The History of The Kings of England 29

William of Malmesbury

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This city, then, the Franks invested from October till June; pitching their tents around the walls after they had passed the river. Foreseeing, however, the difficulty of taking it, and judging it expedient to provide against the cowardice of certain of their party, the chiefs, in common, took an oath, that they would not desist from the siege till the city should be taken by force or by stratagem. And, that they might more easily complete their design, they built many fortresses on this side of the river, in which soldiers were placed to keep guard. Aoxianus, too, the governor of the city, observing that the Franks acted neither jestingly nor coldly, but set heartily to besiege it, sent his son Sansadol to the Sultan, emperor of Persia, to make known the boldness of the Franks, and to implore assistance. Sultan among the Persians implies the same as Augustus among the Romans: Commander of all the Saracens, and of the whole east. I imagine this empire has continued so long, and still increases, because the people, as I have related, are unwarlike; and being deficient in active blood, know not how to cast off slavery, when once admitted; not being aware, as Lucan says, that ”Arms were bestowed that men should not be slaves.” But the western nations, bold and fierce, disdain long-continued subjugation to any people whatever; often delivering themselves from servitude, and imposing it on others. Moreover, the Roman empire first declined to the Franks, and after to the Germans: the eastern continues ever with the Persians.

Sansadol therefore being despatched to the chief of this empire, hastened his course with youthful ardour, while his father was by no means wanting to the duties of a commander, in the protection of the city. The valour of the besieged was not content merely to defend their own party, but voluntarily harassed ours; frequently and suddenly attacking them when foraging or marketing: for, making a bridge of the vessels they found there, they had established a mart beyond the river. Through Christ’s assistance, therefore, becoming resolute, they seized their arms, and boldly repelled their enemies, so that they never suffered them to reap the honour of the day. To revenge this disgrace, the Turks wreaked their indignation on the Syrian and Armenian inhabitants of the city; throwing, by means of their balistse and petraries, the heads of those whom they had slain into the camp of the Franks, that by such means they might wound their feelings.

And now, everything which could be procured for food being destroyed around the city, a sudden famine, which usually makes even fortresses give way, began to oppress the army; so much so, that the harvest not having yet attained to maturity, some persons seized the pods of beans before they were ripe, as the greatest delicacy: others fed on carrion, or hides soaked in water; others passed parboiled thistles through their bleeding jaws into their stomachs. Others sold mice, or such like dainties, to those who required them; content to suffer hunger themselves, so that they could procure money. Some, too, there were, who even fed their corpse-like bodies with other corpses, eating human flesh; but at a distance, and on the mountains, lest others should be offended at the smell of their cookery. Many wandered through unknown paths, in expectation of meeting with sustenance, and were killed by robbers acquainted with the passes. But not long after the city was surrendered.

For Boamund, a man of superior talents, had, by dint of very great promises, induced a Turkish chief, who had the custody of the principal tower, on the side where his station lay, to deliver it up to him. And he, too, to palliate the infamy of his treachery by a competent excuse, gave his son as an hostage to Boamund; professing that he did so by the express command of Christ, which had been communicated to him in a dream. Boamund, therefore, advanced his troops to the tower, having first, by a secret contrivance, obtained from the chiefs the perpetual government of the city, in case he could carry it. Thus the Franks, in the dead of the night, scaling the walls by rope ladders, and displaying on the top of the tower the crimson standard of Boamund, repeated with joyful accents the Christian watchword, “It is the will of God ! It is the will of God !” The Turks awaking, and heavy from want of rest, took to flight through narrow passages; and our party, following with drawn swords, made dreadful slaughter of the enemy. In this flight fell Aoxianus, governor of the city, being beheaded by a certain Syrian peasant: his head, when brought to the Franks, excited both their laughter and their joy.

Not long rejoicing in this complete victory, they had the next day to lament being themselves besieged by the Turks from without. For the forces which had been solicited by Sansadol were now arrived under the command of Corbaguath, an eastern satrap, who had obtained from the emperor of Persia three hundred thousand men, under twenty-seven commanders. Sixty thousand of these ascended over the rocks to the citadel, by desire of the Turks, who still remained in possession of it. These woefully harassed the Christians by frequent sallies: nor was there any hope left, but from the assistance of God, since want was now added to the miseries of war — want, the earliest attendant on great calamities. Wherefore, after a fast of three days, and earnest supplications, Peter the hermit was sent ambassador to the Turks, who spake with his usual eloquence to the following effect: “That the Turks should now voluntarily evacuate the Christian territory, which they had formerly unjustly invaded; that it was but right, as the Christians did not attack Persia, that the Turks should not molest Asia; that they should therefore, either by a voluntary departure, seek their own country, or expect an attack on the following morning; that they might try their fortune, by two, or four, or eight, that danger might not accrue to the whole army.”

Corbaguath condescended not to honour the messenger even with a reply; but playing at chess and gnashing his teeth, dismissed him as he came; merely observing, “that the pride of the Franks was at an end.” Hastily returning, Peter apprised the army of the insolence of the Turk. Each then animating the other, it was publicly ordered, that every person should, that night, feed his horse as plentifully as possible, lest he should falter from the various evolutions of the following day. And now the morning dawned, when, drawn up in bodies, they proceeded, with hostile standard, against the enemy. The first band was led by the two Roberts, of Normandy and Flanders, and Hugh the Great; the second by Godfrey; the third by the bishop of Puy; the reserve by Boamund, as a support to the rest. Raimund continued in the city, to cover the retreat of our party, in case it should be necessary. The Turks, from a distance, observing their movements, were, at first, dubious what they could mean. Afterwards, recognizing the standard of the bishop, for they were extremely afraid of him, as they said he was the pope of the Christians and the fomenter of the war; and seeing our people advancing so courageously and quickly, they fled ere they were attacked. Our party, too, exhilarated with unexpected joy, slew them as they were flying, as far as the strength of the infantry, or exertion of the cavalry, would permit. They imagined, moreover, that they saw the ancient martyrs, who had formerly been soldiers, and who had gained eternal remuneration by their death, I allude to George and Demetrius, hastily approaching with upraised banner from the mountainous districts, hurling darts against the enemy, but assisting the Franks. Nor is it to be denied, that the martyrs did assist the Christians, as the angels formerly did the Maccabees, fighting for the selfsame cause. Returning, then, to the spoil, they found in their camp sufficient to satisfy, or even totally to glut, the covetousness of the greediest army. This battle took place A. D. 1098, on the fourth before the kalends of July; for the city had been taken the day before the nones of June. Soon after, on the kalends of the ensuing August, the bishop of Puy, the leader of the Christians, and chief author of this laudable enterprise, joyfully yielded to the common lot of mortals; and Hugh the Great, by permission of the chiefs, as it is said, returned to France, alleging as a reason, the perpetual racking of his bowels.

But when, by a long repose of seven months at Antioch, they had obliterated the memory of their past labours, they began to think of proceeding on their route. And first of all Raimund, ever unconscious of sloth, ever foremost in military energy; and next to him the two Roberts, and Godfrey, proceeded upon the march. Boamund alone for a time, deferred his advance, lured by the prospect of a magnificent city and the love of wealth. A plausible reason, however, lay concealed beneath his covetousness, when he alleged, that Alitioch ought not to be exposed to the Turks without a chief, as they would directly attack it. He therefore took up his residence in the city; and this harsh governor drove Raimund’s followers, who occupied one of the streets, without the walls.

The others, however, passing through Tripoli, and Berith, and Tyre, and Sidon, and Accaron, and Caiphas, and Caesarea of Palestine, where they left the coast to the right hand, came to Ramula; being kindly received by some of the cities, and signalizing their valour by the subjugation of others. For their design was to delay no longer, as it was now the month of April, and the produce of the earth had become fully ripe. Ramula is a very small city, without walls: if we credit report, the place of the martyrdom of St. George; whose church, originally founded there, the Turks had somewhat defaced: but at that time, through fear of the Franks, they had carried off” their property and retreated to the mountains. The next morning, at early dawn, Tancred, the nephew of Boamund, a man of undaunted courage, and some others, taking arms, proceeded to Bethlehem, desirous of exploring its vicinity. The Syrians of the place, who came out to meet them, manifested their joy with weeping earnestness, through apprehension for their safety, on account of the smallness of their numbers; for few more than a hundred horsemen were of the party. But our people having suppliantly adored the sacred edifice, immediately stretch anxiously forward towards Jerusalem. The Turks, confident of their force, fiercely sallied out, and for some time skirmished with our troops, for the whole army had now come up; but they were soon repulsed by tbe exertions of the Franks, and sought security from their encircling walls.

The numbers who have already written on the subject, admonish me to say nothing of the situation and disposition of Jerusalem, nor is it necessary for my narrative to expatiate on such a field. Almost every person is acquainted with what Josephus, Eucherius, and Bede, have said: for who is not aware, that it was called Salem from Melchisedec; Jebus from the Jebusites; Jerusalem from Solomon ? Who has not heard how often, falling from adverse war, it buried its inhabitants in its ruins, through the different attacks of Nabugodonosor, of Titus, or of Adrian? It was this last who rebuilt Jerusalem, called Lia, after his surname, enclosing it with a circular wall, of greater compass, that it might embrace the site of the sepulchre of our Lord, which originally stood without: Mount Sion, too, added to the city, stands eminent as a citadel. It possesses no springs; but water, collected in cisterns, prepared for that purpose, supplies the wants of the inhabitants: for the site of the city, beginning from the northern summit of Mount Sion, has so gentle a declivity, that the rain which falls there does not form any mire, but running like rivulets, is received into tanks, or flowing through the streets, augments the brook Kedron. Here is the church of our Lord, and the temple, which they call Solomon’s, by whom built is unknown, but religiously reverenced by the Turks; more especially the church of our Lord, where they daily worshipped, and prohibited the Christians from entering, having placed there a statue of Mahomet. Here also is a church of elegant workmanship, containing the holy sepulchre, built by Constantine the Great, and which has never suffered any injury from the enemies of our faith, through fear, as I suppose, of being struck by that celestial fire which brightly shines in lamps, every year, on the Vigil of Easter. When this miracle had a beginning, or whether it existed before the times of the Saracens, history has left no trace. I have read in the writings of Bernard the monk, that about two hundred and fifty years ago, that is, A. d. 870, he went to Jerusalem and saw that fire, and was entertained in the Hospital which the most glorious Charles the Great had there ordered to be built, and where he had collected a library at great expense. He relates, that both in Egypt and in that place, the Christians, under the dominion of the Turks, enjoyed such security, that if any traveller lost a beast of burden by accident, in the midst of the high road, he might leave his baggage and proceed to the nearest city for assistance, and without doubt find every thing untouched at his return. Still, from the suspicion that they might be spies, no foreign Christian could live there securely, unless protected by the signet of the emperor of Babylon. The natives purchased peace from the Turks at the expense of three talents or bezants annually. But as Bernard mentions the name of Theodosius, the then patriarch, this gives me an occasion of enumerating the whole of the patriarchs.

James the brother of our Lord and son of Joseph; Simon son of Cleophas, the cousin of Christ, for Cleophas was the brother of Joseph; Justus, Zaccheus, Tobias, Benjamin, Johannes, Maccabaeus, Philip, Seneca, Justus, Levi, Efirem, Jesse, Judas; these fifteen were circumcised: Mark, Cassian, Publius, Maximus, Julian, Gains; who first celebrated Easter and Lent after the Roman manner: Symmachus, Gains, Julian, Capito, Maximus, Antonius, Valens, DociUanus. Narcissus, Dius, Germanio, Gordius, Alexander, Mazabanus, L’meneus, Zabdas, Ermon, Macharius; in his time the Holy Cross was found by St. Helena: Cyriacus, Maximus, Cyrillus, who built the church of the Holy Sepulchre, and of Mount Calvary, and of Bethlehem, and of the Valley of Jehosaphat. All these were called bishops. After them arose the patriarchs: Cyrillus the first patriarch; Johannes Prailius, Juvenalis, Zacharias, in whose time came Cosdroef king of Persia to Jerusalem, and destroyed the churches of Judea and Jerusalem, and slew with his army six and thirty thousand of the Christians: Modestus, who was appointed patriarch by the emperor Heraclius, when he returned victorious from Persia: Sophronius, in whose time the Saracens came and thrust out all the Christians from Jerusalem, except the patriarch, whom they suffered to remain out of reverence to his sanctity: this was the period when the Saracens overran the whole of Egypt, and Africa, and Judea, and even Spain, and the Balearic Isles. Part of Spain was wrested from them by Charles the Great, but the remainder, together with the countries I have enumerated, they have possessed for nearly five hundred years, down to the present day: Theodorus, Hia, Georgius, Thomas, Basilius, Sergius, Salomontes, Theodosius, whom Bernard relates to have been an abbot, and that he was torn from his monastery, which was fifteen miles distant from Jerusalem, and made patriarch of that city: then too they say that Michael was patriarch in Babylon over Egypt, the patriarchate of Alexandria being removed thither: Hia, Sergius, Leonthos, Athanasius, Christodolus, Thomas, Joseph, Orestes; in his time came Sultan Achim, the nephew of the patriarch Orestes, from Babylon, who sent his army to Jerusalem, destroyed all the churches, that is to say, four thousand, and caused his uncle, the patriarch, to be conveyed to Babylon and there slain: Theophilus, Nicephorus: he built the present church of the Holy Sepulchre, by the favour of Sultan Achim: Sophronius; in his time the Turks, coming to Jerusalem, fought with the Saracens, killed them all, and possessed the city; but the Christians continued there under the dominion of the Turks: Cuthimus, Simeon; in whose time came the Franks and laid siege to Jerusalem, and rescued it from the hands of the Turks and of the king of Babylon.

In the fourth year, then, of the expedition to Jerusalem, the third after the capture of Nice, and the second after that of Antioch, the Franks laid siege to Jerusalem, — a city well able to repay the toils of war, to soothe its labours, and to requite the fondest expectation. It was now the seventh day of June, nor were the besiegers apprehensive of wanting food or drink for themselves, as the harvest was on the ground, and the grapes were ripe upon the vines; the care alone of their cattle distressed them, which, from the nature of the place and of the season, had no running stream to support them, for the heat of the sun had dried up the secret springs of the brook Siloah, which, at uncertain periods, used to shed abroad its refreshing waters. This brook, when at any time swollen with rain, increases that of Kedron; and then passes on, with bubbling current, into the valley of Jehosaphat. But this is extremely rare; for there is no certain period of its augmentation or decrease. In consequence, the enemy, suddenly darting from their caverns, frequently killed our people, when straggling abroad for the purpose of watering the cattle. In the meantime the chiefs were each observant at their respective posts, and Raymond actively employed before the tower of David. This fortress, defending the city on the west, and strengthened, nearly half way up, by courses of squared stone soldered with lead, repels every fear of invaders when guarded by a small party within. As they saw, therefore, that the city was difficult to carry on account of the steep precipices, the strength of the walls, and the fierceness of the enemy, they ordered engines to be constructed. But before this, indeed, on the seventh day of the siege, they had tried their fortune by erecting ladders, and hurling swift arrows against their opponents: but, as the ladders were few, and perilous to those who mounted them, since they were exposed on all sides and nowhere protected from wounds, they changed their design. There was one engine which we call the Sow, the ancients. Vine a; because the machine, which is constructed of slight timbers, the roof covered with boards and wickerwork, and the sides defended with undressed hides, protects those who are within it, who, after the manner of a sow, proceed to undermine the foundations of the walls. There was another, which, for want of timber, was but a moderate sized tower, constructed after the manner of houses: they call it Berefreid: this was intended to equal the walls in height. The making of this machine delayed the siege, on account of the unskilfulness of the workmen and the scarcity of the wood. And now the fourteenth day of July arrived, when some began to undermine the wall with the sows, others to move forward the tower. To do this more conveniently, they took it towards the works in separate pieces, and, putting it together again at such a distance as to be out of bowshot, advanced it on wheels nearly close to the wall. In the meantime, the slingers with stones, the archers with arrows, and the cross-bow-men with bolts, each intent on his own department, began to press forward and dislodge their opponents from the ramparts; soldiers, too, unmatched in courage, ascend the tower, waging nearly equal war against the enemy with missile weapons and with stones. Nor, indeed, were our foes at all remiss; but trusting their whole security to their valour, they poured down grease and burning oil upon the tower, and slung stones on the soldiers, rejoicing in the completion of their desires by the destruction of multitudes. During the whole of that day the battle was such that neither party seemed to think they had been worsted; on the following, which was the fifteenth of July, the business was decided. For the Franks, becoming more experienced from the event of the attack of the preceding day, threw faggots flaming with oil on a tower adjoining the wall, and on the party who defended it, which, blazing by the action of the wind, first seized the timber and then the stones, and drove off the garrison. Moreover the beams which the Turks had left hanging down from the walls in order that, being forcibly drawn back, they might, by their recoil, batter the tower in pieces in case it should advance too near, were by the Franks dragged to them, by cutting away the ropes; and being placed from the engine to the wall, and covered with hurdles, they formed a bridge of communication from the ramparts to the tower. Thus what the infidels had contrived for their defence became the means of their destruction; for then the enemy, dismayed by the smoking masses of flame and by the courage of our soldiers, began to give way. These advancing on the wall, and thence into the city, manifested the excess of their joy by the strenuousness of their exertions. This success took place on the side of Godfrey and of the two Roberts; Raymond knew nothing of the circumstance, till the cry of the fugitives and the alarm of the people, throwing themselves from the walls, who thus met death while flying from it, acquainted him that the city was taken. On seeing this, he rushed with drawn sword on the runaways, and hastened to avenge the injuries of God, until he had satiated his own animosity. Moreover, adverting to the advantages of quiet for the moment, he sent unhurt to Ascalon five hundred Ethiopians, who, retreating to the citadel of David, had given up the keys of the gates under promise of personal safety. There was no place of refuge for the Turks, so indiscriminately did the insatiable rage of the victors sweep away both the suppliant and the resisting. Ten thousand were slain in the temple of Solomon; more were thrown from the tops of the churches, and of the citadel. After this, the dead bodies were heaped and dissolved into the aery fluid by means of fire; lest putrefying in the open air, they should pour contagion on the heavy atmosphere. The city being thus expiated by the slaughter of the infidels, they proceeded with hearts contrite and bodies prostrate to the sepulchre of the Lord, which they had so long earnestly sought after, and for which they had undergone so many labours. By what ample incense of prayer, they propitiated heaven, or by what repentant tears they once again brought back the favour of God, none, I am confident, can describe; no, not if the splendid eloquence of the ancients could revive or Orpheus himself return; who, as it is said, bent e’en the listening rocks to his harmonious strain. Be it imagined then, rather than expressed.

So remarkable was the example of forbearance exhibited by the chiefs, that, neither on that, nor on the following day, did any of them, through lust of spoil, withdraw his mind from following up the victory. Tancred alone, beset with ill-timed covetousness, carried off some valuable effects from the temple of Solomon; but, afterwards, reproved by his own conscience, and the address of some other persons, he restored, if not the same things, yet such as were of equal value. At that time, if any man, however poor, seized a house, or riches of any kind, he did not afterwards encounter the brawlings of the powerful, but held, what he had once possessed, as his hereditary right. Without delay, then, Godfrey, that brilliant mirror of Christian nobility, in which, as in a splendid ceiling, the lustre of every virtue was reflected, was chosen king; all, in lively hope, agreeing, that they could in no wise better consult the advantage of the church; deferring, in the meantime, the election of a patriarch, who was to be appointed by the determination of the Roman Pontiff.

But the emperor of Babylon, not the city built by Nimrod and enlarged by Semiramis and now said to be deserted, but that which Cambyses, son of Cyrus, built in Egypt, on the spot where Taphnis formerly stood: the emperor of Babylon, I say, venting his long-conceived indignation against the Franks, sent the commander of his forces, to drive them, as he said, out of his kingdom. Hastening to fulfil the command, when he heard that Jerusalem was taken, he redoubled his diligence, though he had by no means been indolent before. The design of the barbarian was to besiege the Christians in Jerusalem, and after the victory, which he, falsely presaging, already obtained in imagination, to destroy utterly the sepulchre of our Lord. The Christians, who desired nothing less than again to endure the miseries of a siege, taking courage through God’s assistance, march out of the city towards Ascalon, to oppose the enemy; and carry with them part of the cross of Christ, which a certain Syrian, an inhabitant of Jerusalem, had produced, as it had been preserved in his house, in succession from father to son. This truly was a fortunate and a loyal device, that the secret should be all along kept from the Turks. Obtaining moreover a great booty of sheep and cattle, near Ascalon, they issued a general order, to leave the whole of it in the open plain, lest it should be an impediment when engaging the next morning, as they would have spoil more than enough if they conquered, so that, free from incumbrance, they might avenge the injuries of heaven. In the morning, therefore, as the army was on its march, you might see, I believe by divine instinct, the cattle with their heads erect, proceeding by the side of the soldiers, and not to be driven away by any force. The enemy perceiving this at a distance, and their sight being dazzled by the rays of the sun, lost their confidence, ere the battle could commence, as they thought the multitude of their opponents was countless: yet were they, themselves, by no means deficient in numbers, and by long exercise, trained to battle. They endeavoured therefore to hem in the Franks, who were proceeding at a slow rate, by dividing their force into two bodies, and by curving their wings. But the leaders, and more especially Robert the Norman, who was in the advanced guard, eluding stratagem by stratagem, or rather cunning by valour, led on their archers and infantry, and broke through the centre of the heathens. Moreover the Lorraine cavalry, which was stationed with its commander in the rear, advancing by the flanks, prevented their flight, and occupied the whole plain. Thus the Turks, penetrated in the front, and hemmed in on every side, were slain at the pleasure of the victors; the remainder escaping through favour of approaching night. Many golden utensils were found in their camp; many jewels, which, though from their scarcity unknown in our country, there shine in native splendour. Nor was there ever a more joyful victory for the Christians, because they obtained the most precious spoil without loss.

Returning therefore to Jerusalem, when, by a rest of many days, they had recruited their strength, some of them, sighing for their native country, prepared to return by sea. Godfrey and Tancred only remained; princes, truly noble, and, to whose glory, posterity, if it judge rightly, never can set limits: men, who, from the intense cold of Europe, plunged into the insupportable heat of the East: prodigal of their own lives, so that they could succour suffering Christianity. Who, besides the fears of barbarous incursions, in constant apprehension from the unwholesomeness of an unknown climate, despised the security of rest and of health in their own country; and although very few in number, kept in subjection so many hostile cities by their reputation and prowess. They were memorable patterns, too, of trust in God; not hesitating to remain in that climate, where they might either suffer from pestilential air, or be slain by the rage of the Saracens. Let the celebration of the poets then give way; nor let ancient fiction extol her earliest heroes. No age hath produced aught comparable to the fame of these men. For, if the ancients had any merit, it vanished after death with the smoke of their funeral pile; because it had been spent, rather on the vapour of earthly reputation, than in the acquisition of substantial good. But the utility of these men’s valour will be felt, and its dignity acknowledged, as long as the world shall continue to revolve, or pure Christianity to flourish. What shall I say of the good order and forbearance of the whole army ? There was no gluttony; no lewdness, which was not directly corrected by the authority of the commanders, or the preaching of the bishops. There was no wish to plunder as they passed through the territories of the Christians; no controversy among themselves, which was not easily settled by the examination of mediators. Wherefore, since the commendation of an army so well-ordered redounds to the glory of its conductors, I will signalize, in my narrative, the exploits and the adventures of each respective chief; nor will I subtract any thing from the truth, as I received it on the faith of my relators. But let no one who has had a fuller knowledge of these events, accuse me of want of diligence, since we, who are secluded on this side of the British ocean, hear but the faint echo of Asiatic transactions.

William of Malmesbury

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29 January, 2015
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