‘Byzantine Aid was vital to the success of the first crusade.’ To what extent do you agree?
There were many contributing factors to the success of the first crusade. Byzantine aid was important along with the military tactics used by the Crusaders, but pivotal to the success of the first crusade was Muslim disunity.
The Crusaders received much aid from Alexios and the Byzantine Empire during the first crusade. In 1097, at the Siege of Nicaea, Alexios sent boats along with his generals Boutoumites, Tatikios and 2000 foot soldiers to aid the Crusaders. Tatikios was a member of the imperial household and very experienced in battle. Asbridge describes him as having ‘excellent knowledge of Nicaea’s defenses.’ This proves him to be a valuable asset to the crusaders and a key figure at the siege of Nicaea. On the 17th June, Alexios arrived at lake Ascanium providing a blockade and preventing Turkish supplies from getting through. This ultimately caused the Turks to surrender since the Crusaders now encircled them and supplies could no longer get through. This crusader victory was made possible with Byzantine aid. In the same year, at the battle of Antioch, where crusaders were under siege, Alexios supplied food and water to help combat famine and disease. Without his help the crusaders would have died. According to Matthew of Edessa ‘1 in 5 crusaders died from starvation.’ This shows that Byzantine aid was essential. Asbridge argues that Alexios coveted Antioch and ‘It was for this reason that he continued to support the Franks through the summer of 1097 and beyond, hoping to harness the unprecedented influx of crusading manpower and reclaim the prize of Antioch.’ At Dorylaeum in 1097, Alexios provided supplies for the crusaders from Western Europe. He sent a group of Byzantine warriors under the command of Tatikios to offer military assistance. Tatikios also provided reinforcements and military guidance when the Crusaders were ambushed at Dorylaeum.
However, the Byzantines did not always aid the Crusaders. For example, at Nicaea, Alexios did not accompany the crusaders to the battle. Instead, he secretly instructed Boutoumites to make peace with the Turks and for it to appear that the Byzantines had attacked and captured the city. Alexios did not allow the crusaders to sack the city after their victory (which was customary), as he wanted Nicaea returned to Byzantine control. This weakened Byzantine-Crusader relations. Another time Byzantine aid was not supplied was at Antioch in 1097. After Alexios failed to provide troops as promised there was an internal conflict between leaders over who should have control of Antioch. Alexios’ failure to supply troops led many to believe that he did not deserve Antioch to fall under Byzantine control; this caused tension between the Byzantines and Crusaders.
There are other reasons for the success of the first crusade, one being the military tactics of the Crusaders. At the...