Post-classical history

Arsuf, Battle of (1191)

A battle between the armies of the Third Crusade (1189-1192), commanded by King Richard I of England, and the Muslims under Saladin.

After the capture of Acre (mod. ‘Akko, Israel) in July 1191, Richard’s next objective was Jaffa (mod. Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel), the port nearest Jerusalem. The crusaders’ march began on 25 August and became the classic demonstration of the tactic known as the fighting march. The crusaders’ right was protected by the sea and by their fleet, which included Egyptian galleys captured in Acre. Half their infantry screened the left flank of the knights, alternating with the other half, which marched with the baggage train between the knights and the sea. Heat and incessant harassing by Saladin’s mounted archers meant that the pace was painfully slow, but so long as the crusaders stayed in formation they could not be halted. Eventually Saladin realized that he would have to risk committing the main body of his own troops. At Arsuf (north of mod. Herzliyya, Israel) on 7 September his action finally provoked the crusader rearguard into launching a premature charge. Only Richard’s reaction, immediately and massively reinforcing the rearguard’s attack, while still managing to hold other contingents in reserve, conjured victory out of imminent chaos.

Richard the Lionheart leads his crusaders in battle against Saladin. (Pixel That)

Richard the Lionheart leads his crusaders in battle against Saladin. (Pixel That)

Three days later the crusaders reached Jaffa, where they had to make the choice between an advance toward Ascalon (Tel Ashqelon, Israel), as Saladin feared, and turning inland, toward Jerusalem.

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