The Damascus Chronicle of the Crusades: Extracted and Translated from the Chronicle of Ibn Al-Qalanisi

The Damascus Chronicle of the Crusades: Extracted and Translated from the Chronicle of Ibn Al-Qalanisi

by H. A. R. Gibb

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A Saracen stronghold throughout the long history of the Crusades, Damascus served as the capital city for Nur al-Deen, Saladin, and other medieval Muslim leaders. From this prime vantage point comes a remarkable contemporary account of the early Crusades, written by one of the city's leading citizens. Ibn Al-Qalānisī, a distinguished scholar of literature, theology, and law, was twice elected mayor of Damascus. His Chronicle begins in 1097, in the early years of the First Crusade, and concludes in 1159, the year before his death at the age of 90.
An informative introduction sets the scene just prior to invasion by the Crusaders. The colorful narrative relates the particulars of life during wartime; in addition to his accounts of battles, blockades, and diplomatic negotiations, Ibn Al-Qalānisī paints vivid and decidedly biased portraits of the personalities on both sides of this holy war, from gallant commanders and intrepid troops of his native land to their opposition, the "infidels" and :accursed ones."
The author based his work on both written documentation and oral reports, the latter sometimes transcribed from the lips of actual participants. Intended primarily as a textbook for students, this translation by H. A. R. Gibb renders the Arabic text as literally as possible, with minimal annotation, and constitutes an indispensable resource for anyone who needs a firsthand account of the early Crusades.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780486143408
Publisher: Dover Publications
Publication date: 11/08/2012
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 368
File size: 884 KB

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The Damascus Chronicle of the Crusades

Extracted and Translated from the Chronicle of Ibn Al-Qalanisi

By H.A.R. Gibb

Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 2002 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-14340-8


FROM 1097 TO 1132

A.H. 490

(19th December, 1096, to 8th December, 1097)

In this year there began to arrive a succession of reports that the armies of the Franks had appeared from the direction of the sea of Constantinople with forces not to be reckoned for multitude. As these reports followed one upon the other, and spread from mouth to mouth far and wide, the people grew anxious and disturbed in mind. The king, Da'ud b. Sulaiman b. Qutulmish, whose dominions lay nearest to them, having received confirmation of these statements, set about collecting forces, raising levies, and carrying out the obligation of Holy War. He also summoned as many of the Turkmens as he could to give him assistance and support against them, and a large number of them joined him along with the 'askar of his brother. His confidence having been strengthened thereby, and his offensive power rendered formidable, he marched out to the fords, tracks, and roads by which the Franks must pass, and showed no mercy to all of them who fell into his hands. When he had thus killed a great number, they turned their forces against him, defeated him, and scattered his army, killing many and taking many captive, and plundered and enslaved. The Turkmens, having lost most of their horses, took to flight. The King of the Greeks bought a great many of those whom they had enslaved, and had them transported to Constantinople. When the news was received of this shameful calamity to the cause of Islam, the anxiety of the people became acute and their fear and alarm increased. The date of this battle was the 20th of Rajab (4th July, 1097).

In the middle of Sha 'ban (end of July) the amir Yaghi Siyan, lord of Antioch, accompanied by the amir Sukman b. Ortuq and the, amir Karbuqa [lord of Mosul], set out with his 'askar towards Antioch, on receipt of news that the Franks were approaching it and had occupied al-Balana. Yaghi Siyan therefore hastened to Antioch, and dispatched his son to al-Malik Duqaq at Damascus, to Janah al-Dawla at Hims, and to all the other cities and districts, appealing for aid and support, and inciting them to hasten to the Holy War, while he set about fortifying Antioch and expelling its Christian population. On the 2nd of Shawwal (12th September) the Frankish armies descended on Baghras and developed their attack upon the territories of Antioch, whereupon those who were in the castles and forts adjacent to Antioch revolted and killed their garrisons except for a few who were able to escape from them. The people of Artah did likewise, and called for reinforcements from the Franks. During Sha 'ban a comet appeared in the West; it continued to rise for a space of about twenty days, and then disappeared.

Meanwhile, a large detachment of the Frankish army, numbering about thirty thousand men, had left the main body and set about ravaging the other districts, in the course of which they came to al-Bra and slaughtered about fifty men there. Now the 'askar of Damascus had reached the neighbourhood of Shaizar, on their way to support Yaghi Siyan, and when this detachment made its descent on al-Bara, they moved out against it. After a succession of charges by each side, in which a number of their men were killed, the Franks returned to al-Ruj, and thence proceeded towards Antioch. Oil, salt, and other necessaries became dear and unprocurable in Antioch, but so much was smuggled into the city that they became cheap again. The Franks dug a trench between their position and the city, owing to the frequent sallies made against them by the army of Antioch. Now the Franks, on their first appearance, had made a covenant with the king of the Greeks, and had promised him that they would deliver over to him the first city which they should capture. They then captured Nicæa, and it was the first place they captured, but they did not carry out their word to him on that occasion, and refused to deliver it up to him according to the stipulation. Subsequently they captured on their way several frontier fortresses and passes.

A.H. 491

(9th December, 1097, to 27th November, 1098)

At the end of First Jumada (beginning of June, 1098) the report arrived that certain of the men of Antioch among the armourers in the train of the amir Yaghi Siyan had entered into a conspiracy against Antioch and had come to an agreement with the Franks to deliver the city up to them, because of some ill-usage and confiscations which they had formerly suffered at his hands. They found an opportunity of seizing one of the city bastions adjoining the Jabal, which they sold to the Franks, and thence admitted them into the city during the night. At daybreak they raised the battle cry, whereupon Yaghi Siyan took to flight and went out with a large body, but not one person amongst them escaped to safety. When he reached the neighbourhood of Armanz, an estate near Ma 'arrat Masrin, he fell from his horse to the ground. One of his companions raised him up and remounted him, but he could not maintain his balance on the back of the horse, and after falling repeatedly he died. As for Antioch, the number of men, women and children, killed, taken prisoner, and enslaved from its population is beyond computation. About three thousand men fled to the citadel and fortified themselves in it, and some few escaped for whom God had decreed escape.

In Sha 'ban (July) news was received that al-Afdal, the commander-in-chief (amir al-juyush), had come up from Egypt to Syria at the head of a strong 'askar. He encamped before Jerusalem, where at that time were the two amirs Sukman and Il-Ghz, sons of Ortuq, together with a number of their kinsmen and followers and a large body of Turks, and sent letters to them, demanding that they should surrender Jerusalem to him without warfare or shedding of blood. When they refused his demand, he opened an attack on the town, and having set up mangonels against it, which effected a breach in the wall, he captured it and received the surrender of the Sanctuary of David from Sukman. On his entry into it, he shewed kindness and generosity to the two amirs, and set both them and their supporters free. They arrived in Damascus during the first ten days of Shawwal (September), and al-Afdal returned with his 'askar to Egypt.

In this year also the Franks set out with all their forces to Ma'arrat al-Nu'mn, and having encamped over against it on 29th Dhu'l-Hijja (27th November), they opened an attack on the town and brought up a tower and scaling-ladders against it.

Now after the Franks had captured the city of Antioch through the devices of the armourer, who was an Armenian named Firuz, on the eve of Friday, 1st Rajab (night of Thursday 3rd June), and a series of reports were received confirming this news, the armies of Syria assembled in uncountable force and proceeded to the province of Antioch, in order to inflict a crushing blow upon the armies of the Franks. They besieged the Franks until their supplies of food were exhausted and they were reduced to eating carrion; but thereafter the Franks, though they were in the extremity of weakness, advanced in battle order against the armies of Islam, which were at the height of strength and numbers, and they broke the ranks of the Muslims and scattered their multitudes. The lords of the pedigree steeds were put to flight, and the sword was unsheathed upon the footsoldiers who had volunteered for the cause of God, who had girt themselves for the Holy War, and were vehement in their desire to strike a blow for the Faith and for the protection of the Muslims. This befel on Tuesday, the [twenty] sixth of Rajab, in this year (29th June, 1098).

A. H. 492

(28th November, 1098, to 16th November, 1099)

In Muharram of this year (December, 1098), the Franks made an assault on the wall of Ma'arrat al-Nu'man from the east and north. They pushed up the tower until it rested against the wall, and as it was higher, they deprived the Muslims of the shelter of the wall. The fighting raged round this point until sunset on 14th Muharram (11th December), when the Franks scaled the wall, and the townsfolk were driven off it and took to flight. Prior to this, messengers had repeatedly come to them from the Franks with proposals for a settlement by negotiation and the surrender of the city, promising in return security for their lives and property, and the establishment of a [Frankish] governor amongst them, but dissension among the citizens and the fore-ordained decree of God prevented acceptance of these terms. So they captured the city after the hour of the sunset prayer, and a great number from both sides were killed in it. The townsfolk fled to the houses of al-Ma 'arra, to defend themselves in them, and the Franks, after promising them safety, dealt treacherously with them. They erected crosses over the town, exacted indemnities from the townsfolk, and did not carry out any of the terms upon which they had agreed, but plundered everything that they found, and demanded of the people sums which they could not pay. On Thursday 17th Safar (13th January, 1099) they set out for Kafr Tab.

Thereafter they proceeded towards Jerusalem, at the end of Rajab (middle of June) of this year, and the people fled in panic from their abodes before them. They descended first upon al-Ramla, and captured it after the ripening of the crops. Thence they marched to Jerusalem, the inhabitants of which they engaged and blockaded, and having set up the tower against the city they brought it forward to the wall. At length news reached them that al-Afdal was on his way from Egypt with a mighty army to engage in the Holy War against them, and to destroy them, and to succour and protect the city against them. They therefore attacked the city with increased vigour, and prolonged the battle that day until the daylight faded, then withdrew from it, after promising the inhabitants to renew the attack upon them on the morrow. The townsfolk descended from the wall at sunset, whereupon the Franks renewed their assault upon it, climbed up the tower, and gained a footing on the city wall. The defenders were driven down, and the Franks stormed the town and gained possession of it. A number of the townsfolk fled to the sanctuary [of David], and a great host were killed. The Jews assembled in the synagogue, and the Franks burned it over their heads. The sanctuary was surrendered to them on guarantee of safety on the 22nd of Sha 'ban (14th July) of this year, and they destroyed the shrines and the tomb of Abraham. Al-Afdal arrived with the Egyptian armies, but found himself forestalled, and having been reinforced by the troops from the Sahil, encamped outside Ascalon on 14th Ramadan (4th August), to await the arrival of the fleet by sea and of the Arab levies. The army of the Franks advanced against him and attacked him in great force. The Egyptian army was thrown back towards Ascalon, al-Afdal himself taking refuge in the city. The swords of the Franks were given mastery over the Muslims, and death was meted out to the footmen, volunteers, and townsfolk, about ten thousand souls, and the camp was plundered. Al-Afdal set out for Egypt with his officers, and the Franks besieged Ascalon, until at length the townsmen agreed to pay them twenty thousand dinars as protection money, and to deliver this sum to them forthwith. They therefore set about collecting this amount from the inhabitants of the town, but it befel that a quarrel broke out between the [Frankish] leaders, and they retired without having received any of the money. It is said that the number of the people of Ascalon who were killed in this campaign—that is to say of the witnesses, men of substance, merchants, and youths, exclusive of the regular levies—amounted to two thousand seven hundred souls.

A. H. 493

(17th November, 1099, to 5th November, 1100)

Al-Malik Shams al-Muluk Duqaq, son of Taj al-Dawla, set out from Damascus for Diyar Bakr with his 'askar in order to recover possession of it from a governor who had forcibly seized it. He reached al-Rahba by the desert route and thence entered Diyar Bakr, where he occupied Mayya-fariqin, and established a garrison in it for its protection and defence.

In Rajab of this year (May-June, 1100), Bohemond, King of the Franks and lord of Antioch, marched out to the fortress of Afamiya (Apamea), and besieged it. He remained there for some days and laid waste its crops, when he received news of the arrival at Malatiya of al-Danishmand with the 'askar of Qilij Arslan b. Sulaiman b. Qutulmish. On learning of this, Bohemond returned to Antioch, and having collected his forces, marched against the Muslim army. But God Most High succoured the Muslims against him, and they killed a great host of his party and he himself was taken captive together with a few of his companions. Messengers were dispatched to his lieutenants at Antioch, demanding the surrender of the city, in the second decade of the month of Safar in the year 494.

In this year also, reports arrived that the water in the wells had sunk at a number of places in the northern districts, and likewise the springs in most of the forts, and the water was low and prices were high in those parts.

A.H. 494

(6th November, 1100, to 25th October, 1101)

In this year, the amir Sukman b. Ortuq collected a great host of Turkmens, and marched with them against the Franks of al-Ruha (Edessa) and Saruj, in the month of First Rab' (January, 1101). He captured Saruj, and was joined by a large body [of volunteers], while the Franks also collected their forces. When the two armies met, the Muslims were on the point of victory over them, but it happened that a party of the Turkmens fled and Sukman lost heart and retired The Franks then advanced to Saruj, recaptured it, and killed and enslaved its inhabitants, except those of them who escaped by flight.

In this year also, Godfrey, lord of Jerusalem, appeared before the fortified port of 'Akka and made an assault upon it, but he was struck by an arrow and killed. Prior to this he had rebuilt Yafa (Jaffa) and given it in charge to Tancred. When Godfrey was killed, his brother Baldwin the count, lord of al-Ruha, set out for Jerusalem with a body of five hundred knights and footmen. On hearing the report of his passage, Shams al-Muluk Duqaq gathered his forces and moved out against him, together with the amir Janah al-Dawla, lord of Hims, and they met him near the port of Bairt. Janah al-Dawla pressed forward towards him with his 'askar, and he defeated him and killed some of his companions.

In this year the Franks captured Haifa, on the sea coast, by assault, and Arsuf by capitulation, and they drove its inhabitants out of it. At the end of Rajab also (end of May) they captured Qaisarya by assault, with the assistance of the Genoese, killed its population, and plundered everything in it.

In Sha 'ban of this year (June, 1101), the qadi Iban Sulaiha, who had made himself master of the fortified port of Jabala, wrote to Zahir al-Din Atabek, requesting him to select and send a trustworthy officer, that he might hand over to him the fortress of Jabala, and himself retire with all his property to Damascus, and that he would convey him thence to Baghdad with an escort, and under guarantee of safe conduct, protection, and honourable treatment. The Atabek consented to this proposal, and promised to carry his desire into effect, and deputed as governor of the port his son, the amir Taj al-Muluk Buri. The king Shams al-Muluk Duqaq was at the time absent from Damascus in Diyar Bakr, and he returned thence and entered Damascus on 1st Shawwal (30th July). The arrangements were confirmed according to Iban Sulaiha's request, and Taj al-Muluk set out with his train for Jabala, and took it over.

Iban Sulaiha departed thence and arrived at Damascus with his followers, goods and effects, baggage and riding-beasts, and all that he possed of money, movable property, and estate. He was received with honour and richly entertained, and after a stay of some days at Damascus was conveyed to Baghdad with everything that he possessed by a strong detachment of troops. When he arrived, it came about that some person denounced him and gave such a report of his riches to the Sultan at Baghdd, that he was plundered and all that he possessed fell into the Sultan's hands.

As for Taj al-Muluk, when he took possession of the fortress of Jabala and he and his followers were firmly established there, they ill-treated its people and behaved evilly towards them, and acted contrary to the approved custom of justice and fair dealing. The townsfolk therefore sent a complaint of their condition under the misfortune that had befallen them to the Qadi Fakhr al-Muluk, Abu 'Ali 'Ammar b. Muhammad b. 'Ammar, who had seized the fortified port of Tarabulus (Tripolis), on account of the proximity of Tarabulus to their town. He promised to assist them to attain their object, and to send them support, and dispatched to them a considerable force from his 'askar, which entered the town and, having joined with its people against the Turks, defeated and drove them out, and took possession of it. They captured Taj al-Muluk and carried him to Tarabulus where Fakhr al-Muluk received him honourably, treated him kindly, and sent him back to Damascus, together with a letter to his father informing him of the state of affairs and presenting his excuses to him for what had happened.


Excerpted from The Damascus Chronicle of the Crusades by H.A.R. Gibb. Copyright © 2002 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents

FROM 1097 TO II32

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