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Jonathan Riley-Smith, The Crusades: A Short History: Commetaries

What Happens in this Passage?

The Crusaders attacked Jerusalem from two sides, north and south. Despite the arrival of supplies from Genoa, England and Samaria, they were unable to break through the defences. They also heard that an expedition was heading north from Egypt to relieve the city. The Crusaders prepared for the final assault by constructing siege towers and engines, holding a penitential procession and hearing sermons on the Mount of Olives. Eventually Godfrey of Bouillon’s men broke through a gap in the wall and the city fell and was sacked.


This is a vivid and detailed narrative account, written for a general audience. It is very much about the strategy of the siege: there is much talk of attacks from the west, north or south and the final breakthrough comes when Godfrey slightly changes his angle of attack. By the end, we get a day-by-day account of what happened when and on which exact part of the walls. Riley-Smith points out the divisions and splits within the Crusader camp: Raymond of St Gilles is 'bitterly at odds' with Godfrey of Bouillon, and one senses a certain rivalry between the two men in the description of how their different angles of attack crept closer to the city walls. The strategic detail rather squeezes out the other angles: one would like to know more about the visionary who persuaded the Crusaders to make a penitential procession around the city and to learn more about what this procession did.

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