Today on October 20th 1097, the first crusader army arrives in the Middle East and lays siege to the Muslim-held city of Antioch.
The ancient city of Antioch held a strategic position as the gateway from Europe to the Middld East. Once conquered, it would serve as a ‘beachhead’ for receiving additional supplies and reinforcements. It was also located on the main route to Palestine and the holy city of Jerusalem. On the first day, the crusaders successfully took control of an important fortified river crossing, known as the Iron Bridge, and was located just outside of Antioch. The next day, they reached the northern wall of the city and formally laid siege.
Antioch was a heavily fortified city with a series of massive walls built by the Byzantines. The Governor of the Antioch was anticipating an attack and had spent months stockpiling food and supplies; the city was ready for a prolonged siege. After two months, the Muslim garrison attacked the crusaders in an unsuccessful attempt to break the siege. The challenge was the crusader army was also quickly running out of supplies with many starting to die from starvation.
By early 1098, two different Muslim armies had tried to lift the siege but were both defeated on the battlefield against the Crusaders. Antioch finally surrendered on June 3rd, however, the city’s citadel remained under Muslim control for another month before surrendering. The First Crusade went on for another two years and resulted in the successful capture of Jerusalem.