Matthew of Edessa, Chronicle, Warfare in the Crusader States (1104-1127)


The Chronicle of Matthew of Edessa is considered by scholars to be a primary source of major importance for the history of the Near East during the period of the early Crusades.  This work relates events that occurred between the years 952 and 1136, although a Gregory the Priest continued the chronicle to the year 1162.  Matthew, an Armenian, was well placed to know about events in the Crusader States and other parts of the Near East.  The chapters given below, from the third part of this work, deal with the movements and battles fought by various Crusader leaders, in particular the counts of Edessa.

18: In the year 553 of the Armenian era [1104-1105] the count of Edessa (Baldwin I) and Joscelin collected troops and went against the town of Harran. They sent to Antioch and summoned the great Frankish count Bohemond and also Tancred; moreover, they brought in all the Armenian troops and thus got together a formidable army. They then descended upon Harran and vehemently besieged it, putting the town in danger of famine. Then one of the Franks performed an act not pleasing to God; breaking open a loaf of bread, he defecated in it and took and placed it before the gates of the town. When the townspeople saw this, one of their number, taking a risk, rushed forth to eat the bread; seeing the feces it contained, he became nauseated and brought and showed it to the townspeople. When the sensible men among them saw this, they said: “This is a sinful deed which God will not allow to go unpunished; he will not give the Franks the victory, for they have contaminated this bread, a profanation without compare on the earth.” After this the Persian forces marched against the Franks with a formidable army led by Chokurmish, the emir of Mosul, and Sokman, the son of Artuk. When the Frankish chiefs heard this, greatly rejoicing they went against the Persian forces. The Franks were a two day’s march from the town, at a place called Oshut. Now the count of Edessa and Joscelin became puffed up with pride and placed Bohemond and Tancred at a distance from their troops, saying: “We will engage in combat first and thus take the laurels of victory.” When Baldwin and Joscelin clashed with the Turkish forces, a frightful and violent battle took place here in this strange and alien Muslim land. The Persian forces vanquished the Franks, bringing the divine-rebuking wrath of God upon the Christians; for the whole land was covered with blood and corpses of more than thirty thousand Christian faithful, and so the region became depopulated. The count of Edessa (Baldwin) and Joscelin were taken prisoner and led into captivity, while the two other Frankish chiefs, including all their forces, suffered no harm. So these latter took their most valiant men and took refuge in the city of Edessa as fugitives.

19. The Christians of the city of Edessa endured many hardships, because the inhabitants of Harran had cut off the retreat of the remnants of the Frankish troops, encircling the mountain and the plain and slaughtering ten thousand fugitives. These Muslims of Harran brought more destruction upon the Christian faithful than the Turks had ever done. So there was much painful weeping and grievous affliction in Edessa. On that day tearful groans issued forth from the city, and all the Christian lands were in despair. After this Count Baldwin was taken to the Muslim city of Mosul, while Joscelin was taken to Hisn Kaifa, to Sokman, the son of Artuk; now it was Choktirmish who took Baldwin.

20. Bohemond resolved to return to the country of the Franks in order to obtain reinforcements and so left Edessa and Antioch in the hands of his sister’s son Tancred. Now, when Bohemond arrived in the country of the Franks, he met a very rich woman who had been the wife of the Frankish count Stephen of Blois, [a man] of noble lineage and the last of his line. This woman made Bohemond stay with her, saying: “Take me for your wife, for my husband is dead and my lands and cavalry forces’ have no lord over them.” However, Bohemond rejected her proposal, saying: “I have come here with a solemn oath to obtain reinforcements and then quickly return to aid the remaining Christian forces who are surrounded by the infidel Persians.” Nevertheless, the woman kept on insisting vehemently, but he still would not listen to her. Finally she put Bohemond in chains and threw him in prison. After staying in prison for a number of days, the count finally gave in and agreed to marry the woman; from him she had two children. Now after five years the great Frankish count Bohemond died in his own land, without being able to return to the East.

28. In this same year [1105-6] Chokurmish, the emir of Mosul and Nisibis, went forth with many troops and encamped before the gates of the city of Edessa at harvest time. The commander of the Frankish forces was a man named Richard [of Salerno], to whom Tancred had entrusted the defense of the city.  Richard took the garrison of the city and unwisely made a sortie with his infantry against the brave and militant Persian forces. When the Persians saw this careless move on the part of the Frankish troops, they fell upon them and pushed them all into the moat surrounding the city. Then all the infidels, crossing over the moat, entered through the gates of the city and slaughtered as many as four hundred men. After having flayed all their corpses, they took their heads back to Persia. Thus on that day great sorrow fell upon Edessa, for cries and weeping issued forth from every household, and blood flowed in all areas around the city. So Chokurmish victoriously turned back and went to his own country.

29. In this same year the Frankish count Saint Gilles died while besieging the city of Tripoli. He left the outer city, which he had built, and his troops to his sister’s son, Bertram, a brave man and a warrior [actually Bertram was Saint Gilles’ son]. This Saint Gilles who died was the one who had brought back the lance of Christ to the emperor Alexius in Constantinople.

30. In this same year the town of Aplast’an, located in the district of Jahan, endured many harassments, tribulations, and misfortunes at the hands of the Frankish forces. The inhabitants of this town were so mistreated that they resolved to wreak their vengeance on the Franks. So they went over to the side of the infidels. They secretly sent a messenger and summoned the infidel cavalry of the district to occupy the town. Then the Armenians of the town, allying themselves with the infidels, went to the citadel and said the following to the Frankish commander: “Get out and go back to your own people and may God be with you.” When the commander heard this, he flew into a rage like a ferocious beast and attacked the townspeople. However, they defeated him and slaughtered his troops in total so that not one of them remained alive. The Lord considered this a vindication of what happened to the townspeople. On that day about three hundred persons perished, all because of the tribulations which the Franks brought upon the faithful; for they had devastated and depopulated the country and made it desolate. Thus, because of the Franks, the land became barren. The vineyards and orchards withered, the fields became covered with thistles, and the springs dried up. Friendship and happiness between friends was destroyed; treachery and hatred was disseminated throughout the land. Because of their bitter afflictions, the inhabitants ceased going to church, and so the doors of the house of God were closed. The lamps were extinguished, and the blessings of God were suspended in the house of the Lord. The priests were subjected to vile servility and thrown into prison. The altars and the baptismal fonts of the holy church were knocked down and destroyed. The mysteries of the cross became hidden from view, and the fragrance of incense was forgotten. In this way the glorification of God ceased throughout the whole district of Aplast’an. In other places chapels were demolished, priests were scorned, and scrutiny of the holy faith ceased; moreover, the truth was subverted, righteousness was rejected, piety was proscribed, and in every quarter the dreadful judgement of Christ’s tribunal was forgotten. All these things were caused by the raving Franks, because the illustrious princes and chiefs of this nation no longer existed, and control had fallen into the hands of unworthy people. Because of this, the Franks, primarily motivated by avariciousness, brought harassment and suffering upon the Christian faithful.

39. In this same year Joscelin ransomed Baldwin, the count of Edessa, from Chavli for thirty thousand dahekans. Then he and Baldwin came to the Armenian prince Vasil, who received them with great honor and gave them many gifts. After this Baldwin went and collected cavalry troops in Raban, one of the towns belonging to Vasil, for he intended on warring against the pious man Tancred. Then Baldwin, in collusion with Joscelin, did a wicked thing, something which was not pleasing in the eyes of God. The two men sent to the Persian emir Chavli and persuaded him to come to their aid with five thousand horsemen. Then they made war on Tancred, the count of Antioch, because of their lands which he had taken over while they were in captivity and now would not return to them; for Tancred wished them to be his vassals, something which they would not agree to. Vasil sent Baldwin and Joscelin eight hundred of his own men and Pecheneg troops from the Roman emperor’s army who were stationed in Mamistra, all of which made up a goodly force. The soldier of Christ Tancred, in turn, marched forth at the head of one thousand horsemen together with a number of infantry forces. A violent battle took place between Baldwin and Tancred within the confines of Tell Bashir, both sides fighting vehemently and heroically. The Persian troops severely slaughtered the Frankish infantry forces of Tancred’s army. However, as the battle intensified, Tancred defeated Baldwin’s forces and put them to flight. Then with great fury the count of Antioch turned upon Chavli and, sword in hand, drove back his troops, inflicting a severe slaughter upon them. Nevertheless, on that day about two thousand Christians perished. Tancred victoriously turned back and went to his city of Antioch. On the other hand, Baldwin fled and took refuge in a fortress called Ravendan, while Joscelin saved himself by taking shelter in his fortress called Tell Bashir.

40. When the inhabitants of the city of Edessa learned of all this, they all became sad and gloomy because of Baldwin, for they thought that he was dead. So they assembled in the Church of St. John in the presence of the Frankish papios [bishop] in order to consult with each other [as to what was to be done]; for they feared that the city would once again fall to Tancred and he would hand it over to Richard who, when he had previously occupied Edessa, had caused the ruin of many persons. When all the townspeople of Edessa came together, they had a conference with the papios and said: “Let your men and ours guard the citadel until we learn who is to be the lord [of the city].” A day later Joscelin and Baldwin came and entered the city of Edessa. They inquired as to what had been proposed at the assembly and regarded it as quite dangerous, interpreting it to be an act of disloyalty. So they proceeded to wantonly pillage everything in sight and to put out the eyes of many innocent people. On this occasion they inflicted severe punishments on the Christians, for the Franks easily lent an ear to all the vicious accusations made and were very willing to shed the blood of innocent and righteous men. They went so far as to make an attempt to blind the Armenian bishop, his lordship Stephen. However, when the townspeople learned that the bishop was beyond reproach, they ransomed him for a sum of one thousand dahekans.

41. In this same year there occurred a very bitter and hard winter. Because of the intense cold, animals perished in many places, and birds died throughout the whole land. Moreover, black snow fell upon Persia, which was a frightful omen directed against the Persians, but something which their savants were unable to understand.

42. In this same year a violent conflict broke out in the Arab lands, in [the city of] Basra, which is the native land of Job. The Arabs and Turks engaged in a frightful battle there. The Arab forces bravely and ferociously fought against the Persians and shattered their army in a great victory, slaughtering them and putting them to flight. After this the Turkish commander once again collected troops and went against the Arab forces. This time in a valiantly fought battle the Turks put the Arabs to flight. Then fifty thousand of the Arab forces came to the territory of the city of Aleppo, intending to place themselves under the protection of Tancred, the count of Antioch. However, after remaining here a number of days, they returned to their own country.

43. In the year 558 of the Armenian era [1109-1110] Baldwin, the count of Edessa, and Joscelin, the count of Tell Bashir, collected troops and went against the town of Harran in order to ravage its surrounding territory. Accompanying them was an Armenian nobleman from the forces of Vasil, who was a son of Tachat, lord of Taron; his name was Aplasat’, and he was a brave man and an excellent warrior. Having left Vasil because of some misunderstanding, he had come to Edessa. Now, when the Christians reached the gates of the town of Harran, the Edessenes began to devastate the surrounding countryside. Suddenly the Turkish forces came against them with one thousand five hundred horsemen and killed one hundred and fifty of the Edessenes. At this point the Frankish troops, being few in number, were intent on fleeing to Edessa. Then Aplasat’ cried out like a lion and, signaling his troops, shattered the front line of the infidel forces. So they began their retreat to Edessa, hotly pursued by the Turks; in spite of this they entered the city of Edessa unharmed. Aplasat’ was not pleased with the conduct of the Franks [in this battle] and so he returned to the service of Vasil. This brave Armenian was wounded in the arm [during the battle], but did not die because his armor stopped the blow [inflicted by the enemy weapon].

44. In this same year the coastal city of Tripoli was captured by the Christians. After an eleven-year siege [it was actually seven years], the inhabitants were exhausted by violent assaults and had sustained a drawn-out blockade; for Baldwin, the king of Jerusalem, and Bertram, a relative of the great count Saint Gilles, had put them in dire straits. So the inhabitants of Tripoli summoned the count of Antioch, Tancred, and delivered their city into his hands. Then the king of Jerusalem and Bertram made war on Tancred, since they were the ones who had laid siege to Tripoli. At this point their patriarch and bishops intervened and established peace between the two sides, Tancred then returning to Antioch. However, the king of Jerusalem equipped a fleet against Tripoli and, besieging the city by sea and by land, launched a formidable assault against it. Tripoli was set on fire and the inhabitants of the whole city were put to the sword, causing the streets to be inundated with blood. The Frankish forces seized an innumerable amount of gold and silver and carried off a countless number of captives to their own country.

45. At the beginning of the year 559 of the Armenian era [1110-1111] the count of Edessa was intent on starting a second war against Tancred. At this time Baldwin and Joscelin, motivated by their arrogant character, conceived of a plan unworthy of any Christian. They sent to the city of Mosul and summoned to their aid the Persian general called Maudud [governor of Mosul, 1108-13], a ferocious and mighty warrior. When Maudud heard this, he willingly acquiesced to their request and, gathering together all his Turks, the Persian general marched forth with a formidable army and reached the confines of the town of Harran. He sent for and summoned the count of Edessa to come to him, but Baldwin, being afraid, did not dare to come to the infidel chief. Then Maudud realized that he had been deceived by the count and so advanced to battle against Edessa. Now, when Baldwin saw this, he dispatched Joscelin to get reinforcements, while he sent to the king of Jerusalem, asking him to come to the aid of the city of Edessa. The king at this time with all the Frankish forces was besieging the town of Beirut, located on the Mediterranean Sea. In the meantime the emir Maudud arrived at the head of a countless number of troops which were spread over the vast plain of Edessa. His army surrounded the city on every side, being dispersed over every mountain and hill in the area. The whole East gathered under Maudud’s banner, while the inhabitants of the entire surrounding countryside fled, thus depopulating the region. The emir struck terror into the hearts of the townspeople by his violent assaults against the city. For one hundred days Edessa was put in dire straits; and everyone, exhausted by the incessant assaults, endured much suffering. Soon the townspeople began to suffer from famine, because entering or leaving the city was prevented by the formidable enemy forces who surrounded Edessa and killed anyone falling into their hands. The countryside surrounding the city was filled with the corpses of those massacred [by the infidels]. The entire region was burned by fire to such an extent that not one building remained standing. All this was done at the behest of Sulaiman, the emir of the East. Moreover, the orchards outside the city were completely destroyed, and all the monasteries found on the mountains were razed to their very foundations. Such a destructive siege as this put Edessa in very dire straits. Some time after this Beirut was captured from the Muslims through the help of God. The Frankish forces put the entire town to the sword and seized a tremendous amount of booty. Joscelin assisted in the taking of the town of Beirut and exhibited great courage on that occasion.

46. After all these events Joscelin marched his forces to the aid of the city of Edessa. The king of Jerusalem and Bertram, the count of Tripoli, also came to the city’s aid. These three men came to Tancred in the city of Antioch and, pleading with the count, persuaded him to join them in going to the assistance of Edessa. Then all the Frankish forces continued their march and came to the Armenian prince Vasil, who equipped his troops and went to Samosata. The Armenian prince Ablgharib, who possessed the town of Bira, also joined the Franks with his troops. So with a tremendous army of troops the Christians passed into the confines of the city of Edessa. When the Turkish general Maudud learned of their coming, he lifted the siege of Edessa and went to the town of Harran. The Frankish forces, in turn, reached the gates of the city of Edessa and encamped there. On the following day the Franks prepared for battle. Bringing forth the holy cross of Varag, they fastened it to the end of a lance and carried it before their troops. In the meantime the Turks retreated from Harran, hoping by this stratagem to defeat the Franks, for the Franks were in territory unknown to them; to this end they set up an ambush of many troops in the town. However, the Frankish commander learned of the treacherous designs of the Turks and so turned around and encamped against the impregnable fortress of Shenaw, located in Muslim territory [northwest of Harran]; the Christians vehemently attacked this stronghold. At this point Tancred learned of a plot hatched against him by the other leaders and so, taking his troops, reached Samosata and descended to the banks of the Euphrates. Soon all the Frankish forces followed him. Now, when the inhabit­ants of Edessa and those of the surrounding countryside who had taken refuge in the city heard of this withdrawal, they all left, even the women and children, and followed after the Frankish forces.

47. On this occasion two Franks did a very wicked thing. They went to Maudud and, repudiating the Christian faith, said to the emir that the entire Frankish army had withdrawn and fled. When Maudud heard this, he pursued the Frankish forces; he filled the land from the gates of Edessa to the Euphrates River with blood, slaugh­tering the inhabitants of both the city and the countryside. Reaching the banks of the Euphrates, Maudud slaughtered a countless number of the inhabitants of the area and carried off the remaining, together with their possessions. The Franks had already crossed over to the other side of the river. So the Turks massacred the Christian faithful who were huddled together like flocks of sheep on this side of the river. The wrath of God, manifested through Maudud, fell upon the faithful with such force that the Euphrates was turned into blood. Many drowned in the river. Those who tried to swim across were unable to reach the other side. Many tried to cross over on boats, but five or six of the boats sank full of people, because too many persons got in them.  So on this day the entire territory of Edessa was devastated and depopulated.  It was in reference to this calamity that the savants of old wrote: “Woe to the people of Abgar.”  The Frankish forces, who were on the other side of the Euphrates River, witnessed all these horrible things which were happening to all the Christians, but were unable to assist them in any way and so wept bitterly.  After all this Maudud victoriously turned back and went to Harran; from there he returned to his country, laden with captives and countless booty.

54.  In the year 561 of the Armenian Era [1112-1113] the vicious bloodthirsty beast Maudud once again collected troops and marched against the city of Edessa, at a time when the townspeople did not expect his attack.  The emir suddenly arrived before the city the day after Easter, on the day of the Feast of the Dead, in the beginning of the month of Sahmi.  Maudud first came to Kupi and, going forth from there with a tremendous number of troops, stopped at the gats of the city of Edessa.  After remaining there for eight days, the emir shifted his position to the summit of the Mountain of Sasun and from there descended upon [the Monastery of] the Holy Martyrs, situated near the ramparts of the city.

55. At this time the invincible soldier of Christ Count Joscelin, taking one hundred horsemen and one hundred infantry, came and entered the town of Saraj. Then a Turkish force, consisting of five hundred horsemen, [left the main army in Edessa and] made a diversion into the territory of Saraj on the Saturday of Elias [June 15]. Joscelin went forth and attacked the Turks, killing one hundred and fifty of their men. The count took five of their officers prisoner and seized all their baggage, while the rest fled to Maudud in the city of Edessa. When Maudud heard of all this, he went against Joscelin in the town of Saraj. However, at the same time Joscelin secretly came and entered the city of Edessa. After remaining in Saraj for seven days, Maudud turned back against Edessa once again. Now certain perfidious men came to him while he was on the march, saying: “Have compassion on us, and on this day we will deliver Edessa into your hands.” The emir in great joy consented to their proposition. Now, since these men suffered from the effects of the famine, being in such dire straits, they were not really aware of what they were doing. So during the night they conducted Maudud, together with five of his men, to Edessa and delivered this populous city into the hands of the Turks. They handed over to the Turks a tower located in the eastern portion of the city, which dominated all of Edessa; one hundred men took possession of this tower. Moreover, the Turks occupied two other towers, placing a large number of troops in them. Notwithstanding all this, God, who never wills the destruction of the Christian faithful, had previously brought the Frankish count Joscelin to the aid of the blessed city of Edessa. So, when the brave soldier of God Joscelin learned of this Turkish takeover, he took the count of Edessa and the other Frankish troops and rushed to the ramparts to battle against the Turks. Joscelin assaulted the tower [in which the Turks were ensconced] with such bravery that he hurled down all their men from the walls; in this way the traitors who had handed over the tower and the infidels who had occupied it perished at the same time. So on that day Edessa was saved from the clutches of the Turks, because of the bravery of Joscelin and all the troops of the city. Then Count Joscelin, because of the deep anger in his heart and because of the calumnious slanders made against him by some, caused much innocent bloodshed among the townspeople, ordering them to be massacred, burned, and tortured; now all this was not pleasing in the eyes of God.  After this Maudud raised the siege and went and captured T’lmoz; from there he went back to Khurasan, humiliated and defeated.

 87. In the year 571 of the Armenian era [1122-1123] the Persian general Il-Ghazi collected troops and marched against the Frankish forces. First he descended upon Aleppo and from there went and encamped in the Muslim town of Shaizar. Baldwin, the king of Jerusalem, came and was joined by the count of Edessa Joscelin; then both marched forth and encamped opposite the Turkish forces. However, throughout the summer neither side engaged in battle, but quietly maintained their respective positions. In the month of September both sides withdrew without engaging in combat and returned to their respective cities. The emir Il-Ghazi entered Aleppo, while the emir Balik, who was Il-Ghazi’s sister’s son and a brave and vigorous warrior, secretly went back to his territory of Handzit’. When Joscelin and Galeran [of Le Puiset, lord of Bira] heard of this, they pursued Balik with one hundred horsemen and caught up with him in the territory of Edessa, in a village called Tap’t’il. Balik was encamped with eight hundred horsemen in a spot through which a river flowed and which was surrounded by marshy ground and thus was in a very fortified position. The Franks, being mindless and foolhardy, attacked the Turks, but were unable to cross the marshy area. Then Balik took the offensive against the Franks with his troops, wounding all their horses with arrows and pursuing them. The Turks took prisoner the two Frankish counts, Joscelin and Galeran, and slaughtered all the other Franks. Joscelin and Galeran were taken to Eharberd in chains and there thrown in prison, while twenty-five of their comrades were taken to Balu. Thus great sorrow fell upon all the Christian faithful, and they were all horror-struck and in a state of fear and trembling. Now all this occurred on the 13th of September.

88. In this period the great emir Il-Ghazi, the son of Artuk, died, handing over all his territories to his sister’s son, the emir Balik; moreover, he entrusted his household and his sons, Sulaiman and Timurtash, to Balik’s care. Il-Ghazi’s body was carried on a litter from Aleppo to Harran and from there was taken and buried in his town of Maiyafariqin. Thus the emir Balik came to rule over a large number of territories.

89. In the year 572 of the Armenian era [1123-1124] the king of Jerusalem Baldwin collected troops in order to make war on the emir Balik and avenge the two Frankish chiefs, Joscelin and Galeran, who had been thrown in prison [by him]. The king reached the fortress­town of Raban with all his forces, while Balik was already in the confines of its territory, pillaging and taking captives. Neither army was aware of the presence of the other. The king came with a small detachment of troops to the bridge of Shnje and crossed the river over this bridge, intending to encamp in a place called Shenchrig.  At that time Balik, together with all his troops, was concealed in ambush nearby. Now, when the king’s tent was pitched, he wished to go hunting with a falcon. At that moment Balik unexpectedly attacked the king and all his forces, slaughtering many mighty men and taking Baldwin prisoner together with his sister’s son. All this occurred in the month of Hori, four days after Holy Easter. Balik brought the king to the gates of Gargar, and Baldwin handed over the town to the emir. Then the king and his sister’s son were taken to Eharberd, where they were put in chains and thrown into a deep dungeon in which Joscelin and Galeran were imprisoned.

90. In this same year, five months later, an amazing event occurred, which later turned out to be a disastrous misfortune. Fifteen men got together and went forth from the impregnable fortress of Behesni, having planned a very courageous feat; in this way they were to accomplish a deed to be remembered forever. Going to the district of Handzit’, these men closely observed the impreg­nable fortress of Eharberd, where the Frankish king Joscelin and Galeran were imprisoned. Seeing that the fortress guards were few and negligent, they approached its gates, looking wretched and feigning the appearance of quarreling plaintiffs. They were able to get someone inside the fortress to work with them and so, after a short while, succeeded in penetrating the stronghold. They courageously made their way to the prison, killed those guarding the gates, and shut them. Then with loud cries they reached the dungeon where the king, Joscelin, Galeran, and the other [Frankish] chiefs were imprisoned, and very joyfully freed them. They also set free many soldiers and a number of men and women. Moreover, some of the inhabitants of the area entered the prison in order to aid in the escape of the king, Joscelin, and the other prisoners. So the king and all the prisoners went out, seized the fortress, and gained control of Balik’s entire domain. Now, when the infidel forces who were stationed in the territory learned of this, they fled to another region. One night on an early Wednesday morning Joscelin secretly departed with an infantry escort and went to Kesoun and from there to Antioch, in order to collect troops and come to the aid of the king and other prisoners. At this time the commander of the Frankish forces was Geoffrey [the Monk, lord of Maraash and regent of Edessa (1122-3)], who was a brave and mighty man and a most fervent Christian. This man with insuperable energy and effort protected all the Frankish territories-comprising Jerusalem, Antioch, and Edessa-from the Turks, courageously defending them with all the means at his disposal. Now, while all this was happening, the Turkish emir Balik was in the city of Aleppo.  When the emir learned that Kharberd had been taken by stratagem, rushing forth with the rapidity of an eagle, he reached the fortress in fifteen days and vigorously laid siege to it. By setting up a catapult and ordering mining operations, Balik was able to demolish the tower of the great stronghold and thus strike terror into the hearts of the defenders. At this point Count Galeran in great fear went to Balik and delivered Kharberd into the emir’s hands. On this day Balik slaughtered all the prisoners, who numbered about sixty-five persons, plus eighty beautiful women; they were all hurled down from the summit of the fortress. Once again the emir, full of rage, put the king, Galeran, and the king’s nephew in chains and threw them in prison. In the meantime Joscelin was coming to their aid with his troops. However, when both he and Geoffrey learned of the new situation, they became deeply dismayed and turned back full of sorrow. So they returned to their respective territories, while the king, Galeran, and the king’s nephew remained in prison.

95. In the year 573 of the Armenian era [1124-1125] the emir Balik collected troops and marched against the Franks. He arrived in Aleppo and after a few days went against the Muslim town of Manbij. Setting up a catapult against the citadel, he put the besieged in very dire straits through his continual assaults. At this point the emir who was defending the citadel sent to the Frankish counts Joscelin and Geoffrey for help, asking them to come to his aid and promising to hand over the town to Joscelin. The two counts came to the emir’s aid with the remnants of the Frankish troops which Joscelin had gathered together. Mahuis, the count of Duluk, Aintab, and Raban, also came to the emir’s aid. When Balik learned of this, he attacked the Christians not far from the town of Manbij. A violent battle ensued, for the infidels were as numerous as the Franks were few. Nevertheless, the Frankish troops defeated the Turks, putting one wing of their army to flight, while Joscelin annihilated the other. However, one corps of Turks surrounded the count of Marash and many other brave men including some of Joscelin’s cavalry, causing them all to die a martyr’s death. When Joscelin heard of this, he turned in flight and spent the night at the same place where the battle had been fought; then on the next day he took refuge in his town of Tell Bashir. Thus on that day many Frankish noblemen perished, and so it became a disastrous and horrible day for the Christian faithful. All this occurred on the 10th of the month of Sahmi, that is the fourth day of May. After this Balik victoriously turned back and descended upon the town of Manbij, ordering all his troops to begin the attack. Overjoyed [by his recent successes], he took off his coat of mail. At that very moment a Sun-Worshipper in the citadel shot an arrow into his back, causing the emir to be mortally wounded. Then Ban summoned Timurtash, the son of Il-Ghazi, to his side and gave over to him his sovereignty and lands, after which the emir instantly died. Now, when his troops learned of this, they disbanded. Balik’s death brought great joy to all the Franks; however, deep sorrow and a general feeling of loss fell upon the people inhabiting his lands, for he had dealt compassionate­ly with the Armenians under his rule.

96. At this time the king, Galeran, and the king’s nephew were in the city of Aleppo. Now Count Joscelin and the queen made a pact with Timurtash to ransom the king. They agreed to hand over as hostages the king’s daughter and Joscelin’s son, together with fifteen other persons. The ransom itself was set at one hundred thousand dahekans. So in the month of September King Baldwin was delivered from captivity at the hands of the Turks. He arrived in Antioch, and on that day there was much rejoicing among the Christian faithful. On the other hand, Count Galeran and the king’s nephew remained in Timurtash’s clutches and were ultimately put to death. Thus this was the second time that Baldwin was freed from captivity through Joscelin’s efforts.

97. In this same year Gargar was captured from the Turks through the aid of God. Michael, the lord of the town and also the son of Constantine, gathered together fifty men and vigorously besieged the place, putting the Turks in the fortress in dire straits. Deprived of any help and hard-pressed, the Turks submitted and handed over Gargar to Michael. In this same way and through the same efforts the fortress of Bibol was captured from the Turks, and so there was much rejoicing among the Christian faithful.

98. In this same year the Georgian king David once again severely slaughtered the Persians, this time about twenty thousand men. Moreover, he captured the royal Armenian capital of Ani, removing the sons of Manuch’e from the city and taking them to Tiflis. So the royal capital of Ani was freed from the yoke under which it had been for sixty years. The magnificent, huge, and holy Cathedral of Ani, which the infidels had turned into a mosque, now was thronged with the bishops, priests, and monks of Armenia, who reconsecrated it in solemn pomp. Thus there was rejoicing throughout all Armenia, for everyone was witness to the deliverance of the holy cathedral [from the clutches of the infidels]?

99. In this same year a duke [actually the doge of Venice] came from the country of the Franks with many troops and encamped against the city of Tyre, situated on the coast of the Mediterranean. He besieged the city for many days and through violent assaults put it in dire straits. He blockaded the city from the sea with a fleet, while he held tight control of the land with his numerous troops; thus the place was blockaded on all sides. Also the duke erected wooden towers against the city and set up cata­pults and other war machines to batter its walls. In this manner he put Tyre in great danger for many days, harassing the city with famine and continual assaults. Finally the townspeople became so hard-pressed that they submitted. Obtaining an oath from the Frankish commander [that their lives would be spared], the towns­people handed over the city to the duke and then departed and went to Damascus. After a few days the Franks gave [the revenues of] the city of Tyre to the sepulcher of Christ, and the duke returned to the country of the Franks with his troops.

100.  In this same year Baldwin, the king of Jerusalem, and Joscelin gathered together all the Frankish forces and marched against the city of Aleppo. At this time the Arab chieftain Sadaqah, the son of Dubais and son-in-law of  Il-Ghazi, joined Joscelin. This chieftain made an alliance of peace and friendship with Joscelin and so came to the aid of the count with his troops. The grandson of the sultan Tutush and the sultan of Melitene, who was the son of Kilij Arslan, also joined Joscelin. Thus an imposing force was brought together against Aleppo, and the city was put in dire straits for many days through famine and continual assaults. At this point the townspeople sent to the city of Mosul, to the general al-Bursuki, asking him to come to their aid. So this general collected a large number of troops and after six months arrived before Aleppo. He drove away the Franks, and thus the city was saved. The Frankish forces, in turn, returned to their respective territories unharmed. On the other hand, the Arab chieftain Sadaqah, as he withdrew, ravaged the territory of Mosul and all of al-Bursuki’s lands. After remaining in Aleppo for a few days, al-Bursuki went to Damascus and made an alliance with Tughtigin, the emir of that city.

101. In this same year Ghazi, the emir of Sebastia and the son of Danishmend, marched against Melitene. He vehemently besieged Melitene, putting it in dire straits, and blockaded the city for six months until it was hard-pressed by a severe famine. As the famine intensified, many died, and because of the lack of food [in the city], the townspeople were forced to go out to the enemy camp. So, being hard-pressed, the inhabitants of the city handed Melitene over to Ghazi. After this the wife of Kilij Arslan, who was the ruler of the city, departed and went to Mshar.

102. In the year 574 of the Armenian era [1125-1126] the Persian general al-Bursuki and Tughtigin marched forth with a tremendous army consisting of forty thousand troops – the very best of all the Persian forces. Coming with this great army, al-Bursuki descended upon the impregnable Frankish fortress of ‘Azaz and vehemently laid siege to it. Relying on his great strength, he boasted that he could easily capture the fortress, thus showing nothing but disdain for the capabilities of the Franks.  Twelve catapults were set up against ‘Azaz, and two of its walls were demolished through sapping operations, thus putting the fortress in great danger.  So the garrison within despaired [of being saved]. Now, when the king of Jerusalem learned that al-Bursuki had returned to Aleppo, he immediately left and came to Antioch. Having alerted the Frankish forces, he was speedily joined by Count Joscelin as well as the count of Tripoli (the son of Saint Gilles) and Mahuis (the count of Duluk). The Christian forces consisted of one thousand three hundred Frankish horsemen, five hundred Armenian horsemen, and four thousand infantry. The king of Jerusalem marched forth and came to Cyrrhus.  When the Persian general learned of this, he took a detachment of troops and encamped in the vicinity of Aleppo. At this point, leaving all their baggage in Cyrrhus, the Frankish forces went to ‘Azaz prepared for battle and saw the fortress razed to its foundations, ruined, and about to fall to the infidels. Immediately the Persian forces turned upon the Franks and hemmed them in for three days. The Franks were hard-pressed and put in a perilous situation, for they were unable to obtain victuals; so in these extremely dire straits, despair­ing of living, they hoped for [a speedy] death. The Turkish forces, in turn, challenged them with defiant and boastful shouting and surrounded them on all sides. Then, with shrill cries and like an eagle swooping down upon a flock of doves, the infidels rushed against the Frankish forces. The Christians, hard-pressed on all sides and seized with terror, waited for death, having reached their last breath. Now, while they were in this perilous situation, the king thought of an excellent idea. He said the following to the officers of his troops: “Come, let us turn back directly to al-Atharib and make the Turks believe we have fled, so that those of them who are in ambush will come out after us; then we can attack them, and thus will see what Christ can do for us.” Then he commanded the following to those who were garrisoning ‘Azaz: “When you see the Turks grouping together to pursue us, give us a smoke signal from the fortress.” After this the king went in the direction of al-Atharib with all his forces. Thinking that the king had fled, the general al­Bursuki signaled all his troops to assemble [and go against the Christians]. The Turks pursued the Franks like wolves after sheep, rushing after them with shrill cries and driving the Christian forces before them by their frightful appearance and loud shouting. After a pursuit of two miles the infidel forces began to close ranks against the Christians. At that moment the garrison of ‘Azaz gave the [prearranged] smoke signal. Seeing this, the king of Jerusalem and all his officers beseeched God for assistance; directing their tearful and anguish-ridden grief to heaven, they entreated God to come to the aid of his feeble flock. Then the king ordered the battle trumpet sounded, and the Christian forces rushed against the infidels en masse, invoking the help of God and manifesting a very courageous effort. God heard their prayers and so angrily turned the Turks in flight. The Christian troops wielded the sword, and dispersed and scattered the infidels over the plain. Count Joscelin, full of rage and like a ferocious roaring lion who goes after oxen, pursued the infidel forces and gorged himself with their heathen blood. In the same manner the king and the whole army of Christ pursued the infidels and ruthlessly slaughtered them right up to the city of Aleppo. The number of Turks slaughtered came to seven thousand. The Persian general and Tughtigin went away humiliated, for fifteen emirs had perished in the battle. On the other hand, the Christian forces turned back rejoicing greatly and laden with countless booty. So this day came to be a joyful one for all the Christian faithful. Now all this occurred on Thursday, the 24th of the month of Tre. After a number of days al-Bursuki took the king’s daughter and Joscelin’s son and placed them in Qal’at Ja’bar;’then he himself went to Mosul. After one year he was assassinated by a group of people of his nation called Hajji.  These men entered his house as pilgrims and killed him with a knife. Then al-Bursuki’s servants killed them and others whom they found in the city dressed in the same manner – all in all eighty men.

This translation is from Armenia and the Crusades, tenth to Twelfth Centuries: The Chronicle of Matthew of Edessa, translated by Ara Edmond Dostourian (University Press of America, 1993).  We thank the University Press of America for their permission to republish these selections.


This entry was posted in Primary Sources and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.