Nor my eyes see the cross which He bowed Him to bear,
Nor my knees press Gethsemane’s garden of prayer,
Yet, Loved of the Father, Thy Spirit is near
To the meek and the lowly and penitent here;
And the voice of Thy Love is the same even now,
As at Bethany’s tomb or on Olivet’s brow."
The 15th of August, 1096, the Feast of the Assumption, fixed by the Council of Clermont for the departure of the Crusaders, was slow in coming. The excitement was too intense for the people to wait. As early as March throngs of both sexes and all ages began to gather in Lorraine and at Treves, and to demand of Peter the Hermit and other leaders to lead them immediately to Jerusalem.352 It was a heterogeneous multitude of devout enthusiasts and idle adventurers, without proper preparation of any kind. The priest forsook his cell, the peasant left his plough and placed his wife and children on carts drawn by oxen, and thus went forth to make the journey and to fight the Turk. At the villages along the route the children cried out, "Is this Jerusalem, is this Jerusalem?" William of Malmesbury wrote (IV. 2), "The Welshman left his hunting, the Scot his fellowship with lice, the Dane his drinking party, the Norwegian his raw fish. Fields were deserted of their husbandmen; whole cities migrated .... God alone was placed before their eyes."
The unwieldy bands, or swarms, were held together loosely under enthusiastic but incompetent leaders. The first swarm, comprising from twelve thousand to twenty thousand under Walter the Penniless,353 marched safely through Hungary, but was cut to pieces at the storming of Belgrade or destroyed in the Bulgarian forests. The leader and a few stragglers were all that reached Constantinople.
The second swarm, comprising more than forty thousand, was led by the Hermit himself. There were knights not a few, and among the ecclesiastics were the archbishop of Salzburg and the bishops of Chur and Strassburg. On their march through Hungary they were protected by the Hungarian king; but when they reached the Bulgarian frontier, they found one continuous track of blood and fire, robbery and massacre, marking the route of their predecessors. Only a remnant of seven thousand reached Constantinople, and they in the most pitiful condition, July, 1096. Here they were well treated by the Emperor Alexius, who transported them across the Bosphorus to Asia, where they were to await the arrival of the regular army. But they preferred to rove, marauding and plundering, through the rich provinces. Finally, a false rumor that the vanguard had captured Nicaea, the capital of the Turks in Asia Minor, allured the main body into the plain of Nicaea, where large numbers were surrounded and massacred by the Turkish cavalry. Their bones were piled into a ghastly pyramid, the first monument of the Crusade. Walter fell in the battle; Peter the Hermit had fled back to Constantinople before the battle began, unable to control his followers. The defeat of Nicaea no doubt largely destroyed Peter’s reputation.354
A third swarm, comprising fifteen thousand, mostly Germans under the lead of the monk Gottschalk, was massacred by the Hungarians.
Another band, under count Emich of Leiningen, began its career, May, 1096, by massacring and robbing the Jews in Mainz and other cities along the Rhine. Albert of Aachan,355 who describes these scenes, does not sympathize with this lawlessness, but saw a divine judgment in its almost complete annihilation in Hungary. This band was probably a part of the swarm, estimated at the incredible number of two hundred thousand,356 led by banners bearing the likeness of a goose and a goat, which were considered as bearers of the divine Spirit.357 Three thousand horsemen, headed by some noblemen, attended them, and shared the spoils taken from the Jews.358 When they arrived at the Hungarian frontier they had to encounter a regular army. A panic seized them, and a frightful carnage took place.
These preliminary expeditions of the first Crusade may have cost three hundred thousand lives.
The regular army consisted, according to the lowest statements, of more than three hundred thousand. It proceeded through Europe in sections which met at Constantinople and Nicaea. Godfrey, starting from lower Lorraine, had under him thirty thousand men on foot and ten thousand horse. He proceeded along the Danube and by way of Sofia and Philipoppolis, Hugh of Vermandois went by way of Rome, where he received the golden banner, and then, taking ship from Bari to Durazzo, made a junction with Godfrey in November, 1096, under the walls of Constantinople. Bohemund, with a splendid following of one hundred thousand horse and thirty thousand on foot,359 took the same route from Bari across the Adriatic. Raymund of Toulouse, accompanied by his countess, Elvira, and the papal legate, bishop Adhemar,360 traversed Northern Italy on his way eastward. The last of the main armies to start was led by Robert, duke of Normandy, and Stephen of Blois, who crossed the Alps, received the pope’s blessing at Lucca, and, passing through Rome, transported their men across the Adriatic from Bari and Brindisi.
Godfrey of Bouillon361 was accompanied by his brothers, Baldwin and Eustace. Hugh, count of Vermandois, was a brother of Philip I. of France. Robert of Normandy was the eldest son of William the Conqueror, and had made provision for his expedition by pledging Normandy to his brother, William Rufus, for ten thousand marks silver. Raymund, count of Toulouse, was a veteran warrior, who had a hundred thousand horse and foot at his command, and enjoyed a mingled reputation for wealth, wisdom, pride, and greed. Bohemund, prince of Tarentum, was the son of Robert Guiscard. His cousin, Tancred, was the model cavalier. Robert, count of Flanders, was surnamed, "the Sword and Lance of the Christians." Stephen, count of Chartres, Troyes, and Blois, was the owner of three hundred and sixty-five castles. These and many other noblemen constituted the flower of the French, Norman, and Italian nobility.
The moral hero of the First Crusade is Godfrey of Bouillon, a descendant of Charlemagne in the female line, but he had no definite command. He had fought in the war of emperor Henry IV. against the rebel king, Rudolf of Swabia, whom he slew in the battle of Mölsen, 1080. He had prodigious physical strength. With one blow of his sword he clove asunder a horseman from head to saddle. He was as pious as he was brave, and took the cross for the single purpose of rescuing Jerusalem from the hands of the infidel. He used his prowess and bent his ancestral pride to the general aim. Contemporary historians call him a holy monk in military armor and ducal ornament. His purity and disinterestedness were acknowledged by his rivals.
Tancred, his intimate friend, likewise engaged in the enterprise from pure motives. He is the poetic hero of the First Crusade, and nearly approached the standard of "the parfite gentil knyght" of Chaucer. He distinguished himself at Nicaea, Dorylaeum, Antioch, and was one of the first to climb the walls of Jerusalem. He died in Antioch, 1112. His deeds were celebrated by Raoul de Caen and Torquato Tasso.362
The emperor Alexius, who had so urgently solicited the aid of Western Europe, became alarmed when he saw the hosts arriving in his city. They threatened to bring famine into the land and to disturb the order of his realm. He had wished to reap the benefit of the Crusade, but now was alarmed lest he should be overwhelmed by it. His subtle policy and precautions were felt as an insult by the Western chieftains. In diplomacy he was more than their match. They expected fair dealing and they were met by duplicity. He held Hugh of Vermandois in easy custody till he promised him fealty. Even Godfrey and Tancred, the latter after delay, made the same pledge. Godfrey declined to receive the emperor’s presents for fear of receiving poison with his munificence.
The Crusaders had their successes. Nicaea was taken June 19, 1097, and the Turks were routed a few weeks later in a disastrous action at Dorylaeum in Phrygia, which turned into a more disastrous flight. But a long year elapsed till they could master Antioch, and still another year came to an end before Jerusalem yielded to their arms. The success of the enterprise was retarded and its glory diminished by the selfish jealousies and alienation of the leaders which culminated in disgraceful conflicts at Antioch. The hardships and privations of the way were terrible, almost beyond description. The Crusaders were forced to eat horse flesh, camels, dogs, and mice, and even worse.363 The sufferings from thirst exceeded, if possible, the sufferings from hunger. To these discouragements was added the manifest treachery of the Greek emperor at the capture of Nicaea.364
During the siege of Antioch, which had fallen to the Seljuks, 1084, the ranks were decimated by famine, pestilence, and desertion, among the deserters being Stephen of Chartres and his followers. Peter the Hermit and William of Carpentarius were among those who attempted flight, but were caught in the act of fleeing and severely reprimanded by Bohemund.365 Immediately after the first recapture of the city, through the treachery of Phirouz, an Armenian, the Crusaders were themselves besieged by an army of two hundred thousand under Kerboga of Mosul. Their languishing energies were revived by the miraculous discovery of the holy lance, which pierced the Saviour’s side. This famous instrument was hidden under the altar of St. Peter’s church. The hiding place was revealed in a dream to Peter Barthelemy, the chaplain of Raymund of Toulouse.366 The sacred weapon was carried in front of the ranks by Raymund of Agiles, one of the historians of the Crusade, and it aroused great enthusiasm. Kerboga withdrew and the city fell into the Crusaders’ hands, June 28, 1098.367 Bohemund appropriated it to himself as his prize. Baldwin, after the fall of Nicaea, had done the same with Edessa, which became the easternmost citadel of the Crusaders. Others followed the examples of these leaders and went on independent expeditions of conquest. Of those who died at Antioch was Adhemar.
The culmination of the First Crusade was the fall of Jerusalem, July 15, 1099. It was not till the spring following the capture of Antioch, that the leaders were able to compose their quarrels and the main army was able again to begin the march. The route was along the coast to Caesarea and thence southeastward to Ramleh. Jerusalem was reached early in June. The army was then reduced to twenty thousand fighting men.368 In one of his frescos in the museum at Berlin, representing the six chief epochs in human history, Kaulbach has depicted with great effect the moment when the Crusaders first caught sight of the Holy City from the western hills. For the religious imagination it was among the most picturesque moments in history as it was indeed one of the most solemn in the history of the Middle Ages. The later narratives may well have the essence of truth in them, which represent the warriors falling upon their knees and kissing the sacred earth. Laying aside their armor, in bare feet and amid tears, penitential prayers, and chants, they approached the sacred precincts.369
A desperate but futile assault was made on the fifth day. Boiling pitch and oil were used, with showers of stones and other missiles, to keep the Crusaders at bay. The siege then took the usual course in such cases. Ladders, scaling towers, and other engines of war were constructed, but the wood had to be procured at a distance, from Shechem. The trees around Jerusalem, cut down by Titus twelve centuries before, had never been replaced. The city was invested on three sides by Raymund of Toulouse, Godfrey, Tancred, Robert of Normandy, and other chiefs. The suffering due to the summer heat and the lack of water was intense. The valley and the hills were strewn with dead horses, whose putrefying carcasses made life in the camp almost unbearable. In vain did the Crusaders with bare feet, the priests at their head, march in procession around the walls, hoping to see them fall as the walls of Jericho had fallen before Joshua.370 Help at last came with the arrival of a Genoese fleet in the harbor of Joppa, which brought workmen and supplies of tools and food.
Friday, the day of the crucifixion, was chosen for the final assault. A great tower surmounted by a golden cross was dragged alongside of the walls and the drawbridge let down. At a critical moment, as the later story went, a soldier of brilliant aspect371 was seen on the Mount of Olives, and Godfrey, encouraging the besiegers, exclaimed: "It is St. George the martyr. He has come to our help." According to most of the accounts, Letold of Tournay372 was the first to scale the walls. It was noticed that the moment of this crowning feat was three o’clock, the hour of the Saviour’s death.
The scenes of carnage which followed belong to the many dark pages of Jerusalem’s history and showed how, in the quality of mercy, the crusading knight was far below the ideal of Christian perfection. The streets were choked with the bodies of the slain. The Jews were burnt with their synagogues. The greatest slaughter was in the temple enclosure. With an exaggeration which can hardly be credited, but without a twinge of regret or a syllable of excuse, it is related that the blood of the massacred in the temple area reached to the very knees and bridles of the horses.373 "Such a slaughter of the pagans had never been seen or heard of. The number none but God knew."374
Penitential devotions followed easily upon the gory butchery of the sword. Headed by Godfrey, clad in a suit of white lined, the Crusaders proceeded to the church of the Holy Sepulchre and offered up prayers and thanksgivings. William of Tyre relates that Adhemar and others, who had fallen by the way, were seen showing the path to the holy places. The devotions over, the work of massacre was renewed. Neither the tears of women, nor the cries of children, nor the protests of Tancred, who for the honor of chivalry was concerned to save three hundred, to whom he had promised protection—none of these availed to soften the ferocity of the conquerors.
As if to enhance the spectacle of pitiless barbarity, Saracen prisoners were forced to clear the streets of the dead bodies and blood to save the city from pestilence. "They wept and transported the dead bodies out of Jerusalem," is the heartless statement of Robert the Monk.375
Such was the piety of the Crusaders. The religion of the Middle Ages combined self-denying asceticism with heartless cruelty to infidels, Jews, and heretics. "They cut down with the sword," said William of Tyre, "every one whom they found in Jerusalem, and spared no one. The victors were covered with blood from head to foot." In the next breath, speaking of the devotion of the Crusaders, the archbishop adds, "It was a most affecting sight which filled the heart with holy joy to see the people tread the holy places in the fervor of an excellent devotion." The Crusaders had won the tomb of the Saviour and gazed upon a fragment of the true cross, which some of the inhabitants were fortunate enough to have kept concealed during the siege.
Before returning to Europe, Peter the Hermit received the homage of the Christian inhabitants of Jerusalem, who remembered his visit as a pilgrim and his services in their behalf. This was the closing scene of his connection with the Crusades.376 Returning to Europe, he founded the monastery at Huy, in the diocese Liège, and died, 1115. A statue was dedicated to his memory at Amiens, June 29, 1854. He is represented in the garb of a monk, a rosary at his waist, a cross in his right hand, preaching the First Crusade.
Urban II. died two weeks after the fall of Jerusalem and before the tidings of the event had time to reach his ears.
No more favorable moment could have been chosen for the Crusade. The Seljukian power, which was at its height in the eleventh century, was broken up into rival dynasties and factions by the death of Molik Shah, 1092. The Crusaders entered as a wedge before the new era of Moslem conquest and union opened.
Note on the Relation of Peter the Hermit to the First Crusade.
The view of Peter the Hermit, presented in this work, does not accord with the position taken by most of the modern writers on the Crusades. It is based on the testimony of Albert of Aachen and William of Tyre, historians of the First Crusade, and is, that Peter visited Jerusalem as a pilgrim, conversed with the patriarch Simeon over the desolations of the city, had a dream in the church of the Holy Sepulchre, returned to Europe with letters from Simeon which he presented to the pope, and then preached through Italy and beyond the Alps, and perhaps attended the Council of Clermont, where, however, he took no prominent part.
The new view is that there occurrences were fictions. It was first set forth by von Sybel in his work on the First Crusade, in 1841. Sybel’s work, which marks an epoch in the treatment of the Crusades, was suggested by the lectures of Ranke, 1837.377 Its author, after a careful comparison of the earliest accounts, announced that there is no reliable evidence that Peter was the immediate instigator of the First Crusade, and that not to him but to Urban II. alone belongs the honor of having originated the movement. Peter did not make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, meet Urban, or preach about the woes of the Holy City prior to the assembling of the Synod of Clermont.
These views, with some modification, have been advocated by Hagenmeyer in his careful and scholarly work on Peter the Hermit and in other writings on the First Crusade.378 In our own country the same view has been set forth by eminent scholars. Professor Oliver J. Thatcher, in an article on the Latin Sources of the First Crusade,379 says, "The stories about Peter the Hermit, his pilgrimage to Jerusalem, his visions there, his journey to the pope at Rome, his successful appeals to Urban to preach a crusade, and Peter’s commanding position as one of the great preachers and leaders of the Crusade, all are found to be without the least foundation in fact." Dr. Dana C. Munro has recently declared that the belief that Peter was the instigator of the First Crusade has long since been abandoned.380
It is proper that the reasons should be given in brief which have led to the retention of the old view in this volume. The author’s view agrees with the judgment expressed by Archer, Story of the Crusades, p. 27, that the account of Albert of Aachen "is no doubt true in the main."
Albert of Aachen wrote his History of Jerusalem about 1120–1125,381 that is, while many of the Crusaders were still alive who took part in the siege of Jerusalem, 1099. William, archbishop of Tyre, was born probably in Jerusalem about 1130. He was a man of learning, acquainted with Hebrew, Greek, Latin, and Arabic; well read in the Bible, as his quotations show, and travelled in Europe. He is one of the ablest of the mediaeval historians, and his work is the monumental history of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem. He was by his residence thoroughly acquainted with Palestine. It is not unworthy of mention that William’s History represents the "office of the historian to be not to write what pleases him, but the material which the time offers," bk. XXIII. From the sixteenth to the twenty-third book he writes from personal observation. William stands between the credulous enthusiasm of the first writers on the Crusades and the cold scepticism of some modern historians.
The new view, setting aside these two witnesses, bases its conclusion on the strictly contemporary accounts. These are silent about any part Peter took in the movement leading to the First Crusade prior to the Council of Clermont. They are: (1) the Gesta Francorum, written by an unknown writer, who reached Jerusalem with the Crusaders, wrote his account about 1099, and left the original, or a copy of it, in Jerusalem. (2) Robert the Monk, who was in Jerusalem, saw a copy of the Gesta, and copied from it. His work extends to 1099. He was present at the Council of Clermont. (3) Raymund, canon of Agiles, who accompanied the Crusaders to Jerusalem. (4) Fulcher of Chartres, who was present at Clermont, continued the history to 1125, accompanied the Crusaders to Jerusalem, and had much to do with the discovery of the holy lance. (5) The priest Tudebodus, who copied from the Gesta before 1111 and added very little of importance. (6) Ekkehard of Urach, who made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, 1101. (7) Radulph of Caen, who in 1107 joined Tancred and related what he heard from him. (8) Guibert of Nogent, who was present at Clermont and wrote about 1110. (9) Baldric of Dol, who was at Clermont and copied from the Gesta in Jerusalem.
Another contemporary, Anna Comnena, b. 1083, is an exception and reports the activity of Peter prior to the Council of Clermont, and says he made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, but was not permitted by the Turks to enter. He then hastened to Europe and preached about the woes of the city in order to provide a way to visit it again. Hagenmeyer is constrained by Anna’s testimony to concede that Peter actually set forth on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, but did not reach the city.
The silence of nine contemporary writers is certainly very noticeable. They had the means of knowing the facts. Why, then, do we accept the later statements of Albert of Aachen and William of Tyre? These are the considerations.
1. The silence of contemporary writers is not a final argument against events. Eusebius, the chief historian of the ancient Church, utterly ignores the Catacombs. Silence, said Dr. Philip Schaff, referring to the Crusades, "is certainly not conclusive," "Reformed Ch. Rev." 1893, p. 449. There is nothing in the earlier accounts contradictory to Peter’s activity prior to the Clermont synod. One and another of the writers omit important events of the First Crusade, but that is not a sufficient reason for our setting those events aside as fictitious. The Gesta has no account of Urban’s speech at Clermont or reference to it. Guibert and Fulcher leave out in their reports of Urban’s speech all reference to the appeal from Constantinople. Why does the Gesta pass over with the slightest notice Peter’s breaking away from Germany on his march to Constantinople? This author’s example is followed by Baldric, Tudebod, Fulcher, and Raymund of Agiles. These writers have not a word to say about Gottschalk, Volkmar, and Emich. As Hagenmeyer says, pp. 129, 157, no reason can be assigned for these silences, and yet the fact of these expeditions and the calamities in Hungary are not doubted.
2. The accounts of Albert of Aachen and of William of Tyre are simply told and not at all unreasonable in their essential content. William definitely makes Peter the precursor of Urban. He was, he said, "of essential service to our lord the pope, who determined to follow him without delay across the mountains. He did him the service of a forerunner and prepared the minds of men in advance so that he might easily win them for himself." There is no indication in the archbishop’s words of any purpose to disparage Urban’s part in preparing for the Crusade. Urban followed after John the Baptist. William makes Urban the centre of the assemblage at Clermont and gives to his address great space, many times the space given to the experiences of Peter, and all honor is accorded to the pope for the way in which he did his part, bk. I. 16.
3. Serious difficulties are presented in the theory of the growth of the legend of Peter’s activity. They are these: (1) Albert of Aachen lived close to the events, and at the most twenty-five years elapsed between the capture of Jerusalem and his writing. (2) There is nothing in Peter’s conduct during the progress of the Crusade to justify the growth of an heroic legend around him. The very contrary was the case. Moreover, neither Albert nor William know anything about Peter before his pilgrimage. Hagenmeyer has put the case in the proper light when he says, "Not a single authority suggests that Peter enjoyed any extraordinary repute before his connection with the Crusade. On the contrary, every one that mentions his name connects it with the Crusade," p. 120. (3) It is difficult to understand how the disposition could arise on the part of any narrator to transfer the credit of being the author of the Crusade from a pope to a monk, especially such a monk as Peter turned out to be. In reference to this consideration, Archer, p. 26, has well said, "There is little in the legend of Peter the Hermit which may not very well be true, and the story, as it stands, is more plausible than if we had to assume that tradition had transferred the credit from a pope to a simple hermit." (4) We may very well account for Anna Comnena’s story of Peter’s being turned back by the Turks by her desire to parry the force of his conversation with the Greek patriarch Simeon. It was her purpose to disparage the Crusade. Had she admitted the message of Simeon through Peter to the pope, she would have conceded a strong argument for the divine approval upon the movement. As for Anna, she makes mistakes, confusing Peter once with Adhemar and once with Peter Barthelemy.
(5) All the accounts mention Peter. He is altogether the most prominent man in stirring up interest in the Crusade subsequent to the council. Hagenmeyer goes even so far as to account for his success by the assumption that Peter made telling use of his abortive pilgrimage, missglückte Pilgerfahrt. As already stated, Peter was listened to by "in immense throngs;" no one in the memory of the abbot of Nogent had enjoyed so much honor. "He was held in higher esteem than prelates and abbots," says Robert the Monk. As if to counteract the impression upon the reader, these writers emphasize that Peter’s influence was over the rude and lawless masses, and, as Guibert says, that the bands which followed him were the dregs of France. Now it is difficult to understand how a monk, before unknown, who had never been in Jerusalem, and was not at the Council of Clermont, could at once work into his imagination such vivid pictures of the woe and wails of the Christians of the East as to attain a foremost pre-eminence as a preacher of the Crusade.
(6) Good reasons can be given for the omission of Peter’s conduct prior to the Council of Clermont by the earliest writers. The Crusade was a holy and heroic movement. The writers were interested in magnifying the part taken by the chivalry of Europe. Some of them were with Peter in the camp, and they found him heady, fanatical, impracticable, and worse. He probably was spurned by the counts and princes. Many of the writers were chaplains of these chieftains, -Raymund, Baldwin, Tancred, Bohemund. The lawlessness of Peter’s bands has been referred to. The defeat at Nicaea robbed Peter of all glory and position he might otherwise have had with the main army when it reached Asia.382 In Antioch he brought upon himself disgrace for attempting flight, being caught in the act by Tancred and Bohemund. The Gesta gives a detailed account of this treachery, and Guibert383 compares his flight to an angel falling from heaven. It is probably with reference to it that Ekkehard says, "Many call him hypocrite."384 Strange to say, Albert of Aachen and William of Tyre omit all reference to his treacherous flight.385 It is not improbable that, after the experiences they had of the Hermit in the camp, and the disregard and perhaps the contempt in which he was held by the princes, after his inglorious campaign to Constantinople and Nicaea, the early writers had not the heart to mention his services prior to the council. Far better for the glory of the cause that those experiences should pass into eternal forgetfulness.
Why should legend then come to be attached to his memory? Why should not Adhemar have been chosen for the honor which was put upon this unknown monk who made so many mistakes and occupied so subordinate a position in the main crusading army? Why stain the origin of so glorious a movement by making Peter with his infirmities and ignoble birth responsible for the inception of the Crusade? It would seem as if the theory were more probable that the things which led the great Crusaders to disparage, if not to ridicule, Peter induced the earlier writers to ignore his meritorious activity prior to the Council of Clermont. After the lapse of time, when the memory of his follies was not so fresh, the real services of Peter were again recognized. For these reasons the older portrait of Peter has been regarded as the true one in all its essential features.