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The First Crusade

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The First Crusade

  The First Crusade

  Thomas Asbridge

  Free Press (2005)

  Tags: Non Fiction, History

  Non Fictionttt Historyttt

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  * * *


  On the last Tuesday of November 1095, Pope Urban II delivered an electrifying speech that launched the First Crusade. His words set Christendom afire. Some 100,000 men, from knights to paupers, took up the call--the largest mobilization of manpower since the fall of the Roman Empire. Now, in The First Crusade, Thomas Asbridge offers a gripping account of a titanic three-year adventure filled with miraculous victories, greedy princes and barbarity on a vast scale. Readers follow the crusaders from their mobilization in Europe (where great waves of anti-Semitism resulted in the deaths of thousands of Jews), to their arrival in Constantinople, an exotic, opulent city--ten times the size of any city in Europe--that bedazzled the Europeans. Featured in vivid detail are the siege of Nicaea and the pivotal battle for Antioch, the single most important military engagement of the entire expedition, where the crusaders, in desperate straits, routed a larger and better-equipped Muslim army. Through all this, the crusaders were driven on by intense religious devotion, convinced that their struggle would earn them the reward of eternal paradise in Heaven. But when a hardened core finally reached Jerusalem in 1099 they unleashed an unholy wave of brutality, slaughtering thousands of Muslims--men, women, and children--all in the name of Christianity. The First Crusade marked a watershed in relations between Islam and the West, a conflict that set these two world religions on a course toward deep-seated animosity and enduring enmity. The chilling reverberations of this earth-shattering clash still echo in the world today.


  A New History


  First published in Great Britain by The Free Press in 2004 An imprint of Simon & Schuster UK Ltd A Viacom company This edition published, 2005

  Copyright © 2004 by Thomas Asbridge

  This book is copyright under the Berne Convention. No reproduction without permission. All rights reserved.

  The Free Press and colophon are trademarks of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

  The right of Thomas Asbridge to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988.

  13579 10 8642

  Simon & Schuster UK Ltd Africa House 64-78 Kingsway London WC2B 6AH

  Simon & Schuster Australia Sydney


  A CIP catalogue for this book is available from the British Library.

  ISBN: 0-7432-2084-6

  Typeset by M Rules Printed and bound in Great Britain by Cox & Wyman Ltd, Reading, Berks

  PICTURE CREDITS pp. 1, 8,15,21: British Library pp. 7,11, 22: Susan B. Edgington pp. 3,4,12,14: Bibliotheque Nationale de France pp. 5, 9, 30: Agence Photographique de la Reunion des Musees Nationaux pp. 6,13: The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore pp. 2,10: The Art Archive pp. 16,17,18,19, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 29: Thomas Asbridge p. 20: AKG-images p. 28: Hulton Getty



  Preface xi

  List of Maps xv

  Cast of Characters xvii












  Conclusion 334

  Glossary 341 Chronology 342

  Notes 345

  Bibliography 380

  Index 397


  The First Crusade stands as one of the most remarkable episodes in European history. It saw tens of thousands of people embark on an extraordinary 3,000-kilometre journey to the Holy Land, their aim to recapture Jerusalem from Islam in the name of the Christian God. Facing bone-crunching exhaustion, deadly disease, wretched starvation and bloodthirsty battle, these crusaders demonstrated a capacity for intense religious devotion as well as appalling brutality. Against all odds and at dreadful cost in terms of human suffering, they prevailed. The events of the crusade were so dramatic, its impact so colossal as to inspire countless generations, across nine centuries, to grapple with its history. All have struggled to comprehend such a powerful and disturbing event. Most have assumed that Europe was driven to crusade by some form of pre-existing genetic hatred for Islam, and that a desperate clash between these two civilisations was all but inevitable. In the modern era, analysis of the First Crusade has been drawn in other directions. In its various incarnations over the last 150 years, the expedition has been all but stripped of its devotional context to become little more than a grand but greedy raid, presented as the first glorious flowering of western colonialism and exposed as conclusive evidence of medieval Europe's spectacular barbarity.

  In recent decades the intense efforts of historians in Europe, the Near East and North America have honed and reshaped our understanding of the crusade's origins, progress and impact. But, to date, no scholar has drawn together these strands of research to present a new analytical narrative of the expedition, accessible to a wide audience. This book will not attempt to present the definitive history of the First Crusade; such a feat would be all but impossible. Drawing upon cutting-edge scholarship, original research and an intimate knowledge of the Levant, it will shed new light upon the expedition's inception, explaining what motivated such a multitude of Europeans to join the crusade; it will retell the story of its participants' incredible journey, asking how a venture devoid of centralised leadership and seemingly prosecuted with little or no forward planning avoided immediate annihilation; and it will assess the true nature of relations between Christendom and Islam at the time of the crusade and demonstrate how they were transformed by the attack on the Holy Land.

  I began writing this book three years ago, but it is really the product of a far more enduring passion for crusading history. I was first introduced to the wondrous tale of the First Crusade by the inspirational teaching of Richard Mole. Even then, at the age of sixteen, I was captivated and soon decided that I wanted to devote my life to the study of the crusades. Now, nearly two decades later, I count myself very lucky to have found my way into academic life and a career as a medieval historian.

  Along the way I have been helped by many friends and mentors, but I would here like to express my particular thanks to those who, in one way or another, have shaped my approach to this book. Peter Edbury, Professor of Medieval History at the University of Cardiff, and Jonathan Riley-Smith, now Dixie-Professor of Ecclesiastical History at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, guided me through university life as an undergraduate and postgraduate, teaching me the principles of historical research and the value of critical analysis. It is my sincere hope that they will not judge this, my first attempt to bring the medieval world alive for a wider audience, too harshly.

  Thanks are also due to a number of other crusade scholars, most notably to Professor Malcolm Barber and Dr Susan Edgington for reading drafts of this book and proffering valuable advice, and to Dr Jonathan Phillips for his continued friendship and encouragement. I am indebted to many of my colleagues in the Department of History at Queen Mary, University of London, not least for the provision of research leave in which to complete this book. Without the advice of Professor Peter Hennessy I might never even have begun, and the feet that my sanity survived the actual process of writing relatively intact owes much to the treasured
friendship of Dr James Ellison and Kathryn Mallen.

  My work also benefited enormously from the patient faith of Andrew Gordon, my editor at Simon & Schuster. The finished text of the book owes much to his warm encouragement and astute editorial judgement

  I would also like to thank the staff of the Institute of Historical Research, London, where much of this book was written, and the Department of History at the University of Reading for providing a generous travel grant to enable me to walk 350 miles along the route of the First Crusade from Antioch to Jerusalem in the summer of 1999. My experiences during that journey, alongside my other varied travels in the Levant, provided invaluable background for the book.

  I have been lucky enough, through all my academic career, to benefit from the unerring support of my family. This book has been no exception, but I must express a special vote of thanks to my parents for demonstrating immense forbearance during the rather tortured last months of writing as I sought to complete the text and adjust to the wonderful but exhausting duties of fatherhood.

  I wish to give my deepest, most heartfelt thanks to my wife, Christine. Through long months and years of writing and research she has stood by my side, offering unflinching support, acting as a sounding board for my ideas and providing the most constructive criticism of this work. Above all, she brought the miracle that is our daughter Ella into the world and held all our lives together as I finished this book.

  Just before this book was completed, my agent, Giles Gordon, died after a sudden accident. Without Giles' sage guidance I would never have had the opportunity to bring my vision of the First Crusade to a mainstream audience. I will always regret that he was not able to read this book in its final form, but I hope he would have approved. I will miss him very much.

  THOMAS ASBRIDGE London, November 2003


  Western Europe in 1095 8

  Crusaders' routes to Constantinople 91

  Constantinople and Western Asia Minor 115

  Eastern Asia Minor and Cilicia 141

  Northern Syria 155

  The city of Antioch 161

  Antioch: siege dispositions in March 1098 197

  Lebanon and Palestine 279

  The city of Jerusalem 301



  Gregory VII (1073-85)

  Hardline champion of the Papal Reform Movement

  Urban II (1088-99)

  Launched the First Crusade at Clermont in 1095


  Adhemar of Le Puy

  Bishop of Le Puy in southern France and

  papal legate on the crusade

  Raymond of Toulouse

  Count of Toulouse and lord of St Gilles;

  secular leader of the southern French

  Bohemond of Taranto

  Son of Robert Guiscard and leader of the southern Italian Norman crusaders

  Godfrey of Bouillon

  Duke of Lower Lotharingia and leader of a contingent of crusaders from Lotharingia and Germany

  Robert of Normandy

  Son of William the Conqueror and duke of Normandy; leading figure among the northern French crusaders

  Robert of Flanders

  Count of Flanders and leading figure among the northern French crusaders

  Stephen of Blois

  Count of Blois and leading figure among the northern French crusaders

  Hugh of Vermandois

  Count of Vermandois in northern France and brother to King Philip I of France

  Tancred of Hauteville

  Bohemond of Taranto's young and adventurous nephew

  Baldwin of Boulogne

  Count of Boulogne; Godfrey of Bouillon's ambitious brother

  Peter the Hermit

  Charismatic preacher and nominal leader of the People's Crusade

  Peter Bartholomew

  Provencal visionary who 'discovered' the Holy Lance

  Byzantines and Armenians

  Alexius I Comnenus

  Emperor of Byzantium (1081-1118); founder of the great Comneni dynasty

  Manuel Boutoumites

  Greek general who oversaw the crusader siege of Nicaea


  Greek guide who accompanied the crusaders to Antioch


  Armenian ruler of the city of Edessa; adoptive father of Baldwin of Boulogne


  Armenian resident of Antioch who betrayed the city


  Kilij Arslan

  Seljuq Turkish sultan of the Rum in Asia Minor

  Yaghi Siyan

  Governor of the city of Antioch

  Duqaq of Damascus

  Seljuq ruler of the Syrian city of Damascus; led first Muslim relief force on Antioch

  Ridwan of Aleppo

  Seljuq ruler of the Syrian city of Aleppo; led second Muslim relief force on Antioch


  Ruler of Mosul and renowned general; leader of a massive Muslim army to relieve Antioch


  Ruler of Fatimid Cairo


  A race absolutely alien to God has invaded the land of Christians, has reduced the people with sword, rapine and flame. These men have destroyed the altars polluted by their foul practices. They have circumcised the Christians, either spreading the blood from the circumcisions on the altars or pouring it into the baptismal fonts. And they cut open the navels of those whom they choose to torment with loathsome death, tear out their most vital organs and tie them to a stake, drag them around and flog them, before killing them as they lie prone on the ground with all their entrails out. What shall I say of the appalling violation of women, of which it is more evil to speak than to keep silent?

  On whom, therefore, does the task lie of avenging this, of redeeming this situation, if not on you, upon whom above all nations God has bestowed outstanding glory in arms, magnitude of heart, litheness of body and strength to humble anyone who resists you.1

  This horrific imagery and forceful exhortation launched the First Crusade. On the last Tuesday of November, in the year 1095, Pope Urban II delivered an electrifying speech to a crowd outside the southern French city of Clermont. Christians living in the East, he alleged, were enduring dreadful oppression and abuse at the hands of their 'savage7 Muslim masters, and the epicentre of Christian tradition, the Holy City of Jerusalem, likewise lay in the grasp of Islam. In the face of these intolerable 'injuries', Pope Urban called upon Catholic Europe to take up arms and prosecute a vengeful campaign of reconquest, a holy war that would cleanse its participants of sin. When he proclaimed that those fighting as 'soldiers of Christ' would be purified by the fire of battle, his words set Christendom alight.

  In the weeks and months that followed, the pope's impassioned appeal swept across Europe, prompting some 100,000 men and women, from knight to pauper, to take up the call - the largest mobilisation of manpower since the fall of the Roman Empire. One such was the great Norman warrior Bohemond of Taranto. Immersed in the bitter siege of the rebellious southern Italian city of Amalfi, Bohemond apparently underwent a dramatic conversion when news of the gathering crusade arrived. Calling for his most lavishly wrought cloak to be brought forth, he had this treasured garment cut to pieces in front of an astonished assembly. Fashioning the cloth into crosses, he then proudly displayed this badge upon his sleeve as a visible sign of his commitment to the cause and distributed the remainder among the enthralled audience. Together they abandoned the siege to fight a new war, leaving the air afire with their battle cry: 'God's will! God's will!'2

  This titanic expedition, known to history as the First Crusade, marked a watershed in relations between Islam and the West. This was not the first war between Christians and Muslims, but it was the conflict that set these two world religions on a course towards deep-seated animosity and enduring enmity. Between 1000 and 1300 CE Catholic Europe and Islam went from being occasional combatants to avowed and entrenched oppon
ents, and the chilling reverberations of this seismic shift still echo in the world today.

  The First Crusade stands at the heart of this transformation because it effected change on two intertwined levels: 'reality and 'myth-history'. In 'reality', the actual progress of the crusade brought Islam and the West into fierce physical conflict, but need not necessarily have prompted an irrevocable divide. Even before the expedition was over, however, its events began passing into 'myth-history', as contemporaries sought to record and explain its remarkable progress, asking why it had happened, who had participated and why, and how the expedition had affected the world. Indeed, from its genesis, the history of the crusade was blurred by distortion. The image of Muslims as brutal oppressors conjured by Pope Urban was pure propaganda - if anything, Islam had proved over the preceding centuries to be more tolerant of other religions than Catholic Christendom. Likewise, the fevered spontaneity of Bohemond's decision to take the cross, dutifully recorded by one of his followers, was almost certainly a facade masking calculated ambition.3

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