The Crusades >> The
First Crusade >> End of The People's Crusade
The Franks were the first to raid, and they were very successful. They
drove all the way to the gates of Nicaea, plundering the villages (many of
which were Christian, but the Crusaders were indifferent to this). Nicaea
was the capital city of Kilij Arslan, the Turkish sultan in Asia Minor. He
was a typical Danishmend prince, however; he might park his treasury and his
family in a city, but his real capital was with his army, and at this time
the army was off in central Anatolia dealing with a rebellion. The city
guard sallied out and drove away the Crusaders, but the Franks returned to
Civetot laden with booty and regaling everyone with tales of their great
Naturally, the others in camp wanted a piece of the action. The Germans
set out soon after. They came to an abandoned castle called Xerigordon,
which seemed like a good spot to serve as base camp for extensive raiding,
so they moved in. Local Turkish forces quickly invested the castle. It's
doubtful that the Germans expected this, for the castle's water supply was
at the base of the hill, now in Turkish hands. After eight days of terrible
suffering, the Germans surrendered. They were given the choice: convert or
die. Those that stayed true to their faith were executed, while the rest
were sent as captives to distant cities, never to be heard from again.
Those at Civetot wanted to avenge Xerigordon, but the news was that Kilij
Arslan was returning with his army, so Peter the Hermit returned to
Constantinople to beg the Emperor to send regular troops to help defend the
Crusaders. The Emperor was reluctant and negotiations dragged on for days.
In the meantime, the hot-heads in the Christian camp slowly prevailed and it
was agreed that the army would march on Nicaea before the Turkish army could
arrive to reinforce it.
On 21 October, the Crusaders left Civetot and marched into a carefully
prepared ambush. Kilij Arslan had already arrived, but he did not intend to
hole up in a city, he intended to attack his enemies.
The road to Nicaea passed through a wooded valley a few miles from
Civetot. As the lead contingent, which of course was comprised of the
knights, moved through the valley, the Turks attacked. They killed the
horses and then drove the knights back upon the rest of the army still
The rout was complete. Only a handful survived. The Turks killed everyone
they encountered except for young girls and boys that would sell on the
slave market. Of twenty thousand who marched that morning, barely three
thousand managed to escape to a half-completed fort near the coast. A Greek
managed to get to a boat and brought news to Constantinople, whereupon the
Emperor sent ships over to rescue the survivors.