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First Crusade: Siege of Antioch 1098 AD

First Crusade: Siege of Antioch 1098 AD


It’s October of the year 1097. The weary crusader army approaches the walls of Antioch, a famous stronghold guarding their advance to the Holy Land, currently held by Seljuq Turks. The city’s garrison is strong and sufficiently provisioned, yet Frankish commanders know, that if they want to retake Jerusalem, they need to secure Antioch first. A time of fierce battles with acts of both courage and cowardice is about to begin. It’s summer of the year 1097. Having successfully retaken the city of Nicaea and repelled the Turkish ambush attack near Dorylaeum, the army of the First Crusade now marches through the inhospitable Anatolian Plateau. Having changed their tactics, the Seljuq Turks utilised scorched-earth methods by plundering villages on their way. This soon proved to be an effective way of harming the invaders. The Crusaders suffered in the summer heat, and their supplies dwindled gradually, eventually leading to starvation. Despite provisioning trouble, they reached the lands inhabited by the rather friendly Christian Armenians, and their trip to their next target – the city of Antioch, was made a little less perilous. While the main army was going along the safer route around the Taurus range, two small detachments led by two of the younger leaders, Tancred and Baldwin marched through the mountains, hoping to gain the support of the Armenians living in Cilicia. Both got involved in local politics, but while Tancred later rejoined the crusader army, Baldwin marched east, reaching the Armenian ruled city of Edessa. He soon realised, that he could benefit from the weak position of the city’s ruler, Thoros, and possibly grab some land for himself. It’s unclear, whether Baldwin was responsible, but Thoros was soon overthrown and killed. Subsequently, the people of Edessa chose Baldwin as their new ruler. Thus, the first crusader state, the County of Edessa, was established. But let’s leave Baldwin’s success and get back to the main story. The first units of the latin army reached the outskirts of Antioch in October 1097. The city was encompassed by the Orontes River to the northwest, and Mount Silipius to the southeast. Though already past its finest years, it was well defended by a formidable wall studded with countless towers, built by the emperor Justinian 400 years earlier. Additionally, a citadel was erected on top of the mountain, as a last line of defence. Both natural and manmade defences posed an intimidating prospect to the crusaders. The Turkish garrison, counting around 5000 men, was commanded by Yaghi Siyan, who was aware of the approaching crusaders and gathered a large stockpile of supplies for an upcoming siege. He also requested for help to other nearby Turkish lords of Alep, Mosul and Damascus. The crusaders laid the siege on the north-western side of the city, trying to block just three out of six total gates, as Antioch was a considerably larger stronghold than Nicaea, and the Europeans already lost some of their numbers in previous encounters. Initially, Yaghi Siyan was expecting the Franks to storm the walls, yet when it became obvious that wouldn’t happen, he began harassing separated groups with sorties. Though the crusaders captured the nearby port of St Simeon, and were soon partially provisioned by Genuan ships, which arrived in November, their foraging efforts virtually depleted all of the nearby sources of food and water. Around Christmas, the crusader army was on the brink of starvation. To remedy this problem, Bohemond together with Robert of Flanders took half of the troops and marched along the Orontes searching for supplies. Suddenly, being three days away from Antioch the vanguard led by Robert accidentally encountered a 10,000 strong relief force under Duqaq of Damascus, rushing to relieve the besieged city. Open battle ensued. Robert held his position firmly, until Bohemond caught up and attacked the Turks. They managed to rout the enemy, but with visible losses among their own ranks, they decided to get back to Antioch. In the meantime, Yaghi Siyan saw the division of the crusader army, and caught Raymond’s troops by surprise with a sudden sortie. Yet Raymond not only defended well, but also pushed the Turks back to the city, with just bad luck preventing him from taking the stronghold. The siege continued. Winter months didn’t improve food supplies and famine damaged the morale of the crusaders, forcing them to slaughter a good part of their horses, a status symbol for medieval knights. Many deserted and many died from starvation. Regardless, they still occupied lands around Antioch, and with Byzantine supplies arriving at St Symeon in February, the besiegers provisions eventually improved. Soon, the news arrived, that another Muslim relief force was en route to Antioch. Yaghi Siyan reconciled with his liege Ridwan of Aleppo, the latter moved his army west, conquering Harim with 12,000 men, around 40 kilometres away. The European lords arranged a meeting, and soon agreed to execute Bohemond’s plan. The Norman commander gathered all available warhorses and equipped a 700 strong heavy cavalry unit which departed camp during the night. Bohemond took up a good position with flanks secured by Orontes river and the lake. Yet when he saw Ridwan’s army advancing, he commanded a charge, hoping to rout the unprepared Turkish forces. Cavalrymen lined up and struck the Muslim units, dealing significant damage. But this attack wasn’t enough to rout the numerically superior enemy. Bohemond then rode back to his initial position near the lake, hoping to lure the Turkish force. Indeed, Ridwan marched forward, eager to use his numbers. Yet the Norman commander prepared another devastating charge, this time with utter success. The lightly armoured Turkish units could do nothing to stop such a storm, and their cohesion quickly collapsed. This was an impressive show of Bohemond’s commanding ability, who wisely used his resources, and routed the much larger Turkish army. Meanwhile, the English supply fleet arrived at St Symeon with building materials, allowing crusaders to construct fortifications blocking the south-western gates. Two additional forts closed the city’s resupply routes almost completely. The defenders saw that the siege was tightening. Combined with the loss of manpower during the sorties, their morale only worsened. In April, Bohemond secretly established a contact inside the city. The Armenian captain named Firouz, who held the watch of the south-western part of the wall eventually agreed to let the crusaders into the city. It’s unclear what really lead him to betray Yaghi Siyan, but personal animosity between the two, and Bohemond’s promise of wealth and position possibly convinced Firouz to give up his part of the wall. But, before the plan was ready to be executed, crushing news arrived. Kerbogha, atabeg of Mosul, having combined his forces with Duqaq and Ridwan was marching 35,000 men to repel the crusader siege of Antioch Bohemond asked the other lords, if he could take the city unassisted, it should belong to him. Raymond, Godfrey and the others reluctantly agreed, probably because of the lack of any better options. On the 2nd of June, under the cover of darkness, Bohemond and some of his men climbed the wall and infiltrated the city, using Firouz’s help. Defenders of the St. George’s Gate were killed, the city gates were opened, and crusader troops poured into the city. The Turkish garrison was quickly overwhelmed, many of the civilians, both Muslims and Christians were killed, as latin soldiers often couldn’t tell them apart. Yaghi Siyan was slain, yet his son managed to retreat to the citadel and mount a defence from there. It looked like the siege was almost over. But a few days later, the first units of Kerbogha’s army reached the line of the Orontes river. They probably could have easily ambush the besiegers weeks earlier, yet the Seljuqs attempted to take Baldwin’s Edessa first. Yet the stronghold of Godfrey’s brother stood firmly, forcing the Turkish general to abandon the plan of conquering the city and marched straight to Antioch. So, while the crusaders besieged the citadel, they were also besieged by the vast Turkish army. But Kerbogha didn’t want to waste time, and tried to assault the city immediately. Heavy fighting lasted for two days, yet the crusaders managed to keep up a rugged defence. Though the Turkish storm finally stopped, the situation inside the city was dire. Provisions were depleting, the enemy was at the gates and the defenders morale plummeted. One of their last hopes was Emperor Alexios Komnenos who finally decided to aid the crusaders and departed Constantinople in the middle of June. Yet when the Byzantine troops camped in Phrygia, the Emperor was encountered by deserting Stephen of Blois, who left the crusader army around the time when Kerbogha’s army arrived. Stephen informed Alexios of the crusade’s hopeless position and urged him to go back. Alexios didn’t want to risk his army and neglected to march any further. Meanwhile in the besieged city, one of Raymond’s soldiers, a mystic named Peter Bartholomew had a vision of a Holy Lance hidden in Antioch. Raymond was sceptical, yet they begun excavations under one of the churches. When it became obvious that nothing was there, Peter jumped into the excavation and started digging with his bare hands and supposedly found the spearhead of the Holy Lance, or, more likely had the ordinary spearhead in his pouch all the time. The crusade leaders didn’t believe this „miracle”, yet pretended otherwise. A huge boost to morale occurred among the defenders, and soon, after failed negotiations with Kerbogha, crusaders began preparations for a decisive battle, having to choose between death from starvation, or death wielding the sword. On Monday morning of the 28th of June, after three days of fast, the crusader army emerged from the city gate carrying the Holy Lance, all on foot, as all horses were either dead or eaten, and began deployment. Kerbogha didn’t attack them immediately, waiting until they proceeded to an open field, so the potential for retreat to the city would no longer be possible. Turkish troops guarding the nearby gates attacked the tight Frankish formations, but were unable to break them. The Christian army consisted of well equipped, hardened men, who survived the difficulties of previous battles, marches and sieges, under the harsh, but very effective general command of Bohemond. Kerbogha’s army was large, but divided between jealous emirs, thus before he was able to fully deploy the main body of his force, the smaller, uncoordinated attacks at advancing crusaders took place. Bohemond’s troops managed to repel the attackers on the front, and in the rearguard. The first units of the main Turkish army eventually engaged the latin line, but soon they were losing badly and began to flee. The scattered units ran through the lines of the middle units, who, seeing running allies, quickly lost cohesion and the will to fight. In a matter of minutes, the whole of Kerbogha’s army was in full rout, unable to unite and deal the one, decisive blow to the desperate Christian force. This was a great, yet unexpected victory for the crusaders. Soon, the citadel surrendered, and in compliance with the earlier agreement with the other lords, Bohemond took the city for himself, creating the Principality of Antioch. The successful Siege of Antioch quickly became a celebrated event amongst the Christians. Despite huge setbacks, the crusade continued. The road to Jerusalem was now finally open.

100 thoughts on “First Crusade: Siege of Antioch 1098 AD

  1. What software are you using? I am trying to get an old self-made fantasy P&P Campaign map done, and something like this would be a nice addition. I have all the history, illustrations and locale information. Just no animated historical information.

  2. How can the crusaders lose when they had Bohemond a Frankish Normand lord essentially a Viking. While everyone was worried for their situation look at his picture, he don't look surprise but rather bored.

  3. Key: Diagonal looking divisions; Calvary.
    Diagonal looking divisions with a bow and an arrow; Archers.
    Cross looking divisions; Infantry.

  4. Waaaao ,superb graphics and presentation
    I got fascinated by these medival battles !!!👍👌👌👌☺😊kudos to bohemond , Raymond,and French vanguard's,knights, templars

  5. I just had your channel recommended by a fellow history teacher. I am surprised that I hadn't seen your great content before! You have just gained a very happy new subscriber!

  6. Nice piece of PC. How practically all that christian Byzantines and Armens in Asia Minor loved the their new tolerant Seljuk conquerors after 400 years of muslim evere year attacks on them! What motivations could that Firuz have, I wonder?

  7. How can you defeat a army of men covered by steal best ecuipment and have a lot of moral + disciplint and most of them on friking horse back and a shit ton of experience?!No way.

  8. So where did godfrey and raymond go? I thought they were trying to intercept the very army that came to relieve Antioch?

  9. So bad ass. These are the great men of history who've been wronged by being consigned to oblivion in the public consciousness. There's so much to learn from their achievements (and their short-comings), and it gives a greater appreciation for our history.

  10. The Hellenic Republic Was Born Greek Or Greace In 1829 By German King Otto Creator Of The Name Newer Existet Anywhere In History Bible Geography Nowhere 🤣😂

  11. Fisrst Monarch Of (Before 1829) Was Albanian Who Could Not Speak One Word In Mothern Greek
    Georgios Kountouriotis 🤣😂💯

  12. Long Live King 👑 Otto Creator Of Name Greek Ore Creace In 1829 Name Newer Existet Anywhere In History Bible Nowhere Fake Like Three Dollar 💵 Bill 😂😂

  13. Really good series of video getting so much information is making my inner crusader kings 2 nerd go nutz

  14. This is still my favorite voice+animation choice of all the 'illustrated' history
    channels on YT – Well done BazBattleonians!
    // The Winged Hussar

  15. If you are interested check out the Stainless Steel mod for Medieval Total War 2.

    They put a lot of effort into the Crusades campaign.

  16. only king Kurd salahedin al ayobi was a real warrior of islam he humiliated the crusaders christians in every battle.

  17. Humans are so weird. We can be so easily persuaded to fight to the death against another group of humans.

  18. 11:30 it's like when you are playing as Rome and just brute force your way through light infantry with your heavy inf

  19. Армянские выродки и тут выделились– своим предательством

  20. That's what you get for not giving your opponent an escape route. Men who have no other way out than to fight, fight like lions.

  21. Eurocentric view and lies. "first they waited latins go far away from the stronghold and then attacked" Who told you this? Elves? It seems latinswere pro soldiers but Selçuks were undisciplined crowd like holywood films. That Selçuk killed 10 fold army of byzantine with gerilla warfare. Then standed against many crusades of different nations allies by justhimself. Nevertheless, scenarios are opposite. We Turks locked you at europe changed your rulers even banned theatre at france thats why You named the Last corner of africa cape of good hope.

  22. Hmm.. respect.
    Didnt have much hope for this to have any value.. but you deliver the events easy and fast as most want them.
    yes you do ignore many details and historic facts to many of the points…
    But people today simply dont want to take the time to learn everything about something..
    And at least what you say is true, and that is a good start..

    So.. nice stuff.. gonna look to see what else you have done.

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