Battle of the Orontes, 28 June 1098 (First Crusade)
Battle during the first crusade that secured the crusaders control of Antioch. Almost immediately after their capture of the city, the crusaders were faced by a relieving force under Emir Kerboga of Mosul, which arrived before the city on 5 June, and took up the same positions that the crusades had just abandoned. Not only that, the original defenders of the city still held the citadel, and were able to make contact with Kerboga. After negotiations between the crusaders and Kerboga failed, Bohemond, at that point effective commander of the crusading army, decided to risk battle, in the knowledge that the crusaders could not survive a siege. It was probably know to Bohemond that the Muslim army was split by internal rivalry, with many of Kerboga's allies as afraid of the result of a victory as of the crusaders. Regardless of this, the crusaders could only muster 15,000 tired and often poorly equipped men against a probably Muslim strength of 75,000 men
Leaving only one hundred men in the city, Bohemond led the crusaders out of the city and across the Orontes. Kerboga let them cross the river, perhaps hoping for to end the crusader threat in a single battle. This allowed the crusaders to form up their entire army before battle began. Korboga attempted the traditional Turkish tactic of retreating before the enemy, forcing them to advance through a hail of arrows, but the battlefield was too tight for that tactic to work, and the crusaders were able to engage the Turkish army in a melee, where the crusaders were at an advantage. Seeing the battle going badly, Kerboga's allies, led by Duqaq, emir of Damascus, began to desert him, until all of his allies were gone, at which point Kerboga also fled. The crusaders followed up, and inflicted very heavy casualties on the fleeing army, while many more were killed by the local population. Kerboga himself managed to reach Mosul, but never regained the influence he had had before the battle. Meanwhile, the crusaders were now secure in Antioch.
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.
How to cite this article: Rickard, J. (30 August 2001), Battle of the Orontes, 28 June 1098 (First Crusade), http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_orontes.html