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Battle of Ager Sanguinis

History -- Military history -- List of battles

The Battle of Ager Sanguinis, also known as the Battle of the Field of Blood or the Battle of Sarmada, took place between the Crusader Principality of Antioch and the Muslim ruler of Aleppo in 1119.

Battle of Ager Sanguinis
DateJune 28, 1119
PlaceNear Sarmada
ResultMuslim victory
Roger of Salerno†Ilghazi
About 3700Unknown
About 2000-3000Unknown
Antioch and the other Crusader States had constantly faced attacks from the Muslim strongholds of northern Syria, Aleppo and Mosul, although neither side, up to this point, had been able to conquer the other's cities. When Ridwan of Aleppo died in 1113, Antioch was finally left in peace, at least for a few years. However, Roger of Salerno, who was ruling Antioch as regent for Bohemund II, did not take advantage of Ridwan's death; likewise, Baldwin II, count of Edessa, and Pons, count of Tripoli, looked after their own interests and did not ally with Roger against Aleppo.

In 1117 Aleppo came under the rule of the Ortoqid atabeg Ilghazi. In 1118 Roger captured Azaz, which left Aleppo open to attack from the Crusaders; in response, Ilghazi invaded Antioch in 1119. Roger called for help from Baldwin, now king of Jerusalem, and Pons, but Roger felt he could not wait for them to arrive. Ilghazi was also waiting for reinforcements from Togtugin of Damascus, but he too was tired or waiting, and he surrounded Roger's camp in the pass of Sarmada during the night of June 27. Roger's army of about 3700 troops (700 knights and 3000 foot soldiers) was completely destroyed the next morning, June 28. Roger himself was killed and only two of his knights survived. The massacre led to the name of the battle, ager sanguinis, Latin for "the field of blood."

The battle proved that the Muslims could defeat a Crusader army without the help of the Seljuks. However, Ilghazi did not advance to Antioch, which was now essentially defenseless against him. He was pushed back by Baldwin II and Pons on August 14, and Baldwin took over the regency of Antioch. The defeat at the Field of Blood left Antioch severely weakened, and subject to repeated attacks by the Muslims in the following decade. As a result the Principality eventually came under the influence of the Byzantine Empire.

The Crusaders regained some of their influence in Syria at the Battle of Azaz six years later in 1125.