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Baldwin, M. W. (ed.) / The first hundred years

X: The First Crusade: Antioch to Ascalon,   pp. 308-341 PDF (13.4 MB)

Page 312

rider and bolted back onto the knights on the bridge. It was very dark; and
in the confusion the Christians panicked. They fled back across the bridge,
pursued by the Turks, but soon rallied by their camp; and the Turks retreated
again. Losses had been heavy on both sides, particularly amongst the Frankish
horsemen. Adhémar's own standard bearer was among th'e dead. 
 Bohemond and Robert were meanwhile moving southward, in ignorance of the
battle by the bridge, and in ignorance, too, that the Damascene army was
coming up. On December 30 the Moslems reached Shaizar, where they learned
that the crusaders were near Albara. They marched on at once, and next morning
they came on Robert's army, which was a little ahead of Bohemond's. Robert
was taken by surprise and was all but surrounded; Bohemond arrived in time
to see what was happening. He kept his troops back till the Moslems thought
that victory was theirs, then flung them into the battle. His attack discomfited
the enemy, who retired with heavy losses to Hamah. But the crusaders, though
they had been victorious, had lost too many men to follow up the victory.
They sacked one or two villages, then returned to the camp before Antioch,
with far less food than they had hoped to obtain. 
 The next weeks were gloomy for the crusaders. There had been an earthquake
on December 30, and a frightening display of the aurora borealis next evening.
During the following weeks rain fell incessantly, and it was bitterly cold.
Stephen of Blois wrote home to say that he could not understand why people
complained of too much sunshine in Syria. The weather did indeed oblige Dukak
of Damascus, already depressed by his heavy losses, to retire home, leaving
Antioch to its fate. But, while Yaghi-Slyan could keep his men dry and warm
within the city and still had supplies of food, the chilled crusaders in
their damp tents were near starvation. Adhémar ordered a three days'
fast, to avert the wrath of God; but in fact everyone was fasting all the
time, and soon one man in seven was dying of hunger. Missions were sent as
far as the Taurus mountains to collect food; and the local Christians brought
what they could spare to the camp. But they were not philanthropists; they
charged high prices. A donkeyload of provisions cost eight bezants, and few
could afford to pay such sums. The horses fared even worse than the men,
till only seven hundred were left in the camp. 
 Some help came from the island of Cyprus, where the Orthodox patriarch of
Jerusalem, Symeon, was living in exile. Adhémar, 

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