Kerbogha (Arabic: كربغا‎, Turkish: Kürboğa) was Atabeg of Mosul during the First Crusade and was renowned as a soldier.[1]

Kerbogha besieges Antioch in 1098.

Early LifeEdit

Kerbogha was a Turk who owed his success to his military talent.[2] In 1095 he served under the Abbasid Caliph Al-Mustazhir in his attempted reconquest of Aleppo.

The First CrusadeEdit

In 1098, when he heard that the Crusaders had besieged Antioch, he gathered his troops and marched to relieve the city. On his way, he attempted to regain Edessa following its recent conquest by Baldwin I, so as not to leave any Frankish garrisons behind him on his way to Antioch.[3] For three weeks he pointlessly besieged the city before deciding to continue on to Antioch. His reinforcements could have perhaps ended the Crusade before the walls of Antioch, and, indeed, the whole Crusade was perhaps saved by his time wasted at Edessa. By the time he arrived, around June 7, the Crusaders had already won the siege, and had held the city since 3 June. They were not able to restock the city before Kerbogha, in turn, began besieging the city.

During the siege, on 27 June, Peter the Hermit was sent as emissary to Kerbogha by the Crusaders to suggest that the parties settle all differences by a duel. Presumably feeling his position secure, Kerbogha did not see this course of action as being in his interest, and he declined.

Meanwhile, inside the city, Peter Bartholomew claimed to have discovered the Holy Lance through a vision. This discovery re-energized the Christian army. At the same time, disagreements and infighting broke out within the Atabeg's army. Kerbogha's mighty army was actually made up of levies from Baghdad, Persia, Palestine and Damascus, and the internal quarrels amongst the Emirs took precedence over any unity against the Franks. The only thing that united his allies was a common fear of Kerbogha's real goal, which was the conquest of all their lands. If Antioch fell to him, he would have been invincible.[4]

On 28 June, when Bohemond, the leader of the Christian army, decided to attack, the Emirs decided to humble Kerbogha by abandoning him at the critical moment. Kerbogha was taken by surprise by the organization and discipline of the Christian army. This motivated, unified Christian army was in fact so large that Kerbogha's strategy of dividing his own forces was ineffective.[5] He was quickly routed by the Crusaders. He was forced to retreat, and returned to Mosul a broken man.

Later LifeEdit

Despite his defeats outside of the cities of both Edessa and Antioch, Kerbogha's position in Mosul went unchallenged through the rest of his life. He spent time raising Imad ad-Din Zengi, the namesake of the Zengid dynasty, who took power in Mosul in 1127 following the rule of a series of Seljuk vassals after Kerbogha's death in 1102.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Runciman, Steven. "A History of the Crusades". Cambridge University Press, 1987. page 215
  2. ^ Bradbury, Jim. "The Routledge Companion to Medieval Warfare". Routledge, 2004. page 55
  3. ^ Runciman, Steven (1951–52). A History of the Crusades I: The First Crusade. Penguin Classics. p. 191. ISBN 978-0-141-98550-3.
  4. ^ Jones, Terry., Ereira, Alan. "Crusades". Penguin Books, 1996. pp.43
  5. ^ Gesta Francorum:The Defeat of Kerbogha, excerpt online at Medieval Sourcebook, accessed November, 2008.