All content on this blog is protected by copyright.
Content used elsewhere without attribution constitutes theft of intellectual property and will be prosecuted.

Monday, April 18, 2022

The Siege of Antioch

 Arguably, the most decisive event of the First Crusade was the Siege of Antioch. On the one hand, no where else during the crusade did morale come so close to breaking and the entire enterprise come so close to failing. On the other hand the failure of the Byzantine Emperor to send assistance was decisive in convincing the crusaders that he was untrustworthy and that their own oaths to him were null and void. It was this break with Byzantium that cleared the way for the establishment of Latin Christian states independent of Constantinople in the Holy Land.


Except for one last short confrontation quickly won by the crusaders in mid-September, the Turks opted not to confront the crusaders after Dorylaeum. Instead, they turned the land itself into the crusader’s enemy. As the crusaders advanced deeper into Asia Minor, reclaiming (for the Byzantine Emperor) one city after another, they found themselves in territory which had been emptied, picked clean or even burned by the retreating Turks. Water and provisions became desperately short and progress agonizingly slow. Progress slowed to an average of 8 miles a day. Thousands died of hunger, thirst, heat-stroke and other diseases, while an estimated four out of every five horses died during the march across Anatolia.

To increase the chances of obtaining the necessary food and fodder, the army split up. While the main body took the northern route, Tancred and Baldwin de Boulogne, operating independently of one another, took their contingents south into Cilician Armenia. Here the population welcomed them and assisted them in taking one city after another from the hated Turkish garrisons. Indeed, Baldwin soon left the main crusading host altogether and with just 60 knights set off for Edessa. There, he soon emerged as an independent ruler in what became the first of the crusader states, the County of Edessa.

The vast majority of the crusaders, however, came to the plain around Antioch. This great city founded by one of Alexander the Great’s generals was home to one of the four Patriarchies of the Church and closely associated with Saint Peter. It had long been considered one of the most important cities in Christendom, but had fallen to Muslim armies in 637, shortly after Jerusalem. The Byzantine Empire had re-established control of the city in 969, and its conquest by the Seljuks more than a hundred years later in 1086 had sent shock waves to Constantinople, triggering the appeal to the West for aid. When the crusaders arrived, Antioch housed a population of roughly 40,000 still predominantly Christian inhabitants. It was defended by massive walls reinforced by 400 towers and a large Seljuk garrison. It was far too large for the crusaders to completely invest.

Furthermore, despite horrendous attrition during the march, there were still roughly 30,000 crusaders. The need to provide food for so great a host resulted in the establishment of foraging centers as much as fifty miles away. The resources of most knights and minor lords were nearly exhausted. When winter came, added bitter cold aggravated the hunger and exhaustion already being suffered. Now, when the crusaders were at their weakest, the Seljuk relief armies attacked, first in in late December 1097 and again in early February 1098. But attacks were beaten off, yet illness, exhaustion, malnutrition, hunger and intense cold continued to eat away at both the numbers and the morale of the crusaders.

The arrival of an estimated 10,000 reinforcements by sea failed to alter the fundamentals of the situation. Many men started to desert the crusade, some sailing away on the ships that had brought reinforcements, others returning by the land-route which was, through their own action, cleared of hostile forces. The most prominent of those who left the siege camp, although his motives remain unclear, was Stephen of Blois; he removed himself to the liberated city of Iskenderum, possibly to recover from illness. The Byzantine advisors likewise departed, possibly in an attempt to persuade the Emperor to send military aid since a new and larger Muslim army under the Atabeg Kerbogha of Mosul was approaching.

Fortunately for the crusaders, disaffection was growing inside the besieged city as well as without. Bohemond of Taranto got wind of it, but kept the knowledge to himself — until he had persuaded his comrades to agree to let him to keep Antioch on two conditions: 1) that he captured it and 2) the Byzantine Emperor did not appear in person to claim it. Once they had agreed, Bohemond produced a plan based on the betrayal of one section of the wall by the Armenian captain commanding it. On the night of 2-3 June, a small body of Bohemond’s knights scaled the wall without opposition in the sector held by the Armenian. They then opened one of the main gates from the inside, enabling the rest of the crusaders to flood in. The Muslim garrison fled to the citadel. The crusaders gained control of the entire city with its mighty fortifications — and all without attacks on the civilian population. There was no bloodbath.

It was not a moment too soon. Shortly (by some accounts only hours) afterwards, Kerbogha’s massive, coalition army arrived on the scene. This was composed of units recruited across Syria, Iraq and Anatolia. The crusaders were trapped inside the very city they had themselves besieged for nine months. Supplies were desperately short; starvation still haunted the crusaders. Meanwhile the Seljuk garrison, emboldened by the arrival of Kerbogha, sallied out of the citadel to attack the crusaders from the rear. Although beaten off, a crusader sortie against Kerbogha on 10 June also failed.

Panic gripped the crusaders. So many wanted to desert the enterprise that the leaders had to lock the gates at night. Yet some deserters escaped and reached Stephan of Blois. He, in turn, made his way West and intercepted Emperor Alexius, who was slowly advancing with a Byzantine army to restore Byzantine control over the territories liberated by the crusaders. Blois either convinced Alexius that the situation in Antioch was hopeless or provided him with a welcome excuse for not attempting a relief effort. This fateful decision was to poison Latin-Byzantine relations for the next sixty years.

Meanwhile, in Antioch a serious of panic-induced hallucinations or cynically orchestrated fake visions started to galvanize the crusaders. The most famous of these was the discovery of a rusty Roman spearhead, which a priest claimed had been revealed in a dream as the spear that had pierced Christ’s side at his crucifixion. Despite the skepticism of the papal legate, the masses were mesmerized. The leadership sagely recognized that the psychological moment to risk battle had come. On 28 June 1098, the crusaders marched out — almost all on foot because there were so few horses — and attacked Kerbogha’s much larger army. The rag-tag, half-starved and numerically inferior crusaders put the great Seljuk army to flight and the Seljuk garrison immediately surrendered the citadel. As one of the leading contemporary historians of the crusades puts it: ‘This extraordinary victory has never been explained.’[i]

Significantly, this victory was celebrated by a religious procession composed of the entire Christian community of Antioch — Armenians, Syrians, and Latins. The procession wound its way through the city streets to end at the cathedral where the Greek Orthodox patriarch, John V, was re-enthroned. The symbolic importance of this act needs to be highlighted in face of the persistent allegations of Latin oppression of the indigenous churches. This ceremonial act in Antioch on June 28, 1098 affirmed the authority of a Greek Orthodox cleric over all Christians in the city — the Latins no less than the Orthodox. This spontaneous expression of Christian solidarity should not be forgotten, despite the later, persistent squabbles between Latin and Orthodox clergy that punctuate the history of the crusader states.

[i] Jonathan Riley-Smith. The Crusades: A History. (London: Bloombury, 2014) 60.

This entry is an excerpt from:


The Holy Land in the Era of the Crusades: Kingdoms at the Crossroads of Civilizations is available for pre-order on and


The Battle of Dorylaeum

 Last week, in his guest post, Rand Brown looked at the start of the First Crusade. Today he examines the first important battle of that military campaign. Rand L. Brown II is a co-founder of Real Crusades History.  He possesses a MA in Military History from Norwich University and currently serves as a commissioned officer in the United States Marine Corps.

For reasons not entirely clear from the sources, the Crusader lords decided to divide the army into two columns – a smaller vanguard and a larger main body – as they marched through the inhospitable Anatolian plateau.  This plan may have been determined according to sound contemporary military practice in Europe where dividing one’s force allowed for more efficient foraging.  Although the vanguard was the smaller, it benefited from the military experience of Bohemond who commanded overall as well as the reinforcement of his highly competent Italio-Norman forces.  Accompanying him were the equally competent Duke Robert Curthose of Bohemond’s ancestral Normandy, the son of the famous William the Conqueror, and Duke Robert of Flanders along with their forces and thousands of pilgrims, including women and children.  Also joining them was the Byzantine advisor, Tatikios, and his nominal force which really amounted to a glorified bodyguard.  The main body contained the rest of the army and was led by Count Raymond, Duke Godfrey, and Bishop Adhemar.  Although the two columns were separated by about a half-day’s march distance (about 5km according to John France’s estimates), almost all the chroniclers attest to vast amounts of pilgrim stragglers strung out between them, perhaps thinking that they could retreat to the safety of either if attacked.

The Anatolian Plateau is still characterized by a labyrinthine network of ridges and valleys that considerably impact the passage of large forces.  In the late 11th Century, army movement through this region would have been tortuously slow.  Additionally, the chroniclers attest to the harsh conditions of the dry and barren climate, noting that the suffering among the many non-combatant pilgrims was already taking its toll and perhaps weighed heavily on the Crusader lords’ minds.  While there is still room for debate about the actual location of the first epic engagement of the First Crusade, Dr. France has made a very convincing argument for a patch of ridge-flanked valley about 4km north of the modern Turkish city of Bozüyük and 45km northeast of the site of the Dorylaeum outpost.  At this particular site, the west-to-east valley takes a decided turn southwards after passing through a thin passage that forms an excellent choke-point.  It is not hard for one to imagine that this choke-point would serve as an excellent place for Kilij Arslan to spring an ambush.
On 1 July, 1097, the sun rose over the makeshift camp of Bohemond’s vanguard column that had just spent the night somewhere near the Bozüyük choke-point.  It is not unreasonable to assume that a commander of Bohemond’s considerable experience would have chosen a site that at least took advantage of whatever defensible terrain features existed at the time – which, according to the chroniclers, included a slight hillock on the site itself and a marsh on one flank.  Surrounding them were tiny ravines and trails that led down from the surrounding ridges, impossible for large armies to traverse, but perfect for small parties.  It was still early when word of first contact came back from Crusader scouts who reported brief skirmishes with Seljuk counterparts in the valley leading south.  The intensity of these skirmishes probably alerted Bohemond that these were more than mere local raiders and that Kilij was lurking somewhere nearby, waiting for the right moment to spring his trap.  Realizing the precarious nature of their position, Bohemond halted the many knights from impetuously chasing after the small parties of Turkish harassers with the help of Robert of Normandy.  Maintaining strict command and control over his isolated column would be essential to surviving this engagement as the Seljuks triumphed when they could divide and scatter their more heavily armored foes.
Bohemond quickly ordered all knights in the camp to dismount and form a solid rank facing southwards, reinforced by the thousands of common infantry behind them.  At about the same time, the first elements of Kilij Arslan’s mounted horde began streaming down from the many paths and ravines from the surrounding hills.  Fulcher of Chartres and the anonymous author the Gesta Francorum offer vivid descriptions of the engagement and may have been personally present for it.  They both recount the terror and chaos in the vanguard camp as the first clouds of Seljuk arrows crashed among them, wounding both soldier and non-combatant alike.  However, the ranks of the dismounted knights stood firm, bolstered by the iron discipline imposed by Bohemond and his fellow lords along with the superiority of their armor.  Ralph of Caen, a Norman chronicler of the First Crusade, bore explicit testimony to this when he wrote, “The enemy were helped by their numbers – we by our armor.”  Although many unarmored pilgrims suffered grievously from the Turkish attack, the real priority of the Crusade – the armored knightly professionals upon whom the entire effort relied – weathered the storm well and stood as a wall against the chaotic Seljuk maneuvering.

According to all the chroniclers, this initial phase of the fight lasted for an extremely long time – at least a six hour stretch from dawn until sometime around 12 noon.  This would be consistent for an action where the Western forces entrenched into an almost “wagon fort” stance while the Turks raced about, loosing arrow after arrow and probing for weaknesses to exploit.  While they still possessed ammunition, the Seljuks had little reason to engage in close quarters fighting.  However, this rapidly changed as arrow reserves began to run low with no real impact on the solid ranks of knights and footmen.  Steadily, bands of Turks attempted to charge through into the Western camp.  Many of the chroniclers describe this moment as their most desperate, with a few Turks making it inside the camp to strike terror into the women, priests, and wounded within.  However, wherever the Turks got close the initiative then swung in favor of the heavier armored Latin knights and infantry who were far more skilled at melee combat than their foe.  Also, the terrain benefited Bohemond’s force, as the elevated ground forced the Turks to charge upwards and the marsh on the west flank bogged down the Turkish riders who ventured into it and become easy targets for Crusader infantry.  Kilij must have begun to sense that these Latins were a vastly different breed than the disordered mob Peter the Hermit had led to the slaughter a mere year ago.  As more and more Turks were forced to charge in for close combat, the situation began to embarrass Seljuk overconfidence.  Around the noon hour, horns were heard in the hills to the west and announced that the Turkish situation was now hopeless.

Bohemond’s great gamble had been to hold just long enough with his vanguard for the much larger (at least two to three times the van’s size) to link back up with him.  By brilliantly executing superb command and control over his forces, he had been able to do just that despite nearly being surrounded by Seljuk attackers.  As the mounted forces of Godfrey, Raymond, and the rest of the Crusader host crested the ridgeline to the west, the Turks had nearly run out of ammunition and were hopelessly pinned against the Bohemond’s dismounted lines.  What followed was a mass charge that smashed into the confused Seljuk ranks and scattered them, while Bishop Adhemar held high the white banner of St. Peter he had received from Pope Urban.  What must have begun as a confident ambush turned into a complete disaster for the Seljuk warlords and, with the arrival of the main body, the situation for Kilij Arslan was unrecoverable.  The surviving Turks vanished back into the surrounding hills, individual chieftains undoubtedly giving into self-interest at the expense of any unified effort for Kilij’s sake.  Almost as quickly as it had begun, the first true battle of the First Crusade was over.
Although the Crusaders held the field on that July day, they did so at a frightful cost.  Even though there had been few casualties from among the knights and professional soldiers, thousands of unarmored pilgrims had fallen to Turkish arrows and skirmishing.  Some of the largest numbers came from those pilgrims who had been straggling in between the two columns and who were virtually defenseless against bands of Seljuk riders.  Also, while many of the chroniclers attest otherwise with figures that beggar belief, the Crusaders are thought to have actually outnumbered the Seljuks in this fight.  Somewhere about 200,000 is thought to be the total head count for the Latin host, with around 50,000 of that number being actual knights and professional fighters.  Kilij Arslan would have been lucky to raise even 20,000 fighters in his hasty rush to intercept the Latin host.  However, they knew the land far better and, with the division of the Crusader columns, had possessed a golden opportunity to destroy them piecemeal – an opportunity they utterly failed to seize.

Kilij Arslan fled back into the depths of Anatolia with the shattered remnants of his forces and his reputation.  According to the Anonymous, the would-be sultan had to lie to the remaining garrisons of Anatolia, telling them of a “great victory” just so they would open their gates and let him pass through.  Never again would Kilij Arslan pose a threat to the movement of the First Crusade.  As the Latin host proceeded, city after city would submit and return to Byzantine control.  However, the reconquest of Asia Minor was not the goal of the great Western effort – much to Byzantine frustration.  After recovering from their desperate first engagement, the united Crusader army rapidly made their way southwards towards the friendlier territory of Armenian Christian Cilicia, where they could conserve their strength before pushing towards the great city of Antioch – where Asia Minor and Syria met and where the Latin host would need to pass in order to gain access to the Levant and, ultimately, Jerusalem.

Dorylaeum represented the first real clash of arms between the Western forces of the First Crusade, teaching them lessons of warfare in the Near East that would prove invaluable as they drove ever closer to their ultimate goal in Palestine.  It also allowed the various Crusader lords – formerly only experienced in European warfare – to see just exactly what they would be facing and how to defeat it.  If any credit is given for the Latin victory there, it would be rightly bestowed upon the superior armor and melee skills of the Western knights.  Later on in the Crusades, Islamic chroniclers would refer to the Latin knights as “the men of steel” whose far superior armor could almost negate the impact of their mounted archers.  However, this capability was only effective if Latin commanders could keep their troops in strictly ordered ranks and refused to let them become scattered chasing after bands of mounted archers feigning retreat.  Here is where Bohemond’s skill as a military leader paid off in dividends for the Crusade.  With his experience fighting in the East, he knew how imperative strict command and control was when facing the rapid fluidity of the Seljuk fighting style.  Had he not been in command of the vanguard, it is very probable that it would have met the same fate as the pitiful People’s Crusade and the First Crusade as a whole may have ended in bitter disappointment.  The victory at Dorylaeum allowed the Crusade to continue with enhanced momentum toward their final objective and even tipped the scales within Asia Minor back in favor of the beleaguered Byzantines for at least a time.

Sources Referenced:

John France.  Victory in the East – A Military History of the First Crusade.  Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press, 1994.
_______.  Western Warfare in the Age of the Crusades 1000-1300.  Ithaca NY: Cornell University Press, 1999.
Fulcher of Chartres, et al.  The Chronicle of Fulcher of Chartres and Other Source Materials.  Ed. Edward Peters.  Philadelphia PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1971.
The Holy Land in the Era of the Crusades: Kingdoms at the Crossroads of Civilizations is available for pre-order on and


Monday, April 11, 2022

The Road to Dorylaeum

 In contrast to the "Peoples' Crusade," the organized military expedition that we have come to call the First Crusade was remarkably successful -- though also horribly difficult and costly. This post describing the first phase of the crusade is a guest entry by Rand L. Brown II is a co-founder of Real Crusades History.  He possesses a MA in Military History from Norwich University and currently serves as a commissioned officer in the United States Marine Corps.

After Pope Urban II officially began the First Crusade with his famous Clermont address in November of 1095, it was nearly a year and a half later before the first real military clash between Latin crusaders and their Islamic foes took place.  Understandable for an undertaking of this magnitude, the First Crusade had gotten off to a rocky start – in the previous year, a mob of commoners led by the self-proclaimed visionary Peter “the Hermit” ignored Pope Urban’s exhortation to wait for the various lords selected to lead the crusade and marched off in a frenzy for Constantinople.  After crossing the Bosphorus against the advice of Emperor Alexios, they were promptly and easily massacred by the Seljuk Turks - who at that time handily controlled the vast majority of Asia Minor having seized it from the Eastern Roman Empire throughout the previous century.  According to various sources, the Turks made massive mounds of the pilgrims’ bones that were still there when the actual crusading army passed that way.  However, this tragic event actually worked in the crusaders’ favor, as it fooled the local Turkish sultans into thinking that Peter’s ill-fated mob had been the extent of the West’s efforts to reclaim the East, causing them to be caught completely off guard at the arrival of the far more professional Lords’ crusading armies.   

Although the logistics of meeting up all the various contingents at Constantinople had been a fraught and time-consuming process that took over a year after Clermont, the armies that crossed the Bosphorus in early 1097 were well-equipped, disciplined, and led by a cadre of some of the finest leadership in Europe.  With virtually no warning, the crusaders – bolstered by contingents of Byzantine forces – rapidly seized the famed city of Nicaea which surrendered with very little resistance.  The local sultan, Kilij Arslan, was now faced the dilemma of having to respond once again to an unexpected foreign threat or lose vital credibility as a leader among his fellow Turkic warlords.  As the crusaders continued to make their way eastwards, Kilij knew he had to act and soon.

In stark contrast to the disastrous lack of leadership of the so-called “People’s Crusade,” the armies of the First Crusade followed representatives of perhaps one the finest generations of Western medieval leadership.  Broken into regional contingents and strongly divided along ethnic identities, the crusading army sported a sort of “council” of nobles who all viewed each other (more or less) as peers.  Some of the more prominent obviously carried a bit more weight with regards to administrative and command decisions.   

At the nominal head of the army was the papal legate, Bishop Adhemar le Puy, who had been hand-picked by Pope Urban to represent papal authority for the pilgrimage and serve as both the moral guide and unifying element for the lay leaders who might be tempted to stray from the intended goal or, worse, begin fighting among one another.  Among the lay leadership, Count Raymond of Toulouse had been one of the first to take the cross and was allegedly personally involved with Pope Urban during the planning phases even before Clermont.  An elderly man by the time of the First Crusade, Raymond had already fought Moors in Spain in his younger years – according to some sources, he had even ridden alongside Rodrigo de Vivar (the famed “El Cid”).  He was also handily the wealthiest of the crusading lords, bringing immense financial resources from his holdings in the Languedoc to the disposal of the crusade.  Raymond led a vast contingent of troops from Provence, Aquitaine, Gascony, and the north-eastern coast of Spain.   

Juxtaposed to Raymond was the Italio-Norman warrior, Bohemond of Taranto.  He was the son of the famed Norman adventurer, Robert Guiscard – who gave Bohemond his nickname (his Christian name was Mark) due to his immense size in reference to a giant in Italian folklore. Bohemond’s participation in the crusade was at first problematic.  For the past several decades, Bohemond’s family had relentlessly attacked Byzantine territories in the Adriatic and Bohemond himself had dealt the Emperor Alexios a particularly humiliating defeat at Dyrrhachium in 1081.  It took the swearing of multiple oaths before Alexios relented to Bohemond’s presence within the crusader leadership, and even then, the tension was palpable.  However, Bohemond was by far the most militarily experienced leader among the various lords, having spent a lifetime fighting in the eastern Mediterranean and who knew what to expect once they crossed into Asia Minor.  His expertise would prove invaluable during the engagement at Dorylaeum as would his contingent of crack Italio-Norman knights, Sicilians, and Neapolitans.   

Representing many of the northern European nobles was Godfrey of Boullion.  A highly respected lord within Europe, he had initially been a key vassal of the Holy Roman Emperor and incorrigible enemy of the papacy, Henry IV.  After the end of the Investiture Crisis, however, Godfrey became closely aligned with the Popes in Rome and his joining the crusade against the wishes of his excommunicated liege-lord must have been a significant public relations victory for Pope Urban.  After selling off his lands, Godfrey used the sum to raise a considerable force from the Rhineland, Flanders, Lorraine, and other territories loosely associated with the German Empire.  Lastly, the crusader lords were accompanied by a Byzantine military advisor, Tatikios, and a nominal contingent of Imperial troops from Constantinople.  Relations between the Western lords and Emperor Alexios were strained at best and a significant amount of distrust resided between both sides.  Tatikios essentially served as the eyes and ears of Alexios on this endeavor and ensured that any formerly Byzantine territory recovered by the crusaders was promptly returned to Imperial rule.

On the opposite side, the crusaders were about to face one of the premier Seljuk warlords of the day, Kilij Arslan (whose second name means “the Lion” in Seljuk), the sultan of Rum.  Kilij was a formidable leader who belonged to the same generation of Turkic warriors that had inflicted the disastrous defeat upon the Byzantines at Manzikert in 1071 (which provided the initial inspiration for the First Crusade).  However, Seljuk society was still predominantly nomadic and they were definitely the newcomers in Asia Minor.  Seljuk society was stratocratic in nature and fiercely competitive – the loss of prestige for a particular warlord could easily mean his downfall.  Petty rivalries between various tribes and chieftains were the order of the day and, unbeknownst to them, the Western crusaders marched into a land with very little real unity governing over it.  In his effort to halt the crusader advance, Kilij called upon his kinsman, Ghazi, of the Danishmendid tribe to assist him.  While very little is known about Ghazi, he was undoubtedly one of the few warlords Kilij could trust to answer his call in his desperate hour.

The crusader army that marched upon Asia Minor was the product of nearly 500 years of Western military tradition that arose after the fall of the Western Roman Empire.  This was the era of the heavily armored knightly cavalryman and the dawn of the military tradition that would later become known as chivalry.  Developing from old Roman cavalry methods and Frankish improvisations during the Carolingian period, the premier Western warrior was the knight.  Heavily armored with maille hauberk and coif, armed and trained for close-in melee combat, and mounted on steeds especially bred for massed charges, the Western knight in the 11th Century was the epitome of shock and maneuver and was especially lethal in hand-to-hand combat.  Supporting these knights were thousands of infantrymen of varying degrees of quality – ranging from highly disciplined specialists wielding both melee and ranged weapons to inexperienced volunteers eager to do their part in the “fighting-pilgrimage” to Jerusalem and who would often prove to be a hindrance in battle rather than a help.

In stark contrast to the melee-centric traditions of the Western crusaders, the Seljuks exemplified the skirmishing traditions of their fellow steppe-peoples.  As with their Hunnic, Avar, and other Central Asian kinsmen, the Turks relied on a potent mix of mounted speed, maneuver, and massed firepower to rapidly outmaneuver and swarm their foes – all while staying clear of any close encounters until the odds were heavily in their favor.  Turkic armies of this period were almost entirely mounted on hardy steppe breeds that were tough, but fast when well-handled.  The core of the army usually formed around the warlord and his elite retinue of Sipahi, hybrid mounted warriors who usually carried both lance and bow.  While these were the cream of the horde, the meat consisted of thousands of mounted archers – all barely armored, but carrying the classic weapon of the steppe cultures, the recurve bow.  

Small in size, but very powerful within its 150-200yd range, the recurve bow was comprised of wood, horn, and sinew all glued together and “recurved” for greater power within a smaller frame – the ideal weapon for the mounted archer.  Crusader chroniclers like Raymond of Aguilars commented that in battle the Turks “have this custom in fighting, even though they are few in number, they always strive to encircle their enemy.”  They often used feigned retreats and ambushes to overwhelm squadrons of pursuing opponents, as they did in several engagements with the Byzantines.  Speed, surprise, and mobility were critical for the Seljuks – because the alternative often meant their ruin.  In close quarters melee, even the finest Seljuk warrior was at a disadvantage.

For those who wore any armor at all, Turkic armor consisted of multiple variations on the lightweight hazagand – a sort of cotton jerkin coat with possible scale or light maille sewn into it.  Compared against the far heavier and higher quality steel armor and weaponry of the West, the average Turk stood little chance in close melee unless his arrow-fire had sufficiently worn down his opponent.  These two warfighting traditions were on a collision course as the crusader host precariously made their way across Anatolia towards the small abandoned military outpost of Dorylaeum.

Sources Referenced:
John France.  Victory in the East – A Military History of the First Crusade.  Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press, 1994.
_______.  Western Warfare in the Age of the Crusades 1000-1300.  Ithaca NY: Cornell University Press, 1999.
Fulcher of Chartres, et al.  The Chronicle of Fulcher of Chartres and Other Source Materials.  Ed. Edward Peters.  Philadelphia PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1971.

The Holy Land in the Era of the Crusades: Kingdoms at the Crossroads of Civilizations is available for pre-order on and

To Shine with Honor: Coming of Age describes France in the decades before the First Crusade.