Crusaders - Alfred J. Church

How Saladin Took Jerusalem

He that will journey through the land of Mesopotamia northward or ever he come to the river Tigris, must cross certain mountains wherein dwells a people that men call Koords. These men are great warriors, and by reason of their poverty, for their land is barren, are wont to hire themselves out to fight for others. Among this people there was born about the time of the setting up of the kingdom of Jerusalem a certain Ayub, and Ayub had a son, Saladin by name. This Saladin became a notable person while I dwelt in Egypt, and, indeed, he was one greatly to be admired. It was said that in his youth he had followed evil courses. This I cannot affirm or deny of my own knowledge. Let it suffice to say that in the days of which I speak he was by common consent a man of singular virtue and temperance. He was not one who cared to clothe himself in purple and fine linen. His garments were of some coarse woollen stuff; nor did he wear any ornaments save such as a soldier must needs have. He kept the hours of prayer which are ordered by his religion most diligently, and the hours of fasting also. If he was constrained on occasion, as a soldier must be, to forego a customary fast, then he was wont to make amends at some convenient time. Also he would carry with him into battle the book of his religion which they call the Koran, and would read it when he could find opportunity. This Saladin having done good service to the Caliph of Egypt (for so they call the chief ruler), became his chief minister, and in course of time, the said Caliph being wholly given to pleasure, by consent both of the armies and of the people, became himself Caliph.

There was a certain Reginald, a knight, or I should rather call him a robber, who, having gathered a company of men like-minded as himself, built himself a fort hard by a road much frequented by travellers and traders. These he would rob without scruple, some of them whom he spoiled being on their way to the Caliph Saladin with gifts or tribute. This Reginald, though in truth he obeyed no man, nor cared for anything save his own gain, professed to be subject to the King of Jerusalem, who in those days was a certain Guy. Saladin therefore sent to the king, saying, "This Reginald does me much wrong; there is peace between you and me; nevertheless he being your subject, makes war upon me, my people, and my allies." But King Guy, having neither the will nor the power to deal with the said Reginald, sent away the ambassadors of the Caliph without redress. Thereupon Saladin, gathering together an army of some fourscore thousand men, marched into the land of Palestine. First he laid siege to the city of Tiberias, the lord of which was one Raymond, Count of Tripoli. Now it was commonly said that this Raymond had a grudge against King Guy, whose place and authority he coveted, and that he made a covenant with Saladin by which he was to betray the king into his hands. This I know, that no man in those days, and for years after, spoke the name of this Raymond without scorn, slur, and curses. When the king heard that Saladin had besieged Tiberias, he, being invited thereto by the said Raymond, gathered all his army together and set forth. So much is beyond all doubt; as also that Raymond came thither with his army, as was fitting, seeing that he was lord of the city of Tiberias. But when it is affirmed that by the counsel of Raymond there was chosen a place for a camp where there was no water for the men, and that when the battle was set this man fled with the intent of giving the victory to Saladin, I neither assent nor deny.

This I know, that there was a great battle, and that King Guy and Count Raymond fled before the face of Saladin, and that there was a great slaughter of Christians, even to the number of thirty thousand. King Guy was taken prisoner, and with him also that Reginald who was the first cause of the war. It was said that when these two were taken into the tent of Saladin the king, being faint with thirst, fell into a swoon. Thereupon the Caliph caused to be given him a bowl of drink that had been cooled with snow. "Kings," said he, "are anointed of God, and no man may lawfully do them wrong." Then turning to the knight Reginald he said, "Thou art a robber, and mightest well be put to death without further speech. Nevertheless, as Allah is merciful, so will I myself show mercy. Say then, 'There is one God, and Mahomet is His prophet,' and thou shalt live." But this Reginald was not one who would stoop to such a thing, albeit he was a robber. "Nay," he made answer, "I will not buy my life at such a price. There is one God, and Jesus Christ is His Son, but this Mahomet is the father of lies." Thereupon Saladin smote the man on the head with his sword, and the guards dragged him from the tent and slew him. As for King Guy, he was honourably treated, and before many days ransomed for a price.

After this Saladin laid siege to Jerusalem, and because the city was well-nigh without an army, for this had for the most part perished or been taken with the king, and there was no one who had command, but the chiefs were, after their custom, divided against each other, he took it with but little difficulty. Nevertheless Saladin chose rather to possess himself of the city by agreement than by force of arms, knowing that there were those within the walls whom, if they were driven to despair, it would cost him much to overcome. So, though at the first he had affirmed that as the Christians had shed much blood, so should their blood be shed, he afterwards relented. In the end it was agreed that such as were native born, whether they were Christians or no, might remain in the city and live in peace, but they who had come thither from foreign lands should depart within forty days, and the Caliph gave his word that they should suffer no harm on their journey. Also, it was covenanted that for each man should be paid ten pieces of gold, and for each woman five pieces, and for each child one; and that such as could not so purchase their freedom should be slaves for ever. But of these conditions he relaxed not a little, for he was ever a man of a liberal heart and an open hand. So the city of Jerusalem was taken again out of the hands of the Christians.