This image, by the French artist Gustave Doré (1832-1883), depicts the event that led to the city of Antioch being captured by the forces of the First Crusade in 1098, after a long siege. Shown scaling the ladder is Bohemond, one of the Crusade’s leading figures, who, prior to the scene shown above, had managed to cultivate a relationship with an insider in the city of Antioch. This agent was eventually able to help the besieging troops attach a ladder to the outside of the city walls, allowing the Crusaders to send in an elite force to occupy the ramparts and open up the gates to the army outside. Raymond d’Aguilers, one of Bohemond’s fellow Crusaders, wrote of the capture of Antioch in a chronicle he produced sometime before 1105. He stated:
“After this, however, our men approached the wall, raised a ladder, and began to ascend it. A certain Frank, Fulger by name, brother of Budellus of Chartres, was the first boldly to ascend the wall; the Count of Flanders, following, sent word to Bohemond and the Duke to ascend; and since all hurried, each to go ahead of the other, the ladder was broken. But those who had climbed up went down into the city and opened up a certain little postern. Thus our men went in and they did not take captive any of those whom they found” (Chronicle of Raymond d’Aguilers, Krey translation, 153).
Such is the scene that is depicted by Gustave Doré in the image above. It shows Bohemond, among other Crusaders, sneaking into Antioch with the help of their agent on the inside. As a result of the pivotal role he played in taking the city, as well as his leadership in defending the newly captured stronghold against a subsequent attack from Kerbogha of Mosul, Bohemond was able to position himself as the Crusader ruler of Antioch.
Written by C. Keith Hansley
- Chronicle of Raymond d’Aguilers in The First Crusade: The Chronicle of Fulcher of Chartres and Other Source Materials (Second Edition) by Edward Peters. Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1998.