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August 14, 1218

Discussion in '"Today in History", Literature & Media Review' started by Martin Antonenko, Aug 24, 2022.

  1. Martin Antonenko A Fixture

    The Chain Tower of Damietta

    During the Fifth Crusade (1217 - 1229), which was commanded by the Roman-German Emperor Frederick II, Simeon III, Count of Saarbrücken-Leiningen...


    ...led vanguard off the Egyptian coast in May 1218.

    In order to besiege and conquer the city of Al-Qaira (Cairo), which was huge at the time, the holy warriors first had to find a way to advance inland.

    And there is this way - but only this one!

    Through the city of Damietta (Arabic دمياط / Dumyāt) neighboring Cairo...


    ...flows the only navigable tributary of the Nile (marked with red arrows in the following map!). Only here can you avoid the silted up and shallow main arm of the river (green arrow)...:


    This tributary of the Nile still flows through Damietta today, while the city has meanwhile become one of the districts of the Egyptian capital due to the rampant growth of Cairo...:


    Of course, the Muslim defenders also know the importance of the Nile tributary!

    They have protected the waterway with a mighty bulwark, the so-called "Chain Tower of Damietta".


    The massive stone tower, a fortress in itself, stands opposite the city on the other bank - and a thick iron chain stretches across to the city, blocking the Nile tributary...:



    Count Simeon III. decides: Whoever has the "Chain Tower" has the Nile - and with it Damietta and Cairo!

    But nothing came of the original idea of taking the "Kettenturm" by storm! The defenders repel all attacks bloodily...:


    Even a secret propaganda weapon fails:

    The preacher Francis of Assisi, who also belongs to the crusader army, is sent to the Muslim camp to preach to the Egyptian sultan Sultan Malek al-Kamil and try to convert him or at least persuade him to give up...:


    And although the later canonized man preaches to the sultan that he hears the angels singing in heaven, he remains completely unimpressed and, secondly, a Muslim.

    A different account of the event is also unflattering to the later saint:

    The sultan only manages to keep his eyes open with difficulty, the lord of Assisi has already preached to his companions in their deep sleep...


    A veritable siege unfolds around the tower, which is more or less unsuccessful (the tower is built on hard, rocky ground), until one of the crusaders has an idea:

    While the terrain doesn't allow for a land based siege tower, why not build a floating siege tower?

    The idea giver, it's none other than Thomas Olivier, the bishop of Paderborn...


    ...in the war council he succeeds in convincing his colleagues, who otherwise agree on almost nothing and argue endlessly, of the idea:

    He has two war cogs lashed together, the four masts of the two ships form the basic framework for a siege platform, the height of which corresponds to the "chain tower".

    Contemporary pictures all show the floating siege platform wrong, no wonder, something like this has never happened before...:


    On August 14, 1218, the improvised assault device is maneuvered very close to the Chain Tower...


    ...slammed across - and finally conquered the building!

    Now the crusaders have the tower and finally access to the navigable Nile tributary.

    But on the Damietta itself, they will struggle to count for more than a year - the city will not fall until November 5, 1219.

    And the crusaders won't get Cairo at all - after a severe defeat in the Nile Delta in 1221, they have to give up everything they have conquered and leave without having achieved anything!

    In 1225 Bishop Thomas Olivier von Paderborn was able to bring in the harvest for his services to the church: Pope Innocent II appointed him cardinal - the first cardinal ever to come from Paderborn...
  2. Nap A Fixture

    A clever simple protective idea and a very clever way to deal with the tower and chain

    Appreciate your time


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