The History of The Kings of England 31

William of Malmesbury

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Turks, unable longer to sustain the attack and taking to flight, either cast themselves down headlong, or fell by the hand of their enemies. Many were reserved for slavery; a few for ransom. Among these was the governor of the city, and a bishop named Arcadius. The scene was enough to excite laughter in a by-stander, to see a Turk disgorging bezants, when struck on the neck by the fist of a Christian. The wretched males, through fear of extreme indigence, had hid money in their mouths; the females in parts not to be particularized: you perceive that my narrative blushes to speak plainly, but the reader understands what I wish, or rather what I wish not to speak.

Still, however, the emperor of Babylon could not be at rest, but would frequently send commanders and armies to attack the Franks. Arriving at Ascalon on ship-board, they scoured about Ramula, taking advantage of the king’s occupation, who was then busied in the contest with Caesarea. They frequently, therefore, by depopulating the country, irritated him to engage. But he, with equal subtlety, that their mad impetuosity might subside, suffered them, when eagerly advancing, to grow languid by declining battle. By this procrastination he effected that many, weary of delay, withdrew, while he attacked the remainder, consisting of eleven thousand horse and twenty-one thousand infantry, with his own two hundred and fifty cavalry and less than seven hundred foot. Addressing a few words to his soldiers, to whom he pledged victory if they persevered, and fame if they fell; and calling to their recollection that if they fled France was a great way off, he dashed first against the enemy; and the contest continuing for some time, when he saw his ranks giving way, he remedied circumstances which seemed almost bordering on desperation. Thus dismaying the Turks by his well-known appearance, he laid their leader prostrate with his lance; on whose death the whole battalions fled. Our soldiers, who in the onset were so hemmed in as to be unable to see each other, then exercised their valour in such wise, under the ensign of the Holy Cross which preceded them, that they killed five thousand. Eighty of the cavalry and rather more of the infantry were slain on the side of the Franks. However subsequent successes consoled them, as they despatched five hundred Arabian horse. These had been traversing before Joppa for two days, but effecting little, they were returning to Ascalon, and seeing our troops at a distance, and, hoping they were their own, were approaching to congratulate them on their victory. But at length perceiving, by the weapons hurled against them, that they were Franks, they turned pale and, to use the words of the poet, became like him who, ”With unshod foot, had trod upon a snake.” In consequence, enervated with astonishment, they exposed their backs to their destroyers. Thus the king coming to Joppa, corrected, by a true account, the falsity of the letter which had been sent to Tancred by the people of that city, erroneously declaring that the king had perished with his army. And, indeed, abeady had Tancred prepared for his march to Jerusalem, when a messenger arriving, and showing the royal signet, dispelled his sorrow, and restored his satisfaction.

It would be tedious, if I were to relate all his contests; to tell how he subdued Tiberias, Sidon, Accaron, that is, Ptolemais, and, ultimately, all the cities on the coast; or, how he distinguished almost each day by the slaughter of the Turks, either through secret attack or open warfare. The relation of his exploits requires the exclusive labours of a man who abounds in pompous diction, and undisturbed leisure: I have neither; and, what chiefly acts as an obstacle, want clear information on the subject. For it is by no means the part of an historian of veracity to give entire credit to flattering reports, or to deceive the credulity of his readers. Consequently, I shall only subjoin what I have found recorded, whereby this man’s exalted devotion may be clearly proved, and his good report live for ever. This I may be bold to assert, that he often, with an inconsiderable force, engaged in mighty conflicts, and that he never fled the field, except at Ramula and at Accaron. And indeed signal victories ensued to each of these flights, because they proceeded more from rash valour, than from fear; as the reader will discover from the insertion of a few facts.

In the month of September, on the seventh before the ides of which the battle aforesaid took place, William, earl of Poitou, proceeded towards Jerusalem, leading with him troops estimated at sixty thousand horse and still more foot. There accompanied him, Stephen, earl of Burgundy, and Hugh de Lusignan, brother of earl Raymond, Hugh the Great, and Stephen of Blois, anxious to atone for the disgrace of their former desertion, by renovated and determined valour. Proceeding, therefore, by Constantinople, after he had by an insolent answer, as I before related, offended Alexius, he fell into the snares of Solyman; the emperor rather procuring than preventing his disaster. For Solyman, aware that the army was suffering from hunger and thirst, as they had been wandering about the marshes and desolate places for several days, encountered them with three hundred thousand archers. Never was there conflict more disastrous to the Franks; as it was impossible for flight to save the coward, or courage to rescue the bold from danger: for the battle was fought in a confined situation, and nothing could prevent the effect of clouds of arrows on men who were crowded together. More than a hundred thousand were slain; and all the booty carried off. Thus Solyman, obtaining splendid offerings to the manes of his countrymen from the spoils of the Franks, revenged the loss of Nice. But, as they had proceeded by many roads, all were not slain; nor was every thing plundered. For, except the Poitevin, who lost nearly whatever he possessed, the other earls had boldly defended their baggage. All, therefore, except Hugh the Great, who died, and was entombed in the city of Tarsus, collecting again their soldiers after the flight, hastened to Antioch. Tancred, a knight of celebrated kindness, gave them ample proof of his generosity; assisting them all, as far as he was able, with money: but more especially William, whom the inconstancy of Fortune had now as deeply depressed as she had formerly highly exalted, who, in addition to the loss of treasure, by which he was not so much affected as it was transitory and capable of reparation, was left almost the sole survivor of so many valorous soldiers. Proceeding on their march with renovated courage, they sought every opportunity of giving battle. The city of Tortosa was the first to feel their rage; by attacking and plundering which, they in some degree compensated their former losses. Thence they came to the defile, which I have mentioned above, where the king had long awaited them, in order to give assistance in case the Turks should oppose their passage. Defended by his valour, and meeting with kind entertainment at Joppa, they proceeded the following Easter to Jerusalem, where they joyfully beheld, and reverently adored the sacred fire. Returning afterwards to Joppa, they took ship, each designing to revisit his native land. The Poitevin, from the continued favour of the wind, reached home; the rest were violently driven back.

But now, in the beginning of May, the Turks and Arabs laid siege to Ramula; recruiting the losses of their army in the former year, by making up its original numbers. The bishop of the city, prudently watching an opportunity, retired from the place and went secretly to Joppa. Baldwin had already gone out, relying on a false assertion that the enemy did not exceed five hundred; in consequence of which, he neither put his forces in order, nor called out his infantry, the trumpeters merely sounding for the cavalry to follow the king; though his friends earnestly advised him, to be on his guard against the subtlety of the Turks. The two Stephens, of Blois and of Burgundy, followed the king on horseback, that, instead of being branded as indolent and cowardly, they might return to their respective homes partakers of the credit of the triumph: far different, however, from their expectations, were the gloiy and the victory which the fates were preparing for them. For Baldwin, perceiving the multitude of the enemy and finding himself deceived in his opinion, filled with rage, and fierce in conscious valour, hesitated what was to be done. If he gave way, he contemplated the tarnish of his ancient glory; if he fought, the destruction of his followers.

Nevertheless, innate courage prevailed, and fear had already yielded, when, swayed by the advice of his comrades, he acquiesced in a plan of retiring, through the midst of the enemy, into a castle. The rest, following with loud clamour, broke through the thickest ranks, consecrating their souls to God, and nobly avenging their deaths. The earls, too, so wearied with striking that their hands grew stiff upon their swords, yielded to fate. The king escaping to the fortress, had some few companions remaining out of the two hundred he had led forth; who entreating that he would deign to protract his life by flight, and observing that their danger was of little consequence to the world, while his life was of advantage to many, in as much as he would be an example of valour to every age, by his singular constancy of mind though in adverse circumstances, he esteemed himself worthy to live. Wherefore, accompanied by five knights, he eluded his assailants, and escaped to the mountains. One of the five was Robert the Englishman, as I said before; the others, from the great distance, report has not brought to our knowledge: he, with three more, was taken; the fifth escaped with the king. The Turks vented the whole of their fury on those who had retired to the castle, among whom was Hugh de Lusignan and Geoffrey de Vincennes: only three survivors told their mournful tale to the people of Jerusalem. The king, concealing himself during the day, and, at night, urging his jaded courser through untrodden paths, arrived at Azotus, by the singular and miraculous protection of God; as the Turks had but just departed, after having been plundering around the city for the space of two days. Coming thence by sea to Joppa, he despatched an account of the certainty of his being still living to the people of Jerusalem. The bearer of the epistle was a low Syrian fellow, who, even had he been discovered, would have deceived the enemy, from the meanness of his garb, and his using the common language of the country. Escaping the hands of the infidels by lone paths with which he was acquainted, he arrived the third day at Jerusalem. Upon this the cavalry who garrisoned the city, taking with them the bands of auxiliary infantry, and purposing to proceed to Joppa, took a route close to the sea; avoiding the inland districts. The rear, however, of the party, were cut off, by the Turks pressing on them; as they were left unprotected either by horse or foot. Thus collecting ninety horse from Jerusalem, and eighty from Tiberias, which Hugh, that most intrepid commander, had brought to their assistance, the attendants also, through necessity, were advanced to the rank of knights. The battle was delayed only till the next day, the Turks being now so ferocious as to prepare their engines, and to meditate an attack on the walls of Joppa. This was prevented by the activity of Baldwin, and by the cross of Christ preceding them, which had been wanting in the former battle. They then, with all the force of the kingdom, rushed eagerly on the enemy, and the contest was fierce: but they, after their usual custom, surrounding our troops, thought they had completely overcome the Christians, and shouted with cheerful cry: but the Lord Jesus was present; who, at length looked down from heaven, and showering courage on the Franks, put the enemy, driven from the field, to flight. It had happened in the preceding action, that, though frequently driven from their tents, they afterwards conquered through their numbers; but now, as the infantry wounded them from a distance with their arrows, and the cavalry close at hand with their lances, they placed all their hopes in swiftness, and continued their flight.

He fought another battle in later years, in which our soldiers, pressed by the numbers of the Turks and compelled to fly, lost even their protecting standard. But after they had fled some distance they rallied; shame animating the timid to repel such ignominy. Then indeed the contest was strenuous; fighting foot to foot, and breast to breast. Our party recovered the cross, routing the enemy, and regaining the field. Many fell here with whom I had been acquainted; among these was Godfrey, Baldwin’s bastard-grand-nephew, who, from a boy, manifested valour in his countenance and truth in his soul. In the beginning, indeed, both retreats, as it may be said, were the source of ignominy; but, in the end, true food for glory; the one more celebrated, the other more advantageous. Finally, to repair his losses, and also to be united wdth him in marriage, the countess of Sicily came shortly after to Jerusalem, pouring such treasures into the royal palace, that it was matter of surprise, whence a woman could accumulate such endless heaps of precious utensils: and at this time, indeed, he received her to his bed, but shortly after he put her away. It is said that she was afflicted with a cancerous complaint, which preyed upon her womb, This, however, is well known, that the king had no issue; nor is it wonderful, that a man, to whom leisure was burdensome, should be averse to the embraces of a wife, as he passed all his time in war. By these exertions he effected, that his admirable and nearly godlike valour should operate as an incitement to the present race, and be matter of astonishment to posterity. He died, during an expedition into Arabia, in the month of April, and was publicly buried at Jerusalem, near his brother, as the fourth month was adding to the seventeenth year of his reign. He was a man who gained his reputation by repeated labours, and on whose fame envy hath cast no shade, except it be, that he was too sparing of his money; though there is a ready and wellfounded excuse for such a fault, if it be considered, that the necessary largesses to such as remained with him, prevented him from purchasing the favour of those who departed.

He was succeeded by his kinsman, Baldwin, prince of Edessa, already celebrated for his former campaigns, whom he had, when dying, named as king. He bravely defended the kingdom for many years, and augmented it with the sovereignty of Antioch, which he obtained when Roger, the son of Richard, was killed. He governed both countries with laudable conduct; with less presumptuous haughtiness, perhaps, but with great and consummate prudence, though there are some who wound his fair fame, accusing him of excessive parsimony. Wherefore, last year, when the Turks had taken him, while riding a short distance from Jerusalem, his people grieved but little for him, and for nearly a year it remained unknown, both to subjects and even to talebearers, whither he was taken, or whether or not he breathed the vital air. However, the people of Jerusalem, nothing discouraged on account of his absence, refused either to elect a king or to discontinue the order or command of the soldiers, till the certainty of the matter could be known. At last, the place where he lay captive being discovered, some knights of surpassing boldness, assuming the guise of merchants, and hiding weapons beneath their garments, entered the town, and rescued the king from jeopardy; protesting, that they did not act thus through respect for his niggardliness, but out of gratitude to Gozelin of Turbexhel, who never hesitated to bestow all he possibly could upon the military. He has now lived long, a provident man, and subject to no other imputation, “The principality of Antioch pertains to the son of Boamund, of whom I proceed to speak. Boamund:” was the son of Robert Guiscard by a Norman woman; he had another son named Roger, born of an Apulian, who was, by his father, surnamed “Purse,” because his paternal and attentive observation had discovered, that, from a mere child, he had pleasure in counting money. As to Boamund, who was somewhat older, he never could retain anything, but even gave away his childish presents. Roger, therefore, received Apulia, which seemed to belong to him in right of his mother: Boamund went with his father to the Durazzian war. And when the towns-people, through confidence of their walls, boasted, that the city was called Durachium, because it could endure all sieges undismayed; and “I,” said Guiscard, “am called Durandus; and I will endure in besieging, until I take away the name from the city; so that, henceforth it shall no longer be called Durachium, but Mollucium.” The firmness of this answer so terrified them, that they immediately opened their gates. Thus, secure in his rear, he subdued, with the less difiiculty, the other cities as far as Thessalonica. He had now arrived there, and had already, both by himself and by his son, taught Alexius that he might be overcome, when, beguiled by the treachery of his wife, he failed, by death, of a noble enterprise. Boamund, then, returning to Apulia, possessed some castles through his brother’s indulgence, and acquired many others by his own courage and prudence. Indeed the dukedom had fallen to his brother only in appearance; all the most warlike spirits following him. Nor was this of light importance: for, observant of his father’s purpose, he was averse to Guibert, and strongly espoused the cause of Urban; urging him, when hesitating, to proceed into France to the council of Clermont, whither the letters of Raymond earl of Provence, and of the bishop of Chorges, invited him. The council being ended, he readily embraced the opportunity, and transported his forces into Greece; and thence moving forward his army, he quietly awaited Raymond and Godfrey. Joining them on their arrival, he possessed great influence from his military skill and from his courage, which was never surpassed. But, as what he performed in company with others, only entitles him to a share in the general praise; and my former narrative has related how he had been taken prisoner; it may be proper to mention in what manner he rescued himself from captivity. When Danisman perceived that no advantage resulted to him, from detaining so great a man in confinement, he changed his intentions, and began sedulously to treat of terms of peace; for he was neither inclined to put him to death, lest he should excite the fierce hatred of the Christians against himself; nor would he set him at liberty, without the hope of a lasting peace. Boamund, therefore, promising the infidel perpetual amity, returned to Antioch, bringing with him the silver fetters with which he had been confined; and being favourably received by his people, he took possession of Laodicea, and the other cities which Tancred, lest he should have been thought slumbering in indolence, whilst his uncle was sighing in prison, had acquired during his captivity. Not long after he came into France, ofiering up, in honour of St. Leonard, the chains with which he had been burdened; for this saint is said to be so especially powerful in loosing fetters, that the captive may freely carry away his chains, even in the sight of his enemies, who dare not mutter a syllable. He then married one of the daughters of the king of France, and sending another to Tancred, went to Apulia, followed by the French nobility, who deserted their country in hope of greater advantages, as well as to be eye-witnesses of what could be effected by that energetic valour, which was so universally extolled by fame. Wherefore arranging his affairs in Apulia, he again burst forth against Alexius; alleging as a cause of attacking him, his cruelty to the crusaders, for which he was very noted. But being deceived by the subtlety of the emperor, who alienated his commanders from him by bribery, or took them off by poison, he had little or no success. Dejected at this, he returned to Apulia, where, in a few days, while purposing to proceed to Antioch, he died, not an old man, yet equal to any in prudence, leaving a son of tender age. He was a man firm in adversity, and circumspect in prosperity; for he had even provided himself an antidote, when apprehensive of poison. It was a knife, which, placed before him when eating, strange to tell, indicated, by the moistness of its handle, whenever poison was brought into the apartment. After him Tancred presided over Antioch; a nephew worthy of such an uncle. Tancred was removed from this world by an early death, and Roger the son of Richard succeeded. Though rivalling the fame of his predecessors in battle, yet he incurred the disgrace of being avaricious. In consequence of this, when the soldiery avoided him, he engaged the Turks with a trifling stipendiary, and a small native force, and fell nobly revenging his death: for being taken by them, stripped of his armour, and commanded to yield up his sword; he refused to deliver it to any but the commander, as he considered all present unworthy to receive the surrender of so dignified a character. The unhappy chief gave credit to his specious words, and taking off his helmet, stretched out his hand to receive Roger’s sword. When, indignant, and mustering all his remaining powers for the effort, he cut off the Turk’s head, and being immediately stabbed, escaped the disgrace of slavery by the act his courage had suggested. Baldwin the second, king of Jerusalem, revenging his death in a signal manner, faithfully reserved the dominion of the city, and his daughter, for Boamund the son of Boamund.

Raymond was the son of the most noble William, earl of Toulouse, who, being a man of enterprise and ability, rendered his country, which had been obscured through the indolence of his predecessors, illustrious by his own good qualities. His wife Almodis was repeatedly married to different persons, and had a numerous issue by them all; a woman of such sad, unbridled lewdness, that, when one husband became disgusting to her from long intercourse, she would depart and take up her abode with another: to sum up all, she had been first united to the earl of Aries; presently, becoming weary of him, she connected herself with William; and then after bearing him two sons, she lured the earl of Barcelona to marry her. Moreover, William, when at the point of death, gave to his son of his own name but not of his own disposition, the county of Toulouse, because, though he was of slender talents, the people of Toulouse would attempt no innovation against him, as they were accustomed to the government of his family. But Raymond, who was of brighter abilities, received Cliorges, and increased it wonderfully by the addition of Aries, Narbonne, Provence, and Limoges. Again, he purchased Toulouse of his brother who went to Jerusalem many years previous to the grand crusade; but these things were achieved by a considerable lapse of time, and a life expended on the labour. Thus, ever engaged in war, he had no desire for a legitimate wife, enjoying himself in unrestrained concubinage. Finally, he condescended to honour with his adoption and inheritance, Bertrand, his son by one of his mistresses, as he, in some respects, resembled his father. To this son he married the niece of Matilda the marchioness, a native of Lombardy, that by such affinity he might secure his possessions on that side. In the latter part of his life, too, he himself espoused the daughter of the king of Tarragona, covenanting for a noble dowry; namely, the perpetual peace of the adjacent provinces. Soon after this, on contemplating his grey hairs, he made a vow to go to Jerusalem, that his bodily powers, though decayed and feeble, might still, though late, enter into the service of God. The chief promoter of this was the bishop of Chorges, by whose especial exertions he had always been thwarted, and in one contest, had even lost an eye, which mark of deformity, so far from concealing, he was ever anxious to show, boasting of it as a proof of his gallantry. But now, leagued in mutual friendship, that they might employ their old age in religious services, they stimulated Urban, already inclined to preach the crusade, to pass the Alps and summon a council at Clermont, more especially as it was a city adjacent to their territories, and convenient for persons coming from every part of France. The bishop, however, died on his way to the council. To his influence succeeded the bishop of Puy, of whom we have before spoken: animated by whose advice, and protected by whose assistance, Raymond was the first layman who assumed the cross; making this addition to his vow, “that he would never return to his country, but endeavour to lessen the weight of his past offences by perpetual exertion against the Turks.” He had already given many proofs of his prowess on the way, — the first to labour and the last to rest; many also of forbearance, as lie readily relinquished those places he had first occupied at Antioch to Boamund, and the tower of David to Godfrey. But at length, his patience being worn out by the unreasonable demands of certain persons, he departed from his usual practice on the subject of the surrender of Ascalon. For, on the first arrival of the Franks, the townspeople, examining the disposition of our several commanders, made choice of him for their patron; because many men, who had come thither before by sea, from Montpelier to trade, had extolled his sincerity and courage to the skies. In consequence, they delivered to him their keys, and compelled him to make oath that he would never give up the command of the city to any other of the Christians, should he himself be either unwilling or unable to retain it. A murmurins: then arose among the chiefs, who required the surrender of the city to the king; saying that his kingdom was of little value, unless he could hold Ascalon, which would be a receptacle for the enemy and an obstacle to our party. The king, indeed, set forth the matter mildly, as he did everything else, with a placid countenance consistent with his manners; the others rather more violently. However, he paid little attention to their words, obviating their allegations by very substantial reasons; saying that all his associates had secured a place of retreat; part of them had returned home; part were occupying the provinces they had acquired; that he alone, having abjured his native country, could neither return thither, nor did he possess a place of refuge here; that he had yielded in other points, but they must allow him to retain Ascalon, under fealty to the Holy Sepulchre, as he had taken an oath not to give it up. On hearing this, all began to clamour, and to call him interested and faithless; indeed they could scarcely abstain from laying hands on him. The earl, indignant at this reproach, failed in the duty of a just and upright man, delivering the keys to the enemies of God, and compensating the fear of perjury by the blood of many a man in after time; for to this day that city has never been taken either by force or by stratagem.

Moreover, many of his people, delighted with the unbounded affluence of the place, obtained the friendship of its citizens by denying their faith. Thus leaving Jerusalem, he came to Laodicea, and having subdued it, continued there some little time. Afterwards, when he had gone to Constantinople, Tancred obtained Laodicea, though it is dubious whether by force or favour. In the meantime, remaining at Byzantium, he contrived by his consummate prudence to insinuate himself into the favour of Alexius. Whence it happened, that, through the kindness of the emperor, getting a safe passage, he escaped sharing those calamities which, as we have before related, befell William of Poitou and the others; with whom he took the city of Tortosa, and, when the rest proceeded onwards, retained possession of it. To extend his power, he fortified a town over against Tripoli, called Pilgrim’s Castle, where he appointed abbot Herbert, bishop. And that the shattered strength of his followers might recruit by repose, he made a seven years’ league Avith the Tripolitans. Nevertheless, ere the time appointed, the peace was broken, on account of a certain townsman being found within the castle, with a poisoned dagger concealed beneath his garments. And now truly would he have put the finishing hand to the conquest of Tripoli, had not death, approaching almost immediately, bereft his vital spirit, big with great achievements. On learning his decease, William of Montpelier, and the other chiefs of the province, provided that William the Pilgrim, scarcely four years of age, whom he had begotten on a Spanish woman during the siege, should be conveyed home, to be educated for the succession, with the anxious wishes of all. Nor did Bertrand hear of this transaction with displeasure, although he had never been consulted, as it enabled him to renew his father’s fame. Wherefore, heading a vast army, and chiefly supported by the Genoese and Pisans, who were allied to his wife, he attacked Tripoli by sea and land, and when exhausted by a protracted siege, reduced it to his dominion. To him succeeded Pontius, his son by the Lombard; a youth who rivalled the glory of his ancestors, and who obtained in marriage the relict of Tancred, formerly prince of Antioch. This, when dying, he had commanded; affirming, that, the youth would grow up a benefit to the Christians, and an utter destruction to the Turks. Pontius therefore reigns at Tripoli, professing himself the servant of the Holy Sepulchre; in this respect following the example of his grandfather and father.

William of Malmesbury

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29 January, 2015
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