split up into two bands, but our men called upon the name of Christ and charged these misbelievers so fiercely that every knight overthrew his opponent. When the enemy saw that they could not stand up to the brave attack of the Franks they turned tail, panic-stricken, and our men pursued them for the space of nearly four miles, killing many of them, but they spared the life of one so that he could give them information. They also captured 103 horses.

During this siege, we suffered so badly from thirst that we sewed up the skins of oxen and buffaloes, and we used to carry water in them for the distance of nearly six miles. We drank the water from these vessels, although it stank, and what with foul water and barley bread we suffered great distress and affliction every day, for the Saracens used to lie in wait for our men by every spring and pool, where they killed them and cut them to pieces; moreover they used to carry off the beasts into their caves and secret places in the rocks.

Our leaders then decided to attack the city with [siege] engines, so that we might enter it and worship at our Saviour’s Sepulchre. They made two wooden siege towers and various other mechanical devices. Duke Godfrey filled his siege tower with machines, and so did Count Raymond, but they had to get the timber from far afield. When the Saracens saw our men making these machines, they built up the city wall and its towers by night, so that they were exceedingly strong. When, however, our leaders saw which was the weakest spot in the city’s defences, they had a machine and a siege tower transported round to the eastern side one Saturday night. They set up these engines at dawn, and spent Sunday, Monday and Tuesday in preparing the siege tower and fitting it out, while the count of St Gilles was getting his engine ready on the southern side. All this time we were suffering so badly from the shortage of water that for one penny a man could not buy sufficient to quench his thirst.

On Wednesday and Thursday we launched a fierce attack upon the city, both by day and by night, from all sides, but before we attacked our bishops and priests preached to us, and told us to go in procession round Jerusalem to the glory of God, and to pray and give alms and fast as faithful men should do. On Friday at dawn we attacked the city from all sides but could achieve nothing, so that we were all astounded and very much afraid, yet, when that hour came when Our Lord Jesus Christ deigned to suffer for us upon the Cross, our knights were fighting bravely on the siege tower, led by Duke Godfrey and Count Eustace his brother. At that moment one of our knights, called Lethold [of Tournai], succeeded in getting on to the wall. As soon as he reached it, all the defenders fled along the walls and through the city, and our men went after them, killing them and cutting them down as far as Solomon’s Temple, where there was such a massacre that our men were wading up to their ankles in enemy blood.

Count Raymond was bringing up his army and a siege tower from the south to the neighbourhood of the wall, but between the wall and the tower there was a deep pit. Our leaders discussed how they should fill the pit, and they had it announced that if anyone would bring three stones to cast into that pit he should have a penny. It took three days and nights to fill the pit, and when it was full they took the siege tower up to the wall. The defenders fought against our men with amazing courage, casting fire and stones. But when the count heard that the Franks were in the city he said to his men, ‘Why are you so slow? Look! All the other Franks are in the city already!’ Then the amir who held David’s Tower surrendered to the count, and opened for him the gate where the pilgrims used to pay their taxes, so our men entered the city, chasing the Saracens and killing them up to Solomon’s Temple, where they took refuge and fought hard against our men for the whole day, so that all the temple was streaming with their blood. At last, when the pagans were defeated, our men took many prisoners, both men and women, in the temple. They killed whom they chose, and whom they chose they saved alive. On the roof of the Temple of Solomon were crowded great numbers of pagans of both sexes, to whom Tancred and Gaston of Béarn gave their banners.

After this our men rushed round the whole city, seizing gold and silver, horses and mules, and houses full of all sorts of goods, and they all came rejoicing and weeping from excess of gladness to worship at the Sepulchre of our Saviour Jesus, and there they fulfilled their vows to him. Next morning they went cautiously up on to the Temple roof and attacked the Saracens, both men and women, cutting off their heads with drawn swords. Some of the Saracens threw themselves down headlong from the Temple. Tancred was extremely angry when he saw this.

Our leaders then took counsel and ordered that every man should give alms and pray that God would choose for himself whomsoever he wished, to rule over the others and to govern the city. They also commanded that all the Saracen corpses should be thrown outside the city because of the fearful stench, for almost the whole city was full of their dead bodies. So the surviving Saracens dragged the dead ones out in front of the gates, and piled them up in mounds as big as houses. No one has ever seen or heard of such a slaughter of pagans, for they were burned on pyres like pyramids, and no one save God alone knows how many there were. Count Raymond, however, caused the amir and those who were with him to be taken to Ascalon, safe and sound.

Raymond of Aguilers

We packed our camels, oxen and other beasts of burden and left for Jerusalem after taking leave of the bishop and his garrison. In the mad scramble caused by our greed to seize castles and villas, we failed to remember and held valueless the command of Peter Bartholomew that we were not to approach within two leagues of Jerusalem unless barefoot. It was customary that no one seized a castle or town flying one of our standards and first touched by one of our men. So driven by ambition, many got out of bed at midnight and, unaccompanied by their comrades, captured all of the mountain forts and villas in the plains of the Jordan. But a few who held God’s command dear marched along barefoot, sending up deep sighs to God because of the flouting of his will, but they recalled not one friend or comrade from the vain course. When we approached Jerusalem on this haughty march, the townspeople struck our vanguard, wounded some horses seriously as well as many men, and killed three or four from our ranks.

In turning to the siege we note that Godfrey, the count of Flanders, and the count of Normandy encamped to the north and invested Jerusalem from the centrally located church of St Stephen to the angular tower adjacent to the Tower of David. Raymond along with his army established himself on the west and laid siege to the city from the duke’s line to the foot of Mount Sion. However, a ravine between his camp and the walls prevented an even approach and caused the count to wish to change his camp and location.

One day while Raymond was encircling Jerusalem he stopped and visited the church of Mount Sion, where he heard of God’s miracles there and was so impressed that he addressed the princes and those present: ‘What would happen to us if we abandon these sacred gifts of God and the Saracens should seize them, and, perhaps, defile and break them because of their hatred of the crusaders? Who knows that these gifts of God may not be tests of the intensity of our love for him? This I do know, namely, failure to guard the church of Mount Sion zealously will cause him to withhold like spots in Jerusalem.’

Thereupon in contradiction of the wishes of the princes the count of Toulouse ordered the moving of his camp to Mount Sion. This move caused him to suffer such ill will from his people that they neither wished to change camp nor to keep watch through the night, and so with the exception of a few who went to Mount Sion all the others remained in the original camp. But the count daily garrisoned his stand by paying his knights and footmen large sums of money.

I shall now digress by listing some of the sacred things there: the tombs of David, Solomon and the protomartyr, St Stephen. There the blessed Mary died; Christ ate there, and following his Resurrection appeared to his disciples and to Thomas. In that very same place the apostles were aroused by the coming of the Holy Spirit.

One day following the investment of Jerusalem a hermit on the Mount of Olives told some princes there, ‘The Lord will give you Jerusalem if you will storm it tomorrow until the ninth hour.’

The Christians replied, ‘We do not have any siege machinery.’

Then the hermit said, ‘God is so omnipotent that if he wishes, you could scale the wall with one ladder. He is with those who work for the truth.’

So they stormed Jerusalem the next morning until the third hour with such siege weapons as they could improvise during the night. They broke the outer wall, forced the Saracens back to the inner wall, and a few crusaders climbed atop the inner fortification. At the very moment capture was imminent, the assault was broken off by sloth and fear.

Following this reverse the Christians went foraging in the neighbourhood and ignored preparations for a new attack, each preferring to gratify his palate and belly. Even more detestable was the fact that they failed to pray to God to deliver them from the many great evils threatening their very existence. New threats came from the Saracens who had covered the mouths of wells, destroyed the cisterns and choked the flow of springs, all of which brings to mind the Lord, who ‘turneth rivers into a wilderness and water springs into dry grounds … for the wickedness of them that dwell therein’. So for the above reason water was very scarce.

The Pool of Siloam, a great fountain at the foot of Mount Sion, flows every third day; but formerly, according to the natives, it flowed only on Saturday and was on other days marshy. Certainly, we offer no explanation of this phenomenon other than God’s will. According to reports, when it gushed forth on the third day the frantic and violent push to drink the water caused men to throw themselves into the pool and many beasts of burden and cattle to perish there in the scramble. The strong in a deadly fashion pushed and shoved through the pool, choked with dead animals and filled with struggling humanity, to the rocky mouth of the flow, while the weaker had to be content with the dirtier water.

The weak sprawled on the ground by the fountain with gaping mouths made speechless by their parched tongues, and with outstretched hands begged for water from the more fortunate ones. In the fields stood horses, mules, cattle, sheep and many other animals too weak to take another step. There they shrivelled, died from thirst and rotted in their tracks, and filled the air with the stench of death.

This unfortunate turn forced the Christians to lug water from a spring some two or three leagues away and to water their cattle there. But the Saracens learned that our unarmed men passed back and forth through rough terrain and so ambushed, killed and captured many of them and led away their cattle and flocks. Water brought in for sale in containers was sky-high, and 5 or 6 nummi [pennies] was an inadequate sum for a day’s supply of pure water for one person.

The mention of wine was seldom if ever made. The thirst, already unbearable, was made worse by the searing heat, the choking dust and the strong winds. But why should I waste time on these mortal things? Only a few thought of God or the essentials of the siege. The crusaders did not pray for God’s mercy and so we ignored God in our chastisement, and he in turn did not provide for ingrates.

At this time news of the anchoring of six of our ships at Jaffa came to us as well as demands from the sailors that we send a garrison to protect the towers of Jaffa and their ships in the port. Jaffa is almost one day’s journey away and is the nearest port to Jerusalem, but little remains of the demolished place except one intact tower of a badly wrecked castle. The crusaders gladly sent Count Geldemar Carpinel with twenty knights and some fifty footmen; then in his wake Raymond Pilet with fifty knights, and last William Sabran and his entourage. Four hundred crack Arab troops and two hundred Turks stood in the way when Geldemar arrived at a plain near Ramleh.

Geldemar drew up his knights and archers in the front ranks because of his small numbers, and confident in God’s help immediately marched against the enemy. The opposition, sure that they could annihilate the Christians, rushed forward, shot arrows, and circled around. They killed four knights as well as Achard of Montmerle, a noble young man and well-known knight. They also wiped out all of our archers and wounded others from Geldemar’s force, but not without heavy losses to themselves.

Despite these casualties neither did the pagan attack diminish nor did the strength of our knights, truly Christi militia, weaken. Rather, inspired by wounds and even death, they carried the attack more energetically as they underwent greater pressure. Finally, beset by fatigue rather than fear, the leaders of the small band noticed a cloud of dust on the horizon at a time when they were about to break away. This sight was caused by Raymond Pilet and his men who gave spurs to their horses, and in the mad charge kicked up so much dust that the enemy believed there was a large approaching force.