|District||Ma`arrat al-Numan District|
|Elevation||530 m (1,739 ft)|
Ma`arat al-Nu`man (Arabic: معرة النعمان, is a small western Syrian market city, located at the highway between Aleppo and Hama and near theDead Cities of Bara and Serjilla. The city, known as Arra to the Greeks and Marre to the Crusaders, has its present-day name combined of the traditional name and of its first Muslim governor an-Nu'man ibn Bashir, a companion of Muhammad.
Today the city has a museum with mosaics from the Dead Cities, the Great Mosque of Maarrat al-Numan, a madrassa built by Abu al-Farawis from 1199 and remains of the medieval citadel. The city is also a birthplace of the poet Abu al-Ala al-Maari (973 - 1057).
Main article: Siege of Ma`arraMassacre of Ma`arra
The most infamous event from the city's history dates from late 1098, during the First Crusade. After the Crusaders, led by Raymond de Saint Gilles and Bohemond of Taranto, successfully besieged Antioch they found themselves with insufficient supplies of food. Their raids on the surrounding countryside during the winter months did not help the situation. By December 12 when they reached Ma`arra, many of them were suffering from starvation and malnutrition. They managed to breach the city's walls and massacred about 20,000 inhabitants, as they often did when they captured a city. However, this time, as they could not find enough food, they resorted to cannibalism.
These events were also chronicled by Fulcher of Chartres, who wrote: "I shudder to tell that many of our people, harassed by the madness of excessive hunger, cut pieces from the buttocks of the Saracens already dead there, which they cooked, but when it was not yet roasted enough by the fire, they devoured it with savage mouth."
Among the European records of the incident was the French poem 'The Leaguer of Antioch', which contains such lines as,
- Then came to him the King Tafur, and with him fifty score
- Of men-at-arms, not one of them but hunger gnawed him sore.
- Thou holy Hermit, counsel us, and help us at our need;
- Help, for God's grace, these starving men with wherewithal to feed.'
- But Peter answered, 'Out, ye drones, a helpless pack that cry,
- While all unburied round about the slaughtered Paynim lie.
- A dainty dish is Paynim flesh, with salt and roasting due.
- From "The Leaguer of Antioch"
Those events had a strong impact on the local inhabitants of Southwest Asia. The crusaders already had a reputation for cruelty and barbarism towardsMuslims, Jews and even local Christians, Catholic and Orthodox alike. (the Crusades began shortly after the Great Schism of 1054). Many authors suggest that the crusaders' behaviour was not really born of their hunger but fanatical belief that the Muslims were even lower than theanimals. Amin Maalouf in his book The Crusades Through Arab Eyes points out the most crucial line for such belief among the Muslims: "Not only did our troops not shrink from eating dead Turks and Saracens; they also ate dogs!" by Albert of Aix.