Crusade of the Faint-Hearted

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The Crusade of the Faint-Hearted (also called the Crusade of 1101) was a minor crusade, more of a follow-up to the First Crusade than anything else, which began in 1100 and ran until 1102, when the armies reached Jerusalem. It was called the Crusade of the Faint-Hearted because of the presence of many lords of the First Crusade who had returned to Europe before the fall of Jerusalem. It was called by Pope Paschal II, who had succeeded the pope who called the First Crusade, Urban II.

This crusade was notable as the crusaders did not travel as a large multinational army, as in the First Crusade, but instead traveled in three armies divided by national lines. This division would prove to be problematic to the crusaders, as the Turks they fought were largely united against the invaders.

The First Army: Lombardy

The crusaders' difficulties began long before they crossed into Asia Minor. As in the First Crusade, the city of Constantinople was the rallying point for the western European armies, and the Lombards arrived first in late 1100CE. Under command of Anselm IV, the bishop of Milan, the undiciplined Lombard army, mostly made of poor commoners, pillaged its way across Byzantine territory. When they were escorted to a camp outside Constantinople, they sacked one of Alexius I's minor palaces in the suburb of Blachernae, even killing one of the Emperor's pet lions. Outraged, Alexius had the crusaders unceremoniously ferried across the Bosporus and left at Nicomedia, where they could do little damage.

They were joined in May of 1101 by a smaller force of French, Germans and Burgundians under Stephen of Blois. More forces arrived, particularly the contingent headed by Raymond of Toulouse and rather than wait for further reinforcement, the army marched inland. Questions of the army's goals quickly arose, with many of the Lombards agitating to attack the city of Niksar, where Bohemund of Taranto was held captive at the time. Despite victories at Ancyra and Kastamonu, division within the army was sufficient to effect command decisions, and in July the army was compelled to leave the safe route along the Black Sea coast and move inland to rescue Bohemund. A large Turkish army opposed them at near Mersivan.

The Battle of Mersivan was a disaster for the Crusaders. Over several days of fighting the various factions within the army were systematically destroyed in detail by the more experienced (and united) Turkish force under Kilij Arslan and his allies. The surviving Crusader leaders Raymond, Stephen of Blois and Stephen of Burgundy fled to Constantinople while their armies were massacred or enslaved.

The Second Army: Nevers

Shortly after the Lombards had left Nicomedia a second force arrived in Constantinople. These were under the command of William of Nevers, and unlike previous Crusader armies they had crossed Byzantine territory without incident. William hurried across the Bosporus and attempted to catch up to the Lombards, but never managed it. Instead he besieged Iconium, failed to capture it, and marched east, reaching Heraclea shortly after the Lombards were wiped out at the Battle of Mersivan. The victorious Turks swept down on the Nevernois and wiped them out, although William and a few retainers managed to escape.

The Third Army: France and Bavaria

Shortly after the Nevernois crossed the Bosporus and quickly headed inland, a third army under Duke Guilhèm de Peitieus reached Constantinople. With him was Hugh of Vermandois (who had been a leader of the First Crusade but had turned back after Antioch) Duke Welf of Bavaria and Ida of Austria mother of Leopold III.

Their large army, like Anselm's earlier in the year, had pillaged their way across Byzantine territory. Alexius I, whose patience with Crusaders was no doubt wearing thin, sent a contingent of Pecheneg mercenaries to reign in the Crusaders, nearly causing a war. Diplomancy prevailed, however, and the army was split in two, one half crossing the Bosporus and marching inland, the other sailing directly to the Kingdom of Jerusalem, among them the chronicler Ekkehard of Aura.

This division, like all the rest, proved disastrous. Following William of Nevers' route inland, the half of the army taking the overland route made it as far as Heraclea and were ambushed by the Turks. Few survived and Hugh of Vermandois was mortally wounded; he would die a few weeks later in Tarsus. Ida of Austria simply disappeared in the confusion, and her fate was never determined; an apocryphal story has her being taken to captivity and giving birth to Zengi, a feared atabeg of Mosul.

Aftermath

The survivors of the ill-fated expeditions gathered in Tarsus, and with the help of a Genoese fleet Raymond of Toulouse and William of Nevers managed to capture the port Tortosa in Syria. Afterwards, the crusade took on the character of a more peaceful pilgrimage and the survivors reached Jerusalem at Easter, 1102. Many lords returned to Europe, others stayed to help defend the Kingdom of Jerusalem from Egyptian attack.

The Crusade of the Faint-Hearted proved to be a breaking point with Constantinople. Alexius' domains had been repeatedly savaged by the very armies he had originally called for help repelling the Turks, and little had been accomplished in Asia Minor. Worse, the victories won by Kilij Arslan had actually solidified Turkish control over the region and completely severed the overland route to the Holy Land, making a sea voyage to Antioch the primary method of reaching Jerusalem from western Europe. The relationship between the Orthodox empire of Byzantium and the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem would never be cordial, and future crusades only complicated matters.

Crusades
First Crusade | Second Crusade | Third Crusade | Fourth Crusade | Fifth Crusade | Sixth Crusade | Seventh Crusade | Eighth Crusade
Northern Crusades | Albigensian Crusade | Reconquista
Peasants' Crusade | Crusade of the Faint-Hearted