Many letters relative to the crusades have been preserved. Undoubtedly, the most valuable are those which were written by eye-witnesses of the events recorded, and which have come down to us in epistolary form. "These are in general the most precious documents for the history of the crusades. For in their day they played the part of the dispatches and military bulletins of our day, and they transmit to us faithfully the impression which the events themselves made upon those who had taken part in them." Of these a few have been selected for translation here. All but two were written by persons high in rank, and all furnish information which cannot be obtained, with equal accuracy, elsewhere. The selection of letters has been controlled to some extent by the fact that adequate translations of some of the most important already exist in English.
Anselme of Ribemont, count of Ostrevant and Valenciennes, is one of the most brilliant figures in the first crusade; and his glorious death before Archis (early in April, 1099), was recorded by all the eye-witnesses of the expedition."From Guibert's history (Bk. VI, 23), he was known to have written two letters to the archbishop of Reims, but only the second was known to be in existence. In 1877, count Riant found the first--the one (Riant: Letters, No. xcvi, and page 222. Latin.) here translated-in the "Bibliotheque Mazarine," in Paris.
To his reverend lord M., by God's grace archbishop of Reims, A. of Ribemont, his vassal and humble servant--greeting.
In as much as you are our lord and as the kingdom of France is especially dependent upon your care we tell to you, our father, the events which have happened to us and the condition of the army of the Lord. Yet, in the first place, although we are not ignorant that the disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord, we advise and beseech you in the name of our lord Jesus to consider what you are and what the duty of a priest and bishop is. Provide therefore for our land, so that the lords may keep peace among themselves, the vassals may in safety work on their property, and the ministers of Christ may serve the lord, beading quiet and tranquil lives. I also pray you and the canons of the holy mother church of Reims, my fathers and lords, to be mindful of us, not only of me and of those who are now sweating in the service of God, but also of the members of the army of the lord who have fallen in arms or died in peace.
But passing over these things, let us return to what we promised. Accordingly after the army had reached Nicomedia, which is situated at the entrance to the land of the Turks, we all, lords and vassals, cleaned by confession, fortified ourselves by partaking of the body and blood of our lord, and proceeding thence beset Nicaea on the second day before the Nones of May. After we had for some days besieged the city with many machines and various engines of war, the craft of the Turks, as often before, deceived us greatly. For on very day on which they had promised that they would surrender, Soliman and all the Turks, collected from neighboring end distant regions, suddenly fell upon us and attempted to capture our camp. However the count of & Gilles with the remaining Franks, made an attack upon them and killed an innumerable multitude. All the others fled in confusion. Our men moreover, returning in victory and bearing many heads fixed upon pikes and spears, furnished a joyful spectacle for the people of God. This was on the seventeenth day before the Kalends of June.
Beset moreover and routed in attacks by night and day, they surrendered unwillingly on the thirteenth day before the Kalends of July. Then the Christians entering the walls with their crosses and imperial standards, reconciled the city to God, and both within the city and outside the gates cried out in Greek end Latin, "Glory to Thee, 0 God." Having accomplished this, the princes of the army met the emperor who had come to offer them his thanks, and having received from him gifts of inestimable value, some withdrew with kindly feelings, others with different emotions.
We moved our camp from Nicaea on the fourth day before the of July and proceeded on our journey for three days. On the fourth day the Turks, having collected their forces from all sides, again attacked the smaller portion of our army, killed many of our men and drove all the remainder back to their camps. Bohemond, count of the Romans, count Stephen, and the count of Flanders commanded this section. When these were thus terrified by fear, the standards of the larger army suddenly appeared. Hugh the Great and the duke of Lorraine were riding at the head, the count of St. Gilles and the venerable bishop of Puy followed. For they had heard of the battle and were hastening to our aid. The number of the Turks was estimated at 260,000. All of our army attacked them, killed many and routed the rest. On that day I returned from the emperor, to whom the princes had sent me on public business.
After that day our princes remained together and were not separated from one another. Therefore, in traversing the countries of Romania and Armenia we found no obstacle, except that after passing Iconium, we, who formed the advance guard, saw a few Turks. After routing these, on the twelfth day before the Kalends of November, we laid siege to Antioch, and now we captured the neighboring places, the cities of Tarsus and Laodicea and many others, by force. On a certain day, moreover, before we besieged the city, at the "Iron Bridge" we routed the Turks, who had set out to devastate the surrounding country, and we rescued many Christians. Moreover, we led back the horses and camels with very great booty.
While we were besieging the city, the Turks from the nearest redoubt daily killed those entering and leaving the army. The princes of our army seeing this, killed 400 of the Turks who were lying in wait, drove others into a certain river and led back some as captives. You may be assured that we are now besieging Antioch with all diligence, and hope soon to capture it. The city is supplied to an incredible extent with grain, wine, oil and all kinds of food.
I ask, moreover, that you and all whom this letter reaches pray for us and for our departed brethren. Those who have fallen in battle are: at Nicaea, Baldwin of Ghent, Baldwin Ghalderuns, who was the first to make an attack upon the Turks and who fell in battle on the Kalends of July, Robert of Paris, Lisiard of Flanders, Hilduin of Mansgarbio [Maxingarbe], Ansellus of Caium [Anseau of Caien], Manasses of Glaromonte [Clermont], Laudunensis.
Those who died from sickness: at Nicaea, Guy of Vitreio Odo of Vernolio [Verne uil (?)], Hugh of Reims; at the fortress of Sparnum, the venerable abbot Roger, my chaplain; at Antioch, Alard of Spiniaeco Hugh of Galniaco.
Again and again I beseech you, readers of this letter, to pray for us, and you, my lord archbishop, to order this to be done by your bishops. And know for certain that we have captured the Lord 200 cities and fortresses. May our mother, the western church, rejoice that she has begotten such men, who are acquiring for her so glorious a name and who are so wonderfully aiding the eastern church. And in order that you may believe this, know that you have sent to me a tapestry by Raymond "de Castello."Farewell. (Before Antioch, c. February 10, 1098)