Post-classical history



Will he make many supplications unto thee? will he speak soft words unto thee? Will he make a covenant with thee?’ JOB XLI, 3, 4

The western princes that had taken the Cross were less impatient than Peter and his friends. They were ready to abide by the Pope’s time-table. Their troops had to be gathered and equipped. Money had to be raised for the purpose. They must arrange for the government of their lands during an absence that might last for years. None of them was prepared to start out before the end of August.

The first to leave his home was Hugh, Count of Vermandois, known as Le Maisne, the younger, a surname translated most inappropriately by the Latin chroniclers even in his own time as Magnus. He was the younger son of King Henry I of France and of a princess of Scandinavian origin, Anne of Kiev; a man of some forty years of age, of greater rank than wealth, who had acquired his small county by marriage with its heiress, and had never played a prominent part in French politics. He was proud of his lineage but ineffectual in action. We cannot tell what were his motives in joining the Crusade. No doubt he inherited the restlessness of his Scandinavian ancestors. Perhaps he felt that in the East he could acquire the power and riches that befitted his high birth. Probably his brother, King Philip, encouraged his decision in order to ingratiate his family with the Papacy. Leaving his lands in the care of his countess, he set out in late August for Italy, with a small army composed of his vassals and some knights from his brother’s domains. Before his departure he sent a special messenger ahead of him to Constantinople, requesting the Emperor to arrange for his reception with the honours due to a prince of royal blood. As he journeyed southward he was joined by Drogo of Nesle and Clarambald of Vendeuil and William the Carpenter and other French knights returning from Emich’s disastrous expedition.

The Balkan Peninsula at the time of the First Crusade

Hugh and his company passed by Rome and arrived at Bari early in October. In southern Italy they found the Norman princes themselves preparing for the Crusade; and Bohemond’s nephew William decided not to wait for his relatives but to cross the sea with Hugh. From Bari Hugh sent an embassy of twenty-four knights, led by William the Carpenter, across to Dyrrhachium to inform the governor that he was about to arrive and to repeat his demand for a suitable reception. The governor, John Comnenus, was thus able to warn the Emperor of his approach and himself prepared to welcome him. But Hugh’s actual arrival was not as dignified as he had hoped. A storm wrecked the small flotilla that he had hired for the crossing. Some of his ships foundered with all their passengers. Hugh himself was cast ashore on Cape Palli, a few miles to the north of Dyrrhachium. John’s envoys found him there bewildered and bedraggled, and escorted him to their master; who at once re-equipped him and feasted him and showed him every attention, but kept him under strict surveillance. Hugh was pleased with the flattering regard shown to him; but to some of his followers it seemed that he was being kept a prisoner. He remained at Dyrrhachium till a high official, the admiral Manuel Butumites, arrived from the Emperor to escort him to Constantinople. His journey thither was achieved in comfort, though he was obliged to take a roundabout route through Philippopolis, as the Emperor did not wish to let him make contact with the Italian pilgrims that were crowding along the Via Egnatia. At Constantinople Alexius greeted him warmly and showered presents on him but continued to restrict his liberty.

Godfrey of Lorraine

Hugh’s arrival forced Alexius to declare his policy towards the western princes. The information that he had acquired and his memory of the career of Roussel of Bailleul convinced him that, whatever might be the official reasons for the Crusade, the real object of the Franks was to secure for themselves principalities in the East. He did not object to this. So long as the Empire recovered all the lands that it had held before the Turkish invasions, there was much to be said in favour of the creation of Christian buffer-states on its perimeter. That small states could be independent was unthought-of at the time. But Alexius wished to be sure that he would be clearly regarded as overlord of any that might be erected. Knowing that in the West allegiance was established by a solemn oath, he decided to demand such an oath from all the western leaders to cover their future conquests. To win their compliance he was ready to pour gifts and subsidies on them, while he would emphasize his own wealth and glory, that they might not feel their dignity lowered in becoming his men. Hugh, dazzled by the magnificence and the generosity of the Emperor, fell in willingly with his plans. But the next to arrive from the West was not so easily persuaded.

Godfrey of Bouillon, Duke of Lower Lorraine, appears in later legend as the perfect Christian knight, the peerless hero of the whole Crusading epic. A scrupulous study of history must modify the verdict. He was born about the year 1060, the second son of Count Eustace II of Boulogne and of Ida, daughter of Godfrey II, Duke of Lower Lorraine, who was descended in the female line from Charlemagne. He had been designated as the heir to the possessions of his mother’s family; but on her father’s death the emperor Henry IV confiscated the duchy, leaving Godfrey only the county of Antwerp and the lordship of Bouillon in the Ardennes. Godfrey, however, served Henry so loyally in his German and Italian campaigns that in 1082 he was invested with the duchy, but as an office, not as a hereditary fief. Lorraine was impregnated with Cluniac influences; and, though Godfrey remained loyal to the emperor, it is possible that Cluniac teaching, with its strong papal sympathies, began to trouble his conscience. His administration of Lorraine was not very efficient. There seems to have been some doubt whether Henry would continue to employ him. It was therefore partly from despondency about his future in Lorraine, partly from uneasiness over his religious loyalties, and partly from genuine enthusiasm that he answered the call to the Crusade. He made his preparations very thoroughly. After raising money by blackmailing the Jews, he sold his estates of Rosay and Stenay on the Meuse, and pledged his castle of Bouillon to the Bishop of Liege, and was thus able to equip an army of considerable size. The number of his troops and his former high office gave Godfrey a prestige that was enhanced by his pleasant manners and his handsome appearance. For he was tall, well-built and fair, with a yellow beard and hair, the ideal picture of a northern knight. But he was indifferent as a soldier, and as a personality he was overshadowed by his younger brother, Baldwin.

Godfrey in Hungary

Godfrey’s two brothers had also taken the Cross. The elder, Eustace III, Count of Boulogne, was an unenthusiastic Crusader, always eager to return to his rich lands that lay on both sides of the English Channel. His contribution of soldiers was far smaller than Godfrey’s, whom he was therefore content to regard as leader. He probably travelled out separately, going through Italy. The younger brother, Baldwin, who accompanied Godfrey, was of a different type. He had been destined for the Church and so had not been allotted any of the family estates. But, though his training at the great school at Reims left him with a lasting taste for culture, his temperament was not that of a churchman. He returned to lay life, and apparently took service under his brother Godfrey in Lorraine. The brothers formed a striking contrast. Baldwin was even taller than Godfrey. His hair was as dark as the other’s was fair; but his skin was very white. While Godfrey was gracious in manner, Baldwin was haughty and cold. Godfrey’s tastes were simple, but Baldwin, though he could endure great hardships, loved pomp and luxury. Godfrey’s private life was chaste, Baldwin’s given over to venery. Baldwin welcomed the Crusade with delight. His home-land offered him no future; but in the East he might find himself a kingdom. When he set out he took with him his Norman wife, Godvere of Tosni, and their little children. He did not intend to return.

Godfrey and his brothers were joined by many leading knights from Walloon and Lotharingian territory; their cousin, Baldwin of Rethel, lord of Le Bourg, Baldwin II, Count of Hainault, Rainald, Count of Toul, Warner of Gray, Dudo of Konz-Saarburg, Baldwin of Stavelot, Peter of Stenay and the brothers Henry and Geoffrey of Esch.

Perhaps because he felt some embarrassment as an imperialist in his relations with the Papacy, Godfrey decided not to travel through Italy by the route that the other crusading leaders were planning to take. Instead, he would go through Hungary, following not only the popular Crusades but also, according to the legend that was now spreading through the West, his ancestor Charlemagne himself on his pilgrimage to Jerusalem. He left Lorraine at the end of August, and after a few weeks’ marching up the Rhine and down the Danube he arrived at the beginning of October at the Hungarian frontier on the river Leitha. From there he sent an embassy, headed by Geoffrey of Esch, who had previous experience of the Hungarian court, to King Coloman to ask for permission to cross his territory.

Coloman had recently suffered too severely at the hands of Crusaders to welcome a new invasion. He kept the embassy for eight days, then announced that he would meet Godfrey at Oedenburg for an interview. Godfrey came with a few of his knights and was invited to spend some days at the Hungarian court. The impression that Coloman received from this visit decided him to allow the passage of Godfrey’s army through Hungary, provided that Baldwin, whom he guessed to be its most dangerous member, was left with him as a hostage, together with his wife and children. When Godfrey returned to his army, Baldwin at first refused to give himself up; but he later consented; and Godfrey and his troops entered the kingdom at Oedenburg. Coloman promised to provide them with provisions at reasonable prices; while Godfrey sent heralds round his army to announce that any act of violence would be punished by death. After these precautions had been taken the Crusaders marched peaceably through Hungary, the king and his army keeping close watch on them all the way. After spending three days revictualling at Mangjeloz, close to the Byzantine frontier, Godfrey reached Semlin towards the end of November and took his troops in an orderly manner across the Save to Belgrade. As soon as they were all across, the hostages were returned to him.

Godfrey s Arrival at Constantinople

The imperial authorities, probably forewarned by the Hungarians, were ready to welcome him. Belgrade itself had lain deserted since its pillage by Peter, five months before. But a frontier guard hurried to Nish, where the governor Nicetas was residing and where an escort for Godfrey was waiting. The escort set out at once and met him in the Serbian forest, half-way between Nish and Belgrade. Arrangements for provisioning the army had already been made; and it moved on without trouble through the Balkan peninsula. At Philippopolis news reached it of the arrival of Hugh of Vermandois at Constantinople and of the wonderful gifts that he and his comrades had received. Baldwin of Hainault and Henry of Esch were so deeply impressed that they decided to hasten on ahead of the army to the capital in order to secure their share in the gifts before the others came. But rumour also reported, not entirely without foundation, that Hugh was being kept a prisoner, Godfrey was somewhat disquieted.

On about 12 December Godfrey’s army halted at Selymbria, on the Sea of Marmora. There its discipline, which had hitherto been excellent, suddenly broke down; and for eight days it ravaged the countryside. The reason for this disorder is unknown; but Godfrey sought to excuse it as reprisals for Hugh’s imprisonment. The Emperor Alexius promptly sent two Frenchmen in his service, Radulph Peeldelau and Roger, son of Dagobert, to remonstrate with Godfrey and to persuade him to continue his march in peace. They succeeded; and on 23 December Godfrey’s army arrived at Constantinople and encamped, at the request of the Emperor, outside the city along the upper waters of the Golden Horn.

Godfrey’s arrival with a large and well-equipped army presented a difficult problem to the imperial government. In pursuit of his policy, Alexius wished to make sure of Godfrey’s allegiance and then to send him on as soon as possible out of the dangerous neighbourhood of the capital. It is doubtful whether he really suspected, as his daughter Anna suggests, that Godfrey had designs on Constantinople. But the suburbs of the city had already suffered severely from the ravages of Peter the Hermit’s followers. It was dangerous to expose them to the attentions of an army that had proved itself equally lawless and was far better armed. But he had first to secure Godfrey’s oath of homage. Accordingly, as soon as Godfrey was settled in his camp, Hugh of Vermandois was sent to visit him, to persuade him to come to see the Emperor. Hugh, so far from resenting his treatment at the Emperor’s hands, willingly undertook the mission.

Godfrey refused the Emperor’s invitation. He felt out of his depth. Hugh’s attitude puzzled him. His troops had already made contact with the remnants of Peter’s forces, most of whom justified their recent disaster by attributing it to imperial treachery; and he was affected by their propaganda. As Duke of Lower Lorraine he had taken a personal oath of allegiance to the emperor Henry IV, and may have thought that this precluded an oath to the rival eastern Emperor. Moreover, he did not wish to take any important step till he could consult the other Crusading leaders whom he knew to be soon arriving. Hugh returned to the palace without an answer for Alexius.

Alexius was angry, and unwisely thought to bring Godfrey to reason by shutting off the supplies that he had promised to provide for his troops. While Godfrey hesitated, Baldwin at once began to raid the suburbs, till Alexius promised to lift the blockade. At the same time Godfrey agreed to move his camp down the Golden Horn to Pera, where it would be better sheltered from the winter winds, and where the imperial police could watch it more closely. For some time neither side took further action. The Emperor supplied the western troops with sufficient provisions; and Godfrey for his part saw that discipline was maintained. At the end of January Alexius again invited Godfrey to visit him; but Godfrey was still unwilling to commit himself till other Crusading leaders should join him. He sent his cousin, Baldwin of Le Bourg, Conon of Montaigu and Geoffrey of Esch to the palace to hear the Emperor’s proposals, but on their return gave no answer. Alexius was unwilling to provoke Godfrey lest he should again ravage the suburbs. After ensuring that the Lorrainers had no communication with the outside world, he waited till Godfrey should grow impatient and come to terms.

The Battle in Holy Week

At the end of March Alexius learnt that other Crusading armies would soon arrive at Constantinople. He felt obliged to bring matters to a head, and began to reduce the supplies sent to the Crusaders’ camp. First he withheld fodder for their horses, then, as Holy Week approached, their fish and finally bread. The Crusaders responded by making daily raids on the neighbouring villages and eventually came into conflict with the Petcheneg troops that acted as police in the districts. In revenge Baldwin set an ambush for the police. Sixty were captured and many of them were put to death. Encouraged by the small success and feeling that he was now committed to fight, Godfrey decided to move his camp and to attack the city itself. After carefully plundering and burning the houses in Pera in which his men had been lodged, he led them across a bridge over the head waters of the Golden Horn, drew them up outside the city walls and began to attack the gate that led to the palace quarter of Blachernae. It is doubtful whether he meant to do more than put pressure on the Emperor; but the Greeks suspected that he aimed at seizing the Empire.

It was the Thursday in Holy Week, 2 April; and Constantinople was quite unprepared for such an onslaught. There were signs of a panic in the city, which was only stilled by the presence and the cool behaviour of the Emperor. He was genuinely shocked by the necessity for fighting on so holy a day. He ordered his troops to make a demonstration outside the gates without coming to blows with the enemy, while his archers on the walls were told to fire over their heads. The Crusaders did not press their attack and soon retired, having slain only seven of the Byzantines. Next day Hugh of Vermandois again went out to remonstrate with Godfrey, who retorted by taunting him with slavishness for having so readily accepted vassaldom. When envoys were sent by Alexius to the camp later in the day to suggest that Godfrey’s troops should cross over to Asia even before Godfrey took the oath, the Crusaders advanced to attack them without waiting to hear what they might say. Thereupon Alexius decided to finish the affair, and flung in more of his men to meet the attack. The Crusaders were no match for the seasoned imperial soldiers. After a brief contest they turned and fled. His defeat brought Godfrey at last to recognize his weakness. He consented both to take the oath of allegiance and to have his army transported across the Bosphorus.

The ceremony of the oath-taking was held probably two days later, on Easter Sunday. Godfrey, Baldwin and their leading lords swore to acknowledge the Emperor as overlord of any conquests that they might make and to hand over to the Emperor’s officials any reconquered land that had previously belonged to the Emperor. They then received huge gifts of money and were entertained by the Emperor at a banquet. As soon as the ceremonies were over, Godfrey and his troops were shipped across to Chalcedon and marched on to an encampment at Pelecanum, on the road to Nicomedia.

The Ceremony of Homage

Alexius had very little time to spare. Already a miscellaneous army, probably composed of various vassals of Godfrey who had preferred to travel through Italy and were probably led by the Count of Toul, had arrived at the outer suburbs of the city and were waiting on the shores of the Marmora, near Sosthenium. They showed the same truculence as Godfrey, and were anxious to wait for Bohemond and the Normans, whom they knew to be close behind; while the Emperor was determined to prevent their junction with Godfrey. It was only after some fighting that he could keep control over their movements; and as soon as Godfrey was safely across the Bosphorus he conveyed them by sea to the capital, where they joined other small groups of Crusaders that had straggled across the Balkans. All the Emperor’s tact and many gifts were needed to persuade their leaders to take the oath of allegiance. When at last they consented, Alexius enhanced the solemnity of the occasion by bringing over Godfrey and Baldwin to witness the ceremony. The western lords were grudging and unruly. One of them sat himself down on the Emperor’s throne; whereupon Baldwin sharply reproved him, reminding him that he had just become the Emperor’s vassal and telling him to observe the customs of the country. The westerner angrily muttered that it was boorish of the Emperor to sit when so many valiant captains were standing. Alexius, who overheard the remark and had it translated for him, asked to speak with the knight; and when the latter began to boast of his unbeaten prowess in single combat, Alexius gently advised him to try other tactics when fighting the Turks.

The incident typified the relations between the Emperor and the Franks. The crude knights from the West were inevitably impressed by the splendour of the palace and by its smooth, careful ceremonial and the quiet, polished manners of the courtiers. But they resented it all. Their wounded pride made them obstreperous and rude, like naughty children.

When their oaths were taken the knights and their men were transported across the straits to join Godfrey’s army on the coast of Asia. The Emperor had acted just in time. On 9 April Bohemond of Taranto arrived at Constantinople.

The Normans of southern Italy had not at first taken much notice of Urban’s preaching of the Crusade. Intermittent civil war had dragged on there ever since Robert Guiscard’s death. Robert had divorced his first wife, Bohemond’s mother, and left his duchy of Apulia to his son by Sigelgaita, Roger Borsa. Bohemond revolted against his brother and managed to secure Taranto and the Terra d’Otranto in the heel of the peninsula before their uncle, Roger of Sicily, could patch up an uneasy truce between them. Bohemond never accepted the truce as final and continued surreptitiously to embarrass Roger Borsa. But in the summer of 1096 the whole family had come together to punish the rebel city of Amalfi. The papal decrees about the Crusade had already been published; and small bands of southern Italians had already crossed the sea for the East. But it was only the arrival in Italy of enthusiastic armies of Crusaders from France that made Bohemond realize the importance of the movement. He saw then that it could be used for his advantage. His uncle, Roger of Sicily, would never allow him to annex the whole Apulian duchy. He would do better to find a kingdom in the Levant. The zeal of the French Crusaders affected the Norman troops before Amalfi; and Bohemond encouraged them. He announced that he too would take the Cross and he summoned all good Christians to join him. In front of his assembled army he took off his rich scarlet cloak and tore it into pieces to make crosses for his captains. His vassals hastened to follow his lead, and with them many of his brother’s vassals and of the vassals of his uncle of Sicily; who was left complaining that the movement had robbed him of his army.

Bohemond’s March across the Pindus

Bohemond’s nephew William started off at once with the French Crusaders; but Bohemond himself needed a little time to prepare his forces. He left his lands under safeguards in his brother’s care, and raised sufficient money to pay for the expenses of all that came with him. The expedition sailed from Bari in October. With Bohemond were his nephew Tancred, William’s elder brother, son of his sister Emma and the Marquis Odo; his cousins Richard and Rainulf of Salerno and Rainulf’s son Richard; Geoffrey, Count of Rossignuolo, and his brothers; Robert of Ansa, Herman of Cannae, Humphrey of Monte Scabioso, Albered of Cagnano and Bishop Girard of Ariano, among the Normans from Sicily; while Normans from France that joined Bohemond included Robert of Sourdeval and Boel of Chartres. His army was smaller than Godfrey’s, but it was well equipped and well trained.

The expedition landed in Epirus at various points along the coast between Dyrrhachium and Avlona, and reassembled at a village called Dropoli, up the valley of the river Viusa. The arrangements for landing had doubtless been made after consultation with the Byzantine authorities at Dyrrhachium, who may have wished not to strain any further the resources of the towns along the Via Egnatia; but the choice of the route that his army was to follow was probably Bohemond’s. His campaigns fifteen years before had given him some knowledge of the country to the south of the main road; and he may have hoped by taking a less usual route to avoid the supervision of the Byzantines. John Comnenus had no troops to spare; and Bohemond was able to start on his journey without an imperial police escort. But there seems to have been no ill feeling; for ample supplies were provided for the Normans, while Bohemond impressed upon all his men that they were to pass through a Christian land and must refrain from pillage and disorder.

Travelling right over the passes of the Pindus, the army reached Castoria, in western Macedonia, shortly before Christmas. It is impossible to trace his route; but it cannot have been easy and must have led him over land more than four thousand feet above sea-level. At Castoria he endeavoured to secure provisions; but the inhabitants were unwilling to spare anything from their small stores for those unexpected visitors whom they remembered as ruthless enemies a few years ago. The army therefore took the cattle that it required, together with horses and donkeys, since many of the pack-animals must have perished on the passes of the Pindus. Christmas was spent at Castoria; then Bohemond led his men eastward towards the river Vardar. They paused to attack a village of Paulician heretics close to their road, burning the houses and their inmates, and eventually reached the river in the middle of February, having taken some seven weeks to cover a distance of little more than a hundred miles.

Bohemond’s route probably brought him through Edessa (Vodena) where he joined the Via Egnatia. Thenceforward he was accompanied by an escort of Petcheneg soldiers, with the usual orders from the Emperor to prevent raiding and straggling and to see that the Crusaders never remained more than three days at any one place. The Vardar was crossed without delay by the main portion of the army; but the Count of Rossignuolo and his brothers delayed with a small party on the western bank. The Petchenegs therefore attacked them to urge them on. On hearing of the battle Tancred at once recrossed the river to rescue them. He drove off the Petchenegs and made some captives, whom he brought before Bohemond. Bohemond questioned them; and when he heard that they were carrying out imperial orders he promptly let them go. His policy was to behave perfectly correctly towards the Emperor.

Bohemond’s Arrival at Constantinople

In his desire to be correct he had already, probably when he first landed in Epirus, sent ambassadors ahead to the Emperor. When his army had passed by the walls of Thessalonica and was on the road to Serres, these ambassadors met him on their return from Constantinople, bringing with them a high imperial official, whose relations with Bohemond soon became cordial. Food was provided in plenty for the army; and in return Bohemond not only promised not to try to enter any of the towns on his route but also agreed to restore all the beasts that his men had taken on their journey. His followers would have liked more than once to raid the countryside; but Bohemond sternly forbade them.

The army reached Roussa (the modem Keshan) in Thrace on 1 April. Bohemond now decided to hurry on to Constantinople, to find out what was being negotiated there between the Emperor and the western leaders that had already arrived. He left his men under the command of Tancred; who took them to a rich valley off the main road, where they spent the Easter week-end. Bohemond came to Constantinople on 9 April. He was lodged outside the walls, at the monastery of St Cosmas and St Damian, and next day was admitted to the presence of the Emperor.

To Alexius Bohemond seemed by far the most dangerous of the Crusaders. Past experience had taught the Byzantines that the Normans were formidable enemies, ambitious, wily and unscrupulous; and Bohemond had shown himself in previous campaigns to be a worthy leader for them. His troops were well organized, well equipped and well disciplined; he had their complete confidence. As a strategist he was perhaps over-sure of himself and not always wise; but as a diplomat he was subtle and persuasive, and far-sighted as a politician. His person was very impressive. Anna Comnena, who knew him and hated him passionately, could not but admit his charm and wrote enthusiastically of his good looks. He was immensely tall; and though he was already over forty years of age, he had the figure and complexion of a young man, broad-shouldered and narrow-waisted, with a clear skin and ruddy cheeks. He wore his yellow hair shorter than was the fashion with western knights and was clean-shaven. He had stooped slightly from his childhood, but without impairing his air of health and strength. There was, says Anna, something hard in his expression and sinister in his smile; but being, like all Greeks down the ages, susceptible to human beauty, she could not withhold her admiration.

Alexius arranged first to see Bohemond alone, while he discovered what was his attitude; but, finding him perfectly friendly and helpful, he admitted Godfrey and Baldwin, who were still staying in the palace, to take part in the discussions. Bohemond’s correctness of behaviour was deliberate. He knew, far better than the other Crusaders, that Byzantium was still very powerful and that without its help nothing could be achieved. To quarrel with it would only lead to disaster; but a wise use of its alliance could be turned to his advantage. He wished to lead the campaign, but he had no authority from the Pope to do so and he would have to contend with the rivalry of the other Crusading chieftains. If he could obtain an official charge from the Emperor he would be in a position from which he could direct operations. He would be in control of the Crusaders’ dealings with the Emperor; he would be the functionary to whom the Crusaders would have to hand over the lands reconquered for the Empire. He would be the pivot on which the whole Christian alliance would turn. Without hesitation he took the oath of allegiance to the Emperor and then suggested that he might be appointed to the post of Grand Domestic of the East, that is, commander-in-chief of all the imperial forces in Asia.

Raymond of Toulouse

The request embarrassed Alexius. He feared and distrusted Bohemond, but was anxious to retain his goodwill. He had already shown him particular generosity and honours, and he continued to pour money on him. But he prevaricated over the request. It was not yet the moment, he said, to make such an appointment, but Bohemond would doubtless earn it by his energy and his loyalty. Bohemond had to be satisfied with this vague promise, which encouraged him to maintain his policy of co-operation. Meanwhile Alexius promised to send troops to accompany the Crusading armies, to repay them for their expenses and to ensure their revictualling and their communications.

Bohemond’s army was then summoned to Constantinople and on 26 April it was conveyed across the Bosphorus to join Godfrey’s at Pelecanum. Tancred, who disliked and did not understand his uncle’s policy, passed through the city by night with his cousin, Richard of Salerno, in order to avoid having to take the oath. That same day Count Raymond of Toulouse arrived at Constantinople and was received by the Emperor.

Raymond IV, Count of Toulouse, usually known from his favourite property as the Count of Saint-Gilles, was already a man of mature age, probably approaching his sixtieth year. His ancestral county was one of the richest in France, and he had recently inherited the equally rich marquisate of Provence. By his marriage with the princess Elvira of Aragon he was connected with the royal houses of Spain; and he had taken part in several holy wars against the Spanish Moslems. He was the only great noble with whom Pope Urban had personally discussed his project of the Crusade, and he was the first to announce his adherence. He therefore considered himself with some justification to be entitled to its lay command. But the Pope, anxious to keep the movement under spiritual control, had never admitted this claim. Raymond probably hoped that the need for a lay leader would become apparent. In the meantime he planned to set out for the East in the company of its spiritual chief, the Bishop of Le Puy.

Raymond had taken the Cross at the time of Clermont, in November 1095; but it was not till next October that he was ready to leave his lands. He vowed to spend the rest of his days in the Holy Land; but it is possible that the vow was made with reservations; for, while he left his lands in France to be administered by his natural son, Bertrand, he carefully did not abdicate his rights. His wife and his legitimate heir, Alfonso, were to accompany him. He sold or pledged some of his lands in order to raise money for his expedition; but he seems to have shown a certain economy in its equipment. His personality is difficult to assess. His actions show him as being vain, obstinate and somewhat rapacious. But his courteous manners impressed the Byzantines, who found him rather more civilized than his colleagues. He also struck them as being more reliable and honest. Anna Comnena, whom later events prejudiced in his favour, commended the superiority of his nature and the purity of his life. Adhemar of Le Puy, who was certainly a man of high standards, clearly regarded him as a worthy friend.

Several noblemen from southern France joined Raymond’s Crusade. Amongst these were Rambald, Count of Orange, Gaston of Beam, Gerard of Roussillon, William of Montpelier, Raymond of Le Forez and Isoard of Gap. Adhemar of Le Puy brought with him his brothers, Francis-Lambert of Monteil, lord of Peyrins, and William-Hugh of Monteil, and all his men. After Adhemar the chief ecclesiastic to come was William, Bishop of Orange.

Raymond’s Journey

The expedition crossed the Alps by the Col de Genevre and travelled through northern Italy to the head of the Adriatic. Perhaps from motives of economy Raymond had decided not to go by sea across the Adriatic but to follow its eastern shore through Istria and Dalmatia. It was an unwise decision; for the Dalmatian roads were very bad and the population rough and unfriendly. Istria was crossed without incident; then for forty winter days the army struggled along the rocky Dalmatian tracks, continually harassed by wild Slav tribes that hung on its rear. Raymond himself remained with the rearguard to protect it, and on one occasion only saved his men by erecting across the road a barrier made of Slav prisoners that he had captured and cruelly mutilated. He had started out well supplied with foodstuffs; and none of his men perished on the journey from hunger nor in the fighting. When at last they reached Skodra, supplies were running low. Raymond obtained an interview with the local Serbian prince, Bodin, who in return for costly presents agreed to allow the Crusaders to buy freely in the markets of the town. But no food was available. The army had to continue on its way in growing hunger and misery till it reached the imperial frontier north of Dyrrhachium early in February. Raymond and Adhemar now hoped that their troubles were at an end.

John Comnenus welcomed the Crusaders at Dyrrhachium, where imperial envoys and a Petcheneg escort were waiting to convey them along the Via Egnatia. Raymond sent an embassy ahead to Constantinople to announce his arrival; and after a few days’ rest at Dyrrhachium the army set out again. Adhemar’s brother, the Lord of Peyrins, was left behind to recover from an illness caused by the hardships of the journey. Raymond’s men were unruly and ill-disciplined. They resented the presence of Petcheneg police watching them on every side; and their incorrigible taste for marauding brought them into frequent conflict with their escort. Before many days had passed two Provencal barons were killed in one of these skirmishes. Soon afterwards the Bishop of Le Puy himself strayed from the road and was wounded and captured by the Petchenegs before they realized who he was. He was promptly returned to the army, and seems to have borne no resentment for the incident; but the troops were deeply shocked. Their ill temper increased when Raymond himself was attacked in similar circumstances near Edessa.

At Thessalonica the Bishop of Le Puy left the army in order to receive proper treatment for his wounds. He remained there till his brother was able to join him from Dyrrhachium. Without his restraining influence the discipline of the army worsened; but there was no serious mishap till it reached Roussa in Thrace. Bohemond’s men had been delighted with their reception at this town a fortnight earlier; but, perhaps because the townsfolk had no provisions left for sale, Raymond’s men took offence at something. Crying ‘Toulouse, Toulouse’ they attacked the walls and forced an entrance and pillaged all the houses. At Rodosto a few days later they were met by Raymond’s ambassadors returning from Constantinople with an envoy from the Emperor and cordial messages urging Raymond to hasten to the capital and adding that Bohemond and Godfrey were eager for his presence. It was probably the latter part of the message and the fear of being absent while important decisions were made that induced Raymond to accept the invitation. He left his army and hurried ahead to Constantinople where he arrived on 21 April.

With his departure there was no one to keep the army in order. It began at once to raid the countryside. But now there was more than a small Petcheneg escort to oppose it. Regiments of the Byzantine army, stationed nearby, moved up to attack the raiders. In the battle that followed Raymond’s men were thoroughly defeated and fled, leaving their arms and their baggage in the hands of the Byzantines. The news of the disaster reached Raymond just as he was setting out to interview the Emperor.

Raymond and the Emperor

Raymond had been well received at Constantinople. He was housed in a palace just outside the walls but was begged to come as soon as possible to the palace, where it was suggested that he should take the oath of allegiance. But the experiences of his journey and the news that he had just received had put him in an ill temper; and he was puzzled and displeased by the situation that he found in the palace. His everlasting aim was to be recognized as military leader of the whole Crusading expedition. But his authority, such as it was, came from the Pope and from his connection with the papal representative, the Bishop of Le Puy. The bishop was absent. Raymond lacked both the support and the advice that his presence would have given. Without him he was unwilling to commit himself; the more so, as to take the path of allegiance as the other Crusaders had done would mean the abandonment of his special relation towards the Papacy. He would reduce himself to the same level as the others. There was a further danger. He was intelligent enough to see at once that Bohemond was his most dangerous rival. Bohemond seemed to be enjoying the particular favours of the Emperor; and it was rumoured that he was to be appointed to a high imperial command. To take the oath might mean that not only would Raymond lose his priority but he might well find himself under the jurisdiction of Bohemond as the Emperor’s representative. He declared that he had come to the East to do God’s work and that God was now his only suzerain, implying thereby that he was the lay delegate of the Pope. But he added that if the Emperor were himself to lead the united Christian forces, he would serve under him. The concession shows that it was not the Emperor but Bohemond that he resented. The Emperor could only reply that unfortunately the state of the Empire would not permit him to leave it. In vain the other western leaders, fearing that the success of the whole campaign was in jeopardy, begged Raymond to change his mind. Bohemond, hoping still for the imperial command and eager to please the Emperor, went so far as to say that he would support the Emperor should Raymond openly quarrel with him; while even Godfrey pointed out the harm that his attitude was doing to the Christian cause. Alexius himself kept apart from the discussions, though he withheld from Raymond such gifts as he had given to the other princes. At last, on 26 April, Raymond agreed to swear a modified oath, promising to respect the life and honour of the Emperor and to see that nothing was done, by himself or by his men, that would be to his hurt. This type of oath was not unusual for vassals to take in southern France; and with it Alexius was satisfied.

It was when these negotiations were over that Bohemond and his army crossed into Asia. Meanwhile, Raymond’s army had reassembled, rather crestfallen, at Rodosto, where it awaited the arrival of the Bishop of Le Puy who was to lead it on to Constantinople. Of Adhemar’s activities in the capital we know nothing. Presumably he saw the chief Greek ecclesiastics; and he certainly had an audience with the Emperor. These interviews were very friendly. He may have helped to reconcile Raymond with Alexius; for their relations quickly improved. But it is probable that Bohemond’s departure was of greater assistance. The Emperor was able to see Raymond in private and to explain to him that he too had no love for the Normans and that Bohemond would in fact never receive an imperial command. Raymond took his army across the Bosphorus two days after taking his oath, but returned to spend a fortnight at the court. When he left he was on cordial terms with Alexius, in whom he knew now that he had a powerful ally against Bohemond. His attitude towards the Empire was altered.

Robert of Normandy and Stephen of Blois

The fourth great western army to go on the Crusade set out from northern France in October 1096, shortly after Raymond had left his home. It was under the joint leadership of Robert, Duke of Normandy, his brother-in-law Stephen, Count of Blois, and his cousin Robert II, Count of Flanders. Robert of Normandy was the eldest son of William the Conqueror. He was a man of forty, mild-mannered and somewhat ineffectual, but not without personal courage and charm. Ever since his father’s death he had been carrying on a desultory war with his brother, William Rufus of England, who had several times invaded his duchy. Urban’s preaching of the Crusade had deeply moved him; and he soon declared his adhesion. In return the Pope, while he was still in northern France, arranged a reconciliation between him and his brother. But Robert took several months to plan his Crusade and was eventually only able to raise the money that he required by pledging his duchy to William for ten thousand silver marks. The act confirming the pledge was signed in September 1096. A few days later Robert set out with his army for Pontarlier, where he was joined by Stephen of Blois and Robert of Flanders. With him were Odo, Bishop of Bayeux, Walter, Count of Saint-Valery, the heirs of the Counts of Montgomery and Mortagne, Girard of Gounay, Hugh of Saint-Pol and the sons of Hugh of Grant-Mesnil, and a number of knights and infantrymen not only from Normandy but also from England, Scotland and Brittany; though the only English nobleman to accompany the Crusade, Ralph Guader, Earl of Norfolk, was at the time an exile, living on his mother’s estates in Brittany.

Stephen of Blois had no desire to join the Crusade. But he had married Adela, daughter of William the Conqueror; and in their household it was she who made the decisions. She wished him to go; and he went. With him were his chief vassals, Everard of Le Puits, Guerin Gueronat, Caro Asini, Geoffrey Guerin, and his chaplain Alexander. Amongst the party was the cleric Fulcher of Chartres, the future historian. Stephen, who was one of the wealthiest men in France, raised the money for his journey without great difficulty. He left his lands in the competent management of his wife.

The Count of Flanders was a slightly younger man but possessed a more formidable personality. His father, Robert I, had made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 1086, and on his way back had taken service for a while under the Emperor Alexius, with whom he remained in touch until his death in 1093. It was therefore natural that Robert II should wish to carry on his work against the infidel. His army was a little smaller than Raymond’s or Godfrey’s but was of high quality. He was accompanied by troops from Brabant, under Baldwin of Alost, Count of Ghent. His lands were to be administered in his absence by his countess, dementia of Burgundy.

From Pontarlier the united army moved southward across the Alps into Italy. Passing through Lucca in November it met Pope Urban, who was staying there a few days on his way from Cremona to Rome. Urban received the leaders in audience and gave them his special blessing. The army went on to Rome, to visit the tomb of Saint Peter, but refused to interfere in the struggle between Urban’s followers and the followers of the anti-Pope Guibert which was troubling the city. From Rome it passed, by way of Monte Cassino, into the Norman duchy in the south. There it was well received by the Duke of Apulia, Roger Borsa, whose wife, Adela, the widowed queen of Denmark, was the Count of Flanders’ sister, and who acknowledged the Duke of Normandy as the head of his race. Roger offered his brother-in-law many costly gifts; but the latter would only accept a present of holy relics, the hair of the Virgin and the bones of Saint Matthew and Saint Nicholas, which he sent to his wife to place in the abbey of Watten.

Baldwin of Alost

Robert of Normandy and Stephen of Blois decided to spend the winter comfortably in Calabria. But Robert of Flanders moved on almost at once to Bari with his men and crossed over into Epirus, early in December. He reached Constantinople without any untoward incident about the same time as Bohemond. But the Count of Alost, who had attempted to land near Chimarra, further south than the accepted ports of disembarkation, found his way blocked by a Byzantine squadron. There was a slight sea-battle, recounted at length in Anna Comnena’s history, as its hero, Marianus Mavrocatacalon, the son of the admiral, was a friend of hers. In spite of the prowess of a Latin priest, whose warlike disregard of his cloth shocked the Byzantines, the Brabancon ship was boarded and captured; and the Count and his men were landed at Dyrrhachium. The Flemish party apparently made no difficulty about the oath of allegiance to Alexius. Count Robert was among the princes that urged Raymond to comply.

Robert of Normandy and Stephen of Blois lingered on in southern Italy till the spring. Their lack of enthusiasm affected their followers, many of whom began to wander back towards their homes. At last, in March, the army moved to Brindisi, and on 5 April it prepared to embark. Unfortunately, the first ship to set sail capsized and foundered, losing some four hundred passengers, with their horses and mules and many chests of money. The tactful discovery that the corpses washed up on the shore were miraculously marked with crosses on their shoulder-blades, while it edified the faithful, did not discourage many more timorous folk from abandoning the expedition. But the bulk of the army safely embarked and after a rough voyage of four days landed at Dyrrhachium. The Byzantine authorities received them well and provided them with an escort to take them along the Via Egnatia to Constantinople. Apart from an accident while the army was crossing a stream in the Pindus, when a sudden flood swept away several pilgrims, the journey passed pleasantly. After a delay of four days before the walls of Thessalonica, Constantinople was reached early in May. A camp was provided for the army just outside the walls; and parties of five or six at a time were admitted daily into the city to see its sights and worship at its shrines. The earlier Crusading armies had all by now been transferred across the Bosphorus; and these latecomers found no malcontents to spoil their relations with the Byzantines. They were struck with admiration at the beauty and splendour of the city; they enjoyed the rest and comfort that it provided. They were grateful for the Emperor’s distribution of coins and of silk garments and for the food and the horses that he provided. Their leaders at once took the oath of allegiance to the Emperor and were rewarded with magnificent presents. Stephen of Blois, writing next month to his wife, to whom he was a dutiful correspondent, was in ecstasies over his reception by the Emperor. He stayed for ten days at the palace, where the Emperor treated him like a son, giving him much good advice and many superb gifts and offering to educate his youngest son. Stephen was particularly impressed by the Emperor’s generosity to all ranks in the Crusading army and by his lavish and efficient organization of supplies for the troops already in the field. ‘Your father, my love’, he wrote, alluding to William the Conqueror, ‘made many great gifts, but he was almost nothing compared to this man.’

The Success of the Emperor’s Organization

The army spent a fortnight at Constantinople before it was transported to Asia. Even the crossing of the Bosphorus pleased Stephen, who had heard that the channel was dangerous but found it no more so than the Marne or the Seine. They marched along the Gulf of Nicomedia, past Nicomedia itself, to join the main Crusading armies, who were already beginning the siege of Nicaea.

Alexius could breathe again. He had wished for mercenaries from the West. Instead, he had been sent large armies, each with its own leaders. No government really cares to find numbers of independent allied forces invading its territory, particularly when they are on a lower level of civilization. Food had to be provided; marauding had to be prevented. The actual size of the Crusading armies can only be conjectured. Medieval estimates are always exaggerated; but Peter the Hermit’s rabble, including its many non-combatants, probably approached twenty thousand. The chief Crusading armies, Raymond’s, Godfrey’s and the northern French, each numbered well over ten thousand, including non-combatants. Bohemond’s was a little smaller; and there were other lesser groups. But in all from sixty to a hundred thousand persons must have entered the Empire from the West between the summer of 1096 and the spring of 1097. On the whole the Emperor’s arrangements for dealing with them had succeeded. None of the Crusaders had suffered from lack of food when crossing the Balkans. The only raids made to secure food were those of Walter Sans-Avoir at Belgrade and Peter at Bela Palanka, both under exceptional circumstances, and of Bohemond at Castoria, when he was travelling in midwinter along an unsuitable road. Petty marauding and one or two wanton attacks on towns had been impossible to prevent, as Alexius had insufficient troops for the purpose. But his Petcheneg squadrons, by their blind uncompromising obedience to orders, irritating though it must have been to the Crusaders, proved an efficient police force; while his special envoys usually handled the western princes with tact. The growing success of the Emperor’s methods is shown by the smooth passage of the last of the armies, composed of northern Frenchmen, who were not a well-disciplined people and were led by weak and incompetent leaders.

At Constantinople Alexius had obtained an oath of allegiance from all the princes except Raymond, with whom he had achieved a private understanding. He had no illusions about the practical value of the oath nor about the reliability of the men that had sworn it. But at least it gave him a juridical advantage that might well prove important. The result had not been easy to achieve; for though the wiser leaders, such as Bohemond, and intelligent observers, such as Fulcher of Chartres, saw the necessity for co-operation with Byzantium, to the lesser knights and the rank and file the oath seemed to be a humiliation and even a betrayal of trust. They had been prejudiced against the Byzantines by the chilly welcome that they had received from the countryfolk, whom they thought that they were coming to save. Constantinople, that vast, splendid city, with all its wealth, its busy population of merchants and manufacturers, its courtly nobles in their civilian robes and the richly dressed, painted great ladies with their trains of eunuchs and slaves, roused in them contempt mixed with an uncomfortable sense of inferiority. They could not understand the language nor the customs of the country. Even the church services were alien to them.

The Emperor’s Interest

The Byzantines returned their dislike. To the citizens of the capital these rough, unruly brigands, encamped for so long in their suburbs, were an unmitigated nuisance; while the attitude of the countryfolk is shown in a letter written by Theophylact, Archbishop of Bulgaria, from his see of Ochrida, on the Via Egnatia. Theophylact, who was notoriously broad-minded towards the West, speaks of the trouble caused by the passage of the Crusaders through his diocese, but adds that now he and his folk were learning to bear the burden with patience. The opening of the Crusade did not augur well for the good relations between East and West.

Nevertheless, Alexius was probably not ill satisfied. The danger to Constantinople was over; and the great Crusading army had set out to fight against the Turks. He intended genuinely to co-operate with the Crusade, but with one qualification. He would not sacrifice the interests of the Empire to the interests of the western knights. His duty was first to his own people. Moreover, like all Byzantines, he believed that the welfare of Christendom depended on the welfare of the historic Christian Empire. His belief was correct.

If you find an error please notify us in the comments. Thank you!