Robert writes, “That was because the Turkish tactic is to turn and flee after shooting their arrows and whilst fleeing to inflict serious wounds on those following them. 2 Here Robert calls the Turkish tactic fleeing suggesting Turks and others fighting this way were afraid to battle the Christians. This was not the case as many Muslim forces were confident they would defeat the Crusaders. In reality, this method was smart as the Turks could deplete their enemies with little risk of death. This strategy is not only effective it was safety precaution. Though the tactic is sound and somewhat effective Robert describes it as fleeing that has a cowardly connotation. Contrast this with an example of Bohemond’s courage in retreating during the siege of Antioch.
Bohemond, a leader of the crusade and Count of Normandy, was injured in the fight and Robert describes his response, Blood began to pour profusely from the wound, and the heart of the most noble prince began to lose its normal strength. He [Bohemond] retreated to another tower and left the battle unwillingly and reluctantly. “3 Bohemond left the battle because it was smartest and the safest thing to do. Robert goes into great description as to why a crusade general, who is supposed to be brave, would leave the battle.
Bohemond unwillingly and reluctantly leaving the battle implying bravery as Bohemond was bleeding to death yet he reluctantly leaves the battle. According to the source, no one forced Bohemond leave and the roops retreated following Bohemond’s example. This is a clear indication of bias as the Turkish tactics are described with a sense of cowardice where Bohemond’s retreat was honorable. The reluctant retreat of the Christians and their willingness to fight to the death portrays them as heroic. Bohemond fought until he could fight no more.
Both are an example of acting safely yet Bohemond’s decision has a heroic feel and the Turks are constructed as fearful. Robert also depicts Muslim confidence as arrogance and foolishness whereas Christian confidence is bravery. Take the example of Persian general Kerbogha. Robert escribes his confidence as “misguided pride”4 Robert writes this after describing a letter Kerbogha sent to the Caliph describing how he had the Crusaders trapped inside of Antioch and their defeat was imminent. From Kerbogha’s position this is a reasonable conclusion but according to Robert the Monk it was foolish arrogance.
Robert the Monk pits the foolish arrogance of Kerbogha against the Crusaders’ fervent belief and faith in God in the meeting between them. Robert tells the story of Kerbogha meeting with Peter the Hermit and Herluin. The Christians insulted the general multiple times and is told to argue or ownership of the land or die in warfare. This comes at a time where the Crusaders were all but defeated. They had very little access to food and water and were running out of resources quick. A large number of the crusading army died from starvation inside of Antioch yet Peter the Hermit spoke such bold words.
According to Sweetenham, Robert may have added to this speech. Robert was charged with writing a more appealing crusade story and his possible addition significantly dramatizes the battle for Antioch. By exaggerating the words of the Crusaders, Robert portrays them as warriors f Christ with their backs up against the wall and relying on their faith to deliver them out of Antioch. This makes the Crusaders seem more courageous and heroic because when everything around them seemed gloom and death certain the Crusaders were able to remain faithful and miraculously defeated Kerbogha.
This provides for excellent drama to the story and further justifies the crusades as a holy war. Robert continues to dramatize scenes from the crusades to make the Crusaders seem more heroic in his description of the Babylonians in a conflict before the Crusaders captured Jerusalem. Robert’s language creates an Armageddon like cene writing: It was the Friday on which the Redeemer of the human race defeated utterly with the victorious symbol of the cross the devil of the human race, the King of Babylon; now in the same way the Lord overcame the Emir of the Devil’s Babylon through his followers.
Robert sets the scene for one of the concluding battles of the crusade by calling the King of Babylon the devil of the human race. This furthers Crusader heroism as they fought the devil and defeated him using the power of God. This supports notions of heroism because Robert juxtaposes the ultimate good, the Crusaders, against the ultimate evil the Muslims. Bias is definitely present throughout Robert the Monk’s History of the First Crusade but it does not exclude the book as a good source on the First Crusade.
Bias is present in everything and Robert the Monk was writing this book under order of his abbot to provide the best story he could. Robert was successful in dramatizing many events he discovered in the Gesta Francorum and personal accounts from those who survived the First Crusade. Because Robert’s source is based upon primary documents and accounts of those who were present on the crusade his source cannot be discredited. However, the presence of bias cannot e ignored or overlooked so any reader using this source for the history it contains must be cautious when reading.
The way Robert depicts Muslims may have been necessary because of the abominable actions Robert does not exclude from the source. The Crusaders pillaged, destroyed, and murdered a lot of undeserving towns and people including Christians. In order for Robert’s source to remain accurate and the Crusaders to remain heroic in their efforts to offer the Muslims to contrast the Christians as the antiheroes of the story so readers could continue to look at the Crusaders as heroes.