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Principality of Antioch

The Principality of Antioch was one of the states created during the First Crusade.


While Baldwin of Boulogne and Tancred of Hauteville headed east from Asia Minor to set up the County of Edessa, the main army of the First Crusade continued south to besiege Antioch. Bohemund of Taranto led the siege, beginning in October, 1097. With over four hundred towers, the city was almost impenetrable. The siege lasted throughout the winter, with much suffering among the Crusaders, who were often forced to eat their own horses, or, as legend has it, the bodies of their fellow Christians who had not survived.

However, Bohemund convinced a guard in one of the towers, a former Christian named Firouz, to let the Crusaders enter the city. He did so on June 3, 1098, and a massacre of the Muslim inhabitants followed. Only four days later, a Muslim army from Mosul led by Kerbogha arrived to besiege the Crusaders themselves. Alexius I Comnenus, the Byzantine emperor, was on his way to assist the Crusaders, but turned back when he heard the city had already been retaken.

However, the Crusaders were withstanding the siege, with help from a mystic named Peter Bartholomew. Peter claimed he had been visited by St. Andrew, who told him that the Holy Lance, which had pierced Christ's side as he was on the cross, was located in Antioch. A local church was excavated, and the Lance was discovered by Peter himself. Although Peter most likely planted it there himself (even the papal legate Adhemar of Le Puy believed this to be the case), it helped raise the spirits of the Crusaders. With the newly discovered relic at the head of the army, Bohemund marched out to meet Kerbogha, who was miraculously defeated - miraculously, according to the Crusaders, because an army of saints had appeared to help them on the battlefield.

There was a lengthy dispute over who should control the city. Bohemund and the other Italian Normans eventually won, and Bohemund named himself prince. Unlike Baldwin in Edessa, who was already a count in France, Bohemund did not hold the title of prince in Europe, but this did not deter the creation of a Principality. Meanwhile, an unknown epidemic spread throughout the Crusader camp; Adhemar of Le Puy was one of the victims.

Early History

Bohemond was captured in battle with the Danishmends in 1100, and his nephew Tancred became regent. Tancred expanded the borders of the Principality, taking the cities of Tarsus and Latakia from the Byzantine Empire. Bohemund was released in 1103, but left Tancred as regent again when he went to Italy to raise more troops in 1105. Upon his return in 1107 he was forced by Alexius I to sign the Treaty of Devol, which would make Antioch a vassal state of the Byzantine Empire upon Bohemund's death; Bohemund had actually promised to return any land that was reconquered when the Crusaders passed through Constantinople in 1097. Bohemund also fought Aleppo with Baldwin and Joscelin of the County of Edessa; when Baldwin and Joscelin were captured, Tancred became regent in Edessa as well. Bohemund left Tancred as regent once more and returned to Italy, where he died in 1111.

Alexius wanted Tancred to return the Principality entirely to Byzantium, but Tancred was supported by the County of Tripoli and the Kingdom of Jerusalem; Tancred, in fact, had been the only Crusade leader who did not swear to return conquered land to Alexius (though none of the other leaders, including Bohemund, kept their oaths anyway). Tancred died in 1112 and was succeeded by Bohemund II, under the regency of Tancred's nephew Roger, who defeated a Seljuk attack in 1113.

However, on June 27, 1119, Roger was killed at the Ager Sanguinis (the Field of Blood), and Antioch became a vassal state of Jerusalem with King Baldwin II as regent until 1126 (although Baldwin spent much of this time in captivity in Aleppo). Bohemund II's reign lasted a short four years, and the Principality was inherited by his young daughter Constance; Baldwin II acted as regent again until his death in 1131, when Fulk of Jerusalem took power. In 1136 Constance, still only 10 years old, married Raymond of Poitiers, who was 36.

Raymond, like his predecessors, attacked the Byzantine province of Cilicia. This time, however, Emperor John II Comnenus fought back. He arrived in Antioch in 1138 and forced Raymond to swear fealty to him, but a riot instigated by Joscelin II of Edessa forced him to leave. John had plans to reconquer all the Crusader states, but he died in 1142.

Byzantine and Armenian Control

After the fall of Edessa in 1144, Antioch was attacked by Nur ad-Din during the Second Crusade. Much of the eastern part of the Principality was lost, and Raymond was killed at the battle of Inab in 1149. Baldwin III of Jerusalem was technically regent for Raymond's widow Constance until 1153 when she married Raynald of Chatillon. Raynald, too, immediately found himself in conflict with the Byzantines, this time in Cyprus; he made peace with Manuel I Comnenus, however, in 1158, and the next year Manuel arrived to take personal control of the Principality.

Raynald was taken prisoner by the Muslims in 1160, and the regency fell to the Patriarch of Antioch (Raynald was not released until 1176, and never returned to Antioch). Meanwhile, Manuel married Constance's daughter Maria, but as Constance was only nominally in charge of Antioch, she was deposed in 1163 and replaced by her son Bohemund III. Bohemund was taken captive by Nur ad-Din the following year, and the Orontes River became the permanent boundary between Antioch and Aleppo. Bohemund returned to Antioch in 1165, and married one of Manuel's nieces; he was also convinced to install a Greek Orthodox patriarch in the city.

With help from the fleets of the Italian city-states Antioch survived Saladin's assault on the Kingdom of Jerusalem in 1187. Neither Antioch nor Tripoli participated in the Third Crusade, although the remnants of Frederick Barbarossa's army briefly stopped in Antioch in 1190 to bury their king. Bohemund III's son, also named Bohemund, had become count of Tripoli after the Battle of Hattin, and Bohemund III's eldest son Raymond married an Armenian princess in 1194. Bohemund III died in 1201.

Bohemund's death resulted in a struggle for control between Antioch, represented by Bohemund of Tripoli, and Armenia, represented by Bohemund III's grandson Raymond Roupen. Bohemund of Tripoli, as Bohemund IV, took control by 1207, but Raymond briefly ruled as a rival from 1216 to 1219. Bohemund died in 1233, and Antioch, ruled by his son Bohemund V, played no important role in the Fifth Crusade, Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II's struggles to take back Jerusalem in the Sixth Crusade, or Louis IX of France's Seventh Crusade.

Fall of the Principality

In 1254 Bohemund VI married Sibylla, an Armenian princess, ending the power struggle between the two states, although by this point Armenia was the more powerful of the two and Antioch was essentially a vassal state. Both, however, were swept up by the conflict between the Mameluks and the Mongols; when the Mongols were defeated at the Battle of Ain Jalut in 1260, Baibars began to threaten Antioch, which (as a vassal of the Armenians) had supported the Mongols. Baibars finally took the city in 1268, and all of northern Syria was quickly lost; twenty-three years later, Acre was taken, and the Crusader states ceased to exist.

Geography and Demographics

The Principality of Antioch was, even at its greatest extent, much smaller than Edessa and Jerusalem. It extended around the northeastern edge of the Mediterranean Sea, bordering on the County of Tripoli to the south, Edessa to the east, and the Byzantine Empire or the Kingdom of Armenia to the northwest, depending on the date. It probably had about 20 000 inhabitants in the 12th century, most of whom were Armenians and Greek Orthodox Christians, with a few Muslims outside the city itself. There were few Roman Catholics apart from the Crusaders who set up the Principality, even though the city was turned into a Latin Patriarchate in 1100.

Princes of Antioch, 1098-1268