The Chronicles of the Principality of Antioch
recorded by Father Robert of Edessa
I have begun this chronicle to be an faithful account of the wars, battles, great deeds and events in the Principality of Antioch during the reign of our illustrious Prince the noble and pious Bohemond, third of that name, named for his noble great grandfather Bohemond the Crusader, first Prince of Antioch.
The holy lands of Outremer have been established for well nigh 70 years though times are difficult. The Saracen Turks are an ever present danger, raiding our lands frequently, sapping our strength. To the south disturbing rumours emerge of a new infidel leader who states that he will push us back into the seas from whence we came. Even in our own lands, infighting and persecution weaken us from the inside. Still, through the grace of God we persist and hold back the infidel hordes from our lands, safeguarding the Holy Lands, through which our lord Jesus Christ once walked among us as a man, for pious pilgrims from the west.
As chaplain and advisor to Prince Bohemond and confidant to Jobert of Syria, Grand Master of the Knights Hospitaller I am fortunate enough to be able to observe the events occurring in the Principality of Antioch and the County of Edessa.
I will begin my chronicle with an account of the principal individuals who hold power in the Principality of Antioch.
First and foremost my noble Prince Bohemond of Antioch. I have known my Prince for many years and was most honoured when he granted me the privilege of becoming his personal chaplain and advisor. Through my many discussions with the Prince I have been impressed by his piety and intellect. He is also reckoned to be a talented warrior and leader of men and distinguished himself several years ago during the invasion of Armenia with Philip, Count of Flanders. This is truly a man worthy to rule one of the holy kingdoms of God’s Promised Land.
His son is the young Raynald of Tripoli, heir to the Principality who governs the castle of Aleppo to the east of Antioch. Despite his tender years Raynald is feared throughout Outremere for his ferocity and mercilessness towards his enemies and any others unfortunate enough to cross him. Having fought against Saracen raiders from a young age he frequently displays the rotting mutilated corpses of those infidels unfortunate enough be captured by his men on the borders of the Principality as a warning to those who dare to enter our lands. It is clear that Raynald cannot wait to inherit the throne of Antioch and his loyalty has on occasion been called into question. There are concerns I have often heard of his impious ways and his suitability to rule in God’s land which I am tempted to agree with despite those that claim we are in times that require a strong ruler feared by his enemies. A Prince should display the qualities of a good devout man: generosity, mercy and justice. I am worried that Raynald appears to demonstrate none of these virtues and his rule could bring the displeasure of God upon our land.
The Principality of Antioch is fortunate enough to be able to call upon the services of the might Military Order of the Knights Hospitaller under the command of their Grand Master Jobert of Syria. The Hospitallers govern their own lands from the mighty and impregnable fortress of Krak des Chevaliers which dominates access to the coastal pilgrim road. Jobert is one of the most pious knights of the order and a talented military leader on the battlefield as well as an able steward of the Order’s lands both in Outremer and throughout Christendom. The disciplined and fearless knights and their sergeants are the greatest barrier our land possess against the infidel threat.
Finally but my no means least is Gaston, Bishop of Antioch, the spiritual leader of our land and a powerful temporal Lord in his own right with lands near both Antioch and Allepo. As a powerful member of the court of Antioch he has the ear of my Prince and is one of his ablest advisors and administers the treasury of the Principality.
Prince Bohemond has decided that with the growing threat from the infidels the time has come to strengthen our sometimes tenuous position along the coast. East of Krak des Chevaliers lies the small but wealthy town of Homs which my Prince has determined would be an appropriate target. Despite argument from many of his nobles who argued that the castle of Ballbek to the south would be a better target, Bohemond overruled them arguing that Homs would give us a buffer zone between our heartlands and infidel raiders as well as being a potential wealthy gain which will do much to support the armies we need to protect our lands. Homs also boasts a large Christian minority which has been forced to live under the yoke of its infidel rulers and this is also an opportunity to give these devout souls the opportunity to practice their faith openly.
He has dispatched one of his trusted lieutenants, Guiot de Bordeaux to lead the attack. Guiot is a gifted military leader and a formidably intelligent man and one of Prince Bohemond’s most trusted advisors. He is also well known in Antioch as a patron of the arts, an increasing rare attribute in these unstable times.
Guiot made his way south from Antioch carrying the orders of Prince Bohemond to Grand Master Jobert requesting the aid of the Knights Hospitaller in his endeavour. Eager to strike a blow against the infidel as well as appreciating the strategic value of protecting Krak from attack, Jobert was quick to agree. Indeed Jobert himself joined Guiot and his men leading a contingent of Knights and sergeants. Homs soon found itself besieged by a mighty army who immediately began the construction of siege equipment necessary to take the city’s strong, well defended walls.
It was at this time, as the siege of Homs progressed that word arrived that a Holy War has been called by the infidel against our lands to retake our Holy Lands granted to us by the grace of God. Needless to say Prince Bohemond has took this pronouncement as a sign that the infidel are planning a major attack upon our lands within the near future. He immediately ordered that fortifications be repaired and made ready throughout the Principality of Antioch and sent word south to King Baldwin of Jerusalem advising him to do the same.
With regards to the siege of Homs I will include a copy of a letter sent to Prince Bohemond by Grand Master Jobert which has been fortunate enough to come to my attention.
‘My Lord Prince,
I write to you to inform you of the progression of the siege of Homs which we commenced several months ago. With news of the Jihad called upon us and threat of an infidel invasion both myself and Lord Guiot agreed that as Homs should no sign of shortages as of yet we should storm the walls as quickly as possible to be ready to move if any attack materialised.
Hoping to catch the city by surprise, Lord Guiot ordered a night attack but to little avail as throughout the infidel has kept a good watch on our movements and was ready as our siege equipment moved forwards. As well as a battering ram and ladders we had also constructed 3 siege towers to take the walls and secure the gate.
The walls themselves were well defended my Saracen archers and spearmen ready to repel any assault. Indeed our men took many casualties as they moved to attack the walls. Using flaming ammunition 2 of our siege towers were set alight before they reached the walls. Despite this many of our men were able to clamber over the defences and push the enemy back from the walls.
The Canons of the Holy Sepulcher in particular distinguished themselves in their faith and bravery being the first to make it over the walls and sending the enemy fleeing in terror leaving scores of their dead behind. Unfortunately these brave warriors suffered heavily at the hands of Saracen horse archers who took advantage of their exposed positions on the walls.
Eventually though the gates were broken by the battering ram and I ordered my sergeants through the gates to scatter the enemy cavalry. Cornered in the narrow streets of their city the infidels were cut down and forced back to their city centre where they were able to regroup.
Despite our strength in numbers the infidel fought fiercely and took a heavy toll on our men and as both sides regrouped and my men prepared a final attack on the centre of the city, Guiot who had entered the city rode up and suggested that our men had fought bravely and should be allowed respite. Instead he brought up our crossbowmen from the rear who rained death down on the cowering Saracens.
Pinned down under a never-ending hail of steel bolts and unable to mount an effective counter attack the enemy perished were they stood or fled to hide in the city.
With the victory Guidot in his mercy spared the city from the sacking and looting that so frequently accompanies the fall of a city and installed his own governors to administer the day to day running of Homs. I am currently staying with my men in the city in case any unforeseen rebellion emerges but I assure you if the Saracens make a move I will be ready to move immediately.
By the grace of God
Grand Master Jobert’
Prince Bohemond sent words of praise to the brave Grand Master Jobert and the merciful Lord Guiot for their decisive victory and ordered them to secure the city and begin patrols around the desert to the east in case any infidels were to make a move across the baking sands. News of the victory has also sent a message of hope to those brave men who guard our frontiers and our faith that despite these troubled times, God still favours those who fight in His name and grants them victory.