The Siege of Nice

Article

May 28, 2022

Siege of Nice (also known from the Greek name Nikea, and nowadays İznik) - lasting from May 14 to June 18, 1097, the siege of the capital of the Sultanate of Rum, by the Crusaders and Byzantines during the First Crusade. Ended with the victory of the Christians and the surrender of the city to the Empire.

Before the siege

In 1096, under the influence of reports of the persecution of pilgrims, as well as requests for help from the Byzantine Empire, the First Crusade set out from Western Europe to liberate Jerusalem and the Holy Sepulcher. Emperor Alexios I Comnenus, in exchange for a free march, supplies and a promise of military support for the expedition, forced its commanders to pay tribute and swear an oath obliging them to return to the Empire all the areas conquered in the future that previously belonged to Byzantium. The emperor assigned to the crusaders a military detachment with specialists in supply and sieges, commanded by Tatikios. Although relations between the emperor and the crusaders were not good, both sides agreed on the initial stage of the expedition. For the crusade to reach Jerusalem, it had to defeat the Turks in Asia Minor and secure the routes to the east for future pilgrims to the Holy Land. In terms of tactics, the Latins were inclined to rely on the experience of the Byzantine strategists and Tatikios. Their first destination was Nice, the capital of the Sultanate of Rum, located a short distance from the Sea of ​​Marmara. Its acquisition was crucial as it posed a serious threat to communication lines throughout the area. The moment was very convenient, as Sultan Kilij Arslan I was then on the eastern frontiers of his country. Entangled in a conflict with the Danishmenid princes, he disregarded the threat of the Crusaders, remembering the easy victories over the forces of the First People's Expedition in the Battles of Civetot and Kserigordon. He left his wife, children and the entire treasury in Nice. Crusader forces left their camp in Pelekanon at the end of April and began to approach the city in early May. Gottfried of Bouillon, Robert of Flanders, and Hugo of Vermandois, with their troops, were the first to reach them on May 6. Geoffrey ordered the road to be prepared and marked with crosses for the rest of the army. On May 14, the first troops were joined by Bohemund's troops from Taranto, along with Byzantine troops, and the siege of the city began.

Siege

Nice was strongly fortified, and its fortifications, dating back to the 4th century, were in excellent condition. The city walls were about six and a half kilometers long, and the towers were 240. It was situated on the edge of Lake Ascania, built on an irregular pentagonal plan. Although the Turkish garrison in the city was large, it was not enough to effectively defend against such a numerous enemy. Couriers were sent to the Sultan with a call for help. Geoffrey camped under the northern walls, and Tancred of Hauteville under the eastern walls. The southern section was left for the army of Raymond of Toulouse, which arrived on May 16. In those days, the Crusaders also began to receive food supplies from Constantinople, organized by Emperor Alexius, who moved to Pelekanon, from where he could maintain contact with both the capital and Nicaea. On June 3, the troops of Robert of Normandy and Stefan of Blois arrived.

Battle with the Sultan

The first Turkish troops appeared near Nice shortly after Raymond's arrival and found the city to be surrounded on all sides. A fight ensued between them and the Toulouse troops, victorious for the Christians. The Turks withdrew to await the arrival of their main forces led by Kilij Arslan. Seeing their retreat, the garrison commanders in Nicaea invited Manuel Butumites, a Byzantine