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Thereafter what had been a relatively incoherent host, within which some armies were better ordered than others, became more coherent and experienced, and more successful.


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In a military sense the crusade was a success. It may not have achieved all that Urban wanted it to achieve in terms of friendship with the Eastern Empire. There was no single will directing the crusade; it was the product of many wills interacting with circumstances, and all that gave it a precarious unity was Jerusalem. To free it was the task they set themselves and to have achieved that was remarkable.

The crusade had little immediate impact on western armies at this time. The twelfth century would see the rise of two distinct tactical developments: the mass charge by cavalry, using couched lances for the maximum shock impact, and the rise of highly effective infantry. Launching a cavalry charge was so difficult even for the Templars with their background of order and discipline that they felt the need to write it all down in detail.

This, combined with the development of the heavier horses, created the classic medieval cavalry charge, and one of its antidotes — disciplined infantry, who in any case became more and more necessary as castles grew more complex. The conditions of the crusade replicated the conditions of common service and experience which made these armies so efficient.

Conditions in the crusader states continued to demand constant military activity which had much the same effect, hence the high prestige of the armies of Outremer in the twelfth century. It is possible that the glory and the prestige of the First Crusade helped to impress upon western commanders the need for discipline and coherence in their armies. In Robert Curthose found himself brought to bay by his brother Henry at Tinchebrai, rather as he had been by his father at Gerberoi in As then, he decided to risk battle, on a single coherent charge, but he was heavily outnumbered.

It was this, their belief in God and themselves, and their able commanders which gave them the victory in the East.

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D thesis by Alec Mulinder, which, when complete, should provide valuable insight into the failure of this crusade. The Crusade of lacked coherence.


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Its various elements never gathered together and perished separately, largely because they had no clear objective such as the First Crusade found in Jerusalem. They were fighting an enemy, the Turks of Asia Minor, who had learned the lessons of the earlier campaign and refused to be drawn into battle. Parry and M.

Yapp, eds. The astonishing success of the First Crusade inspired some of its participants to record their experiences, either in letters written as events unfolded or in chronicles prepared afterwards. This in turn inspired others and so an extraordinary volume of material appeared in the west in the course of the twelfth century and beyond. This note does not seek to examine all of it let alone repeat or challenge the work of many distinguished commentators. The present writer has sought to look at the crusade as a military campaign and we are concerned here with the problems of understanding what these and other sources used tell us about it.

Here I address general problems raised by the main sources for the crusade. Of the extraordinary value of the letters to the historian of the crusade there can be no doubt. The excitements of battle spring out from the pages of the letters of Stephen of Blois and Anselm of Ribemont as do the terrible sufferings and the sense of loss of comrades. When Stephen, as one of the major leaders, who was actually chosen later to lead the army, speaks of his esteem for the Emperor Alexius and in the same breath speaks of Antioch as the next major goal we must pay attention, for here is the voice of one who was involved in the planning.

These men were not wholly disinterested; they show a lively concern for the well-being of their lands in the West and Stephen rejoiced in the acquisition of booty. It is only with the letter from the Princes in September that hatred of the Byzantines becomes evident and this document, in the form in which we have it, may well have been heavily influenced by Bohemond.

In fact this may be connected with the anti-Byzantine sentiment which later grew up and led the chroniclers to neglect a period when they were in close alliance with the Greeks. After Dorylaeum, the journey, though hard, was not full of incident and thus was overshadowed by later events. The accounts of the crusade written by participants were all written after the event and are much more reflective and interpretative.

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All of them see themselves as recording the work of God. But what Raymond was really trying to do was to show the workings of the divine economy as then understood:. Thus the nucleus of the idea that the spiritual exercises of the crusade were as important to its success as the military emerged. Fulcher of Chartres provides an extraordinarily vivid account of the battle of Dorylaeum, from the point of view of a civilian in the camp.

But he left the crusade early in and thereafter relied on others. No writer was present at the Foraging Battle which is obscure in the extreme. Even when our informant was centrally involved in a battle his information is not always very useful. The Anonymous gives us a vivid sense of his participation in the Lake Battle of February and the passage is deservedly famous, but he does not tell us where the battle took place. Raymond of Aguilers was a better writer, but a priest rather than a military man.

Raymond of Aguilers, as chaplain to the count of Toulouse, was close to the high command of the army and his information on decisions and policy is often good but he was more interested in politics than purely military decisions. However, he does tell us about meetings and discussions, such as that between the leaders near Shaizar and he is very informative on numbers which must have been a real preoccupation in the later stages of the campaign.

By contrast, the Anonymous was an ordinary knight and ill-informed about such matters. But suppositions about the supposed spontaneity and direct simplicity of his account need to be tempered considerably. The best evidence is that his work was written by , which is certainly early. His work appeared shortly after that of the Anonymous but certainly before , for the death of the count of Toulouse in that year is never suggested. But there are indications that what we have may not be the text written or dictated by an anonymous South Italian Norman knight in the service of Bohemond.

The insertion of a passage suggesting that Alexius granted Antioch to Bohemond is patent, while in the description of the fighting around the citadel there are indications of revision and the literary passages may well come from a different hand. Were we to rely on Fulcher and the Anonymous along with the works heavily based on them the internal dynamics of the crusader army would be lost to us. Raymond was involved and was a partisan, and while we may distrust his standpoint we can hardly deny that there was a standpoint to take. The divisions of the crusaders after the seizure of Antioch exercised a powerful influence on the course of events, and in any assessment of the success of the crusade it is important to consider the astonishing fact that they succeeded despite them.

Moreover, in understanding crusading history as a whole it is a false perspective to see such problems of command as originating later and being a deviation from the spirit of the crusade — they were inevitable and apparent from the first. In fact this is a dangerous illusion. For the most part those who used his narrative reveal interesting attitudes and interpretations of events without contributing much to the elucidation of what happened at the time.

It has always seemed unlikely that the poet or poets used Albert because they left out so much of his picturesque detail.

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Often he found it difficult to work out precisely what they were telling him for he did not know the ground — it is clear that he was confused about the location of the gates of Antioch. At other times he seems to have had more than one story about the same thing — as in the case of Guinemer of Boulogne. Overall his sources were men of middling rank — and knights deeply interested in military affairs.

However, there is so much information in Albert that it is vitally important in building up a picture of crusader operations. Even in his account of the skirmishing at Constantinople when his hero Godfrey was involved, he is less than wholehearted in his condemnation.

This would suggest that hostility to the Greeks was less a general phenomenon than something confined to most of the political leadership and shared by chroniclers for various reasons. From the point of view of the military historian his chief weakness is that of all the narratives — it is episodic. But Albert did try to put his information together to gain a picture of events and he succeeded to a remarkable degree.

His own ignorance compelled him to take an overview of events which is highly useful. They simply assumed this knowledge in the audience for which they wrote and so left posterity the task of teasing it out. The Islamic sources are radically different. It is possible to get a very good picture of Islamic politics and society at the time of the First Crusade. There is a considerable literature which informs us about the methods and organisation of war, but on the events of the crusade the information is very limited.

This is hardly surprising for from their perspective the crusade was hardly a glorious episode. No source gives us any real insight into the Turks of Asia Minor about whom we are abysmally ignorant. By contrast the Islamic manuals of war such as those edited by Cahen, Latham, and Paterson and Scanlin, are very valuable even though many of them were written much later. The greatest gap which all this leaves is information about the Turks and in particular about their horses.

The skill of these horse-archers was much admired, but we do not know how they cared for their animals and even whether they used strings of them to support their tactics. Carola M. Small Related information University of Alberta. First Page PDF. Your Access Options. Log In If you have personal access to this content, log in with your username and password here: Email or username: Password: Remember me.

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Victory in the East : a military history of the First Crusade

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