Salah ad-Din 3: The Horns of Hattin

Gustave Doré Battle of Hattin


  • Cobb, Paul, M. The Race for Paradise: An Islamic History of the Crusades. Oxford University Press, 2016.

  • Lēv, Yaacov. Saladin in Egypt. Brill, 1999.

  • Lyons, Malcolm Cameron & Jackson, D.E.P. Saladin: The Politics of the Holy War. Cambridge University Press, 1982.

  • Mallet, Alex. "A Trip Down the Red Sea with Reynald of Chatillon,"Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society. Vol. 18, No. 2 (Apr., 2008).

  • Man, John. Saladin: The Life, the Legend, and the Islamic Empire. Bantam Press, 2015.


When the troublesome Reynald de Chatillon had been released from Aleppo in 1176, he had found himself without wife or principality. The former was dead and the latter passed on to her child from a previous marriage, but Reynald was not quite ready to consign himself to a monastery. As we heard last episode, he would very quickly take part in Baldwin’s defeat of Salah ad-Din near Ascalon, but he would make other moves too. He would become a third husband to Etiennette de Millie and through that marriage would become Lord of Outrejourdain with possession of Kerak castle and command over the road from Damascus to Mecca with all its tempting caravans of merchants and of pilgrims. 

In 1181, Reynald raided south, as far south along the pilgrimage routes as Tayma, where he attacked one of those caravans. He had to turn back when his own lands were in turn threatened by Salah ad-Din’s nephew, Farrukh-Shah, but the apparently aborted raid was annoyance enough to the sultan in itself. Farrukh-Shah even being required to intervene here had been the reason he hadn’t been able to help isolate Aleppo when Nur ad-Din’s son had died there last episode. And Reynald, who had wasted 16 years inside, wasn’t done yet. 

It’s sometimes suggested that his real goal in the raid had been Medina, that Farrukh-Shah’s approach brought him back prematurely or perhaps that this attempt was the trial run for a later effort in that direction. The chronicles of Micheal the Syrian on the other hand have it that the intention was simply to prevent Salah ad-Din from uniting Syria, a goal in which he was, for now, successful. Either way, his next raid was to be much more daring.

This time, in the spring of 1183, he arranged for five ships, disassembled into sections, to be carried across the Negev Desert, a fantastic undertaking that may have taken upwards of 2,000 camels to accomplish. They made for Ayla at the northern tip of the Gulf of Aqaba, and they isolated the castle there, sealing the news of their arrival behind its walls. Then, while two of the pieced together ships remained to blockade Ayla, the other three journeyed into the Red Sea.

Their first port of call was Aydabh, that same city from which David ben Maimon departed a few episodes ago and which the traveller Ibn Jubayr would soon be visiting. There, he’d hear that these attackers had burned sixteen ships, captured a pilgrim vessel, and pillaged a caravan coming from the Nile before moving on. They’d crossed the Red Sea to its eastern shore, landed at Rabigh, and headed inland towards Medina itself, but then they were caught.

When news of what was happening had gotten out - it’s hard to be entirely secretive with 2,000 camels - Salah ad-Din’s admiral had gone to Ayla first, overcome the two ships there, and relieved the castle. He’d found the wreckage the remaining three had left in Aydabh and crossed the sea after them, doing so much more quickly with better knowledge of the waters and their winds. He and his men had found the three ships at Rabigh and gone hunting ashore, bribing local Bedouin to show them the way the invaders had gone, and chasing them for five days and nights in the desert until they had gathered up every last one, killed or taken as prisoners. 

Ibn Jubayr said that he saw some of these prisoners being very publicly carried off to different cities to be killed. They had seen something of the ways to Islam’s most important sites. They had caused some damage to Salah ad-Din’s standing as protector of Red Sea and guarantor of the pilgrims’ safety. Though there appears to have been some discussion of the matter, perhaps some questioning of the correctness of their execution, they could not be allowed to live. Every one of them was executed. But not Reynald. Likely remaining at Ayla and slipping away for home in the opportune moment, Reynald de Chattilon survived all of this having stirred up quite a bit of trouble, and with more yet to come.

Hello and welcome. My name is Devon, and this is Human Circus: Journeys in the Medieval World, the podcast that follows travellers through medieval history and shows just how interconnected that medieval world really was. And this is the part in the podcast where I inform you that there is a Patreon for this podcast, locatable at, that even at this time of year when soaring temperatures may ignite within you an unseemly rage toward your fellow citizens, this Patreon will be uniformly delicious and refreshing. Or at least it will support me continuing to produce this podcast, which is maybe just as good. And on that note, I’d like to send out thanks to my newest patron. Thank you, J Glister! 

I’ll also note here that this is a bit of a shorter episode. I’ve been thinking of experimenting a little with length, trying to work with something more manageable that I can get out more consistently, more reliably, and without letting the various other balls one is always juggling hit the ground. So we’ll see how this works out.

Now, back to the story.

Last episode, Salah ad-Din was attempting to carry out a Syrian takeover, to unite it with Egypt beneath his rule, lobbying the Abbasid caliph in Baghdad, launching military campaigns, and dealing with threats from Assassins, from remnants of Nur ad-Din’s world in Aleppo and Mosul, and from various figures from the crusader states. As you heard a moment ago, those threats were not going away. 

Not everything was going so badly for Salah ad-Din though. It had been around eight and a half years since he had confidently proclaimed “we have only to do the milking and Aleppo will be ours,” and now in 1183, at long last the milking looked to be done. That lobbying of Baghdad had continued but had not borne fruit. He had waited in writing for the keys to Aleppo and Mosul, had complained of the other rulers of the region all whiling away their days at the feasting table or on the polo field while he alone stood as defender of the faithful. But if a city like Amida had been granted to him, those richer, more important prizes had not. What had worked in the end was not threat of force, which was attempted again but earned little more than what proved to be a fatal wound to a family member’s leg, and it was not an order from above, from the caliph. It was dealing directly with the man who’d taken charge of Aleppo, Nur ad-Din’s nephew, Izz ad-Din Mas’ud.

Izz ad-Din has been feeling less than enthusiastic about his position in the city for some time now. He’d realized that in coming there he had not gained in strength or prestige. He had overextended himself and brought on an unenviable load of expenses. He was quite open to the possibility of a mutually beneficial arrangement, and, unbeknownst to the city’s staunch defenders, he had been pursuing one with his besieger. The deal that was agreed to, allowed him to go in peace, still in possession of much of the citadel’s stores, and with new lands waiting for him in the bargain. When word reached him that those new lands had been turned over by Salah ad-Din’s representatives as promised, he departed, and a surprised city awoke to find a new flag flying over the citadel.

Salah ad-Din thought the city cheaply bought, saying of Aleppo that it was the “eye of Syria and the citadel ... its pupil.” He had, he reckoned, “taken the dinar and given … the dirhams;” he had received gold where he had paid in silver. And considering the troubles he gone to thus far, I suppose he was right, even if his administrators likely disagreed. Allowing Izz ad-Din to take so much with him, actually buying what remained, it was all in keeping with his reputation for generosity, and it had its benefits - he needed willing friends and servants, not embittered rebels to be - but it stretched a budget that gives every indication of already running pretty thin.

I doubt he worried much about such things though. Let Al-Fadil and his other advisors concern themselves with that. Izz ad-Din, one of his greatest potential rivals was now promised to bring men when he called and had, despite Salah ad-Din’s generosity, suffered considerable damage to his reputation through the deal they’d just struck. The people of Aleppo mocked him as one less fit to rule than to launder, and they made jokes about the donkey who had sold fresh milk for sour. Meanwhile, the Ayyubid Sultanate which Salah ad-Din ruled, from which he could in theory summon fighters as needed, now stretched from northern Syria down through Egypt, and down the coast of Arabia to Aden. And that left the crusader states hemmed in on all sides against the waters of the Mediterranean.

Within those crusader states, there was understandable concern at this turn of events. They’d watched, finally unable to prevent their enemy from uniting the lands all around them. Bohemond of Antioch had been to see Baldwin the Leper at Acre to discuss the matter, and instead of intervening, they’d looked to their own defences, preparing for clashes to come. It was the summer of 1183, and Salah ad-Din was writing that the Armenians were next, that he had plans to anger the unbelievers, that he would celebrate the recent unification by attacking the crusader states. Aleppo was at last his, and he was, just maybe, ready for the next chapter.

It did not start with a bang, an overwhelming triumph of a campaign season. That fall, Salah ad-Din mustered his forces and marched out on the offence, and his opponents gathered themselves under the sickly Baldwin’s lieutenant, Guy de Lusignan. The two great armies closed, circled, and skirmished, very roughly in the region between Nazareth and the Sea of Galilee, or just to the south. They camped in close proximity to one another and maneuvered about in an ungainly dance of large forces, their horses, support, and baggage. Their people, on both sides, grumbled of the leadership’s unwillingness to press the attack. William of Tyre complained that Guy was “a man totally useless in affairs of this magnitude.” Salah ad-Din’s men raided throughout the region, but he had been waiting for his enemy to make an ill-advised lunge and refused to commit to one himself. He also wouldn’t push his men further than necessary, or invite their displeasure or abandonment. In October, he drew back, hoping to provoke a chase. When none came, he continued his withdrawal to Damascus before trying a new approach.

This time the target was east of the Dead Sea and further south, where Salah ad-Din aimed to rotate his Egyptian troops. The target was Reynald de Chatillon’s plateau-top Kerak where Reynald notably refused the townspeople access to the castle and chose to mount his defence on the slope outside. That slope couldn’t be held though, and Salah ad-Din’s men were able to sweep into the town on the heels of its retreating defenders, almost repeating the trick with the castle itself but kept outside by a desperate effort on the part of Reynald and his men to hold and then destroy the bridge before they could advance over it. Mangonels were constructed and put to use hurling rocks against the castle, though notably not against the tower where a pair of royal newlyweds were staying, a nice gesture on his part after having been sent out food from the wedding feast - it was all very decent. Those new fighters arrived from Egypt. But Salah ad-Din did not remain to press the siege. Relief was coming for Reynald. The army was tired. Sieges were unpopular with the men, and he seems to have been content to plunder the town, pick up new holy war credentials with which to posture, and to return to Damascus to regroup and wait out a wet and snowy season in Syria.

The summer of 1184 saw a return to Reynald’s lands, a retaking of the town around Kerak and renewed bombardment by mangonel. But again, as a relieving army approached, the siege was abandoned and a new dance commenced between the armies. And again, Salah ad-Din did not choose direct confrontation. As much as he had long positioned himself as the prosecutor of holy war, he was not all in on the effort. He criss-crossed the Jordan on probing, plundering raids but he did not bring the region to a footing of open warfare. 

The traveller Ibn Jubayr, who was shortly to depart from Damascus for Acre, noted that even as Salah ad-Din campaigned, caravans still passed from Egypt to Syria and Muslim and Christian merchants moved between Damascus and the coast. Dues were paid as normal, and the lands of the crusader states were felt to be “extremely safe.” In amongst the skirmishes and the simmering threats of one really telling battle breaking out, regular life carried on, among the people region and also among the politics to Salah ad-Din’s east. While he may have been genuine in his desire to win great victories in the west and ride on until his horses hooves were washed in the waters of the Mediterranean and there was no Baldwin, no Raymond, no Reynald, or Guy left to oppose him, the choice was not entirely his to make. 

He still had to manage the affairs of his realm because though in theory its cities were his to call upon for men and resources as he liked, in practice it was a tangled patronage system and one which frequently demanded his attention. The doling out of land was a complex business that required consideration of individuals’ strengths or ambitions, loyalties earned, promises made, family connections and diplomacy. For example, there was his nephew Al-Muzaffar Umar, known for his obstinacy and highly attached to Egypt and the endowments he’d been given there. The news that one of Salah ad-Din’s sons would soon be replacing him in Egypt did not sit well at all. He made noises about gathering men for an expedition into the Maghreb, and this was more alarming a possibility than it sounds. A popular man with the Egyptian troops, he could have well drawn many recruits away and Salah ad-Din worried his life would then be “spent in collecting men” with little freedom to go and actually do anything with them. A solution was in the end found, substantial endowments in Syria that offered the possibility of expansion north and east, and Al-Muzaffar Umar was made content. But a solution had needed to be found.  

Salah ad-Din was also going to be drawn back into still more struggles with the Mosulis, engage in further badgering of Baghdad, enough of the latter for Al-Fadil to caution him that “the water in the spring must be allowed to fill up.” And while he was encamped near the present-day Syria-Turkey border, on December the 3rd, a fever was going to take hold of him.

For that and what came after, we’ll take a quick break.


When Salah ad-Din fell ill, it was with fever, bodily pains, digestive problems, and spots which broke out on his face. Al-Fadil, putting a rosy glow on things, had the sultan rejecting a shoulder litter that had been readied for him, saying “he then found strength from his noble soul and ordered a mule litter, then … found strength from his noble limbs and ordered horses to be brought up” to ride. But Al-Fadil, being absent, was misinformed, for those “noble limbs” were in worse shape than he’d said. 

Doctors were summoned to Salah ad-Din’s camp near Harran, and he was sick enough to dictate his will. By late January, Al-Fadil was writing from Damascus that the city was full of rumours and anxiety, “especially when doctor after doctor [was] seen going off and one messenger arrive[d] after another, but the news that they [brought was] concealed.” He worried that Salah ad-din should be stuck in camp “beneath a tent whose pole will not hold in the winter” and with but a weak army, his forces having mostly dispersed. And rumours were not only rife in Damascus. Word was spreading of this sudden weakness. Seljuks were controlling the roads and there was fear of raids from the coast. Doctors worried that there was little hope. Things were sufficiently bad that when Salah ad-Din’s wife, Iṣmat ad-Dīn Khātūn, died at the end of January, the news was kept from him for fear of what it might do. Almost every day during this period of his sickness, he had paper brought and would write a letter to Iṣmat, now dead. He wouldn’t actually learn of her death until March. 

That was when he emerged from his illness, having arranged peace with Mosul and having promised that were he to survive, he would take Jerusalem. As was written of him, “that sickness was sent by God to turn away sins … and to wake him from the sleep of forgetfulness.” As he recovered but was still in pain and uneasy about his chances, Al-Fadil is said to have pressed the matter further. He was to promise to God that were he to fully recuperate he would never again fight his fellow Muslims; he would dedicate himself to Holy War and to the promise that were he to capture either Raymond of Tripoli or Reynald de Chatillon, he would kill them.

Very likely if he’d died that spring of 1186, he would not have been remembered as he is now, might instead have been seen as a man who’d done little more than use religious justifications for distinctly earthly personal gains. As I’ve said a few times now, his promise was not yet fulfilled.

Maybe, what with the recent scare of sickness and the vows spoken, Salah ad-Din didn’t need another nudge, but in early 1187, he got one anyways. In violation of the existing truce, Reynald de Chatillon again stirred from his castle to stir up trouble. This time, he attacked a caravan of 400 camels, killed its escort, captured their mounts, and led away the survivors into captivity. When repayment and release were demanded, he offered nothing. “Beseech your Muhammad to deliver you,” he’s said to have defiantly replied, but his lands were going to be raided in return, their crops destroyed, houses burned, people taken away, and there was more to come. Again, according to the sources, Salah ad-Din promised he would kill this man when he could.

By summer of 87, Salah ad-Din was mustering in large numbers near Busra, close to Syria’s borders with Jordan. He had Taqi al-Din with troops from Mardin and Mosul; there were men from Sinjar, Nisibin, Amida, Irbil, and Diyar Bakr, an Aleppan army, and one from Egypt. Pope Urban would be informed that the army, all told, included 80,000 men, which of course doesn’t quite add up, but multiple sources indicate 12,000 horsemen and innumerable irregulars, and it seems generally agreed that they substantially outnumbered whatever could be gathered against them.

The question was what to do with this large force. By one account, Salah ad-Din and his advisors and emirs did not entirely agree. There were those who urged diplomacy and acceptance of the offers they were receiving of prisoners to be released. Others suggested raids. One, unnamed, wanted to march forwards through their enemies’ lands, and, quote, “if any Frankish army stands before us, we shall meet them… For the people of the east curse us and say: ‘Salah ad-Din abandoned the fight against the infidels and came to attack the Muslims.’ My advice is that we should do something to establish our own [defence] and check the[ir] tongues.” As for Salah ad-Din himself, he is said to have finally wanted a decisive battle, for, quote, “affairs do not run according to human desire nor do we know how much is left of our lives.”

In whatever Salah ad-Din attempted, he had the right leader now on the other side of the board. After the death of Baldwin the Leper and then the boy king who had followed him, some underhanded intriguing had resulted in Guy de Lusignan taking the throne, weak, ineffectual, and disrespected as he may have been, and the much more formidable Raymond of Tripoli had nearly been permanently alienated in the process.

So there the two sides were, Salah ad-Din west of the Sea of Galilee and with good access to water, and Guy, at Sepphoris, northwest of Nazareth, and with him the masters of the Templars and the Hospitallers, the lords of Caesarea, Tripoli, and Kerak, and carrying their True Cross, the Bishop of Acre.

So far, it was all much as it had been on Salah ad-Din’s last two advances, his position and the enemy’s, but before he had then turned south. This time, it would be different. 

Guy did not seem to think so though. As had worked well enough for him on previous occasions, he sat and he waited. Maybe Salah ad-Din would again avoid a direct clash. 

At first, it seemed he might be right. Salah ad-Din attempted to draw him out onto unfavourable ground, advancing towards, but not actually attacking, his camp, and then writing that his opponent had been unwilling to fight when really it was more a case of Guy being unwilling to have that fight in that place. But Salah ad-Din too had his ideas of where he would like the battle to be. He just needed to arrange matters so it could happen there. He needed a provocation to draw them away from their place of safety.

On the 2nd of July, he, his guard, and a team of sappers attacked nearby Tiberias. He turned down offers of payment for peace from the garrison, brought down a tower, took the town, and surrounded the citadel and within it Raymond of Tripoli’s wife and her four sons. He allowed messengers to scamper off, and he settled in as if to say, “Well? What now?” 

This “what now” has been depicted in a few different  ways. There are dramatic scenes of council taken and discussion of what was to be done in response to Salah ad-Din’s threat. In some, Raymond was given the voice, perhaps unlikely given his wife’s position, of caution. Abandon Tiberias, he is to have said, for once Salah ad-Din had captured it, many of his men would simply be satisfied and would go on their way. In this version, he is then shamed by Reynald and accused of siding with Salah ad-Din until he agrees to go along with any attack. In others, Raymond is the one clamouring for an immediate intervention, saying “If Tiberias falls, all our lands are taken.” In the end, Guy, who after his previous passivity was under considerable pressure to do something, anything, lurched into action and off with his men he went on the 3rd of July, marching toward Tiberias under the summer sun. Which was going to be a problem.

It didn’t need to have been one. The Syrian summer was always going to be an unpleasant climate for going about on lengthy journeys in metal armour and being periodically threatened with violent death, but it did not need to be this unpleasant. If only they’d had water. 

Salah ad-Din’s scouts, who were watching this parade all the way, weren’t sure why it blundered on past the village of Tur’an, why they didn’t halt there by its spring. As Salah ad-Din put it, “the hawks of the Frankish infantry and the eagles of their cavalry hovered around the water,” but then “Satan incited Guy to do what ran counter to his purpose.” The army carried on, a 14 -18km hike and an army between them and the next sizeable water source, heading into the void with but half the day left. 

To be fair, leaving Tur’an may not have been foolish as it seems. The spring there may simply not have been sufficient to support such a large force. Or perhaps the sheer numbers in Salah ad-Din’s armies were still hidden to Guy, the possibility of drawing Salah ad-Din into battle still a somewhat attractive one. But when Salah ad-Din heard of the misstep, he rejoiced. He had exactly what he’d desired and now his side needed only to do as they ought to for victory to be theirs. 

Taqi al-Din and another commander were dispatched to carefully circle round the army and cut if off from retreat, to harass it with archers and skirmishers while Salah ad-Din himself maintained nearby high ground. There was a change of direction, an attempt, perhaps by Raymond, to reach the village of Hattin and its well, but the crusaders were eventually forced to camp a full 4 km short of that well, isolated and without hope of reinforcement, resupply, or, most critically, water for their horses and for themselves. Raymond is said to have rode into the camp then with a bitter “Ah, Lord God, the war is over; we are dead men; the kingdom is finished.” It would have been a very unpleasant night for the crusaders.

In the nearby camps of their enemies, near enough to be heard, preparations continued. Men gathered brushwood ready to use smoke or fire if the threat of battle did not serve to shift Guy’s army. Caravans of camels brought water and of arrows; 400 camel loads of arrows and more to be brought the next day, for the knights they would be fighting were nigh indestructible in their armour, but the horses beneath them, largely unarmoured, were not.

In the morning, the well-watered army of Salah ad-Din sent out skirmishers but he refrained from committing himself until the crusaders showed their hand. The heat was rising, and the situation would only become worse for them. Retreat, attack, or make for the lake or the well at Hattin, which way would they jump?

Guy made his move towards the well, his army moving across a valley floor with archers on the slopes around them, smoke now adding to their misery, and false charges probing their flanks, the riders showering them with arrows and peeling away. Their predicament was looking increasingly desperate.

At the vanguard and increasingly distant from Guy’s formation, Raymond made a charge at Taqi al-Din’s men before him, but they had space enough to part their ranks, unleash their arrows on the charging knights, and then reform behind them, between them and the rest of the crusaders. Raymond, who would later be mocked and more for his actions but did not really have a great many options open to him, took the opportunity to let the momentum of the charge carry him on away from the battle field. He and his men moved off to the north and then made for home.

Behind him, Guy’s tired infantry climbed the slope towards the Horns of Hattin, the two low peaks joined by a ridge for which the battle is sometimes named, and the cavalry followed suit. There was an effort made to establish positions there. Guy had his red tent pitched as rallying point, near the few pools of water and behind the protection of some ruined walls, relics of an ancient hilltop defence, but the water was too little, the walls too low, and the fighters too worn out and dehydrated to hold back the superior numbers coming up the hill. 

As the battle neared its conclusion, the Bishop of Acre, holding above him the True Cross, was cut down. Quickly, the Bishop of Sidon took it up but he too lost his hold and it was pulled from him. 

As bad as that was, the battle was not won yet for Salah ad-Din’s side. The sultan looked on anxiously along with his son, al-Afdal, and the inexperienced al-Afdal would later describe the experience this way:

“When King Guy reached the hill with that company, they launched a savage charge against the Muslims opposite them, forcing them in retreat toward my father. I looked at him and saw that he had turned ashen pale in his distress and had grasped his beard… Then the Muslims returned to the attack against the Franks and they went back up the hill. When I saw them retreating with the Muslims in pursuit, I cried out in joy: ‘we have beaten them!’ But the Franks charged again as they had done and drove the Muslims up toward my father. He did what he had done before and the Muslims turned back against them and forced them up to the hill. I cried out again: ‘we have beaten them!’ My father turned to me and said: ‘be silent. We shall not defeat them until that tent falls.’ As he spoke, the tent fell.”

Exhausted from the ups and downs of the engaged spectator, the swings from joy to beard-pulling and back, Salah ad-Din sank to the ground in prayer. Across from him, the King of Jerusalem lay next to his collapsed tent, nearly unable to move to surrender his sword. The ground around him was strewn with bodies, dead and living, in numbers such that Al-Afdal said “to see the dead, you would not think there could have been any prisoners; and to see the prisoners, you would not think there could have been any dead.”

The leaders of the defeated side were brought before Salah ad-Din, seated in his pavilion. Of the hated Reynald, the Sultan demanded, “How many times have you sworn an oath and then violated it? How many times have you signed an agreement that you have never respected?” Reynald, unapologetic here in what may have been an opportunity to save himself, would only say that kings had ever acted as he had, and he had done nothing more.

Salah ad-Din had iced-water brought to Guy, but when the king then passed his cup to Reynald to share, the sultan spoke to an interpreter: “Tell the king: it is you have given him to drink.” Giving food or drink to a captive was a promise of safety, and Salah ad-Din was making no such promises where Reynald was concerned.

Salah ad-Din rode out to review his army and its recovery, and perhaps to think on his decision. When he returned, he called for the two again. To Reynald, he apparently made one last offer, the chance to convert and save himself. When Reynald refused, Salah ad-Din himself is said to have taken up a sword and cut off his head, fulfilling his vow. To Guy, he spoke as if in reassurance: “It is not the custom of kings to kill each other, but he had overstepped the limit.”

To Damascus then went the prisoners, the defeated leaders, and the captured true cross, affixed upside down on a lance to be paraded in the street. So great was the number of ordinary soldiers brought back as captives, to that city and to the many lands the army now dispersed to, that the price they were sold for plummeted, one even said to have been sold for a shoe.

To the caliph, Salah ad-Din wrote that this was only the beginning, that “all that has been mentioned and will be mentioned of achievements leading to glory in this world and nearness to God in the next comes about through the merits of the guiding dynasty.”

By Salah ad-Din’s estimate, his army had killed more than 40,000 men, by others on the scene 30,000, with 3,000 taken prisoner. Whatever the real number was, the offensive abilities of the Kingdom of Jerusalem had been shattered. Its king was captured and its capabilities torn to pieces. But Jerusalem itself, so often spoken of in correspondence between the sultan and his caliph, that was still not in Salah ad-Din’s possession. And as for those military capabilities of the crusaders, well one would say they were damaged beyond repair, except that reinforcements from Europe might change that very quickly, and a crushing defeat of this kind was just the thing to inspire such a reaction.

Back at the battlefield, Imad al-Din catalogued the grim remnants of that day of glory:

“Everywhere around Hattin stank of corpses … I saw heads tossed far from lifeless corpses; eyes dug from sockets; bodies sullied with dust, disfigured by birds of prey; limbs mutilated during battle and scattered, bare, torn to shreds, lying unattached, skulls split open, feet cut off, mutilated noses, extremities detached from bodies, empty eyes, opened stomachs, contorted mouths, open foreheads with liquid pupils, necks wrung, inanimate and shattered bits and pieces, as still and stiff as the rocks around them.

But what sweet smell of victory arose from this charnel-house! What vengeful flames swirled around those bodies! How this hideous sight made hearts rejoice! … How many arrogant lords were hunted down, how many leaders were leashed, how many kings enchained!”

And that’s about where we’ll leave things for today, on that happy note. If you are listening on the Patreon feed then please do stay on for the bonus section. If not, thank you very much for listening, and I’ll talk to you again soon.