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  Home >> 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 "victory."

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 filing in.

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.

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