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Siege of Xerigordon

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Siege of Xerigordon

Siege of Xerigordon
Part of the People's Crusade

The defeat of the People's Crusade
Date September 1096
Location Xerigordon, near Nicaea
Result Decisive Seljuk Muslim victory
Belligerents
People's Crusade Seljuk Sultanate of Rûm
Commanders and leaders
Reinald Kilij Arslan I
Elchanes
Strength
6,000 Crusaders 15,000 Turks
Casualties and losses
6,000 Relatively low

The Siege of Xerigordon pitted 6,000 Germans of the People's Crusade under Reinald against 15,000 Turks commanded by Elchanes, general of Kilij Arslan I, the Seljuk Sultan of Rûm. The crusader raiding party captured the Turkish fort of Xerigordon, about four days march from Nicaea, in an attempt to set up a pillaging outpost. Elchanes arrived three days later and besieged the crusaders. The defenders had no water supply, and after eight days of siege, they surrendered on September 29, 1096. Some of the crusaders converted to Islam, while others who refused to abandon their faith were killed.

Prelude

The army of the People's Crusade landed in Asia Minor on August 6, 1096, and camped at Helenopolis (Civetot/Civetote) to the north-west of Nicaea, at that time capital of the Seljuk Sultanate of Rûm. The young Sultan, Kilij Arslan I, was in the middle of a military campaign to the east, fighting the Danishmend emirate.

While waiting for the main crusader army, the disorganized "People’s Crusade" army began to attack the villages surrounding Nicaea. The Norman raiding party returned unhindered many times with their booty, at some point even defeating the garrison of Nicaea when it tried to stop them. Reinald led 6,000 Germans (Lombards and Alemanni), including 200 knights, on similar raids. Reinald was unsatisfied with the pillaging results near Nicaea and went farther to Xerigordon, a fortress four days march to the east, to set up a pillaging base. On September 18, 1096, Reinald easily defeated the Xerigordon garrison.

Kilij Arslan ordered his general, Elchanes, to deal with the crusader's raiding parties with 15,000 troops, mostly mounted archers.

The battle

Elchanes arrived three days after Reinald occupied Xerigordon, on September 21 and besieged the crusaders tightly. The speed of the Turkish mounted troops surprised the Germans; they had not expected to be besieged and were unprepared and without adequate supplies. Moreover, there was no water system inside the fortress:

Our people were in such distress from thirst that they bled their horses and asses and drank the blood; others let their girdles and handkerchiefs down into the cistern and squeezed out the water from them into their mouths; some urinated into one another's hollowed hands and drank; and others dug up the moist ground and lay down on their backs and spread the earth over their breasts to relieve the excessive dryness of thirst.[1]

Relief forces never came. Some accounts mentioned that Turks sent two spies to the Crusaders' camp at Civetot to make them think that Xerigordon was still safe, and even that Nicaea had been conquered by Reinald. Other accounts mentioned that Crusader leaders on the field were forced by their troops to advance, but could not make the decision until news of the Xerigordon surrender arrived on October.

For eight days, the Crusaders resisted thirst and a rain of arrows and smoke from the Turks. After, the leader of the Germans offered to surrender and to fight for the Turks. The fort surrendered on September 29, 1096. Some of the Crusaders who converted to Islam became slaves, while others who refused to abandon their faith were killed.

There are various accounts on Reinald's fate. Some mention that he was killed at the beginning of the siege while trying to ambush the Turks' own water source in front of the fortress, others that he died during the siege, and one that claims he converted to Islam.

Aftermath

Kilij Arslan I became more confident and sent his army to ambush the People’s Crusade army at the Battle of Civetot en route to Nicaea.

References

Peter the Hermit and the Popular Crusade: Collected Accounts.

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