‘And thou shalt come from thy place out of the north parts, thou, and many people with thee, all of them riding upon horses, a great company, and a mighty army.’ EZEKIEL XXXVIII, 15
However much the Emperor and the Crusader princes might quarrel over their ultimate rights and the distribution of conquests to come, there could be no dissension about the opening stages of the campaign against the infidel. If the Crusade was to reach Jerusalem, the roads across Asia Minor must be cleared; and to drive the Turk out of Asia Minor was the chief aim of Byzantine policy. There was complete agreement on strategy; and as yet, with a Byzantine army by their side, the Crusaders were willing to defer to its experienced generals on matters of tactics.
The first objective was the Seldjuk capital, Nicaea. Nicaea lay on the shores of the Ascanian lake, not far from the Sea of Marmora. The old Byzantine military road ran through it, though there was an alternative route passing a little further to the east. To leave this great fortress in enemy hands would endanger all communications across the country. Alexius was eager to move the Crusaders on as soon as possible, as summer was advancing; and the Crusaders themselves were impatient. In the last days of April, before the northern French army had arrived at Constantinople, orders were given to prepare to strike the camp at Pelecanum and to advance on Nicaea.
Asia Minor at the time of the First Crusade
The Crusade Assembles before Nicaea
The moment was well chosen; for the Seldjuk Sultan, Kilij Arslan I, was away on his eastern frontier, contesting with the Danishmend princes for the suzerainty of Melitene, whose Armenian ruler, Gabriel, was busily embroiling the neighbouring potentates with each other. Kilij Arslan did not take seriously this new menace from the West. His easy defeat of Peter the Hermit’s rabble taught him to despise the Crusaders; and perhaps his spies in Constantinople, wishing to please their master, gave him exaggerated accounts of the quarrels between the Emperor and the western princes. Believing that the Crusade would never penetrate to Nicaea, he left his wife and children and all his treasure inside its walls. It was only when he received news of the enemy concentration at Pelecanum that he sent part of his army hurrying back westward, following himself as soon as he could arrange his affairs in the east. His troops arrived too late to interfere with the Crusaders’ march on Nicaea.
Godfrey of Lorraine’s army left Pelecanum on about 26 April, and marched to Nicomedia, where it waited for three days and was joined by Bohemond’s army, under the command of Tancred, and by Peter the Hermit and the remains of his rabble. Bohemond himself stayed on for a few days at Constantinople, to arrange with the Emperor for the provision of supplies to the army. A small Byzantine detachment of engineers with siege engines accompanied the troops, under the leadership of Manuel Butumites. From Nicomedia Godfrey led the army to Civetot, then turned south through the defile where Peter’s men had perished. Their bones still covered the entrance to the pass; and, warned by their fate and by the advice of the Emperor, Godfrey moved cautiously, sending scouts and engineers in front, to clear and widen the track; which was then marked by a series of wooden crosses, to serve as a guide for future pilgrims. On 6 May he arrived before Nicaea. The city had been strongly fortified since the fourth century; and its walls, some four miles in length, with their two hundred and forty towers, had been kept in constant repair by the Byzantines. It lay on the eastern end of the Ascanian Lake, its west walls rising straight out of the shallow water, and it formed an uneven pentagon. Godfrey encamped outside the northern wall and Tancred outside the eastern wall. The southern wall was left for Raymond’s army.
The Turkish garrison was large but needed reinforcements. Messengers, one of whom was intercepted by the Crusaders, were sent to the Sultan to urge him to rush troops into the city through the south gates, before its investment was complete. But the Turkish army was still too far away. Before its vanguard could approach, Raymond arrived, on 16 May, and spread his army before the southern wall. Bohemond had joined his army two or three days sooner. Till he came, insufficient provisions had weakened the Crusaders; but, thanks to his arrangements with Alexius, henceforward supplies flowed freely to the besiegers, coming both by land and by sea. When Robert of Normandy and Stephen of Blois arrived with their forces on 3 June, the whole Crusading army was assembled. It worked together as a single unit, though there was no one supreme commander. Decisions were taken by the princes acting in council. As yet there was no serious discord between them. Meanwhile the Emperor moved out to Pelecanum, where he could keep in touch both with his capital and with Nicaea.
The Battle Outside Nicaea
The first Turkish relieving force reached Nicaea immediately after Raymond, to find the city entirely blockaded by land. After a brief, unsuccessful skirmish with Raymond’s troops it withdrew, to await the main Turkish army which was approaching under the leadership of the Sultan. Alexius had instructed Butumites to establish contact with the besieged garrison. When it saw its relief retreating, its leaders invited Butumites under a safe-conduct into the town, to discuss terms of surrender. He accepted; but almost at once news came that the Sultan was not far away; and negotiations were broken off.
It was on about 21 May that the Sultan and his army came up from the south and at once attacked the Crusaders in an attempt to force an entrance into the city. Raymond, with the Bishop of Le Puy in command of his right flank, bore the brunt of the attack; for neither Godfrey nor Bohemond could venture to leave his section of the walls unguarded. But Robert of Flanders and his troops came to Raymond’s aid. The battle raged fiercely all day; but the Turks could make no headway. When night fell the Sultan decided to retreat. The Crusader army was stronger than he had thought; and, man for man, his Turks were no match for the well-armed westerners in the open ground in front of the city. It was better strategy to retreat into the mountains and to leave the city to its fate.
The Crusaders’ losses had been heavy. Many had been killed, including Baldwin, Count of Ghent; and almost all the surviving participants in the battle had been wounded. But the victory filled them with elation. To their delight they found among the Turkish dead the ropes brought to bind the prisoners that the Sultan had hoped to take. To weaken the morale of the besieged garrison they cut off the heads of many of the enemy corpses and threw them over the walls or fixed them on pikes to parade them before the gates. Then, with no more danger to fear from outside, they concentrated on the siege. But the fortifications were formidable. In vain Raymond and Adhemar attempted to mine one of the southern towers by sending sappers to dig beneath it and there to light a huge fire. The little damage that was done was repaired during the night by the garrison. Moreover it was found that the blockade was incomplete; for supplies still reached the city from across the lake. The Crusaders were obliged to ask the Emperor to come to their help and to provide boats to intercept this water route. Alexius was probably well aware of the position but wished the western princes to discover how necessary his co-operation was to them. At their request he provided a small flotilla for the lake, under the command of Butumites.
The Sultan, when he retired, had told the garrison to do as it thought best, as he could give no more aid. When it saw the Byzantine ships on the lake and understood that the Emperor was fully assisting the Crusaders it decided upon surrender. This was what Alexius had hoped. He had no wish to add a half-destroyed city to his dominions nor that his future subjects should undergo the horrors of a sack, especially as the majority of the citizens were Christians; for the Turks comprised only the soldiers and a small court nobility. Contact was re-established with Butumites, and the terms of surrender were discussed. But the Turks still hesitated, hoping, perhaps, that the Sultan would return. It was only on the news that the Crusaders were planning a general assault that at last they gave in.
The Capture of Nicaea
The assault was ordered for 19 June. But when morning broke the Crusaders saw the Emperor’s standard waving over the city towers. The Turks had surrendered during the night; and imperial troops, mainly Petcheneg, had entered the city through the gates on the lakeside. It is unlikely that the Crusading leaders had not been informed of the negotiations; nor did they disapprove, for they saw that it was pointless to waste time and men on storming a town that would not be theirs to hold. But they were deliberately kept in ignorance of the final stages; while the rank and file considered themselves cheated of their prey. They had hoped to pillage the riches of Nicaea. Instead, they were only allowed in small groups into the city, closely surveyed by the Emperor’s police. They had hoped to hold the Turkish nobles up to ransom. Instead, they saw them conveyed under escort, with their movable possessions, to Constantinople or to the Emperor at Pelecanum. Their resentment against the Emperor grew more bitter.
To some extent it was mitigated by the Emperor’s generosity. For Alexius promptly ordered that a gift of food should be made to every Crusading soldier, while the leaders were summoned to Pelecanum, to be presented with gold and with jewels from the Sultan’s treasury. Stephen of Blois, who travelled there with Raymond of Toulouse, was awe-stricken by the mountain of gold that was his portion. He did not share the view, held by some of his comrades, that the Emperor should have come in person to Nicaea, for he understood that the demonstration that the liberated city would make to receive its sovereign might prove embarrassing to him. In return for his presents Alexius required the knights who had not yet taken the oath of allegiance to him to do so now. Many lesser lords, about whom he had not troubled when they passed through Constantinople, complied. Raymond was not, it seems, asked to do more than he had already done; but Tancred’s case was taken more seriously. Tancred at first was truculent. He declared that 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, he would swear nothing. When the Emperor’s brother-in-law, George Palaeologus, protested at his rudeness, he turned roughly on him and began to manhandle him. The Emperor rose to intervene, and Bohemond sharply reproved his nephew. In the end Tancred grudgingly paid homage.
The. Crusaders were shocked by the Emperor’s treatment of his Turkish captives. The court officials and the commanders were allowed to buy their freedom; while the Sultana, the daughter of the Emir Chaka, was received with royal honours at Constantinople, where she was to remain till a message should come from her husband stating where he wished her to join him. She and her children were then to be dispatched to him without ransom. Alexius was a kindly man, and he well knew the value of courtesy to a defeated enemy; but to the western princes his attitude seemed double-faced and disloyal.
The Roads Across Asia Minor
Nevertheless, in spite of some disappointment that they had not themselves captured the city nor helped themselves to its riches, the liberation of Nicaea filled the Crusaders with joy and with hope for the future. Letters went westward to announce that this venerable place was Christian once more; and the news was received with enthusiasm. The Crusade was proved to be a success. More recruits came forward; and the Italian cities, hitherto rather cautious and dilatory with their promised aid, began to take the movement more seriously. In the Crusader camp the knights were eager to continue their journey. Stephen of Blois was full of optimism. ‘In five weeks’ time’, he wrote to his wife, ‘we shall be at Jerusalem; unless’, he added, more prophetically than he knew, ‘we are held up at Antioch.’
From Nicaea the Crusaders set out along the old Byzantine main road across Asia Minor. The road from Chalcedon and Nicomedia joined the road from Helenopolis and Nicaea on the banks of the river Sangarius. It soon left the river to climb up a tributary valley to the south, past the modem Biledjik, then wound over a pass to Dorylaeum, near the modem Eskishehir. There it split into three. The great military road of the Byzantines ran due east, probably by-passing Ancyra to the south, and dividing again, after it crossed the Halys, one branch continuing straight past Sebastea (Sivas) into Armenia, the other turning towards Caesarea Mazacha. From there several roads led across the passes of the Anti-Taurus range into the Euphrates valley, while another road doubled back to the south-west, through Tyana to the Cilician Gates. The second road from Dorylaeum led directly across the great salt desert in the centre of Asia Minor, just south of Lake Tatta, from Amorium to the Cilician Gates. It was a road that could only be used by swiftly moving companies; for it passed through a desolate country entirely lacking in water. The third road skirted the southern edge of the salt desert, running from Philomelium, the modem Akshehir, to Iconium and Heraclea and the Cilician Gates. One branch road led from near Philomelium to the Mediterranean at Attalia, another from just beyond Iconium to the Mediterranean at Seleucia.
Whichever road the Crusading forces should decide to take, they must first reach Dorylaeum. On 26 June, a week after the fall of Nicaea, the vanguard began to move, followed during the next two days by the various divisions of the army, to reassemble at the bridge across the Blue River, where the road leaves the Sangarius valley to climb up into the plateau. A small Byzantine detachment under the experienced general Taticius accompanied the Crusaders. A certain number of the Crusaders, probably for the most part those that had been wounded at Nicaea, stayed behind and took service with the Emperor. They were put under Butumites and employed to repair and to garrison Nicaea.
By the bridge, at a village called Leuce, the princes took counsel. It was decided to divide the army into two sections, in order to ease the problem of supplies, one section to precede the other at about a day’s interval. The first army consisted of the Normans of southern Italy and of northern France, with the troops of the Counts of Flanders and of Blois and the Byzantines, who were providing the guides. The second army included the southern French and the Lorrainers, with the troops of the Count of Vermandois. Bohemond was regarded as leader of the first group and Raymond of Toulouse of the second. As soon as the division was made, Bohemond’s army set out along the road to Dorylaeum.
The Battle of Dorylaeum
After his failure to relieve Nicaea the Sultan Kilij Arslan had withdrawn eastward, to gather his own forces and to conclude peace and an alliance with the Danishmend Emir against this new menace. The loss of Nicaea had alarmed him; and the loss of his treasury there had been serious. But the Turks were still nomadic by instinct. The Sultan’s real capital was his tent. In the last days of June he returned towards the west, with all his own troops, with his vassal Hasan, Emir of the Cappadocian Turks, and with the Danishmend army, under its Emir. On 30 June he was waiting in a valley by Dorylaeum, ready to attack the Crusaders as they came down over the pass.
That evening the first Crusading army encamped in the plain not far from Dorylaeum. At sunrise the Turks swooped down over the hill-side, shouting their battle-cry. Bohemond was not unprepared. The non-combatant pilgrims were quickly assembled in the centre of the camp, where there were springs of water; and the women were given the task of carrying water up to the front line. Tents were quickly dressed, and the knights were told to dismount from their horses. Meanwhile a messenger was sent galloping down to the second army, urging it to make haste, while Bohemond addressed his captains, telling them to prepare for a difficult fight and to remain at first on the defensive. Only one of them disobeyed his orders, the same knight that had boldly seated himself on the Emperor’s throne at Constantinople. With forty of his men he charged the enemy, to be driven back in ignominy covered with wounds. The camp was soon surrounded by the Turks, whose numbers seemed to the Christians to be infinite, and who followed their favourite tactics of running archers to the front line to discharge their arrows and then at once to make room for others.
As the hot July morning advanced the Crusaders began to doubt whether they could hold out against the ceaseless rain of missiles. But, surrounded as they were, flight was impossible and surrender would mean captivity and slavery. They all determined if need be to suffer martyrdom together. At last, about midday, they saw their comrades of the second army arrive, Godfrey and Hugh and their men in front and Raymond and his men close behind. The Turks had not realized that they had not entrapped the whole Crusading force. At the sight of the newcomers they faltered and could not prevent the two armies from making a juncture. The Crusaders were heartened. Forming a long front with Bohemond, Robert of Normandy and Stephen of Blois on the left, with Raymond and Robert of Flanders in the centre, and with Godfrey and Hugh on their right, they began to take the offensive, reminding each other of the riches that they would acquire if they were victorious. The Turks were unprepared to meet an attack and were probably running short of ammunition. Their hesitation was turned to panic by the sudden appearance of the Bishop of Le Puy and a contingent of the southern French on the hills behind them. Adhemar had himself planned this diversion and found guides to take him over the mountain paths. His intervention ensured the Crusaders’ triumph. The Turks broke their lines and soon were in full flight to the east. In their haste they abandoned their encampment intact; and the tents of the Sultan and the Emirs fell, with all their treasure, into the hands of the Christians.
The Franks and the Turks
It was a great victory. Many Christian lives had been lost, including those of Tancred’s brother William, of Humphrey of Monte Scabioso and of Robert of Paris; and the Franks had been taught to pay a proper respect to the Turks as soldiers. Perhaps to enhance their achievement, they willingly gave to the Turks an admiration which they withheld from the Byzantines, whose more scientific methods of warfare they regarded as decadent. Nor did they acknowledge the share taken by the Byzantines in the battle. The anonymous Norman author of the Gesta considered that the Turks would be the finest of races if only they were Christians; and he recalled the legend that made the Franks and Turks akin, being both the descendants of the Trojans — a legend based rather on a common rivalry against the Greeks than on any ethnological foundation. But, admirable though the Turkish soldiery might be, their defeat ensured the safe passage of the Crusaders across Asia Minor. The Sultan, robbed first of his capital city and now of his royal tent and the greater part of his treasure, decided that it was useless to attempt to hold them up. Meeting in his flight a company of Syrian Turks who had come up too late for the battle, he explained that the numbers and strength of the Franks were greater than he had expected and that he could not oppose them. He and his people took to the hills after pillaging and deserting the cities that they had occupied and ravaging the countryside, that the Crusaders might find it impossible to feed themselves as they advanced.
The Crusading army rested for two days at Dorylaeum, to recover from the battle and to plan the next stages of the march. The choice of the road to be taken was not difficult. The military road to the east ran too far into country controlled by the Danishmends and by Emirs whose power had not been broken. The army was too large and too slow-moving to cut straight across the salt desert. It had to follow the slower road along the edge of the mountains to the south of the desert. This was no doubt the advice given by Taticius and the guides that he provided. But, even so, the road was uncertain. With the Turcoman invasions and twenty years of warfare, villages had been destroyed and fields gone out of cultivation; wells had become impure or been allowed to dry; bridges had fallen or been destroyed. Information could not always be extracted from the sparse and terrified population. Yet if anything went wrong the Franks at once suspected the Greek guides of treachery, while the Greeks were embittered by Frankish indiscipline and ingratitude. Taticius found his role increasingly unpleasant and difficult.
Across the Anatolian Desert
Starting out on 3 July in one continuous body, to avoid a recurrence of the risk run at Dorylaeum, the army toiled south-eastward across the Anatolian plateau. It could not keep to the old main road. After passing through Polybotus it turned off to Pisidian Antioch, which had probably escaped devastation by the Turks, and where supplies could therefore be obtained. Thence the Crusaders crossed over the bare passes of the Sultan Dagh to rejoin the main road at Philomelium. From Philomelium their way ran through desolate country between the mountains and the desert. In the relentless heat of high summer the heavily armed knights and their horses and the foot-soldiers all suffered terribly. There was no water to be seen except the salt marshes of the desert and no vegetation except thorn-bushes, whose branches they chewed in a vain attempt to find moisture. They could see the old Byzantine cisterns by the roadside; but they had all been ruined by the Turks. The horses were the first to perish. Many knights were forced to go on foot; others could be seen riding on oxen; while sheep and goats and dogs were collected to pull the baggage trains. But the morale of the army remained high. To Fulcher of Chartres the comradeship of the soldiers, coming from so many different lands and speaking so many different languages, seemed something inspired by God.
In the middle of August the Crusaders reached Iconium. Iconium, the Konya of to-day, had been in Turkish hands for thirteen years; and Kilij Arslan was soon to choose it as his new capital. But at the moment it was deserted. The Turks had fled into the mountains with all their movable possessions. But they could not destroy the streams and orchards in the delicious valley of Meram, behind the city. Its fertility enchanted the weary Christians. They rested there for several days to recover their strength. All of them were in need of rest. Even their leaders were worn out. Godfrey had been wounded a few days earlier by a bear that he was hunting. Raymond of Toulouse was gravely ill, and was thought to be dying. The Bishop of Orange gave him extreme unction; but the sojourn at Iconium restored him, and he was able to march with the army when it moved on. Taking the advice of the small population of Armenians living near Iconium, the soldiers took with them sufficient water to last them till they reached the fertile valley of Heraclea.
At Heraclea they found a Turkish army, under the Emir Hasan and the Danishmend Emir. The two Emirs, anxious for their possessions in Cappadocia, probably hoped by their presence to force the Crusaders to attempt to cross the Taurus mountains to the coast. But at the sight of the Turks the Crusaders at once attacked, led by Bohemond, who sought out the Danishmend Emir himself. The Turks had no desire for a pitched battle and swiftly retired to the north, abandoning the towns to the Christians. A comet flaring through the sky illuminated the victory.
It was now necessary to discuss again the route to be followed. A little to the east of Heraclea the main road led across the Taurus mountains, through the tremendous pass of the Cilician Gates, into Cilicia. This was the direct route to Antioch; but it offered disadvantages. The Cilician Gates are not easy to cross. At times the road is so steep and so narrow that a small hostile party in command of the heights can quickly cause havoc to a slow-moving army. Cilicia was in Turkish hands; and the climate there in September, as the Byzantine guides could report, is at its deadliest. Moreover, an army going from Cilicia to Antioch must cross over the Amanus range, by the difficult pass known as the Syrian Gates. On the other hand, the recent defeat of the Turks opened the road to Caesarea Mazacha. From there a continuation of the great Byzantine military road led across Anti-Taurus to Marash (Germanicea) and down over the low broad pass of the Amanus Gates into the plain of Antioch. This was the road that traffic from Antioch to Constantinople had mainly taken in the years before the Turkish invasions; and at the moment it had the advantage of passing through country held by Christians, Armenian princelings, for the most part nominal vassals of the Emperor and likely to be well disposed. It is probable that this latter route was recommended by Taticius and the Byzantines, but their suggestion was opposed by those of the princes that were hostile to the Emperor, led by Tancred. The majority decided to take the road through Caesarea. But Tancred, with a body of the Normans of southern Italy, and Godfrey’s brother Baldwin, with some of the Flemish and of the Lorrainers, determined to split from the main army and to cross into Cilicia.
On the Borders of Anatolia
About 10 September Tancred and Baldwin set off by two separate routes for the Taurus passes, and the main army moved north-eastward towards Caesarea. At the village of Augustopolis it caught up with Hasan’s troops and inflicted another defeat on them; but, wishing to avoid delay, it did not attempt to capture a castle of the Emir’s that stood not far from the road; though several small villages were occupied and were given to a local Armenian lord, by name Symeon, at his own request, to hold under the Emperor. At the end of the month the Crusaders reached Caesarea, which had been deserted by the Turks. They did not stop there but moved on to Comana (Placentia), a prosperous town inhabited by Armenians, which the Danishmend Turks were engaged in besieging. At their approach, the Turks vanished; and though Bohemond set out to pursue them he could not establish contact. The citizens gladly welcomed their rescuers; who invited Taticius to nominate a governor to rule the city in the Emperor’s name. Taticius gave the post to Peter of Aulps, a Provencal knight who had first come to the east with Guiscard and then had entered the service of the Emperor. It was a tactful choice; and the episode showed that the Franks and Byzantines were still able to co-operate and to carry out together the treaty made between the princes and the Emperor.
From Comana the army advanced south-east to Coxon, the modem Guksun, a prosperous town full of Armenians, set in a fertile valley below the Anti-Taurus range. There it remained for three days. The inhabitants were very friendly; and the Crusaders were able to secure plentiful provisions for the next stage of their march, across the mountains. A rumour now reached the army that the Turks had abandoned Antioch. Bohemond was still absent, pursuing the Danishmends; so Raymond of Toulouse at once, without consulting more than his own staff, sent five hundred knights under Peter of Castillon to hurry ahead and occupy the city. The knights travelled at full speed; but as they reached a castle held by Paulician heretics not far from the Orontes, they learnt that it was a false rumour and that on the contrary the Turks were pouring in reinforcements. Peter of Castillon apparently rode back to rejoin the army; but one of his knights, Peter of Roaix, slipped away with a few comrades, and, after a skirmish with the Turks of the locality, took over some forts and villages in the valley of Rusia, towards Aleppo, with the glad help of the local Armenians. Raymond’s manoeuvre may not have been intended to secure the lordship of Antioch for himself but only the glory and the loot that would accrue to the first-comer. But Bohemond, when he returned to the army, learnt of it with suspicion; and it showed the growing breach between the princes.
The journey on from Coxon was the most difficult that the Crusaders had to face. It was now early October, and the autumn rains had begun. The road over the Anti-Taurus was in appalling disrepair; and for miles there was only a muddy path leading up steep inclines and skirting precipices. Horse after horse slipped and fell over the edge; whole lines of baggage animals, roped together, dragged each other down into the abyss. No one dared to ride. The knights, struggling on foot under their heavy accoutrement, eagerly tried to sell their arms to more lightly equipped men, or threw them away in despair. The mountains seemed accursed. They took more lives than ever the Turks had done. It was with joy that the army emerged at last into the valley that surrounded Marash.
The Crusaders and their Greek Guides
At Marash, where again they found a friendly Armenian population, the Crusaders waited for a few days. An Armenian prince called Thatoul, who had been formerly a Byzantine official, was ruler of the town and was confirmed in his authority. Bohemond rejoined them there, after his fruitless pursuit of the Turks; and Baldwin came hurrying up from Cilicia, to see his wife Godvere, who was dying. After her death he departed again, making now for the east. Leaving Marash about 15 October, the main army marched, strengthened and refreshed, down into the plain of Antioch. On the 20th it arrived at the Iron Bridge, at three hours’ distance from the city.
Four months had passed since the Crusade had set out for Nicaea. For a large army, with a numerous following of non-combatants, travelling in the heat of summer over country that was mainly barren, always liable to be attacked by a formidable and swiftly moving enemy, the achievement was remarkable. The Crusaders were helped by their faith and by their burning desire to reach the Holy Land. The hope of finding plunder and perhaps a lordship was an added spur. But some credit too must be given to the Byzantines that accompanied the expedition, whose experience in fighting the Turks enabled them to give good advice, and without whose guidance the route across Asia Minor could never have been traced. The guides may have made some errors, as in the choice of their road from Coxon to Marash; but, after twenty years of neglect and occasional deliberate destruction, it was impossible to tell in what state any road might be. Taticius had a difficult part to play; but, till the army reached Antioch, his relations with the western princes remained friendly. The humbler Crusading soldiery might be distrustful of the Greeks; but, in so far as the direction of the movement was concerned, everything still ran smoothly.
Meanwhile the Emperor Alexius, who was to be responsible for the maintenance of communications across Asia Minor, was consolidating the Christian position in the rear of the Crusade. The success of the Franks had reconciled the Seldjuks with the Danishmends, thus creating, as soon as the shock of the first defeat was over, a strong potential Turkish force in the centre and east of the peninsula. The Emperor’s policy was, therefore, to recover the west of the peninsula, where, with the aid of his growing maritime power, he could open up a road to the south coast which it would be possible to keep under his permanent control. After refortifying Nicaea and securing the fortresses commanding the road to Dorylaeum, he sent his brother-in-law, the Caesar John Ducas, supported by a squadron under the admiral Caspax, to reconquer Ionia and Phrygia. The main objective was Smyrna, where Chaka’s son still ruled over an emirate that included most of the Ionian coastline and the islands of Lesbos, Chios and Samos, while vassal Emirs held Ephesus and other towns near the coast. Phrygia was under Seldjuk chieftains, now cut off from contact with the Sultan. To impress the Turks, John took with him the Sultana, Chaka’s daughter, for whom arrangements had not yet been made to join her husband. The combined land and sea attack was too much for the Emir of Smyrna, who promptly surrendered his states in return for permission to retire free to the east. He seems to have escorted his sister to the Sultan’s court, where he disappears from history. Ephesus fell next, with hardly a struggle; and while Caspax and his fleet reoccupied the coast and the islands, John Ducas marched inland, capturing one by one the chief Lydian cities, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea. The province was in his hands by the end of the autumn of 1097; and he was ready, as soon as the winter should be over, to advance into Phrygia, as far as the main road down which the Crusaders had travelled. His aim was probably to re-establish Byzantine control of the road that led from Polybotus and Philomelium due south to Attalia, and thence along the coast eastward, where sea-power would give protection and junction could be made with the Armenian princes that were now settled in the Taurus mountains. A route would thus be ensured by which supplies could reach the Christians battling in Syria, and the united effort of Christendom could continue.