Siege of Acre 1189-91 from medieval illustration. (Wikicommons)
Excerpt from Chapter XVII: “……(T)he French…had put Acre under strict blockade. Saracen ships indeed still forced their way in to the relief of the garrison; one was smuggled in under a French disguise, but generally they had to run the gauntlet.
“One such adventure happened in September. Three Egyptian dromonds or ships of burthen opportunely arrived, when there was not enough food in the city to last another day. The Christian galleys were upon the new-comers in a moment. The beach was lined with the Moslem army, calling aloud upon God to save the ships.
“The Sultan himself stood there in an agony of suspense, watching the struggle, ‘like a parent robbed of his child.’ The battle raged, but fortunately for the garrison there was a fair wind, and at last the three ships sailed into the harbour safe and sound, amid the furious shouts of the enemy and the loud thanksgivings of the Faithful.”
Excerpt from Chapter XVI: “…When the fall of Jerusalem became known in Europe, a universal cry of dismay was heard in every court and camp and village… …To recover what was lost became the passionate desire of each pious knight, the ambition of every adventurer.
“The Pope issued a trumpet-call for a new Crusade, which should wash out every sin. Richard of England, then Count of Poitou, was the first to take up the Cross. The Kings of England and France made up their quarrel and received the sacred badge from the Archbishop of Tyre. Baldwin of Canterbury preached the Crusade, in which he was later to die before Acre, and a “Saladin Tax,” a tithe of every man’s wealth, was collected throughout the length and breadth of the land. …”
Excerpt from Chapter XV: “… Tyre was the only important place in all Palestine that Saladin had not conquered; and to Tyre he dispatched his jubilant army on 1 November, 1187. Twelve days later he arrived to take command. He found the city full of the garrisons [guards] which he had allowed to capitulate at other places. Conrad of Montferrat had worked night and day, strengthening the works, encouraging the defenders, and “directing them with superior ability.” He had deepened and extended the moats until Tyre became “like a hand spread upon the sea, attached only by the wrist,” an island attached by so narrow a spit that it could be easily defended by a small force, as well as covered by the cross-bows of the shielded barges, or “barbotes”.
Saladin was supported by his brother, sons, and nephew, with their contingents from Egypt, Aleppo, and Hamah; but he was able to bring his greatly superior strength to bear upon the enemy. He had indeed seventeen engines playing upon the walls day and night, but only a small number of men could advance at a time upon the spit of land, and these had not only to meet the frequent sallies of the Franks in the front, led by the valiant Knight in Green, but to protect themselves from the flank attacks of the barbotes drawn up on either side. …”
Excerpt from Chapter XIV: “… The articles of capitulation were signed on the 2nd of October (1187), the Feast of St. Leger. By a strange coincidence, it was the 27th of Rejeb, the anniversary of the blessed Leylat el-Miraj, when the prophet of Islam dreamed his wonderful dream, and visited in his sleep the Holy City which his followers had now recovered after ninety years of Christian occupation.
Balian returned to the city and announced the terms. They were accepted, with gratitude and lamentation. The people groaned and wept, and would not be comforted; they kissed the holy walls which they might never see again, and bowing their faces on the ground before the Sepulchre, watered the sacred spot with their tears. To leave Jerusalem was to tear the hearts out of them. But there was no help for it; the Moslem flag flew overhead, the keys were in the Saracen’s hands, and in forty days the city must be delivered up. Never did Saladin show himself greater than during this memorable surrender. His guards, commanded by responsible emirs, kept order in every street, and prevented violence and insult, insomuch that no ill-usage of the Christians was ever heard of. Every exit was in his hands, and a trusty lord was set over David’s gate to receive the ransoms as each citizen came forth.
Excerpt from Chapter XIII: “…The highway from Acre led over the plain, and not a single spring or stream of any size existed between the camps. It was the hottest season of the year, and a long march for infantry divided the hosts of Christendom and Islam. From the peak of Hittin, the watchman looked towards the west over a sunburnt plain, with long grey ridges dotted with bush to north and south. Behind him lay the Lake of Galilee, seventeen hundred feet below, shut in with precipices mirrored in its shining waters, with Hermon on the north, rising snow-streaked over the valley of the Upper Jordan… …Defeat in such a position meant disaster to the Moslem forces, hurled down the slopes and driven into the lake; but in order to attack, the Christian army must cross the waterless plain, and after a long march would find the enemy covering all the springs and streams that flow into the lake…”
Excerpt from Chapter XII: “…Nevertheless, whatever the amity of Saladin and Raymond (de Chatillon), the truce was like the troubled sleep of a soldier, which might be broken in an instant by the call to arms. It was no real peace whilst the Patriarch Heraclius scoured Europe to beat up recruits, whilst English knights from the Cheviots to the Pyrenees took up the Cross, whilst the two great Military Orders were burning to strike a blow for the faith. The Holy War was sleeping, but it was sure to awake.”
Excerpt from Chapter XI: “…The possession of Aleppo made Saladin the most powerful ruler of Islam. From the Tigris to the Nile, and along the African coast as far as Tripoli, many great cities and different peoples owned his sway. His name was prayed for in the mosques from Mekka to Mesopotamia. When he wrote to the Pope, he even used the style, “Rex omnium regum orientalium,” and of all the eastern princes within his reach he was undoubtedly King. But to be incontestably supreme over this wide dominion he must still take another step…”
Excerpt from Chapter X: “…How it happened is not clear, but this much is certain, that on the 25th of November, 1177, in the absence of the greater part of his army, Saladin’s men were surprised at Tell Jezer, near Ramla, and before they could form up, the knights were hacking them down. At first the Sultan retired fighting, and tried to get his men into order of battle; but his bodyguard was cut to pieces around him, and he was himself all but taken prisoner. Seeing that the day was lost, he turned at last, and mounting a swift camel rode for his life. A remnant of his troops escaped with him, and throwing away armour and weapons, and leaving the wounded to their fate, fled under cover of night pell-mell to Egypt, where they arrived after great privations. Of the rest of the army that had marched so gleefully to the despoiling of the Holy Lands, few survived. Famine, cold, and heavy rains completed what the sword began. Never had Saladin’s arms known such disaster…”
Excerpt from Chapter IX: “…Now, for the first time, Saladin asserted his independence, proclaimed himself King, and suppressed the name of es-Salih in the prayer and coinage. This year (1175) he was prayed for in all the mosques of Syria and Egypt as sovereign lord, and he issued at the Cairo mint gold coins in his own name: “el-Melik en-Nasir Yusuf ibn Ayyub, ala ghaya,” “The King Strong to Aid, Joseph son of Job; exalted be the Standard!”
Excerpt from Chapter VIII: “…Insurrection and intrigue…troubled the serenity of Egypt. A number of Egyptians and Sudanis, and even some of the Turkman officers and troops, joined in the conspiracy; the Kings of Sicily and Jerusalem were engaged to assist by promises of gold and territory; and preparations were a-foot for a combined attack by sea and land, in which Saladin was to be enmeshed. Fortunately the whole plan was betrayed to the intended victim by a divine to whom the conspirators had unwisely confided their secret. Saladin waited until his information was fully confirmed, and then swooped down upon the plotters, seized the leaders…and had them all crucified on the 6th of April, 1174. The revolting Egyptians and black slaves were exiled to Upper Egypt.”