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Conquest of Antioch (1268): Letter of Baybars (d. 1277) to Bohemond VI (d. 1275)

The following is the text of a letter sent from the Mamluk Sultan Baybars to the Prince of Antioch, Bohemond VI. This episode, in which the Mamluks conquered Antioch in 1268 and proceeded to slaughter about 30,000 Christians and enslaved tens of thousands more. is certainly one of the most brutal in medieval history and shows that massacres during the Crusades were not perpetrated solely by the Franks. The letter also reflects Baybars’ own ruthlessness and sadism. 

“‘Death came among the besieged from all sides and by all roads: we killed all that thou hadst appointed to guard the city or defend its approaches. If thou hadst seen thy knights trampled under the feet of the horses, thy provinces given up to pillage, thy riches distributed by measures full, the wives of thy subjects put to public sale; if thou hadst seen the pulpits and crosses overturned, the leaves of the Gospel torn and cast to the winds, and the sepulchres of thy patriarchs profaned; if thou hadst seen thy enemies, the Muslims, trampling upon the tabernacle, and immolating in the sanctuary, monk, priest and deacon; in short, if thou hadst seen thy palaces given up to the flames, the dead devoured by the fire of this world, the Church of St Paul and that of St Peter completely and entirely destroyed, certainly thou wouldst have cried out “Would to Heaven that I were become dust!” 

(Preserved in Joseph Michaud’s “History of the Crusades” [London, 1881])

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