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Authors: Thomas Asbridge

The first crusade

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The First CrusadeThomas AsbridgeFree Press (2005)Tags:Non Fiction, HistoryNon Fictionttt Historyttt

SUMMARY: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.


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 CREDITSpp. 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









List of Mapsxv

Cast of Charactersxvii









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 AsbridgeLondon, November 2003




Western Europe in 10958Crusaders' routes to Constantinople91Constantinople and Western Asia Minor115Eastern Asia Minor and Cilicia141Northern Syria155The city of Antioch161Antioch: siege dispositions in March 1098197Lebanon and Palestine279The city of Jerusalem301





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 Franceand brother to King Philip I of France


Tancred of Hauteville

Bohemond of Taranto's young andadventurous nephew

Baldwin of Boulogne

Count of Boulogne; Godfrey of Bouillon'sambitious brotherPeter the Hermit

Charismatic preacher and nominal leaderof the People's Crusade

Peter Bartholomew

Provencal visionary who 'discovered' theHoly 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 crusadersiege of NicaeaTaticius

Greek guide who accompanied thecrusaders to AntiochThoros

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

Armenian resident of Antioch whobetrayed 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 firstMuslim 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?