Friday, 11 November 2011

The Dangers of Division

If there is one lesson to learn from my experiences on the Crusade, it is that armies win when they stick together with their allies, and they lose when they fragment.
I remember so well the concern of Emperor Alexios to prevent those of us under Godfrey’s banner from uniting with the Provencals of Raymond of Toulouse and the Normans under Bohemond of Taranto. After all, I, not Bagrat, overheard his words in the Emperor’s fine Ionian columned throne room overlooking the Bosphorus.  Had it not been for Baldwin’s impetuous pride in provoking the Emperor’s wrath, the Byzantines might not have been able to shepherd us over that narrow neck of water before the Provencals and Normans arrived. Who knows, perhaps the proud Eastern Empire would have been toppled there and then.
A few months later the lesson was forgotten. For it was the squabble between black Baldwin and red Tancred over Tarsus and Mamistra that perhaps prevented the foundation of a Crusader fiefdom in Cilicia. I remember how dismayed I was at the time by the violence of Christian on Christian. How naive I was then.
But Antioch illustrated the lesson most clearly. I saw the dangerous variety in Kerbogha’s vast host on my journey there before they encircled the city and reported this vulnerability. Bohemond and Raymond’s bitter rivalry had sparked into life by then, it is true, but we were all united by desperation and by the fanaticism fuelled by the Holy Lance. And with Raymond confined to his sickbed by illness or fear, Bohemond was our undisputed leader. So like a mailed fisted striking a heap of sand, our bedraggled force was able to scatter the disunited Saracens, though they outnumbered us at least three to one and were well-fed while we were starving.
And if the Seljuks and the Fatimids had combined to defend Jerusalem itself the outcome of that extraordinary siege might have been very different. Indeed, we might never have made it to those famous walls. Instead, the Fatimids weakened themselves by throwing out the Seljuks barely six months before.
What a shame our unity was in such an unworthy cause.