The Siege of Antioch 1097 PT 2
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The opening moves in the crusader assault on Antioch opened with the capture of its port, St Symeon by a crusading fleet of around 30 boats. This fleet was probably crewed crewed by Englishmen who had fled England after the Norman conquest, and were now in the service of Alexius. The possession of the port, located about 12 km downstream from Antioch, was vital for the crusader, since it gave them access to supplies shipped across from Cyprus.
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The land attack began some time later with the capture of the Iron Bridge, a fortified crossing of the Orontes River. This bridge provided a vital link to the neighbouring Islamic states, and was to play host to a series of battles. After a fierce battle, the defenders fled, leaving the crusaders in control of the Orontes valley.
Yaghi Siyan had a force of around 4,000, adequate for the task of defence, but no more. His only hope was to hold the crusaders off for long enough for help to arrive. Most of the people of Antioch were Christians, and Yaghi Siyan was worried that they might rise against him. He banished all the Christian men from the city - keeping their wives and children as hostages.
Even so, large elements of the army were dispersed to guard the outlying areas. Robert of Normandy, for example, left for Laodicea, another port which had earlier been captured by the English fleet. From here he organised the transport of food and other supplies from Cyprus. Other contingents of the crusader army went to St Symeon and to outlying fortresses in Armenia.
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Antioch was too large for even the Crusader army to completely surround, or even to contemplate storming. They settled down to besiege the city, sealing off the gates one by one. Bohemond placed his army outside the St Paul Gate, with the northern French, commanded by Robert of Normandy, Robert of Flanders, Stephen of Blois and Hugh of Vermandois, on his right. To the right of them, outside the Dog Gate, stood the southern French, under the command of Raymond of Toulouse and Adhémar of Le Puy. Godfrey's forces took up the dangerous position outside the Gate of the Duke, sandwiched between the wall and the Orontes. Tatikios positioned the Byzantine forces somewhat back from the walls and behind the front line, defending the besiegers from attacks down the Orontes valley. The Bridge Gate, protected by the Orontes, was left without a blockading force. This gate controlled the road to the port of St Symeon, and the struggle to control the area in front of it was to form a crucial part of the siege.
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Although at first the crusaders had a plentiful supply of food from the areas around Antioch, the size of their army meant that they soon ran out. The garrison did all they could to exacerbate this with frequent sallies from the Bridge Gate, cutting of the crusaders supplies from St Symeon and Laodicea. A Turkish-held fort, Harem, which lay some miles to the East of Antioch, also mounted repeated skirmish attacks.
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These were attacks were so troublesome that the crusaders built a fort, which they named Malregard, on a hill to the east of Bohemond's camp to protect this flank of the army. To held defend the road to St Symeon from raids launched through the Bridge Gate, Godfrey's forces built a bridge, the Bridge of Boats, across the Orontes to their rear. This allowed them to cross the river to meet attacks which had crossed via the Bridge Gate. Tancred, meanwhile, was given a fee of 40 silver marks per month to take his small troop to watch the St Georges Gate on the south wall.
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June 3, 1098 - After an eight-month siege, the city of Antioch falls to the Christian army of the First Crusade. Arriving at the city on October 27, 1097, the three principal leaders of the crusade, Godfrey of Bouillon, Bohemund of Taranto, and Raymond IV of Toulouse disagreed over what course of action to follow. Raymond advocated a frontal assault on the city's defenses, while his compatriots favored laying siege. Bohemund and Godfrey ultimately prevailed and the city was loosely invested. As the crusaders lacked the men to completely surround Antioch, the southern and eastern gates were left unblockaded allowing the governor, Yaghi-Siyan, to bring food into the city.
As the siege dragged on, the crusaders began to face starvation. After defeating a second Muslim army in February, additional men and supplies arrived in March. This allowed the crusaders to completely surround the city while also improving conditions in the siege camps. In May news reached them that a large Muslim army, commanded by Kerbogha, was marching towards Antioch. Knowing that they had to take the city or be destroyed by Kerbogha, Bohemund secretly contacted an Armenian named Firouz who commanded one of the city's gates. After receiving a bribe, Firouz opened gate on the night of June 2/3, allowing the crusaders to storm the city. After consolidating their power, they rode out to meet Kerbogha's army on June 28. Believing that they were led by visions of St. George, St. Demetrius, and St. Maurice, the crusader army charged the Muslim lines and put Kerbogha's army to rout saving their newly captured city.