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Medieval Sourcebook:
De Expugatione Terrae Sanctae per Saladinum:
The Battle of Hattin, 1187


[Adapted from Brundage] Amid mutual hatred and distrust within their own ranks, the Latin barons faced the renewed Moslem attack. Raymond III of Tripoli and his friends stood opposed to the Latin King and his coterie. Raymond had, in fact, made an alliance with Saladin in order to protect the county of Tripoli against the possibility of Moslem invasion. Yet in this extremity, under grave pressure from the other Latin princes, Raymond and his party yielded and prepared to join the Christian army in defense of the Holy Land. Such a belated reunion, however, could not erase the distrust and bitterness engendered by recent events within the Latin states. By late June, 1187 the armies of the Latin King had assembled to face Saladin's onslaught.

In the year of the Lord's incarnation 1187, the King of Syria [Saladin] gathered together an army as numerous as the sands of the seashore in order to wage war on the land of Juda. He came up to the Jaulan, across the [Jordan] River, and there made camp.

The King of Jerusalem [Guy de Lusignan]t also gathered his army from all of Judea and Samaria. They assembled and pitched camp near the springs at Saffuriyah. The Templars and Hospitallers also assembled many people from all their castles and came to the camp. The Count of Tripoli [Raymond III of Tripoli] likewise rose up with all his people, whom he collected from Tripoli and Galilee and came into the encampment. Prince Reginald of Montreal [Reginlad de Chatillon] also came with his people, as did Balian of Naples [Balian d'Ibelin] with his, Reginald of Sidon [Reginlald Garnier] with his, and the lord of Caesarea in Palestinel [Walter Garnier] with his. Not a man fit for war remained in the cities, towns, or castles without being urged to leave by the King's order. Nor was this host sufficient. Indeed, the King of England's treasure [note: King Henry II of England had a few years earlier donated a considerable sum of money for the defense of the Holy Land. His treasury, which had been placed at the disposal of the military order, was now broken open and used to hire mercenaries to help throw back Saladin's attack.] was opened up and they gave a fee to everyone who could bear a lance or bow into battle. The army was quite large: 1,200 knights, innumerable Turcopoles, and 18,000 or more infantry. They gloried in their multitude of men, the trappings of their horses, in their breastplates, helmets, lances, and golden shields, but they did not believe in God, nor did they hope in the salvation of him who is the protector and savior of Israel. Rather, they were taken up with their own thoughts and became vain.

They sent to Jerusalem to ask the Patriarch to bring the Holy Cross with him to the camp . . . so that they might become bearers and keepers of the Lord's cross…..

Meanwhile, the Syrians crossed the Jordan. They overran and laid waste the area around the springs of Cresson, from Tiberias to Bethany . . . up to Nazareth and around Mount Tabor. Since they found the region deserted by men, who had fled out of fear of them, they set fire to the threshing floors and put everything they found into the flames. The whole region flamed in front of them like a ball of fire. Not satisfied even with this, they ascended the holy mount to the sacred spot on which our Savior, after the appearance of Moses and Elias, showed his disciples Peter, James, and John the glory of the future resurrection in his transfiguration. The Saracens defiled this place....

After these advance parties had wrought their destruction, Saladin and his whole army crossed the river. Saladin ordered his forces to push on to Tiberias and besiege it. On Thursday, July 2, the city was surrounded by archers and the battle was joined. The Countess [Eschiva, wife of Raymond III of Tripoli] and the Galileans, since the city was not fortified, sent messengers to the Count and King with the news: "The Turks have surrounded the city. In the fighting, they have pierced the walls and are just now entering against us. Send help at once or we shall be taken and made captive."

The Syrians fought and won. When the Galileans saw they could not hold out, they yielded the ramparts and the city. They fled before the pagans into the castle, though the city was taken and burned. But since the King of Egypt [Saladin] heard that the Christian army was approaching against him, he was unable to besiege the castle. He said: "So be it! They are my prisoners."

Toward evening on Thursday, July 2, the King of Jerusalem, after he bad heard the Galileans' letter, called together all the leaders of the army so that they might give council concerning the action to be taken. They all advised that at dawn they should march out, accompanied by the Lord's cross, ready to fight the enemy, with all the men armed and arrayed in battle formation. Thus arrayed they would relieve the city of Tiberias. The Count of Tripoli, when he heard this, spoke: "Tiberias is my city and my wife is there. None of you is so fiercely attached, save to Christianity, as I am to the city. None of you is so desirous as I am to succor or aid Tiberias. We and the King, however, should not move away from water, food, and other necessities to lead such a multitude of men to death from solitude, hunger, thirst, and scorching heat. You are well aware that since the heat is searing and the number of people is large, they could not survive half a day without an abundance of water. Furthermore, they could not reach the enemy without suffering a great shortage of water, accompanied by the destruction of men and of beasts. Stay, therefore, at this midway point, close to food and water, for certainly the Saracens have risen to such heights of pride that when they have taken the city, they will not turn aside to left or right, but will head straight through the vast solitude to us and challenge us to battle. Then our men, refreshed and filled with bread and water, will cheerfully set out from camp for the fray. We and our horses will be fresh; we will be aided and protected by the Lord's cross. Thus we will fight mightily against an unbelieving people who will be wearied by thirst and who will have no place to refresh themselves. Thus you see that if, in truth, the grace of Jesus Christ remains with us, the enemies of Christ's cross, before they can get to the sea or return to the river, will be taken captive or else killed by sword, by lance, or by thirst. But if, which God forbid, things were perchance to go against us, we have our ramparts here to which we could flee. . . ."But the saying of wisdom: "Woe to the land whose King is a child and whose citizens dine in the morning "' [Eccles. 10:6] was fulfilled in them. For our young King followed youthful counsel, while our citizens, in hatred and jealousy, ate their neighbors' meat. They departed from the advice which would have saved them and others. Because of their foolishness and simple­mindedness they lost land, people, and selves.

On Friday, July 3, therefore, they marched out by troops, leaving behind the necessities of life. The Count of Tripoli was in the first rank, as befitted his dignity. The others followed on his left or right, according to the custom of the realm. The royal battalion and the battalion of the Holy Cross followed and, because of the lay of the land, the Templars came last, for they were the army's rear guard.

They marched to Saffuriyah so that, as was said before, they could go on to Tiberias. Three miles from the city they came to a hamlet called Marescallia. At this place they were so constrained by enemy attacks and by thirst that they wished to go no further.

They were going to pass through a confined, rocky area in order to reach the Sea of Galilee, which was a mile away. For this reason the Count sent word to the King: "We must hurry and pass through this area, so that we and our men may be safe near the water. Otherwise we will be in danger of making camp at a waterless spot." The King replied: "We will pass through at once.

The Turks were meanwhile attacking the army's rear, so that the Templars and the others in the rear were barely able to struggle on. Suddenly the King (a punishment for sin) ordered the tents to be pitched. Thus were we betrayed to our death. The Count, when he looked back and saw the tents pitched, exclaimed: "Alas, Lord God, the battle is over! We have been betrayed unto death. The Kingdom is finished!"

And so, in sorrow and anguish, they camped on a dry site where, during the night, there flowed more blood than water The sons of Esau [the Muslim army] surrounded the people of God [Crusaders] and set fire to the desert [brush] round about them. Throughout the night the hungry and thirsty men were harassed further by arrows and by the fire's heat and flames. . . . That night God indeed gave them the bread of tears to eat and the wine of compunction to

drink.

At length . . . after the clouds of death bad opened, light dawned on a day of sorrow and tribulation, of grief and destruction. When day bad dawned, the King of Syria forsook the city of Tiberias and with his whole army came up to the camping ground to give battle to the Christians. He now prepared to at tack our men.

Our men formed their battle lines and hurried to pass through this region in the hope that when they had regained a watering place and had refreshed themselves, they could attack and fight the foe more vigorously. The Count moved out to take the spot which the Turks had already begun to approach.

When our men were arrayed and grouped in battle formation the infantry were ordered to take positions facing the enemy's arrows, so that the infantry would be protected from an enemy charge by the knights' lances. Thus, with each providing protection for the other, they would both be safe.

By this time the Saracens had already arrived. The infantry, banded together in a single wedged­shaped formation, clambered at full speed to the very summit of a high mountain, leaving the army to its fate. The King, the Bishop, and others sent word, begging them to return to defend the Lord's cross, the heritage of the Crucified, the Lord's army, and themselves. They replied: "We are not coming because we are dying of thirst and we will not fight." Again the command was given, and again they persisted in their refusal.

The Templars, Hospitallers, and Turcopoles, meanwhile, were engaged in a fierce rear guard action. They could not win, however, because enemies sprang up on every side, shooting arrows and wounding Christians. When they had gone on for a little bit, they shouted to the King, asking for some help. The King and the others saw that the infantry were not going to return and that they themselves could not hold out against the Turkish arrows without the sergeants. Accordingly, by the grace of the Lord's cross, they ordered the tents to be put up, in order to block the Saracen charges and so that they could hold out more easily. The battle formations were, therefore, broken up. The units gathered around the Holy Cross, where they were confused and intermixed here and there. The men who were with the Count of Tripoli in the first group saw that the King, the Hospitallers, the Templars, and everyone else were jumbled together and mingled with the Turks. They also saw that there was a multitude of the barbarians between themselves and the King, so that they could not get through to return to the Lord's cross. They cried out: "Those who can get through may go, since the battle is not going in our favor. We have now lost even the chance to flee." Meanwhile, thousands and thousands of Syrians were charging at the Christians, shooting arrows and killing them.

In the meantime, the Bishop of Acre, the bearer of the Lord's cross, was mortally wounded. He passed on the task of bearing the cross to the Bishop of Lydda. A large group of pagans charged on the infantry and pitched them from the top of the steep mountain to whose summit they had previously fled. They destroyed the rest, taking some captive and killing others. . . .

Upon seeing this the Count and his men, who had been riding onward, together with Balian of Naples, Reginald of Sidon, and the other half­castes, turned back. The speed of their horses in this confined space trampled down the Christians and made a kind of bridge, giving the riders a level path. In this manner they got out of that narrow place by fleeing over their own men, over the Turks, and over the cross. Thus it was that they escaped with only their lives.

The Saracens gathered around the Lord's wooden cross, the King, and the rest, and destroyed the church. What more can be said? The Saracens triumphed over the Christians and did with them as they pleased. . . . What can I say? It would be more fitting to weep and wail than to say anything. Alas! Should I describe with impure lips how the precious wood of the Lord, our redeemer, was seized by the damnable hands of the damned? Woe to me that in the days of my miserable life I should be forced to see such things....

The next day Prince Reginald of Montreal was killed. The Templars and Hospitallers were ransomed from the other Turks and were killed. Saladin gave orders that the Countess and the men who were in the citadel of Tiberias might leave the fort and that, having accepted the security of life, they might go in peace where they wished. Thus it was done. The city was relinquished. Saladin moved in. After the citadel had been fortified, he went to Saffuriyah. On the site where the Christian army had formerly camped, the King of Syria ordered his tents to be pitched.... He remained there for several days, gleefully celebrating the victory. He divided the heritage of the Crucified, not among the heirs, but rather among his execrable emirs and leaders, giving to each his proper portion.


Source:

De Expugatione Terrae Sanctae per Saladinum, [The Capture of the Holy Land by Saladin], ed. Joseph Stevenson, Rolls Series, (London: Longmans, 1875), translated by James Brundage, The Crusades: A Documentary History, (Milwaukee, WI: Marquette University Press, 1962), 153-159

Copyright note: Professor Brundage informed the Medieval Sourcebook that copyright was not renewed on this work. Moreover he gave permission for use of his translations.


This text is part of the Internet Medieval Source Book. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts related to medieval and Byzantine history.

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© Paul Halsall December 1997
halsall@murray.fordham.edu