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
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
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
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.
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),
For this text see also The Crusade of Richard the Lionhearted,
ed. and trans. John L. LaMonte, (New York: Columbia University
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.
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© Paul Halsall December 1997