Crusaders - Alfred J. Church

Of What Befell after the Taking of Jerusalem

When Saladin had taken Jerusalem, he thought to have driven all the Latins out of the land of Palestine. But it was not so to be. First he besieged the city of Tyre, but in this enterprise he fared but ill. It was a strong place by nature, being on an island which is not easily approached; also it had been fortified with much skill, and there were many men of war in the town who had come thither from Jerusalem and elsewhere; and after not many days there came from the West one Conrad, a skilful commander. First of all there perished in the harbour five ships of the Turks with all the crews; also many were slain, having been taken unawares by a sally from the town. At this time the siege-engines were burnt with fire. Thereupon Saladin left besieging Tyre, and made his way with all the speed that he could to Damascus.

That the Caliph, being a man of prudence and foresight, looked for much trouble and many wars to follow after the taking of Jerusalem is most certainly true. So much I heard from one who followed my own craft of healing, and was in attendance upon him. When he had departed from Tyre and was come to Damascus, he called his principal captains to a banquet, and spoke to them some such words as follow: "Mind you, my friends, we have not done with these Christians. While the Christian kingdom in Jerusalem still stood," said he, "it was no man's business to give it help, however great soever might be its peril. One king or prince would wait for another, nor could any one be blamed for delay while all were alike in fault; for of whom could it be said that he should be the first to move? But, now that the kingdom has fallen, all hearts will be moved, and he that shall hold back will earn for himself discredit and reproach. Therefore, my friends"—for so did he make an end to his speech—"be ready to guard with your swords that which ye won with the same. It will, I know, be no child's play, yet, so that you be equal to yourselves, things, I doubt not, will go well with you."

And so it fell out. There was much anger and self-reproach among the nations of the West when it was known that the city of Jerusalem had been taken. The first of the kings and princes that took action in the matter was Frederick the Emperor of Germany, a famous prince whom men commonly called "Red-Beard." When news came to the Caliph that King Frederick had landed with a great army of men on the coast of the Lesser Asia, he clapped his hands in manifest joy, not a little to the wonder of them that stood round. "Yes," said he—for though no one dared to speak, he knew what was in their minds—"he is a great warrior, yet I fear him not. 'Tis not with him that we shall cross swords, at the least here in Egypt, or even in the land of Palestine. Listen, now, and I will set forth the whole matter. I saw this man some forty years since, when I was a boy of ten years of age, and followed my father, who, indeed, had no home save in the camp. He was in the army of his father Conrad the Emperor, nor was there a braver knight in the host than he, nor one more skilled in arms, nor of a nobler presence. He had then, I take it, some four-and-twenty years of age, and from that time to this he has been a man of war. And yet I fear him not. Think you that he will win his way hither through the Lesser Asia? I tell you that I myself, with you for counsellors and helpers, and never had Caliph better, and with all the hosts that I might gather together, could not do it; no, not though the nations of the land for the most part own me for their sovereign lord. Such deserts are there, such mountains, and tribes so fierce that it is a thing not to be done by mortal man. It was accomplished, 'tis true, some fourscore and ten years since by those that followed the great Godfrey; but Godfrey took the tribes unawares; and he, too, of every hundred men that he numbered at the beginning of his march could scarce number a score at the end."

And in this the Caliph spake truly; for there came, not many days after, tidings that things had fallen out as he said. The army of the Emperor "Red-Beard" had come back to the coast having accomplished nothing. It had marched, indeed, some three hundred miles through the Lesser Asia so far as a certain city, Conieh by name, which the Greeks were wont to call Iconium, where there was fought a great battle. In this, indeed, the emperor was conqueror, as he had been in others also; but his army was sorely wasted with hunger and thirst and disease. Nor could it march so much as a mile in peace; there was never a river to be crossed, or a pass among the mountains to be traversed, but the enemy were there. And if ever a man fell out on the march, or strayed so much as a furlong from the way, he was slain. As for the emperor himself, he was drowned in seeking to ford a certain river among the mountains, and of his army scarcely more than five thousand reached the coast.

But there was another enterprise on foot which Saladin held to be by far more formidable. This was the joint undertaking of the French king Philip and the English king Richard, with whom were leagued many other princes of less estate and name. And these were to come by sea, so that they would come with strength undiminished, save, indeed, so far as they might encounter the perils of the sea. But these perils may be, if not wholly avoided, yet much diminished by caution and the waiting for proper seasons.

Of this enterprise the Sultan Saladin by no means made light. Doubtless he counted somewhat on the jealousy and mutual ill-will that he knew to be between the two kings; for he was marvellously well informed by them that served him concerning the affairs of his adversaries; but he was persuaded in his mind that he would have to contend with enemies so many and so powerful that it would require all the strength that he had to resist them.

And now that I may make my story the clearer, I will go back somewhat. I have said that Saladin, having taken Jerusalem, would fain have also taken the city of Tyre, but could not. So when he left besieging of it and had departed to Damascus, the Marquis Conrad, who was Lord of Tyre, gathering together as great an army as he could—and there were yet many Christians in Palestine, for all that the chief cities had fallen into the Sultan's hands—laid siege to the city of Acre, for so they now commonly called that which in former days bore the name of Ptolemais.