The Venetian Crusade, an expedition to Holy Land launched by the Republic of Venice at the request of the Pope, took place from 1122 to 1124 and ended in victory for the crusaders when they took the city of Tyre. This victory meant the start of a period in which the Kingdom of Jerusalem expanded to its largest size under the reign of Baldwin II.
On February 15, 1124, the Venetians and the Franks laid siege to the port city of Tyre (now part of Lebanon). Tyre was at the time part of the territory under the control of the Atabeg of Damascus, Toghtekin. The Latin army was commanded by the Patriarch of Antioch, the Doge of Venice, Pons, Count of Tripoli and William I de Bury, the king´s constable. During this time, Baldwin II had been taken prisoner by the Artukid leader, Balak Ghazi, emir of Aleppo and was captive throughout the time of the siege.
This crusade was remarkable for its use of horses brought by the Venetians, and the sophisticated weapons used on both sides.The Venetians built siege towers and machines that could throw rocks powerful enough to destroy the city walls. The defenders of Tyre also built machines that could cripple the Venetian towers. As the siege advanced, Tyre ran out of food and sent urgent calls to Aleppo and Damascus in search of help. Meanwhile, Balak Ghazi had died while sieging the city of Hierapolis, so Toghtekin advanced towards Tyre, but withdrew when he saw the forces of Constable William and Count Pons come to confront him. Toghtekin sent emissaries in June 1124 to negotiate.
After long and harsh negotiations, it was arranged in the terms of the rendition of the city that those who wanted to leave the city could take their families and possessions with them, and those who preferred to stay would be able to keep their houses and possessions. Crusaders didn´t like the resolution: they wanted to sack the city.
Tyre surrendered on June 29 and on July 7, according to the Palestinian chronicler, Ibn al-Qalanisi, all the civilians and soldiers left the city escorted by two lines of Venetian soldiers, leaving only the cripples and “five measures of wheat” behind. Most of the exiled settled in Damascus, the rest dispersed among the region.
“They admired the fortifications of the city, the strength of the buildings, the massive walls and lofty towers, the noble harbour so difficult of access. They had only praise for the resolute perseverance of the citizens who, despite the pressure of terrible hunger and the scarcity of supplies, had been able to ward off surrender for so long. For when our forces took possession of the place they found only five measures of wheat in the city.” – Willliam of Tyre.
Baldwin II, who had been held prisoner by the Artukids during the entire siege was released that same year. As soon as he was freed, he infringed the terms of his liberation and granted commercial privileges in Tyre to the Venetians. The Venetians achieved meaningful commercial grants in Tyre and forced the Byzantine Empire to comply and increase their commercial privileges with them.
Tyre grew as part of the kingdom of Jerusalem and this way assured their naval presence in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea. These privileges included the right of properties to the heirs of Venetian soldiers if they died in Tyre. Baldwin also resumed hostilities against Damascus and Aleppo and obtained tributes from both cities, expanding the Kingdom of Jerusalem to its greatest extent in history.
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