Hello and Welcome to the History of the Copts. Episode 92. The Third Crusade – Part-1.
So – we have been slightly off topic for a couple of episodes now, watching the rise of Ayybuid empire and Salah El Din – through the events in and around Greater Syria
Well – today. This tour ends with the third Crusade.
I tried to fit this into one episode. But, it just wasn’t possible.
The Third Crusade can be fleshed out and take probably close to 20 hours or so
Especially if you factor out the background of all its European actors. The German Emperor – Fredrick Barborosa, The French King, Phillip Augustus – and the King of England, Richard the Lionheart
All of them have their dramatic backstory – as much as Salah El Din did, if not more.
We won’t do that here – This will be the 60 min version – really focusing on Ayybuid empire side of things
It’s a very cool story though – so I recommend diving into from the History of the Crusades or some other source
Part 1 would be the lead up to Jerusalem – while Part 2 – the conclusion and what came after. An exclusive Patreon Episode.
You can access it – along with a few other exclusive episodes by supporting the Podcast at www.patreon.com/copticvoice
For those who will miss it, simple put - the Third Crusade – defies simple categorization of success v. failure
In a way – it failed that it never recovered Jerusalem, but also succeeding in that it left European colonies in the Middle East all the way to 1302 AD – I.E – for another 100 or so years – where the battle of Hittin was supposed to be the end
In a way – what the third Crusade left its wake – outlasted the Ayybuids dynasty and what Salah El din built
It also – directly led to the 4th Crusade – which, was the last gasp of Byzentium before it too – went away although with a very long tail of decline
And so, with that out of the way, we can go back to our story where as you would expect, the news of the fall of Jerusalem reached Europe very quickly
There, the atrocities of the war – were magnified. And Salah El Din – became literally the devil
With a special war tax named after him
It really ended up shocking the whole geopolitics of the regions – and after a convoluted series of events – the German Emperor took the cross and his army into a couple of years journey via the land route – fighting the Greeks and the Suljuks on the way
And the French and the English Armies set out after a very long 3 years delay – ironically on July 4th, 1190 AD – on the same exact day as the battle of Hittin
So, while it was shocking to everybody and people were truly moved
It took a while until the monarchs of Europe actually showed up – so, we would leave there for a bit and catch up with Salah El Din who despite the impressive campaign wasn’t doing so great
You see, Jerusalem’s capture on October 1187 was supposed to be the crowning glory of his career–
The metaphorical and may I say, the literal end of the Hollywood movie.
The fulfilment of a whole lifetime of work and the ultimate act of jihad.
It wasn’t though – it was just the beginning
As Thomas Asbridge put it,
“you would surely think that in the wake of such a titanic victory, the Muslim world would rally to the sultan’s cause as never before, united in their admiration for his achievements, now almost abject in their acceptance of his right to lead Islam.
Surely Saladin himself had earned a moment’s pause, to look back on all that he had achieved, to celebrate as the first chill of autumn brushed the Holy City?”
But ya, the conquest of Jerusalem brought the sultan no rest but waay more threats than he could have ever imagined
Once Jerusalem had fallen, the volunteers in his army – now enriched with slaves and sometimes lands had no desire to keep fighting
Tyre – the only significant city in the kingdom of Jerusalem that was left – was still out of grasp
And so, it needed to be brought to heels –
Alas – the rank and file soldiers of the Sultan weren’t really into it.
What is Tyre anyway! And why should I spend another winter sleeping the mud to conquer it
And so – an attempt to take the port in the winter of 1187 failed miserably, and it left really a bad aftertaste that kinda spoiled the victory
In that defeat – a mercenary warlord - a certain Conrad, previously employed by the Greeks stood out as an excellent general –masterfully leading the defense of Tyre and against tremendous odds – driving back Salah El Din
The following year- mob up operations were undertaken, but with less determination than you would think where the Sultan either picked easy targets or didn’t even bother
In that process. He ended up releasing – Guy – the Latin king captured in Hittin – without even a symbolic a ransom
The logic here was that Guy – a disliked figure with a ruined reputation is a better foe than this warlord in Tyre
Plus, having a Latin king of Jerusalem around – was a sure way to check the ambitions of some of the minor lords in Europe who fancied themselves as the next king of Jerusalem
What is Guy going to do anyway? He was a broken man.
Solid thought process here. But, with a serious miscalculation.
Indeed, Guy – was a broken man. But, not the type that hangs his head low – and dies in obscurity
Nope – he was the type that – having lost everything –dons his armor for the last time and goes on a suicidal mission to die as a hero
Apparently, when he was released – he tried to go to Tyre. But, Conrad- quite aware of the toxicity and the threats he may bring, refused to let him in
And so – rejected by his own – he did the unthinkable
Broadcasting that he will go conquer Jerusalem back – and on his own if he has too
His suicidal courage, did inspire – maybe a thousand men total to follow him
With a few hundred templars and hospitalars knights joining in
At first, when Salah El Din heard – he was In Lebanon besieging a random, strategically unimportant castle –
So, he thought that it was a ruse – designed to make him break the siege
By the time he realized, it wasn’t a ruse– Guy and his suicidal followers were already on a hill nearby Acre – a port close to Jerusalem and essentially, the gate to the city from Europe
There – they made a defensible camp and partially besieged the city – more accurately made it difficult for civilians to go in and out.
There were not enough men to besiege anything at this point – or really be a threat. The city was relatively well-fortified and with a healthy garrison.
Shortly after, they became slightly more threatening than a simple nuisance as a small Italian fleet also arrived – lending a hand to the beleaguered king.
But, the sailors came with their wives and children – so, initially they were more of a strain on resources than actual help
With foods and supply running out – and news that Salah El Din is coming with an army
Guy – decided to storm the city – with basic ladders and shields and swords.
Rather than perish on the walls of Acre though – the assault actually went okay. Not successful, but not a complete failure either.
The causalities were light and they were making good progress until Salah El Din appeared in the distance and they decided to retreat to their defensible camp to avoid being caught in the middle
At this point – Guy was essentially between – a rock that was Salah El Din Mamluks, and a hard place – that was the Acre Walls and Garrison – not to mention the sea
Had Salah El Din attacked – The chances of a total victory was very high
But – just like the Crusaders suffered from machoman foolishness
Salah El Din suffered from overthinking and – excessive caution. Cowardness if you ask his enemies
Rather than just move on the camping Franks and crush them. He played games
Sneaking troops around them to Acre – then trying to lure them out of their camps
Then Going on lengthy negotiations meant to measure their true strength and so on
What he failed to realize – that every minute wasted playing those games – Guy heroism grew larger and larger
And without controlling the sea – as the Egyptian navy was in Egypt. Ships from Europe and Tyre – continued to supply men and resources to the King of Jerusalem
On Sep 10th, the tide was turned. As a fleet of 50 Danish ships – yeb. All the way from Denmark arrived with 12,000 soldiers who were moved to take the Cross – outside of the German, French, and English kings who were still making their way very slowly
The arrival of 12,000 hardened Viking – seemingly out of nowhere, was both greatly demoralizing to Salah El Din’s army and a sign of divine favor for the Crusaders
This – alongside other unexpected arrivals – even made Conrad – the warlord in Tyre to pledge his support. Essentially, admitting that Guy is still the king of Jerusalem
And a staltamate took place. Salah El Din – not fully committing into an uphill battle to take on - a sizable Crusader army
And the Crusaders – having learned the hard way. Refusing to move and fight on Salah El Din’s terms
All the way until late Fall – where winter was approaching and large army camps are bound to be miserable traps of death for both sides
So Guy, decided to break the tie and give battle
On the surface a mistake – As an initial success led to the Crusaders breaking rank – and ultimately retreated after losing about a third of their force who got separated from the main force
It wasn’t a total defeat like Hittin though– Nope – just a harsh lesson on the virtues of not breaking rank until the battle is over
As for Salah El din – he too was taught a harsh lesson.
After the initial success of the Crusaders – a large portion of his army started running to save whatever possessions they have accumulated and never came back
He knew that his empire stood on a feet of clay – and that his soldiers are unlikely to slug through a harsh winter being harassed constantly by determined crusaders
And so – despite winning on terms of causalities. It was really a loss
As he retreated a significant distance from Acre – leaving the city garrison to fend for themselves and for the Crusaders to make their position even more defensible
For the whole following winter – The Crusader dug deep trenches with holes filled with spikes, designed to cripple horse and rider in case of an attack
While Salah El Din – recognizing that this is about to turn into an endurance test – send most of his men home for the winter, leaving only the elite and loyal Mamluks as his personal guard
While in the same time – supplying Acre with as much as supplies as he could. To outlast the Crusaders – no matter how long that took
By the Spring – the Egyptian fleet was in Acre – but, when it tried to break out – a naval battle took place- where it got clobbered
So, it went back to Acre and stayed there. Essentially, ceding the Meditreanen to the Franks
Although – Acre was still supplied by various means – including, Salah El Din sending Crusader flagged ships as a clever ruse –sneaking them into the port
Allowing the siege to continue for the entire summer of 1190 AD –when the kings of France and England finally left
And the German army- travelling by land, was also expected to arrive
And so – Salah El Din’s had a lot to worry about than just Acre – and it seemed that he especially dreaded the German advance – as he ordered more troops to be deployed at their expected route than whatever troops he had around Acre
You see, Fredrick Barborosa –was indeed a fearsome fellow – even by the standards of the day
Like Salah El Din – he had spent a lifetime campaigning and expanding a vast empire – with a military machine that had no rivals in Europe
And– the rumors of his ability were confirmed early on. As he landed in Anatolia, and had no trouble subjectating the Turks – an exceedingly difficult task and going as far as occupying Sultante of Rum capital
Had he wanted – He could crippled the Suljuks forever
But, he wasn’t there to chase Suljuks in Anatolia though – he wanted to go to Jerusalem
And so, he moved on to Greater Syria by the summer of 1190 – as the siege of Acre was going on
While crossing a river though, his horse slipped and the Emperor fell and drowned
I didn’t go into the back story of these monarchs – but this accident, would be akin to Salah El Din dying at this very exact moment leaving the fight to his inexperienced son and a couple of junior warlords
A heavy blow to the cause.
Frederick’s son tried to salvage to the situation, but it wasn’t the same. The emperor experience and legitimacy far exceeded anything his son could bring
Nonetheless, by October 1190– 5000 German knights arrived to Acre – further entrenching the Franks position
And so again, the siege continued for the second winter now in a row
And just like last time, Salah El Din retreated– leaving the Crusaders to do as they wished around Acre
Their humble camp – built by Guy two years earlier in a suicidal attempt to die in the blaze of glory – now – teemed with men, animals, and all kind of camp followers from priests, to merchants and prostitutes
But it wasn’t some kind of thriving city – nope - it was a dirty, exposed camp. Where disease and the elements combined to kill at least 100-200 men everyday
Mostly Crusaders – but also, inside Acre where supplies always ran short
Important and unimportant men died alike – with alarming regularity
The siege of Acre was more of a graveyard – where the aristocracy of Europe and the emirs of Salah El Din – went to die
Still though – really against all rational thought – the Crusaders endured. Mainly waiting for the kings of Europe who were still making their way by sea
The French king finally arriving in April 1191 – where the miseries of Winter was lessened
And Richard the Lionheart arriving in June – after a quick stop of Cyprus where he took the island from Byzentium and sold it to the Knight templars for 100,000 gold marks
Their arrivals – was a huge boost and it breathed life into a camp – literally full of death
Within a month of Phillip’s arrival –
The city went under constant bombardment by the best catapults money can buy in the whole world –
Again – a really cool topic that we can’t get too. This siege alone accelerated military technology and tactics probably by a couple of decades in two years. Truly impressive siege engines of war were built by the Crusaders, especially the French – and the Muslim armies innovated a new use of Greek Fire – essentially using it on land as a medieval hand grenade
But anyway - with the bombardment, the walls of Acre crumbled quickly and the garrison had no choice but to surrender
With or without the approval of Salah El Din – depending on the source.
Where the mythological Salah El Din would never surrender – but the real one probably did
The deal was – the city and all of its contents were to be surrendered to the Franks
And the lives if the garrison to be spared. Given the payment of 200,000 gold denars and the return of the True Cross
After a two years siege - Acre had finally fell. A port – only a 100 miles away from Jerusalem was now in Crusaders hands. Ever threating the holy city
Also – The Egyptian fleet. Stuck in Acre, was now Crusader property. Seventy brand new ships. Essentially, forever ceding the Meditreanen to the Franks
It was an impressive victory – a slug of endurance – where – two kings claimed victory and were immortalized as heroes of holy war
But really – a victory that came on top of thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of men dying from hunger and exposure in a war camp constructed hastily in a suicidal attempt by a disgraced king trying to redeem himself
But it was time to finish the job and take back Jerusalem – right?
Nope - as always with the Crusades. Victory brought not rest, but more conflict.
You see – The French king was a sensible, rational man – perhaps a couple of centuries ahead of his time.
He had no appetite for holy wars, no misguided ideas of glory
Rather – an admirable consistency of judgement and a desire to govern well
And so – after Acre – he decided to leave.
He had a kingdom to run – and this – the Crusade. Well – despite the strong feelings of everyone else, wasn’t God’s work.
As you would expect, he was denounced as a coward and a large chunk of his knights and lords. Refused to go back with him
The reputational damage was immense. But, when it was all said and done – he managed to transform France from a small feudal state into the most prosperous and powerful country in Europe.
So – maybe he didn’t get a cool nickname like the Lionheart – but, probably did the right thing
This – left Richard to be the undisputed leader of the third Crusade
Now – what comes next is extremely muddled with separate versions of the events between the Franks and Muslims sources
Basically – Salah El Din – hoping to delay the Crusaders as long as possible and maybe contain them all the way until winter – didn’t live up to the terms of the agreement
Never outright refusing, but delaying again and again and attempting to change the terms
Richard – a short tempered king – got disgusted and sick of the games and set a deadline for Salah El din to fulfill the deal
When the deadline passed, he marched out the entire garrison of Acre – 3000 of them
And butchered them in cold bold.
Essentially setting the tone of all future battles. No captives, no prisoners – just cold-blooded executions on both sides
Now – moving from Acre. Richard could go and fight Salah El Din on his turf. A plan that failed again and again
Or – he can hug the coast, supported by the unchallenged Navy and take 1 coastal city after another. Forcing Salah El Din to come to him
The second approach – at its conclusion would be mean conquering Ashakalon and leaving Egypt wide open for the Crusaders
It also meant – Richard would have to bypass Jerusalem – an inland city
Either way – whether the plan was to take Ashakalon, then Egypt or Jerusalem - the next step on the road was Jaffa, and so, he kept his plans to himself and marched toward Jaffa – slowly, methodically, with uncharacteristic discipline
Salah El Din – send units to harass them throughout the way – but never committed fully – instead trying to resummons the spirit of Hittin and construct an elaborate trap for the Franks
The lion-heart too – was constructing his own elaborate traps. Feigning a request for peace – as a cover while his army marches through dangerous parts of the road that made for ideal trap locations
Essentially, using Salah El Din tendencies to avoid fights against him
Finally – it all came to a head – 20 miles away from Jaffa. Where Salah El Din blocked the road with his entire army.
There was no way to avoid a massive battle – and the plains around Jaffa made a suitable enough ground for both sides to pursue that battle
Richard though – had doubts about the odds of success on neutral grounds. And so, when Salah El Din’s Mamluks charged – he told his men not to charge back
To keep a defensive formation and keep marching until they get to a better position
Alas – his knights, itching for a battle, felt otherwise – and against his commands – The knight Hospitallers led a counter-charge
Then – to his credit, rather than stick with the plan or take his time weighting the options, he immediately pivoted on the spot and raced to lead the charge personally
Seeing their king in the thick of things – the Franks intensity and determination far exceeded anything Salah El Din’s army could bring
Within an hour – fearing a total defeat. Salah El Din ordered a general retreat. Again, The lion-heart had bested him
Al-Afdal – Salah El Din’s older son and heir-apparent seemed to especially shaken by the battle. His first, real significant brush with the harsh realities of war
A day later- The Crusaders took Jaffa with no trouble
As Salah El Din - had ordered the walls of the city demolished and the city abandoned – essentially accepting that he couldn’t hope to hold it. And, so, it was best to make the Crusaders position there vulnerable
Now – Jerusalem was 40 miles away from Richard’s camp. But to get there, the navy support will have to be abandoned. And he, would be marching right into Salah El Din hands
Who – aware of the choice that Richard needed to make, was in the middle of razing Ashakalon to the ground.
In the hopes of making it less valuable – and forcing Richard’s hand to go to Jerusalem instead.
Where – cutoff from the sea. Richard would have immense problems feeding and – more importantly quenching the thirst of his soldiers.
Like said – right into Salah El Din hands.
And so – like the Sultan last week – Richard had to choose between being a holy warrior of faith pursuing the holy city against all odds or a capable general picking his targets carefully and with an eye on the big picture of things.
Thank you for listening, farewell, and until next time!
The History of the Patriarchs by" multiple
The Coptic Encyclopedia by" Aziz S. Atiya (editor)
The Crusades: The Authoritative History of the War for the Holy Land by" Thomas Asbridge