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Medieval Sourcebook:
The Crusade of Frederick Barbarossa:

[TR] To protect his own interest from the crusaders, the Byzantine emperor made an alliance with Saladin. This made the former a greater object of hatred than ever before. In the first crusade, Alexius had been suspected and detested; Manuel had been openly blamed for the failure of the second crusade. Now in the third, no means are too odious to be attributed to the emperor of the East. In a few years, the hatred accumulated for more than a century will vent itself in the sack of Constantinople.


Tageno in Freher SS. p. 410. Latin.

Adrianople, end of November, 1189.

Frederic, by the grace of God, emperor and always august, to, his beloved kinsman Leopold, duke of Austria, ­ greeting and all good wishes.

We thought we ought to tell you, because of your love for us, that our brother, the emperor of Constantinople, although he, ought to have been bound by brotherly love, has from the very first violated all the oaths which are known to have been sworn by his chancellor at Nuremberg, in the presence of the princes of the empire, in regard to our security on the march, and market and exchanges. Moreover, he has seized and ignominiously thrown into prison our ambassadors, the bishop of Müinster, count Rupert [of Naussau] and Markward, our chamberlain, together with all their attendants, whom we had sent to confirm the peace and to arrange for our peaceful march on this expedition of the quickening cross. At length, however, after long negotiations, grievously delaying our march until the dangerous winter season, he has sent back to our excellency the aforesaid ambassadors on the feast of St. Simon and St. Jude, as if matters had been satisfactorily arranged, and he has again promised us good markets, the usual exchanges and an abundance of vessels.

Truly, because the burnt child dreads the fire, we can in the future have no confidence in the words and oaths of the Greeks. in order to avoid the stormy winter season, we propose to stay until spring at Philippopolis and Adrianople, and to cross over to Constantinople in the favorable season. Therefore, although we rejoice in a well-equipped army, yet we must seek divine succour in our prayers. For these reasons we ask and desire of your love, that in your prayers and pious devotions you commend us and the whole army of the crusaders to God. In addition we ask of your prudence to see that the letters which we send to the pope reach him through your aid and exertions, because you can arrange this more successfully than anyone else.


Tageno in Freher, SS. 1, p. 410. Röhricht, Regesta, 681. Latin.

To her venerable and most illustrious lord Frederic, by the grace of God, most victorious emperor of Rome and most friendly champion of the Holy Cross, Sibylla, formerly queen of Jerusalem, his most humble servant, greatly humiliated in the name of the Lord.

Spare the humble and conquer the proud. I, your most humble maid­servant ­ as I said above ­ am compelled to tell your highness and supreme excellency of the grief of the whole city and of the disgrace of the sacred Christians. For the emperor of Constantinople ­, the persecutor of the church of God, has entered into a conspiracy with Saladin, the seducer and destroyer of the holy Name, against the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I tell this, which I am indeed not able to say without tears. Saladin, the aforesaid enemy of Christ, has sent to the Grecian emperor and the persecutor of the holy Name many presents very Pleasing to mortals, in order to make a compact and agreement. And for the slaughter and destruction of the Christians wishing to exalt the name of God, he sent 600 measures of poisoned grain and added a very large vase of wine, filled with such a malignant poison that when he wanted to try its efficacy he called a man who was killed by the odor alone when the vase was opened.

Along with the rest I am compelled to tell my lord another thing : the aforesaid emperor, in order to increase our misfortunes and magnify the destruction of the Christians, does not permit wheat or other necessary victuals to be carried from his country to Jerusalem. Wherefore, the wheat which might be sent by himself and others, is also shut up in the city of Constantinople.

However, at the end of this tearful epistle, I tell you truthfully that you ought to believe the most faithful bearer of this letter. For he himself witnesses what he has seen with his own eyes and heard with his own ears. This is the reason that with my head bowed to the ground and with bent knees, I ask your Magnificence that inasmuch as you are the head of the world and the wall of the house of Israel, you should never believe the Grecian emperor.


Trans in Dana C. Munro, "Letters of the Crusaders", Translations and Reprints from the Original Sources of European History, Vol 1:4, (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1896), 20-22

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


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