Photo by Cederic X on Unsplash
Capture of Jerusalem by Saladin
Saladin had ruled Egypt since 1169 and had made the expulsion of Christians from Palestine the goal of his life.
Controlling Egypt and Syria, Saladin surrounded the Crusader kingdom; on July 4, 1187, Saladin won the battle of Hattin, and obtained the surrender of Jerusalem on October 2.
The Christian forces were limited to Antioch, Tripoli, Tyre and Margat.
Pope Gregory VIII wanted to recover the lost territories and for this purpose he sought the help of the kings of England and France.
Henry II of England and Philip Augustus ended their war between them, and imposed the “dîme saladine” on their subjects to finance a new crusade.
However, France and England soon resumed their war. Henry II’s son, Richard the Lionheart, rebelled against his father.
Crusaders taking Acre
Frederick Barbarossa also responded to the Pope’s call; he took the cross from the Cathedral of Mainz on March 27, 1188 and was the first to leave in 1189.
He had to face the opposition of the Byzantine Emperor Isaac II Angel, who had concluded a secret treaty with Saladin.
Frederick crossed the Byzantine lands as fast as he could and took the city of Iconium on May 18, 1189.
Unfortunately for his crusade, Emperor Frederick drowned on June 10, 1190.
Although his army was larger than Saladin’s, his troops dispersed immediately after his death, and those who remained were quickly defeated upon arrival in Syria.
Richard and Phillipe arrived by sea separately in 1191.
On the way, Richard stopped in Cyprus, where he became angry at the treatment he received from the island’s ruler, Isaac Doukas Comnene.
By the end of May, Richard had conquered the entire island, which he later sold to Guy de Lusignan, King of Jerusalem.
Meanwhile, Philip had arrived in Tyre and allied himself with Conrad of Montferrat, who also wished to be the ruler of the holy city.
With the help of the remains of Frederick’s army, they laid siege to San Juan de Acre and Ricardo arrived in June to take command of the siege.
Saladin’s army attempted an advance, but was defeated and the city was taken on July 12.
The three Christian commanders then fought for power among themselves: the German commander Leopold V of Austria wanted to be recognized in the same way as Richard and Philip, but Richard removed Leopold’s banner from the city.
Philip, also tired of Richard’s attitude, left the Holy Land in August.
Peace Treaty between Richard and Saladin
On August 22, Ricardo executed the 3,000 Muslim prisoners he had captured in San Juan de Acre, when he felt that Saladin was not complying with the terms of the city’s surrender.
Richard then decided to take the port of Jaffa to launch an attack on Jerusalem; Saladin tried to avoid it by attacking it at the battle of Arsouf, which Richard won brilliantly.
In January 1192, Richard was ready to march on Jerusalem, but Saladin had obtained reinforcements and fortified the city.
Richard arrived in Jerusalem twice, but had to retreat before Saladin’s great army. Saladin tried to retake Jaffa in July, but was defeated by Richard’s forces on July 31st.
On September 2, 1192, Richard and Saladin concluded a treaty according to which Jerusalem would remain under Muslim control, but unarmed Christian pilgrims would still be allowed.
However, a strip along the Mediterranean Sea from Jaffa to Haifa eventually turned to the Christians. Richard left the Holy Land and returned to the West in late September, completing the Third Crusade.
Foundation of the Teutonic order and the inter-European struggles
The Crusade had more repercussions in Europe than in the Near East: the Germanic people that remained in the Holy Land after the Crusade constituted the base of the Teutonic Knights, who embarked on the Baltic Crusades.
The failure of the Third Crusade led to the call of the Fourth Crusade six years later.
Leopold resented Richard’s behavior at St. John of Acre and took him prisoner in 1192, when Richard crossed Germany into England.
Richard never saw the city of Jerusalem, even as a pilgrim, convinced that God had commanded him not to conquer it.
If he rushed back to the West, it was probably to limit the advances of his brother John the Landless and Philip II, who were taking over his lands during his absence.
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