Siege of Edessa (1146)

The siege of Edessa in October–November 1146 marked the permanent end of the rule of the Frankish Counts of Edessa in the city on the eve of the Second Crusade. It was the second siege the city had suffered in as many years, the first siege of Edessa having ended in December 1144. In 1146, Joscelyn II of Edessa and Baldwin of Marash recaptured the city by stealth but could not take or even properly besiege the citadel. After a brief counter-siege, Zangid governor Nūr al-Dīn took the city. The population was massacred and the walls razed. This victory was pivotal in the rise of Nūr al-Dīn and the decline of the Christian city of Edessa.

Siege of Edessa (1146)
Part of the Crusades
DateOctober–November 1146

Zengid victory

  • Crusaders initially captured the city but not its citadel
  • Nūr al-Dīn recaptured the city, and the Christian population was massacred
County of Edessa Zengids
Commanders and leaders
Joscelyn II of Edessa
Baldwin of Marash 
Nūr al-Dīn
? 10,000
Casualties and losses
Thousands killed
Thousands enslaved

Sources edit

The second battle for Edessa is covered in many sources. From a Frankish perspective, there is William II of Tyre; from the Syriac perspective, Michael the Syrian, Bar Hebraeus and the anonymous Chronicle of 1234; for the Muslims, Ibn al-Ḳalānisī of Damascus, Ḳamāl al-Dīn Ibn al-ʿAdīm of Aleppo, Ibn al-Athīr, Abū Shāma and the anonymous Būstān al-jāmiʿ; and for the Armenians, Gregory the Priest's continuation of Matthew of Edessa's Chronicle.[1][2]

The Syriac Basil the Doctor wrote an elegy on the death of Baldwin of Marash.[2]

Joscelyn captures the city edit

On the death of Edessa's first conqueror, ʿImād al-Dīn Zangī, in September 1146, the Armenian community in the city began plotting with Count Joscelyn II how he might retake the city.[3] An earlier Armenian plot to retake the city had been suppressed in May by the Turks, who then settled 300 Jewish families in the city.[4] He and his vassal Baldwin of Marash set out from Dülük with an army of cavalry and infantry in late October.[5] They arrived before the city on 27 October.[6] They entered the city by night with the help of the citizenry, who let down ropes and ladders from the walls, and the incompetence of the Turkish garrison.[7]

Joscelyn quickly took control of the city, but the garrison retreated to the citadel. Lacking siege machinery and the materials with which to construct it, the citadel could not be properly invested. Joscelyn sent out appeals for aid to the other Crusader states. According to the Chronicle of 1234, Prince Raymond I of Antioch refused to help Joscelyn and Baldwin because "he was enraged with both of them for not acknowledging him as their overlord."[1] Historian Steven Runciman gives a more sympathetic reason for Raymond's refusal: "the expedition was ill-planned".[2] During their brief second period of control of the city, which lasted a mere six days, the Franks engaged in looting of shops and houses, both of Muslims and Christians. The Muslim population either fled to Ḥarrān or took refuge in the citadel with the Turkish garrison.[4]

Nūr al-Dīn's siege edit

Nūr al-Dīn, who had inherited Aleppo on Zangī's death, ceased his war with Raymond of Antioch ordered a levée en masse throughout his domains as soon as he learned of the fall of Edessa.[1][2] He also appealed to the neighbouring Seljuk governors for aid.[2] He marched from Aleppo to Edessa with an army of 10,000.[1][3] He arrived on 2 November and set about besieging the city with trebuchets.[2][8] Through a spy, Joscelyn had advanced knowledge of his arrival.[4] When Joscelyn realized that he was trapped between the besiegers and the garrison in the citadel, he chose to abandon the city. The Syriac sources claim that this decision was made without consulting the citizenry, but that after it was made the military leaders forced the citizens to leave during the night. This account has been questioned. Since the citizens are otherwise portrayed as collaborators, it would hardly have made sense for them to stay. It is possible, however, that the Syriac citizens had stood aloof while the Armenians collaborated.[1]

The retreat was a disaster. The Christians were caught in the gate and massacred. Joscelyn and a band of twenty knights escaped to the Water Tower, but were unable to defend it and fled in secret. The Christian survivors made their way to the Euphrates river, a distant of fourteen miles.[1] Baldwin was in the van and Joscelyn in the rear.[4] The following day (3 November), although the rearguard was holding its own, Joscelyn ordered a counterattack on the pursuing forces.[2] He led the attack from the west while Baldwin counterattacked from the east. Both were routed. Baldwin was killed. Joscelyn was wounded in the side by an arrow, but escaped to Samosata.[1] There he was joined by the Syriac bishop, Basil bar Shumna.[2] By December, Nūr al-Dīn was in control of the city.[1] He had the walls razed.[9]

The men of Edessa were massacred, the women and children enslaved. Michael the Syrian estimates the total number of dead from both sieges of Edessa at 30,000 with a further 16,000 enslaves. He estimates that only about 1,000 Edessene men escaped to freedom and no women or children.[4][10] At the end of 1146, the city was empty save for the corpses.[11] The Armenian bishop John was captured and taken to Aleppo.[2][12] It was "far worse than the first [siege] and the city never recovered its former prominence".[3] It was also the "fatal blow to the county" of Edessa.[12]

Notes edit

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Nicholson 1973, pp. 10–12.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Runciman 1952, p. 240.
  3. ^ a b c Baldwin 1969, p. 531.
  4. ^ a b c d e Amouroux-Mourad 1988, pp. 86–87.
  5. ^ Nicholson 1973, p. 11, calls it a "strong cavalry and infantry army", while Runciman 1952, p. 240, and MacEvitt 2007, p. 97, call it "a small army".
  6. ^ According to Runciman 1952, p. 240. Barber 2012, p. 182 dates these events to "late in 1146, in November or December".
  7. ^ Nicholson 1973, p. 11, refers to the slothfulness of the Turkish guards, but Runciman 1952, p. 240, and MacEvitt 2007, p. 97, describe them as having advanced knowledge and being well prepared. Amouroux-Mourad 1988, p. 86, says there was no combat that night and also that the Armenians had opened the gates for the attackers.
  8. ^ Chevedden 1998, p. 221.
  9. ^ Tyerman 2006, p. 268.
  10. ^ Barber 2012, pp. 182–183.
  11. ^ Runciman 1952, p. 240: "At Edessa itself the whole Christian population was driven into exile. The great city, which claimed to be the oldest Christian commonwealth in the world, was left empty and desolate, and has never recovered to this day."
  12. ^ a b MacEvitt 2007, p. 97.

Bibliography edit

  • Amouroux-Mourad, Monique (1988). Le comté d'Edesse, 1098–1150. Paul Guethner.
  • Baldwin, Marsall W. (1969) [1955]. "The Latin States under Baldwin III and Amalric I, 1143–1174". In Setton, Kenneth M.; Baldwin, Marshall W. (eds.). A History of the Crusades, Volume I: The First Hundred Years (Second ed.). Madison, Milwaukee, and London: University of Wisconsin Press. pp. 528–561. ISBN 0-299-04834-9.
  • Barber, Malcolm (2012). The Crusader States. Yale University Press.
  • Chevedden, Paul Edward (1998). "The Hybrid Trebuchet: The Halfway Step to the Counterweight Trebuchet". In Donald J. Kagay; Theresa M. Vann (eds.). On the Social Origins of Medieval Institutions: Essays in Honor of Joseph F. 0'Callaghan. Brill. pp. 179–222.
  • MacEvitt, Christopher (2007). The Crusades and the Christian World of the East: Rough Tolerance. University of Pennsylvania Press.
  • Nicholson, Robert Lawrence (1973). Joscelyn III and the Fall of the Crusader States, 1134–1199. Leiden: E. J. Brill.
  • Runciman, Steven (1952). A History of the Crusades, Volume II: The Kingdom of Jerusalem and the Frankish East. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Tyerman, Christopher (2006). God's War: A New History of the Crusades. Penguin.