Saladin

Saladin

Saladin and Richard the Lionheart are two names that tend to dominate the Crusades. Both have gone down in Medieval history as great military leaders though their impact was limited to the Third Crusade.

Saladin was a great Muslim leader. His real name was Salah al-Din Yusuf. He united and lead the Muslim world and in 1187, he recaptured Jerusalem for the Muslims after defeating the King of Jerusalem at the Battle of Hattin near the Lake of Galilee. When his soldiers entered the city of Jerusalem, they were not allowed to kill civilians, rob people or damage the city. The more successful Saladin was, the more he was seen by the Muslims as being their natural leader.

Saladin the Islam Leader

The Christians of western Europe were stunned by the success of Saladin. The pope, Gregory VIII, ordered another crusade immediately to regain the Holy City for the Christians. This was the start of the Third Crusade. It was led by Richard I (Richard the Lionheart), Emperor Frederick Barbarossa of Germany and King Philip II of France. These were possibly the three most important men in western Europe - such was the importance of this crusade. It was to last from 1189 to 1192.

Frederick was drowned on his march across Europe. He was 70 years of age and his death shocked his army and only a small part of it continued to the Middle East.

Richard, Philip and their men travelled by boat. They stopped their journey in modern day Sicily. In March 1191, Philip then sailed to the port of Acre which was controlled by the Muslims. This was an important port to capture for the Christians as it would allow them to easily land their ships and it was also the nearest big port to Jerusalem. Acre was besieged. Philip's men were joined by Richard's. 

He had captured Cyprus first before moving on to Acre. The port could not cope against such a force and in July 1191, it fell to the Christians. However, the siege had had its impact on Philip - he was exhausted and left for France. Richard was left by himself. While in control of Acre, the Christians massacred 2000 Muslim soldiers who they had captured. Saladin had agreed to pay a ransom for them but somehow there was a breakdown in the  process of payment and Richard ordered their execution.

Richard was determined to get to Jerusalem and he was prepared to take on Saladin. The march south to Jerusalem was very difficult. The Crusaders kept as near to the coast as possible to allow ships to supply them. It was also slightly cooler with a coastal breeze. Regardless of this, the Christians suffered badly from the heat and lack of fresh water. At night when the Crusaders tried to rest, they were plagued by tarantulas. Their bites were poisonous and very painful. 

Both sides fought at the Battle of Arsur in September 1191. Richard won but he delayed his attack on Jerusalem as he knew that his army needed to rest. He spent the winter of 1191 to 1192 in Jaffa where his army regained its strength. Richard marched on Jerusalem in June 1192.  

However, by now even Richard the Lionheart was suffering. He had a fever and appealed to his enemy Saladin to send him fresh water and fresh fruit. Saladin did just this - sending frozen snow to the Crusaders to be used as water and fresh fruit. Why would Saladin do this?

There are two reasons. First, Saladin was a strict Muslim. One of the main beliefs of Islam  is that Muslims should help those in need. Secondly, Saladin could send his men into Richard's camp with the supplies and spy on what he had in terms of soldiers, equipment etc.

What they found was that Richard only had 2,000 fit soldiers and 50 fit knights to use in battle. With such a small force, Richard could not hope to take Jerusalem even though he got near enough to see the Holy City. Richard organised a truce with Saladin - pilgrims from the west would once again be allowed to visit Jerusalem without being troubled by the Muslims. Neither Richard or Saladin particularly liked the truce but both sides were worn out and in October 1192, Richard sailed for western Europe never to return to the Holy Land.

However, for Richard the adventure was not over. On his journey back to England, his ship got wrecked in a storm. He found that he had to travel through Austria. This country was owned by a sworn enemy of Richard - Duke Leopold of Austria. Leopold had originally been a leading member of the Third Crusade but he had been ridiculed by Richard who did nothing to stop his men making fun out of Leopold. They called him "the sponge" because he drank so much and was drunk too often! Leopold had lost a lot of prestige and now he had a chance to avenge himself. Richard was betrayed to Leopold who held him captive for two years until a ransom was paid for him. Richard arrived home in 1194.

Richard was known as the "Lionheart" by his people. Even the Muslims praised him. The Muslim writer Baha wrote about Richard while the Third Crusade was going on:

    "......a very powerful man of great courage........a king of wisdom, courage and energy.....brave and clever."






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