The Principality of Antioch



Although Antioch survived as a Christian enclave in northern Syria until 1268, its Norman inheritance lasted only a generation from the conquest. In 1130, Bohemond II died in battle at Mamistra, in Cilicia, the last of the Hauteville line. The first few years of the principality’s existence had proved to be precarious. Antioch faced threats from three main directions, although they also presented opportunities for expansion. To the north lay Cilician Armenia, disputed with the Byzantines; to the east Aleppo and its Muslim rulers was its most determined rival; while the southern border was contested with the Banu-Munquidh, ruling Shaizir on the Orontes. In addition, players from further afield, both Muslim and Christian, had influential roles on occasion.

In June 1100, Bohemond again defeated Ridwan of Aleppo (1095-1113) at Kella, south-east of Antioch. But later that year, attempting to relieve the siege of the Armenian city of Melitene, the prince was himself made prisoner by the Danishmend Turk, Gumushtigin. Luckily for the Latins, his nephew, Tancred, proved an able regent (1101-1103), capturing Latakia (after an eighteen month siege) in 1102 and re-establishing Antiochene authority over Cilician Armenia. This increased the size of the principality to its greatest extent, from Tarsus in the west, through Adana and Mamistra, to Servantikar in the north, past Artah, Harim and Hab in the east, and down to Kafartab in the south. After his release, Bohemond campaigned north-east around Marash, in conjunction with Baldwin of Edessa. This provoked a response from the Muslim rulers of Mosul and Mardin who combined their forces to inflict a serious defeat upon the Franks at Harran, in May 1104. As a result, most of the gains were lost, only Rugia (Chastel Rouge) and Hab being retained east of the Orontes, while a Greek fleet seized Latakia. Bohemond then departed for the West to pursue his ambitions in leading a `crusade’ against the Greeks, leaving Tancred to repair the damage. This he proved most able to do, raising a large force to attack and rout another attempted invasion by Ridwan at Artah in April 1105.

Tancred proved to be the most energetic and successful early ruler of Antioch. His seizure of Apamea in 1106 served to defend the principality’s southern frontier against Muslim attacks based on Shaizar. The Byzantines had regained possession of Cilicia in the wake of the Harran, in 1104. Tancred recovered the territory in 1107-1108, undoubtedly helped by Bohemond’s simultaneous attack on Durazzo, even though the prince was forced into a humiliating treaty with Emperor Alexios. Latakia was also recovered from the Greeks by 1108, and Tancred advanced along the Syrian coast to within a few miles of Latin-held (but rival) Tortosa. Against Aleppo, all the important fortresses were recovered, and strategically-placed al-Atharib added to strengthen Antioch’s eastern frontier. As a result of these successes, in 1111 Tancred was able to demand a 20,000 dinar tribute from Aleppo, and 10,000 from Shaizar. His successor Roger of Salerno (1113-19) continued the policy, although it is not clear if the sums were collected annually. This closely parallels the Iberian system of parias, by which aggressive Christian rulers weakened their rival Muslim city-states’ ability to resist, the wealth which should have paid for military forces being siphoned-off as protection money.

Antioch’s position was strengthened in relation to Aleppo in 1113 when Ridwan died, leaving a minor as his heir. In 1115, the rulers of Mardin and Damascus combined to seize the city, and, when threatened by the Baghdad caliph’s general Bursuq, offered an alliance to Roger. Bursuq was first rebuffed (in a stand-off) by combined Latin forces at Apamea and later defeated by Roger, as he retired north, at Tell Danith. Antiochene pressure on Aleppo seemed to be telling as Roger surrounded the city, taking Azaz to the north (1118) and Buza’ah to the east (1119). Then came disaster. Over-confidently Roger offered battle to Il-ghazi of Mardin, and on the `Field of Blood’, near al-Atharib, he was killed, along with most of his force (28 June 1119). That Antioch did not fall owed much to Il-ghazi’s caution and Baldwin II of Jerusalem’s rapid response. He marched north in August and initiated a recovery that by 1126 had restored the borders of the principality (despite almost a year spent in captivity: June 1123 – May 1124). In 1126, Bohemond II arrived from the West to take up his inheritance. Aged 16, he was to be the last of the brief Norman dynasty. After some initial successes on the eastern border, in 1130 he was defeated and killed fighting the Armenians at Mamistra, in Cilicia. The principality survived Saladin’s conquests of 1187-88, although in much shrunken form, and continued in Christian hands until 1268.

There is the question of just how Norman was the `Norman Principality of Antioch’? Of course, it could only be so at one remove, for it was founded by a man born in Italy (although both parents were of Norman stock). Certainly Bohemond thought of himself as a prince of the French overseas, for he returned to France to marry Constance, the king’s daughter. As in his own son’s case, the crusading states continued to find heirs and heiresses from the `old country’ for generations yet. In all their cases, however, they did not need to be from the region of the state’s founder. The very fact that members of the comital family of Boulogne had become kings meant that they could chose to marry into other ruling dynasties. To remain attached to their origins would have been an expression of failure. Deriving from this is the issue of just how far the Frankish colonists brought with them their own institutions and how far they adapted those which they found already in existence in the East. Essentially there was a contrast between how they tackled ecclesiastical and secular organisation. For all the implications of the Haskins view of the introduction of `Norman Institutions’, it is precious difficult to see them in the Antiochene state. True, the prince had vassals who provided him with his primary military strength and these were mostly incomers (although Armenian Christians could be recruited too). But when it came to law and administration the approach was pragmatic. Medieval rulers were content to allow peoples to live under their own laws as long as these did not contradict the lord’s authority. Government was based upon the household, which provided both military and other officers. Although it is likely that the great city of Antioch preserved some of the structures of Byzantine rule, these are also difficult to discern. The outlying regions are occasionally described as having a dux set over them, and there may have been a similar officer in the city itself. Any metropolitan institutions representative of the citizenry are invisible in the Norman period. There is evidence for officers of the household. The constable appears on several occasions (sometimes more than one), responsible for the direction of military effort in the absence of the prince. The marshal’s task was to support and manage the troops on campaign, and, as his name suggests, to deploy them in battle. No seneschal is mentioned by name before 1149, although this was a crucial position. He was responsible for the management of finances, administration, the judicial system and the control of castles. One problem with these household offices is that unless they became hereditary they could be temporary appointments or subsumed by the authority of the lord. They were not institutional posts in the modern sense of the word. One important post which was certainly filled, though, is that of chancellor. He oversaw a chancery responsible for the production of documents of command, communication and administration. The only detailed history of early Antioch was written by Walter the Chancellor, who is estimated to have held the office c. 1114-22. In 1127, a charter issued by Bohemond II was witnessed as chancellor by a Ralph. Finally, a chamberlain is mentioned on the eve of the `Field of Blood’, although only in connection with ensuring that the valuables in the baggage train were escorted back to Antioch.

In contrast, and unsurprisingly, the development of ecclesiastical structures is well-recorded. This is because the existing organisation could not serve its new masters. Although the Greek Orthodox patriarch intially retained some authority, the result of the 1054 schism was that the Latins considered Orthodoxy heretical. So when Bohemond visited Jerusalem in December 1099, the cost for his support of Daimbert of Pisa as patriarch of the city was the consecration of three Latin bishops. The most important appointment was Bernard of Valence as patriarch of Antioch. Initially, there were five other bishops; but by 1130 their number had risen to fourteen. Their responsibilities were as much military as spiritual. For example, Peter of Narbonne played a crucial role as bishop of Albara and also (simultaneously and, of course, uncanonically) archbishop of Apamea from 1110. Patriarch Bernard of Valence (1100-35) proved adroit at establishing authority across political boundaries: to Edessa in the east and even south along the Syrian coast as far as Tripoli. Cilician Armenia was a more problematic area, the bishops appointed spending time in exile from their sees as the region was regained by the Byzantines. Antioch had a substantial Christian tradition, of course, since St Peter had established the Church there before that of Rome. But the political realities ensured that Jerusalem was pre-eminent. When Tyre was captured in 1124, it was patriarch Warmund who chose its new bishop, and not Bernard. There can be no doubt, though, that the ecclesiastical structure which he created contributed importantly to the wealth and organisation of the principality in the first generation of its existence.

For all its relative success in surviving in an exposed position close to the Muslim hinterland, Antioch could not compare with the glittering achievement of the Kingdom of Sicily; a study of which Norman-founded state takes us almost to the end of the twelfth century.

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