Saturday, April 17, 2010

A Brief Comment from Anna and Me

Anna Comnena commented on the initial wave of crusaders in the Alexiad. It is interesting to see how they were regarded by someone outside their camp. She did not doubt the sincerity of Peter the Hermit, who had suffered torture when he made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, or that of many of the poor people who came with him, but they were large groups including women and children who were ill equipped to fight.
She wrote that their arrival was preceded by plagues of locusts which was taken as a sign that the Kelts, as she often called them, would be as a plague to the Turks. It was quickly apparent that they would do more damage to the Christian Byzantine empire, which they attacked as often if not more than they attacked the Arabs.
She also blames much of their misfortune on their own arrogance. When Alexius told Peter to wait until the other counts arrive, Peter refused trusting in the numbers of his followers. She called the town where Peter was staying Helenopolis and not Cuiotte. She wrote that some 10,000 Normans broke off from the main group and attacked Nicaea (which was the headquarters of the Turkish Kilij Arslan) with particular cruelty. 'They cut babies to pieces, impaled some on spikes and roasted them over fires'. They tortured old people and returned to Helenopolis with booty. Then there were fights over the booty. So another group (Anna called them Normans but she often had trouble telling the foreigners apart) left for Xerigordon (Exerogogo). These were crushed by the Sultan. Kilij Arlsan then set a trap for the remainder sending spies in Helenopolis with the story that Nicaea had been taken and was being looted for all its gold. That made a crowd run out of Helenopolis to be slaughtered by the Turks. Considering that Peter complained in Gesta Francorum that his people would not listen to him, I think we can consider this a fact. Only Anna writes that Peter was with the handful of survivors that made it back to Helenopolis and that Alexis thought it would be a shame if the Sultan captured him and sent Constantine Euphorbenus Catacalon to rescue him and bring him back to Constantinople.
The Crusaders did not behave well in Constantinople, raiding Christian outskirts and rioting when Alexis granted them a 'market' as a courtesy. Small wonder that he took their weapons away when they returned. Some of the Crusaders were, as Anna says, opportunists and brigands who were not interested in liberating the Holy Land as much as they were interested in empire and booty. Okay enough from me and Anna, back to our story.

5 comments:

Tracy said...

It's always useful to have an alternative viewpoint.

Some of the Crusaders were, as Anna says, opportunists and brigands who were not interested in liberating the Holy Land as much as they were interested in empire and booty.
That really is no surprise, there are always opportunists on both sides.

She wrote that their arrival was preceded by plagues of locusts which was taken as a sign that the Kelts, as she often called them, would be as a plague to the Turks. It was quickly apparent that they would do more damage to the Christian Byzantine empire, which they attacked as often if not more than they attacked the Arabs
But that is a surprise. Why did they attack their own side?

The Red Witch said...

@Why did they attack their own side?

Hard to say really. By 'their own side' I do mean Christians. This Crusade was supposed to be against the infidel but the eastern half of the former Roman empire had a great animosity towards the western half and vice versa. The Byzantine empire was wealthier than the Western half.

Anonymous said...

In 1961, I arrived at Karamursel Air Force station in Turkey for a year and a half stay. I wish I have know it at the time, but the same peninsula where the base was located was the site of Helenopolis. We visited Nicaea, but did not go up the mountain due south, but around the mountains to the south. I climed the mountain and don't remember a road in that direction.

The Red Witch said...

There have been numerous earthquakes in the area since then. Might have obliterated the old road.

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