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the First Crusade

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Author Topic: the First Crusade  (Read 7383 times)
Rachel Dearth
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Posts: 4464

« Reply #60 on: March 01, 2009, 08:54:07 pm »

Kerbogha's Attack

7. The Gesta Version

Some time before, Cassianus, Emir of Antioch, had sent a message to Curbara, chief of the Sultan of Persia, while he was still at Chorosan, to come and help him while there was yet time, because a very mighty host of Franks was besieging him shut up in Antioch. If the Emir would aid him, he (Cassianus) would give him Antioch, or would enrich him with a very great gift. Since Curbara had had a very large army of Turks collected for a long time, and had received permission from the Caliph, their Pope, to kill the Christians, he began a long march to Antioch. The Emir of Jerusalem came to his aid with an army, and the King of Damascus arrived there with a very large host. Indeed, Curbara likewise collected countless pagan folk, Turks, Arabs, Saracens, Publicani, Azimites, Kurds, Persians, Agulani and countless other peoples. The Agulani were three thousand in number and feared neither lances, arrows, nor any kind of arms, because they and all their horses were fitted with iron all around, and they refused to carry any arms except swords into battle. All of these came to the siege of Antioch to disperse the gathering of Franks.

And when they neared the city, Sensadolus, son of Cassianus, Emir of Antioch, went to meet them, and straightway rushed in tears to Curbara, beseeching him with these words: "Most invincible chief, I, a supplicant, pray thee to help me, now that the Franks are besieging me on every side in the city of Antioch; now that they hold the city in their sway and seek to alienate us from the region of Romania, or even yet from Syria and Chorosan. They have done everything that they wished; they have killed my father; now nothing else remains except to kill me, and you, and all the others of our race. For a long time now I have been waiting for your help to succor me in this danger."

To him Curbara replied: "If you want me to enter wholeheartedly into your service and to help you loyally in this danger, give that town into my hands, and then see how I will serve you and protect it with my men."

Sensadolus replied, "If you can kill all the Franks and give me their heads, I will give you the town, and I will do homage to you and guard the town in your fealty."

To this Curbara answered: "That won't do; hand over the town to me immediately." And then, willy-nilly, he handed the town over to him.

But on the third day after we had entered the town, Curbara's advance guard ran in front of the city; his army, however, encamped at the Iron Gate. They took the fortress by siege and killed all of the defenders, whom we found in iron chains after the greater battle had been fought.

On the next day, the army of the pagans moved on, and, nearing the city, they encamped between the two rivers and stayed there for two days. After they had retaken the fortress, Curbara summoned one of his emirs whom he knew to be truthful, gentle, and peaceable and said to him, "I want you to undertake to guard this fortress in fealty to me, because for the longest time I have known you to be most loyal; therefore, I pray you, keep this castle with the greatest care, for, since I know you to be the most prudent in action, I can find no one here more truthful and valiant."

To him the Emir replied: "Never would I refuse to obey you in such service, but before you persuade me by urging, I will consent, on the condition that if the Franks drive your men from the deadly field of battle and conquer, I will straightway surrender this fortress to them."

Curbara said to him: I recognize you as so honorable and wise that I will fully consent to whatever good you wish to do." And thereupon Curbara returned to his army.

Forthwith the Turks, making sport of the gatherings of Franks, brought into the presence of Curbara a certain very miserable sword covered with rust, a very worn wooden bow, and an exceedingly useless lance, which they had just recently taken from poor pilgrims, and said, "Behold the arms which the Franks carry to meet us in battle!" Then Curbara began to laugh, saying before all who were in that gathering, "These are the warlike and shining arms which the Christians have brought against us into Asia, with which they hope and expect to drive us beyond the confines of Cborosan and to wipe out our names beyond the Amazon rivers, they who have driven our relatives from Romania and the royal city of Antioch, which is the renowned capital of all Syria!" Then be summoned his scribe and said: "Write quickly several documents which are to be read in Chorosan."

"To the Caliph, our Pope, and to our King, the Lord Sultan, most valiant knight, and to all most illustrious knights of Chorosan; greeting and honor beyond measure.

Let them be glad enough and delight with joyful concord and satisfy their appetites; let them command and make known through all that region that the people give themselves entirely to exuberance and luxury, and that they rejoice to bear many children to fight stoutly against the Christians. Let them gladly receive these three weapons which we recently took from a squad of Franks, and let them now learn what arms the Frankish host bears against us; bow very fine and perfect they are to fight against our arms which are twice, thrice, or even four times welded, or purified, like the purest silver or gold. In addition, let all know, also, that I have the Franks shut up in Antioch, and that I hold the citadel at my free disposal, while they (the enemy) are below in the city. Likewise, I hold all of them now in my hand. I shall make them either undergo sentence of death, or be led into Chorosan into the harshest captivity, because they are threatening with their arms to drive us forth and to expel us from all our territory, or to cast us out beyond upper India, as they have cast out all our kinsmen from Romania or Syria. Now I swear to you by Mohammed and all the names of the gods that I will not return before your face until I shall have acquired with my strong right hand the regal city of Antioch, all Syria, Romania, and Bulgaria, even to Apulia, to the honor of the gods, and to your glory, and to that of all who are of the race of the Turks." And thus he put an end to his words.

The mother of the same Curbara, who dwelt in the city of Aleppo, came immediately to him and, weeping said: "Son are these things true which I hear?"

"What things?" he said.

"I have heard that you are going to engage in battle with the host of the Franks," she replied.

And he answered: "You know the truth fully."

She then said, "I warn you, son, in the names of all the gods and by your great kindness, not to enter into battle with the Franks, because you are an unconquered knight, and I have never at all heard of any imprudence from you or your army. No one has ever found you fleeing from the field before any victor. The fame of your army is spread abroad, and all illustrious knights tremble when your name is heard. For we know well enough, son, that you are mighty in battle, and valiant and resourceful, and that no host of Christians or pagans can have any courage before your face, but are wont to flee at the mention of your name, as sheep flee before the wrath of a lion. And so I beseech you, dearest son, to yield to my advice never to let it rest in your mind, or be found in your counsel, to wish to undertake war with the Christian host."

Then Curbara, upon hearing his mother's warning, replied with wrathful speech: "What is this, mother, that you tell me? I think that you are insane, or full of furies. For I have with me more emirs than there are Christians, whether of greater or lesser state."

His mother replied to him: "O sweetest son, the Christians cannot fight with your forces, for I know that they are not able to prevail against you; but their God is fighting for them daily and is watching over them and defending them with His protection by day and night, as a shepherd watches over his flock. He does not permit them to be hurt or disturbed by any folk, and whoever seeks to stand in their way this same God of theirs likewise puts to rout, just as He said through the mouth of the prophet David,' 'Scatter the people that delight in wars,' and in another place: 'Pour out Thy wrath upon the nations that know Thee not and, against the kingdoms that call not upon Thy name.' Before they are ready to begin battle, their God, all powerful and potent in battle, together with His saints, has all their enemies already conquered. How much more will He now prevail against you, who are His enemies, and who are preparing to resist them with all:, your valor! This, moreover, dearest, know in very truth: these'. Christians, called 'sons of Christ' and by the mouth of the prophets 'sons of adoption and promise,' according to the apostle are the heirs of Christ to whom He has already given the promised inheritance, saying through the prophets, 'From the rising to the setting of the sun shall be your border and no one shall stand before you.' Who can contradict or oppose these words? Certainly, if you undertake this battle against them, yours will be the very greatest loss and disgrace, and you will lose many of your faithful knights and all the spoils which you have with you, and you will turn in flight with exceeding fear. However, you shall not die now in this battle, but, nevertheless, in this year, because God does not with quick anger immediately judge him who has offended Him, but when He wills, He punishes with manifest vengeance, and so I fear He will exact of you a bitter penalty. You shall not die, now, I say, but you shall perish after all your present possessions."

Then Curbara, deeply grieved in his heart at his mother's words, replied "Dearest mother, pray, who told you such things about the Christian folk, that God loves only them, and that He restrains the mightiest host from fighting against Him, and that those Chrisians will conquer us in the battle of Antioch, and that they will capture our spoils, and will pursue us with great victory, and that I shall die in this year by a sudden death?" Then his mother answered him sadly: "Dearest son, behold the times are more than a hundred years since it was found in our book and in the volumes of the Gentiles that the Christian host would come against us, would conquer us everywhere and rule over the pagans, and that our people would be everywhere subject to them. But I do not know whether these things are to happen now or in the future. Wretched woman that I am, I have followed you from Aleppo, most beautiful city, in which, by gazing and contriving ingenious rhymes, I looked back at the stars of the skies and wisely scrutinized the planets and the twelve signs, or count less lots. In all of these I found that the Christian host would win everywhere, and so I am exceedingly sad and fear greatly lest I remain bereft of you."

Curbara said to her: "Dearest mother, explain to me all the in credible things which are in my heart."

Answering this, she said: "This, dearest, I will do freely, if I know the things which are unknown to you."

He said to her: "Are not Bohemund and Tancred gods of the Franks, and do they not free them from their enemies, and do not these men in one meal eat two thousand heifers and four thousand bogs?"

His mother answered: "Dearest son, Bohemund and Tancred are mortals, like all the rest; but their God loves them greatly above all the others and gives them valor in fighting beyond the rest. For (it is) their God, Omnipotent is His name, who made heaven and earth and established the seas and all things that in them are, whose dwelling-place is in heaven prepared for all eternity, whose might is everywhere to be feared."

Her son said "(Even) if such is the case, I will not refrain from fighting with them." Thereupon, when his mother heard that he would in no way yield to her advice, she returned, a very sad woman, to Aleppo, carrying with her all the gifts that she could take along.

But on the third day Curbara armed himself and most of the Turks with him and went toward the city from the side on which the fortress was located. Thinking that we could resist them, we prepared ourselves for battle against them, but so great was their valor that we could not withstand them, and under compulsion, therefore, we entered the city. The gate was so amazingly close and narrow for them that many died there from the pressure of the rest. Meanwhile, some fought outside the city, others within, on the fifth day of the week throughout the day until the evening.


August. C. Krey, The First Crusade: The Accounts of Eyewitnesses and Participants, (Princeton: 1921), 163-68

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