THE FIRST CRUSADE
Epochs of Modern History: The Crusades
A.D. 1096, Departure of the first rabble of Crusaders under Peter the Hermit and Walter the Penniless.
LITTLE more than half the time allowed for the gathering of the crusaders had passed away, when a crowd of some sixty thousand men and women neither caring nor thinking about the means by which their ends could be attained, insisted that the hermit Peter should lead them at once to the holy city. Mere charity may justify the belief that some even amongst these may have been folk of decent lives moved by the earnest conviction that their going to Jerusalem would do some good; that the vast majority looked upon their vow as a license for the commission of any sin, there can be no moral doubt; that they exhibited not a single quality needed for the successful prosecution of their enterprise, is absolutely certain. With a foolhardiness equal to his ignorance, Peter undertook the task, in which he was aided by Walter the Penniless, a man with some pretensions to the soldier-like character. But the utter disorder of this motley host made it impossible for them to journey long together.
At Cologne they parted company; and 15,000 under the penniless Walter made their way to the frontiers of Hungary, while Peter led onwards a host which swelled gradually on the march to about 40,000.
Second rabble under Emico and Gotschalk
Another army or horde of perhaps 20,000 marched under the guidance of Emico count of Leiningen, a third under that of the monk Gottschalk, a man not notorious for the purity or disinterestedness of his motives. Behind these, came a rabble, it is said, of 200,000 men, women, and children, preceded by a goose and a goat, or, as some have supposed, by banners on which, as symbols of the mysterious faith of Gnostics and Paulicians, the likeness of these animals was painted. In this vile horde, no pretence was kept up of order or of decency.
Sinning freely, it would seem, that grace might abound, they plundered and harried the lands through which they marched, while 3,000 horsemen, headed by some counts and gentlemen, were not too dignified to act as their attendants and to share their spoil.
Bloody persecutions of the Jews.
But if they had no scruple in robbing Christians, their delight was to prove the reality of their mission as soldiers of the cross by plundering, torturing, and slaying Jews. The crusade against the Turk was interpreted as a crusade directed not less explicitly against the descendants of those who had crucified the Redeemer. The streets of Verdun and Treves, and of the great cities on the Rhine, ran red with the blood of their victims; and if some saved their lives by pretended conversions, many more cheated their persecutors by throwing their property and their persons either into the rivers or into the consuming fires.
The Jews taken under the protection of the empire.
Thus auspiciously began the mighty enterprise on which pope Urban had insisted as the first duty of all Christians; and thus early did the result of his preaching tend to revive the waning power of the emperor, Henry IV., who interposed his authority to this merciless onslaught on a peaceable and useful class of his subjects. The Jews were taken under the protection of the empire, and for the time the change was a real relief. Their posterity found to their cost that their guardian might in his turn become their plunderer and tormentor.
March of Walter and his followers through Hungary and Bulgaria
A space of six hundred miles lay between the Austrian frontier and Constantinople; and across this dreary waste the followers of Walter the Penniless struggled on, destitute of money, and rousing the hostility of the inhabitants whom they robbed and ill-used. In Bulgaria, their misdeeds provoked reprisals which threatened their destruction, and none perhaps would have reached Constantinople, if the imperial commander at Naissos had not rescued them from their enemies, supplied them with food, and guarded them through the remainder of their journey. These succours involved some costs; and the costs were paid by the sale of unarmed men amongst the pilgrims, and especially of the women and children, who were seized to provide the necessary funds. Of those who formed the train of the hermit Peter, seven thousand only, it is said, reached Constantinople.
Passage of the pilgrims across the Bosporus.
Of such a rabble rout the Emperor Alexios needed not to be afraid. He had already seen and encountered far larger armies of Normans, Turks, and Romans; and he now extended to this vanguard of the hosts of Latin Christendom a hospitality which was almost immediately abused. They had refused to comply with his request that they should quietly await the arrival of their fellow crusaders; and consulting the safety of his people not less than his own, he induced them to cross the Bosporos, and pitch their camp on Asiatic soil, the land which they had come to wrest from the unbelievers.
Alexios wished simply to be rid of their presence: they had to deal with an enemy still more crafty and formidable in the Seljukian Sultan David, whose surname Kilidje Arslan marked him out as the Sword of the Lion.
Their utter destruction by Kilidje Arslan.
The vagrants whom Peter and Walter had brought thus far on the road to Jerusalem were scattered about the land in search of food; and it was no hard task for David to cheat the main body with the false tidings that their companions had carried the walls of Nice (Nikaia), and were revelling in the pleasures and spoils of his capital. The doomed horde rushed into the plain which fronts the city; and a vast heap of bones alone remained to tell the story of the great catastrophe when the forces which might more legitimately claim the name of an army passed the spot where the Seljukian had entrapped and crushed his victims. In this wild expedition not less, it is said, than 300,000 human beings had already paid the penalty of their lives.
Still the first crusade was destined to accomplish more than any of the seven or eight crusades which followed it; and this measure of success it achieved probably because none of the great European sovereigns took part in it.
Rank and character of the leaders of the First Crusade.
The Western emperor, Henry IV., the representative of Charles the Great, was the enemy of the pope; Philip I. king of France had been excommunicated by Urban in the council of Clermont; the sovereigns of Denmark, Scotland, Sweden, and Poland were as yet scarcely brought within the community of European monarchs; the Spanish kings had their crusades ready made at home; and we have already seen that the English William II. was more intent on acquiring dukedoms than on running the risk of a blessed martyrdom at the gates of Jerusalem. The task of setting up a Latin kingdom in Palestine was to be achieved by princes of the second order.
Godfrey of Bouillon and his brothers Baldwin and Eustace.
Of these the foremost and the most deservedly illustrious was Godfrey, of Bouillon in the Ardennes, a kinsman of the counts of Boulogne, and duke of Lothringen (Lorraine). In the service of the emperor Henry IV., the enemy or the victim of Hildebrand, he had been the first to mount the walls of Rome and cleave his way into the city; he might hope that his crusading vow would be accepted as an atonement for his sacrilege. Speaking the Frank and Teutonic dialects with equal ease, he exercised by his bravery, his wisdom, and the uprightness of his life, an influence which brought to his standard, it is said, not less than 80,000 infantry and 10,000 horsemen, together with his brothers Baldwin and Eustace count of Boulogne.
Hugh of Vermandois.
Among the most conspicuous of Godfrey’s colleagues was Hugh count of Vermandois, whose surname the Great has been ascribed by some to his birth as the brother of Philip I. the French king, by others merely to his stature, as ‘Hugh the long.’
Robert of Normandy.
With him may be placed the Norman duke Robert, whose carelessness had lost him the crown of England, and who had now pawned his duchy for a pittance scarcely less paltry than that for which Esau bartered away his birthright. The picture drawn of him is indeed not unlike that of the forefather of the Edomite tribes. Careless of the future, open in his friendship or his enmity, free from duplicity in himself and unsuspicious of treachery in others, charming others and injuring himself by his lighthearted cheerfulness and his lavish generosity, Robert was a man whom the total lack of the qualities which marked his iron-hearted father brought to a horrible captivity and death in the dungeons of Cardiff Castle.
Robert of Flanders and Stephen of Chartres.
The number of the great chiefs who led the pilgrims from northern Europe is completed with the names of Robert count of Flanders, whom his followers lauded as the Sword and Lance of the Christians, and of Stephen count of Chartres, Troyes, and Blois, the possessor, if we choose to believe the tale, of 365 castles, and as rich in his eloquence as in his fortresses. The same arithmetic would have us think that the minor chiefs were more numerous than the champions whom Agamemnon led to the Trojan war; and the assertion is perhaps as much and as little to be credited as the catalogue of Greek warriors in the Iliad.
Adhemar bishop of Puy.
Foremost, by virtue of his title and office, among the leaders of the southern bands, was the papal legate Adhemar (Aymer) bishop of Puy; a leader rather as guiding the counsels of the army than as gathering soldiers under his banner.
Raymond of Toulouse.
A hundred thousand horse and foot attested, we are told, the greatness, the wealth, and the zeal of Raymond count of Toulouse, lord of Auvergne and Languedoc, who had grown old in warfare, and won for himself a mingled reputation for wisdom and haughtiness, obstinacy and greed.
Less tinged with the fanatical enthusiasm of his comrades, and certainly more cool and deliberate in his ambition, Bohemond, son of Robert Guiscard, whom we have seen fighting at Dyrrhachium and victorious at Larissa (p. 23), looked to the crusade as a means by which he might regain the vast regions extending from the Dalmatian coast to the northern shores of the Egean.
Nay, if we are to believe William of Malmesbury, he urged Urban to set forward the enterprise for the very purpose, partly, of thus recovering what he was pleased to regard as his inheritance, and in part of enabling the pontiff to suppress all opposition in Rome. Guiscard had left his Apulian domains to a younger son, and Bohemond was resolved, it would seem, to add to his principality of Tarentum a kingdom which would make him a formidable rival of the Eastern emperor.
Far above his companion Bohemond, rises his cousin Tancred, the son of the marquis Odo, surnamed the Good, and of Emma the sister of Robert Guiscard; and his reputation comes not from his wealth or the greatness of his following, but from the qualities of mind and person which raised him indefinitely nearer than his fellows to the standard of the very gentle perfect knight’ of Chaucer. In Tancred was seen the embodiment of those peculiar sentiments and modes of thought which gave birth to the crusades, and to which the crusades in their turn imparted marvellous strength and splendour.
Cause and effect of chivalry.
When in the council of Clermont pope Urban dwelt on the cowardice and ignoble fears of the Turks, he probably touched a chord which grated on the more generous and enthusiastic amongst his hearers, and was in fact speaking as a priest when with greater wisdom he should have used the language of a general. There can be little doubt that the finer spirits of the age were moved by the eager desire of rescuing a crowd of helpless Christians from conquerors whose might it was impossible for them to resist, and who were worthy antagonists even for the noblest knights of Latin and Teutonic Christendom. The rescue of this feeble multitude could be effected only at the cost of a great sacrifice, the sacrifice of houses and lands, of luxuries and pleasures: and the consciousness of large sacrifices, cheerfully made for the weak and suffering, is amongst the highest feelings which may be awakened in the human heart.
Thus in the most noble-minded and disinterested of the crusading champions there was distinctly a combination of two ideas, seemingly discordant, yet working together to produce one definite moral result. These were the indignation with which they regarded the tyranny exercised over the Christians of the East, and the involuntary respect and even admiration which they felt for the conquerors as the most redoubtable warriors of the age next to the foremost knights of Christendom. The former feeling would impel them to the most desperate efforts for the recovery of the Holy Land and the Holy Sepulchre; the latter would place checks dimly recognised and not always heeded on the ferocious warfare with which they would without scruple seek to sweep away all meaner or more savage enemies.
So far as he was actuated by such motives, the crusader was cultivating in himself the germs of forbearance and toleration which must at once to whatever extent soften the horrors of war and which would in the end yield more solid and satisfying fruits. In this same direction the influence of the Church was felt with constantly increasing power. It had been her aim to curb, when she could not repress, the violence of her children, and to establish by a solemn sanction that Truce of God which prevented the practice of private war from becoming a burden too heavy for the earth to bear. But in the expedition for the delivery of the Holy Land war itself was sanctified; and the knight, initiated even in past years by rites, which, heathen in their origin, had been made sacred by the Church, was raised almost to the level of the priest and the monk.
Henceforth the young aspirant for the knightly dignity and office was treated much as the catechumens had been treated in the first Christian centuries. He must enter on his work with clean thoughts and a pure conscience, and the spotless garment of the catechumen, purified by his long fast, was reproduced in the white robe which the young squire put on after cleansing his body in the bath, while the profession of baptism was repeated in the knightly vow which (after a special confession of sin followed by absolution) pledged the young man to deal justly, truly, and generously, defending the oppressed, succouring the needy and helpless, and everywhere showing himself the unsparing antagonist of all tyrants and evildoers.
In an especial degree he was to be the champion of women, the protector of children; and he rose from his knees before the assembled clergy, dubbed a knight by the sword of his godfather in the names of God, of our Lady, and of St. Michael, or St. George. The nearest to the heart of those who uttered this formula, as to that of the young knight, was the name of the Virgin Mother, whose image, it would seem, has fascinated multitudes without curing them of savage treachery and bloodthirsty ferocity. In feudal phrase she was his Lady (Notre Dame), as the crucified Jesus was his Lord (Notre Seigneur); and the adoring and humble love which he bore for her was held to sanctify and to be reflected in the devotion which he felt for every noble lady and more especially for the one favoured dame who became the idol of his heart, a star to be worshipped at a distance, if not a queen at whose feet he might throw himself in an ecstasy of passion.
This being whom he delighted to picture to himself as the peerless ideal of womanhood might be the wife of another man; and these extravagant fancies produced not unfrequently the most lamentable and ruinous results. But the knightly or chivalrous spirit, thus sometimes led astray, tended nevertheless to impose moral checks on rude and savage minds which had never felt them before; and the growth of this spirit was ensured chiefly by the crusades. The iniquities wrought by the soldiers of the Cross were fearful indeed; but the horrors of the warfare were in some small measure softened by the honour which the foremost warriors on both sides paid each to the bravery and good faith of the other; and this feeling expressed itself in a word which even now has by no means lost its meaning.
The quality of courtesy so named displayed itself in the readiness to give place to another where strength and power might have refused all concessions. It was closely allied to the Christian qualities of meekness and mercy, and any approach to this heavenly temper was a gain indeed in a brutalised and ferocious age. The highest glory of the crusading knight was to be a mirror of courtesy: and this glory is especially associated with the name of Tancred.
Tancred lived, fought, and conquered: the Rinaldo whom Tasso paints in his epic poem on the deliverance of Jerusalem is a being of cloudland like the Greek Achilleus, the Trojan Hektor, and the Persian Rustam.
A. D. 1096. August. Departure of the army of the Crusaders under Godfrey.
The miserable remnant of 3,000 men who escaped from the field of blood before the city of the Seljukian Sultan (p. 41), found a refuge in Byzantine territory about the time when the better-appointed armies of the crusaders were setting main off on their eastward journey. The most disciplined of these troops set out with a vast following from the banks of the Meuse and the Moselle under Godfrey of Bouillon who led them safely and without opposition to the Hungarian border. Here the armies of Hungary barred the way against the advance of a host at whose hands they dreaded a repetition of the havoc wrought by the lawless bands of Peter the Hermit and his self-chosen colleagues.
Three weeks passed away in vain attempts to get over the difficulty. The Hungarian king demanded, as a hostage Baldwin the brother of the general: the demand was refused, and Godfrey put him to shame by surrendering himself. He asked only for a free passage and a free market; but although these were granted, it was not in his power to prevent some disorder and some depredations as his army or horde passed through the country. The mischief might have been much worse, had not the Hungarian cavalry, acting professedly as a friendly escort but really as cautious warders, kept close to the crusading hosts.
Captivity of Hugh of Vermandois.
At length, they reached the gates of Philippopolis, and here Godfrey learnt that Vermandois, whose coming had been announced to the Greek Hugh of emperor Alexios by four-and-twenty knights in golden armour, and who styled himself the brother of the king of kings and lord of all the Frankish hosts, was a prisoner within the walls of Constantinople.
With Robert of Normandy and Robert of Flanders, with Stephen of Chartres and some lesser chiefs, Hugh had chosen to make his way through Italy; and the charms of that voluptuous land had a greater effect, it seems, in breaking up and corrupting their forces than the delights of Capua had in weakening the soldiers of Hannibal.
With little regard to order the chiefs determined to cross the sea as best they might. Hugh embarked at Bari; and if we may believe Anna Comnena, the historian and the worshipper of her father Alexios, his fleet was broken by a tempest which shattered his own ship on the coast between Palos and Dyrrhachium (Durazzo), of which John Comnenos, the nephew of the emperor, was at this time the governor. The Frank chief was here detained until the good pleasure of Alexios should be known. That wary and cunning prince saw at once how much might be made of his prisoner, who was by his orders conducted with careful respect and ceremony to the capital. Kept here really as a hostage, but welcomed to outward seeming as a friend, Hugh was so completely won by the charm of manner which Alexios well knew how and when to put on, that, paying him homage and declaring himself his man, he promised to do what he could to induce others to follow his example.
A.D. 1096. Christmas. Arrival of Godfrey before the walls of Constantinople.
From Philippopolis Godfrey sent ambassadors to Alexios, demanding the immediate surrender of Hugh. The request was refused, and Godfrey resumed his march, treating the land through which he passed as an enemy’s country, until by way of Adrianople he at length appeared before the walls of the capital at Christmastide, 1096.
The fears of Alexios were aroused by the sight of a host so vast and so formidable: they quickened into terror as he thought of the armies which were still on their way under the command of Bohemond and Tancred.
Policy of the emperor Alexios.
Of Godfrey, beyond the fact of his mission as a crusader, he knew little or nothing: but in Bohemond he saw one who claimed as his inheritance no small portion of his empire. This gathering of myriads, whom a false step on his part might convert into open enemies, was the result of his own entreaties urged through his envoys before Urban II. in the council of Piacenza; and his mind was divided between a feverish anxiety to hurry them on to their destination and so to rid himself of their hateful presence, and the desire to retain a hold not only on the crusading chiefs but on any conquests which they might make in Syria.
Hugh was sent back to Godfrey’s camp; but the quarrel was patched up, rather than ended. It was easier to rouse suspicion and jealousy than to restore friendship.
Compact between Alexios and the Crusaders
But it was of the first importance for Alexis that he should secure the homage of the princes already gathered round his capital before the arrival of his ancient enemy Bohemond. In this he succeeded, and a compact was made by which Alexios pledged them his word that he would supply them with food and aid them in their eastward march, and would protect all pilgrims passing through his dominions.
On the other hand the crusading chiefs, as already subjects of other sovereigns, gave their fealty to the emperor as their liege lord only for the time during which they might remain within his borders, and undertook to restore to him such of their conquests as had been recently wrested from the empire. In order to secure this treaty Alexios had been compelled to go through the fatigue of interminable audiences with the Western warriors and to put up with not a little insolence. The effrontery of a crusader, who flinging himself on the imperial throne declared that he saw no reason for standing while one rustic remained seated, was denounced as intolerable rudeness even by his companions; but Robert count of Paris, if indeed it was he, closed a brief career not many weeks later, and is more conspicuous in modern romance than in the pages of mediæval historians.
Homage of the Crusaders to Alexios
The spirit of Bohemond was stirred deeply within him when on reaching Constantinople he found that his colleagues, instead of remaining independent chiefs, had made themselves vassals of the Byzantine monarch. But Alexios was vigorously aided by Robert of Flanders whose friendly offices were the result of an alliance made with his father eight years before; and Bohemond soon saw that he must in appearance follow the example of his comrades, whatever course it might suit him to take hereafter. He became the guest of the emperor, listened with complacency to his flatteries, accepted a magnificent gift or bribe, and accompanied his submission with a request for the office of Grand Domestic, or general of the East.
The emperor put him off with the promise of an independent principality, and turned with more genuine warmth to the honest simplicity of Godfrey. This disinterested crusader was anxious only to fulfil his vows; and Alexios felt that he was making no sacrifice and entering into no inconvenient engagements by adopting him as his son.
Disastrous march of Raymond of Toulouse to Constantinople.
The policy and the bribes of Alexios had overcome the opposition of Bohemond. He was to experience a stouter resistance from Raymond of Toulouse, who, though he had been the first to enlist, was the last to set out on his crusade.
He should never make another journey, he said, and he was determined to be well prepared. Wishing to avoid, so far as he could, the lines of march chosen by the chiefs who had preceded him, he took the road through Lombardy. Thus far his march was easily accomplished: but things wore a different look when he reached the savage mountains and desolate valleys of Dalmatia and Slavonia. The people had driven their cattle (and their cattle formed practically their whole property) into inaccessible glens: and instead of plundering others the crusaders found themselves harassed and their stragglers cut off by thieves and murderers.
Raymond retaliated by cutting off the hands and noses of all who were taken prisoners and putting out their eyes; and the wrath of the natives was roused to desperate resistance. At Scodra he entered into some sort of agreement with the Servian chief Bodin; but the country could yield little for the support of this vast army, which was compelled to struggle onwards under dire difficulties. It is astonishing to hear that Raymond could still speak of himself as the leader of a hundred thousand warriors, when he refused flatly to do homage to the Greek emperor.
Refusal of Raymond to do homage.
The count of Toulouse scarcely regarded himself as the vassal even of the French king. He was ready, he said, to be the friend of Alexios on equal terms; but he would not declare himself to be his man. On this point he was immovable, although Bohemond tried the effect of a threat, which was never forgiven, that if the quarrel came to blows, he should be found on the side of the emperor.
But Alexios soon saw that in Raymond he had to deal with an enthusiast as sincere and persistent as Godfrey. He took his measures accordingly, and winning the heart of the old warrior, although he failed to compel his obedience, he confessed to him his dislike of the rude and noisy habits of the Franks and his deep-seated fears of Bohemond. The admiration of Anna Comnena was as great as the esteem professed for him by her father. Raymond in her fervent language shone among the barbarians as the sun among the stars of heaven.
Conduct of Alexios to the crusaders.
While Alexios was thus busied in dealing with Godfrey and Raymond, Bohemond and Tancred, he was not less anxiously occupied with the task of sending across the Bosporos the swarms which might soon become an army of devouring locusts round his own capital.
A.D. 1097. March.
It was easier to give them a welcome than to get rid of them: and more than two months had passed since Christmas, when the followers of Godfrey found themselves on the soil of Asia. It was well to place even a narrow strait of sea between himself and these dangerous friends, who had threatened him at first with all the horrors of savage war. The rumour had got abroad that Alexios meant to hem them in among marshes, and leave them there to starve; and an assault of the crusaders on the suburbs showed the emperor what he might expect, if these suspicions were not quieted.
Passage of the Crusaders across the Bosporos.
Probably he had not intended to entrap them to their death: but he had felt less scruple in submitting them to cheatings with debased coin and to extortions which carried with them no sense of novelty for his own people. Even these he found it politic to abandon, and so zealously did he employ an opposite method that for the time the crusaders seemed to have become his mercenaries.
Godfrey’s men had no sooner been landed on the eastern side of the Bosporos, than all the vessels which had transported them were brought back to the western shore. With great astuteness, and at the cost of large gifts, Alexios in like manner freed the neighbourhood of his capital from the invading multitudes. As fast as they came, they were hurried across, and the emperor breathed more freely when, on the feast of Pentecost, not a single Latin pilgrim remained on the European shore.
Thorough antagonism between the Crusaders and the Greeks.
The danger of conflict had throughout been imminent; and the danger arose, not so much from the fact that the crusaders were armed men, marching through the country of professed allies, but from the thorough antagonism between Greeks and Latins in modes of thought and habits of life, in the first notions of civilisation, law, and duty.
For the Greeks feudalism was a thing of the remote past; in other words, was a thing unknown. To get at a state resembling that of Western Europe they would have had to go back for nearly twenty centuries – to the days of Solon and of the Thessalian and Theban nobility, who were among the most efficient allies of Xerxes.
For the crusading armies or rather for their chiefs (of the common herd there was no need to take any account), nothing was so hateful as a central authority which pressed on all orders in the state alike: nothing was so precious as local tyranny and the right of private war, which respected neither person nor property.
For the subjects of the Eastern empire the protection of person and property was everything, and in order to secure this they were willing to put up with a large amount of oppression and of corruption in their governors. In a sense not so high perhaps as that which the words bore in the days of Herodotos, law was still their king; and of public law the Latins could scarcely be said to have any conception.
Contrast between the Greek and Latin clergy.
Nor must we forget the vast gulf which separated the Eastern from the Western clergy. The latter were now becoming well broken into the yoke of celibacy which had been finally thrust upon them by Peter Damiani and Hildebrand; for the former marriage was valid, if it preceded the reception of their orders. The Latin clergy had by this change been converted into a close order or caste, which looked up to the Roman pontiff as their head and hated the thought of allegiance to any temporal ruler.
This empire within an empire was an idea which had not dawned on the Greek or the Eastern mind; and the clergy of the West despised their brethren of the East for their cowardly submission to the secular arm. These, in their turn, shrank with horror from the sight of bishops, priests, and monks riding with blood-stained weapons over fields of battle, and exhibiting at other times an ignorance equal to their ferocity. Harmony between nations and races under such conditions is as hopeless as the voluntary mingling of oil and water; and the result of contact was an exasperation of the suspicion, jealousy, and hatred which the one side felt instinctively for the supposed treachery, lying, and violence of the other.
Numbers of the Crusaders.
Thus was gathered on the eastern shores of the Hellespont and the Bosporos a host, we may well believe, more vast than that which Xerxes drove before him for the invasion of Europe, and leaving behind it in utter insignificance the scanty force with which Alexander attempted and achieved the conquest of Asia.
When tribes or a nation pour out their whole population, men, women, and children alike, there is practically no limit to the numbers which may be set in motion; nor is it any tax on our credulity to believe that a hundred thousand horsemen, fully armed in the light coats of mail worn during the first crusading age, were marshalled on the Bithynian plains, even if we put aside as an absurd exaggeration the notion of the chaplain of Count Baldwin, that the whole body of the crusaders amounted to not less than six hundred thousand.
June. Siege and fall of Nice (Nikaia).
Their strength and valour were soon to be tested. They were now face to face with the Turks on whose cowardice Urban II. had enlarged with so much complacency before the council of Clermont. The Sultan David, or Kilidje Arslan (p. 41), placed his family and treasures in his capital city of Nice (Nikaia), and retreated with 50,000 horsemen to the mountains, whence he swooped down from time to time on the outposts of the Christians.
By these his city was formally invested; and for seven weeks it was assailed to little purpose by the old instruments of Roman warfare, while some of the besiegers shot their weapons from the hill on which were mouldering the bones of the fanatic followers of Peter. It was protected to the west by the Askanian lake, and so long as the Turks had command of this lake they felt themselves safe. But Alexios sent thither on sledges a large number of boats, and the city, subjected to a double blockade, submitted to the emperor, who was in no way anxious to see the crusaders masters of the place. The crusaders were making ready for the last assault, when they saw the imperial banner floating on the walls.
Their disappointment at the escape of the miscreants, or unbelievers, for so they delighted to speak of them, was vented in threats which seemed to bode a renewal of the old troubles: but Alexios, with gifts which added force to his words, professed that his only desire now, as it had been, was to forward them safely on their journey. Nor had they to go many stages before they found themselves again confronted with their adversary.
July 4. Battle of Dorylaion.
The conflict took place near the Phrygian Dorylaion, and seemed at first to portend dire defeat to the crusaders. More than once the issue of the day seemed to be turned by the indomitable personal bravery of the Norman Robert, of Tancred, and of Bohemond; and when even those seemed likely to be borne down, they received timely succours from Godfrey, and Hugh of Vermandois, from bishop Adhemar of Puy and from Raymond count of Toulouse.
Still the Turks held out, and it seemed likely that they would long hold out, when the appearance of the last division of Raymond’s army filled them with the fear that a new host was upon them.
March to Cogni and the Pisidian Antioch.
The crusaders had won a considerable victory. Three thousand knights belonging to the enemy had been slain, and Kilidje Arslan was hurrying away to enlist the services of his kinsmen. Meanwhile, the Latin hosts were sweeping onwards, passing Cogni (Ikonion, Iconium), Erekli (Herakleia), and the Pisidian Antioch. Their dangers were great; their sufferings terrible. The son of Kilidje Arslan had hurried on before them with ten thousand horsemen, and declared before the gates of each city that they came as conquerors, not as fugitives.
They had ravaged the lands as they came along; in the town they sacked the churches, plundered the houses, emptied the granaries; and the crusaders who followed them had to journey over a naked soil under the burning Phrygian sun. Hundreds died from the heat and dogs or goats took the place of the baggage horses which had perished.
Quarrel between Baldwin and Tancred at Tarsus
At length Tancred with his troop found himself before Tarsus, the birthplace and the home of that single-hearted apostle who long ago had preached a gospel strangely unlike the creed of the crusaders.
Following rapidly behind him, Baldwin saw with keen jealousy the banner of the Italian chief floating on its towers, and insisted on taking the precedence. Tancred pleaded the choice of the people and his own promise to protect them; but the intrigues of Baldwin changed their humour, and the rejection of Tancred by the men of Tar sus was followed by an attempt at private war between Tancred and Baldwin, in which the troops of Tancred were overborne.
So early was the first harvest of murderous discord reaped among the holy warriors of the cross. It was ruin, however, to stay where they were; and the main army again began its march, to undergo once more the old monotony of hardship and peril.
Conquest of Edessa by Baldwin.
A very small force would have sufficed to disorganise and rout them as they clambered over the defiles of Mount Taurus; nor could Raymond, recovering from a terrible illness, or Godfrey, suffering from wounds inflicted by a bear, have done much to help them. But for the present their enemies were dismayed; and Baldwin, brother of Godfrey, hastened with eagerness to obey a summons which besought him to aid the Greek or Armenian tyrant of Edessa.
As Alexios had done to his brother, so this chief welcomed Baldwin as his son; but Baldwin, having once entered into the city, cared nothing for the means which had brought him thither, and the death of his adoptive father was followed by the establishment at Edessa of a Latin principality which lasted for fifty-four, or, as some have thought, forty-seven years. Baldwin had anticipated the unconditional surrender of Samosata; but the Turkish governor had some of the Edessenes in his power, and he refused to give up the city except on the payment of ten thousand gold pieces. The Turk shortly afterwards fell into Baldwin’s hands, and was put to death.