The First Crusade

During the end of the eleventh century, all of Europe was caught up in territory disputes. Nations argued where previous wars and imperialism left borders, but every nation wanted one territory in particular (Crusades). Jerusalem, the most sought after land in the eastern hemisphere, became a perpetual battleground for crusades and jihads. Because of high religious tensions between the Christian nations of Europe and the Islamic nations in the Middle East, a series of wars were fought over the ???holy land.??™ The Christians desired it because the Messiah, Jesus, was believed to be born there and the Islamic people believe that the prophet, Muhammad, was sighted here. The first of these holy wars took place from 1096 to 1099 (History Learning Site).
Several acts fueled the Eastern nations of Europe. The first of these was the capturing of Jerusalem by Muslims in 1076 (History Learning Site). The second was the preaching of both Pope Urban II and Peter the Hermit. The Pope was notified of the threat by the king of the Byzantine Empire, which lies near Turkish territory. The Pope then traveled throughout the European countries rallying armies to take back the holy land. (The First Crusade) Urban also held a council at Clermont-Ferrand in Auvergne on Tuesday 27, November 1096. The assembly consisted of archbishops, bishops, abbots, knights and peasants alike. (Council of Clermont)
Letters were sent to all Christian nations to aid in the crusade. The call was appeased by so many that the church was not able to control the crowd. The most renown of the crusade leaders were Count Raymond of Toulouse, Godfrey and Baldwin Bouillon who led the French and Germans from the Rhineland, Robert, the eldest son of William the Conqueror, from Normandy, Bohemond, son of Robert Guiscard and his nephew, Tancred. Many peasants began to leave with accompaniment of nobles. (Council of Clermont)
The majority that ventured prematurely were lead by Peter the Hermit, a monk who had made speeches in France to the public. He led 80,000 poor, penniless and mostly weaponless peasants to Constantinople, the designated rendezvous city for crusading armies. Peter could not keep his army together, as those who grew impatient abandoned him. This unorganized march was dubbed ???The People??™s Crusade.??™ Many lost their lives before reaching Jerusalem. Almost all in The People??™s Crusade had perished in the journey or by disease.
The crusading armies met at the Constantinople, the capitol of the Byzantine Empire. The emperor, Alexuis I, agreed to house the armies so long as the crusade leaders gave him the regions they would conquer. The emperor grew apprehensive of the large amount of soldiers in this city and hastily transported them to Asia Minor. (Crusades)

The first battle of the crusade took form of a siege at Nicaea on May 6, 1097. The crusaders surrounded the city??™s north and east walls, awaiting the French who had not arrived at Constantinople. The head of the city, Kilij Arslan, was off on a war of his own, leaving the city without a commander. Once the southern wall was besieged, Raymond??™s forces began to set up camp just as Arslan returned with his army. Raymond held fast against the Turks until he was assisted by Godfrey. The Turks retreated and the siege was continued. The walls of the city were dug out, but they fell inconveniently late, leaving the crusaders unable to attack. The Turks had rushed out of the city, destroying the siege equipment and those inside. Emperor Alexius shipped boats by land to the crusaders, which were constructed on site and blockaded Nicaea??™s ports. Byzantium diplomats entered the city in an attempt to persuade its leaders to surrender so as the crusaders were not required to destroy what would become their property. New, more adequate siege equipment was constructed and used to enter the city. Nicaea had surrendered everything to Alexius who distributed supplies and soldiers to the crusaders. (The Crusades Bookstore)
The second battle took place not at a city, but on the journey. Crusading armies were traveling through Anotolia, territory that had been lost by the Byzantine Empire almost 30 years earlier. Arslan counterattacked the crusaders with mounted archers from all sides on the first of July. Bohemond??™s army was ambushed and he quickly lost control of his men, many pursued the Turks but perished in their attempt. Bohemond was forced to retreat back to his camp where Arslan was preparing to strike again. Fortunately, Godfrey arrived before the Turks were able to charge the camp. Arslan, again, routed but was caught by the crusaders who captured and looted their camp. (History of War)
The decisive battle of the first crusade was held at Antioch, a city of great stature formerly owned by Christians in the base of a valley. The city was besieged for more than seven months, starting on the 21st of October, with three attempts of being driven off. The first two came from the Syrians in December and February the following year. Both efforts failed in relinquishing the holy armies. Emir Kerboga of Mosul then brought an estimated 75,000 men to rescue the city but was still en route when the city was captured. A family who owned a tower at the base of the mountain agreed to allow passage for the crusaders into the city in return for the ownership of the city once it had been conquered. The citadel, positioned upon the hill of the valley, remained subject to Muslim power. Two days later, however, Kerboga arrived and placed Antioch back into a state of siege. (History of War)
The second siege of Antioch, also known as the Battle of Orontes (the region in which Antioch resided), took way on the fifth of June, 1098. Kerboga??™s army surrounded
the city while the crusaders suffered of supply shortage inside the walls. Meanwhile, a Byzantine army was marching to take control of Antioch, but received word of the new, hopeless situation of the crusaders. The army turns back, leaving the holy warriors for dead. The warriors themselves had all but given up. But in the crusaders??™ darkest hour, Peter Bartholomew, a preacher who was traveling with the army, saw a vision of the Holy Lance, the lance said to have pierced the body of Christ as he lay dying on the cross. Peter proclaimed to have seen it buried under a church in Antioch. Eventually, the lance was found, indeed buried under a church. This lifted the morale of the crusaders immensely, enough to help them defeat the army of Turks five times more massive than their own. Witnessing the death of their rescuers, the citadel surrendered. (History of War)
On July ninth of 1099, the crusaders reached their object, the holy city of Jerusalem. Yet another ill-timed supply shortage found its way to the crusading armies, the Turkish forces behind the walls of Jerusalem having the only water source in the area. Not only that, but the crusaders had lost a significant percentage of their forces, leaving them without the necessary number to lay ideal siege to the city. Without the required numbers, thorough strategizing needed to be made to take the city. The crusaders waited until the entire city was completely surrounded by all their available forces, all of which would simultaneously breach the walls of Jerusalem. The assault was a complete success, the crusaders had reclaimed the holy city and founded the Kingdom of Jerusalem. (History of War)

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