The Third Crusade (1189–1192), also known as the Kings' Crusade, was an attempt by European leaders to reconquer the Holy Land from Saladin (Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn Yūsuf ibn Ayyūb). It was largely successful, capturing Acre, Jaffa, and reversing most of Saladin's conquests, but failed to capture Jerusalem, which was the emotional and spiritual fixation of the Crusade.
After the failure of the Second Crusade, the Zengid dynasty controlled a unified Syria and engaged in a conflict with the Fatimid rulers of Egypt, which ultimately resulted in the unification of Egyptian and Syrian forces under the command of Saladin, who employed them to reduce the Christian states and to recapture Jerusalem in 1187. Spurred by religious zeal, Henry II of England and Philip II of France ended their conflict with each other to lead a new crusade. Henry's death in 1189, however, meant that the English contingent came under the command of his successor Richard I of England (known as Richard the Lionheart, in French Cœur de Lion). The elderly Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa responded to the call to arms, and led a massive army across Anatolia, but drowned in a river in Asia Minor on 10 June 1190, before reaching the Holy Land. His death caused the greatest grief among the German Crusaders. Most of his discouraged troops left to go home.
After driving the Muslims from Acre, Frederick's successor Leopold V of Austria and Philip left the Holy Land in August 1191. Saladin failed to defeat Richard in any military engagements, and Richard secured several more key coastal cities. Nevertheless, on 2 September 1192, Richard finalized a treaty with Saladin by which Jerusalem would remain under Muslim control, but which also allowed unarmed Christian pilgrims and merchants to visit the city. Richard departed the Holy Land on 2 October. The successes of the Third Crusade would allow the Crusaders to maintain a considerable kingdom based in Cyprus and the Syrian coast. However, its failure to recapture Jerusalem would lead to the call for a Fourth Crusade six years later.
Eager to expand his power, Nur ad-Din set his sights on the Fatimid dynasty of Egypt. In 1163, Nur ad-Din's most trusted general, Shirkuh set out on a military expedition to the Nile. Accompanying the general was his young nephew, Saladin.
With Shirkuh's troops camped outside of Cairo, Egypt's sultan, Shawar called on King Amalric I of Jerusalem for assistance. In response, Amalric sent an army into Egypt and attacked Shirkuh's troops at Bilbeis in 1164.
In an attempt to divert Crusader attention from Egypt, Nur ad-Din attacked Antioch, resulting in a massacre of Christian soldiers and the capture of several Crusader leaders, including Bohemond III, Prince of Antioch. Nur ad-Din sent the scalps of the Christian defenders to Egypt for Shirkuh to proudly display at Bilbeis for Amalric's soldiers to see. This action prompted both Amalric and Shirkuh to lead their armies out of Egypt.
In 1167, Nur ad-Din once again sent Shirkuh to conquer the Fatimids in Egypt. Shawar also opted to once again call upon Amalric for the defence of his territory. The combined Egyptian-Christian forces pursued Shirkuh until he retreated to Alexandria.
Amalric then breached his alliance with Shawar by turning his forces on Egypt and besieging the city of Bilbeis. Shawar pleaded with his former enemy, Nur ad-Din to save him from Amalric's treachery. Lacking the resources to maintain a prolonged siege of Cairo against the combined forces of Nur ad-Din and Shawar, Amalric retreated. This new alliance gave Nur ad-Din rule over virtually all of Syria and Egypt.
Shawar was executed for his alliances with the Christian forces, and Shirkuh succeeded him as vizier of Egypt. In 1169, Shirkuh died unexpectedly after only weeks of rule. Shirkuh's successor was his nephew, Salah ad-Din Yusuf, commonly known as Saladin. Nur ad-Din died in 1174, leaving the new empire to his 11-year old son, As-Salih. It was decided that the only man competent enough to uphold the jihad against the Franks was Saladin, who became sultan of both Egypt and Syria, and the founder of the Ayyubid dynasty.
Amalric also died in 1174, leaving Jerusalem to his 13-year old son, Baldwin IV. Although Baldwin suffered from leprosy, he was an effective and active military commander, defeating Saladin at the battle of Montgisard in 1177, with support from Raynald of Châtillon, who had been released from prison in 1176. Later, he forged an agreement with Saladin to allow free trade between Muslim and Christian territories.
Raynald also raided caravans throughout the region. He expanded his piracy to the Red Sea by sending galleys not only to raid ships, but to assault the city of Mecca itself. These acts enraged the Muslim world, giving Raynald a reputation as the most hated man in the Middle East.
Baldwin IV died in 1185 and the kingdom was left to his nephew Baldwin V, whom he had crowned as co-king in 1183. Raymond III of Tripoli again served as regent. The following year, Baldwin V died before his ninth birthday, and his mother Princess Sybilla, sister of Baldwin IV, crowned herself queen and her husband, Guy of Lusignan, king.
It was at this time that Raynald, once again, raided a rich caravan and had its travelers thrown in prison. Saladin demanded that the prisoners and their cargo be released. The newly crowned King Guy appealed to Raynald to give in to Saladin's demands, but Raynald refused to follow the king's orders.
It was this final act of outrage by Raynald which gave Saladin the opportunity he needed to take the offensive against the kingdom. He laid siege to the city of Tiberias in 1187. Raymond advised patience, but King Guy, acting on advice from Raynald, marched his army to the Horns of Hattin outside of Tiberias.
The Frankish army, thirsty and demoralized, was destroyed in the ensuing battle. King Guy and Raynald were brought to Saladin's tent, where Guy was offered a goblet of water because of his great thirst. Guy took a drink and then passed the goblet to Raynald. Saladin would not be forced to protect the treacherous Raynald by allowing him to drink, as it was custom that if you were offered a drink, your life was safe. When Raynald accepted the drink, Saladin told his interpreter, "say to the King: 'it is you who have given him to drink'". Afterwards, Saladin beheaded Raynald for past betrayals. Saladin honored tradition with King Guy; Guy was sent to Damascus and eventually ransomed to his people, one of the few captive crusaders to avoid execution.
By the end of the year, Saladin had taken Acre and Jerusalem. Pope Urban III is said to have collapsed and died upon hearing the news. However, at the time of his death, the news of the fall of Jerusalem could not yet have reached him, although he knew of the battle of Hattin and the fall of Acre.
The new pope, Gregory VIII proclaimed that the capture of Jerusalem was punishment for the sins of Christians across Europe. The cry went up for a new crusade to the Holy Land. Henry II of England and Philip II of France ended their war with each other, and both imposed a "Saladin tithe" on their citizens to finance the venture. In Britain, Baldwin of Exeter, the archbishop of Canterbury, made a tour through Wales, convincing 3,000 men-at-arms to take up the cross, recorded in the Itinerary of Giraldus Cambrensis.
The elderly Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa responded to the call immediately. He took up the Cross at Mainz Cathedral on 27 March 1188 and was the first to set out for the Holy Land in May 1189 with an army of about 100,000 men, including 20,000 knights. An army of 2,000 men from the Hungarian prince Géza, the younger brother of the king Béla III of Hungary also went with Barbarossa to the Holy Land.
The Byzantine EmperorIsaac II Angelus made a secret alliance with Saladin to impede Frederick's progress in exchange for his empire's safety. Meanwhile, the Sultanate of Rum promised Frederick safety through Anatolia, but after much raiding Frederick lost patience and on 18 May 1190, the German army sacked Iconium, the capital of the Sultanate of Rüm. Frederick's horse slipped on 10 June 1190, while crossing the Saleph River throwing him against the rocks. He then drowned in the river. After this, much of his army returned to Germany, in anticipation of the upcoming Imperial election. His son Frederick of Swabia led the remaining 5,000 men to Antioch. There, the emperor's body was boiled to remove the flesh, which was interred in the Church of St. Peter; his bones were put in a bag to continue the crusade. In Antioch, however, the German army was further reduced by fever. Young Frederick had to ask the assistance of his kinsman Conrad of Montferrat to lead him safely to Acre, by way of Tyre, where his father's bones were buried.
Henry II of England died on 6 July 1189 following a defeat by his son Richard I (Lionheart) and Philip II. Richard inherited the crown and immediately began raising funds for the crusade. In July 1190, Richard and Philip set out jointly from Marseille, France for Sicily. Philip II had hired a Genoese fleet to transport his army which consisted of 650 knights, 1,300 horses, and 1,300 squires to the Holy Land.
William II of Sicily had died the previous year, and was replaced by Tancred, who placed Joan of England—William's wife and Richard's sister—in prison. Richard captured the capital city of Messina on 4 October 1190 and Joan was released. Richard and Philip fell out over the issue of Richard's marriage, as Richard had decided to marry Berengaria of Navarre, breaking off his long-standing betrothal to Philip's half-sister Alys. Philip left Sicily directly for the Middle East on 30 March 1191 and arrived in Tyre in mid-May. He joined the siege of Acre on 20 May. Richard did not set off from Sicily until 10 April.
Shortly after setting sail from Sicily, Richard's armada of 100 ships (carrying 8,000 men) was struck by a violent storm. Several ships ran aground, including one holding Joan, his new fiancée Berengaria, and a large amount of treasure that had been amassed for the crusade. It was soon discovered that Isaac Dukas Comnenus of Cyprus had seized the treasure. The young women were unharmed. Richard entered Limassol on 6 May and met with Isaac who agreed to return Richard's belongings and send 500 of his soldiers to the Holy Land. Once back at his fortress of Famagusta, Isaac broke his oath of hospitality and began issuing orders for Richard to leave the island. Isaac's arrogance prompted Richard to conquer the island within days.
King Guy was released from prison by Saladin in 1189. He attempted to take command of the Christian forces at Tyre, but Conrad of Montferrat held power there after his successful defence of the city from Muslim attacks. Guy turned his attention to the wealthy port of Acre. He amassed an army to besiege the city and received aid from Philip's newly arrived French army. However, it was still not enough to counter Saladin's force, which besieged the besiegers. In summer 1190, in one of the numerous outbreaks of disease in the camp, Queen Sibylla and her young daughters died. Guy, although only king by right of marriage, endeavoured to retain his crown, although the rightful heir was Sibylla's half-sister Isabella. After a hastily arranged divorce from Humphrey IV of Toron, Isabella was married to Conrad of Montferrat, who claimed the kingship in her name.
Richard arrived at Acre on 8 June 1191 and immediately began supervising the construction of siege weapons to assault the city. The city was captured on 12 July.
Richard, Philip, and Leopold quarreled over the spoils of their victory. Richard cast down the German standard from the city, slighting Leopold. Also, in the struggle for the kingship of Jerusalem, Richard supported Guy, while Philip and Leopold supported Conrad, who was related to them both. It was decided that Guy would continue to rule, but that Conrad would receive the crown upon his death.
Frustrated with Richard (and in Philip's case, in poor health), Philip and Leopold took their armies and left the Holy Land in August. Philip left 10,000 French crusaders in the Holy Land and 5,000 silver marks to pay them.
Saladin tried to negotiate with Richard for the release of the captured Muslim soldier garrison, which included their women and children, but on 20 August Richard thought that Saladin had delayed too much, and had 2,700 of the Muslim prisoners decapitated in full view of Saladin's army, who tried unsuccessfully to rescue them. Saladin then responded by killing all of the Christian prisoners he had captured.
After the capture of Acre, Richard decided to march to the city of Jaffa, where he could launch the attack on Jerusalem but on 7 September 1191, at Arsuf, 30 miles (50 km) north of Jaffa, Saladin attacked Richard's army.
Saladin attempted to harass Richard's army into breaking its formation in order to defeat it in detail. However, Richard maintained his army's defensive formation until the Hospitallers broke ranks to charge the right wing of Saladin's forces. Richard then ordered a general counterattack, which won the battle. Arsuf was an important victory. The Muslim army was not destroyed, despite the considerable casualties it suffered, but it did rout; this was considered shameful by the Muslims and boosted the morale of the Crusaders. Arsuf had dented Saladin's reputation as an invincible warrior, and proved Richard's courage as soldier and his skill as a commander. Richard was able to take, defend and hold Jaffa – a strategically crucial move toward securing Jerusalem. By depriving Saladin of the coast, Richard seriously threatened Saladin's hold on Jerusalem.
Advances on Jerusalem, regicide and negotiationsEdit
Following his victory, Richard took Jaffa and established his new headquarters there. He offered to begin negotiations with Saladin, who sent his brother, Al-Adil (known as 'Saphadin' to the Franks) to meet with Richard. Negotiations (which had included an attempt to marry Richard's sister Joan to Al-Adil) failed, and Richard marched to Ascalon, which had been recently demolished by Saladin.
In November of 1191 the Crusader army advanced inland towards Jerusalem. On the 12th of December Saladin was forced by pressure from his emirs to disband the greater part of his army. Learning this, Richard pushed his army forward, spending Christmas at Latrun. The army then marched to Beit Nuba, only 12 miles from Jerusalem. Muslim morale in Jerusalem was so low that the arrival of the Crusaders would probably have caused the city to fall quickly. However, the weather was appallingly bad, cold with heavy rain and hailstorms; this, combined with the fear that the Crusader army, if it besieged Jerusalem, might be trapped by a relieving force, caused the decision to retreat back to the coast to be made.
Richard called on Conrad to join him on campaign, but he refused, citing Richard's alliance with King Guy. He too had been negotiating with Saladin, as a defence against any attempt by Richard to wrest Tyre from him for Guy. However, in April, Richard was forced to accept Conrad as king of Jerusalem after an election by the nobles of the kingdom. Guy had received no votes at all, but Richard sold him Cyprus as compensation. Before he could be crowned, Conrad was stabbed to death by two Hashshashin in the streets of Tyre. Eight days later, Richard's nephew Henry II of Champagne married Queen Isabella, who was pregnant with Conrad's child. It was strongly suspected that the king's killers had acted on instructions from Richard.
During the winter months, Richard's men occupied and refortified Ascalon, whose fortifications had earlier been razed by Saladin. The spring of 1192 saw continued negotiations and further skirmishing between the opposing forces. On 22 May the strategically important fortified town of Darum on the frontiers of Egypt fell to the crusaders, following five days of fierce fighting. The Crusader army made another advance on Jerusalem, and in June it came within sight of the city before being forced to retreat once again, this time because of dissention amongst its leaders. In particular, Richard and the majority of the army council wanted to force Saladin to relinquish Jerusalem by attacking the basis of his power through an invasion of Egypt. The leader of the French contingent, the Duke of Burgundy, however, was adamant that a direct attack on Jerusalem should be made. This split the Crusader army into two factions, neither of which was strong enough to achieve its objective. Richard stated that he would accompany any attack on Jerusalem but only as a simple soldier, he refused to lead the army. Without a united command the army had little choice but to retreat back to the coast.
In July 1192, Saladin's army suddenly attacked and captured Jaffa with thousands of men, but Saladin had lost control of his army because of their anger for the massacre at Acre. It is believed that Saladin even told the Crusaders to shield themselves in the Citadel until he had regained control of his army.
Richard was intending to return to England when he heard the news that Saladin and his army had captured Jaffa. Richard and a small force of 2000 men went to Jaffa by sea in a surprise attack. In the subsequent Battle of Jaffa (1192), the Ayyubids, being unprepared for a naval attack were overwhelmed. Richard then retook Jaffa and freed the Crusader prisoners, who proceeded to join his force. However, Saladin's forces still had numerical superiority and counter-attacked. Saladin intended a stealth and surprise attack at dawn, but his forces were discovered. Saladin still attacked though, but his men were lightly armored and suffered very heavy casualties due to the Crusader crossbowmen. The battle to retake Jaffa ended in complete failure for Saladin who was forced to retreat. This battle greatly strengthened the position of the coastal Crusader states.
On 2 September 1192, following his defeat at Jaffa, Saladin was forced to finalize a treaty with Richard by which Jerusalem would remain under Muslim control, but which also allowed unarmed Christian pilgrims and traders to visit the city. Ascalon was a contentious issue as it threatened communication between Saladin's dominions in Egypt and Syria, it was eventually agreed that Ascalon, with its defences demolished, be returned to Saladin's control. Richard departed the Holy Land on 9 October 1192.
Neither side was entirely discontent nor satisfied with the results of the war. Though Richard had deprived the Muslims of important coastal territories as a result of his consistent victories over Saladin, many Christians in the Latin West felt disappointed that he had elected not to pursue Jerusalem. Likewise, many in the Islamic world felt disturbed that Saladin had failed to drive the Christians out of Syria and Palestine. Trade, however, flourished throughout the Middle East and in port cities along the Mediterranean coastline.
Saladin's servant and biographer Baha al-Din recounted Saladin's distress at the successes of the Crusaders:
'I fear to make peace, not knowing what may become of me. Our enemy will grow strong, now that they have retained these lands. They will come forth to recover the rest of their lands and you will see every one of them ensconced on his hill-top,' meaning in his castle, 'having announced, “I shall stay put” and the Muslims will be ruined.' These were his words and it came about as he said.
Richard was arrested and imprisoned in December 1192 by Duke Leopold, who suspected him of murdering his cousin Conrad of Montferrat, and had been offended by Richard casting down his standard from the walls of Acre. He was later transferred to the custody of Henry VI, Holy Roman Emperor, and it took a ransom of one hundred and fifty thousand marks to obtain his release. Richard returned to England in 1194 and died of a crossbow bolt wound in 1199 at the age of 41.
In 1193, Saladin died of yellow fever. His heirs would quarrel over the succession and ultimately fragment his conquests.
Henry of Champagne was killed in an accidental fall in 1197. Queen Isabella then married for a fourth time, to Amalric of Lusignan, who had succeeded his brother Guy, positioned as King of Cyprus. After their deaths in 1205, her eldest daughter Maria of Montferrat (born after her father's murder) succeeded to the throne of Jerusalem.
Richard's decision not to attack Jerusalem would lead to the call for a Fourth Crusade six years after the third ended in 1192. However, Richard's victories facilitated the survival of a wealthy Crusader kingdom centered on Acre. Historian Thomas Madden summarizes the achievements of the Third Crusade:
...the Third Crusade was by almost any measure a highly successful expedition. Most of Saladin's victories in the wake of Hattin were wiped away. The Crusader kingdom was healed of its divisions, restored to its coastal cities, and secured in a peace with its greatest enemy. Although he had failed to reclaim Jerusalem, Richard had put the Christians of the Levant back on their feet again.