Tancred, Prince of Galilee

Tall, blonde and powerfully built, Tancred was about 20 years old when the First Crusade began in 1096. He was the nephew of Bohemund, and decided to go on the crusade with his uncle only after Pope Urban granted a crusade indulgence, a remission of sins for all the Christians who went out to try and win back the Holy Land.

The First Crusade began by making their way to Constantinople where they met with Byzantine Emperor Alexius I Commenus. There, the leaders of the crusade made oaths to the emperor that they would give back any land they conquered to the Byzantine emperor. Tancred was the only one who refused to swear the oath.

Leaving Constantinople, the crusaders lay siege to Nicaea, which fell only after the Byzantine army made secret negotiations with the Seljuk Turks for the surrender of the city. Tancred distinguished himself during the fighting for the city, so his disappointment at the Byzantine action was acute and it seems he was vindicated for his distrust of the Byzantine empire.

Dividing their forces, Tancred moved into the Levant and demonstrated his tactical skills by taking five strategic sites which gave him control of the region. The following year, 1098, he played a significant role in the siege of Antioch. Continuing with the crusade, he went on to Jerusalem with Godfrey of Bouillon. In 1099 he took Bethlehem for Godfrey, and then joined Godrey at the siege of Jerusalem running raids to gather materials for the construction of siege engines and scaling equipment. Making the claim that he had been the first of the crusaders to enter the city, he seized the mosques on the Temple Mount and once Jerusalem was taken, became Prince of Galilee. He went north and conquered Tiberias, Nazareth, and Mount Tabor in Galilee.

When Bohemund was captured and taken prisoner at the Battle of Melitene, Tancred became the regent of Antioch. At the Battle of Artah in 1105, Tancred's victory meant the recovery of territory to the east of the Orontes River.

Tancred was acting as regent in Antioch when he died during a typhoid epidemic in the year 1112 at the age of thirty-six, ending the brilliant military career of this youthful adventurer.



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