Itinerarium Peregrinorum et Gesta Regis Ricardi, edited by William Stubbs. Longmans, 1864. Translated by James Brundage, The Crusades: A Documentary History. Marquette University Press, 1962.
De Expugatione Terrae Sanctae per Saladinum, edited by Joseph Stevenson. Longmans, 1875. Translated by James Brundage, The Crusades: A Documentary History. Marquette University Press, 1962.
Christie, Niall. "Fighting women in the crusading period through Muslim eyes: Transgressing expectations and facing realities?" in Crusading and Masculinities. Routledge, 2019.
Cobb, Paul, M. The Race for Paradise: An Islamic History of the Crusades. Oxford University Press, 2016.
Edbury, Peter W. The Conquest of Jerusalem and the Third Crusade: Sources in Translation, 1st Edition. Routledge, 2017.
Gabrieli, Francesco. Arab Historians of the Crusades. University of California Press, 1978.
Lyons, Malcolm Cameron & Jackson, D.E.P. Saladin: The Politics of the Holy War. Cambridge University Press, 1982.
Man, John. Saladin: The Life, the Legend, and the Islamic Empire. Bantam Press, 2015.
The summer of 1187 was a happy one for Salah ad-Din ibn Ayyub. After his enormous victory at the Battle of Hattin, the way forward was very much open to him. There was time to take possession of Tiberias and to generously allow Raymond of Tripoli’s wife her freedom and her possessions. There was opportunity to cover the 40 km to Acre, to accept the surrender of that critical trading port, and to dispense some more gifts, including estates to his son, a sugar refinery to one man, the Templars’ holdings to another, freedom to 4,000 Muslim prisoners.
Inland towns and castles, their defence having become impossible and no reason to hope for help, submitted quickly, Nazareth, Tabor, Sepphoris, Sebaste, and more, and then along the coast south of Acre, Arsuf, and Haifa. Caesarea was taken and Jaffa, and not all of these were gentlemanly agreements to surrender under generous conditions. A girl holding a baby was purchased in Aleppo, the girl crying that she “had six brothers, all of whom were killed, as well as a husband and two sisters, and I do not know what happened to them.” Salah ad-Din is often remembered for his charity, but that does not mean Ayyubid campaigns were without victims.
Salah ad-Din took Sidon, and, a week later, Beirut, its terms for surrender dictated by Imad al-Din from the sickbed. Further north, Jebail was handed over, and three weeks later, Salah ad-Din was back south 300 km at Ascalon where a ten day siege would secure that city too.
Everything that season fell before the Ayyubids. Gaza, Darum, Ramla, Yubna, Latrun, Hebron, Bethlehem, it was all theirs. Well, not quite all. A handful of castles still held out, along with Tyre, the stronghold on the coast, and further north, Tripoli, and Jerusalem.
As that oh so happy season drew to a close, Salah ad-Din had every reason to feel good about himself and how things had gone. He had those Crusader castles and cities, had made good use of the prisoners from Hattin, parlaying the lord of Jbeil and the Templar Master each into easy surrenders as ransom payments, had put King Guy to use in much the same way, and seemed on the cusp of running the table. A contemporary of Salah ad-Din said that “every man was off taking what he could for himself” while “every remaining Frank on the coast” was in Tyre. What was to be next? Was it to be Tyre, the well-fortified city where a man named Conrad of Montferrat had taken up residency and leadership? Was it to be Jerusalem? The first option was a tough nut to crack, very tough, and swollen with those who had taken shelter there, but taking it would deny future crusaders a port of access south of Tripoli and grant the Ayyubids the luxury of time in dealing with Jerusalem.
But as for time, who could know the future? Salah ad-Din had fallen seriously, seriously ill before, and who could know how much time anyone had. As he himself had once said, “affairs do not run according to human desire nor do we know how much is left of our lives.” And as his brother told him now, “If you die tonight, Jerusalem will stay in the hands of the Franks. Strive therefore to take it.” So strive he did.
Hello and welcome. My name is Devon, and this is Human Circus: Journeys in the Medieval World, the podcast which usually follows medieval travellers but is just for moment caught up in all things Salah ad-Din, maybe not best known as a traveller but to be fair a man who moved around the map quite a bit. Before we get going, I want to thank the podcast’s newest patrons, Tony C and Paige M! People like Tony and Paige are helping make this a sustainable project, and I highly appreciate it! And this is the portion of the podcast where I remind you of my Patreon, accessible at patreon.com/humancircus or through my website at humancircuspodcast.com.
At the $5 level you could be listening to this episode ad-free and with extra content on the end, but honestly, if I could get you each to throw in a dollar a month there, it would make just an enormous difference for me. And now that you have, I’m assuming, done that, or even if you haven’t really, let’s get back to the story. It’s the closing chapters of Salah ad-Din, and this was to be the very last chapter, singular, but as the episode started to stretch longer and longer in the writing, I decided to make it a two parter. So, this is the end, part one, with part two to be along quickly after.
Let’s start with a Sunday. Let’s start with Sunday, the 20th of September, 1187. That was when Salah ad-Din arrived outside of Jerusalem and set up camp to its west. There, he gathered in those Ayyubid forces who had been out snatching up prizes and who now converged on the city. On the other side of its walls, his biographers spoke of 60,000 fighting men, but other sources say that while the city had been packed with refugees, their number included few actual knights.
Commanding the defence was a knight named Balian of Ibelin who had escaped the Battle of Hattin in Raymond of Tripoli’s company, and he wasn’t even supposed to be in Jerusalem at all. Balian had actually written to Salah ad-Din to request that he be allowed to go in and retrieve his wife from the city, and Salah ad-Din, ever the gentleman, had, somewhat astonishingly, agreed. Of course Balian could enter to escort his wife out, just so long as he travelled unarmed and did not stay any longer than one night. But like Orpheus unable to resist looking back for Eurydice, Balian could not resist the pleas of the people of Jerusalem that he stay and see to their defence. He sent a note of apology to Salah ad-Din, which the sultan graciously accepted, so very graciously that he was still going to provide safe passage for Balian’s family and household when the moment came.
So, Jerusalem had a competent commander; it had the bodies to be commanded, however low the actual ratio of men of fighting age to the rest of the population was, but it did not have the full buy-in of its occupants, and I’m not just talking about Muslims here or Jews, of whom very, very few were allowed to live in the city. Among Christians also, there were those who did not find Salah ad-Din’s arrival unwelcome. There were populations of Armenian, Greek, and Syrian Christians with a history of mistreatment at the hands of the Latin Christians and no real reason to oppose this quote/unquote conqueror. For all that talk of 60,000 men, this was not a city poised to resist for long.
For five days, Salah ad-Din remained encamped to the city’s west, peppering it with bows and mangonels. And one witness within the city describe it like this:
“During this time it seemed that God had charge over the city, for who can say why one man who was hit died, while another wounded man escaped? Arrows fell like raindrops, so that one could not show a finger above the ramparts without being hit. There were so many wounded that all the hospitals and physicians in the city were hard put to it just to extract the missiles from their bodies. I myself was wounded in the face by an arrow which struck the bridge of my nose. The wooden shaft has been taken out, but the metal tip has remained there to this day. The inhabitants of Jerusalem fought courageously enough ... while the enemy settled down opposite the tower of David.”
They did not settle there for long though. After the five days, they left, or so it seemed to the city defenders. From its walls, those its defenders looked out on the great cloud of dust as their attackers struck camp, and for a moment, they allowed joy and hope to fill their hearts. “The king of Syria has fled,” they shouted, for “he is not able to destroy the city.” But the “king of Syria” was just repositioning himself, just shifting his camp to the hills on the city’s east, ready to attack the city, as the members of the First Crusade had, from the Mount of Olives. There, a challenge from within the walls quickly repulsed, the assault began anew.
Mangonels and archers resumed their efforts, and horsemen readied themselves against the risk of a counterattack. Sappers were sent in to work at the base of the wall, and the men of the city, toil as they might with spears, arrows, rocks, and molten lead, could not keep them back. Within days, a breach was made. The call went out inside the city for 50 volunteers; rich rewards were promised for them to watch that gap in the wall, but no such 50 were to be found.
Envoys were sent seeking terms, but they were turned back. Salah ad-Din was no longer in the mood for a negotiated surrender. “I want to take Jerusalem the way the Christians took it from the Muslims 91 years ago,” he is to have said. “They inundated it in blood… .The men I will slaughter, and the women I will make slaves.”
Something turned him from this harsh course of events though. To be more specific, Balian of Ibelin did, using what could be called a carrot and stick approach. By one account, he spoke like this:
“If we despair of having our lives spared, if unable to count on your kindness, … if we remain convinced that there is neither salvation nor happiness nor peace nor settlement remaining for us, no longer truces or security, no longer benevolence or generosity, we shall set out to meet our deaths; it will be a bloody struggle of despair; we shall exchange life for the void; we shall throw ourselves into the flames rather than accept destitution and shame.”
And by another, he continued:
“... if we see death is inevitable, then, by God, we will kill our women and children and burn all that we possess. We will not leave you a single dinar of booty, not a single dirham, not a single man or woman to lead into captivity Then we shall destroy the sacred rock, the al-Aqsa mosque, and many more other sites; and we will kill the 5,000 Muslim prisoners we now hold, and will exterminate the mounts and all the beasts … not one of us will die without having killed several of you.”
So that was the stick, and a pretty undesirable one it was if you took him at his word. The carrot was going to come in the terms agreed to: the city and its sacred sites intact and handed over, all horses and military equipment surrendered, a ransom of 10 dinars for each Christian man, 5 for each woman, one per child, and enslavement for those who could not pay.
This agreement was proclaimed inside the city on October 2nd, the people given 40 days to arrange for their ransom payments. For the wealthy, this was no problem at all. Patriarch Heraclius, for example, would easily part with his 10 dinars and then depart with cartfuls of valuable carpet, plate, and other treasures of the church, 200,000 dinars worth by one estimate, but for others, the announcement was catastrophic. They cried in the street, those who had no gold to give, and wondered what would become of themselves, and what Christians could have cooked up such a wretched agreement on their behalf. But fortunately for those less fortunate, generosity, corruption, and incompetence were going to see most of them through to freedom.
Imad al-Din was appalled by how the whole thing went, with the commanders who enriched themselves at every opportunity, with the guards at the gates who were supposed to require receipts, and with the clerks who gave receipts and were supposed to require payments. At each step, bribery seems to have been common, as were other methods of escape. Whether disguised as Muslims, lowered over the wall, or smuggled through the gates, no small number slipped out of the city without payment. “Complete negligence” and “general disorder,” the exasperated Imad al-Din called it.
It was also true that not everyone was a Heraclius. Balian put together a flat 30,000 dinar payment to free one large group, and Salah ad-Din himself was an absolute sieve when it came to taking in and retaining wealth, much to his advisors’ despair. 70,000 dinars came in one day and were given out by the next. The elderly were freed. Female family members of the captured or killed, along with their children, were granted freedom; where the husbands and fathers were alive, those men were freed too, and where they weren’t, the widowed were provided for. Salah ad-Din’s brother al-Adil asked to be given 1,000 prisoners and promptly released them, Balian the same for 500, and Heraclius, happy enough to help out where there was no cost, received and released 700.
Once it had all played out, some 16,000 people were eventually said to have been enslaved, not nothing, but a far cry from the tales of wading in blood that had followed the crusaders’ taking of the same city less than one hundred years earlier.
And Salah ad-Din, as ever, was very aware of how his actions would be viewed. Surely, he thought, even the Christians now would “speak of the blessings [he] had showered upon them.” As for the Muslims, he wrote that all he had done up to that point had been directed towards this great end, the recovery of the Dome of the Rock, “the jewel of the signet ring of Islam,” that he had fought against Muslims only when they had fought against his will to unite them to this cause, that the fire of men’s tongues and thoughts had injured him, but now he had extinguished those flames through his deeds. Or rather, he didn’t himself write. He dictated, apparently sending 70 such letters in one day through the hard-working pen hand of Imad al-Din. To the caliph, to all the leading Muslims of the region, he trumpeted this narrative that any past criticism of deed or motive on his part was unwarranted. All was redeemed in this latest success which he now celebrated with Friday prayer in the al-Aqsa mosque on October 9th. For who now could doubt him?
Triumphant, he did not remain long to rejoice in his victory. He had heard from his man in charge of Sidon and Beirut who urged him to immediately attack Tyre, the, quote, “only arrow left in the quiver of the infidels,” pressing him that “every day there [was] an opportunity which [could not] be grasped once it [had] gone.” Within a month, Salah ad-Din was acting on this advice. He was passing Acre and headed north toward Tyre.
1187 had already been a year of astonishing successes for the sultan, with Hattin and Jerusalem its high points, but there were signs that Tyre would pose more problems. Conrad de Montferrat had used his time well in fortifying the city and strengthening its garrison while Salah ad-Din’s army on the other hand was somewhat diminished, with many of its important emirs and their men having scattered to Egypt, Jerusalem, Acre, to one castle or another, to conquest or to pilgrimage. The weather was cold and wet, and initial forays were beaten back. An army that had grown accustomed to quick victories and grown fat on plunder now needed to set aside “the soft life to which they had grown accustomed,” to strive and strain and to spend their own money on supplies; it’s worth noting that apparently none of Salah ad-Din’s money from Jerusalem was left by the time he’d moved on. And then there was the matter of the letter, the caliph’s response to Salah ad-Din’s announcement of victory at Jerusalem.
Part of the problem may have been the messenger he had chosen to carry that announcement, a young man who may have drunkenly said certain things and left a bad impression in Baghdad. Part of the problem was in the very idea of a united Islamic empire under the power and protection of Salah ad-Din. It was all very well when that power was being exerted on the coast, but now that the Crusader kingdom was all but stamped out, where might it be directed next?
The caliph’s reply didn’t directly mention this but was full of complaints and criticisms. There was concern over sectarian clashes in Salah ad-Din’s Syria, his excessive generosity to exiles from Baghdad, his dealings with unreliable elements -Turkmen and Kurds- on the borders of the caliph’s own lands, and the usurpation from the caliph of the title al-Nasir, though that title had been bestowed by the previous caliph. It all added up to an expression of deep anxiety that Salah ad-Din’s ambitions would soon be directed back east and come to encompass Baghdad itself, and it did nothing to raise the sultan’s spirits. All that work on the battlefield and on the part of his secretaries, the hope for his caliph’s endorsement and monetary support, and now, just as he faced a new challenge in Tyre, this was his reward?
Furthering souring the Sultan’s mood, Conrad had sent out a small fleet that had taken his blockading galleys by surprise just after dawn and boarded them, capturing, among others, a senior emir from Alexandria. Then, that small fleet had intercepted more ships making a run for the safety of the Beirut harbour, and all but one had been run aground, broken up and burned to avoid being taken. Salah ad-Din expressed his distress by cutting off his horse’s tail and riding through his army for all to see. It was all too much.
Salah ad-Din had never been one to get stuck into a siege that showed all signs of dragging out. It was not what he was best at, and he was, besides, unwilling or possibly unable to press his men to remain. It had been a busy year, a productive one, but busy. And after all that giving, at Jerusalem and elsewhere, Salah ad-Din was, absurdly, running low on funds, and some emirs may have worried he’d soon be dipping into theirs if things continued. He expressed a desire to stay but would not press the issue beyond a last general assault fought on the causeway and carried on into the shallows. It would be an assault which “ended with weapons blunted, and the soldiers spent the night grumbling.” Through painfully cold weather, the besieging army went its separate ways, Salah ad-Din himself with his baggage train struggling south to wait out the winter. But before we get to what came after, to the coming of a new opponent into the Salah ad-Din story, a quick break.
A year that had begun so promisingly for Salah ad-Din and been wildly successful ever after, had ended on a sour note, what with that letter from Baghdad and the utter ineffectiveness of the attack on Tyre, neither of which escaped the attention of his critics.
The Mosuli ibn al-Athir, for example, spoke of the sultan’s unseemly lack of resolve, the way “he would lay siege to a city, but if the defenders resisted for some time, he would give up and abandon the siege.” And al-Athir continued, laying the blame for Tyre directly at Salah ad-Din’s own feet. Quote:
“Every time he seized a Frankish city or stronghold … Salah ad-Din allowed the enemy soldiers and knights to seek refuge in Tyre, a city that had thus become virtually impregnable. The [knights] sent messages to the others overseas, and the latter promised to come to their rescue. Ought we not to say that in a sense it was Salah ad-Din who organized the defence of Tyre against his own army?”
As admirable as the sultan’s clemency was, al-Athir had something of a point, and those messages for overseas help he referred to had indeed gone out. The archbishop of Tyre had already made his way to Sicily and received a promise of aid from King William II and then to Rome where the news he brought had thrown things dramatically into motion. First, Pope Urban II apparently died of shock at hearing the sad tidings. Then, Gregory VIII managed only a few months, in which he urged Latin Christian leaders to take the cross, before succumbing to a fever. Finally, Clement III settled into office for a few years, enough at least to support and mobilize what would become the Third Crusade. Meanwhile, the archbishop of Tyre continued on, convincing the kings of France of England to commit to crusade. The Battle of Hattin was enough to galvanize a response, the fall of Jerusalem enough to absolutely guarantee it.
The Third Crusade was a boulder already in motion, gathering momentum, and beginning to produce results. A quote unquote “Saladin tithe” was beginning to be collected in England, but the English crown was in no state to look so far afield as Syria. Struggles between Henry II and his sons, most notably for our purposes Richard I, were going to rule that out, for now.
More immediately, Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I would take the cross, muster many thousands of men and, lacking access to sufficient ships, attempt the overland journey to Syria. But then Frederick himself wouldn’t quite make it. Having fought through sporadic Seljuk Turk predations, the emperor would fall into a river and in his armour die, or possibly fall ill after bathing and die, either way, leaving only his vinegar pickled, but still badly deteriorating, remains to continue the crusade under the command of his less accomplished son. The imposing force he had assembled, imposing enough to sometimes be given at a highly suspect 50 or even 100,000, would wind on under this weakened leadership, shedding princes and their people as it went, sickness taking some, alternate routes or the call of home, others. The unhappy remnants parked themselves in Prince Bohemond’s Antioch, where Frederick’s poorly pickled flesh was boiled off its bones to be buried, the bones themselves optimistically set aside for that happy day when they could be interred in Jerusalem.
Though it had not yet amounted to so very much, news of this army’s movements had advanced far before it, badly demoralizing those on the one side while raising the spirits of those on the other. And this didn’t just mean the men on the walls of Tyre perked up a little, for matters had not stood still while the Latin Christian lords shifted themselves into motion. Perhaps partly out of kindness, partly with some troublemaking on his mind, in 1188, Salah ad-Din had responded to Queen Sibylla’s wishes and released her husband King Guy de Lusignan, prisoner from the Battle of Hattin. The royal couple had proceeded directly to Tyre, there, they probably assumed, to take up command and rule of that bastion of Latin Christian control on the coast. Except that Conrad of Montferrat, who had been managing affairs so ably, was having none of it. He was in no way ready to relinquish command of the city that he had been defending and in no mood to recognize King Guy at all, the man he now sneeringly derided as the “former king.”
So, what was Guy to do? He was king of the Kingdom of Jerusalem by way of his marriage to Sibylla, Amalric’s daughter, but now that kingship was called into question, and what was a king who was not acknowledged? A response was required, and if nothing else, the one that he chose meant he wasn’t going to be accused of passive inactivity again like he had before Hattin.
Taking advantage of newly arrived reinforcements from Sicily and Pisa, Guy went on the offensive. He headed south, winning minor victories against forces positioned to guard against just this sort of thing and made for Acre. There, he settled into position in siege around the city, and unlike Salah ad-Din, he would not be put off by needing to wait. It was August of 1189, and this was the beginning of the two-year Siege of Acre. It was the beginning of the two-year Double Siege of Acre, with the city hemmed in first by the besiegers and then soon, beyond them, by Salah ad-Din and his men.
The news might have come to Salah ad-Din as a bit of a shock. He’d released this man only the year before under the promise that he would not take arms against Muslims again, yet less than a year later, here he was again, doing just that, and doing so with absolute abandon, venturing into enemy territory and setting up shop where he’d previously been so cautious. When Salad ad-Din heard what was happening, he rushed to relieve the city, taking up that outer ring against the coast and calling for more men. From Egypt, al-Fadil would write “news of the enemy’s muster that you are confronting has distracted every nursing mother from her child… Hands have no other occupation [now] except to be raised to God at the time of prayer.”
Both sides drew in more soldiers and by mid-September were clashing, though without conclusive results. In October, there was a victory for the sultan and one that left his enemies’ water source clogged with the polluting bodies of their own dead, but it was still not a victory that led on to bigger and better things.
The battle had been a scene of terrific confusion in which elements of first one side then the other suffered from a lack of communication and from misunderstanding what they were seeing. Some of Salah ad-Din’s retreated as far as the Sea of Galilee, believing the day lost, some even continuing as far as Damascus, and similar blunders resulted in the day truly being lost for the other side. Salah ad-Din couldn’t take advantage of it though. Too many of his men had fled and needed to be recalled, while others, in believing defeat imminent, had plundered their own sides’ tents and escaped. It was a battle from which the victors needed to regather their resources and regroup.
Both sides settled in to lick their wounds, gather their resources, and receive reinforcement. And that’s what Guy’s men around the city did, continuing to effectively blockade Acre, holding behind their gated walls and trenches while a steady trickle of ships, men, and materials swelled their ranks.
The siege ground on, punctuated by occasional skirmishes and full of fascinating stories that played out in its shadow. There was a team of miners from Aleppo that was put to use against the walls of the city; a coppersmith from Damascus who designed a way for Greek fire to be hurled by mangonel against the Frankish siege-towers; and a mysterious woman in green who was killed in the fighting. According to a story told to one of Salah ad-Din’s biographers:
“Behind their rampart was a woman wrapped in a green cloak who kept shooting at us with a wooden bow until she had wounded several of us. Having overpowered and killed her, we took her bow and carried it to the sultan, who was greatly surprised.”
He needn’t have been that surprised though, for there were more women among the crusaders at the siege than you might think, and not only the 300 who Imad al-Din wrote of arriving by ship to quote “sell themselves for gold.” There were the women accompanying their families, noblewomen such as Sibylla and her daughters, soon to die, amongst them. There were the women who helped fill a ditch so that the mangonels could be rolled closer. There were apparently those who fought in battles and were only discovered by Salah ad-Din’s men after they had been killed and were revealed beneath their armour. Though I should note here that there’s some question as to how we should read these accounts and to what degree they were intended or manufactured to demonstrate the unseemly barbarism of the Franks.
Another interesting sub-story at Acre is that of the constant struggle of resupplying the city under siege. Messages went back and forth by pigeon or swimmer, the dangers illustrated by the story of Isa, a young man who made the swim by night several times before being killed, his body later washing up with wax sealed messages still at his belt. But while naval blockades held, getting something larger than a message through was a problem, and it was a very serious problem for the people within the city, who were dying of starvation. Great lengths had to be gone to in order to bring food, boats fighting their way into the harbour or at times using subtler means.
In one case, a food-laden ship departed from Beirut with a crew that had shaved, disguised themselves as crusaders, and placed pigs on deck for all to see, doing everything but bellowing their assumed identities cross the water to avoid being taken for Muslim men of Salah ad-Din. As they approached the harbour, one of the ships blockading it came alongside, its men shouting at them to stop. Why were they sailing for Acre? What business had they in a city held by the enemy? Not letting down their disguise, Salah ad-Din’s men responded with feigned surprise. Had the city not been taken yet? Well then, the men would steer their ship in to camp, but the blockaders had better go warn the other ship behind them, for there was in fact another, totally unrelated ship nearby. When the blockading ship did go to give warning, the Beirutis made the last run into harbour with food for the city. Such were the remarkable stories which sustained it for two years, but they could not manage forever.
No naval assaults, no isolated ships slipping through, no fatal midnight swims were going to solve the basic problem that Salah ad-Din could not break the siege. For one thing, he did not have adequate support to do so. Despite how he may be popularly viewed now, he was not some kind of Supreme Emperor of All Islam to whom each and every Muslim of the region must bow and offer their word. That much should be pretty clear by now, and there’s a good passage on this in Lyons and Jackson’s Saladin: The Politics of the Holy War, a book I’ve used quite a bit in this series. Quote:
“His allies had no reason to give him whole-hearted support. For his own emirs and professional soldiers he and his family were merely successful members of their own class; his dynasty was bolstered by no divine right of kings and the religious sanction it had claimed had been denied it by Baghdad. During the period of its expansion it had been profitable to join his side, by profit and numbers were inextricably linked.”
With his victories had come the strength to win more, but as he faltered, as he suffered setbacks and losses or became embroiled in unprofitable sieges, he would have bled out the men needed to regain the upper hand. Most bitterly for him, the caliph did not send support, not during discussions of trading troops for control of Shahrizor, an exchange which was at one point under negotiation, not when it was pointed out to him that Salah ad-Din was “not faced by a single enemy might be destroyed, but, rather, all [the Franks] beyond the seas… .” Not when it was written to him that “Islam asks aid from you as a drowning man cries for help.” When, in the spring of 1190, the caliph sent a few officers accompanied by authorization to borrow 20,000 dinars against the caliph’s name, Salah ad-Din did not even bother to take the money. He was spending more than that in a day, and he saw the “offer” for the insult it was.
Elsewhere in his realm, these stresses were taking their toll. Shortages were now common, and al-Fadil reported that injustices and disobedience were everywhere, the “evildoers” seeming to “detect the scent of sedition.”
Salah ad-Din was forced to rotate soldiers from one source or another, one city or emir promised to provide him men but not indefinitely, to release forces for winter under the promise they would return by spring. He suffered personal losses: a nephew, a companion. There was fear that his enemy, with their control of the sea, would attack Egypt and sever him from its wealth, and there was concern too over Frederick’s Germans, for this was when news arrived that they had crossed into what is now Turkey. At Hama, Homs, and elsewhere, orders were given to store grains and prepare, for they might soon be on the defensive. Soon enough, the Germans would be reported as quote “carrying sticks and riding on donkeys,” split up and preyed upon, but for now those men whose lands risked German attack had to be released to defend them. Meanwhile, that summer brought still more new arrivals to Acre from France, seemingly from everywhere, so that chains of interpreters were sometimes needed to interrogate the captives.
There were moments of victory for Salah ad-Din, triumphs in open battle that could, had the resources been at hand, have been played into actually driving the enemy from Acre, but those opportunities had passed, on at least one occasion leaving a sickly Salah ad-Din sobbing in frustration at what might have been. And soon enough, there would be more bad news. April of 1191 brought King Philip II of France and June of that year, Coeur de Lion, the Lion Heart, King Richard of England.
For Richard’s arrival, its impact, and his interactions with Salah ad-Din, for the conclusion of the Siege of Acre, you’ll need to wait for the next episode, the conclusion, part 2, but you won’t need to wait for long. I’ll be back shortly.
If you’re listening on the Patreon feed, then do keep listening for the bonus section, this time on Conrad of Montferrat. If not, then thank you for listening, and I’ll talk to you next time.