Episode Detail

Script


  • Hello and Welcome to the History of the Copts. Episode 91. Jerusalem, again.
  • So – we last stopped with Salah ad-Din completing his conquest of Syria by taking over Aleppo in 1183 AD
  • If you remember – leading up to that campaign was a brief detour to fight the Crusaders around Beirut
  • Basically as a way to add pressure on Aleppo – casting them as a stumbling block to those who wished to wage jihad
  • The campaign was brief – mainly consisting of raiding defenseless village in and around the city
  • And when an army showed up – Salah ad-Din left
  • Now – perhaps as revenge for that campaign, Reynald of Chatillone arranged for a daring and bold scheme to also attack defenseless civilians
  • He – in what was quite the technological innovation – arranged for 5 ships to be built in the middle of the desert in small sections
  • Then – those sections were transported on camel back to the red sea – and assembled on the water
  • You know – like a piece of ikea furniture – but rather than storing your cloth – it was meant to carry 50+ men in open water
  • And it worked!
  • So yea – A+ for creativity and innovation. Totally unexpected.
  • You see – When Salah ad-Din raided the Beirut suburbs – he expected some form of retaliation
  • As such, he sent extra hands for the defense of Damascus
  • He also told his young brother to build a fortification in Sinai – to prevent a raid against Egypt
  • But the ikea ships - ya – no one saw these coming
  • They were so successful that they totally backfired
  • The problem was – and this why this whole thing gets an F in the end
  • In the grand scheme of things uou can’t really do much with 5 ships
  • At first – Reynald tried to capture a port on the red sea – Modern Eilat in Isreal or Aqaba
  • But as the port was well-fortified, and it was taking a while. So, he decided to peel off three ships from the siege and let them roam free– just in case Al Ai’adil, Salah El Din’s young brother in Egypt shows up
  • What were those three ships to do?
  • Well – exactly the same thing that Salah El Din did in Beirut
  • Harass, kidnap, and kill unsuspecting Muslims pilgrims and merchants who were travelling by sea from Egypt to Mecca and Medina
  • Once he peeled those ships off – Reynald went home and – as one Latin source put it, quote “nothing was heard of them and nobody knows what became of them”
  • Basically – he threw a knife blind-folded and moved on
  • Remember – No European ships had sailed in the red sea since the days of the Romans, so no one was exactly sure what was out there
  • We know though! Lots of undefended money, pilgrims, and merchants. That’s what was out there
  • For weeks, the three ships wreaked havoc in the red sea, landing in Arabian ports massacring everybody and then going back to the sea
  • Rumors spread like fire that the Franks have arranged an army to conquer Mecca and level the Ka’aba – Islam holiest site
  • It was only three ships out there with less than 200 men on them, so nothing of this sort could happen
  • But – as far as the pilgrims who survived were concerned, all they saw is a bunch of knights landing from ships showing up out of nowhere and killing everybody on sight
  • Eventually – Al A’adil in Egypt arranged for a whole fleet to go out and hunt those mysterious army
  • When they were found, it wasn’t much of a battle. Basically, the Franks beached their ships and ran into the desert – somewhere in Arabia
  • There – they were cornered and surrendering for a promise that their lives be spared
  • A deal that al A’aidel intended to follow through with. He expected an army and these guys were no threat plus you know, he can eventually ransom them off back for a healthy profit
  • Now – this – while on the whole was a blip in the grand scheme of things
  • At the time – it was highly damaging and embarrassing for Salah el-Din
  • In the perception of your typical Sunni Muslim - here he was – shedding the blood of fellow Muslims around Mosul and Aleppo while the infidels were marching toward Mecca
  • Even if this was just a raid – now, that the Crusaders know the way to the Ka’aba, can pilgrimage – one of the mandatory duties of Muslims ever be safe?
  • And so, Salah al-Din had to act
  • First – he asked his brother to send the prisoners – 170 of them – to all the major cities of Islam. In pairs of it’s a big city, or just a single prisoner for the smaller ones
  • Then – to gather all the populace of that city, and publicly execute the prisoners in a big show – butchered like animals to emphasize a point
  • Even then – this wasn’t enough –
  • Fresh off his conquest of Aleppo, Salah el Din moved his army and invaded Galilee
  • Again though – more to flash his jihad credentials not necessarily to fight an open battle with the Crusaders
  • Baldwin at this point, too sick to even come – took it seriously and assembled all the men he could – 1300 knights with 15,000 infantry to meet Salah Ed Din head on
  • The Sultan – halted his advance – took a defensive position and waited for the Franks to come
  • Wisely though – the Crusaders didn’t rush into his trap. Also – camping a short distance in a defensive position
  • Salah El Din – in enemy territory and with limited supplies – opted to retreat within two weeks – rather than fight the Franks on their terms
  • A strategic win for the Franks and commander of their army at this point –Baldwin’s brother in law – Guy de Lusignan (LOO-zin-yon) – The second husband of Baldwin’s sister –essentially a no name knight from Europe – who was both highly ambitious and competent
  • Coming home though from that quote unquote “win” Guy was subject to an intense criticism from his fellow knights and the court
  • Sure – he may have turned Salah el Din away and didn’t lost a single man
  • But it wasn’t the Crusader way – it was cowardly and humiliating
  • As such, he quickly lost favor with the king – and had to endure a damaged reputation as a cowardly general
  • Now – as Salah ad-Din retreated. He was also quite aware that going home empty handed wasn’t ideal
  • He needed something – a high ranking noble captured, tribute, anything really would do
  • And so – receiving intelligence that the king’s half-sister – was getting married in the castle of Kerak – kind in the middle of nowhere in modern Jordan
  • He told Al A’adil to come over from Egypt and they can besiege the castle together
  • Best case scenario – the castle will fall and they can capture a few nobles and ransom them off
  • At worst – they can negotiate a small tribute or something and call the campaign a victory
  • Now – in the very same time, as the Salah El Din was moving against Kerak. The court in Jerusalem was seized with all kind of internal pickering
  • Guy – by far, the most competent knight around was essentially pushed out
  • Baldwin – sick and unable to even ride a horse – insisted on leading the army in person – and officially appoint his infant son-in-law as his heir. To ensure Guy ambitions stay in chech
  • Nonetheless, like I said- Salah El Din had no intentions of fighting the Crusaders in an open battle
  • When he heard that Baldwin was coming with an army – he retreated again
  • Perhaps unaware of how sick the king was
  • Plus – a year out of the Red Sea debacle – the pressure to perform Jihad had waned – and so he moved on – going back all the way to Iraq in the East
  • It’s unclear what was the big plan here – whether it was an opportunistic move or part of a bigger scheme but Salah El Din set his eyes on Mosul the following year. Signing a truce with the Crusaders –
  • who naturally happily agreed as Baldwin condition worsened again – and he looked like he was about to die
  • And so – by the summer of 1185 – Salah el Din army besiegied Mosul – in the scorching Iraqi sun
  • While – in the same time. Baldwin – the king of Jerusalem died peacefully in his bed – aged only 23
  • He had done his very best – and left an intact kingdom. But, like him – it was sick and dying. Alive – but barely.
  • Especially now, that its about to deal with a succession crisis where the official heir was only an infant boy – whose step-father was none other than the disliked Guy
  • We would leave the Crusaders here for now
  • As Salah el Din was about to face his own mortality
  • You see – Mosul was a tough place to crack
  • After a miserable summer – Salah El Din caught an illness. Malaria if I have to guess
  • For 3 months – he went in and out of consciousness – where it seemed like he was about to die
  • Al A’adil came over from Egypt ready to assume power if the Sultan died
  • Similarly – One of Shirku’s son – remember him? Rebelled and attempted to take Damascus
  • A short lived rebellion as it seems like he was poisoned by one of Al A’adil agents
  • Finally though by the Spring of 1186 – Salah Al Din started to recover from his illness
  • A profound period of weakness where he came very close to dying
  • Had he died then – he would be remember not as a champion of Islam, nope – as just another ambition warlord who spent his life talking about Jihad while fighting fellow Muslims
  • Not to mention – his oldest son – a 16 year old teenager who grew up in Egypt mostly away from his dad was utterly unprepared to take the reign
  • And so – recovering from his illness – Salah El Din abandoned Iraq and Mosul and focused on building a lasting legacy
  • He brought his son over from Egypt to Damascus – tutoring him personally
  • Rearranged the family structure – pushing out nephews and cousins for his sons
  • And once his internal affairs was settled – he finally set his heart on a grand conquest of Jerusalem
  • It wasn’t only the brush with death
  • Or the fact that he was now confident that his son with the help of Al Ai’del could manage things
  • No – if you ask me, It was the Crusaders infighting – that practically pushed him to move
  • When Baldwin died – The succession crisis quickly spiraled into civil war in all but name
  • Where – Guy was eventually crowned at the king
  • But – with a lot of opposition – enough that one of his lords – the lord of Tripoli took the drastic step of seeking the protection of Salah El Din himself
  • Opening the door to Salah El Din’s Mamluks to basically walk into the door and get very comfortable in and around Galilee
  • In the same time- despite having a truce on paper. Reyanld – as belligerent as ever. Decided to go ahead and break the truce. Attacking and capturing a trade caravan
  • With a cause for the war – and a base where he can draw supplies from. By the Spring of 1187 – Salah el Din gathered all his warriors for that grand conquest
  • 12,000 professional mamluks – augmented by 30,000 volunteers for Jihad
  • All of them Crossing the Jordan in late June 1187
  • In response – Guy declared his own version of Jihad gathering every man of fighting age under the banner of the cross
  • Still – he only managed to gather around a 1200 professional knights – and 15,000 or so soldiers. Easily outnumbered 3:1
  • In this – he took a dangerous gamble. Stripping all the castles from its garrisons – and betting on one decisive battle
  • A battle – that Salah El Din have consistently avoided – given the risks to his own life
  • Not this time though – this time, it was exactly what he wanted. One grand battle that will settle everything
  • Ideally – one on a ground of his choosing
  • Knowing that Guy wasn’t that stupid though– he carefully laid a trap
  • First, Sacking a defenseless city – while allowing its populace – to seek refuge in its tower where they sent passionate pleas to the new king to come and save them
  • Pleas that Salah El Din naturally allowed to arrive to the king
  • What happens next is somewhat of a mystery
  • You see – the lord of Tripoli – he who asked for Salah El Din’s protection in the first place – was now reconciled to the king
  • Either because he realized that the existential threat that was on their hands – or, just forced by his knights – who couldn’t stand for his treason
  • Well – One of the folks stuck in the tower and sending pleas for help was none other than his own wife
  • And so – you would expect him to push for Guy to go save her – right?
  • Well – he didn’t. He counselled the king to stay put – and leave his own wife to her gruesome fate – whatever that maybe
  • Weird right?
  • Well – its get weirder. As Guy – by nature a cautious leader – leaned that way as well. To stay put
  • But everyone else – counselled him to go.
  • And you know what finally convinced him to go to Salah El Din? The fact that the Lord of Tripoli – a traitor – was counselling him to stay
  • Not to mention – his previous accusations of cowardice when he avoided battle
  • And so – the bait was taken in whole and the Crusader army moved from its defensive position to go save the civilians stuck in the tower
  • And now – that Salah El Din knew where the Crusaders were going and what road they are taking. The task was simple. Block their access to water along the route and wait for them to show up – half dead from thirst and exhaustion
  • Remember – We are now in July – in the dead of summer in the Middle East
  • And marching to battle – a fully armoured knight is like a mobile oven
  • Even if water is freely available – sun strokes is likely to kill one or two
  • Now – imagine a 20 mile waterless killing zone – that was essentially what Salah El Din created
  • By July 3rd – the two armies could see each other in the distance. There was still hope. The army of Jerusalem could abandoned battle and head for water.
  • They will be chased down – and many will die. But – the core of the army would survive.
  • Alas – This was too hard and cowardly for the brave knights to swallow.
  • The Franks made their camp as the day was coming to an end and decided that July 4th would be the day
  • They would fight – and let whatever happens happens
  • The next day – waking up terribly thirsty and expecting a full assault by the Sultan’s army – they found nothing by heavy smoke
  • Brush fire let at dawn to make their life and breathing even more difficult
  • Sick of the smoke and the thrist – the knights decided to charge ahead
  • Where waves of arrows blacked out the sun and open huge gaps in their rank
  • The lord of Tripoli – led a contingent of his knights and led a charge – hoping to die bravery for the cause
  • Instead – in a stroke of intentional or accidental genius, Salah el Din nephew ordered that Muslim line parts open for the lord – to let his troops go through
  • And when they did – they decided to keep going. And not return back for the battle
  • So – It sure looked like betrayal and it demoralized the army greatly
  • Finally – Salah El Din ordered that his troops to move – to literally tighten the noose
  • Hoping for a glorious death though – Guy gathered as many knights as he could and stood in a hill
  • They decided to do the heavy charge – to go for Salah El Din himself
  • Twice they charged and came close enough to fell the Sultan with dread
  • But the third time – they were overwhelmed
  • the king’s position was overrun, the True Cross was captured and the last shreds of Christian resistance crumbled
  • The king as well as many of the nobles of the kingdom were captured alive
  • After the battle – Salah El Din asked for the new king and Reynald of Chatillione – to come to his tent
  • With the pair seated beside him, Saladin turned to Guy, ‘who quote “was dying from thirst and shaking with fear like a drunkard’, graciously offering him an iced drink.
  • The king took a sip and passed the cup to Reynald, where the sultan stopped him
  • According to a Muslim source , Saladin then turned to Reynald, and berared him for his violence and treachery – offering to spare his life if he converted to Islamd
  • When he refused, the sultan quote ‘rose to face him and struck off his head…After he was killed and dragged away
  • The defeat was so through and complete that, so many Latin captives were taken where the markets of Syria were flooded and the price of slaves dropped to three gold dinars.
  • With the exception of Reynald of Châtillon, the only other prisoners who were executed were the warriors of the Military Orders. The Templars and the Hospitalars
  • They were too fearsome of warriors to be kept alive
  • As Salah El Din secretary put it – when a band of scholars and Sufi’s were invited to execute the templars in person
  • Quote
  • “There were some who slashed and cut cleanly, and were thanked for it; some who refused and failed to act, and were excused; some who made fools of themselves, and others took their places…I saw how [they] killed unbelief to give life to Islam and destroyed polytheism to build monotheism”
  • The true cross – was hanged upside down in a lance – and sent to Damascus to be paraded as spoils of victory
  • It was the end – the entire manpower of Jerusalem was lost in Hettin. The site of the dreaded battle
  • Within two month – every major city and port had surrendered to the Sultan but Jerusalem itself – and Tyre. A fortified port – that served as the refugee point for the surviving knights
  • Both cities were likely to offer a stiff resistance – and Salah El Din – had to choose where to concentrate his forces
  • The old practical politician would have chosen the strategic Tyre – and cut-off the holy lands from Europe altogether
  • Once cut off from Europe – Jerusalem was going to fall easily  
  • But this Salah El Din wasn’t the practical politician – nope – this was the ideological warrior of faith and he had his eyes on Jerusalem –
  • and so, leaving Tyre alone, he besieged the city in Mid-September 1187
  • Within two weeks – the knight in charge of defense of the city started to try and negioate a peaceful surrender
  • Where – Salah El Din told him – quote
  • “You will receive neither amnesty nor mercy! Our only desire is to inflict perpetual subjection upon you…We shall kill and capture you wholesale, spill men’s blood and reduce the poor and the women to slavery.’
  • At this point – The Crusaders inside the city threatened to level the Aqsa mosque to the ground. To fight to the last man
  • To essentially destroy Jerusalem stone by stone on their way to the grave
  • At this threat – negitoation resumed again where it was agreed upon that
  • Jerusalem’s Christian populace was to be given forty days to buy their freedom at a prescribed cost of ten dinars for a man, five for a woman and one for a child. In addition, they would be given safe conduct to Tyre
  • Further, After forty days those unable to pay the ransom would be taken captive
  • And indeed – something along the lines of 7,000 men and 8,000 women were enslaved
  • And so – by October 2nd, 1187 AD – Salah El Din have completed his campaign.
  • Entering Jerusalem as a victorious conqueror and leaving a lasting legacy
  • Thank you for listening, farewell, and until next time

References


  • The History of the Patriarchs by" multiple
  • The Cambridge History of Egypt, Vol. 1: Islamic Egypt, 640-1517 by" Carl F. Petry (Editor)
  • The Coptic Papacy in Islamic Egypt, 641–1517: The Popes of Egypt by" Mark Swanson
  • The Crusades: The Authoritative History of the War for the Holy Land by" Thomas Asbridge
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