The Crusaders’ Strategy Against Fatimid Ascalon and the “Ascalon Project” of the Second Crusade
When the crusaders of the First Crusade reached Palestine in the spring of 1099, the ancient Philistine city of Ascalon was in the hands of the Fatimid Caliphate of Egypt.1 In August of the same year, following the capture of Jerusalem, the crusaders joined battle with a Fatimid expeditionary force near Ascalon.2 The Egyptians were routed and the governor of Ascalon offered the surrender of the city to Raymond of St. Gilles. Due to a quarrel between Raymond and Godfrey of Bouillon, however, this offer was not taken up, and no attempt to capture Ascalon was made at that time. Occasional spells of peaceful coexistence with the Frankish neighbor notwithstanding,3 the Fatimid stronghold was henceforth to prove “a thorn in the flesh of the [crusaders’] kingdom.”4 For more than half a century, the so-called “Ascalon strip”5 became the battleground of frequent clashes between the forces of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem and their Saracen adversaries, and of countless raids by both sides. In 1148 Ascalon became, for a short time, the focus of attention of the Second Crusade, but no action against it was taken. By far the last of the seaports in the Levant to fall, Ascalon was not captured by the crusaders until 1153.
KeywordsTwelfth Century Peaceful Coexistence Military History Desperate Attempt External Security
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