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Hi everyone. Google Communities are great, but if you're on Facebook why not join up the new Group I've started on there, for general Crusades chattery and link-postery. More Groups and Communities can only be a good thing! Feel free to invite anyone you know who is into medieval history and the crusades! Hope to see you there, link below:

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"Roman Catholic Chant"

~  The Crusades  ~

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~ listen to this ~

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Tancred of Galilee (Pt 1)

[Hrm..... this is almost intolerably long, but I post it anyway]

Undoubtedly, the two largest personalities of the First Crusade were the Norman Princes, Bohemond and his nephew Tancred. We have already seen how Bohemond, aged about thirty-nine when the Crusade reached Cilicia, was able to capture the city of Antioch and establish a Principality there in contradiction of the oath he had sworn to the Byzantine Emperor Alexius Comnenus. Bohemond's nephew Tancred, on the other hand, had far less experience. He must not have been older than twenty-one or twenty-two when he arrived, ready to do battle in the East. Yet, despite his youth, this warrior soon proved himself amongst the most formidable of the Crusading Princes.

We are lucky to find, in the Gesta Tancredi in Expeditione Hierosolymitana ("The Deeds of Tancred in the Crusade"), a comprehensive record of the Norman military campaigns in Cilicia during the first crusade, as well as the governorship of Antioch in its early years. This is among the important Latin source for the First Crusade. It was written by a Frankish cleric, Ralph of Caen. Ralph was a pupil of the future (Latin) Patriarch of Jerusalem, Arnulf of Chocques. He had also been a chaplain to Bohemond. He did not take part in the First Crusade, but came to the East with Bohemond for the latter's ill-fated 1107-8 "Crusade" against Byzantium. Upon arrival in the East he then began working for Tancred, whom he served until that prince's death in 1112. 

Ralph's text itself only covers the years 1096-1105. From this it is immediately obvious that none of his information is first-hand. He only arrived in the East in 1107, and his work only covers until the year 1105. Ralph himself certainly lived until at least 1130, because he mentioned the death of Bohemond the Younger in that year. The impression one receives from all this circumstantial evidence is that Ralph purposefully only covered events for which he was not present. Perhaps this was an attempt to be, or to at least seem, impartial. This tentative conclusion is helped by the fact that the work was not begun until after Tancred's death, supposedly to avoid claims of flattery and bias (see below). Nonetheless, the work is written from a distinctly pro-Norman point of view, as shall soon be clear. On the other hand, although it certainly is not an eye-witness account, it depends to a great degree upon the accounts of those who were eye-witnesses and is therefore of some authority.

The picture Ralph paints of Tancred is that of a pious young lord possessed of a noble nature and much ambition, but also Christian virtue and humility. We are told how his soul was wracked by guilt and a heavy feeling of hypocrisy as he tried in vain to reconcile the knightly with the Christian ideal:

"His prudent soul raised concerns that caused him anxiety. It seemed that his military life contradicted the Lord's command. The Lord had commanded that after one cheek had been struck the other was to be offered as well. But a secular military life did not even permit the sparing of a relative's blood. The Lord admonished that it is necessary to give over one's cloak, as well, to the one asking for a tunic. By contrast, the necessity of military life urges that once these two garments have been seized the rest are to be taken as well. These two principles opposed one another and undermined the bravery of a man full of wisdom, if, indeed, they ever permitted him to sleep."

If we are to believe Ralph, it was only Pope Urban's dispensation of sins that allowed this Christian warrior to sally forth with a clear conscience. "When Pope Urban's decision granted a remission of all sins to all of the Christians setting forth to fight against the pagans, then finally it was as if the vitality of the previously sleeping man was revived, his powers were roused, his eyes were opened and his boldness set in motion." Yet if we compare this lofty description of Tancred's character to some rather typical behaviour of his early in the crusade, we shall be forgiven if we think we have mistaken him for somebody else. For instance, Tancred refused to swear the oath of allegiance to Alexius at Constantinople. Instead he "passed through the city by night with his cousin, Richard of Salerno, in order to avoid having to take the oath." After the capture of Nicaea, the crusaders were summoned to the Emperor at Pelecanum, ostensibly to receive gifts of thanks, but really it was also so that Alexius could exact oaths from the remaining knights and princes who had not already so sworn. Tancred's declaration that he would not swear any oath "unless the Emperor's great tent was given to him filled to the brim with gold, as well as an amount equal to all the gold given to the other princes" stands in stark contrast to that "prudent soul" and "man full of wisdom" whom Ralph describes.

On the other hand, since Tancred was still only a youth of about twenty-one, it is quite possible that the qualities of pride and humility, which seem to us so opposite and exclusive, were earnestly alloyed in him. Therefore we need not doubt Ralph's word on this account. It would be quite unfair, after all, to require utter consistency in the policy of the youthful or the immature, especially when such qualities are hardly ever present even in the minds of the most seasoned statesmen. It is not too hard to believe that a young aristocrat, though ardent and sincere, may by degree find himself swept up by excitement and carried along by his enthusiasm to speak and act in an audacious manner. This is especially so when we consider Tancred's youth in comparison to the other great princes of the crusade. Unlike his uncle Bohemond, for example, Tancred had despite his obvious bravery yet to prove himself militarily in any major campaigns. And we are told by Ralph that Tancred "refused to say anything about himself, but had an insatiable longing to be talked about." 

Seen in this light, Tancred's braggadocio appears less boorish and more like the understandable reaction of a young man fighting for some recognition in what must have seemed a society of giants. This seems to be how we should view Tancred, for Ralph - who knew him well - considered "no one had a kinder lord, or one who was more generous or charming." And we cannot suspect the chaplain to have been under any compulsion to speak in such a way, writing years after the death of his lord. Indeed, the habits of all other historians - throughout time - have taught us well to expect that if Ralph had any complaints about his treatment by Tancred, he surely would have taken the golden opportunity to make his grievances known. See for instance how Procopius gleefully ravaged the memory of Justinian, whom he had so obsequiously poured honours upon while that prince was still alive.

All of the above, Ralph puts much more succinctly, when he says to Tancred "What you seek as a living man, you will receive once you have been buried, if I should survive. I will not praise you while you live. I will praise you after your death. I will praise you after all is complete. For in this case it will not happen that Tancred will rise up in elation after being praised and that Ralph shall fall into the trap of flattering his subject while praising him. The envious man will be silent and the murmurer will become muted when you are dead and when the gifts, which the living use as reward, cease to come to you. So too will fall silent the poisonous voices of the rumour mongers who would cast me in the role of seller and you as the buyer."

Ralph relates that while Tancred was already eager to take the cross, his enthusiasm increased when he learned his uncle Bohemond would also set out. "Tancred agreed that he would fight under Bohemond as his second-in-command, just like a duke under a king." In fact Tancred had not wanted such a subordinate position and would have preferred a completely independent command; however, four reasons convinced him to serve at least initially under his uncle. These were: (a) their close family bond; (b) "the difficulty of making the crossing from Italy to Byzantine territory;" (c) "many rich and flattering promises" made by Bohemond; and, finally, (d) "if Tancred did not obey Bohemond, he might easily be accused of jealousy and seem to be worthy of being sent away from the expedition." We see in this final reason that despite being close family members there was a decidedly realist tint to their relations. The family bond between princes is a much different affair from that between two ordinary people (as evidenced by history's countless fratricides).

Of the Norman princes and their journey to Constantinople to meet the rest of the Crusade, Ralph relates the following:

"It was Tancred's role to exercise his valour. When he served in the vanguard, he came upon ambushes. When he served in the rearguard of the army, he gave battle to brigands. Whether he proceeded the army or followed it he was always ready, always armed, and took pleasure in being exposed to danger. While others were buried in wine or sleep, he kept watch along the road to temper the heavy snows and hailstorms with his shield. It was a fortunate old woman, weakened by starvation, who was found by Tancred, just as she was about to set her feet on the banks of a flooded river [and drown]."

It is not very easy at first to reconcile Steven Runciman's rather orderly account of how Bohemond and Tancred reached Constantinople, with Ralph of Caen's chaotic and bloody version. In Runciman's account, Bohemond's army is forced at one point to steal cattle because the villagers along the way will not sell them any; however, upon meeting the Emperor's legate and being provisioned with supplies, Bohemond agreed to return all the animals and not try to enter any of the towns along the way. This accords well with a similar incident mentioned by Ralph. The sacking of a heretic Paulician village by the crusaders is also mentioned in both accounts. 

The only incident of any real consequence in Runciman's account occurs when some of the Emperor's Pecheneg Turk policemen apparently have to spur part of Bohemond's army along, compelling them to cross the Vardar river and to stop dawdling. This is represented as a minor skirmish, wherein Tancred made some captives and presented them to Bohemond, who immediately released them upon learning they were simply following the Emperor's policing orders. But the incident is almost unrecognisable in Ralph of Caen's account. No Pechenegs are mentioned, although this is who Ralph probably meant when he spoke of 'Turcopoles' in front of and behind the army. It is not the Turks, however, but the Greeks which are the focus of Ralph's account. He actively paints the Greeks (Byzantines) out to be enemies who actively fought against them:

"When the small size of the Latin force became clear to the multitude of ambushers, it seemed to the Greeks that the Latins were ignorant of their hiding places and had come to collect booty rather than to fight. The Greeks therefore came out of their hiding places and shot a terrible flight of arrows. [But] Tancred was well versed in this type of battle ... and recognised how to gain victory. After they had borne the enemy attacks, his men redeemed their patient delay. They loosened their reins, they used their spurs, they shook their spears. Their morale undermined by this demonstration, the lightly armed Greeks were not able to withstand the charge."

Ralph can barely hide his contempt for the Byzantines: "Without any doubt and without any mediation, these pitiable men were headed for immediate flight or to their deaths. They were pitiable. But just as they had not shown mercy to anyone, now they were not worthy of pity by anyone. This weak people was struck down and was taught not to make any further assumptions based on the small number of Franks. Rather, they learned that 100 of them were not equal to one."

Tancred's prowess with the blade comes to the fore, as Ralph relays his actions with obvious pleasure. "Tancred opened the path with his sword. He cut down anyone whom he intended to kill. The markers left in his wake made it easy for those following him. Half-dead bodies filled the banks on both the right and left with a middle channel of blood. There was no room to manoeuvre. Rather, Tancred's men could only follow along in the path of the killer."

We are further told of how the heavily-armed men in the army, caught up with enthusiasm at the sight of the young prince Tancred fighting with such ferocity, rushed to cross the river and share in the glory of battle. Apparently this resulted in the lightly-armed troops and those elderly or sick who could not cross easily being stranded on the other side of the river where they were ambushed by another detachment of "Greeks". 

At the last moment Tancred realises these lightly-armed troops are stranded. "It seemed to him that it would be a foul delay and a recognition of fear should he expect his heavily armed mounted troops to follow while he prepared a ship. Therefore, just as noted earlier, the leader entered the river as if it were a field. The waters rose around the exceptional man with a rapid current. But soon he reached the opposite bank unharmed." Just in time to save the day, Tancred and his troops route the remaining Greeks.

Ralph assures us the Greeks were so full of cowardice that in their flight they "found their greatest solace in throwing aside their bows, casting off their quivers, dropping their shields, and stripping off their body armor." In consequence there was much booty and "no one returned to camp without carrying a full load." We are told Tancred's prestige is greatly enhanced, such that "it seemed that to be without him in the army was to be alone rather than in an army."

The whole incident is so overblown in comparison to Steven Runciman's account that one is tempted to ascribe it as a patent exaggeration, almost a fabrication. Yet there is not much in either account that directly contradict one another. Both accounts agree on the basic facts. There certainly was a skirmish at the Vardar river between Bohemond and Tancred's forces and those Byzantine "police" troops who had been tasked by the Emperor to make sure the Franks stayed on track and did not target Byzantine possessions. And relations were patched up afterwards with a soothing message from Alexius to Bohemond. The differences in Runciman's account stem from the fact that he uses the Gesta Francorum et aliorum Hierosolimitanorum ("The Deeds of the Franks and the Other Pilgrims to Jerusalem") as his guide for Bohemond and Tancred's journey to Constantinople, rather than the Gesta Tancredi. This was certainly prudent, as the Gesta Francorum is an eye-witness account by an anonymous member of Bohemond's company. It is therefore unquestionably a more primary source than the Gesta Tancredi, which was written after the fact.

The Gesta Francorum says "an army of the Emperor came and attacked the Count with his brothers and all who were with them." This ambiguous mention of an "army of the Emperor" may have been what convinced Ralph of Caen that they were actually fighting against "Greeks". In fact, however, the story goes on to relate that the army was made up of "Turcopoles and Patzinaks" (i.e. Pecheneg Turks). In fact the "Greek army" probably consisted entirely of Turk "police" as Runciman claims. The fact that Ralph's "Greeks" are so fond of archery (bows were a favourite weapon of the Turks), coupled with the Gesta Francorum mentioning only Turcopoles and Pechenegs, makes it almost certain that Ralph of Caen has made an error.  

Apart from that small matter, the Gesta Francorum does confirm that upon learning the Turks were following Alexios's orders Bohemond set them free. It also confirms Tancred's heroics in "hurling himself into the river, reach[ing] the others by swimming; and two thousand went into the river following Tancred." So apart from mistakenly believing they had fought Greeks instead of Turks, there is not much that can be specifically called wrong in Ralph's account. Therefore, while we can obviously expect Ralph to exaggerate Tancred's prowess in battle, to trumpet his praise, and to sing his abilities as a warrior, it seems we need not dismiss him as a wholly inaccurate guide to the young prince and his deeds.

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I came across it a few years ago almost reading an entire chapter of it in my favourite bookstore. I procrastinated about buying it at the time and thought I'll get it next time. Unfortunately I never did, but I remembered it read well. Have to get it!!!!!

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Godfrey of Bouillon (1060 – 1100 AD) was the first ruler of the Kingdom of Jerusalem and one of the main leaders of the First Crusade. He and his brother Baldwin led a force of French and German soldiers. When Pope Urban II preached the crusade at Clearmont in 1095, Godfrey and his brothers, Eustace and Baldwin, decided to gather their armies and march for the Holy Land . They were the second major group to arrive at Constantinople, where over a few months planning and oaths were sworn.
Godfrey played minor but critical roles in the battles of the First Crusade. He was present at the siege of Nicaea and helped relieve the vanguard at the battle of Dorylaeum and at the capturing of Antioch. (Meanwhile, Godfrey’s landless younger brother Baldwin was making a name for himself by becoming the first Count of Edessa.)
Godfrey of Bouillon became a legend of the crusaders when he was one of the first over the walls of Jerusalem which was taken in 1099.
There is plenty more to say about Godfrey Bouilon in future posts…..

(Image below is of Godfrey of Bouillon, from a fresco painted by Giacomo Jaquerio in Saluzzo, northern Italy, circa 1420 AD. Source Wikipedia)

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Extra funny 'biography' (surprisingly accurate) of the Leper King Baldwin IV of Jerusalem, written by some nutter. Apparently Saladin "forgot to keep an eye out for insane lepers hauling ass at Mach3.5 across the countryside." Touche.
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