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Medieval Sourcebook:
The Crusaders Journey to Constantinople:
Collected Accounts


As well as the rag-tag army of Peter the Hermit [see collected accounts], a much better organized series of noble-led armies made their way to Constantinople in 1096-97.

See. John W. Nesbitt, "The Rate of March of Crusading Armies in Europe; A Study and Computation," Traditio 19 (1963), 167182.


1. The Gesta: Account of Main Crusade Armies

Soon they departed from their homes in Gaul, and then formed three groups.

One party of Franks, namely, Peter, the Hermit Duke Godfrey, Baldwin, his brother, and Baldwin, Count of the Mount, entered the region of Hungary. These most powerful; knights, and many others whom I do not know, went by the way which Charles ; the Great, wonderworking king of France, long ago had made,!, even to Constantinople. . . .

The second party - to wit, Raymond, Count of St. Gilles, and the Bishop of Puy - entered the region of Slavonia.

The third division, however, went by the ancient road to Rome. In this division were Bohemund, Richard of Principati, Robert, Count of Flanders, Robert the Norman, Hugh the Great, Everard of Puiset, Achard of Montmerle, Ysooard of Mousson, and many others. Next, they went to the port of Brindisi, or Bari, or Otranto. Then Hugh the Great, and William, son of Marchisus, took to the sea at the port of Bari and, crossing the strait, came to Durazzo. But the governor of this place, his heart touched with evil design, took these most renowned men captive immediately upon hearing that they had landed there and ordered them to be conducted carefully to the Emperor at Constantinople, where they should pledge loyalty to him.

Source:

August. C. Krey, The First Crusade: The Accounts of Eyewitnesses and Participants, (Princeton: 1921), 57

2: The Version of Albert of Aix: The Deserters:

After the departure of Peter the Hermit and the most dire destruction of his army; after the killing of the distinguished soldier Walter the Penniless, and the grievous disaster to his army; shortly after the cruel slaughter of the priest, Gottschalk, and of his army; after the misfortune of Hartmann, Count of Alemannia, of Emico, and all the other brave men and leaders from the land of Gaul (to wit, Drogo of Nesle and Clarebold of Vendeuil); ... taking up again their pilgrim's staves, the remnants of the crusading army ignominiously returned to their homes. This desertion debased them before God and man, and it redounded to their shame.

Source:

August. C. Krey, The First Crusade: The Accounts of Eyewitnesses and Participants, (Princeton: 1921), 57

3. The Gesta: Bohemund

But Bohemund, powerful in battle, who was engaged in the siege of AmaM on the sea of Salerno, heard that a countless host of Christians from among the Franks had come to go to the Sepulchre of the Lord, and that they were prepared for battle against the pagan horde. He then began to inquire closely what fighting arms these people bore, and what sign of Christ they carried on the way, or what battlecry they shouted. The following replies were made to him in order: "They bear arms suitable for battle; on the right shoulder, or between both shoulders, they wear the cross of Christ; the cry, 'God wills itl God wills it! God wills it!' they shout in truth with one voice." Moved straightway by the Holy Spirit, he ordered the most precious cloak which he had with him cut to pieces, and straightway he bad the whole of it made into crosses. Thereupon, most of the knights engaged in that siege rushed eagerly to him, so that Count Roger remained almost alone.

Returning again to his own land, Lord Bohemund diligently prepared himself to undertake in true earnest the journey to the Holy Sepulchre. At length, he crossed the sea with his army. With him were Tancred, son of Marchisus, Richard of Principati, and Rainulf, his brother, Robert of Anse, Herman of Cannae, Robert of Surda Valley, Robert, son of Tostanus, Hunfred, son of Raoul , Richard, son of Count Rainulf, the Count of Roscignolo, with his brothers, Boellus of Chartres, Albered of Cagnano, and Hunfred of Mt. Seaglioso. All of these crossed the sea to do service for Bohemund and landed in the region of Bulgaria, where they found a very great abundance of grain, wine, and bodily nourishment. Thence descending into the valley of Andronopoli, they waited for his forces, until all bad likewise crossed the sea. Then the wise Bobemund ordered a council with his people, comforting and admonishing all (with these words). "Seignors, take heed all of you, for we are pilgrims of God. We ought, therefore, to be better and more humble than before. Do not plunder this land, since it belongs to Christians, and let no one, at the cost of blessing, take more than be needs to eat."

Departing thence, we journeyed through great plenty from villa to villa, city to city, fortress to fortress, until we reached Castoria. There we solemnly celebrated the nativity of the Lord. We remained there for several days and sought a market, but the people were unwilling to accord it to us, because they feared us greatly, thinking that we came not as pilgrims, but to devastate their land and to kill them. Wherefore we took their cattle, horses, asses, and everything that we found. Leaving Castoria, we entered Pelagonia, in which there was a certain fortified town of heretics. This we attacked from all sides and it soon yielded to our sway. Thereupon, we set it on fire and burned the camp with its inhabitants, that is, the congregation of heretics. Later, we reached the river Vardar. And then Lord Bohemund went across with his people, but not with all, for the Count of Roscignolo with his brothers remained behind.

Thereupon , an army of the Emperor came and attacked the Count with his brothers and all who were with them. Tancred, hearing of this, went back and, hurling himself into the river, reached the others by swimming; and two thousand went into the river following Tancred. At length, they came upon the Turcopoles and Patzinaks struggling with our men. They (Tancred and his men) charged the enemy suddenly and bravely and overcame them gloriously. Several of them they seized and led them, bound, into the presence of Bohemund, who spoke to them as follows: "Wherefore, miserable men, do you kill Christ's people and mine? I have no quarrel with your Emperor." They replied, "We cannot do otherwise; we have been placed in the service of the Emperor, and whatever he commands we must fulfill." Bohemund allowed them to depart unpunished. This battle was fought in the fourth day of the week, which is the beginning of the fast. Through all, blessed is the Lord! Amen.

The unhappy Emperor sent one of his own men, whom be greatly loved, and whom they call Corpalatius, together with our envoys, to conduct us in security through his land until we should come to Constantinople. And as we paused before their cities, he ordered the inhabitants to offer us a market, just as those also did of whom we have spoken. Indeed, they feared the most brave host of Lord Bohemund so greatly that they permitted none of us to enter the walls of the city. Our men wanted to attack and seize a certain fortified town because it was full of all kinds of goods. But the renowned man, Bohemund, refused to consent not only in justice to the land, but also because of his pledge to the Emperor. Therefore, he was greatly angered on this account with Tancred and all the rest. This happened toward evening. When morning came, the inhabitants of the town came out, and, in procession, bearing crosses in their hands, they came into the presence of Bohemund. Delighted, he received them; and with gladness he permitted them to depart. Next we came to a certain town, which is called Serrhae, where we fixed our tents and bad a market sufficient for that time. There the learned Bohemund made a very cordial agreement with two Corpalatii; and out of regard for their friendship, as well as in justice to the land, he ordered all the stolen animals which our men had to be returned. The Corpalatius promised him that he would despatch messengers to return the animals to their owners in order. Then we proceeded from castle to castle and from villa to villa to the city of Rusa. The people of the Greeks came out, bringing us the greatest market, and went joyfully to meet Lord Bohemund. There we Pitched on, tents in the fourth day of the week before the feast of the Lord.

There, also, the learned Bohemund left all his host an( went on ahead to speak with the Emperor at Constantinople. He gave commands to his vassals, saying, "Approach the city gradually. I, however, will go on in advance." And he took with him a few at the head of the army of Christ, and, seeing the pilgrims buying food, he said to himself that he would go off the road and lead his people where they would live happily. At length be entered a certain valley, filled with goods of all kinds that are suitable nourishment for the body, and in it we most devoutly celebrated Easter.

Source:

August. C. Krey, The First Crusade: The Accounts of Eyewitnesses and Participants, (Princeton: 1921), 62-64

4. Raymond d'Aguiliers: Raymond of Toulouse and Adhémar of Le Puy

While advancing into the land of Slavonia they suffered many losses on the way, especially because it was then winter. For Slavonia was such a desert and so pathless and mountainous that we saw in it neither wild animals, nor birds for three weeks. The inhabitants of the region were so boorish and rude that they were unwilling to trade with us, or to furnish us guidance, but instead fled from their villages and their castles. Indeed, they even butchered like cattle, or, as if they had done much harm, the feeble aged and the weak poor, who, because of their weakness, followed our army at a distance. Nor was it easy amidst steep mountains and thick woods for our armed knights to pursue the unarmed brigands who were acquainted with the country. But they suffered them constantly, unable either to fight or to keep from fighting. Let us not pass over a certain illustrious act of the Count. When the Count with some of his knights had been hedged about for some little time by the Slavonians, he made a charge upon them and captured as many as six of them. And when, on this account, the Slavonians pressed upon him the more violently, and the Count was compelled to follow the army, he ordered the eyes of some of them (the prisoners) to be torn out, the feet of others cut off, and the nose and hands of still others to be slashed, so that while the pursuers were thus moved at the sight and preoccupied with their sorrow, the Count could safety escape with his companions. And thus, by the grace of God he was delivered from the straits of death and this difficult situation.

Indeed, what courage and wisdom the Count displayed in this region is not easy to relate! For we were in Slavonia for almost forty days, during which time we encountered clouds so dense that we could feel them and push them before us with a slight movement. Amidst all this, the Count was fighting constantly at the rear and ever defending his people. He was never the first, but always the last, to encamp, and though the others went to rest at midday, or at evening, the Count often did so at midnight, or at cockcrow. At length, through the compassion of God, the labor of the Count, and the advice of the Bishop, the army so crossed (Slavonia) that we lost no one there from hunger, and no one in open battle. On that account, I bear witness, God wanted his army to cross Slavonia, in order that the boorish men who did not know God, upon recognizing the valor and patience of His knights, might either lose something of their wildness or be brought without excuse to God's judgment. And then, after many labors, we came to the king of the Slavonians at Scutari, The Count swore friendship with him and gave him a large tribute, so that the army might buy or seek necessaries in security. But this was a (vain) expectation, for we did penance enough for the peace we had sought when thereafter the Slavonians, raging in their usual manner, killed our men and took from the unarmed what they could. We sought not vengeance, but a place of refuge. So much about Slavonia.

We came to Durazzo. We believed we were in our own country, thinking that the Emperor and his satellites were our brothers and helpmates. They, indeed, raging in the manner of lions, attacked a peaceful people who thought of nothing less than arms. They, butchered them in secret places; they stole what they could by night, in the woods, and in villages remote from the camp. Although they raged thus, their leader promised peace. But during the intervals of peace, they killed Pontius Reinald and mortally wounded his brother, Peter, and these were most noble princes. However, when an opportunity was presented to us for revenge, we chose to continue the journey, not to avenge our wrongs. On the way, we had letters from the Emperor about peace, brotherhood, and, as I may also say, about alliance; this, however, was a snare in words. For in front and behind, to right and to left, Turks and Cumans, Uzi, Tanaces, Patzinaks, and Bulgarians were lying in ambush for us.

On a certain day, moreover, when we were in the valley of Pelagonia, the Bishop of Puy, who, in order to find a comfortable resting place, had withdrawn a little distance from the camp, was captured by the Patzinaks. They knocked him down from his mule, robbed him, and beat him severely on the head. But since so great a pontiff was still necessary to the people of God, through God's mercy he was saved to life. For one of the Patzinaks, in order to obtain gold from him, protected him from the others. Meanwhile, the noise was heard in the camp; and so, between the delay of the enemy and the attack of his friends, he was rescued.

When we had come amidst treachery of this fashion to a certain fortress called Bucinat, the Count learned that the Patzinaks intended to attack our army in the passes of a certain mountain. Staying in hiding with some of his knights, he came upon the Patzinaks, and, after killing several of them, he turned the rest to flight. Meanwhile, pacifying letters from the Emperor reached us, (and yet) by his evil design the enemy surrounded us on all sides. When we came to Thessalonica, the Bishop was ill and remained in the city with a few men.

After this, we came to a certain city, Rusa by name, where, since its citizens were plainly disposed to do us evil, our usual patience was somewhat disturbed. So, taking up arms, we destroyed the outer walls, seized great plunder, and forced the city to surrender; then, having taken our standards into the city and shouted "Toulouse!" which was the battle cry of the Count, we departed.

We came to another city, called Rodosto. When knights in the pay of the Emperor there sought to carry out his vengeance upon us, many of them were killed and a quantity of plunder taken. There, also, the envoys whom we had sent ahead to the Emperor came to us and, having received money from him, promised that everything boded well for us with the Emperor. What more? The message (brought) by our envoys and those of the Emperor was that the Count, leaving his army behind, should hasten unarmed and with a few men to the Emperor. For they said that Bohemund, the Duke of Lorraine, the Count of Flanders, and other princes made this prayer: that the Count should hasten to agree with the Emperor about the march to Jerusalem; that the Emperor, having taken the cross, should also become leader in the army of God. In addition to this, they reported that the Emperor had said that he would make all arrangements with the Count, both about themselves and whatever else should be necessary for the journey. They announced, furthermore, that a battle was imminent, and that without the support of so great a man it would probably be unfavorable; that the Count should therefore go ahead with a few men, so that when his army should arrive, everything would have been arranged with the Emperor, and there would be no delay for anyone. At length, the Count was persuaded to go ahead of his army, in this instance, alone, leaving his guard behind him in the camp. And thus he went unarmed to Constantinople.
Source:

August. C. Krey, The First Crusade: The Accounts of Eyewitnesses and Participants, (Princeton: 1921), 64-67

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© Paul Halsall December 1997
halsall@murray.fordham.edu