The discovery of the Holy Lance boosted morale in the crusader camp, but even so, they were in no shape to confront Kerbogha’s numerically superior forces. Antioch’s defenses were strong, but the crusaders were weakened by starvation and they were lacking in military supplies. Realistically, victory was next to impossible.
The emperor had not arrived at Antioch and the crusaders were still waiting for him to come to relieve them. They did not yet know of Stephen’s treacherous interview with the emperor. They needed a strong military commander if they were to increase their chances of victory and survival. Their choice was narrowed down to two men: Bohemond and Count Raymond. Raymond, though, had fallen seriously ill and was consequently confined to his makeshift bed. That left the princes with Bohemond. To them, he was the best man for the job. Bohemond’s greed and ruthless ambition was not unknown to the princes, but he had engineered Antioch’s downfall. Of all the warriors, Bohemond was the most valiant and skilled. So, on 20 June, the princes elected Bohemond as the army’s commander-in-chief.
The first strategy Bohemond employed was negotiation: on 27 June, he sent Peter the Hermit and another man named Herluin to negotiate with Kerbogha. Since Herluin was fluent in Arabic and Persian, he served as Peter’s interpreter.
The conversation that took place between Peter and Kerbogha is not known: it had been recorded more than two decades after the First Crusade and was twisted according to what the chroniclers believed.* One thing was for certain: Kerbogha refused to surrender. He took a huge risk in doing that because he was losing control over his own army. Kerbogha had attempted a negotiation with Ridwan of Aleppo, but in doing so, offended Duqaq of Damascus, a response that most likely came about because of a rift between Duqaq and Ridwan. Moreover, Duqaq feared Egyptian aggression in Palestine, so he was anxious to return to Damascus before his district was overrun. The Emir of Homs was embroiled in a feud with the Emir of Menbji and there was friction between the Turks and the Arabs. Above all, most Arabs and Turks did not wish to see Kerbogha obtain too much power. So, many deserted him and returned to their homes.
The princes knew about Kerbogha’s dwindling authority and army; Peter the Hermit and Herluin would have learnt of the divisions inside the Muslim camp and then reported back to the princes everything they saw and overheard. That news must have served as an additional boost to morale in the crusader camp, but even then, they were terrified of having to confront Kerbogha’s forces in battle. Regardless, they had no other choice.
* Everything that was recorded after the First Crusade reflected the chroniclers’ beliefs but also because every account was written in the second decade of the 12th century. The chroniclers had to rely solely on their memory and/or on the stories pilgrims and warriors — those who did survive — told after they returned from the Holy Land. For that reason, every first hand account is fictionalized to a degree. To what degree, we do not know. Regardless, the First Hand accounts have given modern scholars a good idea of what happened on the road to Jerusalem in the 1090s. I will discuss this in greater detail down the road.
Hindley, Geoffrey. A Brief History of The Crusades. Constable & Robinson, Ltd; London, 2003.
Runciman, Steven. A History of the Crusades: The First Crusade. Vol.1. Cambridge; Cambridge University Press, 1951.