Episode 218 – The Siege of Antioch

Engraving of Antioch by William Miller from a sketch by Byam Martin in 1866

Engraving of Antioch by William Miller from a sketch by Byam Martin in 1866

Battle outside Antioch from 'Passaiges d'outremer' (Voyages to Palestine) illuminated by Sebastian Marmoret (c1490)

Battle outside Antioch from ‘Passaiges d’outremer’ (Voyages to Palestine) illuminated by Sebastian Marmoret (c1490)

Antioch and Vicinity (from Victory in the East by J France)

Antioch and Vicinity (from Victory in the East by J France)

Siege of Antioch. Nov 1097 - Mar 1098 (from Victory in the East by J France)

Siege of Antioch. Oct 1097 – Mar 1098 (from Victory in the East by J France)

Siege of Antioch. Mar-May 1098 (from Victory in the East by J France)

Siege of Antioch. Mar-May 1098 (from Victory in the East by J France)

The Defeat of Kerbogah (from Victory in the East by J France)

The Defeat of Kerbogah (from Victory in the East by J France)

The Crusaders set up a siege of Antioch. The vast size of the city makes it impossible to fully encircle. What follows is a battle of attrition as the Crusaders wait for the Turkic garrison to make a mistake and the garrison await reinforcements. Meanwhile Alexios makes his way to the centre of the Anatolian plateau to consolidate the return of Byzantine power. He also awaits news from Antioch.

Time Stamps – each section is broken up by our drum sound effect
00.00-03.05 Introduction
03.06-08.47 Why did the Crusaders have to capture Antioch?
08.48-14.22 Baldwin at Edessa
14.23-17.14 The political fragmentation of Syria
17.15-27.35 The geography of Antioch
27.36-33.52 Early stages of the siege
33.53-46.35 Winter stalemate. Suffering and desertions. Bohemond and Robert of Flanders drive off forces from Damascus
46.36-54.42 Victory over the forces of Aleppo
54.43-62.18 More fully surrounding the city
62.19-77.09 Antioch falls
77.10-84.24 The Crusaders besieged. Kerbogah attacks from the Citadel
84.25-87.46 Desperation and talk of surrender
87.47-92.03 Alexios goes home
92.04-100.19 The final battle
100.19-107.00 Conclusion

Period: 1097-8

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Categories: Podcast | 32 Comments

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32 thoughts on “Episode 218 – The Siege of Antioch

  1. AndalucianPoet

    Fine I’ll look at the damn map!!!

  2. Myriokephalon

    I’m guessing that the Crusaders didn’t do the obvious and try to build a bridge upstream because the engineers would have been too open to attack before they could get enough men across to hold it.

    I feel like there’s a good opportunity for an alternate history there, because if Alexios had been able to land a thousand men or so at Saint Symeon they would have had enough manpower to protect the bridge building operation and Antioch might have fallen much more smoothly.

    • A bridge to the north of the city wouldn’t have been as helpful as the Bridge of Boats because the Latins were trying to respond quickly to the garrison crossing the Bridge Gate.

      Whereas a bridge to the south of the Bridge Gate would have then needed more encampments or siege forts to protect it from attacks by the garrison. I suspect the Bridge of Boats also had the advantage of not seeming threatening enough to destroy. Or too easily reassembled if it was destroyed.

      I think there’s a big question around the strength of the Byzantine navy during this period. If a fleet was available then you do wonder why they couldn’t be sent to make a much bigger show of support than was made.

  3. Micah

    Saturday: Robin hasn’t updated in awhile, I hope he’s okay…
    Sunday: *two hour episode drops*
    Ohhh snaaaap my boi is alive and kickin’!!

  4. postal

    Epic episode. Everything about your podcast, from presentation to organization to pacing to information to entertainment is top notch. Best.Podcast.Ever.

  5. Levi

    I am sorry if you address this later in the episode as I’m still in the first part, but I do not have time to watch the entire episode today.

    It seems like the geography of the city has changed since the previous episode long ago about Antioch. It used to have the river hug the wall on the entire western side and have a little island in the north. It almost looks like the city has been moved south in it’s entirety! Or maybe the city shrank, or the river changed?

    • Yes you’re exactly right. I didn’t mention it in the episode since I knew most people would have forgotten. There was a huge earthquake during Justinian’s era which levelled much of the city. The rebuilt Antioch was on a smaller scale and so a little back from the river. But I’m not sure about the island. It didn’t come up in the Crusader narratives and I didn’t look into it in detail. I don’t know if it was still there or if the quake + time had eroded it in some fashion.

      • Levi

        Ahhh that makes sense. Just makes you think how all events have such a big effect on history

      • Alexander

        I had the same question about the island! From what I can tell from doing a Google image search for “map of medieval Antioch” (so, grain of salt, obviously), it would appear that some time after antiquity – perhaps due to the great earthquake – the course of the river changed. More precisely, the portion of the river separating the island from the rest of the city dried up. Some maps seem to indicate that this was possibly a man-made (or man-enhanced?) canal or channel that was not maintained. Cross referencing that to the maps posted for this episode, it looks like the lines/camps of the southern Franks and northern Franks met on what used to be the island.

        Robin, does that square at all with what the sources say?

    • I’m afraid I haven’t looked into it, that sounds likely. If it remained in Byzantine control I would take time out to research but alas I have too much else to do 🙂

      • Alexander

        Fair enough! I don’t mean to ask you to chase down a very small tangent. The episode was amazing. Not surprised because all your work is, but impressed as always.

  6. Levi

    I just finished listening to all of the episodes of the podcast(except this one thus far).
    It has been such an enjoyable, educational and interesting journey! You are an amazing podcaster Robin, I genuinely can’t think of any way I would think you could improve. You have an amazing podcasting voice and accent and I love the way you balance entertainment and education, you bring up sources and historians and you take the listeners with you into the realm of research so they know the nuance of the sources.

    I find myself wishing that all podcasts were made by you, with your skill of podcasting, voice and nuanced research

    • Levi

      I also find myself being able to easily digest all information well. I have difficulties with it in other podcasts, including the History of Rome (I am at episode 8). But even though I binged all of the History of Byzantium, I had no difficulties thanks to the way you present it.

  7. Thank you all for such kind compliments. It’s lovely to find other people on the same wavelength 🙂

  8. James Radcliffe

    You know, I swear listening to the battle against Kerbogah it’s the closest an account of a battle has come to playing a total war game. Clearly it’s more historically accurate than I give it credit for…

  9. Gregory Walker Levitsky

    Robin, amazing episode!! Well worth the wait, thank you! Question for you: I’ve been saving the .mp3 files to be able to listen to offline or in the car, and this one will not let me. Is there a direct link to the actual file to be able to download it?

  10. David Thompson

    That was amazingly detailed. I think we have more info for that siege than we do for entire decades of Byzantine history, particularly the ones in the 700s.

  11. David Koch

    Great episode, Robin! One of your best.

  12. Foxy

    Will the crusaders be able to keep Antioch straight until the last of the crusades?

  13. Julian the Apostate

    Thank you for this excellent episode. It made a 4h bus ride so much more enjoyable! I really appreciate this podcast and all the work you put into it. I especially like that you showcase the motivation and reasoning of the different political actors in fair and unbiased way and that you always question the traditional narrative. Keep up the great work!

  14. Alexander

    Hi Robin

    I am just using this epic episode to congratulate you to your fantastic podcast. I am always impressed, not only by your well research content, but also your impeccable presentation – very clear and very well measured! Keep it up!

  15. Deane

    Really good podcast, I think I have heard it 3 times now to get it all, and revisit bits. It’d make a facinating film too, as plenty of drama in it.

  16. Flavio

    You know, I think this is the real momento of the Great Schism.

  17. BlackKettle

    Now, if the Crusaders had got hold of the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch…
    (First shalt thou take out the Holy Pin. Then shalt thou count to three, no more, no less…)

  18. Ilham

    Such an epic episode. Normally I listen to podcast while doing something else, like doing my day job or cleaning the house. For this one I had to just lie down, listen it entirely while looking at the maps.

    Thanks for going into such detail for the episode and the previous episodes on crusading. As a person from the eastern part of the world, far from the middle east/western europe (though still muslim majority) the crusades in my schooling years were just some holy war declared by Christians on Muslims to capture Jerusalem, and the only important scene is when Saladin recaptured Jerusalem for Islam (which is technically not even part of a Crusade). I am definitely learning a lot from this podcast

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