What was the Battle of Antioch (1098)?

Introduction

The Battle of Antioch (1098), part of the Siege of Antioch, was a military engagement fought between the forces of the Crusaders of Antioch and a Turkish coalition led by the Emir Kerbogha of Mosul as a part of the First Crusade. Kerbogha’s goal was to reclaim Antioch from the Crusaders and affirm his position as a regional power.

Background

As the starving and outnumbered Crusaders emerged from the gates of the city and divided into six regiments, Kerbogha’s commander, Watthab ibn Mahmud, urged him to immediately strike their advancing line.

Kerbogha was concerned a pre-emptive strike might only destroy the Crusader’s front line and may also significantly weaken his own forces disproportionately. However, as the Franks continued to advance against the Turks, Kerbogha began to grasp the severity of the situation (he previously underestimated the size of the Crusading army), and attempted to establish an embassy between him and the Crusaders in order to broker a truce. It was, however, too late for him, and the leaders of the Crusade ignored his emissary.

The Battle

Kerbogha, now backed against a corner by the advancing Franks, opted to adopt a more traditional Turkish battle tactic. He would attempt to back his army up slightly in order to drag the Franks into unsteady land, while continuously pelting the line with horse archers, meanwhile making attempts to outflank the Franks. However, Bohemond was ready for this, and he created a seventh division of Crusaders led by Rainauld of Toul to hold off the attack. Soon, many Emirs began to desert Kerbogha. Many of the Crusaders were also encouraged by the presumed visions of St. George, St. Mercurius, and Saint Demetrius among their ranks.

Finally, Duqaq of Damascus deserted, spreading panic among the ranks of the Turks. Soqman the Ortoqid and the Emir of Homs, Janah ad-Daula, were the last loyal to Kerbogha, but they too soon deserted after realizing the battle was lost. The whole Turkish army was now in complete disarray, all fleeing in different directions; the Crusaders chased them as far as the Iron Bridge, slaying many of them.

Aftermath and Legacy

Kerbogha would go on to return to Mosul, defeated and stripped of his prestige.

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