Post-classical history

§ An Encounter with Tancred of Antioch

Prior to this, Tancred,96 who was the first lord of Antioch after Bohemond, had encamped against us. So we fought one another and then arranged a truce. Tancred sent a messenger requesting a horse that belonged to a servant of my uncle, [66] Sultan (may God have mercy upon him). It was a noble steed. So my uncle sent the horse to Tancred, mounted by one of our companions, a Kurd called Hasanun. He was one of our most courageous horsemen, even though he was but a youngster. A good-looking man, thin. He was supposed to race the horse against some others for Tancred, so he raced it and it beat all the other horses that were in play. He was brought before Tancred, and the knights began to inspect his gear and were amazed at his thin physique and his youthfulness, since they had heard he was a courageous horseman.

Tancred bestowed robes of honour on him, but Hasanun said, ‘My lord, I ask that you grant me your guarantee of safe-conduct, so that if you overcome me in battle, you would have mercy upon me and release me.’

And so Tancred granted him his guarantee of safe-conduct, or so Hasanun assumed, for they only speak Frankish and we do not understand what they say.

After that, a year or more passed and the truce expired. Tancred came at us with the army of Antioch, and we fought one another before the walls of the city. Our cavalry had met their vanguard and one of our men, a Kurd called Kamil the Scarred, thrust his spear at them with gusto. He and Hasanun were peers in bravery. Hasanun had halted on his mare with my father (may God have mercy upon him), awaiting his charger which a servant of his was bringing out from the veterinary, along with his kazaghand-armour. But the servant was slow to return and Hasanun, seeing the spear-work that Kamil the Scarred was doing, was getting anxious.

So he said to my father, ‘My lord, let me use some light equipment instead.’

‘These are the mules with the equipment, standing right here,’ my father indicated. ‘Wear whatever suits you.’

At the time, I was standing behind my father, a mere youth, for this was the first day I had ever participated in battle. Hasanun had a look at the kazaghand-armour in their cases on the backs of the mules, but he couldn’t make up his mind on any. He was boiling in his desire to ride out and do what Kamil the Scarred was doing. So he sped away on his mare, completely unarmoured. A Frankish horseman intercepted him and thrust his spear at the mare’s croup. As a result, the mare took the bit in its teeth and bolted ahead with Hasanun until it threw him to the ground in the midst of a band of Franks.

They took him prisoner and tortured him in a variety of ways. They had wanted to gouge out his left eye, but Tancred (may God curse him) said to them, ‘Take out his right eye; that way, when he carries his shield, his left eye will be covered and he will no longer be able to see anything.’

So they gouged out [67] his right eye, just as Tancred ordered. For his ransom, they demanded one thousand dinars and a black charger that belonged to my father, a noble horse of the Khafaja,97 one of the finest. And so my father (may God have mercy upon him) ransomed him back with that horse.

On that day, many infantrymen marched out from Shayzar, too. The Franks attacked them but were unable to make them budge from their position. So Tancred flew into a rage and said, ‘You are my knights! Each one of you earns a stipend worth a hundred stipends of these Muslims. These are but serjents98(which means infantrymen), and you cannot even dislodge them from their place!’

They replied, ‘But we were only afraid for our horses; otherwise we would have run them down and put our spears through them.’

At this, Tancred said, ‘The horses are mine. Whoever loses his charger in battle, let me replace it.’ They then made a number of charges against our men, in which seventy of their horses were killed, but they still were unable to shake our men from their positions.

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