Page 1325

1325 THE CRUSADES-THE FIRST CRUSADE.

this division of Crusaders was the Prince Tancred, nephew of Boemund, destined to become

one of the greatest heroes of the age.

The first landing of the Italian knights

was made at Durazzo. At this place the

Prince of Tarento had already in his youth

distinguished himself in a conflict with the

Greeks. Even now his secret purpose was

rather to renew the war with the Eastern

Empire than to exterminate the Turks.

He accordingly sent word to Godfrey, at

Constantinople, advising him to seize the

Byzantine dominions for himself; but the

chivalrous Godfrey would be no party to

such an enterprise. Boemund then advanced

through Macedonia and approached the Eastern Capital.

When Alexius heard that the Norman

Knights were coming, and that the implacable Prince of Tarento was their leader, he

resorted to his usual method of duplicity.

He resolved, if possible, to make Boemund

his vassal by means of bribes. He invited

him to come to Constantinople, and received

him with all the arts known to an imperial

demagogue. Nor did Boemund himself fail

in the display of craft. The meeting of the

twain was occupied with high-flown compliments and hollow professions of friendship.

In the course of the sham interview, Alexius

was indiscreet enough to exhibit to his dangerous guest one of the treasure houses of

the palace. The eyes of the Prince of Tarento

dilated with the sight. "Here is enough,"

said he, "to conquer a kingdom." Deeming

the moment opportune, the Emperor immediately ordered the treasures to be conveyed to Boemund's tent as a present. The latter affected to decline the gift. "Your

munificence," said he, "is too great; but

if you would have me your vassal forever

make me Grand Domestic of the Empire!"

This request went through Alexius like a

dart; for he himself had seized the Imperial crown while holding the office of

Grand Domestic. He accordingly replied,

that he could not confer the desired honor, but

that he would grant it as a reward of future

services.

Thus was the year 1096 consumed with the

gathering of the armies of the West before the

walls of Constantinople. All winter long the

Emperor was in extreme anxiety lest the uplifted sword of Christendom should fall on himself rather than on the Turks. Nor is it likely

that such a catastrophe could have been

avoided but for the prudent restraints imposed

by Godfrey of Bouillon upon the soldiers of

the Cross.

At length, with the opening of the following spring, Alexius had the inexpressible satisfaction of seeing the Crusaders break up their

camp and cross into Asia Minor. The host

was safely in Bithynia on the march for Palestine. The forces thus gathered out of the

prolific West numbered fully six hundred

thousand warriors. Of these, a hundred

thousand were mounted knights, and the

remainder foot soldiers in armor. The mixed character of the vast throng was still

preserved. Priest, matron, and maid still

journeyed by the side of young warriors, who

carried white hawks on their wrists, and

whistled at intervals to the hounds. At the

head rode the austere Godfrey, the white-haired Raymond of Toulouse, and Peter

the Hermit seated on a mule. The immense

army pressed steadily forward and came to

Nice, the capital of Bithynia.

The sultan of this province made strenuous

efforts to put his kingdom in a condition of

defense. Nice was strongly fortified. The

people were roused by a proclamation, and

called in for the protection of the capital. In

accordance with the military methods of the

East, the non-combatants were placed within

the walls, while the Turkish army pitched its

camp on the neighboring mountains. On the

10th of May, 1097, the banners of the Crusaders came in sight. Quite different was the

prospect from that which the Western chivalry

had expected to descry. Here lay a powerful

city surrounded with the seemingly impregnable rampart, protected by Lake Ascanius

and a ditch deep and broad, flooded with

water. Here were turrets bristling with

Turkish spears, and yonder on the mountain

slope waved the black banner of the Abbassides over a powerful army of Moslem warriors. But the courage of the Crusaders was rather awakened into active energy than

cooled by the spectacle. Taking their position on the plain, ,in front of the city, they

immediately began a siege. The day had at

last arrived when the issue of valor, which

had been tested three hundred and fifty years

before on the field of Poitiers, was again to be

decided, but now on the plains of Asia Minor.