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The Field of Blood: The Aftermath

Posted by on January 18, 2017

The crushing defeat at the Field of Blood caused many people to ponder this troubling question: If God was truly on their side, fighting with them, why did He let them suffer defeat? No one in those days realized that the flaws in their own military strategy led to defeat. Rather, all of the blame was pinned on sin. Muslim victory in the crusade of 1101, in the second Battle of Ramla in 1102 and again at the Battle of Harran was the result of Christian transgression. The Franks firmly believed that, in order to maintain God’s favour in their war for the holy land, they had to purify themselves as well as the entirety of the Kingdom of Jerusalem.

The Antiochenes’ defeat at the Field of Blood was no doubt a setback for the Principality of Antioch, but it was the result of Prince Roger’s foolhardy decision to engage the Turks in battle before the rest of the grand Frankish coalition arrived to his aid. Needless to say – and rightfully so – Roger was harshly condemned for their defeat. He also died childless, igniting a succession crisis in Antioch that would endure for several years.

Il-ghazi, high on his victory at the Field of Blood, “exploited Christian weakness and overran all of the Summaq plateau” (Asbridge, 166). He then marched on Antioch at the head of his van-guard, determined to capture that city. Meanwhile, in Antioch, the Patriarch Bernard of Valence disarmed the Greek and Syrian Christians, who were known for their treachery, and organized all Latin men capable of bearing arms into a garrison. He monitored the ramparts day and night, offering prayers and encouragement to all of the men-at-arms. Fortunately Baldwin II arrived before Il-ghazi did. There is no telling how Antioch would have held out against the impending Turkish onslaught, so Baldwin’s arrival was very timely. The King received a hero’s welcome from not only the patriarch and his sister, Hodierne, but by every inhabitant of Antioch (Rita Stark, 64).

Baldwin immediately set to work, restructuring the political and military framework of Antioch. Aside from quelling the Turkish threat somehow, Baldwin’s main task was to install a governor in Antioch. The only legitimate successor to the principality was Bohemond of Taranto’s son, Bohemond II who was living in Italy. Since Bohemond was only aged nine, neither old nor mature enough to assume full authority over the principality of Antioch, King Baldwin agreed to act as his regent until Bohemond came of age and was fully prepared to assume his duties as governor.

As for the Turkish threat to Antioch; in the early 1120s, it was significantly weakened when Il-ghazi died. For the next couple of decades, the Muslims of the Middle East would continue to be disunited, too preoccupied with their own internecine conflicts to repel the Franks. In a complete reversal of events, Baldwin II took full advantage of Arab disunity, re-captured the Summaq plateau and east of the Belus Hills (Asbridge, 167). The Franks also captured Banyas, a fortified town located strategically between Jerusalem and Damascus. That foothold deeper into the Middle East would strengthen the Kingdom of Jerusalem at least for a few decades.

 

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