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A Stretch and a Temptation

Next year marks the 900th anniversary of Roger of Salerno’s defeat at Ager Sanguinis, the Field of Blood.  The battle raged near Sarmada, west of Aleppo, on June 28, 1119.  Roger, regent of Antioch (for the child Bohemond II), led his smaller force against the larger Turkic army of Ilghazi, the Artuqid ruler of Aleppo.  Overshadowed by the later—and less strategically important—battle of Hattin in 1187, the Field of Blood was a crushing loss for the fledgling Crusader States in the Levant.  It was a loss from which they never fully recovered and, according to Nicholas Morton, reverberates into the present day.

Following Pope Urban II’s call to crusade at Clermont in 1095, armies of the First Crusade ventured east in the hope of reclaiming Jerusalem for Christendom.  They sought to provide safe passage for pilgrims and offer some measure of protection and assistance to Eastern Christians—Greek, Syriac, and Armenian.  By all accounts a stunning success, major centers of trade and commerce—as well as Christian holy sites, such as Edessa, Antioch, Tripoli, and ultimately Jerusalem—were taken by the Crusaders.  Newcomers on the political and military scene in the Middle East, the Frankish Crusaders arrived at a propitious time.  To the southwest, the Fatimid caliphate in Egypt was crumbling.  In the east, the rump caliphate of the Arab Abbasids...

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