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The History of the Medieval Battle of Dorylaeum

The Medieval Battle of Dorylaeum, History and Research

As always, I tried to capture the true history of events in my fictionalized retelling of them. I love history—medieval history in particular. Even still, writing about it is one part joy and two parts research. Below, you can take a look at the research that went into the preparation of Dorylaeum, book two of the Crusaders Chronicles.


Medieval History

June 1097. Kilij Arslan, leader of the Seljuq Turks (or sometimes spelled Seljuk) had just lost control of Nicaea, which the crusaders quickly surrendered to Alexius Comnenus, Emperor of Byzantium. Arslan gathered all the forces he could and ambushed the crusaders as they marched south and east from Nicaea. Even though the battle was fought miles away from Dorylaeum (an abandoned Byzantine stronghold), it still became known as the battle of Dorylaeum.

Crusader Armor from the First Crusade

Just like in my book, the crusaders had split their forces. They did this to help with foraging and to make the two sections of the army more manageable, especially necessary since they likely numbered somewhere around 60,000 people, maybe more. Bohemond (among others) led the forward group, while Godfrey (among others) led the latter. Toward the end of June 1097, Bohemond's forward contingent had crossed the Göksu River. Thomas Asbridge, author of The First Crusade: A New History, says "Scouts seemed to have reported the presence of a Turkish force in the region as night fell on 30 June, but the princes [Bohemond and Robert of Normandy] must have judged this to be a small raiding party, because they took no steps to notify the second crusader force" (134). It was these scouts that I tried to imitate with Daniel and his group of knights and squires. In the book, they aren't scouts, but instead set out to avenge a (made up) raid done by the Saracens.


Chaos Comes

On the morning of 1 July 1097, some twenty thousand horse archers descended on the unprepared crusaders, near-surrounding them much like what happens in my book. Bohemond and Robert here demonstrate their courage and leadership. They managed to send riders to the rest of the crusaders, as well as keep the men under their command from routing. A makeshift camp was established in a nearby marsh, baggage and non-combatants were moved into this camp, and shield walls were formed to protect them. Their plan was to hold off until reinforcements arrived, though at one point the Turks actually penetrated the camp and made off with loot and prisoners (mainly young women).


The Hill
Hilltop medieval battle with horses

As to the hill fight that appears in Dorylaeum, there is some evidence in the Gesta Tancredi, an account written by Ralph of Caen (who makes an appearance in my book, spilling his ink), that Tancred and others did, in fact, take a small hill amidst the battle. Its strategic importance is far overplayed in my book, and in reality Tancred abandoned this hill when faced with overwhelming opposition. His brother, William, died during this isolated skirmish.


The Battle Ends

The crusaders held out until midday—five horrifyingly long hours—when finally cavalry from the second contingent arrived. Through a series of smaller skirmishes led by leaders such as Godfrey, Hugh of Vermandois, Raymond of Toulouse, and Adhémar of Le Puy, they were able to surround and rout the Turks and win the day. I simplified this by having only one major cavalry charge rout the enemy. Though they still lost thousands of men, the crusaders won the battle of Dorylaeum through steadfast endurance and the overwhelming power of their cavalry.


Thomas Asbridge, The First Crusade: A History (London: Simon & Schuster UK, 2005).

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