Crusader Siege of Antioch, 21 October 1097-3 June 1098

One of the great cities of the Roman and Christian world, Antioch had only been captured by the Muslims in 1085, having been retained by Byzantium until then. It's capture was key to the success of the First Crusade - without control of Antioch, the crusaders could not have moved on to Jerusalem. The siege lasted for seven and a half months, and conditions for the crusaders were often worse than those inside the city. The city was located in the valley of the Orontes, in mountainous country. The city itself was on the valley floor, with the citadel high on the mountains above the city, but contained within the city walls. The crusaders put a blockade in place, building three siege towers, and settled down for a long siege. The Syrians made two attempts to relieve the city, defeated at the battles of Harenc (1st battle 31 December 1097, 2nd battle 9 February 1098), and another large relief army under Emir Kerboga of Mosul, some 75,000 strong, was on its way when the city was captured. The eventual capture of the city was aided by treachery within the city. The Tower of the Two Sisters, at the base of the mountain, was held by the Beni-Zarra family, whose head, Firuz, who for personal reasons was willing to let the Franks in. Their break-in was aided by a Turkish plan to kill suspect Christians on the same night - the initial noises of the crusader break-in were mistaken for noises of the massacre. Firuz made his offer to Bohemond, who eventually persuaded the rest of the crusade to agree to give him Antioch as the basis of a principality. In his defence, Bohemond was the first man up the ladder into Antioch. From the Tower of the Two Sisters, the crusaders were able to open a postern gate, and make their way to the Gate of the Bridge, one of the main gates into the city. The city was soon in their hands, but the citadel on it's peak remained in Turkish hands, and only two days later the relief army arrived, beginning Kerboga's siege of Antioch.
Bradbury, Jim, The Medieval Siege , Boydell Press, 2002, 378 pages. A much needed survey of the most important form of warfare in the middle ages, a period that saw far more sieges than battles.
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Nicolle, David, The First Crusade 1096-1099: Conquest of the Holy Land , Osprey Campaign Series, vol 132. The Osprey volume for the first crusade. Nicolle had a great depth of knowledge of middle-eastern history, which is reflected in this book.
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Crusades Subject Index - Books on the Middle Ages

How to cite this article: Rickard, J. (2 April 2001), Antioch, crusader siege of, 21 October 1097-3 June 1098,

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