Siege of Nicaea

Last updated
Siege of Nicaea
Part of the First Crusade and Byzantine-Seljuk wars
13th-century miniature (BNF Fr. 779)
DateMay 14 – June 19, 1097
Nicaea (present-day İznik, Turkey)
Result CrusaderByzantine victory
Nicaea restored to the Byzantine Empire
Byzantine Empire
Sultanate of Rûm
Commanders and leaders
Bohemond of Taranto
Raymond IV of Toulouse
Adhemar of Le Puy
Godfrey of Bouillon
Robert II of Normandy
Robert II of Flanders
Stephen of Blois
Tancred of Hauteville
Hugh of Vermandois
Eustace III of Boulogne
Baldwin of Boulogne
Manuel Boutoumites
Kilij Arslan I

~30,000 infantry
~4,200-4,500 cavalry [1]


2,000 light infantry and naval support [2]

Nicaean garrison:
Unknown, but sizeable

Kilij Arslan's relief force:
~10,000, mostly mounted archers [3]
Casualties and losses
Unknown ~4000

The Siege of Nicaea took place from May 14 to June 19, 1097, during the First Crusade. The city belonged to the Seljuk Turks and preferred to surrender to the Byzantines in fear of the Crusaders breaking into the city first. After the siege followed the Battle of Dorylaeum, and the siege of Antioch all in modern Turkey.

First Crusade Crusade from 1095 to 1099 that captured Jerusalem and established the Crusader States

The First Crusade (1095–1099) was the first of a number of crusades that attempted to recapture the Holy Land, called for by Pope Urban II at the Council of Clermont in 1095. Urban called for a military expedition to aid the Byzantine Empire, which had recently lost most of Anatolia to the Seljuq Turks. The resulting military expedition of primarily Frankish nobles, known as the Princes' Crusade, not only re-captured Anatolia but went on to conquer the Holy Land, which had fallen to Islamic expansion as early as the 7th century, and culminated in July 1099 in the re-conquest of Jerusalem and the establishment of the Kingdom of Jerusalem.

Battle of Dorylaeum (1097) Part of the First Crusade

The Battle of Dorylaeum took place during the First Crusade on July 1, 1097, between the crusaders and the Seljuk Turks, near the city of Dorylaeum in Anatolia. It was won by the crusaders.

Antioch ancient city in Turkey

Antioch on the Orontes was an ancient Greek city on the eastern side of the Orontes River. Its ruins lie near the modern city of Antakya, Turkey, and lends the modern city its name.


Nicaea (İznik), located on the eastern shore of Lake Askania, had been captured from the Byzantine Empire by the Seljuk Turks in 1081, and formed the capital of the Sultanate of Rum. In 1096, the People's Crusade, the first stage of the First Crusade, had plundered the land surrounding the city, before being destroyed by the Turks. As a result, Sultan Kilij Arslan I initially felt that the second wave of crusaders were not a threat. He left his family and his treasury behind in Nicaea and went east to fight the Danishmends for control of the Melitene.

İznik Place in Bursa, Turkey

İznik is a town and an administrative district in the Province of Bursa, Turkey. It was historically known as Nicaea, from which its modern name also derives. The town lies in a fertile basin at the eastern end of Lake İznik, bounded by ranges of hills to the north and south. As the crow flies, the town is only 90 kilometres southeast of Istanbul but by road it is 200 km around the Gulf of Izmit. It is 80 km by road from Bursa.

Lake İznik lake near İznik, Turkey

Lake Iznik is a lake in the Province of Bursa, Turkey. It is around 32 km in length and 10 km in width with a maximum depth of about 80 m. The town of Iznik lies at its eastern end. The lake's Ancient Greek name was Askania, (Ασκάνια).

Byzantine Empire Roman Empire during Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages

The Byzantine Empire, also referred to as the Eastern Roman Empire or Byzantium, was the continuation of the Roman Empire in its eastern provinces during Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, when its capital city was Constantinople. It survived the fragmentation and fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century AD and continued to exist for an additional thousand years until it fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453. During most of its existence, the empire was the most powerful economic, cultural, and military force in Europe. Both the terms "Byzantine Empire" and "Eastern Roman Empire" are historiographical terms created after the end of the realm; its citizens continued to refer to their empire simply as the Roman Empire, or Romania (Ῥωμανία), and to themselves as "Romans".

Crusader siege

The crusaders began to leave Constantinople at the end of April 1097. Godfrey of Bouillon was the first to arrive at Nicaea, with Bohemond of Taranto, Bohemond's nephew Tancred, Raymond IV of Toulouse, and Robert II of Flanders following him, along with Peter the Hermit and some of the survivors of the People's Crusade, and a small Byzantine force under Manuel Boutoumites. They arrived on May 6, severely short on food, but Bohemond arranged for food to be brought by land and by sea. They put the city to siege beginning on May 14, assigning their forces to different sections of the walls, which were well-defended with 200 towers. Bohemond camped on the north side of the city, Godfrey on the south, and Raymond and Adhemar of Le Puy on the eastern gate.

Constantinople capital city of the Eastern Roman or Byzantine Empire, the Latin and the Ottoman Empire

Constantinople was the capital city of the Roman Empire (330–395), of the Byzantine Empire, and also of the brief Crusader state known as the Latin Empire (1204–1261), until finally falling to the Ottoman Empire (1453–1923). It was reinaugurated in 324 from ancient Byzantium as the new capital of the Roman Empire by Emperor Constantine the Great, after whom it was named, and dedicated on 11 May 330. The city was located in what is now the European side and the core of modern Istanbul.

Godfrey of Bouillon Medieval Frankish knight

Godfrey of Bouillon was a Frankish knight and one of the leaders of the First Crusade from 1096 until its conclusion in 1099. He was the Lord of Bouillon, from which he took his byname, from 1076 and the Duke of Lower Lorraine from 1087. After the successful siege of Jerusalem in 1099, Godfrey became the first ruler of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. He refused the title of King, however, as he believed that the true King of Jerusalem was Jesus Christ, preferring the title of Advocate of the Holy Sepulchre. He is also known as the "Baron of the Holy Sepulchre" and the "Crusader King".

Bohemond I of Antioch Prince of Taranto and Prince of Antioch

Bohemond I was the Prince of Taranto from 1089 to 1111 and the Prince of Antioch from 1098 to 1111. He was a leader of the First Crusade, which was governed by a committee of nobles. The Norman monarchy he founded in Antioch arguably outlasted those of England and of Sicily.

Defeat of Kilij Arslan

On May 16, the Turkish defenders sallied out to attack the crusaders, but the Turks were defeated in a skirmish with the loss of 200 men. The Turks sent messages to Kilij Arslan begging him to return, and when he realized the strength of the crusaders he quickly turned back. An advance party was defeated by troops under Raymond and Robert of Flanders on May 20, and on May 21, the crusader army defeated Kilij in a pitched battle which lasted long into the night. Losses were heavy on both sides but in the end the Sultan retreated, despite the pleas of the Nicaean Turks. The rest of the crusaders arrived throughout the rest of May, with Robert Curthose (accompanied by Ralph de Guader) and Stephen of Blois arriving at the beginning of June. Meanwhile, Raymond and Adhemar built a large siege engine, which was rolled up to the Gonatas Tower in order to engage the defenders on the walls while miners mined the tower from below. The tower was damaged but no further progress was made.

Robert Curthose 11th and 12th-century Duke of Normandy, crusader, and claimant to the English throne

Robert Curthose, sometimes called Robert II, succeeded his father, William the Conqueror as Duke of Normandy in 1087 and reigned until 1106. Robert was also an unsuccessful claimant to the throne of the Kingdom of England. The epithet "Curthose" had its origins in the Norman French word courtheuse "short stockings" and was apparently derived from a nickname given to Robert by his father; the chroniclers William of Malmesbury and Orderic Vitalis reported that William the Conqueror had derisively called Robert brevis-ocrea.

Stephen, Count of Blois Count of Blois

Stephen II Henry, Count of Blois and Count of Chartres, was the son of Theobald III, count of Blois, and Gersent of Le Mans. He is numbered Stephen II after Stephen I, Count of Troyes.

Siege engine device that is designed to break or circumvent city walls and other fortifications in siege warfare

A siege engine is a device that is designed to break or circumvent heavy castle doors, thick city walls and other fortifications in siege warfare. Some are immobile, constructed in place by sappers to attack enemy fortifications from a distance, while others have wheels to enable advancing up to the enemy fortification. There are many distinct types, such as siege towers to allow attacking soldiers to scale walls and attack the defenders, battering rams to break walls or gates, to catapults, ballistae, trebuchets and other similar constructions used to attack from a distance and fire a projectile; some complex siege engines were combinations of these types.

Byzantine arrival

Byzantine emperor Alexios I chose not to accompany the crusaders, but marched out behind them and made his camp at nearby Pelecanum. From there, he sent boats, rolled over the land, to help the crusaders blockade Lake Ascanius, which had up to this point been used by the Turks to supply Nicaea with food. The boats arrived on June 17, under the command of Manuel Boutoumites. The general Tatikios was also sent, with 2,000 foot soldiers. Alexios had instructed Boutoumites to secretly negotiate the surrender of the city without the crusaders' knowledge. Tatikios was instructed to join with the crusaders and make a direct assault on the walls, while Boutoumites would pretend to do the same to make it look as if the Byzantines had captured the city in battle. This was done, and on June 19 the Turks surrendered to Boutoumites.

Manuel Boutoumites or Butumites was a leading Byzantine general and diplomat during the reign of Emperor Alexios I Komnenos, and one of the emperor's most trusted aides. He was instrumental in the Byzantine recovery of Nicaea from the Seljuk Turks, in the reconquest of Cilicia, and acted as the emperor's envoy in several missions to Crusader princes.

Tatikios or Taticius was a Byzantine general during the reign of Alexius I Comnenus. His name is also rendered as Tetigus, Tatizius, Tatitius, Tatic, or Tetig.

When the crusaders discovered what Alexios had done, they were quite angry, as they had hoped to plunder the city for money and supplies. Boutoumites, however, was named dux of Nicaea and forbade the crusaders from entering in groups larger than 10 men at a time. Boutoumites also expelled the Turkish generals, whom he considered just as untrustworthy. Kilij Arslan's family went to Constantinople and were eventually released without ransom. Alexios gave the crusaders money, horses, and other gifts, but the crusaders were not pleased with this, believing they could have had even more if they had captured Nicaea themselves. Boutoumites would not permit them to leave until they had all sworn an oath of vassalage to Alexios, if they had not yet done so in Constantinople. As he had in Constantinople, Tancred at first refused, but he eventually gave in.

Vassal person who has entered into a mutual obligation to a lord or monarch in the context of the feudal system in medieval Europe

A vassal is a person regarded as having a mutual obligation to a lord or monarch, in the context of the feudal system in medieval Europe. The obligations often included military support by knights in exchange for certain privileges, usually including land held as a tenant or fief. The term is applied to similar arrangements in other feudal societies.

Tancred, Prince of Galilee Norman leader of the First Crusade

Tancred was an Italo-Norman leader of the First Crusade who later became Prince of Galilee and regent of the Principality of Antioch. Tancred had a great-grandfather with the same name, Tancred of Hauteville; since both Tancreds were from the house of Hauteville, they may be confused.


The crusaders left Nicaea on June 26, in two contingents: Bohemond, Tancred, Robert of Flanders, and Tatikios in the vanguard, and Godfrey, Baldwin of Boulogne, Stephen, and Hugh of Vermandois in the rear. Tatikios was instructed to ensure the return of captured cities to the empire. Their spirits were high, and Stephen wrote to his wife Adela that they expected to be in Jerusalem in five weeks. On July 1, they defeated Kilij at the Battle of Dorylaeum, and by October they reached Antioch; they would not reach Jerusalem until two years after leaving Nicaea.


  1. Nicolle, The First Crusade 1096-1099: Conquest of the Holy Land, p. 32 "Eventually the Crusader forces outside Nicaea numbered around 4,200-4,500 cavalry and 30,000 infantry, excluding non-combattants."
  2. Crusades: The Illustrated History, by Thomas F. Madden
  3. Pryor, Logistics of Warfare in the Age of the Crusades, pp. 49-50 "In addition, the besiegers made several efforts to storm the walls and they won a victory in pitched battle over the relieving army of Qilij Arslan, a force some 10,000 troops, mostly mounted archers."


Coordinates: 40°35′00″N30°08′00″E / 40.5833°N 30.1333°E / 40.5833; 30.1333

Related Research Articles

Adhemar of Le Puy French bishop

Adhemarde Monteil was one of the principal figures of the First Crusade and was bishop of Puy-en-Velay from before 1087. He was the chosen representative of Pope Urban II for the expedition to the Holy Land. Remembered for his martial prowess, he led knights and men into battle and fought beside them, particularly at Dorylaeum and Antioch. Adhemar is said to have carried the Holy Lance in the Crusaders’ desperate breakout at Antioch on 28 June 1098, in which superior Islamic forces under the atabeg Kerbogha were routed, securing the city for the Crusaders. He later died in 1098, due to illness.

The 1090s was a decade of the Julian Calendar which began on January 1, 1090, and ended on December 31, 1099.

Raymond IV, Count of Toulouse Occitan noble

Raymond IV, sometimes called Raymond of Saint-Gilles or Raymond I of Tripoli, was a powerful noble in southern France and one of the leaders of the First Crusade (1096–99). He was the Count of Toulouse, Duke of Narbonne and Margrave of Provence from 1094, and he spent the last five years of his life establishing the County of Tripoli in the Near East.

Principality of Antioch former country

The Principality of Antioch was one of the crusader states created during the First Crusade which included parts of modern-day Turkey and Syria. The principality was much smaller than the County of Edessa or the Kingdom of Jerusalem. It extended around the northeastern edge of the Mediterranean, bordering the County of Tripoli to the south, Edessa to the east, and the Byzantine Empire or the Kingdom of Armenia to the northwest, depending on the date.

Kilij Arslan (‎1079–1107) was the Seljuq Sultan of Rûm from 1092 until his death in 1107. He ruled the Sultanate during the time of the First Crusade and thus faced the attack. He also re-established the Sultanate of Rum after the death of Malik Shah I of Great Seljuq and defeated the Crusaders in three battles during the Crusade of 1101.

Robert II, Count of Flanders Count of Flanders

Robert II was Count of Flanders from 1093 to 1111. He became known as Robert of Jerusalem or Robert the Crusader after his exploits in the First Crusade.

Crusade of 1101

The Crusade of 1101 was a minor crusade of three separate movements, organized in 1100 and 1101 in the successful aftermath of the First Crusade. It is also called the Crusade of the Faint-Hearted due to the number of participants who joined this crusade after having turned back from the First Crusade.

The Treaty of Devol was an agreement made in 1108 between Bohemond I of Antioch and Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Komnenos, in the wake of the First Crusade. It is named after the Byzantine fortress of Devol. Although the treaty was not immediately enforced, it was intended to make the Principality of Antioch a vassal state of the Byzantine Empire.

Siege of Antioch

The Siege of Antioch took place during the First Crusade in 1097 and 1098. The first siege, by the crusaders against the Muslim-held city, lasted from 21 October 1097 to 2 June 1098. Antioch lay in a strategic location on the crusaders' route to Palestine. Supplies, reinforcements and retreat could all be controlled by the city. Anticipating that it would be attacked, the Muslim governor of the city, Yaghi-Siyan, began stockpiling food and sending requests for help. The Byzantine walls surrounding the city presented a formidable obstacle to its capture, but the leaders of the crusade felt compelled to besiege Antioch anyway.

Siege of Xerigordos

The Siege of Xerigordos in 1096, often incorrectly Xerigordon in modern historical literature, pitted 6,000 Germans of the People's Crusade under Reinald against the Turks commanded by Elchanes, general of Kilij Arslan I, the Seljuk Sultan of Rûm. The crusader raiding party captured the Turkish fort of Xerigordos, about four days' march from Nicaea, in an attempt to set up a pillaging outpost. Elchanes arrived three days later and besieged the crusaders. The defenders had no water supply, and after eight days of siege, they surrendered on September 29. Some of the crusaders converted to Islam, while others who refused were killed.

Gouffier of Lastours was a knight from Lastours in the Limousin in France, who participated in the First Crusade. He was lord of the Château de Lastours, near Nexon, Haute-Vienne.

March from Antioch to Jerusalem during the First Crusade

The First Crusade march down the Mediterranean coast, from recently taken Antioch to Jerusalem, started on 13 January 1099. During the march the Crusaders encountered little resistance, as local rulers preferred to make peace with them and furnish them with supplies rather than fight, with a notable exception of the aborted siege of Arqa. On 7 June, the Crusaders reached Jerusalem, which had been recaptured from the Seljuks by the Fatimids only the year before.

The following is an overview of the armies of First Crusade, including the armies of the European noblemen of the "Princes' Crusade", the Byzantine army, a number of independent crusaders as well as the preceding People’s Crusade and the subsequent Crusade of 1101 and other European campaigns prior to the Second Crusade beginning in 1147.

Timeline of the Principality of Antioch

The timeline of the Principality of Antioch is a chronological list of events of the history of the Principality of Antioch.