Battle of Ramla (1101)

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The first Battle of Ramla (or Ramleh) took place on 7 September 1101 between the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem and the Fatimids of Egypt. The town of Ramla lay on the road from Jerusalem to Ascalon, the latter of which was the largest Fatimid fortress in Palestine. From Ascalon the Fatimid vizier, Al-Afdal Shahanshah, launched almost annual attacks into the newly founded Crusader kingdom from 1099 to 1107. It was thrice the case that the two armies met each other at Ramla.

At the first battle the Egyptians were led by Saad el-Dawleh, while the Crusaders were under the command of King Baldwin I, who had only 260 cavalry and 900 foot soldiers. He arrayed his forced in six divisions to face an Egyptian force about 10,000 strong. The first two divisions were wiped out in the initial attack but when the third division was pursued after being routed by the Egyptians, Baldwin ordered a counter-attack. In vicious close-quarter combat, the Crusaders repulsed the Egyptian forces, who retreated in panic. After pursuing the fleeing Fatimids to Ascalon, Baldwin returned to Ramla to plunder the Egyptian camp. This success secured the Kingdom of Jerusalem against the Fatimad Caliphate's advances for the campaigning season.

Fatimid armies

Egyptian armies of the period relied on masses of Sudanese bowmen supported by Arab and Berber cavalry. Since the archers were on foot and the horsemen awaited attack with lance and sword, an Egyptian army provided exactly the sort of immobile target that the Frankish heavy cavalry excelled in attacking. Except for the third battle of Ramla in 1105, when Toghtekin of Damascus sent a contingent of Turks to help the Egyptians, the Fatimids did not use horse archers.

Whereas the Crusaders developed a healthy respect for the harass and surround tactics of the Turkish horse archers, they tended to discount the effectiveness of the Egyptian armies. While overconfidence led to a Crusader disaster at the second battle of Ramla, the more frequent result was a Fatimid defeat. "The Franks never, until the reign of Saladin, feared the Egyptian as they did the armies from Muslim Syria and Mesopotamia."[1]


  • Dupuy, R. E. and T. N. Dupuy, eds. The Encyclopedia of Military History. New York: Harper & Row, 1977. ISBN 0-06-011139-9
  • Smail, R. C. Crusading Warfare, 1097–1193. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1995 [1956]. ISBN 1-56619-769-4


  1. Smail, p. 87

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