Page 1363


most extraordinary episodes of the Holy


The Meander was barely fordable, if fordable at all, by infantry. Conrad, however,

eager to reach the foe, and believing that

his men could swim or struggle through

the deeper part of the current, drew up

the Crusaders on the hither bank, exhorted

them to heroic battle, and gave the order

to plunge into the stream. The command

was obeyed with alacrity, and so great a

number of warriors rushed into the river

that the current was broken above and the

waters ran away from below, leaving the

bed almost as dry as the banks. Great was

the amazement of the Moslems at this, to

them, miraculous phenomenon. Believing that

their enemies were aided by supernatural

powers, they made but a feeble resistance,

and then fled in a rout. The Germans pursued the flying foe, and slaughtered them by

thousands. Years afterwards their bones

might be seen bleaching in heaps along the

bank of the Meander.

The effect of the victory was very inspiriting to the Crusaders, who began to

draw the fallacious inference that they were

invincible. From the Meander, Conrad took

his way in the direction of Iconium. Still

at the mercy of his Greek guides, he was led

into the defiles near that city, where the

sultan had collected an immense army to

oppose his further progress. While the

Germans were making their way through a

narrow pass, they beheld above the hill crests the spear-heads and turbans of what

seemed an innumerable host of Moslems.

Great was the disadvantage at which the

Crusaders were placed in the battle which

ensued. Encumbered with heavy armor, it

seemed impossible for them to reach and

smite the light-armed Saracens, who swooped

down on them from above. It was not long

until the line of march was blocked up with

the dead bodies of German warriors. Thousands upon thousands were slain; and Conrad had the infinite chagrin of seeing his

army melting away under the blows of an

enemy who, from his inaccessible position,

suffered scarcely any losses.

After struggling vainly and courageously

against the fate of his situation, the Emperor perceived that his only hope lay in a

retreat. He accordingly withdrew the remnant of his forces from the defiles, and began

to fall back in the direction by which he

had come. It was with the greatest difficulty

that any portion of the German army was

saved from destruction. The Turkish cavalry

hung on flank and rear, and every straggler

from the compact column of the ever-decreasing and weary remnant was cut down

without mercy. Slowly and desperately

Conrad made his way back across Asia Minor,

and finally reached Constantinople. Nine-tenths of his warrior knights had perished

under the javelins and swords of the Moslems.

Doubtless the fatal folly of the Second Crusade consisted in the failure of the French and

German armies to form the intended junction

at the Eastern capital. Nothing could have

been more disastrous than the premature advance of Conrad before the arrival of his allies

on the Bosphorus. In the mean time King

Louis of France, repairing to the abbey of

St. Denis, took from above the altar that celebrated banner called the Oriflamme, and bore

it with him as his standard. Together with

Queen Eleanor, he obtained permission to depart from the kingdom-a fact illustrative of

the strong ascendancy of the French church

over civil authority in the twelfth century.

The queen, who, before her marriage to

Louis, had as Princess of Aquitaine been

thoroughly imbued with the culture of the

South, took with her the refined ladies of

her court, and a band of troubadours to enliven the tedium of the expedition. The first

point of rendezvous was the frontier city of

Metz, and here were gathered by hundreds

and thousands the barons, knights, and warriors of the kingdom. The early autumn was

occupied with the advance to Constantinople,

where Louis arrived with his army about the

beginning of October.

On reaching the Eastern capital the

French were received with all the fictitious

ardor which Comnenus was able to assume.

His professions of friendship were unbounded,

and for a while Louis and his knights believed

themselves to be the most cordially entertained of any soldiery in Christendom.

By and by, however, the king learned that