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Hazard, H. W. (ed.) / Volume III: The fourteenth and fifteenth centuries
(1975)

X: The Kingdom of Cyprus, 1291-1369,   pp. 340-360 PDF (10.3 MB)


Page 356

 356 A HISTORY OF THE CRUSADES 
ners. Venice in particular was sensitive as regards antagonizing the sultan,
as it was the republic's policy to keep on good terms with him in order to
safeguard its commercial activities in his dominions. 14 That it supported
Peter's crusade to the extent it did may have been out of gratitude for Peter's
helpfulness in connection with a revolt against the Venetians in Crete. 
 Attempts had been made, not without success, to delude the enemy into expecting
the attack to be made on the crusaders' traditional objective, the Syrian
coast. Alexandria was therefore taken by surprise when the fleet entered
its harbor on October 9, 1365. The sultan, Sha'ban, was a boy; the governor,
who had been on the pilgrimage, was still on his way back; many of the townsfolk,
taking the visit to be a friendly one, at first came out prepared to trade.
An opening assault was partially successful, yet some of the invaders were
in favor, even then, of abandoning an enterprise of which they had never
wholly approved. It required all Peter's deter mination to induce the half-hearted
among his followers to persevere with the attack. During hand-to-hand skirmishes
the king nearly lost his life and had to fight his way out of a band of Saracens
who had managed to surround him; his nephew Hugh also displayed con spicuous
gallantry and won the title prince of Galilee on the field of battle. By
October 10 the Christians were within the walls and the city, for the time
being, was theirs, to be pillaged, laid waste, and finally burned. Defenders
and townspeople were indiscriminately slaughtered, irrespective of age and
sex. William of Machaut esti mated the slain among the Saracen troops and
the Alexandrians at twenty thousand, no doubt an exaggerated figure, but
not exag gerated was the destruction. Alexandria was reduced almost to ashes;
movable objects of loot filled seventy of the attacking ships; five thousand
of the population were put on board others to be taken away as captives.
Alexandria's sack, which continued for three days, was complete. 
 It was Peter's plan to strengthen the captured city's fortifications and
to use it as the advanced base for the recapture of the Holy Land, ultimate
goal of the crusade. But a council of war which now assembled to consider
the next step was overwhelmingly in favor of evacuation, notwithstanding
the king's pleas, backed by Philip of Mézières and the pope's
legate, Peter Thomas, for holding fast. The majority argued successfully
that the captured city would be un 
 14. The rulers of Venice must have known that the attack was to be made
against Egypt, for they had exacted an undertaking from Peter not to land
in the sultan's territories before the end of October, and complained bitterly
that he had done so three weeks early. 


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