The siege of Antiochia

Exactly 921 years ago, on October 21, 1097, the first Siege of Antioch began. The conflict, which lasted a total of 8 months, marked the arrival of the First Crusade in the Holy Land: the city of Antioch, in fact, lay (and still lies) about halfway between Constantinople and Jerusalem, in Northern Syria.

The city was so large that the troops of the Crusaders could not even fully surround it, and the idea of an assault was initially thought of as impossible. The main hope of the crusaders, which numbers were less than half those of the Turkish, was to find a traitor inside the city: which was exactly what happened. Between April and May, Bohemond of Taranto, one of the leaders of the Christian army, made contact with and bribed a wealthy citizen inside Antioch named Firouz. On June 3, the man led the Bohemond’s troops up the walls guarding the city, thus allowing them to open the gates and enter the city with the rest of the army, eventually killing most of the inhabitants except for the Christians. While a large Turkish army tried to retake the city after a few days, the Crusaders managed to retain control of Antioch and Bohemond was proclaimed its new ruler, thus beginning the history of the city as the new-found Crusader State of the Principality of Antioch.

“Siege of Antioch”, illumination from the manuscript “Passages faiz oultre mer par les François contre les Turcqs et autres Sarrazins et Mores oultre marins”, ms. Français 5594, f. 59v, ca. 1474, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des manuscrits, Paris.

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