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Sir Steven Runciman, A History of the Crusades: Extract

In this extract Runciman describes the scene as the crusaders, after a long and difficult siege, finally break through into the city of Jerusalem.

The Crusaders, maddened by so great a victory after much suffering, rushed through the streets and into the houses and mosques killing all that they met, men, women and children alike. All that afternoon and all through the night the massacre continued. Tancred’s banner was no protection to the refugees in the mosque of al-Aqsa. Early next morning a band of Crusaders forced an entry into the mosque and slew everyone. When Raymond of Aguilers later that morning went to visit the Temple area he had to pick his way through corpses and blood that reached up to his knees.1
The Jews of Jerusalem fled in a body to their chief synagogue. But they were held to have aided the Moslems; and no mercy was shown to them. The building was set on fire and they were all burnt within.2
The massacre at Jerusalem profoundly impressed all the world. No one can say how many victims it involved; but it emptied Jerusalem of its Moslem and Jewish inhabitants. Many even of the Christians were horrified by what had been done; and amongst the Moslems, who had been ready hitherto to accept the Franks as another factor in the tangled politics of the time, there was henceforward a clear determination that the Franks must be driven out. It was this bloodthirsty proof of Christian fanaticism that recreated the fanaticism of Islam. When, later, wiser Latins in the East sought to find some basis on which Christian and Moslem could work together, the memory of the massacre stood always in their way.

Steven Runciman A History of the Crusades vol.I (Cambridge University Press 1988; first published 1951) pp.286-7


1Raymond of Aguilers XX p.300; Gesta Francorum X 38 pp.204-6; letter of Daimbert in Hagenmeyer op.cit. p.171; Abu’l Feda op.cit. p.4 and Ibn al-Athir op.cit. pp.198-9 describe the massacres. The latter gives Raymond the credit of having kept his word. See also Ibn al-Qālanisī Damascus Chronicle p.48.

2Ibn al-Qālanisī loc.cit.

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