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Battle of Iconium
Part of Third Crusade
The battle of Iconium, by Wislicensus(c.1890)
DateMay 18, 1190
LocationIconium(modern day Konya) , Turkey
Result Crusader Victory
Armoiries Saint-Empire monocéphale.svg German crusaders Sultanate of Rûm
Commanders and leaders
Frederick I, Holy Roman Emperor
Frederick VI, Duke of Swabia
Qutb al-Din
Unknown Unknown
Casualties and losses
Light Heavy

The Battle of Iconium (sometimes referred as the Battle of Konya) took place on May 18, 1190 during the Third Crusade, in the expedition of Frederick Barbarossa to the Holy Land. As a result, the capital city of the Sultanate of Rûm fell to the Imperial forces.

Background[edit | edit source]

After the disastrous Battle of Hattin and the Siege of Jerusalem, much of the Crusader states had been seized by Saladin's forces. Pope Gregory VIII called for a new crusade to restore the city to Christian hands and help the remaining crusader strongholds. Barbarossa responded to the call immediately. He took up the Cross at Mainz Cathedral on March 27, 1188 and was the first to set out for the Holy Land in May 1189 with an army of about 100,000 men, including 20,000 knights[1] (some historians thinks this numbers are exaggerated and propose 15,000 men, including 3,000 knights). He was also joined by a contingent of 2,000 men from the Hungarian prince Géza, the younger brother of the king, Béla III of Hungary.

After passing through Hungary, Serbia, Bulgaria and the Byzantine Empire, the forces arrived to Anatolia, held by the Seljuk Sultanate of Rûm. The Turks continuously harassed the German forces, laying ambushes and using hit-and-run tactics. In addition, supplies were running out. Despite this, the crusaders continued their march until they reached Iconium. Frederick insisted on taking the city, so on May 17 the army camped in the "garden and pleasure ground of the sultan", outside the city.[2]

Battle[edit | edit source]

On 18 May, the Imperial army encountered Qutb al-Din's army in a pitched battle. Barbarossa divided his forces into two: one commanded by his son Frederick leading the assault to the city, and the other commanded by himself facing the Turkish field army.[3] The city fell easily, but the pitched battle was much more complicated, and it required the presence of the emperor to defeat the larger Turkish force.[3] He's reported to have said to his soldiers : "But why do we tarry, of what are we afraid? Christ reigns. Christ conquers. Christ commands".[4] Finally the Turkish army fled, leaving the city at the mercy of the German army.

Aftermath[edit | edit source]

After the victory, the crusaders rested for five days in the city, and continued their march on 23 May, taking Turkish hostages to safeguard themselves. The success of the Imperial army greatly alarmed Saladin, who even dismantled the walls of the Syrian ports lest they were used by the crusaders against him. But this proved unnecessary as, on 16 June, Barbarossa drowned while crossing the Saleph river. Most of his army disbanded. Barbarossa's son, Frederick VI of Swabia, carried on with the remnants of the German army, along with the Hungarian army under the command of prince Géza, with the aim of burying the Emperor in Jerusalem, but efforts to conserve his body in vinegar failed. Hence, his flesh was interred in the Church of St Peter in Antioch, his bones in the cathedral of Tyre, and his heart and inner organs in Tarsus.

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. Tyerman p.418
  2. Wolff p.112
  3. 3.0 3.1 Tyerman p.426
  4. Wolff p.113

References[edit | edit source]

  • Tyerman, C.(2006):God's war: a new history of the Crusades
  • Kenneth M. Setton, Robert Lee Wolff, Harry W. Hazard (1962):A History of the Crusades, Volume II: The Later Crusades, 1189–1311

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