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Medieval Sourcebook:
Itinerarium Peregrinorum et Gesta Regis Ricardi:
Richard the Lion-Hearted Conquers Cyprus, 1191


[Adapted from Brundage] The death of the Emperor crippled the Crusade. Of the army which had accompanied Barbarossa on the expedition, only a minority was to give any effective service to the Latin cause. Many of the men returned to Europe directly after the Emperor's death, while many of the rest were lost to the enemy on the remainder of the journey to the Holy Land.

The French and English monarchs, meanwhile, were still readying themselves and their armies for the expedition. The two Kings did not complete their preparations until July 1190, when they met at V6zelay to set out jointly on the Crusade. Their principal armies went by sea to the East, but only after many delays. The Kings had agreed much earlier that they and their armies would meet again at Messina in Sicily before starting on the principal part of their sea journey. In Sicily the Crusaders became embroiled in a series of quarrels with Tancred of Lecce, the pretender to the Sicilian throne . Peace between Tancred and the Crusading Kings was patched up only in November 1190 and the Kings with their armies settled down to spend the remainder of the winter in Sicily. They sailed from Sicily in the spring of 1191; Philip Augustus left in March, Richard in April.

Philip Augustus and his fleet made straight for Tyre, where they arrived without incident. Richard and his fleet had a more arduous voyage. Richard's fleet stopped first at Crete, then at Rhodes, and, on what was supposed to be the last lap of the journey to Palestine, the fleet ran into a storm off the Island of Cyprus. This turned out to be an opportunity for conquest.

Shortly before sundown on the vigil of St. Mark the Evangelist [Wednesday April 24, 1191] a black cloud darkened the sky. All at once a blowing storm and high winds buffeted the turbulent waves of the sea and turned back the sailors. Even before the coming of the storm, King Richard's ships had been dispersed by the uneven winds and were making for Cyprus. These ships were thrown about by the waves during the storm, were blown back by the wind, and were dashed against some rocky crags. So many men were being thrown violently about by the wind that, although the sailors tried to prevent it, three of the King's ships were shattered by the rushing waves and some of the men in them were drowned. ... Among the others who drowned there was Roger, known as Malchiel, the Keeper of the King's seal. The seal was also lost. Later, Roger's body was thrown ashore by the waves and one of the common people found the seal and brought it to the army in order to sell it. The seal was thus recovered and was restored to the King.

The natives of the place pretended that their intentions were peaceful. They joyfully received those who escaped to land from the shipwreck. They comforted the shipwrecked men in their misfortune and brought them to a nearby castle to refresh themselves. When the survivors got there, however, they were deprived of all their weapons and were placed in custody. This was done, it was said, lest, if they were to go out armed, they might spy on the country or even get into a fight. The Cypriot Greeks claimed that they could not do otherwise until they had ascertained the Emperor's [Isaac Dukas Comnenus, claimant to title of "emperor of Cyprus"] wishes. Our chiefs pitied our ship-wrecked men who were kept in confinement and sent them clothes and other necessary things. Stephen of Tumeham, the King's Marshal and Treasurer sent them a great quantity of necessities, but, in fact, everything sent to the prisoners was confiscated by the Cypriots and the keepers at the entrance of the castle where our men were confined….

When he heard the pilgrims' complaints about the stealing of their money and the injuries done to them, the Emperor promised full redress: be would return the shipwrecked men's money. He even delivered four hostages in token of his good faith. Under these conditions, the pilgrims further obtained the right of free entrance and exit from the city of Limassol. Meanwhile the Emperor ordered all the warriors of his kingdom to assemble and be gathered together a very strong army. On the day after his arrival [Thursday, may 22, 1191] the Emperor (disguising his scheme with peaceful words) called upon the Queens [Richard's younger sister, Queen Joanna of Sicily, and his fianceé Joanna of Navarre] to come in safety.

He alleged that they might count on him, that they would be at liberty in every particular, that there would be no molestation of their people, and that there would be no danger to fear. They declined to come, but again, the next day, the Emperor, on the pretext of doing them honor, sent welcoming gifts to them: bread, goat meat, and the best wine of the Cypriot grapes, said to be unlike that of any other nation. On the third day, a Sunday, he tried to get around the Queens with blandishments and to lead them astray with his wiles. They were now in a difficult position and shifted from one alternative to the other. They were worried lest, if they yielded to the Emperor's persuasions, they might be made captive, while, if they steadfastly refused to accede to him, they feared that he might do them violence....

While they were conferring and speaking sadly with one another that Sunday, the lookouts all at once spied two ships bearing directly toward them, looking like waving spikes among the frothy tips of the curling waves. While the Queens and those with them were still arguing about this unverified news, they caught sight of still more ships following the first ones. There was no delay. The naval force was followed by a multitude of ships and they were heading directly for the port. Discussing this royal fleet they were jubilant with great glee, in proportion as they bad previously been desperate and despairing. Now, indeed, after many unwelcome labors, by God's providence, King Richard was brought to the Island of Cyprus. On the feast of St. John before the Latin Gate [May 6] King Richard and his whole army arrived in the port of Limassol. The King, however, remained on board ship.

When the King learned of the hardships of the shipwrecked men, of the stealing from them, and about the other things which had meanwhile befallen them, he was deeply grieved. The next day, a Monday, he sent two knights as emissaries to the Emperor and peacefully asked him and his men to make voluntary satisfaction for the injuries which had been done and also to restore in full the goods stolen from the shipwrecked men.

The Emperor was quite indignant at this command, as if the greatest injury had been done to him. He heaped harsh words upon the King's emissaries and said scornfully to them: "Tut, tut, my lords" He claimed that the English King was as nothing to him and, glorying mightily in his usurped imperial excellence, he believed that whatever he wished to do was quite all right.

When the ambassadors reported his reply to the King, he was displeased with the Emperor's arrogance and with his rude reply, as well as with the treatment of his men. The King at once cried out and ordered all his men: "Arm yourselves!" They obeyed immediately. The King armed himself and set off with all his men in the skiffs of the transport ships to land in the port.

The Emperor with many forces resisted the landing parties. All sorts of obstacles and bars and every sort of impediment that could be found in the town were placed at each of the entrances to the port to ward off the attackers. They collected the very doors and windows, which they ripped from houses, together with jars and posts, stools and stair-steps, and long timbers which they laid down, along with bucklers and shields, old galleys as well as boats which had been deserted and left to rot, and all kinds of utensils. What else? Every kind of portable wood or stone that could be found in Limassol was gathered by the Cypriots on the shore to keep off the landing crews.

The Emperor, moreover, armed himself and with his people patrolled the shore. The Emperor's men were ever so nicely decked out! They were carefully armed and clad in expensive, multicolored costumes, with warlike steeds which frothed and chewed at their bridles and with very beautiful mules. They came out with innumerable streamers and precious golden banners waving. They were prepared for the fight, either to hold off the attackers for a long while or else to draw out the fight courageously. They sought to frighten away our men, who were hurrying to the attack, with terrible sounding shouts, like dogs baying. The shouting affected us like dogs and the enemy hastened to attempt the impossible. They had on shore some ballistas and archers; also five galleys, sufficiently well armed and full of young men experienced in naval fighting. It seemed an unequal combat to many of our men, for they were setting out, rowing themselves, in a very few fragile skiffs to occupy a port full of men. Furthermore, they were deprived of many men who were exceedingly fatigued from the continual tossing of the sea. Also, the infantry were fully weighed down with their own weapons. The natives, on the other hand, were in their own homeland and were acting entirely of their own free will.

When our men advanced one by one into the skiffs, the nearer ones at first stood up to fight the balistarii and archers who were attacking them in the boats. Our balistarii turned on them and during an attack in which the two sides pelted one another with rocks many of the Cypriots were killed. The rest retreated, since they could not bear up under the weight of the fighting. The arrows were flying thick and fast and three or four of the men who were retreating flung themselves to death in the waves in order to escape from the arrows. As they fled eagerly to the fort, their men were running into each other.

When our men had taken their galleys and had landed their own boats, balistarii and the archers, emboldened by their first success, hurled torrents of javelins at those whom they saw trying to escape from the beach. Without delay, the Cypriots, who could not bear up under the brunt of our attack, gave up the site and retreated to firmer ground. Both our balistarii and theirs were using arrows and javelins continuously. The sky seemed clouded over by them and the serenity of the day was darkened by the showers of javelins. The city boiled with a throng of men and the whole area was occupied by a multitude of balistarii who were working persistently. Victory hung in the balance and wavered as to which party it would favor. All of our men gave the foe tit for tat, but they were making no progress, while the King deliberated for a bit over sending our brave men out of the skiff s and on to the shore.

Then, he leaped first from his barge into the sea and bravely set upon the Cypriots. Our other men imitated his steadfast attitude. Henceforth they accompanied the King and shot arrows at those who were resisting, in order to make the Cypriots take flight. As soon as our people rushed in, their mangled battle lines gave up. There could be seen the flying rain of spears, the Greeks, who had been overcome, fleeing. You could hear the sounds of the advancing men, the groans of the fallen, the cries of those who were retreating.

When the Greeks had retreated, our men drove them back first to the town and then from the town to the nearby camp on the plains. While the King was pursuing the fleeing Emperor, lie acquired a mount, or horse, with a little bag fixed behind his saddle. He mounted at once into the saddle, which had ropes instead of straps. He rushed immediately to the Emperor and said: "My Lord Emperor, come and begin a single combat with me!" The Emperor made as if to obey and then immediately fled. The King then occupied the town of Limassol. He had the Queens brought from Buza and lodged them in a villa. There, after many adventures and discomforts at sea, they refreshed themselves quietly and securely.

The King spent that night [May 7-8] ­ in his tents and bad his horses brought out from the transport ships. The Emperor, however, surmised that the King had no horses with him. At nightfall, when he was two leagues away from the King, the Emperor put up for the night in his tent. The next day, about the ninth hour, the King advanced with his horses. He found some Greeks not far away, standing with their splendid banners in an olive grove. The King at once pursued the fugitives. Since our horses, in fact, had been tossed about at sea for a month and had been standing all the while, many of them were upset. Our men, therefore, spared the horses and pursued the enemy rather modestly until, from a vantage point, they spied the Emperor's army, which had spent the night in the next valley. Then, when the Greeks had seen them, our men ceased the pursuit and halted. The Greeks began to make noises. With clamor and tumult they flung horrid sounding insults at our men. The Emperor was roused from his sleep by this. He mounted his horse and with his army he slowly advanced toward us, up to the adjoining hill, to see what he might do about engaging the armies. . . .

The King had with him, at this point, only about fifty knights. He, indeed, was emboldened by their fear. Letting his horse go, he charged swiftly at the enemy. He broke up the enemy's crowded battle line by charging through it. He dealt now with this group, now with that one, and in short order, he dispersed them all....

The Emperor reflected upon the courage of our men and the flight of his people. Then, when he saw that he remained alone, he spurred his horse and speedily fled to the mountains. The King struck at the banner which the Emperor bore and ordered the noble and remarkable banner to be reserved for himself. Our knights followed the fleeing Greeks as closely as they could for two miles. Then they returned peacefully to our lines, moderating their speed as they withdrew. The people returned to the loot and they made off with much booty: arms, valuable silk garments, and even the Emperor's tents, together with all that was in them, including gold and silver vessels, the Emperor's bed with its choice appointments, and all his furnishings, his special helmets, breastplates, and swords. They also took a great deal of booty in flocks and beards of oxen and cattle, goats and sheep, noble mares and colts, fat hogs, and hens. They found both choice wines and a great quantity of food and they took captive the army, which consisted of an infinite multitude of men. They took so many, indeed, that the looters were disdainful because of the great multitude of men.

What more can be said? Because of the great abundance of loot, desire was satiated and one gave no regard to any gift, no matter how valuable, which might be added to one's own full load.

When all these things had been done, the King proclaimed a decree, in a voice like a town crier. He decreed that all poor peace-loving men might come and go without hindrance from his men and that they might rejoice, since their liberty was preserved. Anyone who considered the King an enemy should beware, lest he fall into the hands of him or his men. He professed that he would show himself an enemy to those who were said to be his enemies and that he would be to each of them as they were to him.

A great many men afterwards flocked to the King or to his army and the Emperor thereafter took refuge in a very strong castle called Nicosia, where he was confused and sorrowful because he could not make the progress he wished for. . . .

[After the rest of Richard's fleet arrived in Cyprus, the Emperor and Richard met and agreed upon peace terms. However,] the following night, the Emperor fled swiftly, trusting in the darkness of night and riding on his best tawny horse. He fled from that place at the prompting of one of his mendacious knights, a man named Pagan of Haifa. This knight declared that King Richard proposed to set upon the Emperor and to throw him into chains that night. The Emperor was much distressed by this and, leaving his tents, his very good war horses, and all his clothing, he fled early in the night to the city of Famagusta.

The King, when he heard this, began to follow him in his galleys, declaring that the Emperor had broken his word and was a perjuror. The King left in the bands of Guido the task of leading the army by the land route to Famagusta. The King himself arrived there on the third day and found it deserted by men.

The Emperor was aware that it would not be safe for him to be besieged, since if he were shut up he would be unable to escape. He therefore hid in out­of­the­way, wooded spots so that he could fall upon our men as they passed by. King Richard, when he had come to Famagusta in his galleys, ordered the seaport to be watched very closely so that if the Emperor were to try to flee he could be caught.

While they waited there for three days, the Bishop of Beauvais and Drogo, of Merlo (a famous and noble man from the domains of the King of France) came as messengers to King Richard. They urged him to sail quickly to Acre for, they declared, the King of France was not going to attack the city before Richard's arrival....

The King paid no heed to the messengers and moved his army to Nicosia. Each man brought his own necessary food, for the area was deserted. They proceeded in their spread­out battle formations, for they had learned that the Emperor was going to ambush them as they passed by. The King himself went in the last formation to repel any chance sudden attack.

All at once the Emperor and about seventy Greeks leaped suddenly out of a hiding place. Their balistarii burled spears at our men in the rear ranks, but they could not break up our formations, which stayed together in a disciplined way. The Emperor emerged from hiding slowly, like a scout. He proceeded on an irregular course so that either our formation, when it saw him, would spontaneously break up or in order that he might shoot arrows at the King when he found him. After he spied the King in the last formation, he shot two poisoned arrows at him. The King was violently outraged at this. He spurred his horse toward the Emperor in order to strike him with his lance. The Emperor saw him coming and slipped away. He fled at the speediest pace to his stronghold called Kantara. There he was extremely sorrowful and confused because he could not do as he wished

The Emperor meditated that the fates were against him. His only daughter had been captured, a fact that weighed upon his mind, while his castles had been occupied or had surrendered, and for a long time now he had been supported rather than loved by his alienated men. Seeing that no hope of resistance remained, be decided out of necessity, though with reluctance, to seek peace and mercy. He sent messengers to lay his case before King Richard and the King's spirit was eminently inclined to compassion.

The Emperor came down from Kantara with doleful mien and dejected countenance. He came up to the King and humbled himself at the King's feet. Kneeling, be declared that he would submit to the King's mercy in all things, that he would keep neither land nor castle for himself, but that, for the rest, the King should be his lord, so long as be did not cast him into iron chains.

The King was moved by pity. He made the Emperor arise and sit beside him. When the King caused the Emperor's daughter to be brought to see him, the Emperor was unspeakably overjoyed. He embraced her affectionately and insatiably kissed her many times, while tears flowed freely. This took place on the Friday after the feast of St. Augustine and before Pentecost. [Friday May 31]

Richard cast the Emperor into chains, not of iron, but of silver.


Source:

Itinerarium Peregrinorum et Gesta Regis Ricardi, ed. William Stubbs, Rolls Series, (London: Longmans, 1864) II, 9-29 (pp. 150-83), translated by James Brundage, The Crusades: A Documentary History, (Milwaukee, WI: Marquette University Press, 1962), 166-74
For this text see also The Crusade of Richard the Lionhearted, ed. and trans. John L. LaMonte, (New York: Columbia University Press, 1941)
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