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Medieval Sourcebook:
William of Tyre:
Latin Disarray - Politics in the Latin Kingdom, 1150-1185

1. The Capture of Ascalon [August 22, 1153]

[adapted from Brundage] The Second Crusade had done nothing to halt the advance of Islam against the Latin states, and in the years immediately following the fiasco at Damascus the Moslem advance continued apace. The County of Edessa was no longer tenable by the Latins. The Countess Beatrice in 1158 finally recognized the futility of trying to maintain a hold upon the county and accepted the offer of the Byzantine Emperor, Manuel Conmenus, to buy up her rights there. The Principality of Antioch was also in trouble, for its prince, Raymond, had been killed in an ambush in 1149 and King Baldwin III of Jerusalem had taken charge of the Principality as regent for Raymond's widow, Constance . The boundaries of the Principality were, moreover, now painfully constricted, due to the military successes of Nur ad-Din in the upper and middle Orontes Valley. A further blow to the Latin states came in 1152, with the murder by a group of assassins of Count Raymond II of Tripoli. Baldwin of Jerusalem, accordingly, became regent of Raymond's state, too. After defeating an attempt by his mother, the dowager Queen Melisende, to partition the Latin Kingdom itself,4 Baldwin took the offensive against his Moslem enemies by launching a large-scale attack upon Ascalon.

William of Tyre provided perhaps the best account of the period.

Ascalon is one of the five cities of the Philistines. It is situated on the seashore and is shaped like a semicircle whose chord or diameter lies along the shore, while its circumference or arc lies on the land facing east.

The whole city lies in a kind of basin which is tilted down toward the sea. It is girded round with artificial mounds on which are walls, studded with towers. It is solidly fashioned and its stones are held together by cement which is as hard as stone. The walls are of a proper thickness and as high as is proportionally fitting. Even the outer fortifications which circle around the city are constructed with the same solidity and are diligently fortified. There are no springs within the circuit of the walls nor are there any nearby, but wells both outside and within the city supply an abundance of delicious drinking water. As a further precaution the citizens have built within the city several cisterns to collect rain water.

There are four gates in the circuit of the walls. These are most carefully fortified with high, solid towers. The first gate, which opens to the east, is called the Great Gate and is commonly known as the Jerusalem Gate, since it faces toward the Holy City. It is flanked by two very high towers which dominate the city and are its strength and protection. In front of this gate there are three or four lesser gates in the barbican by which one may come to the Great Gate through some winding passages.

The second gate faces westward and is called the Sea Gate because the citizens can pass through it to the sea. The third faces the south, toward the city of Gaza ... from which it takes its name. The fourth faces north and is called the Jaffa Gate, after the neighboring city which is located on the same coast.

Ascalon derives no advantage from being situated on the seacoast, for it offers no port or safe harbor for ships. It has a mere sandy beach and the violent winds make the sea around the city exceedingly choppy so that, unless the sea be calm, those who come there are very suspicious of it. The soil around the city is covered with sand and is unfit for cultivation, although it is suited for vines and fruit-bearing trees. There are, however, a few little valleys to the north of the city which, when fertilized and irrigated with well water, furnish some vegetables and fruits to the citizens.

The city has a large population and it is commonly said that even the smallest of its inhabitants, including the children, receive salaries from the Egyptian Caliph's treasury. The aforesaid lord and his princes take the very greatest care of Ascalon, for it is their opinion that if it were lost and were to come under our control there would be nothing to prevent our princes from invading Egypt freely and without difficulty and from occupying the Kingdom....

For fifty years and more after the Lord had delivered the other areas of the promised land to the Christian people Ascalon still resisted all of our attempts until at last they attempted the difficult and virtually impossible task of besieging it. For, in addition to its walls and barbicans, its towers and ramparts, the city was supplied with arms and provisions beyond all expectation and it had an experienced population accustomed to the use of arms. There were so many of them that from the beginning of the siege to its end the numbers of the besieged were double those of the besiegers.

The lord King and also the lord Patriarch, our predecessor the lord Peter, Archbishop of Tyre, and the other magnates of the realm, both princes and ecclesiastical prelates, together with citizens from each of the towns pitched their tents separately and besieged Ascalon by land. The lord Gerard of Sidon, one of the leading barons of the kingdom, commanded the fleet of fifteen beaked ships which were ready to sail, so that they could blockade the city by sea and both prevent those who wished to enter from getting in and also stop those who wished to leave from getting out.

Our men-first the knights, and then the infantry-made attacks on the town almost every day. The townsmen met them boldly and resisted them vigorously, fighting for their wives and children and, what was most important, for their freedom. Sometimes they came out ahead in these engagements, sometimes we did, as usually happens in this kind of affair, but our men more often got the better of the fight.

It is said that there was such security in the camps and such an abundance of all kinds of supplies that the people lived in their tents and pavilions just as they were accustomed to live in their houses in the walled cities.

The townsmen took particular care of the city at night and took the watches in turn. Even their magnates took turns keeping watch and marched around the walls through many sleepless nights. Along the circuit of the walls and towers there were glass lamps in the battlements. The lamps were made with glass windows to protect the flame which was fed with oil. Those who made the circuit of the walls used these lamps to provide themselves with a light as bright as day.

Our men in the camps were also given the watches at various times. In addition, the task of keeping guard never ceased, for we feared that the townsmen might make nocturnal attacks upon the camps or that the Egyptians who were hurrying to aid Ascalon might harm the army in a sudden and unforeseen attack. This fear was lessened, however, by the presence of scouts in many areas around Gaza who could warn our men swiftly of the enemy's arrival.

Thus the siege continued in the same fashion for two months. About Easter time the usual passage arrived, which brought in a crowd of pilgrims. A council was held and men were sent from the army to forbid the sailors and pilgrims, on royal authority, to return. They promised them pay and invited them all to participate in the siege and in the work which was so acceptable to God. They also brought ships, both large and small. Thus it happened that quickly, within a few days, because of a good wind, all the ships which had come over on the passage appeared before the city and a tremendous host of pilgrims, both knights and sergeants, joined our expedition. The army increased in size daily. In the camps, therefore, there was joy and the hope of winning a victory. Among the enemy, however, sorrow and worry grew greater and although they were frequently harassed, they lost confidence in their men and rarely emerged to fight. They sent couriers frequently to the Egyptian Caliph and begged him to send them reinforcements in time, for they intimated that otherwise they would soon give up. Through those of his princes who were charged with this work, the Caliph speedly had a fleet prepared and an army mustered. Large ships were loaded with weapons, provisions, and machines. The Caliph appointed commanders and supplied money, called for speed and censured delay.

Our men, meanwhile, had bought ships at a great price. When the masts had been removed, workmen were summoned to construct with all haste a very tall wooden tower. The tower was carefully protected against fire inside and out with wickerwork and hides, so that the men who were to attack the city in it might be kept safe. From the remaining wood from the ships, they built portable sheds, which they set in place for breaking down the walls. From this material, too, they constructed swine" to level the fortifications.

When all these matters had been properly arranged and when it had been decided which sector of the wall could most easily be attacked by our wooden tower, the ramparts of the chosen area were leveled by the aforementioned machines and the tower was brought up to the wall with much shouting. From the top of the tower the whole city could be seen and a hand to-hand fight was carried on with the men in the nearby towers, The citizens struggled and pressed us fiercely, shooting with their bows and balistas both from the walls and from the ramparts, but their labor was in vain, for they could not harm the men who were hidden in the tower and who were moving the machine. A group of the townsmen gathered on the section of the wall just opposite the tower. The bolder men of this group were ordered to try our strength by waging a continuous and long drawn out battle with the men in the tower. In addition, there were skirmishes and serious struggles at various other places along the wall, so that scarcely a day passed without some mortalities, not to mention the wounded, of whom there were great crowds on both sides…

After our men had persisted in the siege for five months on end, it became apparent that the enemy's strength was failing slightly and that our chances of taking the city had improved. Suddenly, however, an Egyptian fleet, sped on by favoring winds, appeared on the scene. When the people of Ascalon saw this they raised their hands skyward and lifted up their voices in a great shout, saying that we would now have to retreat or else we would shortly be overwhelmed….

The enemy fleet approached the city boldly, bringing the townsmen the consolation they had hoped for. There were said to be seventy galleys in the fleet, as well as other ships loaded to the gunwales with men, weapons, and provisions. The fleet was huge and it bad all been sent by the aforesaid Egyptian prince for the relief of the city. The townsmen revived and with help in sight they began anew to do battle with our forces, and they sought combat more frequently and more boldly with our men. Although the townspeople were rather cautious, as a result of their earlier experience with us, the new arrivals were fresh and greedy for glory and so desired to display their strength and boldness. Since they labored without caution, they suffered casualties frequently until they also had had a taste of our firmness and learned to attack more sparingly and to resist the force of our attacks more modestly....

Meanwhile the men in our expedition pursued the campaign they had begun and continued their constant attacks on the besieged city and on what is called the Great Gate. They renewed their assaults, which constituted a grave menace to the townsmen. Volleys of projectiles sapped the towers and walls and, within the city, the huge rocks weakened the foundations of the houses and also caused much bloodshed. The men who were in the tower and who were in charge of it harassed with their bows and arrows not only the citizens who were putting up resistance in the towers and on the walls, but also those who tried to move about through the city on urgent business. The citizens easily concluded that whatever they had to suffer from other quarters, even though it be difficult, was tolerable when compared to what they suffered from these attacks. The townsmen, therefore, took counsel together and their most experienced men advised that, whatever the danger might be and whatever the risk, they must place some dry wood and other suitable kindling which would increase the heat between the tower and the wall so that, when they stealthily set it afire, the tower would be incinerated. Otherwise there seemed to be no hope that they would be saved nor any faith that they could continue their resistance, so oppressed and mightily afflicted were they. Certain strong men, outstanding for their strength and spirit, were aroused by their admonitions. These men prepared to save the citizenry rather than themselves and they exposed themselves to the danger. They gathered wood at that part of the wall which was closest to the tower and pitched it out into the space between the tower and the wall. When they had piled up a very large stack of wood, one which seemed to be large enough to burn up the tower, they poured over it pitcb, oil, and other liquids which would feed flames and increase the beat of a fire. Then they set it ablaze. It was obvious that the Divine Mercy was with us, for, as the fire blazed up, strong winds immediately arose in the east and, with violent gusts, blew the whole force of the fire against the walls. The force of the wind directed the flames and the fire against the wall throughout the night and reduced it to ashes. In the morning, just about daybreak, the whole foundation of the wall between two of the towers gave way so that the sound of the crash aroused the whole army. All of the men in the army, excited by the sound of the wall's destruction, picked up their weapons and rushed to the place where God's will had been made manifest. They were ready to enter the city, but Bernard de Tremelay, the Master of the Knights Templars, and his brethren got there before many of the others and took over the breach in the walls. They allowed no one save their own men to enter. It was said that he barred others from entering so that his men, as the first to enter, would get the greater part of the spoils and the choicer booty, for up to the present time[i.e. the last quarter of the twelfth century] the custom among us-a custom which has the force of law-was that when cities were taken by storm, whatever a man seized for himself was possessed by him and his heirs in perpetuity. Everyone could have entered without distinction and taken the city, and there would have been sufficient loot for the victors, but when an evil stems from an evil root and wicked intentions it rarely produces a good result, for "Property gained in devious ways produces no good result. " Overcome by greed, then, they would not have any partners in the spoils and it was only just that they alone were exposed to mortal danger. About forty of them entered the city, but the others who were following them were not able to get in. The townspeople were seeking to preserve their own lives and were prepared without qualms, to go to any lengths to do so. Thus, when they saw the Templars they drew their swords and butchered them.

The townsmen reformed their lines and, like men reborn, they again picked up their weapons which they bad previously dropped like vanquished men. Now they all rushed together to the place where the wall had been breached. They filled in the gap in the wall by piling up beams of great size and huge quantities of timber, of which they had a large supply from their ships. They closed up the entrance to the city and speedily made that area impenetrable. After buttressing the towers which stood on either side of the area which bad been burned out and which they had deserted when it became impossible to withstand the force of the flames, the townsmen again took up the battle. Once more they assembled their men and, just as if they had met with no reverses, they challenged our men to battle. Our men in the tower, however, were aware that its substructure had been weakened and that the lower parts of its solid framework bad been damaged and they therefore fought with less vigor, since they could not depend upon the tower's strength. The enemy shamed us by dangling the bodies of our dead from ropes thrown over the battlements of the walls. They expressed the joy which bad arisen in their minds by jeering at our men with words and gestures.... Our men, on the other hand, were confused in mind and spirit. They were thrown into sadness and bitterness of heart, they despaired of victory and became halfhearted.

The lord King, meanwhile, assembled the princes . . . [but discovered that] there were differences of opinion among them and they gave varying estimates of the situation. . . . [Finally, after much bickering, agreement was reached and] all of our men took up their weapons. The horns sounded. The sound of the trumpets and the voices of the heralds roused the whole force to battle. They yearned to redress the injuries visited upon our dead; they gathered before the city with unusual eagerness and most heatedly challenged the enemy to battle. Our formations looked as if they had never suffered harm or lost men. They rushed upon the enemy as if they were determined to be wiped out and they attacked with such great vigor that the enemy companies were astounded. The increased force of our men was unbeatable. Their perseverance could not be overcome. The enemy attempted to resist and to overcome the onslaught, but they could not withstand the force of our attack or beat down our swords. That day's battle was fought by most unequal forces, but both our cavalry and infantry forces triumphed everywhere over the enemy and won the victor's palm on every front. There was a very great slaughter of the foe and our reverses three days earlier were more than paid back. There was not a family in the city which did not suffer some domestic sorrow and which was not troubled by worry over its members. The city was covered with distress and earlier perils seemed light when compared with the present dangers. . . .

It happened that, by public demand, certain of the leading citizens were sent as intermediaries to the king to ask for a truce for a time so that when we had exchanged the bodies of their dead in return for the corpses of our own dead, each side might hold suitable funeral rites and pay its highest honors to the dead according to their respective customs. The conditions which were proposed pleased our men and, when they had received the bodies of our dead, they buried them with solemn funeral rites.

After the people of Ascalon had witnessed the slaughter of their men and had felt the heavy hand which the Lord had laid upon them, their sorrow and anxiety of spirit was renewed and their spirits were flooded with a vast grief. So that there would be nothing lacking to complete their sadness, it happened on that same day that, as forty of their strong men were carrying a beam of immense size to the place where it was needed, a huge rock was catapulted from our throwing machine and landed by chance on the beam. The men who were bearing the weight of the beam sank to the ground beneath it and were crushed.

The city fathers who were still alive, bowed down by the weight of their misfortunes, assembled the people, who gathered amid weeping and lamentation. All were there, including mothers who held their nursing babes at the breast and old men breathing their last gasp. With the common consent of all, some prudent and eloquent men addressed the whole population in this fashion: "Men of Ascalon, you who live within these gates! You know - none better - what perils and difficulties we have experienced with these cruel and determined Christians during the past four years. . . . The city fathers have, therefore, decided that, if you approve, we shall try to escape at this time from our sufferings. We shall send envoys in the name of the whole people to the powerful King who is besieging us and we shall try to secure definite peace terms to enable us to leave freely with our wives and children, servants and handmaids, and all our household goods in return for the surrender to the King - we say it with groans - of our city, so that we may put an end to such misfortunes."

The speech found favor in the eyes of all and all together they let out a great shout that matters should be thus arranged. Prudent and discreet men of venerable age were elected by all the people to carry the proposals they had decided upon to the King and his princes. The envoys passed through the gate, after arranging for a truce and a safe conduct, and they approached the lord King.

After all the princes had assembled, as the envoys asked, they stated their proposal and explained systematically its details. The King ordered the envoys to leave for a while and took counsel with the princes. He diligently sought each man's opinion. The princes wept for joy and lifted up their eyes and hands to the sky, giving abundant thanks to the Creator because he had deigned to grant such abundant treasure to unworthy men. They recalled the envoys and made their common answer: the conditions would be accepted if the whole city were evacuated within the next three days. The envoys agreed, but demanded that oaths be sworn to them to make the agreement more firm. An oath was solemnly sworn....

After the envoys had first given the hostages who the King named, the envoys joyfully returned to their people. They took back with them certain of our knights who, as a sign of victory, placed the King's banner upon the city's tallest towers. Our army waited with great anticipation. When the royal banner was spotted on the highest towers the people broke into shouts of exaltation....

Although the people of Ascalon, according to the conditions of the treaty, had three full days, they were so terrified by the presence of our men that within two days they had packed their baggage and bad left the city with their wives and children, servants and handmaids, and with all their housebold goods loaded for the journey. The lord King gave them guides, according to the provisions of the treaty, as far as al-Arish, an ancient city in the desert. There they sent them away in peace.

The lord King and the lord Patriarch, together with the princes of the Kingdom, the prelates of the church, and all of the clergy and people, with the Lord's cross leading the way, entered the city singing hymns and spiritual songs. . . . The aforesaid city was taken in the year of the Lord's incarnation 1154.


William of Tyre, Historia rerum in partibus transmarinis gestarum, XVII, 22-25, 27-30, Patrologia Latina 201, 696-708, translated by James Brundage, The Crusades: A Documentary History, (Milwaukee, WI: Marquette University Press, 1962), 126-136
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.

2. Egypt in the Twelfth Century

[Adapted from Brundage] The acquisition of Ascalon brought the monarchs of Jerusalem into more direct contact than hitherto with Egypt. The following decade, during the last years of Baldwin III's life, was too hectic within the Kingdom for any further ex pansion to be possible. Baldwin III was preoccupied with dynastic quarrels among the members of the royal family and with the pretensions of the Byzantine Emperor, Manuel, to suzerainty over Antioch. Baldwin's death, early in 1162, and the accession of his brother Amalric, signaled a revival of Frankish interest in Egypt and the beginning of a competition for power there between the Latin king and his Moslem competitor, Nur-ad-Din. Egypt, fertile and prosperous, was a prize worth striving for. Archbishop William of Tyre, a close friend of King Amalric, describes it thus:

The whole territory of Egypt, from its furthermost frontiers, which are said to border on Ethiopia, lies between two sandy deserts which are doomed to perpetual sterility. Egypt would neither know nor produce fruitful harvests of any kind if it were not fertilized at certain times by the overflowing bounty of the Nile. The river, however, makes the adjoining areas fit for crops only if the lay of the land is suitable, for, where it finds a level surface near it, the river spreads out more freely and where it has spread out, it renders a wider stretch of land fertile. From Cairo downstream to the sea, the river finds a wide plain where it has free range. Here the fertile areas are thus spread out very freely and quite broadly. This both enriches the kingdom and also enlarges it. From the fortress called Phaeusa, which neighbors Syria, to Alexandria, the last city of the King dom, which borders on the Lybian sands, the blessings of cultivation and fertility spread out for a hundred miles and more. From above Cairo down to Chus, the most distant of Egypt's cities, which is said to border on the Ethiopian Kingdom, the country is narrowly confined between sand dunes, so that the river's inundations rarely extend for seven or eight miles and frequently spread out for only four or five miles, sometimes on both sides of the stream and sometimes only on one side. The river thus expands or contracts the extent of the Kingdom, for the places which are not irrigated by the river are doomed, as we have said, to the burning sun and to perpetual sterility. This upper territory is called Seith in their language. We have not yet been able to discover the meaning of this name, except that it is said that in very early times there was a very ancient city called Sais in upper Egypt. Our Plato makes mention of it in the Timaeus through the mouth of his disciple Critias, when he introduces Solon, a man of pre-eminent authority. We have decided to give his words in order to lend greater weight to the evidence, lest any authority be lacking: "There is," he says, "a region of Egypt called the Delta. At the bead of this region, the Nile's stream is divided. Nearby there was a great city named Sais, which was ruled by an ancient custom called the Satyrian Law. The Emperor Amasis was from this city.". . .

There is also another region which belongs to Egypt. This region lies one day's journey from Cairo through an uninhabitable country. This region also benefits by being visited by some branches of the river and accordingly it has an especially good and fertile soil and rejoices in a wealth of fields and vineyards. The Egyptians call this area Phium [Fayum] in their language. According to an old tradition this area was originally quite useless: it had never known the plow and had lain uncultivated and uncared for from the beginning of the world, like the other parts of the desert in which it is situated. Joseph, that most prudent procurator of Egypt and that splendid provider of good things, saw that this region was lower than the surrounding areas and that if some mounds which lay between the habitable land and this desert were cut through, this area could readily get the benefits of the river. He threw up some dykes and leveled off the intervening land and then conducted the Nile's overflow into the channels which had been prepared. Thus that land achieved a fertility unknown there throughout the ages.

Although we do not know its ancient name, we believe that in early times it was called the Thebiad. The legion of the Holy Thebians, which was crowned with martyrdom under the Emperors Diocletian and Maximian and whose leading martyr, we read, was Mauritius, came from there. Another argument may be added: the best opium ever discovered originated there and it is called "Theban" by physicians.

The land of Goshen, which we read that Joseph gave to his brothers, is in that section of Egypt which borders on Syria, as the diligent reader may easily discover by reading the book of Genesis." The Thebiad, however, is on the opposite side of Egypt, beyond the river's banks, in the region which faces Lybia. It is not a small area: it is said to include within its boundaries 366 towns and villages.


William of Tyre, Historia rerum in partibus transmarinis gestarum, XIX, 23, Patrologia Latina 201, 770-71, translated by James Brundage, The Crusades: A Documentary History, (Milwaukee, WI: Marquette University Press, 1962), 136-38
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.

3. Revolution in Egypt

[Adapted from Brundage] Amalric of Jerusalem had set his eye upon Egypt and in September 1163 he led an expedition there. The campaign was badly timed, however, for the Nile was in flood and the Egyptians were able to channel the flood waters so as to force the Latins to give up the siege of Pelusium which they had begun .

Nur ad-Din, too, was well aware of the advantages which control of Egypt would bring to the Latin states. The Moslem leader determined to secure Egypt for himself before any Latin campaigns there could succeed. In the spring of 1164, therefore, he sent his trusted general, Shirkuh, who was accompanied by his twenty-year-old nephew, Saladin, to intervene in Egypt. Shirkuh's invasion was successful and by late May 1164 Shirkuh was entrenched in Egypt. The Egyptian vizier, Shawar, was as anxious to retain his independence of Nur-ad-Din as be was to keep out of the clutches of the farangi. Accordingly, the vizier now invited King Amalric to come to his aid against Shirkuh. Amalric quickly accepted the invitation, joined forces with Shawar, and besieged Shirkuh's army at Bilbeis. After a three-month siege an agreement was reached whereby both of the invaders were to withdraw and Amalric was to be reimbursed by Shawar for his trouble. The Latin King, accordingly, with drew from Egypt once again, the more quickly because his own Kingdom bad during his absence been attacked by Nur-ad-Din."

Egypt was not thus easily delivered from her enemies. Early in 1167 Nur ad-Din once again sent Shirkuh and his forces into Egypt, while Amalric came to the assistance of Shawar, the vizier. After heavy fighting and a striking defeat of the Latin forces near Minya, the earlier course of events repeated itself. On this occasion, however, Amalric's reward included a promise by the vizier to pay the Latin King an annual tribute of 100,000 gold pieces.

The vizier's promise to pay tribute and the collection of the agreed sum, however, were two different matters. In 1168, Amalric once more invaded Egypt, this time to collect the money due to him from Shawar. Now the vizier appealed to Shirkuh for help against the Latins, an appeal to which Shirkuh readily responded. The intervention of Shirkuh produced the desired withdrawal of the Latin troops early in 1169." But Shirkuh had no intention of withdrawing his men this time. In January 1169 there was a palace revolution.

Shirkuh saw that now was the opportune time to fulfill his vows, for, with the king gone, there would be no one to block his wishes. He ordered what he had previously planned to be carried out.

He placed his camp before Cairo and, as if his entry were to be peaceful, he remained there patiently for a few days. Like a prudent man, he breathed no harsh words and manifested no hatred. He concealed his designs with the shrewdness of which be was a master. The Sultan Shawar came out to him daily in the camps, accompanied by a very large retinue and with much pomp, and after his dutiful visit, with an affectionate greeting and the giving of gifts, the Sultan returned to the city. The complete safety of the successive visits and returns seemed to promise well and the fact that one time after another he was honorably received built up the Sultan's confidence. He felt secure and trusted far too much in the good faith of the Turks, which gave the murderer his chance. Secretly Shirkuh gave orders to his men that on the following day when be went out at dawn as if to walk by the water, they should do away with the Sultan when he came on his customary visit. Shawar, at the usual time, went to the camp to make his customary visit and pay his usual respects. The ministers of death ran up to him and carried out the execution which had been ordered: they threw him to the ground, stabbed him with their swords, and cut off his head. When Shawar's sons saw what was happening, they mounted their horses and fled to Cairo. Terrified, they went down on their knees to beg the Caliph for their lives. The Caliph is said to have replied that they might hope for their lives on condition that they make no secret agreements with the Turks. They violated this agreement at once, however, by sending representatives secretly to arrange a truce with Shirkuh. When the Caliph heard of this, be ordered them both to be slain by the sword.

Thus, while the King was absent, Shawar was removed from the scene and Shirkuh carried out his designs. He occupied the Kingdom and went to the Caliph to pay his respects. He was received with many honors and granted the dignity and office of sultan. Thus he acquired power by the sword and seized all of Egypt for himself. . . . But the joy of his succession did not last long. He had scarcely held the reins for a year when he was removed from human affairs.

Shirkuh was succeeded by Saladin, the son of his brother, Najm-ad-Din. Saladin was a man of keen intelligence. He was vigorous in war and unusually generous. The first sign of the character of his rule came when he visited his lord, the Caliph, to Pay him the customary homage. It is said that when he entered he knocked the Caliph to the ground with a stick that he held in his hand and killed him. [note: William's account of the Caliph's death is not supported by other sources and it would appear that the Caliph Adid died a natural death on September 13, 1171, bringing the Fatimid caliphate to an end in Egypt.] He then put all of the Caliph's children to the sword, so that he might be subject to no superior but might rule as both caliph and sultan. He was afraid, since the Turks were hated by the people, that sometime when he went to visit the Caliph, the Caliph might order his throat to be slit. He therefore anticipated the Caliph's design and inflicted upon the unsuspecting Caliph the death which, it was said, the latter intended for him.

When the Caliph was dead, Saladin took possession of the royal wealth, the treasury, and all the assets of the Caliph's house. With his excessive generosity, Saladin gave everything away to his soldiers, so that within a few days all the closets had been emptied and he was forced to borrow money. He thus placed himself heavily in debt to others.


William of Tyre, Historia rerum in partibus transmarinis gestarum, XX, 5-10, Patrologia Latina 201, 788-9, translated by James Brundage, The Crusades: A Documentary History, (Milwaukee, WI: Marquette University Press, 1962), 139-40
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.

4. Baldwin IV Becomes King of Jerusalem

[Adapted from Brundage] The union of Egypt under Saladin with Nur ad-Din's empire presented an obvious and immediate peril to the Latin states of the East. Attempts to convince the magnates of Western Europe of the urgency of the threat were unsuccessful and, although an attempt was also made to bind the Latin states closer to Byzantium, the final outcome of these negotiations is unknown. The power of Saladin as ruler of Egypt produced tensions, too, within Nur ad-Din's empire. Relations between Saladin and his nominal overlord worsened steadily during the first five years after Saladin's rise to power in Egypt. It seemed, almost, as if Saladin and Nur-ad-Din would be at one another's throats, thus saving the Latin states from the peril of imminent attack. Before an open break between the two Moslem leaders occurred, however, Nur-ad-Din died in 1174. This event changed the whole situation. Furthermore it seemed as if the empire which Nur ad-Din had created would soon disintegrate into a number of warring, bickering, rival states, Before King Amalric could intervene to take advantage of this situation, however, he died, leaving his son, Baldwin IV, to inherit the Latin Kingdom.

The sixth of the Latin kings of Jerusalem was the lord Baldwin IV, son of the lord King Amalric of illustrious memory and of the Countess Agnes, daughter of the younger Count Jocelin of Edessa. . . . While Baldwin was still a boy, about nine years old, and while I was still Archdeacon of Tyre, King Amalric put him in my care, after asking me many times and with a promise of his favor, to teach him and to instruct him in-the liberal arts. [William probably became Baldwin's tutor in 1170] While he was in my hands, I took constant care of him, as is fitting with a king's son, and I both carefully instructed him in literary studies and also watched over the formation of his character.

It so happened that once when he was playing with some other noble boys who were with him, they began pinching one another with their fingernails on the hands and arms, as playful boys will do. The others evinced their pain with yells, but, although his playmates did not spare him, Baldwin bore the pain altogether too patiently, as if be did not feel it. When this had happened several times, it was reported to me. At first I thought that this happened because of his endurance, not because of insensitivity. Then I called him and began to ask what was happening. At last I discovered that about half of his right hand and arm were numb, so that he did not feel pinches or even bites there. I began to have doubts, as I recalled the words of the wise man: "It is certain that an insensate member is far from healthy and that be who does not feel sick is in danger." [Hippocrates]

I reported all this to his father. Physicians were consulted and prescribed repeated formentations, anointings, and even poisonous drugs to improve his condition, but in vain. For, as we later understood more fully as time passed, and as we made more comprehensive observations, this was the beginning of an incurable disease. I cannot keep my eyes dry while speaking of it. For as he began to reach the age of puberty it became apparent that he was suffering from that most terrible disease, leprosy. Each day he grew more ill. The extremities and the face were most affected, so that the hearts of his faithful men were touched by compassion when they looked at him.

Baldwin was adept at literary studies. Daily he grew more promising and developed a more loving disposition. He was handsome for his age and he was quick to learn to ride and handle horses-more so than his ancestors. He had a tenacious memory and loved to talk. He was economical, but he well remembered both favors and injuries. He resembled his father, not only in his face, but in his whole appearance. He was also like his father in his walk and in the timbre of his voice. He bad a quick mind, but his speech was slow. He was, like his father, an avid listener to history and he was very willing to follow good advice.

Baldwin was scarcely thirteen years old when his father died. He had an elder sister named Sibylla, born of the same mother. She was raised in the convent of St. Lazarus at Bethany by Lady Ivetta, the abbess of the convent, who was her father's maternal aunt.

When Baldwin's father died, all the princes of the Kingdom, both ecclesiastical and secular, assembled. All were in agreement as to what they wanted and Baldwin was anointed and crowned solemnly and in the usual fashion in the Church of the Lord's Sepulcher on the fifteenth of July, four days after his father's death, by the Lord Amalric of good memory, the Patriarch of Jerusalem, in the presence of the archbishops, bishops, and other prelates of the church.


William of Tyre, Historia rerum in partibus transmarinis gestarum, XXI, 1-2, Patrologia Latina 201, 813-15, translated by James Brundage, The Crusades: A Documentary History, (Milwaukee, WI: Marquette University Press, 1962), 141-43
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.

5. The Estrangement Between Raymond of Tripoli and Baldwin IV

[Adapted from Brundage] The accession of the young leper king to the Latin throne came at a time when Saladin was making his successful bid to take over the lands formerly controlled by Nur ad-Din. As Saladin tightened his hold upon a large, powerful Moslem empire, the Latin states showed signs of an increasingly serious internal cleavage.

Differences between two kinds of Western knights and settlers in the East had frequently been noted by contemporary observers. "Everyone who is a fresh emigrant from the Frankish lands," wrote a shrewd Syrian memoirist, "is ruder in character than those who have become acclimatized and have held long association with the Moslems ." [Usamh inb, Mundikh, trans Hitti, p. 163] This distinction between the Latins who had long been settled in the East and their newly arrived compatriots permeated the internal policies, the foreign policy, and the whole atmosphere of the Latin states. These two divergent groups-called, for convenience, the natives and the newcomers-were at odds with one another on a host of important issues. The newcomer faction wanted land, titles, and positions within the Kingdom for themselves. They felt thwarted by the vested interests of the other party, whose forefathers had come to the East with the armies of the First Crusade or shortly thereafter and who had acquired a hold upon the most desirable posts and lands of the Latin states. The newcomers, too, frequently professed alarm at the degree to which the members of the other faction bad adopted the native dress, customs, food, and languages of the East-to say nothing of the scandalous (so they seemed to new arrivals) dealings between the barons of the Holy Land and the infidel Moslem rulers who were their neighbors.

Dissension between the native and newcomer factions was heightened during the reign of Baldwin IV. As the young King was both a leper and a minor, he must of necessity rule with the aid of a regent. Furthermore, the powers of the regent must necessarily become more important as the king's disease ran its inevitable course, as Baldwin became progressively feebler, increasingly disabled by the effects of his affliction. In this situation the newcomer element saw a chance to advance its cause. Let one of their number be named to the regency and the power of the native barons might be crippled, perhaps broken completely.

During the opening years of the reign of Baldwin IV, however, the regency was claimed by Count Raymond III of Tripoli, Baldwin's closest male relative. Raymond was distinctly unacceptable to the newcomers. To achieve their purposes, some means must be found to dislodge him.

When Baldwin came officially of age in 1177, Raymond's influence and that of the party he represented waned perceptibly, for Baldwin IV was at first determined to rule in his own right. Then in 1180 Baldwin's widowed young sister, Sibylla, at the urging of her mother, married Guy de Lusignan, a younger son of a prominent French noble family. Guy was himself new to the East and be rapidly became the accepted spokesman of the newcomer group in the politics of the Holy Land . Members of the prominent newcomer families flocked to the court of the Latin Kingdom and persuaded the King in 1180 to break openly with Raymond of Tripoli.

Now while the Kingdom, as we have said, was enjoying a certain tranquillity during the temporary peace which had been agreed upon between Saladin and the King, there were some Sons of Belial and foster sons of iniquity who had restless spirits. These men caused disturbances in the Kingdom and plotted internal strife.

The Count of Tripoli had, for two years in a row, been kept in Tripoli by various kinds of business and, delayed by this, he had been unable to visit the Kingdom. It happened, however, that because he was anxious about the city of Tiberias, which his wife had inherited, he now planned to return to the Kingdom. When he had arranged everything for the journey and had come as far as Jubail, the aforesaid troublemakers got around the King's simplicity with an evil suggestion: they persuaded him that the count wished to enter the Kingdom for a sinister purpose - to arrange secretly to overthrow the King. The too credulous King listened to their persuasive words and sent a royal envoy to the count and, without warning, flatly forbade him to enter the Kingdom.

When this happened, the Count, who had done nothing to deserve such a reproof, was confused and filled with just indignation. Unwillingly, he abandoned his plans and returned to Tripoli after making many useless expenditures.

The aforesaid troublemakers intended that while the Count, who was a vigilant man and circumspect in all things, was absent, they would be able to deal with the royal business as they pleased and they hoped to turn the King's infirmities to their own profit. Among them was the King's mother-a woman hateful to God, a thoroughly grasping woman-and also her brother, the King's seneschal, and a few of their followers: impious men who shamelessly forced the King to make this move.

When what had happened was later made known to the princes, the more sensible ones were upset and were alarmed at heart, for they feared that the Kingdom might later regret the loss of the patronage of such a prince and that, according to the Lord's word, "being divided against itself, it might not stand. " They were fearful especially because the King, whose illness daily grew worse, was becoming weaker and was less and less fit to handle the affairs of the Kingdom. Indeed he was scarcely able to stand up and he might collapse altogether.

The great men of the Kingdom saw the danger which was certain to follow from the aforesaid incident. They set to work to try to recall the Count and to appease his indignation. At

length, after many meetings and various proposals, the King unwillingly allowed them to bring the Count into the Kingdom. That illustrious man prudently overlooked the injuries which had been done to him and peace was renewed between him and the King.


William of Tyre, Historia rerum in partibus transmarinis gestarum, XXII, 9, Patrologia Latina 201, 856-57, translated by James Brundage, The Crusades: A Documentary History, (Milwaukee, WI: Marquette University Press, 1962), 144-45
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.

6. Guy Lusignan Becomes Regent

[Adapted from Brundage] Internal quarrels within the Latin states made it imperative for the Latin settlements in the East to remain at peace with their Moslem neighbors. At the same time the anarchy of the internal politics of the Latin states and the lack of an effective organization for the implementation of policy within the states made it most unlikely that peace could be long preserved. The newcomer group for the most part favored war with the Moslems. War against the infidel was necessary to achieve the goals of the group. The terms of a treaty concluded in 1180 between Saladin and the Latins guaranteed free commercial communication between Christian and Moslem territory. The passage of caravans of Moslem merchants through Latin held country was a constant invitation to lawless and irresponsible men, whom the government of the Latin states could not easily check. Rich caravans owned by infidel merchants passed constantly before the eyes of such men in the Latin states and they well knew that the King and the barons of the realm were unlikely to take serious reprisals against a man who yielded to temptation and plundered a caravan. Although such an action might bring with it the threat of war, still war itself would bring opportunity as well as peril to those clever enough to seize the main chance.

In the summer of 1181, Reginald of Chatillon, a handsome, reckless member of the newcomer group, gave in to the lure of easy gain and attacked a caravan en route from Damascus to Mecca. Saladin complained to the Latin authorities of the violation of the treaty. The prostrate Latin King could do nothing to secure redress. After jailing fifteen hundred pilgrims at Damietta as hostages, Saladin took to war.19 Saladin and his Egyptian forces eluded the army of the Latin Kingdom by crossing the Sinai Desert to Damascus. From there the Moslems invaded the Latin states in July 1182. The campaign, however, was inconclusive. Both sides claimed victory and retired to prepare for further combat. By 1182 Baldwin IV bad fallen so grievously ill that to continue his personal direction of affairs was impossible. A regency once more was necessary.

While the army was waiting in this state of suspense at the spring of Saffuriyah the King was at Nazareth suffering from a high fever. His leprosy, which he had had from the beginningof his reign and, indeed, from early adolescence, had grown worse than usual. He bad lost his sight and his extremities were covered with ulcerations so that he was unable to use either his hands or his feet. Although some persons suggested to him that he resign and provide a decent and tranquil life for himself from his royal possessions, nevertheless up to this time he had refused to Jay aside the royal dignity and the administration. Although his body was feeble and impotent, his mind was still strong and vigorous. In order to hide his illness and to carry on the royal duties he had labored beyond his strength.

He was laid low, as I have said, by the fever and now be despaired of his life. Now he summoned his princes to him and in the presence of his mother and the lord patriarch he made Guy de Lusignan, the Count of Jaffa and Ascalon, who was his sister's husband . . . regent of the Kingdom. He reserved the royal title for himself and kept only the city of Jerusalem and an annual income of ten thousand gold pieces. He transferred to Guy the free and general administration of the rest of the Kingdom and commanded his faithful men and all of his princes at large to become Guy's vassals and to swear fealty to him. This was done. It is said that, at the King's command, Guy first swore that while the King lived he would not transfer to another any of the castles possessed at present by the King and that he would alienate nothing from the treasury. It is believed that this was carefully and very diligently enjoined on him and that he was obliged to take a solemn oath to observe these stipulations faithfully in the presence of all the princes. This was done because Guy had promised nearly every one of the great princes no small part of the Kingdom in order to gain their support and their votes for the position he sought. It is also said that he bad taken a similar oath to the princes that he would fulfill his promises. I cannot positively affirm this because I do not have definite evidence. Frequent rumors to this effect, however, were current among the people.

There were some, indeed, who were not much pleased by this change. Some of these people were inclined to oppose it because of their personal affairs and out of secret reasons. Others opposed it on the grounds of public policy and because they were anxious and disturbed over the state of the Kingdom. The latter group asserted publicly that the aforesaid Count was not equal to the burden of administration and that be was not qualified to conduct the affairs of the Kingdom. There were others, however, who were hopeful that his ascendancy would improve their own lot. These asserted that it was well done. There were murmurs and many dissenting voices among the people and, as it is proverbially said, "many men have many minds."

The Count, however, did not rejoice very long in the post which he had long desired and which had now been conferred upon him, as will appear later. At first, indeed, he gloried in it rather rashly.

I have said that the Count took this burden upon himself rashly, for this reason: that he did not carefully appraise his own strength in comparison to the obligation that he assumed. His strength and his prudence were not equal to the intolerable burden which he placed upon his shoulders He was not familiar enough with the gospel saying in which it is suggested that the man who wishes to build a tower should first sit down and count the cost to see if he has sufficient strength to complete it, lest lie fail and hear it said, "Here is a man who began to build and could not finish his building."'


William of Tyre, Historia rerum in partibus transmarinis gestarum, XXII, 25, Patrologia Latina 201, 879-80, translated by James Brundage, The Crusades: A Documentary History, (Milwaukee, WI: Marquette University Press, 1962), 146-48
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.

7. Raymond II of Tripoli Replaces Guy de Lusignan as Regent

[Adapted from Brundage] Under Guy's regency, the internal structure of the Latin states deteriorated still further. This deterioration was hastened and accentuated by further attacks upon the Kingdom by Saladin in 1183. Under the pressure of the Moslem attacks and the evident incompetence of Guy de Lusignan, the King and the regent quarreled. The government again tottered on the brink of the abyss and Raymond III was called in to replace Guy as regent.

Meanwhile the hatred which bad arisen between the King and the Count of Jaffa [Guy de Kusigna, the husband of Baldwin IV's sister, Sibylla] was increased for secret reasons and grew stronger every day. The enmity which up to now [late 1183 or early 1184] had been suppressed burst out and the King was openly trying to collect reasons to procure a separation of his sister from her husband and to break up their marriage. He publicly approached the Patriarch for this purpose and asked that, since he was going to impugn the marriage, the Patriarch set a day on which the annulment might be solemnly proclaimed in his presence.

The Count was informed of these matters as he returned from campaign. Re left the rest of the army and journied by the shortest route to Ascalon. Meanwhile he sent a warning to his wife, who was then staying in Jerusalem, that she should leave the city immediately and journey to Ascalon before the King's return. The Count feared that if the King got her in his power he would not allow her to return again to her husband.

The King therefore sent an emissary to the Count to summon him and to disclose to him the reasons for the summons. The Count, however, refused the summons, gave reasons for his noncompliance, and pretended that he was sick. When he bad been summoned many times and had failed to appear, the King himself determined to go to Ascalon to call the Count to justice by word of mouth. When the King arrived there in company with some of his princes be found that the gates of the city were barred against him. He knocked on them with his hand three times and ordered that they be opened. When he discovered that no one would obey his command, lie returned, properly indignant. All the people of the city were looking on, for when they beard of the King's arrival they had stationed themselves on the walls and towers to see how the affair would end.

The King proceeded from Ascalon directly to Jaffa. A great many of the leading citizens of both classes [i.e. nobility and bourgeoisie] came out to meet him before be arrived at the city. They opened the town to him and the King entered without my difficulty. There he named a provost to take charge of the place and went on to Acre. In that city he decided to "I a general council. When the princes of the Kingdom assembled there on the appointed day the Patriarch and both masters-that is, of the Templars and the Hospitallers - having agreed on the matter, approached the King and on bended knee began to intercede for the Count. They asked that the disagreement be laid aside and that the King restore him to favor. When they were not attended to at once, they retired in a dudgeon, not only from the court, but even from the city.

A proposal was made in the presence of the assembled princes that emissaries be sent to the ultramontaine kings and other princes to invite them to come to the aid of the Kingdom and of Christianity. This should have been dealt with first but, as we have said, the Patriarch got the first word and made his speech first. Then, as we have said before, he lost his temper and left Acre.

The count of Jaffa, when he learned that the King was not inclined to make peace, acted worse than before. He took the forces which he bad with him and set out for a fortress named Daron. He made a surprise attack on the camp of some Arabs who had put up their tents in that area in order to pasture their flocks. The Arabs had done so with the King's permission and they were staying there on his promise of security. The Count's attack took them unawares and he drove off their flocks and slaves. After this he returned to Ascalon.

When the King heard of this he once again summoned the princes and delegated the care and general administration of the Kingdom to the Count of Tripoli, since be had faith in his prudence and generosity. When this was done it seemed to satisfy the wishes of all the people and princes. It seemed to everyone that the only way to safety was to place the affairs of the Kingdom in the hands of the Count of Tripoli.

[Brundage adds]

Baldwin IV was fast failing and in March 1185 the twenty-four year old monarch died. In accordance with the leper King's wishes, the barons of the Latin Kingdom passed the crown to his nephew, Baldwin V, an eight-year-old child. Raymond of Tripoli remained in power as regent and quickly sought to negotiate a truce with Saladin. The latter, immersed in his own quarrels within Egypt, assented to the proposal.

Momentary equilibrium had been reached. The situation was quickly unbalanced, however, by further developments within the Latin states. In August 1186 Baldwin V died at Acre. While the regent, Raymond, was absent, Baldwin IV's sister, Sibylla, the wife of Guy de Lusignan, was proclaimed queen and, in short order, she crowned her husband as king. This left the newcomer party in control of the Kingdom and caused an irreparable rift within the Latin ranks.

Raymond of Tripoli refused to recognize the new monarchs and he was joined in his opposition by Bohemund III, the Prince of Antioch, and a minority of the other long-standing members of the Latin nobility. At this most unpropitious moment, the irresponsible Reginald of Chatillon chose once again to break the truce between the Latins and Saladin. As he had done five years earlier, be now attacked another Moslem caravan on the road to Cairo. Saladin demanded redress; Reginald refused; Guy, the Latin King, could or would do nothing; and Saladin prepared again to attack.


William of Tyre, Historia rerum in partibus transmarinis gestarum, XXIII, 1, Patrologia Latina 201, 890-92, translated by James Brundage, The Crusades: A Documentary History, (Milwaukee, WI: Marquette University Press, 1962), 148-50
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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