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A letter from Count Stephen of Blois (03/1098)

Translated letter: 

Count Stephen to Adele, his sweetest and most amiable wife, to his dear children, and to all his vassals of all ranks, his greeting and blessing.
You may be very sure, dearest, that the messenger whom I sent to give you pleasure, left me before Antioch safe and unharmed, and through God's grace in the greatest prosperity. And already at that time, together with all the chosen army of Christ, endowed with great valor by Him, we had been continuously advancing for twenty-three weeks toward the home of our Lord Jesus. You may know for certain, my beloved, that of gold, silver and many other kind of riches I now have twice as much as your love had assigned to me when I left you. For atl our princes, with the common consent of the whole army, against my own wishes, have made me up to the present time the leader, chief and director of their whole expedition.
You have certainly heard that after the capture of the city of Nicaea we fought a great battle with the perfidious Turks and by God's aid conquered them. Next we conquered for the Lord all Romania and afterwards Cappadocia. And we learned that there was a certain Turkish prince Assam, dwelling in Cappadocia; thither we directed our course. All his castles we conquered by force and compelled him to flee to a certain very strong castle situated on a high rock. We also gave the land of that Assam to one of our chiefs and in order that he might conquer the above-mentioned Assam, we left there with him many soldiers of Christ. Thence, continually following the wicked Turks, we drove them through the midst of Armenia, as far as the great river Buphrates. Having left all their baggage and beasts of burden on the bank, they fled across the river into Arabia.
The bolder of the Turkish soldiers, indeed, entering Syria, hastened by forced marches night and day, in order to be able to enter the royal city of Antioch before our approach. The whole army of God learning this gave due praise and thanks to the omnipotent Lord. Hastening with great joy to the aforesaid chief city of Antioch, we besieged it and very often had many conflicts there with the Turks; and seven times with the citizens of Antioch and with the innumerable troops coming to its aid, whom we rushed to meet, we fought with the fiercest courage, under the leadership of Christ. And in all these seven battles by the aid of the Lord God, we conquered and most assuredly killed an innumerable host of them. In those batt]es, indeed, and in very many attacks made upon the city, many of our brethren and followers were killed and their souls were borne to the joys of paradise.
We found the city of Antioch very extensive, fortified with incredible strength and almost impregnable. In addition, more than s,ooo bold Turkish soldiers had entered the city, not counting the Saracens, Publicans, Arabs, Turcopolitans, Syrians, Armenians and other different races of whom an infinite multitude had gathered together there. In fighting against these enemies of God and of our own we have, by God's grace, endured many sufferings and innumerable evils up to the present time. Many also have already exhausted all their resources in this very holy passion. Very many of our Franks, indeed, would have met a temporal death from starvation, if the clemency of God and our money had not succoured them. Before the abovementioned city of Antioch indeed, throughout the whole winter we suffered for our Lord Christ from excessive cold and enormous torrents of rain. What some say about the impossibility of bearing the heat of the sun throughout Syria is untrue, for the winter there is very similar to our winter in the west.
When truly Caspian [Bagi Seian], the emir of Antioch, that is, prince and lord, perceived that he was hard pressed by us, he sent his son Sensodolo [Chems Eddaulah] by name, to the prince who holds Jerusalem, and to the prince of Calep, Rodoam [Rodoanus], and to Docap [Deccacus Ibn Toutousch], prince of Damascus. He also sent into Arabia to Bolianuth and to Carathania to Hamelnuth. These five emirs with 12,000 picked Turkish horsemen suddenly came to aid the inhabitants of Antioch. We, indeed, ignorant of all this, had sent many of our soldiers away to the cities and fortresses. For there are one hundred and sixty-five cities and fortresses throughout Syria which are in our power. But a little before they reached the city, we attacked them at three leagues' distance with 700 soldiers, on a certain plain near the "Iron Bridge." God, however, fought for us, His faithful, against them. For on that day, fighting in the strength that God gives, we conquered them and killed an innumerable multitude, God continually fighting for us, and we also carried back to the army more than two hundred of their heads, in order that the people might rejoice on that account. The emperor of Babylon also sent Saracen messengers to our army with letters, and through these he established peace and concord with us.
I love to tell you, dearest, what happened to us during Lent. Our princes had caused a fortress to be built before a certain gate which was between our camp and the sea. For the Turks daily issuing from this gate, killed some of our men on their way to the sea. The city of Antioch is about five leagues' distance from the sea. For this reason they sent the excellent Bohemond and Raymond, count of St. Gilles, to the sea with only sixty horsemen, in order that they might bring mariners to aid in this work. When, however, they were returning to us with those mariners, the Turks collected an army, fell suddenly upon our two leaders and forced them to a perilous flight. In that unexpected flight we lost more than 500 of our foot-soldiers -- to the glory of God. Of our horsemen, however, we lost only two, for certain.
On that same day truly, in order to receive our brethren with joy, and ignorant of their misfortunes, we went out to meet them. When, however, we approached the above-mentioned gate of the city, a mob of horsemen and foot-soldiers from Antioch, elated by the victory which they had won, rushed upon us in the same manner. Seeing these, our leaders sent to the camp of the Christians to order all to be ready to follow us into battle. In the meantime our men gathered together and the scattered leaders, namely, Bohemond and Raymond, with the remainder of their army came up and narrated the great misfortune which they had suffered.
Our men, full of fury at these most evil tidings, prepared to die for Christ and, deeply grieved for their brethren, rushed upon the sacrilegious Turks. They, enemies of God and of us, hastily fled before us and attempted to enter their city. But by God's grace the affair turned out very differently; for, when they wanted to cross a bridge built over the great river MoscAzolum, we followed them as closely as possible, killed many before they reached the bridge, forced many into the river, all of whom were killed, and we also slew many upon the bridge and very many at the narrow entrance to the gate. I am telling you the truth, my beloved, and you may be very certain that in this battle we killed thirty emirs, that is princes, and three hundred other Turkish nobles, not counting the remaining Turks and pagans. Indeed, the number of Turks and Saracens killed is reckoned at 1,230, but of ours we did not lose a single man.
While on the following day (Easter) my chaplain Alexander was writing this letter in great haste, a party of our men lying in wait for the Turks, fought a successful battle with them and killed sixty horsemen, whose heads they brought to the army.
These which I write to you, are only a few things, dearest, of the many which we have done, and because I am not able to tell you, dearest, what is in my mind, I charge you to do right, to carefully watch over your land, to do your duty as you ought to your children and your vassals. You will certainly see me just as soon as I can possibly return to you. Farewell.

Original letter: 

Stephanus comes Adelae, dulcissimae atque amabilissimae conjugi, carissimisque filiis suis, atque cunctis fidelibus suis tam majoribus quam minoribus, totius salutis gratiam et benedictionem. Credas certissime, carissima, quod nuntius iste quem dilectioni tuae misi, sanum me atque incolumem, atque omni prosperitate magnificatum Dei gratia dimisit ante Antiochiam. Et jam ibi cum omni electo Christi exercitu sedem Domini Jesu cum magna ejus virtute per viginti tres continuas septimanas tenueramus. Scias pro certo, mi dilecta, quod aurum et argentum aliasque divitias multas duplo nunc habeo quam tunc quando a te discessi mihi dilectio tua attribuisset. Nam cuncti principes nostri, communi consilio totius exercitus, me dominum suum atque omnium suorum actuum provisorem atque gubernatorem, etiam me nolente, usque ad tempus constituerunt. Satis audisti quia, post captam Nicaeam civitatem, non modicam pugnam cum perfidis Turcis habuimus, et eos, Domino Deo subveniente devicimus primum; posthaec totius Romaniae partes Domino adquisivimus; postea Cappadociam; atque in Cappadocia quemdam Turcorum principem Assam habitare cognovimus. Illuc iter nostrum direximus; cuncta vero castra illius vi devicimus, et eum in quoddam firmissimum castrum in alta rupe situm fugavimus; terram quoque ipsius Assam uni ex nostris principibus dedimus; et ut praedictum Assam debellaret, cum multis Christi militibus ibi eum dimisimus. Deinde per mediam Armeniam semper nos insequentes nefandos Turcos usque ad magnum flumen Euphratem
fugavimus, et etiam ad ripam ejusdem fluminis, dimissis cunctis sarcinis et saumariis suis, per medium flumen in Arabiam fugerunt. Ex ipsis vero Turcis audaciores milites nocte ac die cursu veloci in Syriam regionem intrantes, ut in regiam urbem Antiochiam intrare valerent ante adventum nostrum, festinarunt. Cunctus vero Dei exercitus hoc cognoscens, cunctipotenti Domino gratias laudesque dignas dederunt. Ad principalem praedictam urbem Antiochiam cum magno gaudio nos properantes, eam obsedimus, et cum Turcis saepissime ibi plurimas conflictiones habuimus; et in veritate septies cum civibus Antiochenis et cum innumeris adventantibus ad subveniendum sibi auxiliis, quibus obviam occurrimus, armis ferocioribus, Christo praeeunte, pugnavimus; et in omnibus, vii praeliis praedictis, Domino Deo cooperante, convicimus, et de ipsis sine omni numero verissime interfecimus. In ipsis vero praeliis et in plurimis in vicitatem factis congressionibus, de Christicolis confratribus nostris multos occiderunt, quorum vere animas ad Paradisi gaudia intulerunt.
Antiochiam vero urbem maximam, ultra quam credi potest firmissimam atque inexpugnabilem reperimus. Audaces itaque milites Turci plus quam v millia intra civitatem confluxerant, exceptis Saracenis, Publicanis, Arabibus, Turcopolitanis, Syris, Armenis aliisque gentibus diversis, quarum multitudo infinita inibi convenerat. Pro his igitur inimicis Dei et nostris oppugnandis, multos labores et innumera mala Dei gratia hucusque sustinuimus. Multi etiam jam sua omnia haec in sanctissima passione consumpserunt. Plurimi vero de nostris Francigenis temporalem mortem fame subissent, nisi Dei clementia et nostra pecunia eis subvenisset. Per totam vero hiemem, ante saepedictam Antiochiam civitatem, frigora praenimia, ac pluviarum immoderatas abundantias, pro Christo Domino perpessi sumus. Quod quidam dicunt, vix posse pati aliquem in tota Syria solis ardorem falsum est; nam hiems apud eos occidentali nostrae similis est. Quum vero Caspianus, Antiochiae admiraldus, id est princeps et dominus, se adeo a nobis praegravatum conspiceret, misit filium suum, Sensadolo nomine, principi qui tenet Hierosolymam, et principi de Calep Rodoam, et principi de Damasco Docap. Item misit in Arabiam propter Bolianuth et in Corathaniam propter Hamelnuth. Hi v admiraldi cum xii millibus electorum militum Turcorum ad subveniendum Antiochenis subito venerunt. Nos vero hoc totum ignorantes, multos de nostris militibus per civitates et castella miseramus. Sunt vero nobis per Syriam clxv civitates et castra in nostro proprio dominio. Sed paulo antequam ad urbem venirent, per tres leugas cum dcc militibus in quamdam planitiem ad Pontem Ferreum eis occurrimus. Deus autem pugnavit pro nobis suis fidelibus contra eos; nam ea die virtute Dei eos pugnando devicimus, et de ipsis sine numero, Deo semper pro nobis praeliante, interfecimus; et etiam plusquam cc capita eorum, ut inde congratularentur Christiani populi, in exercitum attulimus. Imperator vero de Babylonia misit ad nos in exercitu nuntios suos Saracenos cum litteris suis, et per eos firmavit pactum et dilectionem nobiscum.
Quid nobis in hac Quadragesima contigerit, tibi, carissima, notificare diligo. Principes nostri ante quamdam portam, quae erat inter castra nostra et mare, castellum fieri constituerant; nam per eam portam quotidie Turci exeuntes, de nostris euntes ad mare interficiebant (urbs enim Antiochia distat a mari per v leugas). Hac de causa egregium Boimundum et Raimundum comitem de Sancto AEgidio ad mare, ut inde marinarios ad hoc opus juvandum adducerent, cum lx tantum militum millibus, miserunt. Quum autem cum eisdem marinariis ad nos reverterentur, congregato exercitu Turcorum, nostris duobus improvisis principibus occurrerunt, et eos in fugam periculosam miserunt. In illa improvisa fuga plusquam quingentos nostrorum peditum ad laudem Dei perdidimus; de militibus nostris nonnisi tantum duos pro certo amisimus. Nos vero eadem die, ut confratres nostros cum gaudio susciperemus, eis obviam exivimus, infortunium eorum ignorantes. Quum autem praedictae portae civitatis appropinquaremus, Antiochena turba militum ac peditum de habito triumpho se extollentes, in nostros pariter irruerunt. Quos nostri videntes ad Christicola castra, ut omnes parati ad bellum non sequerentur, miserunt: dum adhuc convenirent nostri, disjuncti principes scilicet Boimundus et Raimundus cum reliquo exercitu suo advenerunt, et infortunium quod eis magnum evenerat narraverunt. Quo pessimo rumore nostri furore accensi in sacrilegos Turcos pro Christo mori parati, pro fratrum dolore concurrerunt. Inimici vero Dei et nostri ante nos confestim fugientes, in urbem suam intrare tentaverunt, sed res longe aliter Dei gratia evenit; nam quum transire per pontem super flumen magnum, Moscholo fundatum, vellent, nos eos cominus insequentes, multos ex ipsis, antequam accederent ad pontem, interfecimus; multos in flumen projecimus, qui omnes necati sunt; multos vero supra pontem, plurimos etiam ante portae introitum occidimus. Verumtamen dico tibi, mi dilecta, et verissime credas, quod eodem praelio xxx admiraldos, id est principes, aliosque trecentos nobiles Turcos milites, exceptis aliis Turcis atque paganis, interfecimus. Computati sunt ergo numero mortui Turci et Saraceni mccxxx; de nostris autem unum solum non perdidimus.
Dum vero capellanus meus Alexander sequenti die Paschae cum summa festinatione has litteras scriberet, pars nostrorum Turcos insidiantium victricem pugnam cum eis, Domino praeeunte, habuerunt et fecerunt, et de ipsis lx milites occiderunt, quorum cuncta capita in exercitu attulerunt.
Pauca certe sunt, carissima, quae tibi de multis scribo, et quia tibi exprimere non valeo quae sunt in animo meo, carissima, mando ut bene agas, et tibiae tuae egregie disponas, et natos tuos, et homines tuos honeste, ut decet te, tractes, quia quam citius potero me certe videbis. Vale.

Historical context: 

The second letter from Stephen to his wife describes the battle for Antioch. Note that the closing makes clear that Adela is in control at home: “I send [the wish] that you do well and dispose of your things (tibiae) superbly, and treat your [not our] sons and your men honorably (“natos tuos et homines tuos”), as befits you . . ..”

Printed source: 

Recueil des Historiens des Croisades, Historiens Occidentaux, (Paris: Imprimerie impériale, 1866), v.3, 887-90. Translation from Translations and Reprints from the Original Sources of European History, 1.4, Letters of the Crusaders written from the Holy Land, trans. Dana Carlton Munro (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1897), 5-8.

date

03/1098