Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A Christmas Message

Noble Readers,

First and foremost, I wish all of you a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year!  I offer my sincerest apologies for the delay in new posts - these past few months have seen both my transition from military life to the civilian world and the start of my graduate studies.  I will do my utmost to finish my series on King Richard's Crusade and hopefully some new topics as well.  However, due to the increased tempo of my new life, posts will be a bit less frequent than past times.  Thanks for your understanding.

As you enjoy your Christmas festivities, I'd like to share with you one of my favorite stories from the season - one that takes place during the First Crusade.  In the winter of 1098-1099, the Frankish leadership finally resolved their internal conflicts that had kept the army delayed in the Antioch region and were at last en route to the final end-goal, Jerusalem.  While the main army was still on the march, Godfrey of Boullion dispatched a party of knights under the command of his younger brother, Baldwin (the ingenious conqueror of the County of Edessa and future Baldwin I of Jerusalem) and Bohemond's nephew, Tancred.  Their objective was to secure the fabled city of Bethlehem.  Strategically, Bethlehem was a critical outpost south of Jerusalem and securing it would protect the southern flank of the army as it settled into siege.  However, the spiritual importance of the city that witnessed the birth of the God-Man Himself a thousand years ago was by no means lost on the Crusaders either.  As Baldwin and Tancred rode hard for Bethlehem, they became the first Crusaders to view Jerusalem from the crest of a hill later named Mont Joie by later generations of crusading knights.
Arriving in Bethlehem, they found that the Fatmid garrison had abandoned the city to reinforce Jerusalem.  As they entered the city of the shepherds, one can imagine the uncertainty of the situation must have made the knights tense.  However, they were approached by a lone local man who surprisingly spoke Greek.  The man identified himself as the local priest who had shepherded the local Christian community that had survived in secret under Islamic rule for nearly three centuries.  Upon the arrival of the Crusaders, the entire community came out into the streets.  Some reached out to touch the warriors, others wept for joy that God had rescued them at last.  The priest led Baldwin and Tancred to a ruin that seemed to be nothing but a pile of rubble.  At his direction, men pulled up layers of stones to reveal the site of the manger where God first laid His infant head to rest on earth.  After the Muslim conquest, the old Basilica had been torn down and the relics of Christ's birth had been hidden away and safeguarded for generations by the locals who still cherished the memory of that holy night.  The arrival of the Christian knights from the West at last heralded the end of the oppression of Islam and the liberation for the Christians for whom the Crusades had been preached in the first place.  Upon uncovering the site, Baldwin fell to his knees and paid homage to the holy ground.  Even the Norman Tancred - not typically known for his piety - was moved enough to follow Baldwin's example.  While the story is a mere detail in the chronicles of the First Crusade, to me it serves as perhaps one of the most touching scenes of humanity from the entire episode and a poignant reminder of the true nature of the noble enterprise of the Crusades.  It also should remind us in the present day of the resilience of the beautiful memory of that sacred night when God joined his creations on earth to be welcomed by shepherds and herdsmen and hopefully remind us of those communities of Christian brethren who still endure the suffering of persecution and await for a day when they too will be rescued.

A merry Christmas to you all and Deus vult!



This story can be found in the Historia Hierosolymitana of Fulcher of Chartres and in The Building of Christendom by Dr. Warren Carroll.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Lion In The Desert - Part 2: Sicily, Cyprus, and the Rescue of Acre




By September of 1190AD, Richard's great fleet - comprised of an estimated 10,000 volunteer crusaders from all over the Angevin Empire and regions beyond - assembled at the great port city of Marseilles to refit and restock for the long voyage across the Mediterranean.  At the time, Richard was residing in Salerno just south of Rome, having initially travelled overland to Italy in the company of King Philip.  However, Philip and his much smaller force of about 2,000 knights and squires pressed on to Genoa where their hired transport awaited (the difference in size between the two kings' commands reflects the vast difference in political culture between the more centralized Anglo-Angevin realm and the more antiquated feudalism of France where many French barons chose to march their own armies to Outremer).  When word reached Richard of his fleet's arrival, he issued orders for a detachment led by Baldwin, the Archbishop of Canterbury, to depart immediately for Acre.  The other half would meet him in Messina in Sicily, where Richard had some urgent family business to attend to.

Sicily of the 12th Century was an intoxicatingly fascinating landscape.  A true cosmopolitan society, it boasted a population of Byzantine Greeks, descendants of Muslim Saracen raiders, Tunisian Moors, and Neapolitan Italians - all ruled over by the Norman cousins of Richard's ancestors who conquered the island under the famed adventurer, Robert Guiscard, over a century prior.  The old king, William II, had been the first lord in Europe to respond to Jerusalem's fall in 1187AD - sending naval reinforcements to bolster Tyre's defenses in those critical months during Salah ad-Din's mop-up campaign.  However, before he could take up the cross himself, William died in 1189 without an heir, sparking an intense succession crisis between his illegitimate cousin, Tancred of Lecce, and his aunt, Constance, who was married into the Hohenstaufens of the German Empire that now pressed hard to acquire Sicily for the Reich.  Caught in the middle of all this was William's widow - and Richard's sister - Joan, who was being somewhat ungraciously held by Tancred in his own castle in Palermo.  To make matters worse, Tancred refused to return Joan's dowry that not only consisted of a considerable sum of money, but also a hundred war galleys - ships desperately needed to establish the naval supremacy essential to the success of the Crusade.  Of course, Richard would have none of this.  Richard made a grand entrance into Messina at the head of his army, aweing the local populace and sending a clear message to Tancred of the consequences of continuing as he had.  Tancred immediately released Joan, who joined Richard and his army outside of Messina, but the dowry was still a contested issue.  Richard also had to contend with his partner/rival, King Philip, who had arrived in Messina before him and had taken up residence inside the city.  While Richard and Philip were still on friendly terms at this stage, Philip's mere presence was a constant reminder to Richard of the aggravating Continental politics that loomed over his involvement in the Crusade.

The Italian Norman lands of the 12th Century
While tensions simmered between Tancred and Richard, they began to explode between the Crusader army and the native Messinesi - who had very little love for their unexpected guests and the economic impact their arrival had wrought upon their city and its resources.  Ethnic and cultural rifts fanned the flames of this animosity, as many Messinesi were Orthodox Greeks and Muslims who had no love or respect for the crusading cause whatsoever.  Richard's biographer, Ambroise, detailed the native "hospitality" thus:
"For the townsfolk, rabble, and the scum / Of the city - bastard Greeks were some, / And some of them Saracen-born / Did heap upon our pilgrims scorn / Fingers to eyes, they mocked at us, / Calling us dogs malodorous. / They did us foulness every day / Sometimes our pilgrims they did slay, / And their corpses in the privies threw. / And this was proven to be true."
Whether or not the reports were indeed "proven to be true," the violence displayed by the local populace became too much too ignore for Richard in conjunction with Tancred's waffling over his sister's dowry.  In a surprise attack against some Messinesi who had set out to ambush his forces, Richard and his army seized Messina, looted it, and hung his banners over the walls.  Philip's forces suspiciously provided no assistance whatsoever - a fact that angered many of Richard's lords and foreshadowed bad things to come from their French counterparts.  With the loss of Messina and a German army en route to the island, Tancred realized the game was up for him and immediately capitulated to Richard in return for his support against the German claimants.  With Joan's considerable dowry in hand, Richard could now make the final preparations needed for his army in peace.  He even used many of the funds he gained from Tancred to help fix food prices in Messina at reasonable levels, ending much of the local hostility just as winter set in.  As soon as the sea lanes opened in the Spring (all sea traffic shut down in the Western Mediterranean during the winter months), Richard would be ready to push east.

Tancred of Lecce from a Siculo-Norman chronicle - the real Tancred
suffered from some sort of physical deformity that left him hideously ugly.
His own subjects derisively referred to him as "the Monkey."
However, in February 1191AD, another complication arose (or, rather arrived) that would create an irrevocable rift between Richard and Philip.  That month, Richard's famous mother arrived in Sicily to see her son off one last time and brought with her Princess Berengaria of Navarre ... who was Richard's new betrothed!  Negotiated in complete secrecy from Philip, Richard sought the marriage as a means to secure the southern Angevin flank with King Sancho of Navarre.  Now, the bride-to-be had arrived for all the world to see.  To say that Philip was furious and humiliated would be a gross understatement.  However, due to Richard's new political relationship with Tancred and the vastly greater size of the Anglo-Angevin army, Philip had no real choice but to acquiesce to the new arrangement and release Richard from his vow to his sister in return for 10,000 marks.  However, Philip displayed his open displeasure with Richard by storming off to Acre on his own that next month.  From this moment on, in the words of a German historian, Philip's crusade would not be so much against Salah ad-Din as it would be against Richard.  After placing Berengaria in Joan's care, Richard and his restless army finally departed Sicily in April of 1191 in a fleet that awed in both size and strategic capabilities.  Gillingham described it as such:
"The fleet carried not merely men, horses, and arms, but treasure, heavy siege equipment, and victuals.  It included war galleys and skiffs, vessels designed for combat, reconnaissance and assaults on beaches.  Richard of Devizes, who liked precise figures, said it comprised 156 ships, 24 busses, and 39 galleys, in all 219.  On the basis of his figures for 'men per ship' Richard would have been in command of 17,000 soldiers and seamen - an immense force for the period."
Never before had such a naval task force been assembled in the Medieval world - especially one whose primary function would be the projection of military power from ship to shore like what Richard obviously envisioned.  This focus on amphibious capabilities would become one of the primary factors of Richard's overall strategy in Outremer.  The other would be the establishment of a permanent supply route across the Mediterranean - which was where Richard's interest in the island of Cyprus originated.

Much like Sicily, 12th Century Cyprus was an exotic locale with a rich and diverse past.  Originally a province of the Byzantine Empire, the island had come under the control of a certain Isaac Ducas Comnenos whose family had long been rivals of the Angelos Dynasty that currently held the Imperial throne in Constantinople.  By 1191AD, Isaac had turned Cyprus into his personal de facto kingdom - the possession of which he was prepared to jealously defend against any outsider.  It was even rumored amongst the Crusader leadership that Isaac had entered into a secret pact with Salah ad-Din to provide no aid to the Franks in Outremer in exchange for his island's independence.  Regardless of how the native Cypriots felt towards the cause, Richard immediately recognized the critical importance of the island as a staging point and supply depot for the Frankish Kingdoms.  If Cyprus were to be in friendly hands, then the Kingdom of Jerusalem would have an offshore lifeline through which men and supplies could securely flow from the West.  However, the answer to the question of exactly how Cyprus could be brought under Crusader control was not immediately apparent to Richard.

As often happened, the perfect opportunity soon arose.  When Richard's fleet assembled at Crete for a brief stop and roll-call, a few ships were found missing - to include the ship carrying Joan and Berengaria.  In actuality, those ships had been pushed ahead of the main fleet during a storm and already made it to the south-western coast of Cyprus near Limassol.  There, three supply ships ran aground and were immediately stripped and looted by the Cypriots.  The crews of the ships were taken prisoner, but managed to fight their way out and return to the other ships offshore by the time Richard arrived in May.  Isaac hastily fortified Limassol and rudely rebuffed an emissary from Richard sent to ask for the return of the stolen supplies.  He then deployed troops to the shore to ensure the Crusaders didn't attempt to take the city.  By the time Isaac realized his grievous mistake, it would be far too late for him.  Richard executed an ambitious maneuver - a full strength amphibious landing against the Cypriot forces on the shore.  Using archers and crossbowmen in the landing craft to open fire from the water as soon as they came within range, Richard personally led his knights in storming the beach under the supporting fire.  Isaac and his forces were totally unprepared for such a bold move, abandoned Limassol, and retreated to the surrounding countryside.  The next day, Richard's mounted knights caught the Cypriot forces unprepared out in the open plains beyond the city and easily scattered them with a massed charge.  The local Cypriot leaders decided that two stunning defeats in 24 hours was too many and immediately bent the knee to Richard while Isaac fled to one of his fortresses in the mountains.

Modern Cyprus with many of the key Medieval cities depicted
Isaac Comnenos had never been popular with the Cypriots and now, Richard and his Crusaders gave them a chance to cast off his yoke.  Isaac would continue to lose territory and support in the next few weeks, but would not surrender himself until Richard captured his only daughter and held her for ransom.  By June 1191, Isaac finally descended from his mountains a broken man.  Richard quickly assumed control of the rest of the island and even appointed two of his nobles as provisional governors.  However, contrary to many historians who portrayed the conquest of Cyprus as pure territorial ambition on Richard's part, his next visitors soon proved that his acquisition had a much more vital purpose.  In May, King Guy of Jerusalem and his retinue left the siege lines of Acre and met Richard face-to-face.  While the main point of the visit was to appeal to Richard for support against the political machinations of King Philip (who was pushing to have the crown of Jerusalem taken from Guy and passed to Conrad of Montferrat - the hero of Tyre), Richard handed over custody of Cyprus to the Knights Templar.  For Richard, it was of far greater importance to have Cyprus in the hands of those entrusted with the defense of the Frankish Kingdom than to keep it for his own empire.  This action proved he had a far deeper strategic reasoning behind his actions, as Gillingham summarized:
"In terms of military strategy in the service of the Holy Land the conquest of Cyprus turned out to be a master stroke.  Though reasonably safe from attack, (not until 1571 did Cyprus fall to the Turks), it lay so close to the eastern shores of the Mediterranean that a man standing on the hills around Stavrovouni could see on the horizon the cedar-covered mountains of Lebanon."
However, the time had come to begin what they had all started out to accomplish - to win back the Kingdom of Jerusalem, and that hung on rescuing the besieging (and besieged) Crusaders at Acre.

When the unfortunate Guy of Lusignan initially besieged Acre with what meager forces he could gather in the aftermath of the fall of the Kingdom, it seemed to both Christian and Muslim as an act of desperate folly.  Not even strong enough to take the city by storm, Guy's forces could only set up a blockade around it.  Soon, Salah ad-Din casually made his way there with a large relief army, only to find that Guy had actually positioned his forces on terrain that made him virtually impossible to dislodge.  What ultimately transpired was a very rare scenario in Medieval warfare - a double siege, with the Saracen garrison at Acre besieged by the Franks who, in turn, were surrounded by Salah ad-Din's relief forces.  While the double blockade continued, the Frankish forces began to receive a steady stream of support in the form of Crusader reinforcements from Europe, including vital naval power courtesy of the Italian city-states.  Between the aggressive Christian naval maneuvers in the waters and the constant pressure exerted on Acre's landward walls, Salah ad-Din's prized fleet was trapped in the harbor and unable to prevent any Crusader support coming from the sea.  This first brought King Philip of France, whose siege engines proved a major blow to the Saracen defenders.  However, Philip's forces were still not large enough to truly threaten Salah ad-Din and Philip made a colossally divisive political move by immediately recognizing Guy of Lusignan's rival, Conrad of Montferrat, as the new King of Jerusalem.  This conflict would sadly sour the entire rest of the Crusade as will be seen in a later post.  Also, word had assuredly reached Salah ad-Din of the disintegration of the greatest contingent of the Crusade: the Imperial Germans led by Emperor Frederick Barbarossa - who, in a bizarre twist of tragic (and ironic) fate, accidentally drowned in the Saleph River the year prior in the Taurus Mountains after falling from his horse.  Now, the Sultan's only remaining concern was Richard's army coming from Cyprus.

True to his style, Richard's entrance into the scene at Acre was nothing short of dramatic and would give Salah ad-Din a disturbing idea of who he would be matched against.  As Richard's fleet approached Acre in June 1191, his war-galleys intercepted a massive Egyptian flagship (known as a dromond) attempting to carry vital supplies and reinforcements past the Crusader blockade.  In no way could this ship be allowed to make it to harbor and Richard personally sprung his warships into action.  William of Tyre, typically not very friendly to Richard, described the event in riveting detail:
"Just as he arrived at the city of Acre, Saladin had a great ship called a dromond come to Egypt.  It was full of men, arms, Greek fire, and supplies intended to sustain the Saracens and afflict the Christians ... When King Richard learnt that this ship was approaching the city of Acre and was bringing help to the Saracen port, he immediately sent orders for his galleys to be got ready and armed to go out and engage it in battle.  The galleys were prepared with all speed with Raymond of Bonne Done in command.  They mounted the attack bravely, and the people in the ship defended themselves vigorously as best they could.  But Jesus Christ, Who does not forsake His own, gave victory to the King of England, and his galleys overwhelmed the ship and sank it on the high seas.  So everything on board was lost, and the hearts and wills of the Saracens who were inside the city of Acre were weakened as a result."
Baha al-Din, a close observer in the Sultan's personal staff, remarked at how the morale in the Sultan's encamped army sank at beholding the vast amount of men and supplies that disembarked with Richard's arrival.

The Siege of Acre from a contemporary manuscript.  Note the Frankish siege engine.
While the Anglo-Angevin forces settled into the siege, Richard himself began to initiate contact with the man who would become his epic nemesis for the next year.  Over the next several weeks, Richard and Salah ad-Din exchanged messages and diplomatic overtures through multiple embassies carried out by envoys.  Although on opposing sides in an epic clash of civilizations, the two rulers would continue to stay in close contact with one another throughout the conduct of the war - proving that neither was a stranger to diplomacy and, at times, even courtesy.  However, despite the diplomatic discourse, a war was still at hand and Acre was it's first major objective.  With Richard's siege engines being added to Philip's, Acre's walls were steadily crumbling and the sleep-deprived defending garrison was becoming increasingly desperate and exhausted with the constant bombardment.  Crusader attempts to assault the city were not as yet successful, however - not for any military reason, but because of the ever-expanding political rift between Richard and Philip.  Due to their growing conflict over who wore the crown for Jerusalem - Philip for Conrad and Richard backing his Aquitainian vassals, the Lusignans - neither king's forces were willing to support the other in any assaults on the walls, leading to a frustrating lack of coordination.  Fortunately for the Crusader cause, though, the initiative was clearly in their favor and, after a particularly intense assault by Richard's forces backed by Pisan naval support, the defending garrison finally gave up on Salah ad-Din coming to rescue them.

On 12 July, the defenders surrendered themselves and the city to Richard and Philip, including massive amounts of supplies, money, and an entire Saracen fleet in the harbor.  Richard sent a message to the Sultan offering the lives of the garrison in exchange for 200,000 dinars, the release of 1,500 Christian captives, and (perhaps most importantly) the return of the relic of the True Cross.  When Salah ad-Din heard the news and the terms, he was utterly dismayed, but the Crusader banners hanging from the walls of a newly liberated Acre told him it was far too late to do anything.  He withdrew his demoralized army further inland and began to negotiate over Richard's terms.  Salah ad-Din's dallying over Acre turned out to be one of his most costly mistakes and greatly damaged his reputation as an effective military leader - something Richard would continue to dent significantly for the rest of the war.  However, with the liberation of Acre, Richard's adventures in Outremer had only just begun, as will be covered in the next installment.

To be continued ...




Sources used:

Ambroise, L'Estoire de la guerre sainte, 1195AD.
Bahā' al-Dīn, The Rare and Excellent History of Saladin, 1229AD.
John Gillingham, Richard I, Yale University Press, 1999AD.
Ulrich Kessler, Richard I Lowenherz, Konig, Kreuzritter, Abenteurer, Graz, 1995AD.
Richard de Templo, Itinerarium Peregrinorum et Gesta Regis Ricardi, 1192AD.
William of Tyre, La Continuation, 1197AD.

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Lion In The Desert - Part 1: The Fall of Jerusalem and the Lion Stirs

 
 
*Author's Note: As with my previous series, I hope to publish one installment a month for this topic.  If any significant delay arises, you, dear reader, will be the first to know.  Also, please excuse the change in titles from what I had originally proposed back in June - I like this one better!
 
As with most epic tales in history, this one begins with a tragedy.  It is probably a safe bet that, as the year 1187AD dawned, no one would have guessed that that year would be the year all Christendom would weep.  Europe at the outset of 1187 enjoyed a rare state of overall peace and stability as great kings and emperors ruled unchallenged in England, France, and Germany.  All across the West, a great cultural blossoming was in full effect and legendary centers of learning, art, and music sprang up in Aquitaine, Provence, Italy, and Spain.  Even the situation of the Papacy in Rome looked rosy.  Humiliated by his severe defeat at the hands of the pro-Papacy Lombard League at the Battle of Legnano in 1176AD, the turbulent Emperor Frederick Hohenstaufen I (known as "Barbarossa" for his allegedly fiery red facial hair) negotiated a sincere reconciliation with Pope Alexander III in the Peace of Venice the following year, reaffirming the guarantees of Church liberty within the Concordant of Worms and putting a final end to the Investiture Crisis that had for so long disrupted the peace of the Western Church.  However, the crowning boast of Christendom that year was that, for nearly a century, the city whose streets were tread by the blessed feet of the God-Man Himself and had seen His Passion and Death - the Center of the World - had been ruled and protected by Christian lords and knights.
 
The Crusader States at their greatest extent.
Since Godfrey of Boullion and the other leaders of the First Crusade had first stormed the walls of Jerusalem in 1099AD and rescued the city from Islamic domination, the protection of the Holy Land - or Outremer, as it was known then - was seen as the combined duty of all Christendom.  Crusading zeal was still very much alive throughout the 12th Century and dozens of knights and pilgrims would make their way yearly to the Frankish Kingdom of Jerusalem to visit the city of the Gospels.  Some would only stay long enough to visit the Holy Sepulchre, others would stay and offer their services to the Crusader kingdom - a few knights would make the ultimate commitment and pledge their swords and sword-arms to one of the elite religious military orders that had sprung up in the immediate aftermath of the First Crusade.  Even though both orders were still relatively young, both the Knights Templar and the Knights of the Hospital of St. John (known colloquially as the Hospitallers) possessed a fearsome reputation on the battlefield, inspiring deep respect from both fellow Christians and their Islamic foes.  The Kingdom itself had been blessed with a leader who had been as unlikely as he was bold, pious, and effective.  King Baldwin IV of Jerusalem had been struck with the dreaded disease of leprosy when he was only a child and it worsened as he grew older.  Despite his condition, he succeeded his father to the throne of Jerusalem at the age of 13 and it was no secret that the young sick boy-king was not expected to live long.  However, in one of those ironic twists of history, the young Baldwin defied his physical ailment and not only survived, but displayed a level of leadership acumen and ability that had not been seen since the days of his ancestors amongst the original Crusaders.  And just in time, too.
 
One of the greatest contributors of Western success in the Levant was the systemic division that could be found amongst the various Islamic powers of the 11th Century.  In-fighting and tribal warfare was rampant between the various Emirs, Sultans, and warlords that ranged from Asia Minor, Syria, the Fertile Crescent, Egypt, across North Africa, and all the way to Al-Andalus in Spain.  The days of the Great Caliphs was past and, after four centuries since its birth in the deserts at the edge of the known world, the unchecked offensives of Islam had finally slowed.  Unless, a leader could unite them.  That leader became a reality in the 12th Century in the person of Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn Yūsuf ibn Ayyūb - known to the West as Saladin.  Born to a minor Kurdish noble from Tikrit, Salah ad-Din was sent to serve under his maternal grandfather, the skilled and capable Nur ad-Din who had made some of the first effective counter-attacks against the Crusader States.  Salah ad-Din showed enormous promise for political and military leadership and rapidly climbed to the top of the Syrio-Egyptian power apparatus.  Displaying an incredible ability in political maneuver, Salah ad-Din became the Sultan for both Egypt and Syria in 1171 and 1174 respectively, effectively uniting the two and creating a massive continuous empire that surrounded the Crusader States, which then became the sole focus of his attention.
 
A dirham depicting Salah ad-Din minted during his reign.
However, Salah ad-Din's ambitions against the Kingdom of Jerusalem were rudely checked when, in November of 1177AD, both he and his army were caught by surprise on a field called Montgisard near Ramla by the 16 year-old King Baldwin and a hastily assembled force of 500 Templars and some Crusader volunteer infantry.  Despite being vastly outnumbered by Salah ad-Din's force of over 20,000, King Baldwin personally led the 500 brother-knights of the Temple in a well-timed and sweeping charge that obliterated the Egyptian infantry lines.  The Frankish charge was so effective that Salah ad-Din's entire bodyguard was slain and he only survived by abandoning his army on the back of a racing camel.  Although he would return to raid and skirmish along the frontier the following year, the Sultan's vaunted reputation as a military commander was irreparably dented and he fostered a sincere, if begrudging, respect for the young leper-king.  However, a new chance came in 1185AD when, at long last, Baldwin finally succumbed to his illness and died at the age of 24.  Since his physical condition made producing heirs impossible, Baldwin had never married and his crown passed to his 8 year-old nephew, Baldwin V, who died the very next year.  Ultimately, the crown of Jerusalem settled on Baldwin's problematic sister, Sibylla.  Overly attached to her husband, Guy of Lusignan, and possibly emotionally unfit for any real leadership role, Sibylla elevated her husband to the throne of Jerusalem.  This action triggered enormous internal resistance from the nobility within the Kingdom, many of whom felt Guy to be ill-equipped to effectively defend Outremer, him being too easily influenced by problematic figures like Reynald of Chatillon and Gerard de Ridefort.  With the Crusader States torn by internal division, Salah ad-Din realized the tables had turned and now was the time to strike.  In May of 1187AD, the Sultan raised his largest army yet, around 30,000 men, and laid siege to the city of Tiberias.
 
As Salah ad-Din had hoped, Guy took the bait.  In a desperate attempt to earn credibility in the eyes of his newly acquired subjects, King Guy rapidly assembled a large relief army which included sizeable contingents of the military orders and even the relic of the True Cross from the Holy Sepulchre.  However, Guy was relatively inexperienced with warfare in Palestine and, ignoring the advise of his more experienced nobles, made the colossal mistake of advancing straight to the Saracen position through territory that had little to no water in July heat, all the while leaving his force exposed to harassment by Salah ad-Din's skirmisher cavalry.  By the time Guy could confront the Sultan's main force at a rock formation known as the Horns of Hattin, his army was nearly dead from thirst and heat exhaustion.  It was then that the Saracens struck.  Raymond, Count of Tripoli, charged the Muslims first, but his division was absorbed into the Saracen host and was nearly slaughtered to a man.  The great chronicler, William of Tyre, tersely summed up the magnitude of the disaster that befell the Kingdom of Jerusalem that day:
 
"After this division (Count Raymond's) had been defeated the anger of God was so great against the Christian host because of their sins that Saladin vanquished them quickly; between the hours of terce and nones he won the entire field.  He captured the king, the Master of the Temple, Prince Reynald, the Marquis William, Aimery the Constable, Humphrey of Toron, Hugh of Jubail, Plivain lord of Botron, and so many other barons and knights that it would take too long to give the names of all of them.  The Holy Cross also was lost."
 
While individual contingents within the Christian host that day bravely resisted (most of them from the military orders fought to the last man), Salah ad-Din's victory could not have been more complete.  With nearly every capable leader in Outremer killed or captured at Hattin, the road to Jerusalem was virtually defenseless.  Even worse, in a stunning psychological blow that must have reminded Christians of the capture of the Ark by the Philistines in Old Testament Scripture, the treasured relic of the True Cross was now in Muslim hands.  Pope Urban III died the very month news of Hattin reached Rome - most chroniclers of the time claim he died of grief.  Salah ad-Din wasted no time exploiting his gains and spent the next several months mopping up the various lightly-defended castles between Tiberias and Jerusalem.  Finally, after facing an unexpectedly valiant resistance led by the seasoned Balian of Ibelin, Salah ad-Din negotiated the surrender of Jerusalem on 2 October.  Many writers, both Muslim and modern, attempt to portray Salah ad-Din as graciously generous in his terms to Christians inside Jerusalem.  However, a more thorough reading from sources contemporary to the actual event paint a very different picture.  Ever the politician, it was obviously not in Salah ad-Din's best interest to display deliberate cruelty to the Christian inhabitants, but what physical mercy he may have offered them, he demanded staggering financial compensation in return.  Balian of Ibelin had to negotiate with the Sultan multiple times to lower the price of ransom for citizens of Jerusalem and even the final price was flat-out extortionate - 30,000 gold bezants for 7,000 men or two women or ten children who equaled one man (the estimated population in Jerusalem was about 50,000 people).  Those not included in the ransom agreement were either abandoned to slavery or rescued through the financial generosity of the military orders or leaders back in Europe.  Lastly, once the Christians had either been evacuated or enslaved, Salah ad-Din added insult to injury by parading through the streets of Jerusalem with the relic of the True Cross drug behind his horse.
 
In the aftermath of the events of 1187AD, all Christendom was in shock.  Archbishop Joscius of Tyre toured across every kingdom, duchy, and realm in Europe, spreading the news and simultaneously calling for a Crusade to rescue Jerusalem.  The next pope, Gregory VIII, immediately called for the leaders of the West to put aside all their differences and heed the call to arms.  The response from both noble and commoner alike was resounding.  Among those who heard the call was a tall, well-built, 30 year-old Count of Poitou with hair that varied between red and golden depending on how the light hit it.  Endowed with long limbs that only better suited him for a life-long career of warfare from the saddle of a destrier, a fiery temper, and a quick, witty sense of humor, this young man seemed destined for the idealized life of a 12th century knight.  However, this was no mere knight, but the heir to the great Angevin Empire and the throne of his father, Henry II Plantagent, King of England, Duke of Normandy, Duke of Aquitaine, Count of Anjou, Lord of Ireland, and Protector of Scotland.  As the son and heir of one of the most powerful men in Europe, Richard Plantagenet was an ideal addition for the effort to rescue Jerusalem.  However, it was this very elevated background that made his involvement fraught with complication.
 
Composite sketch of Richard's Great Seal
As is well known, Richard I hailed from perhaps one of the most dynamic and dysfunctional royal families to ever exist in Western Medieval history.  Henry Plantagenet rose swiftly to power after his mother, the famed "Empress" Matilda, negotiated for him to inherit the English throne from the beleaguered King Stephen and finally end the horrifically violent succession crisis that had become known as "The Anarchy."  After ascending to the throne of England, Henry further boosted his power by marrying the beautiful and deviously capable Eleanor of Aquitaine.  A legendary femme fatale of her era, Eleanor brought her immense territorial holdings in Southern France into her husband's budding empire, making Henry the owner of more French territory than his technical liege-lord, the King of France himself.  Together, Henry and Eleanor had eight children, of whom Richard was the third.  However, Henry and Eleanor had a relationship that has been best described as "complex" and they often vied with each other for control over the vast empire they had accumulated together.  Eleanor was very attached to her sons, most especially to Richard, who became the eldest surviving son after his two older brothers, William of Poitiers and Henry "the Young King"  had both died previously.  Eleanor even went so far as to instigate and support her sons in various rebellions against their father - Richard himself joined his brothers and the King of France in the "War Without Love" against his father in 1173-1174AD, but was forced to reconcile after Henry successfully outmaneuvered them all politically.  Despite the various internal struggles they engaged in, Henry II still designated Richard as his heir after the untimely death of the younger Henry.  It was around this time that the word of Hattin and the fall of Jerusalem reached Normandy and England.
 
The Angevin Territories during the reign of Henry II
 
All throughout his life, Richard had fostered a deep love for all things chivalrous and courtly.  Having spent most of his childhood and adolescence growing up in his mother's home country of Aquitaine, he undoubtedly was heavily influenced by the tales and songs of courtly love and chivalrous romance that flourished amongst the fledging troubadour culture that had sprung up there.  Adding to this, the young Richard was a natural-born warrior.  Nearly every one of his chroniclers, those who sang his praises and those who loathed him, attested to the fact that battle and campaign were his natural habitat.  With this type of character, it is easy to see how the prospect of participating in an epic attempt to win back Jerusalem would have resounded within the deepest recesses of his being.  It's also a probable bet that he never dreamed he would end up being it's principle leader.
 
In 1189AD, the old Henry finally died, leaving Richard in the awkward position of having to put his crusading plans on hold in order to attend to the "family firm," as Gillingham refers to the vast and turbulent Angevin Empire.  Of greatest concern was how to secure his new realm against his French counterpart, the young Philip II, later to be known as "Augustus."  Richard and Philip were nearly the same age and had actually been very close while growing up.  Sadly, this relationship has been shamefully distorted by modern historians pathologically obsessed with any form of deviant sexuality and have seized on this childhood friendship as "proof" of homosexual tendencies in Richard despite there being absolutely no supporting evidence for it.  Sadly for these "scholars," Medievals were fairly blunt and unashamed when talking or writing about sex, deviant or otherwise, and sodomy would have been a major gossip topic about anyone, noble or common.  Although there has been much more written on the topic (John Gillingham's writings are a brilliantly informed response), sadly, we have no time for it here and will just leave it in the dust-heap of postmodern agenda where it belongs.  As Richard and Philip grew up and became the heirs of their respective fathers, the old childhood friendship began to give way to one with higher degrees of tension.  As a child, Richard had been betrothed to Philip's sister, Alys, but rumors of promiscuity on her part (most notably with his own father!) began to cause Richard to lose interest in her.  Whether the rumors were true or not (although not impossible to believe - Henry II was not exactly known as a paragon of marital fidelity), the proposed marriage had vast political consequences as it had been one of the proposals agreed upon between Henry and Philip's father, Louis VII, as a condition for French royal approval for their vast holdings on the Continent.  Like a good son, Philip still intended for Richard to make good on his end of the bargain and, after being crowned king of England and Duke of Normandy in September 1189, Philip expected a wedding for Alys.  Richard skillfully sidestepped his obligation, however, and even used his Crusading vow as a means to delay it.  In response, Richard and Philip both agreed to accompany the other on Crusade - obviously to keep an eye on the other.  Richard then raised astronomically high amounts of money (not a difficult task with Crusading zeal at an all-time high) and established a competent collection of regents to manage his empire while away - which deliberately excluded his disingenuous little brother, John "Lackland," much to John's chagrin.
 
Joining Richard and Philip in this mighty endeavor would be the legendary Emperor Frederick Barbarossa himself, who raised an enormous crusading army (possibly the largest ever assembled) from his German and Italian territories.  Although very advanced in age at this point in his life, Frederick was seen as the natural leader for the war to reclaim Jerusalem and, no doubt, he probably saw himself as such.  However, Frederick opted to march his army across the overland route to Jerusalem - some say because he possessed a life-long paranoia of death by water.  Richard and Philip were in far too great a hurry for such a painfully slow march and headed for the southern coast of France.  The target - the vital coastal city of Acre, currently under siege by the remaining Frankish forces scrapped together by the hapless King Guy after being released from Salah ad-Din's captivity.  Richard and the other crusader leaders realized that possession of the coast would be essential to any successful reclamation of the Kingdom and the port of Acre was the principal sea hub for the Frankish Kingdom.  Going into the conflict, the Christians knew they had one key area of superiority over Salah ad-Din - naval dominance.  The Saracens may have controlled the land, but Salah ad-Din had no real maritime power to speak of, whereas the West had vast fleets belonging primarily to the mercantile Italian city-states that effectively created a continuous system of transport and resupply.  If the Christians could hold the coast, the restoration of the Kingdom might just succeed.  I will cover the beginning of this endeavor in my next post.
 
To be continued ...
 
 
 
Sources used:

Bahā' al-Dīn, The Rare and Excellent History of Saladin, 1229AD.
Peter Edbury, The Conquest of Jerusalem and the Third Crusade, Ashgate Publishing Ltd., 1998AD.
John Gillingham, Richard I, Yale University Press, 1999AD.
Richard de Templo, Itinerarium Peregrinorum et Gesta Regis Ricardi, 1192AD.
William of Tyre, La Continuation, 1197AD.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

A Farewell to the Marine Corps

An old co-worker from long before the Corps once told me, “Time flies when you’re having fun … or when you’re working your ass off.”  If only I had known then just how often that statement would be proven true over and over again in my life – especially the latter point.  As I stand here “on the raggedy edge” of that one thing all servicemen simultaneously (and somewhat pathologically) long for and dread – the return to civilian life – it occurred to me that some sort of farewell was in order to the institution of maladjusted misfits that has claimed four years of my existence.  I know, as a short-timer, I may not have much right to speak on the pros or cons of the Marine Corps compared to the long-sufferers amongst my comrades, still “living the dream” for many more years to come, and I don’t really intend to – so, don’t expect any uniform-burning, or whatever.

It probably won’t come as a surprise to anyone who had the misfortune of knowing or (even worse) supervising me in the Corps that I had joined with no intention of making a career out of it.  I came up with several different answers to the question of “why did you join?” none of which were really what I meant and, to be perfectly honest, I’m still not even sure what my reason was to this day.  The why really didn’t matter for me – service, in and of itself, is a noble thing and, in defiant contradiction to everything our culture of comfort and cowardice preaches incessantly, I would not tolerate a life without that experience of service.  The Marine Corps gave me that experience in the way that best suited me, I suppose … a fact that probably achieves nothing except skyline my propensity for maladjustment even more gravely to the nice, clean HR people currently reviewing my job applications at the moment.  I sacrificed a lot for the Corps (yes, even in just four years) – and it was far more than just the clichés of “family, freedom, comfort, safety” that come to mind for most people when they think of military service.  A lot was taken from the recesses of my interior in the past four years … some good, some bad, and some that a civilian just flat-out wouldn’t even get if I told them.

However, despite whatever a stint in the Corps took from me, I bear it no ill will for those because I received even more in return.  Memories, experiences, mannerisms, language (can’t beat Marine vocabulary for appropriately summing up just how bad something can be), skills, and a frighteningly high tolerance for alcoholic beverages that will remain with me for the rest of my life are just a few I can list for you.  I was given an opportunity to be educated in what I will argue to my deathbed is perhaps the finest tradition of warrior servant/leadership still somehow alive in the unhappy world today – despite the occasional hypocritical betrayals of it that I witnessed from a handful of “leaders” who knew better.  For the rest of my days in this life, Gen Lejeune’s exhortation for a “father/son” relationship between leaders and subordinates will haunt me to the end … and hopefully hold me to that standard that is sadly so often disregarded in our self-absorbed society.

The most important gift I received, though, would have to be the bonds of camaraderie and fraternity I shared with individual Marines – especially those I was privileged enough to lead.  There’s an old saying in the Corps that, “Marines take care of Marines – because the Marine Corps won’t.”  While we often say it as a joke, like all Marine-isms, there is an element of profound and tragic truth lurking beneath the sarcasm and dark humor.  Life in the Marine Corps is a living hell at times and all Marines (even the most die-hard of Kool-Aid drinkers … you know who you are) will admit this eventually.  What really keeps any of us going usually ends up being the “man next to us” – the Marine who will sacrifice anything for you, from a duty-free weekend to the last drop of blood in his body, if you needed it.  I knew such Marines and was even put in the unbelievably intimidating position of leading such Marines.  From SSgts whose unique perspectives on life, the universe, and everything can completely change how you view yourself and the world around you to the endearing bitterness of the Terminal Lance, whose loyalty (and resourcefulness) is worth more than the whole world and all the riches in it when you earn his trust and confidence – these will be the treasures I will guard with the most jealousy from my time in the Corps.  To be completely honest, I never gave much thought as to why I joined the Corps because, deep down, it wasn’t ever really about me.  It was about them – it was always about them, as far as I was concerned, even if that meant my career suffered for it (trust me, it did).  I remember thinking to myself shortly after having been commissioned that if I could spend four years making any sort of real difference in the lives of the Marines I may lead, then I’d gladly forego a career.  I will never claim that I made a difference in their lives, but leading them – some of the last few finest kids this country doesn’t deserve to claim as its own – made an almighty difference in mine … for which I will forever owe them a debt I cannot hope to repay.

So, there it is.  The good, the bad, and the ugly of my short-timer’s experience with Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children – perhaps one of the only institutions I will ever belong to that will be like another family to me, even if it was a shockingly dysfunctional one at times (the best ones usually are, though).  To all the Marines who impacted my life – I will miss you … painfully sometimes.  Always remember, once you were one of mine, you will always be one of mine.  Do not ever hesitate to get a hold of me for anything you may need … even if it’s just for a drink or five.  To all those who have more time to owe or just have a masochistic fetish for punishment, I wish you the best and keep your heads down … and, for the love of God, don’t let the core principles of our beloved Corps go the way of tattoos and hazi … er … “individualized training.”  I’ll be here in 1st CivDiv holding the line against conformity, decency, and the Mothers of America.

Rounds complete – facial hair in effect – EASer on overwatch.


Semper Fidelis


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Battle of Dorylaeum, 1097AD

Teaser for the upcoming historical novel Sons of God:

Synopsis:  On 1 July, 1097AD, the Christian forces of the First Crusade fought their first ever major field encounter with their Islamic opponents.  While minor in scale compared to some of the later engagements fought during the course of that epic pilgrimage, it was a watershed moment for both the "Franks" and the armies of Islam.  Before 1097AD, the Seljuk Turks - a ferocious steppe people that had become some of the more ardent converts to Islam, had enjoyed total battlefield domination over the ever-weakening Byzantine Empire and had seized much of Asia Minor in the process.  After the Byzantine disaster at Manzikert in 1071AD, the Papacy in Rome heeded the pleas of their Eastern brethren, often with the pious hope of reuniting the Latin Church to her Orthodox half in the course of combating a common foe.  The dream was finally realized in 1095AD when Bl. Pope Urban II delivered his resounding call to saintly arms at Clermont and the nobles, knights, and pilgrims of the First Crusade set off to the East.
However, a vast majority of the Crusader leadership did not share the Pope's warm feelings towards the Caesar in Constantinople and the relationship between the host and their Eastern advisors was tense, to say the least.  After crossing into Anatolia and recapturing the city of Nicaea (which secretly surrendered to Byzantine officials instead of the Crusaders - intensifying the Frankish distrust for Greek involvement in their pilgrimage), the Crusader host found itself split into two elements.  The lead element was lead by the legendary Bohemond of Taranto and his Italio-Normans, along with significant Frisian, Flemish, and Franco-Norman detachments (the Franco-Normans being led by another son of a famous warrior, Robert Curthose, eldest son of William the Conqueror and first Norman king of England).  Following behind was the rest of the host and the other main Western leadership, Godfrey of Boullion, Raymond of St Gilles, and Bishop Adhemar of Le Puy, the papal legate.  Shadowing the armies was the tested Seljuk warlord, Emir Kilij I "Arslan" ("the Lion") of Rum, who sought to fall upon the separated hosts and pick them apart as his ancestors had done at Manzikert just a generation ago.  The battle that was fought and will be portrayed below was crucial in that it marked the first time a Christian Western army met and defeated a Turkish host on Islamic territory - an event that would have lasting consequences for the rest of the Crusade and ever after.

Now, without further ado, I offer this teaser for your enjoyment.


~Bohemond – 1 July 1097 A.D.~

                The sun hadn’t even risen over the distant peaks of the Taurus Range yet and already a bead of sweat was running down Bohemond’s neck as he stood, frowning, inspecting the hills surrounding his makeshift camp.  The scouts were still bringing back reports of Turkish horsemen trailing the army from practically every direction – those scouts that had returned, anyhow.  Men can be swallowed up in an instant out in this hellish place for a host of reasons; heat, thirst, a Sipahi’s arrow … all the more reason for the armies to stay as close to each other as possible.
            The last thought only deepened the frown.  Tatikios’ decision to split the armies still gnawed at Bohemond’s mind – and inflamed his temper.  What made it worse was the other lords’ naïve overreliance on their Byzantine advisor.
Warfare out here is an entirely different animal and none of the other lords have a clue what they’re up against.  Nicaea was nothing – a siege is a siege, both opponents always know where to find the other.  It’s the open spaces like this that can evaporate an army like the desert sun evaporates water.  You can’t just line your horses up in a nice neat rank, level your lances, and charge your way to victory like back in the old country – a Sipahi would put an arrow through your throat and vanish before you could realize what hit you.  They all saw the bones back there in the passes, the sad monuments to that fool Peter’s mob of martyrs.  With Godfrey and Raymond over half a day’s hard ride behind us, our odds of ending the same way are increasing.  And they know this, lurking in their hills just out of sight, waiting for their chance to sweep in and pick us to shreds – what did the Greeks say his name was?  Emir Kilij?  They said his people call him “the Lion” – “serpent” would be more accurate.  The only other question would be whether that damned little Greek knows this as well.  One can only imagine how much more soundly the Holy Caesar in Constantinople would sleep if the report came that his former barbarian guests - most especially the son of Guiscard - had been conveniently wiped out and left to rot in the sun.

Bohemond spat at his feet.  “Little swine.”
“Easy on, uncle,” said a strong but playful voice coming from behind, “I haven’t even wished you a good morning, and already you’re insulting me.”
Bohemond turned to see Tancred with his hands on his hips gazing at the hills, wearing only his breeches and shirt.  “Have the heathen cowards attacked yet?”  asked Tancred through a yawn.
“Don’t you think you would have known if they had, fool?”  the warrior snapped back, “And why isn’t your armor on?”
Tancred gave an unconcerned shrug.  “Too hot to sleep in,” he replied, “besides, has there been any report of battle lines being formed?”
“There won’t be any battle lines,” Bohemond replied stonily, “those animals will hit us when we least expect it, maybe as we rouse, maybe later as we begin to move.  Whenever it happens, we all have to be ready at all times – including you.”  He paused for effect and shifted his huge frame to stare hard at his young cousin.  “I believe I said something about your armor – make it happen.”  Tancred flushed, dropped his arms from his side, then spun angrily and marched back into the camp.
“Tancred,”
The younger man stopped and looked back, anger simmering behind the dark hazel eyes.
“See to it that our Normans are roused and ready as well.  We may be moving soon and I need you to take charge in this.”
“Of course,” Tancred replied brusquely.
His uncle watched him trudge back up the plateau.  Little whelp, thought Bohemond with a slight grin.  He’s a good fighter and a good Norman, he just needs to grow up – probably the very reason why his father even allowed him to come in the first place.  Besides, Italy’s too small and too dangerous for someone with his ambition.  Bohemond cracked a smile as he recalled his own father saying precisely the same thing about himself.  The growing bustle from the camp behind him broke his thought and he turned to ascend the plateau himself.  As instructed, most of the host had slept clothed and armored – no tents had been pitched and no fires made.  This had only been a “moving rest,” a full pitched camp would have been suicide.  The circled baggage train was still at the center of the plateau, oxen and mounts were tethered in place.  Across the sea of people, priests could be heard chanting Lauds, a few children were crying to be fed, and men grunted tiredly in a variety of tongues as they prepared for the long road ahead.  The pilgrims were exhausted, but nothing could be done about it here.  Bohemond continued through the crowd towards where the leaders’ mounts had been tethered.  Neither Lord Robert nor the little Greek was there.  Annoyed, Bohemond turned and grabbed a spearman he overheard speaking Flemish to his mates, “Where’s Lord Robert, soldier?”
“Over at the rear of the host, sire, with Lord Tak … Takt …”
“The Greek?”
“Yes, sire.”

Bohemond picked his way through the crowd again to see Robert surveying the plain below, surrounded by his own household knights.  All of them were armed and armored – only Robert’s helm was removed, the light from the rising sun highlighting the streaks of grey in the Duke of Flanders’ otherwise auburn hair.  Bohemond was glad to have another seasoned warrior with him.  Robert may not know the East, he thought, but he knows how to fight, how to take orders, and how to leave his ego out of the equation.  And he’s trustworthy, which was more than could be said of some others.   Bohemond came up beside him.
“Lord Bohemond,” he said, bowing slightly, “a good morning to you.  My Flemish and Frisians will be ready to move when you are.  Any new development as to our eavesdroppers?”  He motioned with his head towards the hills.
“No, my lord,” Bohemond replied, “three days of shadowing us and still they hold back.  They’re waiting for us to either expose ourselves or for the distance between us and the others to become too great.  Young Curthose is out there with some of his men, scouting out that valley that lies towards the south.  Are the riders I asked of you still ready?
Robert nodded, “Four of my best with captured Turkish mounts, awaiting your word.”  Turning back to the surrounding hills, he added, “Do you think we’ll need them?”
“Definitely,” came the reply, “if we are engaged, our success will depend on how fast Godfrey and the others can get to us.  Without that … we’re on our own.”
“Lord Tatikios believes the Turks will hole up behind their walls and try to wait us out,” Robert ventured a glance back towards Bohemond and cracked an understanding grin, “I sense you have your reasons for disagreeing with him.”
“Several,” growled Bohemond, “one of them being that ‘Lord’ Tatikios has been far more victorious in the gossip halls of Constantinople than he ever was in the field against the Turk.  To expect the Seljuks to hide away in cities and let a horde full of infidels – most of whom have never even been far outside their huts and hamlets in Europe – blunder through their home is sucidally ludicrous.  But of course, walls – and the lands that surround them – are the only reasons the Holy Caesar gave his reluctant blessing to our pilgrimage, so it surprises me not that those are foremost in the Greek’s mind.  My only question regarding the Turks is why they haven’t yet attacked us.”

“Perhaps, Dux Marcus, some understanding of local politics could shed some light on the matter for you.”  The somber, nasally voice that came from behind the two men made Bohemond instinctively grit his teeth.  How long had he been skulking behind us, thought Bohemond.  Just like a damned, scheming little Greek.  He turned in time to see Tatikios slowly come abreast between them, the drooping eyelids and the false silver nose, held in place with silken ribbon, giving his face an artificial and disturbing appearance - like one of those masks of the Greek dramas from the heathen days.  He was a short man even compared to the Duke of Flanders, but next to Bohemond’s enormous frame, he seemed a dwarf.
“The Emir Arslan is but one lord among many in Anatolia,” Tatikios droned on in heavily accented Latin, “He has many kinsmen and consequently many competitors.  Allegiances and kinship are fickle things to the Turk …” and to the Greek, thought Bohemond “…and he must secure his own standing with his fellow warlords before risking an engagement with the foreigners.  Any sign of weakness and ‘the Lion’s’ reputation would be irrevocably diminished – he will need any support he can acquire.  Most likely, he will go to his kinsman, Ghazi, of the Danishmendid - a dangerous people in their own right.”
“More than one kind of Turk?” queried Robert with a slight grin, “That’s disheartening; I thought one would be enough to trouble the unhappy world.”
“As with many things, Lord Flanders,” the Greek replied in a monotone that carefully betrayed no emotion whatsoever, “there is never only one kind of trouble.”  Bohemond felt his teeth clench tight again.  “However,” Tatikios continued with a ghost of a smile while toying with the purple silken cords woven through his polished lamellar armor, “I would not worry too much, Lord Flanders, as the negotiations will likely take some time.  I recommend that we move our force directly to the nearby fortress of Dorylaeum and begin a siege.  We should have it before Arslan arrives.”  Bohemond squeezed the grip of his sword so hard his knuckles went numb.
“We are in no position to lay siege to anything right now and you know this,” Bohemond snapped, calling upon every reserve of self-control he could muster to keep from sending his mailed fist through Tatikios’ mask of a face, “Our best course of action is to hold up and wait for the distance between us and the other army to lessen or at least to push hard into Cilicia where the Armenians can provide us some protection.  Out here, we’re naked and unless it is the will of your Holy Caesar that we all be slaughtered here we will continue moving!”
The two men continued to face each other off as all around them fell silent.  Bohemond, a towering fiery inferno, glowered over Tatikios’ little pillar of ice.  Despite his fury, he didn’t miss some of Tatikios’ Varangians, who must have heard the outburst, begin lumbering towards them with their massive axes.  He also sensed some Normans of his own who had been nearby coming up from behind with ready hands on ready swords.  Just then, the impasse was interrupted by a sudden flurry of riders and horses stopping hard.  The other Robert, young Normandy, and a handful of his knights had just returned from their scouting mission.  Curthose dismounted quickly and approached while removing his helm, oblivious as usual to the tense scene he had just stepped into.  Bohemond thought he heard Flanders exhale.
“I was searching for you for an hour at least,” said Curthose through labored breaths and wiping sweaty grime off his dirty blonde brow, “then your nephew pointed me this way.  Did I miss something?”  Robert Curthose was the image of his great father in many ways, but he possessed next to none of the Conqueror’s famed savvy for intrigue – something that his brothers never ceased to exploit and that Bohemond found annoyingly apparent.
“No,” Bohemond coldly replied, still glaring hard at Tatikios,” What did you find out there?”
“The southward route is surely the straightest road out of this bowl,” said Curthose, “but they seem to know that as well and were closing fast even as we turned back.  Had to dodge a few arrows even.”   He held up his kite shield to show the Norman lions on the red field had been marred by two long gouges that crisscrossed each other.  All turned towards him.
“How many were there and where were they coming from?”  Bohemond asked quickly.
“Only a handful,” Curthose replied, “They didn’t really come from any particular direction, but rather, they were using the hills for cover, especially that small collection of hillocks to the southwest.”
“Lord Normandy,” came the calm nasally voice of Tatikios, “Did they fly any particular banner?”
“None that we could see,” said Curthose as one of his knights handed him a water skin, “seemed like common brigands to us.”  The Greek turned back to Bohemond.
“As I suspected, we are merely facing local resistance that we can easily push aside with an appropriate show of force.  I would advise placing your heaviest knights in the vanguard and we should advance to Dorylaeum – we have nothing to fear from Emir Arslan.”  With that, he turned with a flourish that made Bohemond sneer, muttered something in Greek to his Varangian guardsmen who fell in around him as he strolled away.  Curthose turned towards Bohemond and Robert after a long drink.

“Is that true?”  If Curthose was oblivious, at least he was honest about it.  However, even Flanders looked at Bohemond with doubts wrestling behind his face.
“Of course not,” Bohemond replied in a lowered tone, “Listen, this is what always happens.  It will seem like just meaningless skirmishing at first, then their full force will hit you all at once.  That’s how they did it against the Greeks at Manzikert and it’s how Peter’s pilgrims met their end.  They’ll lure us into one of those valleys and come down on all sides.  What we need to do is move slowly to allow Godfrey and Raymond to close up with us.  Get your best and heaviest knights to push out towards our flanks, Flanders, take the left, Curthose take the right.  Mine will be in the front, as my men have seen this kind of fighting before.  My intent is that, if we engage their main host, we will dismount and create a defensive line with the baggage and pilgrims in the center.  The secret to fighting the Turk is if you can wait him out until he’s out of arrows even the wealthiest Sipahi isn’t worth a damned in hand-to-hand combat with our knights.  Our armor and weapons are better – as long as we can hold ourselves from rushing out towards them.  If we do that, we’ve already lost.  Are we in agreement?”
Flanders and Curthose quickly glanced at each other, then nodded at Bohemond.  There had to be a leader in all this and Bohemond prayed that he had just established himself as it.
“Good, I will need you two out there if we are to …” Just then, screams from the far side of the host reached them.  Everyone turned towards it.  It was from the vanguard that faced south and Bohemond felt a chill jolt pass through him despite the morning’s heat.
“Curthose, you said the Turks you encountered were south of us?”  Bohemond asked, trying, but failing to hide the urgency in his tone.
“Yes, but none of them followed us.”  Curthose replied as Bohemond was already pushing past him towards where the screams originated.
“Fine, get back to your men and do as I said – heaviest knights out front, foot and followers behind!”  Bohemond shouted back.  It can’t be now, he thought, it’s too early and we’re not even in formation.  We’re not in anything right now, we’re just a giant mass of targets.  Voices all around him were begin to chatter and shout in Norman, French, Frisian, Flemish, Italian – a whole host of languages all expressing the same thing.  Panic.  A few more screams, this time mixed with some deeper shouts and a strange humming, sounded again in front of Bohemond.  He should have been exhausted from running that distance with all his arms and armor on, but he wasn’t – that strange rush was already upon him and he could feel nothing.  Bohemond had come to know that feeling well as it had been with him in all his previous battles.  A kind of interior prelude to blood, pain, and death.  Like it or not, he thought to himself, the battle is here.
As Bohemond made it to the scene of the screams, he found three women and a knight struck down by arrows.  Two of the women, still clinging to their water skins, had been hit in their throats and were killed instantly.  The other woman and the knight who had clearly tried to save them had an arrow in the gut and shoulder, respectively.  Bohemond’s mind already began to turn like a commander’s – where the cold facts of combat and death overcome any compassion or human sensibility.  He might survive his wound, but she wouldn’t, the deep red blood was already bubbling out of her mouth as she whimpered to a monk who held her.
“They were coming back from fetching water, Sire,” said a younger Norman knight, his voice shaking with fear and anger, “About a dozen riders came from over those small hills to the south, chased down their companions, and slew them with arrows.  Only these made it back and even then, those bastards kept shooting.  Before we could give chase, they were gone.”
“Right,” Bohemond shouted for all to hear, “No one is to leave the lines, no matter how close they get!  Pull all the women and children towards the center!  Knights, stay close by your steeds!  Footmen, fall in behind!”  He gently, but firmly gripped the monk holding the woman, her face now pale and her eyes glazed over in death.
“Monk, say your prayers for her elsewhere and find something to defend yourself with – many more are going to need your prayers today.”  The humming sound passed over again, this time about 20 meters to the left, followed by the loud rattling of shields being hit mixed with screams, curses, and horses whinnying in pain.  Arrows.   Bohemond pushed forward to catch a glimpse of their shooters, but saw only a dust clouds about fifty meters to the south and east.  He had to see, curse it all, he must see where they’re coming from.  The humming began to increase along the entire south side of the camp and everyone began scuttling around hunched over, dodging arrows both real and imaginary.  Everyone, that is, except Bohemond.  There wasn’t any time - a commander doesn’t have the privilege of self-preservation, he remembered his father telling him.  He found the nearest wagon and leapt to the top.  All to the south, dust clouds obscured the view into the valley.  Out of the dust, a line of riders, tiny in the distance, would emerge – twenty to thirty at a time.  Arrows would be loosed then the entire line would turn in unison and disappear back into the clouds.  Memories of Dyrrhachium, Patzinak mercenaries, and of a much younger self flashed for an instant through Bohemond’s mind.

Suddenly, the tall hills to the east and the clouds to the south resounded with the harsh calls of hundreds of Turkish horns.   The glint of arms amongst the eastern hills caught Bohemond’s gaze as thousands of riders streamed in rivulets down the slopes.  A dark mass began to loom through the translucent dust to the south and a single solid line of at least a thousand Turkish horsemen emerged, flying banners of a crescent and star on a red field and black banners with Arabic scrawled across them in white.  These weren’t simple brigands anymore – Kilij “the Lion” had come to claim his revenge for Nicaea, and much too soon.  For an instant that seemed like an eternity, Bohemond froze.  The humming of arrows, the screams of the wounded, the shouts, the curses, all the chaos – Bohemond became deaf to it all except the sound of his own deep breathing.  What do we have here, Mark - he thought to himself in his father’s voice - what do we have here that we can use?  You’re already on top of a hill, the ground slopes away from you in every direction – use it.  The marsh to your right guards your entire flank.  That only leaves them your front and left.  What if they get behind us, Bohemond heard his own voice ask.  Worry about that if and when that comes, they are not there now – focus on where they’re at now.  You already know what to do.  Get out there.
Bohemond opened his eyes.  “Soldiers!  Knights!  Christians!” he roared above the chaos below him, “rally around the wagons in the center of the camp!  Get the women, children, and wounded underneath them!  Knights, dismount and form a line out front!  Footmen, fall in behind the knights!  Anyone else, prepare to fight to the knife, either we hold or we die here!”
“Lord Bohemond!”  Robert of Flanders reined his horse hard in front of Bohemond, “My men are deploying as you said and my couriers are ready.  What message do you have for them?”
“Tell Godfrey and the others if they want to fight, then come like men!”  Bohemond replied, “And get off your mount, Robert, it makes you more of a target and I need you alive today!”  Robert vanished and Bohemond turned to see mailed bodies of helmeted knights pushing forward to the front.  A trail of dust that shot out from the line to the left caught his eye.  A party of mounted knights had rushed forward to chase a few retreating Sipahis.
“Idiots,” Bohemond growled as he launched himself off the wagon.  A good commander can’t and shouldn’t be everywhere, old Guiscard’s voice continued again in his mind, only be where you’re needed; where the heat of battle is greatest.  The rest you should just know, you should feel what’s happening without actually being there.  Bohemond grabbed the shield harness of one of Tancred’s men as he began to mount.
“All of you!  Dismount, you dogs, that’s an order!” Bohemond bellowed, “You’re needed alive here, not slain out there!”  Men practically dove out of their saddles when faced with Bohemond’s wrath.  The knight he grabbed was transfixed, his eyes wide as saucers in fear.  Bohemond shoved him towards the front.  He found himself standing at the confluence of Robert’s line of Frisians and Flemish facing the east and his and Tancred’s own Italian Normans facing the south.  The arrows were coming in thick now, clanging off shields and armor like a rain of steel.  Knights were packing in tight with each other, locking their long kite shields.  The footmen were cowering behind, some using rudimentary wooden shields, others with no shield or armor at all.  Most of the casualties will be there, Bohemond thought, there’s nothing more we can do for them.
“What’s this, uncle, hiding behind the lines on foot?”  The strong voice from earlier in the morning shouted above him, “Well, my men and I will chase those dogs from the field!  Perhaps I will bring back some infidel heads for you!”  Tancred’s smile turned to shock as Bohemond, in a single fluid motion, grabbed his belt, lifted him from the saddle, and tossed him to the ground in a heap.  Tancred looked up, white with rage, in time to see four arrows sail down directly towards them both.  Bohemond kept him pinned to the ground with his sword arm and covered him with his shield.  Two arrows struck the shield hard enough to shiver Bohemond’s arm and the third embedded into Tancred’s saddle.  Bohemond lifted his now awestruck nephew to his feet.
“If you want to live to see another morning,” Bohemond growled while wincing in pain, “then keep off your damned horse!  Now, get back to your men and lead them, I’m counting on you!”  Still in awe, Tancred nodded, grabbed his sword, and pushed his way to the front of the Norman line.  Bohemond reached behind his left shoulder and pulled out the fourth arrow that was stuck fast there.  It had embedded in the chainmail and had been stopped by the thick padded gambeson below, though he would have a wicked bruise underneath tomorrow.  He examined the mangled broadhead.  Soft iron, weaker than our hardened steel rings and helmets.  We might just outlast this, he thought.  Bohemond slung his shield back behind him and pushed through to the front of where the Italio-Norman line curved and met with the Frisian line facing east.  The Turks were now close enough to see and hear their shouting in both their strange Turkic dialect and Arabic.  Arrows flew thick from the swirling dust as their light steppe ponies rode in fast little circles.  If only they could get close, the fight could be ours, he thought.  He turned around and saw a spearman huddled just behind one of the knights on the line.  Bohemond grabbed his spear, it was tall with a thick shaft – almost a pike like the ones the Flemish favored.
“What was your profession before today, soldier?”  Bohemond asked above the din.   He recognized the spearman as the same he had encountered earlier in the morning.
“I was a clerk, sire,” he replied timidly in a thick Flemish accent, “at the priory in Bruges.”
“A clerk!” Bohemond replied with a grin, “No wonder you were holding this thing like a pen.  Let me show you how to really use this.”  Bohemond stepped out of the front line and calmly walked a few meters out in front.  Bohemond smiled as he knew that all eyes were fixed on him as he casually strode out in front of them.  A great part of being a good leader, he remembered his father saying, is pure showmanship.  He turned left and faced into one of the dust clouds swirling in front of him.
Merhaba!”  He roared as load as he could, “Any of you pigs of Mohammed want to kill an infidel face-to-face?!  Here is one!”  From inside the cloud, two arrows whistled out in quick succession which Bohemond caught on his shield.  A Sipahi burst out in full gallop, unsheathing his light curved sabre.
Allāhu akbar!”  the Turk screamed as he bore straight down at him.  Bohemond timed his distance perfectly.  Just as the Turk was upon him, Bohemond dodged sideways, drove the butt of the spear in between the horse’s front legs, and sent the Turk and his mount sprawling into the dirt behind him.  He turned to see the Sipahi struggling to rise when one of his own Normans bounded forward, swung his sword in a cross loop across his body, and brought it down full force on the Turk.  The blade caught him on the back of the head just above the ear and clove a bloody canyon of flesh that exited out the mouth.  The Turk’s head and body twisted grotesquely and he was dead before he crumpled to the ground.  Bohemond and the knight nodded to each other.  The knight’s smile vanished and he shouted, “Lord Bohemond, behind you!”
Bohemond spun as he felt the ground beneath him shake with the hoof beats of a horse that was very close behind.  He fluidly arched backwards as far as he could in time to see a curved Turkish blade pass his face by inches.  He already had the spear in his hands at the right angle and landed a sharp blow across his attacker’s face that sent him flying backwards from his saddle.  When Bohemond recovered, the Turk was scrambling on all fours towards his fallen sword.  Bohemond landed a powerful kick to his exposed ribs and flipped the man – a noble, by the looks of his costly lamellar armor - onto his back.  Planting his foot squarely on his prostrate body, Bohemond flipped the spearhead downwards and drove it into the Turk’s chest as hard as he could.  The entire spearhead punched clean through the horn plates straight through to the ground and the Turk’s final scream was cut short as he convulsed and frothy pink blood shot from his mouth and nose.  Bohemond pulled out the spear and turned back towards the line.
“Soldiers and Christians!  Let us all unite in Christ's faith and the victory of the Holy Cross, for, God willing, today we shall all be made rich!”  The entire line erupted into cheering as Bohemond walked back towards the line.  They were still cheering even after he reached the Flemish spearman in the rear.
“Clerk,” he said as he handed the weapon back to its awestruck owner, “your spear.  Perhaps someday you will be back in Flanders with your pen and you may even write of that happens here on this pilgrimage, but today, you are here with this spear.  Use it like that and we may just survive to return home.”  Bohemond pushed back towards the rear of the line to see if he could find Robert or Curthose.  His eyes met those of Malatesta glaring at him in mock disapproval.
“I thought I might find out here doing something cosmically stupid, my lord,” he said with a wry grin.
“If I had needed a wet-nurse,” Bohemond replied in equal jest, “I would have brought one with much better breasts than your shriveled ones, fool.”
“Now that’s hurtful, my lord,” Malatesta replied, “what exactly are you doing back here, now?”
“Have you seen Lord Robert or Lord Curthose ... and how’s Tancred doing?”  Bohemond asked quickly.
“I have not seen any of the lords, but I heard Curthose pulled a stunt similar to yours over on the right and his Normans and Frenchmen are holding well,” the old jester replied, “Young Tancred is doing fine, a little injured pride, but that’s good for one his age!”
“Good, stay with him and I’ll find the lords.  By the way,” Bohemond shout back over his shoulder, “where’s the little Greek pig?”
“I think his Worship has holed up his purple-cloaked arse in the center near the wagons,” Malatesta shouted back, “give him my regards, will you, sire!”

Typical, Bohemond thought bitterly to himself.  He marched towards the center of the camp and, just as he had been told, found Tatikios sheltered behind a large wagon and surrounded by his Varangians.
“Lord Tatikios,” Bohemond shot angrily, “we could desperately use these men on the line.  Perhaps you would care to assume some leadership in this fight?”
“That will not be necessary, Dux Marcus,” the Greek replied in a tone as calm as a pool of oil, “these men are sworn to protect the Holy Caesar and his household.  Their place is with me and me alone.  Besides, I see the fight is progressing better than I would have expected.”  It was all Bohemond could do to keep from slaying him on the spot, but his judgment prevailed.
“Very well then,” he said through clenched teeth, “enjoy the spectacle.”  Bohemond turned and left quickly before his temper erupted.  There were wounded pilgrims and soldiers everywhere, some would die today, many more would die later.  The women and children were passing water skins back and forth underneath the wagons and tending to the injured as they came in.  He had to find the other lords and check on their progress.
He found Lord Robert first.  He too had dismounted and was near the front of his line, encouraging knight and commoner alike.
“Lord Bohemond!” he shouted as Bohemond approached.  Both men held their shields aloft as they conversed catching arrows that still came in thick.
“I lost several knights who had tried to pursue the Turks, but the rest I was able to control,” the Frisian said, his breath already labored, “what we need right now is water, the dust is causing a terrible thirst in my men.”
“I’ll do what I can,” Bohemond replied, “keep holding.  Hopefully your riders have already gotten through to Godfrey and they should be here in a matter of hours.”
Deus vult!” Robert replied before he turned back to the line.  A good soldier, Bohemond thought, pray God nothing happens to him today.  As Bohemond passed back through the camp to reach Curthose on the right, he stopped by a group of the women who were huddled together under various wagons.  The one who turned to face him had her raven hair turned up in an unusually comely manner.  Despite the chaos, it appeared that they were styling each other’s hair.
“Madam, can you and your women get water down to the men on the line?” he asked, “They’ve already worked up a powerful thirst.”
“Yes, sire,” came a shaky reply.  Bohemond noticed her shoot a glance at the rest of the women behind her and an air of hesitancy seemed to float amongst them.
“Is there something wrong?” Bohemond asked, trying to mask the mounting annoyance in his voice, “What’s happening here?”
“We hear the Turks have an eye for beauty,” she replied, her voice quivering slightly, “we decided to make ourselves sightly so that perhaps the Turks will spare us and take us captive.”  Bohemond stood and stared at her in silent shock for a moment.  Her eyes, hazel and flecked with green, gazed back into his and seemed to read his thoughts.  In the moment, this nameless frightened girl was the most beautiful, vulnerable thing he had ever seen in his life.
“Madam,” he replied with a firmness that made even the other women stop and listen, “that will not happen.  You have my word.”  The fear seemed to leave her eyes.
“Our men will not have long to wait for water, Sire.”
After hastily nodding his thanks, he finally reached the Franco-Norman line and found Curthose directing his line from horseback.
“How goes the rest of the line, Lord Bohemond?”  Curthose asked in a voice that was loud and confident.
“It goes well, for now, God be praised,” Bohemond replied, “Lord Curthose, I would advise dismounting – I would be sore aggrieved if you were struck down.”
“Thank you for your concern, brother,” the young man responded, “but my father never dismounted – that way his men could always see him.  It’s a risk we’ve always been willing to take.”  Bohemond found himself beginning to respect this young warrior who seemed to channel the spirit of his great father on the field.  Perhaps he would be an asset after all.  Curthose’s men had control of the marshy ground to the right of the camp and were using it to deadly effect waiting for Turks to become bogged down in it then bounding forward and slaying them in the muck.
“Are Godfrey and the others on their way?” Curthose asked above the din.

“I’m sure of it,” Bohemond replied, fighting his own anxieties, “It shouldn’t be long.”  Curthose simply nodded and rode forward to bellow orders at some Norman sergeants who were falling back.  Will they come in time, Bohemond asked himself.  Will there be anyone alive?  That’s not for you to worry about, came the voice of his father.  You’re here, now stand until you can’t stand anymore.  The rest is in God’s Hands.  Bohemond felt himself place a hand on the red cross sewn on the left breast of his surcoat.  It had seemed like an eternity had already passed when he had spoken with Flanders, now, he had lost all sense of time.  The sun was high in the sky and Bohemond just then noticed the powerful heat.  Arrows still whirred through the air, but not as heavy as before.  Their fire was definitely slacking off.  The clanging of steel on steel was starting to take its place as men, Christians and Turks, settled into the real dirty business of combat.  Cries of the dying filled the air.  Birds were already circling above.  Will they feast on us, he thought, or them?  It all depends on Godfrey and Raymond.
“God in Heaven,” Bohemond heard himself say aloud, “have pity on your children, for we are here in Your Name and are sorely pressed.”  Suddenly, he looked towards the west.  Was it?  Or was he hearing things?  Then, he heard it clearly.  Horns.  Not the shrill rams horns of the Seljuks, but the deep, strong horns of the West.
Curthose looked up and practically screamed, “Godfrey!  Look, my lord, Godfrey has come!”  The cry began to spread along the line like wildfire, and soon, they were all cheering in a continuous roar.  Even the Turks began looking towards the western hills.  Then they saw it.  A line of knights appeared on the ridge, the white banner of St. Peter carried by Adhemar glinting in the bright sunlight.

Yes, Godfrey had come.



Sources Used:
- Fulcher of Chartres, Carnotensis Historia Hierosolymitana, 1095-1127 AD.
- The Anonymous, Gesta Francorum, 1100.
- Raymond of Augilers, Historia Francorum, Early 12th Century AD.
- Anna Komnene, Alexiad, 1148 AD.
- John France, Victory in the East: A Military History of the First Crusade, Cambridge University, 1994.
                       Western Warfare in the Age of the Crusades 1000-1300, Cornell University Press, 1999.
- The First Crusade: The Chronicle of Fulcher of Chartres and Other Source Materials 2nd Ed., Edited by Edward Peters, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1998.