The First Crusade’s conquest of the city of Maʿarrat al-Nuʿman was noteworthy for at least two reasons, one fairly blasé and the other definitely not. On the blasé side, Maʿarrat al-Nuʿman was an important waypoint along the march from Antioch to Jerusalem, and the Crusaders couldn’t get from the former to the latter without capturing it. The more interesting—or more disgusting, depending on your perspective—detail had to do with food. Or more to the point, a lack of food. Simply put, after their extended misadventure in Antioch, the Crusaders were starving. And when it turned out that Maʿarrat al-Nuʿman didn’t have very much food to offer, their victory quickly shifted from an important success to the First Crusade’s lowest point, when a considerable number of its participants turned to cannibalism to stay alive.
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