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Saladin and the Horns of Hattin (1187 A.D.)

By Jack Barkstrom

About eight miles west of the Sea of Galilee, in Israel, lie the remains of an ancient lava flow, split by erosion into two rocky outcrops, known as the Horns of Hattin, for the name of a nearby village. It was said to be the site of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. Seven miles west of Hattin was Saffuriya (La Safouri, Suffuriyah or Sepphoris), just northwest of Nazareth and a little over midway between the cities of Acre or Haifa, on the Mediterranean coast, and the town of Tiberias, on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.  Taking advantage of the natural spring waters at Saffuriya, the Romans had built a town, then augmented the water supply with underground aqueducts and cisterns.  Save for the occasional small cistern, it was the last major water source before entering the dry plains of Turan and Lubiya, on the journey to Tiberias.  

On July 4,1187, a contingent of Christian infantry huddled on the easternmost horn, in hopes that the elevation might offer some protection from the continuous rain of arrows coming from the Muslim archers.  The heights offered no escape from the sun and heat - or from the smoke. During the night or early in the morning, the nearby fields had been set on fire.  From their vantage point, through the smoke, the soldiers could catch glimpses of the blue waters of the Sea of Galilee.  Yet, with Saladin's forces between them and the water, there was little chance of getting a drink. When they received an order to come down off the slopes to rejoin the main force, they refused.  Without water since the previous day, they were thirsty and worn out.

The Chrisitan knights, for all the power their armor projected, needed the infantry that day. The crossbows they carried, more steady and accurate than the bow and arrow shot from the back of a moving horse, offered the best protection against a cavalry charge.  If the enemy stopped to form a solid target or operated from fixed positions, the knights could attack, but their armor was their only protection from arrows or a piecemeal assault. The knights made several charges, but the Muslim cavalry retreated before them.  Opting to target the Christian horses, rather than directly meeting the attack, they let the desert heat, the heavy armor, and the exertions of the attack, wear out their opponents.  A few of the knights managed to break free in one of the charges, but the rest were pushed back and surrounded on the western horn, where they made one last stand with their king. When Saladin called off the attack, there were perhaps 200 knights left, out of an original cavalry force of between 1,200 and 2,200. The Christian infantry force which began the battle may have numbered 32,000.

Alexander the Great had managed to survive two months of the Gedrosian Desert, albeit with a much diminished force. It took just two days for Saladin and the Galilean desert to destroy an army and, with it, a kingdom.

The First Crusade and the Kingdom of Jerusalem

The backdrop to the Battle of Hattin was the First Crusade and the capture of Jerusalem in 1099.  The call for a crusade was made by Pope Urban II in November 1095.  After several false starts, a credible crusader force managed to capture Nicaea in 1097 and Antioch in June 1098.  The force which reached Jerusalem was relatively small, about 12,000, but on June 9, 1099, it began a siege of the city, defended by 20,000 Muslims, commanded by Emir Iftikhar. On July 15th the crusaders moved a siege tower forward and succeeded in gaining possession of the wall at that point.  The defenders ran and the crusaders moved through the rest of the city.  They spent the next three days butchering the population.  The Muslim defenders were beheaded, shot with arrows, or burned, while many of the Jewish inhabitants were burned to death when the main synagogue was deliberately set on fire with them inside. Godfrey de Bouillon assumed the leadership of the newly created kingdom, taking the title Guardian of Jerusalem and Defender of the Holy Sepulcher.  When he died a year later, on July 18, 1100, his brother Baldwin took the title of king. The kingdom became known as the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem.

The capture of the city of Jerusalem had been the original goal of the First Crusade, but the Kingdom of Jerusalem gradually expanded to include much of Palestine and the coast of Syria. It stretched from Darum and Gaza, near the Egyptian border and Elath, on the Gulf of Aqaba, on the south, to Beirut, on the north, largely due to factional fighting among the various Arabian and Muslim tribes inhabiting the region.  There were four principalities, or counties.  The Kingdom of Jerusalem technically encompassed just the city of Jerusalem, the Dead Sea, and the coast region from Beirut south to Egypt. To the north, touching Armenia and Asia Minor, was Antioch. Northeast another hundred miles was Edessa. Just north of Beirut, along the Mediterranean coast was the County of Tripoli.

If the Pope and the crusaders were united by the idea of a threatening Muslim ideology, inspired by its hatred of Christianity, their Islamic enemies had their hands full competing with each other. Regional rivals posed a more immediate and dangerous threat; an abstract campaign against an ideological foe sitting in Rome was something of a luxury.  In fact, crusading zeal among the Christian fighters themselves dropped considerably, once Jerusalem had been captured.  Many of them elected to go home.  The burden of defending the kingdom would eventually be assumed by two volunteer military orders, the Knights Templar (Knights of the Temple of Solomon), officially established in 1119, and the Knights Hospitallers (Knights of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem), formed in 1120.

Organized opposition by Muslim forces began around 1144, when the northernmost Crusader city of Edessa, in northern Mesopotamia, fell to Imad al-Din Zangi  (Zengi or Zengy), the Prince of Mosul (in northern Iraq), on Christmas day. He was assassinated in 1146, and his replacement, Nur al-Din, sought further territorial gains against the Christians.  In Europe, the fall of Edessa and Nur al-Din's policies led to calls for another crusade.  The Second Crusade, even with the participation of the King of France, Louis VII, and Emperor Conrad III of Germany, failed.  In 1148, the crusaders suffered a defeat outside the walls of Damascus, or, more accurately, failed to take the city when their local allies accepted bribes to lift the siege.  The siege had lasted less than a week, starting on July 24th and ending on July 28th.  Nur al-Din would capture the city in 1154. He sought to expand into Egypt, but did not succeed until January 1169, when, after four failed attempts, his general, Asad ud-Din Shirkuh, the uncle of Saladin, took Cairo.

Salah al-Din Yusuf ibn Ayyub

The leader, known to the West as Saladin, was born in Tikrit, Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) in 1138.  His father, Najm ad-Din, was from Tovin in northern Armenia, near Georgia, the member of a prominent Kurdish family there.  Supposedly, Najm ad-Din's brother, Shirkuh, had killed a local commander on the night Yusuf was born, and the brothers were banished from Tikrit.  They moved to Mosul and found service there with the army of Zangi.  Following the capture of Baalbek, in the Bekรกa valley, Saladin's father was placed in command of the city.  He later moved to Damascus, following the death of Zangi in 1146.

Saladin's full name was Salah al-Din Yusuf ibn Ayyub. Yusuf ibn Ayyub meant Yusuf son of Ayyub (his father's name).  Salah al-Din (abreviated to Saladin in the West) was more of an honorary title, meaning "Righteousness of the Faith."

Saladin was thrust into a command position in Egypt by the death of his uncle, Shirkuh.  There was a suspicion that he had been poisoned, since he died just two months after entering Cairo, on March 2, 1169. Nur al-Din appointed Saladin as vizier of Egypt and commander of the Syrian army. Whether Saladin was perceived to be someone who could be easily controlled, he proved increasingly independent. In 1171, he managed the overthrow of the Fatamid dynasty and Egypt fell under the Sunni caliph of Baghdad.  However, relations between Saladin and Nur al-Din began to sour.  Whether finances were a cause, or just a symptom of the rift, Nur al-Din complained once about the small sum that Saladin forwarded from Egypt to Aleppo.  The amount, 100,000 dinars, was barely one percent of what it had cost him to fit out the army for the Egyptian expedition, he observed.  Saladin also seemed rather lackadaisical, when it came to campaigning against the Christians.  In 1171, when Nur al-Din was waiting for Saladin to bring an army from Egypt to help in an attack on Kerak, Saladin suddenly turned his army around and returned to Cairo. Nur al-Din began to suspect that Saladin might want the Christians to hold some of their fortresses, where they would serve as a protective buffer for Saladin's caliphate - against Nur al-Din.  By 1174, Nur al-Din was organizing an army to invade Egypt and oust Saladin. On May 15, 1174, before the expedition could get underway however, he died.

The Gathering Storm...

The death of Nur al-Din eliminated, if only temporarily, the most serious internal political threat. Saladin found 1174 a quiet year on the external political scene as well. The crusader forces, who remained a constant, if unpredictable, threat, were focused on problems surrounding the succession.  King Amalric, the leader of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, died on July 11th, leaving an eleven-year-old son.  In Damascus, Nur al-Din's heir was his eleven-year old son, al-Salih, who was immediately proclaimed ruler of Syria.  Saladin initially pledged his fealty to the new ruler, but then watched as rival claimants began to carve up parts of the kingdom.  When he received word that al-Salih was seriously ill in the fall of 1174, he made plans to seize power in Damascus.  Counting on popular support, he left Egypt with a contingent of just 700 cavalry in October 1174 and  entered Damascus on October 28th. Despite the show of force however, he was not yet ready to dispute the recovering al-Salih's claim to the throne.

In 1180 Saladin secured an armistice with two Christian leaders, King Baldwin and the count of Tripoli, following several years of on-again, off-again fighting between Christians and Muslims. He also  formalized a treaty between Cairo and the Christian Empire of Constantinople in the summer of 1181.  A confrontation with the Christian world was to be avoided at a time when an internal political battle was brewing. Al-Salih died on December 4, 1181. Saladin had to suffer the appointment of a Zangi descendent, Izz al-Din of Mosul, as ruler of Aleppo.  In 1183 however, he decided the time was ripe to deal directly with Aleppo. In May he captured the fortress of Amida, in Diyar Bakr, on the Tigris, followed by Tall Khalid and Aintab.  He arrived at the gates of Aleppo on May 21st, ready to begin a siege.  Although there was some fighting, during which his brother, Taj al-Muluk Buri, was killed, the political leadership decided to negotiate and, on June 11, 1183, the city surrendered.  Harim surrendered on June 22nd.  Syria was now totally under his control.

While Saladin's political justification for expanding his power had been the need to unite the Muslim world against the Christian threat, he seemed in no hurry to move once Aleppo and Syria were his.  A month after Aleppo's surrender, in July 1183, he agreed to a truce with Count Bohemund, leader of the crusader force in Antioch.  He actually did field an army for a campaign, after sending word to the caliph of Baghdad that he was resuming the jihad (holy war), and took it across the Jordan River at the end of September.  Yet, when he confronted the crusader army under Guy of Lusignan near al-Fulah in early October, neither he nor Guy made any move. On October 13th, after a week, he led his army back to Damascus without having fought.  Late in the year he began siege operations against the crusader fortress of Kerak, then called them off.  In 1185 he agreed to another truce.

Assessing the military strengths and weaknesses of the Christian kingdom as its forces assembled before Hattin in 1187 was not easy.  If the capture of Jerusalem in 1099 had suggested to Pope Urban II that Christian arms would make up for any shortcomings on the ideological side in the battle against Islam and that Christianity was now on the march, the crusaders didn't seem inclined to march very far.  Where Alexander had launched his campaign against Persia from the Palestinian coast, the crusaders seemed content to build a string of forts and settle in.  A defensive mind-set may have relieved the pressure on their Muslim opponents, but it also limited their ability to maintain control within their own ranks. Jerusalem, which served as the nominal capital of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, was unable to assert control over the provinces.  They operated as independent kingdoms.  In 1186, when Raymond of Tripoli challenged the crowning of Guy of Lusignan as King of Jerusalem, he asked Saladin for help in response to threats from Guy. Saladin sent troops, along with a promise to send more, if they were needed.  Under normal circumstances, such actions would have resulted in Raymond's removal, but Guy lacked the resources to impose his will, instead choosing to reach an accommodation with Raymond.

The crusaders, in terms of military capabilities, were masters of defense.  Their basic strategy was to hold the kingdom with massive fortifications.  Along the coast and on mountaintops they constructed a series of castles, within sight of each other.  Signal fires were able to warn others of any attack.  The problem of supplying the garrisons with food, crucial to withstanding a siege, was not necessarily solved by the inefficient feudal system of agricultural production brought from Europe, but most sieges were likely to be of short duration.  In addition, a location, with the sea on one side and the desert on the other, created a natural buffer against hostile armies.  Anyone contemplating an attack across the desert had to plan for the difficulties of supply and transport, while an attack by sea would necessitate a fleet.  The sea also offered an alternative means of provisioning.

The knight, the European armored cavalry, represented something of a military paradox.  The thick armor offered protection from most attacks, but was heavy and hot, particularly in the desert country of Palestine and Syria. The weight prevented the knight from serving as an infantryman, since a charge on foot over long, or even short, distances, was virtually impossible.  Desert conditions were not conducive to sustained cavalry charges.  Even if the knights were up to the task, their horses were not.  Without their horses, knights were at a distinct disadvantage.  Tactically, knights were also blessed (or cursed), with a paradoxical disciplinary and motivational trait.  Highly motivated, when it came to attacking, their headstrong nature made them difficult to control, beyond an initial charge.  Bound by a code of honor, they did not want to be seen as cowards.  They were easily goaded by the enemy or their fellow knights to continue charging when a withdrawal was tactically advisable or necessary.  In spite of such disadvantages, the knight on horseback was highly effective in confined spaces against infantry.

The Battle of Hattin highlighted the combat deficiencies of a force which relied too much on the knight.  A more balanced view of the tactical advantages and disadvantages of knightly combat can be gained from the crusader attack on Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade in 1204. The previous year, in July 1203, a crusader army, diverted from its goal of Jerusalem by the Venetians, obtained the surrender of Constantinople after a short siege.  The success was short lived.  The ruler they installed on the throne, Alexius IV, was murdered in January of 1204. In April the crusaders were forced to return to undertake another siege. To aid the attackers, the Venetians had constructed wooden walkways atop the masts of two of their ships, some 95 feet above the decks.  If they could bring the ships close enough to the walls, it might be possible for an attacking knight to jump from the flying bridge unto the ramparts through a gap in the wall.  It would have been tricky enough if the ships had been tied up, however, an ocean swell made the masts sway back and forth. The first man, a Venetian, successfully gained the wall through one of the gaps, only to be killed by the defenders.  When the boat again came close enough, a French knight, Andrew of Dureboise, jumped.  He made it safely across, but stumbled.  The Varangian Guard, not intimidated by his armor, attacked. They were totally unnerved, however, when he began to stand up and draw his sword, since they had struck him a number of normally fatal blows. They fled.

During the earlier siege, in 1203, the mere sight of mounted knights emerging from their ships and forming a line was enough to spook the Greek force waiting on the shore to prevent their landing.  They all ran. There were instances which suggested that the reassuring armor was not the only source of inspiration for the knights.  At one point, during the April 1204 siege, the attackers managed to open a small hole in one of the fortress walls.  It was just large enough for one person to crawl through, as well as to see the large crowd waiting on the other side. One of the French fighting clerics, Aleumes, crawled through the hole anyway.  The Greeks moved toward him after he emerged from the hole. However, when he drew his sword and counterattacked, the defenders scattered.  On May 16, 1204, Baldwin, count of Flanders, was crowned emperor of Constantinople - a month after sacking the city.  His rule would last less than a year.

The Fourth Crusade had defeated the Greeks, but not eliminated them. They entered into an alliance with Johanitza, the king of Bulgaria (northern Thrace).  He had among his subjects, (or allies), a pagan people, the Cumans.  The city of Adrianople (Edirne) declared for Johanitza.  Knowing the city was crucial to any campaign, Baldwin attacked almost as soon as he arrived in March of 1205.

Johanitza moved south when he learned of Baldwin's arrival. With him was a force of 14,000 Cuman horsemen.  Baldwin had just 140 knights.  On April 13th, a small force of Cumans raided the crusader's camp.  The disorganized knights countered with a cavalry charge, which turned into a chase, when the Cumans retreated.  Unexpectedly, the Cumans wheeled and fired several volleys of arrows at their pursuers.  The knights were not hurt, but many of their horses were wounded.  They retreated back to camp.

When they returned to camp the Christian (Latin) knights agreed that the chase had involved a breakdown of discipline. They also agreed that, in the upcoming battle, they were not to charge until ordered.  Unfortunately, one night of discussion was not enough to correct a tactical deficiency.  When they confronted the Cumans the following day, the first to defy the order was Count Louis of Blois.  His pursuit proved too much for the other knights, who could not resist the temptation to join the chase. When the Cumans had strung out their pursuers, they wheeled around and surrounded the Latins. Baldwin survived, but was taken prisoner.  Louis was killed, along with many of the knights.  Knowing that the capture of Adrianople was now impossible, the main force abandoned the siege and marched out of camp under cover of darkness.  Baldwin was never seen alive again. King Johanitza later informed Pope Innocent III that he had died. One story is that an enraged Johanitza ordered his arms and legs chopped off, below the knees and elbows, following which he was left to die in a ravine. He survived three days.

Given their propensity for the undisciplined charge, the crusaders could sometimes surprise with unconventional, even innovative, methods.  In January 1183, Reginald of Chรขtillon, implemented a plan for a raid on Mecca, with the object of removing the body of Muhammad and destroying the Ka'aba, the sacred black stone. Reginald's base was the citadel of Kerak, nicknamed the Crow's Castle, for its location high above a ravine on the ancient King's Highway, just east of the southern end of the Dead Sea, and capital city of the ancient Moabite kingdom. Reginald's plan probably had more of an element of personal revenge than of military logic.  The Muslims had imprisoned him at Aleppo for fourteen years, freeing him in 1176 in exchange for a payment of 120,000 gold dinars.  The Christians may have had mixed feelings about his release.  He was one of the most aggressive fighters, a skill in high demand among the crusaders. Yet he appeared not to know where to draw the line. While ruler at Antioch he had seized the Patriarch there, stripped him and poured honey over him before leaving him exposed to the sun and flies for three days, in retaliation for the Patriarch's refusal to provide funds for a proposed expedition against Cyprus.  The funds were released when the Patriarch was.  Crusader society may have viewed him as a psychopath for the practice of killing prisoners by throwing them off the walls of the Crow's Castle at Kerak onto the rocks below, or it may have viewed tough times as calling for tough measures. Few among his Christian allies were willing to challenge him.

Reginald's operation against Mecca relied on a newly-constructed fleet.  Sea trials took place in the Dead Sea.  The ships were then dismantled and transported south to Elath, about 130 miles, where they were reassembled and launched in the Red Sea.  The fortress of Ailah, near the launching place, was the first target, and two ships were left to conduct operations there. The rest of the fleet sailed south. Initially it met with success, destroying some sixteen Muslim ships and capturing two others. Whether the campaign lost sight of Mecca as its primary goal and deteriorated to little more than a raiding party ravaging the villages found on the coasts of Arabia and Egypt, or whether Reginald planned that from the start, it moved slowly. An Egyptian fleet managed to destroy the flotilla long before it reached Mecca.  The two ships left at Ailah were successfully attacked; the rest were caught and destroyed off Aidhab. All but 170 of the crew were killed.  The captives were taken to Cairo where Saladin ordered them publicly paraded in the major Egyptian cities, following which they were to be decapitated.  Reginald himself had managed to escape however.

Reginald's raid had been an embarrassment, in part because it highlighted a possible military weakness related to a religiously sensitive shrine, Mecca, in part because of its timing.  The raid occurred while Saladin was organizing for a campaign in northern Mesopotamia, trying to overcome what was left of the Zangid opposition.  The political prize was Mosul.  He had tried to capture it in November of 1182, even surrounding it with his army, but it refused to surrender and, in December he was forced to withdraw.  He took consolation from the capture of Sinjar on December 30th.  The caliph in Baghdad however was unwilling to commit to either side. He would not reward Saladin's failure at Mosul with a diplomatic victory.  He tried to placate Saladin with diplomatic credentials for Amida; he said nothing about Mosul. Reginald's activities meant an additional diplomatic setback.  The caliph was critical of Saladin's failure to protect the pilgrimage route to Mecca.  February 1183 was not a time to bring up the subject of Mosul again with the caliph.  Saladin vowed to decapitate Reginald himself when he caught him - if he caught him. A military nuisance was one thing; a political obstacle was another.

Vows of revenge notwithstanding, Saladin made no immediate moves against Reginald or the crusaders.  He waited until November to mount an attack on the fortress at Kerak, weeks after his stalemated confrontation with Guy's army at al-Fuluh had been called off.  After a few weeks besieging Kerak, he called that operation off as well, and returned to Damascus on December 11, 1183.  He attacked Kerak again in August 1184, and again failed to capture it.  The response may seem slow, in light of the outrage over the Mecca raid, but then again Reginald had been attacking Muslim pilgrims and commercial caravans outside his castle since 1176, and nothing had been done up to then about it.

Saladin had his own priorities, as did the caliph in Baghdad.  With Reginald safely contained, for the moment, behind his fortress walls at Kerak, Saladin could turn his attention once more to Mosul.  The Zangid descendents were still strong enough to pressure the caliph, and he responded with a delegation to Saladin. Yet, a threat to organize an alliance against him with the atabeg of Azerbaijan, Pahlavan, struck a raw nerve and provoked a particularly angry response.  Speaking to the Sheikh al-Shuyukh Sadr al-Din, the chief negotiator, Saladin made a threat of his own: "I'll march against you and when I'm through with you I'll march against Pahlavan."  With feelings running so high a renewal of hostilities was just a matter of time. When Saladin learned, in the spring of 1185, that a coalition, including Pahlavan, had indeed been formed, he agreed to a renewal of the Christian truce, collected his own army, and moved on Mesopotamia.  He once again reached Mosul, but, in December, became too ill to continue and abandoned the siege.  Alerted to a possible conspiracy against him by his cousin, he came to terms with the leadership of Mosul on March 3, 1186.  Saladin conceded some rights to Izz al-Din, in return for recognition of Saladin's claims to leadership.  His cousin was found dead the following morning, officially from too much wine.

Despite the treaty, which added northern Mesopotamia and part of Kurdistan to Saladin's Syrian possessions, there was no immediate call for a jihad against the Kingdom of Jerusalem.  In fact, it was in the late summer of 1186 that Saladin would lend his troops to Raymond of Tripoli in his dispute with King Guy and conclude an alliance with the Eastern Christians at Constantinople.  Diplomatically, he was still bound by the armistice he had renewed in 1185.  Honoring that agreement was something the caliph in Baghdad would understand.

What were Saladin's ambitions and how did he assess the political and military situation in 1187, on the eve of Hattin?  He would call for a jihad against the Christians that year, but there have been suggestions that it may have been a calculated move - designed as much to placate political opposition within the recently conquered Muslim lands, as to eliminate foreign believers.  If he was nominally in control of a large territory, Mosul's resistance and the willingness of his lieutenants to join conspiracies, suggested that his political rivals were not totally defeated.  The jihad certainly seemed limited in scope, confined, for the most part, to the crusaders of the Kingdom of Jerusalem.  There was no talk of a campaign directed against Rome itself, in retaliation for, or in response to, Urban II's original 1095 call for a crusade to capture Jerusalem. The first real territorial gains by the Muslim world in Europe would not come until 1453, when the Ottoman Turks, under Mohammed (Mehmed) II, captured Constantinople.

Constantinople and Jerusalem seemed significant to the overall conflict between Christianity and Islam, only if events in Spain were ignored.  In 711 the Christian kingdom of the Visigoths had been brought down when Count Julian, governor of Ceuta, on the Moroccan coast, requested help from the Berber leader Tarik against King Roderick.  Tarik supplied 7,000 soldiers and helped defeat Roderick at Gaudalete.  The Muslims quickly overran most of Spain.  Only a defeat at the hands of Charles Martel, in 732, at Tours, prevented their expanding beyond the Pyrenees into the rest of Europe.  They would hold much of Spain until 1491, when the fortress of Granada fell to Ferdinand.

Whether Saladin wanted to obliterate the entire Kingdom of Jerusalem, he must have realized that, at a minimum, he had to find a permanent solution to the problem Reginald presented. Another raid against Mecca would give his enemies all the fuel needed to revolt.  A siege operation against the fortress at Kerak was unappealing, however, and not likely to be successful.  In fact, an attack on any of the fortresses would be difficult, since individual garrisons were easily capable of withstanding a siege until nearby garrisons could send help.  Kerak itself had enough supplies to last a year.  The problem, in relation to Reginald, or any of the other garrisons, for that matter, was that they were not easily lured far from their protective walls. If Saladin tried to isolate and attack a single garrison, there would be no battle; if he got a battle, it would be with the entire Christian army.  He had no means of forcing them to come out and fight. All he could do was offer a tempting target.

The Storm Breaks...

Early in 1187, a caravan, traveling from Cairo to Damascus, was attacked as it passed the fortress of Kerak. Whether the military escort was killed or captured, all the survivors were imprisoned in the Crow's Castle above.  Saladin's sister may have been among the prisoners. Saladin demanded that Reginald release the prisoners. When he refused, Saladin launched a protest with King Guy in Jerusalem.  It was a clear violation of the treaty. Guy tried to obtain their release, but Reginald rebuffed him as well.  In March Saladin officially proclaimed a jihad.  He renewed his vow to personally revenge himself on Reginald.  He sent a small force to make a demonstration before Kerak, but postponed further military action.

On May 1st, having obtained permission from Raymond of Tripoli for a punitive raid into Galilee, he sent a force of between 6,500 and 7,000 beyond the town of Tiberias.  Raymond had placed two conditions on the raiders.  They were allowed just one day for their raid - they were to be out of his district before sunset - and they were to leave his towns and villages alone.  Raymond sent word to the Templars and Hospitallers, as well as the Archbishop of Tyre, that the raid was coming.

The Muslim force met little opposition for most of the raid and stopped to water its horses at the Spring of Cresson (Kishon), on its way home.  The Grand Masters of the Knights Hospitallers and Templars, in the area to arbitrate Raymond's dispute with Guy, decided to challenge the raiding party, although their force included just 140 knights and 350 infantry. (Whether the reason for their response was an attack by the Muslim force on the mediation delegation, which resulted in a few deaths, is unclear.)  The size of the raiding force was enough to give them pause, but the Master of the Temple, Gerard de Ridefort, is said to have shamed them into attacking.  Not waiting for the infantry, he led the charge.  Saladin's force opened their lines to allow the knights through, then closed in behind them. Gerard and two others somehow survived and made their escape.  Everyone else was killed, then beheaded.  The heads were displayed as trophies on the ends of swords. The reconnaissance in force might have been officially ignored, if the parties wanted to avoid war, but a defeat as decisive as Cresson, particularly one involving the renowned orders, was a public humiliation which suggested weakness.  It would be dangerous to let such insolence go unpunished.

King Guy issued a call for the knights to assemble at Acre.  He met Raymond at Nablus for a public reconciliation, followed by a procession in Jerusalem. Such displays were not enough to restore Raymond's reputation among the knights.  Many still considered him a traitor for his involvement with Saladin.  His wife had remained behind at Tiberias. Other than assembling the Christian forces at Acre and requesting that the True Cross, the relic believed to have been used in the crucifixion of Christ, be sent from Jerusalem, Guy had yet to formulate any specific plan of attack.  Saladin created one for him. He moved his army to the south end of the Sea of Galilee on June 26th, then sent a force into the town of Tiberias. It was plundered, but the nearby fortress, where Raymond's wife, the Countess Eschiva, had retreated, was not attacked. She sent word to Guy asking for help.

Saladin's occupation of Tiberias divided the Christian camp, which had assembled at Saffuriya on July 2nd, after leaving Acre.  Some thought they should remain at Saffuriya, forcing Saladin to bring his forces across desert country to attack them. At least they had water there. Raymond advised this course, since the castle was strong enough to resist an attack. In light of his recent involvement with Saladin, this was regarded as suspicious and cowardly.  Others thought that duty required them to take the initiative and advance against the Muslim force. Raymond's wife needed to be rescued.  Among those urging an advance were Reginald, the master of Kerak, and Gerard de Ridefort, the Templar Grand Master and survivor of Cresson.  Guy decided that they would attempt a rescue and, on the morning of July 3rd, they marched out of Saffuriya.

Estimates of the size of the two armies have varied.  The crusaders had between 1,200 and 2,200 knights against a Muslim cavalry force of 12,000.  Infantry estimates range from 32,000 on the Christian side against a Muslim infantry force of 38,000, down to 18,000 crusader infantry against a force of 20,000 under Saladin.

As they left Suffuriya, Raymond was at the head of the column and the cavalry force of Hospitallers and Templars, together with a light cavalry force of Turcopole archers and skirmishers, brought up the rear. The Bishop of Acre carried the True Cross. They were left alone for the first five or six miles. Then Saladin's cavalry began harassing both the leading column and the knights protecting the rear, mostly with volleys of arrows. The knights were protected by their armor, but the horses, in a concession to the desert heat, were exposed.  The Muslim cavalry did not offer a solid line against which the Christian knights could have organized an attack. Instead, they rode close enough to the knights to make them turn around, in expectation of an attack, then retreated. The Turcopole light cavalry offered an effective counter to the charges, but, with less protective armor, were vulnerable to Saracen arrows. Once they were eliminated the knights had little protection. The defensive response slowed the rearguard and it began to lose contact with the infantry marching ahead.  Gerard, who had vigorously argued for the advance the night before, now sent word to Guy, requesting a halt for the day.  Whether it was a request, which Guy agreed to, or an ultimatum, which he was forced to accept, is unclear.  Raymond, further ahead, sent word back to keep moving. When the temporary halt turned into an order to make camp for the night, the army was close to the village of Marescallia.  Guy's concern for the suffering of his soldiers was misplaced, since there was no water at the spot where they set up the camp. The same was not true for Saladin's forces.  He used camels to bring 70 loads of water to his troops, in addition to 400 loads of arrows.

During the night, the Muslims moved close to the camp. The following morning, July 4th, the crusaders tried to reach a local spring for water, but it was dry.  Saladin ordered his forces to form an attack line, perhaps around 9:00 am.  They fired several volleys of arrows, but retreated when the Christians charged them.  Guy ordered an advance towards the Horns of Hattin, about a mile away.  The infantry were able to reach the valley between the horns.  Once through however, the sight of the blue waters of the Sea of Galilee, some eight miles to the east, proved too much for some.  They broke formation to head toward the Sea.  The Muslim force moved to block them.  They retreated up the slopes of the eastern horn, where they remained. The remaining force, including Raymond and many of the knights, stayed with Guy, but were forced back onto the western horn.

Saladin finally ordered his forces to advance on the small group left.  The Christians turned on them and charged, beating back the attack. They retreated, then attacked once or twice more. When the crusaders retreated after the final attack, the Muslims followed, eventually overwhelming them.  The only bright spot for the Christians was the charge of Raymond's knights. The Muslims opened their ranks, but then failed to close behind them fast enough. Rather than fight their way back to Guy's lines, he and his knights continued into the now-dry gorge of Wadi Hamman. The battle was lost, he told them. If they could find a way out they were free to go.  Those who made it through the lines rode on to Tyre. There were suspicions that Saladin allowed his sometime ally to escape, perhaps fulfilling some unwritten agreement.  Behind them, the main force fought on, Guy's red battlefield tent the only indication that the defenders had yet to concede.  Finally even that position was overrun.  The tent came down, the signal for Saladin, that he had achieved victory.

The Aftermath...

The small Christian force had been unable to protect the Bishop of Acre, the guardian of the True Cross.  He was killed and the Cross seized.  The Grand Master of the Hospitallers also had been killed in the fighting. Raymond, despite his battlefield escape, would die three months later, possibly from the wounds he received.  Saladin had the surviving knights rounded up.  King Guy was brought to his tent, along with Reginald.  He offered Guy a drink of water and Guy, in turn, offered the water to Reginald. Islamic custom dictated that a captor who offered a prisoner food and drink, in the manner of a host, could not then kill him.  Saladin was quick to point out a technicality. He had only offered the drink to Guy. Shortly after, Guy was taken out of the tent, leaving Reginald alone with Saladin.  Saladin asked him to convert to Islam. He refused. Whether the refusal prompted an immediate response, at some point Saladin angrily drew his sword and brought it down on Reginald's shoulder, deep enough to sever his arm.  One of the slaves present then decapitated him.  Guy was brought back in and, to his relief, was told that Saladin did not plan to kill him. Kings did not kill other kings, he said.  Perhaps Saladin felt some sense of obligation to Guy, since his decisions had played a part in delivering the Christian army into his hands.  Saladin also would later release most of the ordinary knights.

Saladin was not so lenient with the knights of the military orders.  He had ensured their survival by offering a reward of fifty dinars for each captive Templar and Hospitaller taken alive and brought to his headquarters. With some of his soldiers as an audience, he allowed some of his entourage to use their swords against a prisoner of choice.  In all 200 prisoners were executed.  The Master of the Temple, Gerard de Ridefort, again escaped death. He might prove valuable enough to ransom or exchange.  His value would come to an end in October 1189. Captured during a charge while the crusaders were besieging Acre, he was executed.

The Christian defeat left many of the network of fortresses virtually undefended, since the garrisons had sent a large portion of their fighters in response to Guy's call to defend the kingdom.  Tiberias surrendered on July 5th, followed by Acre on July 9th.  The ports of Ascalon and Tyre held out, but most others capitulated within two months, as did the inland fortresses.  Reginald's castle at Kerak resisted, despite his death, along with Shaubak. Saladin was able to exchange Guy for the town of Ascalon, which surrendered on September 5th, although he would not be released until July 1189.  On Friday, October 2, 1187, the garrison of Jerusalem also surrendered.  This time, there would be no massacres or looting.  The church which had been built in place of the Dome of the Rock was demolished and replaced with a mosque.  The al Aqsa mosque, which the Templars had used as a headquarters and stables, and further defiled with a latrine, was purified and restored as well. The Church of the Holy Sepulcher, however, was left alone.

The decision to take Jerusalem, the official goal of Saladin's jihad, while a major political victory over Rome, came at a price. Not only did Pope Gregory VIII launch the Third Crusade in response to the fall, but also the city of Tyre, which still held out, was given time to reinforce its defenses.  As a port city, it could be more easily re-supplied. It also served as a refuge for those fleeing the surrendering towns. Finding his own soldiers losing interest in the siege, Saladin lifted it and withdrew on January 1, 1188.  Tripoli and Antioch were still in Christian hands, as well.

The Christian cause, reinvigorated by a new crusade, undertook the recapture of Acre in August 1189.  Still, the Muslim defenders held out for two years, not surrendering until July 12, 1191.  This, despite the fact that the Christians had been bolstered with the arrival of Philip II of France and Richard (the Lionheart), of England.

Following the capture of Acre Philip left for France. Richard took what remained of the Christian army south along the coast, toward Jaffa, a preliminary move before an attack on Jerusalem.  At Arsuf, on September 7th, Saladin attempted to repeat the tactics of Hattin, attacking the columns with mounted archers.  Hospitaller and French knights protected the rear, as at Hattin.  Frustrated for most of the march, a contingent of Hospitallers finally charged, surprising the attackers.  A second charge pushed the Muslims back.  As the infantry entered Arsuf, Richard personally led the third charge. The result, for the day, was a serious setback for Saladin.  He had lost some 7,000 to the Christian charges.  Although it was a tactical defeat, his army resumed its harassing tactics the following day. Richard captured Jaffa on September 9th and Ascalon on January 20, 1192.

Richard may have instilled a better sense of discipline among his knights, but he also was marching along the coast, where supporting ships were available to provide water.  Saladin probably had become careless.  Richard needed something more than a tactical victory however. Toward the end of the summer Saladin's forces recaptured Jaffa, forcing Richard to return.  His arrival was enough to spook the Muslim troops, who, facing a solid Christian line, refused to charge.  Richard even mocked them, riding alone in front of their lines.  If his display of bravery angered Saladin, who left for Jerusalem, it was not enough to salvage a failed campaign.  On September 2, 1192, Richard signed a three-year truce with Saladin, without having captured Jerusalem.

Saladin, toward the end of the year, wrote to his brother in Yemen, asking for supplies for a possible pilgrimage to Mecca that year.  His staff worried that the journey might be problematic for the caliph of Baghdad and there were more pressing problems to deal with in Damascus.  He returned there on November 4, 1192.  On February 21, 1193, he awoke with a fever. Over the next week-and-a-half his condition deteriorated.  On March 4, 1193, a Wednesday, he died.


Suggestions for further reading.

David Eggenberger, "A Dictionary of Battles," Thomas Y. Crowell Company, (New York 1967).

Andrew S. Ehrenkreutz, "Saladin," State University of New York Press, (Albany, NY 1972).

Lee Hancock, "Saladin and the Kingdom of Jerusalem: The Muslims Recapture the Holy Land in AD 1187," The Rosen Publishing Group, Inc., (New York, NY 2004).

Archer Jones, "The Art of War in the Western World," University of Illinois Press, (Urbana, IL 1987).

John Keegan, "A History of Warfare," Alfred A. Knopf, (New York 1993).

Thomas F. Madden, ed. "Crusades: The Illustrated History," The University of Michigan Press, (Ann Arbor, MI 2004).

Jonathan Phillips, "The Fourth Crusade and the Sack of Constantinople," Viking, (New York, NY 2004).

James Reston, Jr., "Warriors of God: Richard the Lionheart and Saladin in the Third Crusade," Doubleday, (New York, NY 2001).

William Seymour, "Decisive Factors in Twenty Great Battles of the World," St. Martins' Press (New York 1988).

Michael Spilling, ed., "Battles of the Medieval World 1000 - 1500: From Hastings to Constantinople," Barnes & Noble, (New York 2006).

Alison Weir, "Eleanor of Aquitaine: A Life," Balantine Books, (New York 1999).