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Belgrade Is Sacked
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  Home >> The Crusades >> The First Crusade >> Belgrade Is Sacked


Peter left only days behind Walter, leaving Cologne on April 20, 1096, with about 20,000 followers. This was an enormous army by the standards of the day, perhaps the largest assembled in Europe in centuries. Most in the army were commoners, but a substantial number of knights had joined. The poor went on foot, of course, while the knights were mounted. We know there was a supply train with wagons, which included the army's treasury. Peter traveled as he always had, on a donkey.

These Crusaders, too, passed through Germany and Hungary without incident, leading us to conclude that they were paying their own way to the satisfaction of local merchants. At Semlin, however, trouble broke out.

This was the town that had punished the sixteen knights from Walter's army. The sixteen suits of armor were still nailed to the town walls, which did not please the new Crusaders. Peter tried to move his army quickly on, but an argument broke out in the rear, allegedly over payment for a pair of shoes--an important item for Crusaders!--and the quarrel escalated quickly into a full battle. Peter's army stormed the citadel and sacked the city, killing several thousand inhabitants and local Byzantine troops.

Semlin was across the Danube from Belgrade. The military commander quickly sent his few hundred Petchneg troops to prevent the Crusaders from crossing the river. He then ran for Nish, whereupon the citizens of Belgrade abandoned the city. The loyal Petchnegs died defending the crossing, but they were hopelessly outnumbered. Belgrade, too, was sacked.

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