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Chivalry and the Crusades

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Chivalry and the Crusades
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Author(s): G. P. R. James
Date Published: 2013/01
Page Count: 280
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-1-78282-039-0
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-1-78282-038-3

The knight and the Cross

This excellent and thorough book examines the development of chivalry in tenth century Europe, then goes on to describe how the chivalric code and its development into the fighting practices of the armoured knight progressed in the warfare of the following four centuries. The author concentrates particularly on the era of the crusades in the middle east against the Moslem forces for the dominance of Jerusalem and its surrounding regions. Each campaign is described in some detail and uses contemporary first hand accounts that bring the events of the time clearly into focus. Although primarily about the first to fourth crusades, the narrative concludes with an overview of the activities of religious orders of chivalry and an examination of the battles of the Order of St John the Baptist (Knights Hospitallers) with the Ottoman Turks during the sixteenth century in the Mediterranean. A very well researched book of significant historical value this book is recommended to both serious and casual students of the subject. This book’s original title, ‘The History of Chivalry,’ has been changed by the present publishers to more clearly reflect its true scope.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.

The crusaders had been from time to time warned, during the preceding day, that an enemy was in the neighbourhood, by the sight of scattered parties of Arabs hovering round their army. They nevertheless encamped by the side of a beautiful stream, that, flowing on through the rich valley in which they were advancing, proceeded to join itself to the waters of the Sangarius. Here they passed the night in repose, taking merely the precaution of throwing out sentinels to the banks of the stream. Early the next morning, Boemond and Robert again commenced their march, and had advanced some way, when the immense army of Soliman began to appear upon the hills.<br>
Boemond instantly sent off messengers to Godfrey of Bouillon, and the rest of his noble companions, of whose proximity he had now become aware, and gave orders for drawing up his forces, for pitching the tents, and for making a rampart of the wagons and baggage for the defence of the sick and the weak from the arrows of the Turks. In the meanwhile, turning to his knights and men at arms, he addressed them with the brief eloquence of courage. “Remember the duties of your calling!” he exclaimed. “Behold the peril in which you are placed—charge boldly to meet the infidels—defend your honour and your lives!”<br>
While he spoke, the Turks rushed down to the battle with terrific cries, which, mingling with the tramp of two hundred thousand horse, and the ringing of their armour, together with the trumpets of the Christian host, and the shouts of the chiefs and the heralds, raised so fearful a din, that no one could hear another speak among the followers of the Cross.<br>
The army of Boemond, hastily drawn up, presented a mingled front of horse and foot soldiers, and pilgrims, some but half-armed, some not armed at all; while the Turks came down in one torrent of cavalry. The immense numbers which it contained all blazing with glittering arms, and provided with bows of horn and scimitars, dazzled and dismayed the troops of the Christians. As the infidels approached, the European Chivalry dropped the points of their long lances, and prepared to hurl back their foes, as was their wont, by the heavy and decided charge which proved always so effective; but suddenly, each Moslem raised his bow even as he galloped forward, a thick cloud seemed to come over the sun, and then, two hundred thousand arrows dropping at once among the crusaders, a multitude of men and horses were instantly stretched upon the plain.<br>
Before the Christians could rally from the surprise, a second flight of arrows followed the first, doing dreadful execution among the foot-soldiers and the steeds of the knights. But now Tancred and Boemond led on their troops to the charge, and spurred their horses into the midst of the enemy. The Turks, as was their habit, yielded ground on every side, avoiding, by the swiftness of their chargers, the lances and the swords of the Christians, and, like the Parthians of old, continuing their fearful archery even as they fled.<br>
Vain were all the efforts of the European Chivalry, though, throwing away their useless spears, they endeavoured to reach the Turks with their swords; but now, in turn, the swarming multitudes of their foes, pouring down fresh from the mountains on every side, no longer retreated, but pressed closer and closer upon them; and as each adversary fell beneath the vigorous blows of the knights, new foes started up to meet them.
In the meanwhile, thick and fast was mown the flower of the Christian army. The brother of Tancred, famed alike for his beauty and his courage, was slain before the eyes of his relation. Tancred himself, surrounded by a thousand enemies, fought as if Fate had put the weapon in his hands, but fought in vain. Boemond, with all his efforts, could scarcely extricate his gallant cousin from the torrent of adversaries in the midst of which he struggled, and even then it was with the loss of the banner of Otranto.<br>
Borne back by the growing multitude that pressed upon them, the knights gave way before the Saracens, and were driven struggling upon the very pikes of the foot-soldiers that were advancing to their support. At the same time Soliman, whose numbers gave him the means of surrounding the army of the crusaders, directed several large bodies of his cavalry through some marshes to the rear of the Christians, and in a moment the camp of Boemond was invaded and deluged with the blood of the old, the women, and the helpless!<br>
Robert of Normandy, however, who had commanded the reserve, now beholding the flight of his allies, roused all the courage of his heart; and uncovering his head in the midst of the fray, shouted forth his battle-cry of “Normandy! Normandy! Whither fly you Boemond?” he exclaimed; “Your Apulia is afar! Where go you Tancred? Otranto is not near you! Turn! turn upon the enemy! God wills it! God wills it!” And seizing his banner, he spurred on with his followers against the Turks, drove them back, rallied the cavalry, and restored order and regularity to the defence.<br>
Boemond, in the meanwhile, had turned his arms towards the camp; and the Turks had retreated from that quarter of the field, bearing with them all that was valuable, and a considerable number of prisoners. The army of the crusade was now concentrated on one spot, while that of the Turks, surrounding it on all sides, gave it not a moment’s repose. Soldier fell beside soldier, knight beside knight. Fatigue and thirst rendered those that remained little capable of defence; and the dust and the hot sun made many of the wounds mortal, which otherwise would have been slight in comparison. In this conjuncture, the women that remained proved infinitely serviceable, bringing to the troops water from the river, and by prayers and exhortations encouraging them to the fight.<br>
Thus lasted the battle for many hours, when first a cloud of dust, rising from behind the hills, announced that some new combatants were hurrying to the field. Then rose above the slope banner, and pennon, and lance, and glittering arms, while the red cross fluttering on the wind brought hope and joy to the sinking hearts of the crusaders, and terror and dismay to the victorious Turks. In scattered bands, spurring on their horses as for life, came the chivalry of the west to the aid of their brother Christians. None waited for the others; but each hastened to the fight as the fleetness of his charger would permit, and rank after rank, troop after troop, banner followed by banner, and spear glittering after spear, came rushing over the mountains to the valley of the battle. “God wills it! God wills it!” echoed from hill to hill.<br>
Robert of Normandy shouted his war-cry, Boemond, with renewed hope, couched his lance, and Tancred rushed upon the slayers of his brother.