Third Crusade

Crusades
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The Third Crusade (11891192) was an attempt by European leaders to reconquer the Holy Land from Saladin. It is sometimes referred to as the Kings' Crusade.

Background

After the failure of the Second Crusade, Nur ad-Din had control of Damascus and a unified Syria.

Muslim unification

Eager to expand his power, Nur ad-Din set his sights on the Fatimid dynasty of Egypt. In 1163, Nur ad-Din's most trusted general, Shirkuh set out on a military expedition to the Nile. Accompanying the general was his young nephew, Saladin.

With Shirkuh's troops camped outside of Cairo, Egypt's sultan, Shawar called on King Amalric I of Jerusalem for assistance. In response, Amalric sent an army into Egypt and attacked Shirkuh's troops at Bilbeis in 1164.

In an attempt to divert Crusader attention from Egypt, Nur ad-Din attacked Antioch, resulting in a massacre of Christian soldiers and the capture of several Crusader leaders, including Raynald of Châtillon, Prince of Antioch. Nur ad-Din sent the scalps of the Christian defenders to Egypt for Shirkuh to proudly display at Bilbeis for Amalric's soldiers to see. This action prompted both Amalric and Shirkuh to lead their armies out of Egypt.

In 1167, Nur ad-Din once again sent Shirkuh to conquer the Fatimids in Egypt. Shawar also opted to once again call upon Amalric for the defence of his territory. The combined Egyptian-Christian forces pursued Shirkuh until he retreated to Alexandria.

Amalric then breached his alliance with Shawar by turning his forces on Egypt and besieging the city of Bilbeis. Shawar pleaded with his former enemy, Nur ad-Din to save him from Amalric's treachery. Lacking the resources to maintain a prolonged siege of Cairo against the combined forces of Nur ad-Din and Shawar, Amalric retreated. This new alliance gave Nur ad-Din rule over virtually all of Syria and Egypt.

Saladin, from a 12th-century Arab codex
Saladin, from a 12th-century Arab codex

Saladin's conquests

Shawar was executed for his treacherous alliances with the Christian forces, and Shirkuh succeeded him as vizier of Egypt. In 1169, Shirkuh died unexpectedly after only weeks of rule. Shirkuh's successor was his nephew, Salah ad-Din Yusuf, commonly known as Saladin. Nur ad-Din died in 1174, leaving the new empire to his 11-year old son, As-Salih. It was decided that the only man competent enough to uphold the jihad against the Crusaders was Saladin, who became sultan of both Egypt and Syria, and the founder of the Ayyubid dynasty.

Amalric also died in 1174, leaving Jerusalem to his 13-year old son, Baldwin IV. Although Baldwin suffered from leprosy, he was an effective and active military commander, defeating Saladin at the battle of Montgisard in 1177, with support from Raynald of Châtillon, who had been released from prison in 1176. Later, he forged an agreement with Saladin to allow free trade between Muslim and Christian territories.

Raynald also raided caravans throughout the region. He expanded his piracy to the Red Sea by sending galleys not only to raid ships, but to assault the city of Mecca itself. These acts enraged the Muslim world, giving Raynald a reputation as the most hated man in the Middle East.

Baldwin IV died in 1185 and the kingdom was left to his nephew Baldwin V, whom he had crowned as co-king in 1183. Raymond III of Tripoli again served as regent. The following year, Baldwin V died before his ninth birthday, and his mother Princess Sybilla, sister of Baldwin IV, crowned herself queen and her husband, Guy of Lusignan, king.

It was at this time that Raynald, once again, raided a rich caravan and had its travellers thrown in his prison. Saladin demanded that the prisoners and their cargo be released. The newly crowned King Guy appealed to Raynald to give in to Saladin's demands, but Raynald refused to follow the king's orders.

Fall of the Latin Kingdom

The Middle East, c. 1190. Saladin's empire and its vassals shown in red; territory taken from the Crusader states 1187-1189 shown in pink. Light green indicates Crusader territories surviving Saladin's death.
The Middle East, c. 1190. Saladin's empire and its vassals shown in red; territory taken from the Crusader states 1187-1189 shown in pink. Light green indicates Crusader territories surviving Saladin's death.

It was this final act of outrage by Raynald which gave Saladin the opportunity he needed to take the offensive against the kingdom. He laid siege to the city of Tiberias in 1187. Raymond advised patience, but King Guy, acting on advice from Raynald, marched his army to the Horns of Hattin outside of Tiberias.

The Crusader army, thirsty and demoralized, was slaughtered in the ensuing battle. King Guy and Raynald were brought to Saladin's tent, where Guy was offered a goblet of water. Guy took a drink but was forbidden to pass the goblet to Raynald, because the Muslim rule of hospitality states that one who receives food or drink is under the protection of the host. Saladin would not be forced to protect the treacherous Raynald by allowing him to drink. Raynald, who had not had a drop of water in days, grabbed the goblet out of Guy's hands. Upon seeing Raynald's disrespect for Arab custom, Saladin beheaded Raynald for past betrayals. Saladin honored tradition with King Guy; Guy was sent to Damascus and eventually ransomed to his people, one of the few captive crusaders to avoid execution.

By the end of the year, Saladin had taken Acre and Jerusalem. Pope Urban III is said to have collapsed and later died upon hearing the news.

Preparations

The new pope, Gregory VIII proclaimed that the capture of Jerusalem was punishment for the sins of Christians across Europe. The cry went up for a new crusade to the Holy Land. Henry II of England and Philip II of France ended their war with each other, and both imposed a "Saladin tithe" on their citizens to finance the venture. In Britain, Baldwin of Exeter, the archbishop of Canterbury, made a tour through Wales, convincing 3000 men-at-arms to take up the cross, recorded in the Itinerary of Giraldus Cambrensis.

"Death of Frederick of Germany" by Gustav Dore
"Death of Frederick of Germany" by Gustav Dore

Barbarossa's crusade

The elderly Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa responded to the call immediately. He took up the Cross at Mainz Cathedral on March 27, 1188 and was the first to set out for the Holy Land in May of 1189. Frederick had raised an army so massive that it could not be transported across the Mediterranean Sea, but instead had to cross Asia Minor on foot.

The Byzantine Emperor Isaac II Angelus made a secret alliance with Saladin to impede Frederick's progress in exchange for his empire's safety. On May 18, 1190, the German army captured Konya, the capital of the Sultanate of Rüm. However, on June 10, 1190, Frederick was thrown from his horse in the crossing of the Saleph River and drowned. His son Frederick VI led the army to Antioch where his body was interred in the Church of St. Peter. In Antioch, most of what remained of the German army died of plague.

Richard and Philip's departure

Henry II died on July 6, 1189 following a defeat by his son Richard I (Lionheart) and Philip II. Richard inherited the crown and immediately began raising funds for the crusade. In July 1190, Richard and Philip set out jointly from Marseille, France for Sicily.

William II of Sicily had died the previous year, and was replaced by Tancred, who placed Joan of England — William's wife and Richard's sister — in prison. Richard captured the capital city of Messina on October 4, 1190 and Joan was released. Richard and Philip fell out over the issue of Richard's marriage, as Richard had decided to marry Berengaria of Navarre, breaking off his long-standing betrothal to Philip's half-sister Alys. Philip left Sicily directly for the Middle East on March 30, 1191, and arrived in Tyre in mid-May. He joined the siege of Acre on May 20. Richard did not set off from Sicily until April 10.

Shortly after setting sail from Sicily, Richard's armada was struck by a violent storm. Several ships were lost, including one holding Joan, his new fiancée Berengaria, and a large amount of treasure that had been amassed for the crusade. It was soon discovered that Emperor Isaac Dukas Comnenus of Cyprus had seized the treasure. Richard entered Limassol on May 6, and met with Isaac, who agreed to return Richard's belongings and send 500 of his soldiers to the Holy Land. Once back at his fortress of Famagusta, Isaac broke his oath of hospitality and began issuing orders for Richard to leave the island. Isaac's arrogance prompted Richard to conquer the island within days.

Siege of Acre

King Guy was released from prison by Saladin in 1189. He attempted to take command of the Christian forces at Tyre, but Conrad of Montferrat held power there after his successful defence of the city from Muslim attacks. Guy turned his attention to the wealthy port of Acre. He amassed an army to besiege the city and received aid from Philip's newly-arrived French army. However, it was still not enough to counter Saladin's force, which besieged the besiegers. In summer 1190, in one of the numerous outbreaks of disease in the camp, Queen Sibylla and her young daughters died. Guy, although only king by right of marriage, endeavoured to retain his crown, although the rightful heir was Sibylla's half-sister Isabella. After a hastily arranged divorce from Humphrey IV of Toron, Isabella was married to Conrad of Montferrat, who claimed the kingship in her name.

Richard arrived at Acre on June 8, 1191 and immediately began supervising the construction of siege weapons to assault the city. The city was captured on July 12.

Richard, Philip, and Leopold V (commanding the remnants of Barbarossa's army) quarrelled over the spoils of their victory. Richard cast down the German standard from the city, slighting Leopold. Also, in the struggle for the kingship of Jerusalem, Richard supported Guy, while Philip and Leopold supported Conrad, who was related to them both. It was decided that Guy would continue to rule, but that Conrad would receive the crown upon his death.

Frustrated with Richard (and in Philip's case, in poor health), Philip and Leopold took their armies and left the Holy Land in August.

When it became apparent that Saladin was not willing to pay the terms of the treaty at Acre, Richard had more than 3,000 Muslim prisoners executed on August 20 outside of Acre in full view of Saladin's camp.

Battle of Arsuf

After the capture of Acre, Richard decided to march to the city of Jaffa, where he could launch an attack on Jerusalem. On September 7, 1191, at Arsuf, 30 miles north of Jaffa, Saladin attacked Richard's army.

Saladin attempted to lure Richard's forces out to be easily picked off, but Richard maintained his formation until the Hospitallers rushed in to take Saladin's right flank, while the Templars took the left. Richard won the battle and crushed the myth of Saladin's invincibility.

Regicide and negotiations

Richard overlooking Jerusalem, from Punch magazine, 1917.
Richard overlooking Jerusalem, from Punch magazine, 1917.

Following his victory, Richard took Jaffa and established his new headquarters there. He offered to begin negotiations with Saladin, who sent his brother, Al-Adil to meet with Richard. Negotiations (which had included an attempt to marry Richard's sister Joan to Al-Adil) failed, and Richard marched to Ascalon.

Richard called on Conrad to join him on campaign, but he refused, citing Richard's alliance with King Guy. He too had been negotiating with Saladin, as a defence against any attempt by Richard to wrest Tyre from him for Guy. However, in April, Richard was forced to accept Conrad as king of Jerusalem after an election by the nobles of the kingdom. Guy had received no votes at all, but Richard sold him Cyprus as compensation. Before he could be crowned, Conrad was stabbed to death by two Hashshashin in the streets of Tyre. Eight days later, Richard's nephew Henry II of Champagne married Queen Isabella, who was pregnant with Conrad's child. It was strongly suspected that the king's killers had acted on instructions from Richard.

In July 1192, Saladin suddenly attacked and captured Jaffa with thousands of men, but the city was re-captured by Richard and a much smaller force of 55 men on July 31. A final battle was fought on August 5 in which Richard once again emerged triumphant.

On September 2, 1192, Richard and Saladin finalized a treaty by which Jerusalem would remain under Muslim control, but which also allowed unarmed Christian pilgrims to visit the city. Richard departed the Holy Land on October 9.

Aftermath

Richard was arrested and imprisoned in December 1192 by Duke Leopold, who suspected him of murdering his cousin Conrad of Montferrat, and had been offended by Richard casting down his standard from the walls of Acre. He was later transferred to the custody of Henry VI, Holy Roman Emperor, and it took a ransom of one hundred fifty thousand marks to obtain his release. Richard returned to England in 1194 and died of an arrow wound in 1199 at the age of 42.

In 1193, Saladin died, leaving behind only one piece of gold and forty-seven pieces of silver; he had given the rest away to his poor subjects.

Henry of Champagne was killed in an accidental fall in 1197. Queen Isabella then married for a fourth time, to Amalric of Lusignan, who had succeeded his brother Guy as King of Cyprus. After their deaths in 1205, her eldest daughter Maria of Montferrat (born after her father's murder) succeeded to the throne of Jerusalem.

The failure of the Third Crusade would lead to the call for a Fourth Crusade six years later.

Accounts of events surrounding the Third Crusade were written by the anonymous authors of the Itinerarium Peregrinorum et Gesta Regis Ricardi, the Old French Continuation of William of Tyre (parts of which are attributed to Ernoul), and by Ambroise, Roger of Howden, Ralph of Diceto, and Giraldus Cambrensis.

Sources

  • De Expugnatione Terrae Sanctae per Saladinum, translated by James A. Brundage, in The Crusades: A Documentary Survey. Marquette University Press, 1962.
  • La Continuation de Guillaume de Tyr (1184-1192), edited by Margaret Ruth Morgan. L'Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, 1982.
  • Ambroise, The History of the Holy War, translated by Marianne Ailes. Boydell Press, 2003.
  • Chronicle of the Third Crusade, a Translation of Itinerarium Peregrinorum et Gesta Regis Ricardi, translated by Helen J. Nicholson. Ashgate, 1997.
  • Peter W. Edbury, The Conquest of Jerusalem and the Third Crusade: Sources in Translation. Ashgate, 1996.
  • Francesco Gabrieli, (ed.) Arab Historians of the Crusades, English translation 1969, ISBN 0-520-05224-2
  • Steven Runciman, A History of the Crusades, vol. II: The Kingdom of Jerusalem, and vol. III: The Kingdom of Acre. Cambridge University Press, 1952-55.

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