Post-classical history

Roger of Antioch (d. 1119)

Ruler of the principality of Antioch (1113-1119) in succession to Tancred.

Roger of Salerno, as he was originally known, was a son of Richard of the Principate and a sister of Tancred. He succeeded Tancred as ruler of Antioch on the latter’s death in 1113. It is disputed whether Roger ruled in his own right or as regent for the young Bohemund II (born 1108), who was in Italy. However, Roger was accused of usurpation only by Fulcher of Chartres; other chroniclers treat him as the rightful ruler and refer to him as “prince.”

The first crisis of Roger’s reign was a massive series of earthquakes in 1114-1115. He demonstrated admirable qualities of leadership in his organization of the repairs to the city of Antioch (mod. Antakya, Turkey) and surrounding towns. In 1115, after careful reconnaissance and after making an alliance with the Turkish leaders Tughtigin of Damascus and īlghāzī, Roger campaigned against Bursuq of Hamadān. He did not wait for support from King Baldwin I of Jerusalem or Count Pons of Tripoli, his Christian allies, but launched a surprise attack on Bursuq’s camp on 14 September 1115. The ensuing battle of Tell Danith was an overwhelming victory for Roger and the high point of his reign. Bursuq died a few months later, and Antioch was established as a formidable political and military force in northern Syria. However, Roger tried to repeat his success in June 1119, by attacking a Turkish army led by īlghāzī, without waiting for Baldwin II of Jerusalem and Pons of Tripoli. The defeat that followed wiped out the Antiochene army and is known evocatively as the battle of Ager Sanguinis (the Field of Blood). Roger himself was killed in the fighting.

The principality of Antioch now lay wide open to conquest, but the Turks failed to follow up their victory, and the city held out until King Baldwin II arrived to take charge. He assumed the regency of the principality until Bohemund II achieved his majority in 1126.

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