Post-classical history

CHAPTER IV

THE LURE OF EGYPT

‘No; but we will go into the land of Egypt.’ JEREMIAH XLII, 14

Baldwin III left no children. His Greek Queen, Theodora, was still only sixteen when she was widowed. The heir to the kingdom was his brother Amalric, Count of Jaffa and Ascalon. Eight days after Baldwin’s death he was crowned king by the Patriarch Amalric. There had, however, been some question about his succession. The barons were unwilling to abandon their right of election, even though there was no other possible candidate. They had one legitimate grievance. Some four years before, Amalric had married Agnes of Courtenay, daughter of Joscelin II of Edessa. She was his third cousin, and therefore within the degrees prohibited by the Church; and the Patriarch had refused to confirm the marriage. There were other reasons for disliking Agnes. She was considerably older than Amalric. Her first husband, Reynald of Marash, had been killed in 1149, when Amalric was aged thirteen; and her reputation for chastity was not good. The Patriarch and the barons demanded that the marriage be annulled. Amalric consented at once, but he insisted that the legitimacy and rights of inheritance of his two children, Baldwin and Sibylla, should be recognized.

1162: King Amalric

Amalric was now twenty-five. He was as tall and handsome as his brother, with the same high colouring and thick blond beard, though critics considered him too plump in the chest. He was less learned, though well informed on legal matters. While his brother loved to talk, he stammered a little and was taciturn, but was given to frequent paroxysms of loud laughter, which somewhat impaired his dignity. He was never as popular as his brother, lacking his charm and open manner; and his private life was unpraiseworthy. His quality as a statesman was shown within a few months of his accession, when Gerard, lord of Sidon and Beaufort, dispossessed one of his vassals without due cause, and the vassal appealed to the Crown. Amalric insisted upon the case being heard before the High Court of the realm. He then passed an assise, based on other such precedents, which empowered vassals to appeal against their lord to the High Court. If the lord failed to appear before the Court, the case was held to have gone by default and the vassal was reinstated. This law, by bringing the vassals of tenants-in-chief into direct relation with the King, to whom they had to pay liege homage, gave immense power to a strong king who dominated the High Court. But the High Court itself was composed of that very class against which the law was directed. If the king were weak, it could be used against him by applying it to the tenants of the royal domain. This assisewas followed by others regulating the King’s relations with his vassals.

Map 5. Egypt in the twelfth century.

1154: Intrigues in Cairo

When he had firmly established his royal authority at home, Amalric could attend to foreign affairs. In the north he was ready to sacrifice Antioch to the Byzantines. About the end of 1162 there were disturbances in Cilicia following the murder of Thoros’s brother Stephen, who was on his way to attend a banquet given by the Imperial governor Andronicus. Thoros, who had his own reasons for desiring Stephen’s elimination, accused Andronicus of complicity and swept down on Mamistra, Anazarbus and Vahka, surprising and murdering the Greek garrisons. Amalric hastened to offer support to the Emperor; who replaced Andronicus with an able general of Hungarian birth, Constantine Coloman. Coloman came with strengthened forces to Cilicia; and Thoros retired with apologies back to the mountains. Bohemond of Antioch was now eighteen and of an age to govern. In her desire to keep her power Constance appealed to Coloman for military aid. The rumour of her appeal provoked a riot in Antioch. Constance was exiled and Bohemond III installed in her place. She died soon afterwards. The Emperor made no objection to the change of regime, probably because Amalric gave guarantees that his suzerainty would be respected. But as a safeguard he invited Constance’s second son Baldwin and, later, her children by Reynald, to Constantinople. Baldwin joined the imperial army and died in battle. While King Amalric openly supported the Byzantines, he wrote at the same time to King Louis VII of France to ask if there was any hope of his sending help to the Latins of Syria.

Byzantine good-will was necessary to Amalric to carry out his chief political ambition, which was the control of Egypt. The existence of the Latin states depended, as he well understood, on disunion amongst their Moslem neighbours. Moslem Syria was now united; but so long as Egypt was at enmity with Nur ed-Din, the situation was not desperate. The Fatimid Caliphate was, however, in such decadence that its end seemed imminent. It was essential that it should not fall into Nur ed-Din’s hands. Since the loss of Ascalon there had been increasing chaos at the Caliph’s Court. The vizier Abbas survived the disaster for a year. His son Nasr was the favourite of the young Caliph al-Zafir; and their intimacy gave rise to scandalous gossip. This infuriated Abbas, not for moral reasons but because he rightly suspected that al-Zafir intended to play off the son against the father. Usama, who was still at the Court, learnt that Nasr had indeed agreed to murder Abbas. He hastened to reconcile them and soon persuaded Nasr that it would be better to murder the Caliph instead. Nasr invited his benefactor to a midnight orgy at his house and there stabbed him. Abbas affected to believe that the murderers were the Caliph’s own brothers. He put them to death and, while seizing the Caliph’s treasure for himself, placed on the throne al-Zafir’s young son, al-Fa’iz, a boy of five, who had witnessed his uncles’ deaths and thereafter suffered from chronic convulsions. The princesses of the family suspected the truth and summoned the governor of upper Egypt, Ibn Ruzzik, an Armenian by birth, to rescue them. He marched on Cairo and won round the officers of the garrison. Abbas and Nasr packed up their treasure and on 29 May 1154 fled from the capital, taking with them Usama, who had begun to intrigue with Ibn Ruzzik. As they emerged from the deserts of Sinai, Frankish troops from Montreal fell on them. Usama escaped safely and eventually reached Damascus. But Abbas was slain, and Nasr and all the treasure was captured. Nasr was handed over to the Templars and at once announced his wish to become a Christian. But the Court of Cairo offered the Order 60,000 dinars for his person; so his instruction was interrupted and he was sent in chains to Cairo. There the late Caliph’s four widows personally mutilated him. He was then hanged, and his body swung for two years at the Zawila Gate.

1163: Nur ed-Din defeated at Krak

Ibn Ruzzik governed till 1161. In 1160 the boy-Caliph died, to be succeeded by his nine-year old cousin, al-Adid, who next year was forced to marry Ibn Ruzzik’s daughter. But the Caliph’s aunt, al-Zafir’s sister, distrusted the vizier’s ambition. She induced her friends to stab him in the hall of the palace. Before he died, in September 1161, he was able to summon the princess to his presence and killed her himself. His son, al-Adil, succeeded as vizier and ruled for fifteen months. Then he in his turn was displaced and killed by the governor of upper Egypt, Shawar, who survived for eight months, till August 1163 when he was ejected by his Arab chamberlain, Dhirgham. Dhirgham, to consolidate his power, put to death everyone whose ambition he feared; which left the Egyptian army almost entirely void of senior officers.

In 1160 Baldwin III had threatened to invade Egypt and had been bought off by the promise of a yearly tribute of 160,000 dinars. It had never been paid; and in September of 1163 Amalric made this the excuse for a sudden descent on Egypt. He crossed the isthmus of Suez without difficulty and laid siege to Pelusium. But the Nile was in flood; and by breaking one or two dykes Dhirgham forced him to retire. His intervention had been remarked by Nur ed-Din, who profited by his absence to attack the weakest of the Crusading states, Tripoli. He invaded the Buqaia in order to lay siege to the Castle of Krak, which dominated the narrow plain. Fortunately for the Franks, Hugh, Count of Lusignan, and Geoffrey Martel, brother of the Count of Angouleme, were passing through Tripoli with their following on their return from a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. They joined Count Raymond; and an urgent appeal to Antioch brought not only Bohemond III but also the Imperial general Constantine Coloman down from the north. The united Christian army marched swiftly through the hills, and surprised the Moslems at their camp below Krak. After a short battle, in which Coloman and his troops particularly distinguished themselves, Nur ed-Din fled in disorder to Homs. There he regrouped his army and received reinforcements. The Christians therefore abandoned the pursuit.

Soon afterwards the ex-vizier, Shawar, who had escaped from Egypt, appeared at Nur ed-Din’s Court and offered, if Nur ed-Din would send an army to re-establish him in Cairo, to pay the expenses of the campaign, to cede districts on the frontier, to recognize Nur ed-Din’s suzerainty and to provide a yearly tribute of a third of his country’s revenues. Nur ed-Din hesitated. He feared to risk an army along roads dominated by the Franks of Oultrejourdain. It was only in April 1164, after seeking advice by opening the Koran at random, that he ordered his most trusted lieutenant, Shirkuh, to set out with a large detachment and go with Shawar across the desert, while he himself made a diversion by attacking Banyas. With Shirkuh went his nephew Saladin, son of Najm ed-Din Ayub, a young man of twenty-seven, who was not over anxious to join the expedition. Dhirgham in terror sent off to ask help from Amalric; but so quickly did Shirkuh move that he was across the Isthmus of Suez before the Franks were ready to intervene. Dhirgham’s brother, with the few troops that he could muster, was defeated near to Pelusium. By the end of May 1164 Shawar was reinstalled in Cairo and Dhirgham was dead.

1164: Disaster at Artah

Restored to power, Shawar repudiated his bargain and told Shirkuh to go back to Syria. Shirkuh refused, and seized Bilbeis. Shawar then appealed to King Amalric, and bade him make haste, offering him a thousand dinars for each of the twenty-seven stages of the journey from Jerusalem to the Nile and promising a further present to the Knights of the Hospital that accompanied him and the expenses for the fodder of their horses. After putting his kingdom into a good state of defence, Amalric marched swiftly early in August to Faqus on the Nile. There Shawar joined him and they moved to besiege Shirkuh in Bilbeis. The fortress held out for three months and was likely to fall when Amalric, who had news from Syria, decided to raise the siege on condition that Shirkuh evacuated Egypt. Shirkuh agreed and the two armies, Frankish and Syrian, marched on parallel routes out across the Sinai peninsula, leaving Shawar in control of his realm. Shirkuh was the last of his company to leave. When he bade farewell to the Franks, one of them, newly come to the East, asked him, was he not afraid of treachery? He answered proudly that his whole army would avenge him, and the Frank replied gallantly that he now understood why Shirkuh’s reputation stood so high with the Crusaders.

The news that had brought Amalric hurrying home came from Antioch. When he knew that Amalric had left for Egypt, Nur ed-Din struck at the northern principality and laid siege to the key-fortress of Harenc. With him was his brother’s army from Mosul and troops of the Ortoqid princes of Diarbekir and Mardin and Diert and Kir. While the lord of Harenc, Reynald of Saint-Valery, put up a brave defence, Prince Bohemond called upon Raymond of Tripoli, Thoros of Armenia and Constantine Coloman to come to his rescue. They set out together in mid-August. At the news of their coming, Nur ed-Din raised the siege. He was, we are told, particularly alarmed by the presence of the Byzantine contingent. As he retired, Bohemond, who had some six hundred knights with him, decided to follow in pursuit, against the advice of Reynald of Saint-Valery; for the Moslem army was considerably larger. The armies made contact on 10 August, near Artah. Ignoring a warning from Thoros, Bohemond attacked at once and when the Moslems feigned flight rushed headlong after them, only to fall into an ambush and to find himself and his knights surrounded by the army of Mosul. Thoros and his brother Mleh, who had been more cautious, escaped from the battlefield. The rest of the Christian army was captured or slain. Amongst the prisoners were Bohemond, Raymond of Tripoli, Constantine Coloman and Hugh of Lusignan. They were taken, bound together, to Aleppo.

Nur ed-Din’s advisers urged him to march on the defenceless city of Antioch. But he refused. If he moved towards Antioch, he said, the Greeks would hastily send a garrison into the citadel; and though he might take the city, the citadel could hold out until the Emperor arrived. It was better, he thought, to have a petty Frankish state there than to let it become part of a great Empire. So anxious was he not to offend Byzantium that he freed Constantine Coloman almost at once, in return for a hundred and fifty silken robes. Once again Antioch was saved for Christendom by the prestige of the Emperor.

1165: A Greek Patriarch at Antioch

Amalric, as he hurried northwards, was joined by Thierry of Flanders, who had come on his fourth pilgrimage to Palestine. With this reinforcement he paused at Tripoli to establish his right to be regent of the County during the Count’s captivity, then moved on to Antioch. There he entered into negotiations with Nur ed-Din, who agreed to release Bohemond and Thoros for a large ransom, but only because they were the vassals of the Emperor; he would not allow Raymond of Tripoli to go, nor his older prisoner, Reynald of Chatillon. Amalric himself was disquieted when an Imperial envoy came to ask him what he was doing at Antioch. He replied by sending to Constantinople the Archbishop of Caesarea and his Butler, Odo of Saint-Amand, to ask the Emperor for the hand of an Imperial princess and to suggest an alliance for the conquest of Egypt. Manuel kept the embassy waiting two years for an answer. Meanwhile Amalric had to return south; for Nur ed-Din, instead of attacking Antioch, had suddenly appeared in October before Banyas, whose lord, Humphrey II of Toron, was with Amalric’s army. He had spread rumours that his objective was Tiberias; and the local Frankish militia was concentrated there. The garrison at Banyas put up a brave resistance at first. It was hoped that Thierry of Flanders, who had just arrived in Palestine, would come to the rescue, when suddenly, owing perhaps to treason, the fortress capitulated. Nur ed-Din occupied the surrounding country and threatened to march on into Galilee, whose barons bought him off by promising a tribute.

Bohemond of Antioch, as soon as he was released, went to Constantinople to visit his sister and to beg his brother-in-law for money with which to pay part of his ransom that he still owed to Nur ed-Din. Manuel gave the required aid. In return Bohemond journeyed back to Antioch with a Greek Patriarch, Athanasius II. The Latin Patriarch Aimery went protesting into exile to the Castle of Qosair. For the next five years the Greeks dominated the Antiochene Church. It does not seem that Latin bishops were ejected; but vacant sees were filled by Greeks. The dependent Latin Church of Tripoli was unaffected. The coming of the Greeks threw the Jacobite Church into the arms of the Latins. They had been on friendly terms since 1152 when a miracle at the tomb of the Syrian Saint Barsauma had cured a lame Frankish child; and in 1156 the Jacobites, to the delight of their Patriarch, Michael the historian, had been allowed to build a new cathedral, at whose dedication the Princess Constance and the Armenian Prince Thoros assisted. Now the Patriarch Michael went to visit Aimery at Qosair to assure him of his sympathy. Michael’s dislike of the Greeks went so far that he refused in 1169 a friendly invitation from the Emperor to come to Constantinople for one of the religious debates in which Manuel delighted.

Nur ed-Din spent 1165 and 1166 in making surprise attacks on fortresses on the eastern slopes of the Lebanon, while Shirkuh raided Oultrejourdain, destroying a castle that the Templars had built in a grotto south of Amman. At the end of 1166 Shirkuh at last obtained permission from his master to invade Egypt once more. He persuaded the Caliph at Baghdad to represent the project as a holy war against the heretic Caliphate of the Shia Fatimids; and this argument probably affected Nur ed-Din, who had grown deeply religious since his illness. He provided reinforcements from Aleppo for Shirkuh and his army. Shirkuh set out from Damascus in January 1167. Once again he took Saladin with him. He had made no secret of his intentions; and Shawar had time again to call on Amalric’s help. The King was at Nablus and summoned his barons to meet him there. After he had pointed out the danger to Palestine should the Sunni Syrians conquer Egypt, the High Court agreed on a full expedition to save Shawar. The whole fighting force of the kingdom was to take part or else to stay on the frontiers to guard against attacks in the King’s absence. Anyone who could not come was to pay a tenth of his year’s income. Before the army was ready news came that Shirkuh was passing through the Sinai desert. Amalric sent the troops that were at hand to intercept him, but it was too late.

1167: Frankish Ambassadors at Cairo

A terrible sand-storm almost overwhelmed Shirkuh’s army; but he reached the isthmus about the first days of February. There he heard that the Frankish army had set out on 30 January. He therefore marched south-westward, through the desert, to reach the Nile at Atfih, forty miles above Cairo. There he crossed and came down the west bank and set up his camp at Giza, opposite the capital. Meanwhile the Frankish army approached Cairo from the north-east. Shawar met it some way from the city and guided it to an encampment on the east bank of the Nile, a mile from the city walls. After he had refused a suggestion from Shirkuh to unite against the Christians, he made a pact with Amalric. The Franks were to be paid 400,000 besants, half at once, half a little later, on condition that Amalric solemnly swore not to leave Egypt until Shirkuh had been driven out. The King sent Hugh, Lord of Caesarea, and a Templar called Geoffrey, who probably spoke Arabic, into Cairo to obtain the Caliph’s formal confirmation of the treaty. Their reception at the palace was superb. They were led past colonnades and fountains and gardens where the Court menageries and aviaries were kept, through hall after hall, heavy with hangings of silk and golden thread, studded with jewels, till at last a great golden curtain was raised, to show the boy-Caliph seated veiled on his golden throne. The oaths to keep the treaty were sworn; and Hugh then, as his King’s deputy, wished to seal the pact in the western fashion by shaking the Caliph’s bare hand. The Egyptian courtiers were horrified; but at last their sovereign, smiling contemptuously, was persuaded to remove his glove. The ambassadors then retired, deeply impressed, as was intended, by the accumulated wealth of the Fatimid Empire.

For a month the armies glared at each other, neither able to cross the river in face of the other’s opposition. Then Amalric managed to effect a crossing on to an island at the head of the Delta, a little to the north, and from there on to the left bank; where he surprised one of Shirkuh’s corps. Shirkuh, whose army was outnumbered by the Franco-Egyptian, retired southward up the Nile. Amalric and Shawar followed, but as a precaution they left a strong garrison in Cairo under Shawar’s son Kamil and Hugh of Ibelin. The entry of Hugh’s regiment into Cairo and the free access to the palace allowed to the officers horrified the stricter Moslem circles in the city.

Not far from Minya in middle Egypt Shirkuh prepared to cross the Nile again with the idea of falling back to invade the Syrian frontier. He encamped at Ashmunein, amongst the ruins of the ancient Hermoupolis. There the Franco-Egyptian army caught up with him. It was larger than his, even without the garrison left at Cairo; but Shirkuh’s army was chiefly composed of light Turkish horse, whereas the Egyptians were infantrymen, and the Franks had only a few hundred knights with them. Against the advice of his emirs he decided to give battle. Amalric on his side hesitated. But Saint Bernard then made one of his unfortunate interventions into Crusading history. He appeared in a vision to the King and taunted him as being unworthy of the fragment of the True Cross that he wore round his neck. Only when the King vowed to be a better Christian would he bless the relic. Thus encouraged, Amalric next morning, 18 March 1167, led an attack on the Syrians. Shirkuh adopted the usual Turkish tactics. His centre, under Saladin, yielded, and when the King and his knights galloped on in pursuit, he flung his right wing against the Franco-Egyptian left, which crumbled. Amalric found himself surrounded. That he escaped alive was due, it was thought, to his blessed relic; but many of his best knights were slain, and others, including Hugh of Caesarea, taken prisoner. Amalric and Shawar and the remnants of their army retreated precipitately to Cairo, to join the forces of the garrison.

1167: Saladin besieged in Alexandria

Shirkuh was victorious; but there was still an allied army in the field. Instead of attempting an attack on Cairo he recrossed the river and moved swiftly north-west through the Fayyum. Within a few days he appeared before Alexandria; and the great city, where Shawar was hated, opened its gates to him. Meanwhile Amalric and Shawar reformed their army outside Cairo. Despite its losses it still was larger than Shirkuh’s. They therefore followed him to Alexandria and blockaded the city. A few reinforcements arrived from Palestine; and Frankish ships sailed in to complete the blockade. After about a month Shirkuh was threatened with starvation. Leaving Saladin with about a thousand men to hold the city, he slipped out one night in May with the greater part of his army, past Amalric’s camp, and made for upper Egypt. Amalric was furious and wished to go in pursuit; but Shawar advised that Shirkuh should be allowed if he wished to pillage the upper Egyptian towns. It was more important to recover Alexandria. By the end of June Saladin’s position within the city was so desperate, that he had to beg his uncle to return. Shirkuh realized that nothing more could be done. He approached Alexandria and sent one of his Frankish prisoners, Arnulf of Turbessel, after Hugh of Caesarea had refused the task, to Amalric’s camp to suggest peace on the basis that both he and the Franks should evacuate Egypt, and that Shawar should promise not to penalize those of his subjects who at Alexandria and elsewhere had supported the invaders. Amalric, who was nervous about affairs in Palestine and Tripoli, accepted his terms. On 4 August, the Frankish army, with the King at its head, entered Alexandria. Saladin and his army were escorted out with full military honours, though the local population would have gladly torn him to pieces, blaming him for their recent misery. But their troubles were not over. No sooner did Shawar’s officials enter the city than anyone suspected of collaboration with the Syrians was arrested. Saladin complained to Amalric, who ordered Shawar to let the prisoners go. He himself provided boats to convey Shirkuh’s wounded by sea to Acre; where unfortunately those that had recovered were sent to work in the sugar-plantations till the King came in person to release them. During the negotiations Saladin made many friends amongst the Franks; and it was believed afterwards that he had been knighted by the Constable Humphrey of Toron. Shirkuh and Saladin left Egypt about 10 August and reached Damascus in September. Amalric and his army went to Cairo, to relieve Hugh of Ibelin from his garrison duty; but Shawar was made to sign a pact promising to pay a yearly tribute of 100,000 pieces of gold and to keep a Frankish high commissioner and a small Frankish garrison in Cairo, in control of the gates of the city. The King then returned to Palestine, reaching Ascalon on 20 August.

1166-7: The Adventures of Andronicus Comnenus

Some of the Frankish lords thought that a better bargain could have been made. But Amalric was unwilling to risk his forces further in Egypt without safeguarding Frankish Syria against Nur ed-Din’s attacks. While he was still in Egypt Nur ed-Din had led a raid into the territory of Tripoli but without capturing any important fortresses. It was necessary to reorganize the defence of the country. The chief problem was always man-power. The resident families were reduced by death or by capture. Visiting Crusaders like Thierry of Flanders could only be used for specific campaigns. Amalric therefore mainly depended on the Military Orders, to whom in 1167 and the succeeding years a large number of fortresses with the surrounding lands were handed over. The gifts were particularly important in Tripoli, whose Count was still a captive and where there were few great noble families. Tortosa and almost the whole of the north of the county passed to the control of the Templars, while the Hospitallers, who probably already held Krak, known after them as ‘des Chevaliers’, were given charge of the Buqaia. In the kingdom the Templars, already installed at Gaza in the south, were given Safed in the north, while the Hospitallers acquired Belvoir, which commanded the fords of the Jordan to the south of the Sea of Galilee. In Antioch Bohemond III followed Amalric’s example. The Templars’ holdings round Baghras, on the Syrian Gates, were increased, and the Hospitallers were allotted a huge wad of territory at the south of the principality, most of which was actually in Moslem hands. Had the Orders been less irresponsible and jealous, their power might well have preserved the kingdom’s defences.

While the Orders were to lead the defence of the realm, Amalric also sought a closer alliance with Byzantium. In August 1167, when he had just come back from Egypt, news reached him that his ambassadors to Constantinople, the Archbishop of Caesarea and the Butler Odo, had landed at Tyre with the Emperor’s lovely young grand-niece, Maria Comnena. He hastened to meet her; and their marriage was celebrated pompously in the Cathedral of Tyre by the Patriarch Amalric on 29 August. The Queen was given Nablus and its territory as her dower. With her were two high officials of her uncle’s Court, his cousins George Palaeologus and Manuel Comnenus, who were empowered to discuss with Amalric the question of an alliance.

Good relations between the Frankish princes and the Emperor had recently been endangered by the irresponsibility of another of Manuel’s cousins, Andronicus Comnenus. This prince, the most brilliant and handsome of his family, had already been in disgrace for seducing one of his relatives, the Emperor’s niece Eudocia, of whom gossip said that the Emperor himself was too fond. He had moreover proved himself an unwise governor of Cilicia in 1152. But in 1166 he was appointed again to this post. His predecessor, Alexius Axuch, who had been sent out when Coloman was captured, had failed to carry out the Emperor’s orders to reconcile the Armenians; and it was hoped that Andronicus’s personal charm, together with extensive subsidies, would be more successful with Thoros. But Andronicus, though already aged forty-six, was more interested in adventure than administration. He soon had occasion to visit Antioch. There he was struck by the beauty of the young Princess Philippa, Bohemond’s sister. Forgetful of his governmental duties he stayed on in Antioch wooing Philippa in a series of romantic serenades till she was dazzled and could refuse him nothing. Bohemond was furious and complained to his brother-in-law Manuel; who angrily recalled Andronicus and reinstalled Constantine Coloman in his place. Coloman was also ordered to proceed to Antioch and to try to capture Philippa’s affection. But the Princess thought him plain and short and middle-aged in comparison with her splendid lover. Andronicus, however, whose motive had largely been to annoy the Empress whom he detested, found it prudent to abandon Antioch and his mistress. Taking with him a large share of the imperial revenues from Cilicia and Cyprus, he rode southward and offered his services to King Amalric. The deserted princess was married off hastily to an elderly widower, the Constable Humphrey II of Toron.

1168: Alliance with Byzantium

Amalric, charmed by Andronicus and impressed by his personal bravery, gave him the fief of Beirut which was then vacant. Soon afterwards Andronicus went to Acre, the dower of his cousin, the widowed Queen Theodora. She was now twenty-one and at the height of her beauty. It was a case of love on both sides. They were too closely related ever to marry; but the Queen shamelessly came to Beirut and lived there as his mistress. When Manuel heard of this new liaison, probably from the ambassadors that had escorted Queen Maria to Palestine, his rage was unbounded. His next ambassadors to Palestine secretly demanded the extradition of the culprit. Their instructions fell into Theodora’s hands. As Amalric was known to be seeking Manuel’s good-will, Andronicus thought it wise to depart. He gave out that he was returning home; and Theodora came once again from Acre to bid him good-bye. As soon as they were together they abandoned all their possessions and fled unattended over the frontier to Damascus. Nur ed-Din received them kindly; and they spent the next years wandering round the Moslem East, even visiting Baghdad, till at last a Moslem emir gave them a castle near the Paphlagonian border of the Empire, where Andronicus, excommunicated by the Church, settled down happily to the life of a brigand. Amalric was not sorry to see them go; for it enabled him to take back his sister-in-law’s rich dower of Acre.

Amalric had apparently sent back to Manuel with George Palaeologus a proposition for the conquest of Egypt. Manuel’s next embassy, led by two Italians, Alexander of Conversano, Count of Gravina, and Michael of Otranto, brought back his conditions, which were, it seems, a share in the spoils of Egypt and a completely free hand in Antioch, and perhaps the cession of other Frankish territory. The terms were high; and Amalric therefore sent the Archdeacon of Tyre, William, the future historian, to Constantinople, to resume discussions. When William arrived there he learnt that the Emperor was campaigning in Serbia. He followed him and met him at Monastir. Manuel received him with his usual lavish generosity and brought him back to his capital; where a treaty was made, by which the Emperor and the King would divide their conquests in Egypt. William returned to Palestine late in the autumn of 1168.

Unfortunately, the barons of the kingdom would not wait for his return. News from Egypt emphasized the insecurity of Shawar’s rule there. He was known to resent the Frankish garrison at Cairo, and he was late in paying his tribute. There were rumours, too, that his son Kamil was negotiating with Shirkuh and had asked for the hand of Saladin’s sister. The arrival in Palestine in the late summer of Count William IV of Nevers with a fine company of knights encouraged those that wanted immediate action. The King summoned a council to Jerusalem. There the Grand Master of the Hospital, Gilbert of Assailly, urged vehemently that there should be no more delay; and the majority of the lay baronage agreed with him. The Count of Nevers and his men, who had come to fight for the Cross, added their support. The Templars flatly opposed any expedition and announced that they would not take part. Their opposition may have been due to jealousy of the Hospital, which had already decided to take Pelusium as its portion, as a counter to the Templar fortress of Gaza. But the Temple was also financially connected with the Moslems and with the Italian merchants, whose trade was now greater with Egypt than with Christian Syria. King Amalric agreed that some action would soon be needed, in view of Shawar’s weakness and unreliability; but he wished to wait till the Emperor’s help was available. He was overruled. Against the vigorous determination of the Hospitallers and his own vassals, who saw no reason why the Greeks should share in the spoils, he gave way. An expedition was planned for October.

1168: Amalric advances on Cairo

William of Tyre came back with his treaty from Constantinople to find the King already gone. Amalric had given out that he was to attack Homs, so as to deter Nur ed-Din from action; and indeed Nur ed-Din, who had troubles of his own in north-east Syria, was anxious to avoid a war with the Franks. Shawar also did not realize what was on foot till the Frankish army marched out from Ascalon on 20 October, to arrive ten days later before Bilbeis. He was horrified. He never expected Amalric so wantonly to break his treaty with him. His first ambassador, an emir named Bedran, met the King at Daron, on the frontier, but was bought over by him. The next ambassador, Shams al-Khilafa, found the King in the desert a few days out from Bilbeis. He reproached Amalric bitterly for his perfidy; to which the King replied that he was justified by the negotiations that Shawar’s son Kamil was conducting with Shirkuh; and anyhow, he said, the Crusaders newly come from the West had determined to attack Egypt and he was there to restrain them. He might, he added, retire if he were paid another two millions of dinars. But Shawar now suspected the King’s good faith. To Amalric’s surprise he decided on resistance. His son Taiy, who commanded the garrison at Bilbeis, refused to open his gates to the Franks. But his forces were small. After three days of desperate fighting, of which Amalric had not thought the Egyptians capable, the Frankish army entered the fortress on 4 November. There followed an appalling massacre of the inhabitants. The protagonists were probably the men from Nevers, ardent and lawless like most newcomers from the West. Their Count had died of fever in Palestine before the expedition started; and there was no one that could control them. Amalric tried to restore order; and when at last he succeeded he himself bought back from the soldiers the survivors that they had taken captive. But the harm was done. Many of the Egyptians who disliked Shawar had been ready to welcome the Franks as deliverers; and the Coptic communities, particularly numerous in the Delta cities, had hitherto worked with their fellow-Christians. But Copts as well as Moslems had perished in the slaughter. The whole Egyptian people was united in hatred of the Franks. A few days later a small Frankish fleet, manned mainly by westerners, which was to sail up the Tanitic mouth of the Nile, arrived in Lake Manzaleh and fell suddenly on the town of Tanis. The same scenes of horror followed; and it was the Copts above all that suffered.

Amalric delayed a few days at Bilbeis, no doubt to re-establish control over his army. He missed the chance of taking Cairo by surprise, and only appeared before the walls of Fostat, the old suburb at the south of the great city, on 13 November. Shawar, doubting his ability to hold Fostat, set fire to it, and sent his ambassador Shams once again to the King to say that sooner than let Cairo itself fall into Frankish hands he would bum it too to the ground with all its wealth. Amalric, whose fleet was held up in the Delta by barriers placed across the river-bed, saw that the expedition had gone wrong. On the advice of his Seneschal, Miles of Plancy, he let Shawar know that he could be bought off. Shawar played for time; he began to haggle over the sum that he could afford. He paid 100,000 dinars down to ransom his son Taiy and talked of further payments. Meanwhile the Frankish army moved a few miles northwards and encamped at Mataria, by the sycamore beneath whose shade the Virgin had halted on the Flight into Egypt. They waited eight days there, when suddenly the news came that Shirkuh was marching into Egypt on the invitation of the Fatimid Caliph.

Shawar had not wished to take so desperate a step; but his son Kamil overruled him and forced his titular sovereign al-Adid to write to Aleppo, offering Nur ed-Din a third of the land of Egypt and fiefs for his generals. The young Caliph must have seen the danger of calling on a protector in whose eyes he was a heretic and a pretender. But he was powerless. When the invitation reached him, Nur ed-Din sent to Homs where Shirkuh was residing; but his messenger found Shirkuh already at the gates of Aleppo. This time Nur ed-Din did not hesitate. He gave Shirkuh eight thousand horsemen and a war-chest of 200,000 dinars to use with the army of Damascus for the conquest of Egypt, and he ordered Saladin to accompany him. Shawar, uncertain still where his interests lay, warned Amalric, who moved with his army towards the Isthmus, hoping to fall on Shirkuh as he emerged from the desert. But Shirkuh slipped past him to the south. There was no alternative now for the Franks but evacuation. Ordering his fleet to return to Acre and summoning the garrison left in Bilbeis to join him, Amalric began his retreat on 2 January 1169.

1169: Shirkuh wins Egypt for Nur ed-Din

Six days later Shirkuh entered Cairo. Leaving his army encamped at the Gate of el-Luq, he went to the Palace, where the Caliph gave him ceremonial gifts and promised money and food for his troops. Shawar greeted him cordially. For the next days he visited him daily to discuss financial arrangements and a partition of the vizierate. Shirkuh received these overtures graciously; but his nephew Saladin, who was his chief adviser, insisted on further action. The Caliph was persuaded to come in disguise to Shirkuh’s headquarters. Then, on 18 January, Shawar was invited to join Shirkuh on a little pilgrimage to the tomb of the holy as-Shafii. As he set out, Saladin and his emirs fell on him. His escort was disarmed and he himself taken prisoner. In less than an hour an order from the Caliph for his decapitation had been produced and his head was lying at the Caliph’s feet. Then, to avoid any attempt against himself, Shirkuh announced that anyone who wished could pillage the late vizier’s house. As the mob rushed there, he and the Caliph moved to the palace and quietly took over the government. Shawar’s rule had been too unpopular and Shirkuh’s regard for legitimacy too scrupulous for any of the provincial governors to oppose the new regime. Within a few weeks Shirkuh was master of all Egypt. His emirs took over the fiefs that had belonged to Shawar and his family; and he himself had the title of vizier and king.

Shirkuh did not long survive his elevation. He died from overeating on 23 March 1169. His fame in history has been outshone by those of his master Nur ed-Din and of his nephew Saladin. Yet it was he who saw, more clearly than any other Moslem, that the conquest of Egypt, with its strategic position and its boundless resources, was the necessary preliminary to the recovery of Palestine; and, in spite of the hesitations and scruples of Nur ed-Din, he had worked ceaselessly to this end. His nephew reaped the harvest of his persistence. His appearance was insignificant. He was short and stout, red-faced and blind in one eye; and his features revealed his low birth. But he was a soldier of genius; and few generals have been so devotedly loved by their men.

The fateful importance of Shirkuh’s triumph was well realized by the Franks. While some of them blamed it on the greed of Miles of Plancy, who had made his King accept money rather than fight, others sought a scapegoat in the Master of the Hospital, who was forced to retire from his post and go home to the West. Amalric himself appealed to the West for a new Crusade. An impressive embassy, led by the Patriarch Amalric and the Archbishop of Caesarea, was dispatched early in 1169 with letters to the Emperor Frederick, to Louis VII of France, to Henry II of England, to Margaret, Queen Regent of Sicily, and to the Counts of Flanders, Blois and Troyes. But after two days at sea the ambassadors’ ships ran into so severe a storm that they were driven back to Acre; and none of the passengers would consent to risk again the perils of the deep. A second embassy was sent out, led by Frederick, Archbishop of Tyre, accompanied by his suffragan, John, Bishop of Banyas, and Guibert, Preceptor of the Order of the Hospital. They reached Rome in July 1169; and Pope Alexander III gave them letters of recommendation to all his clerics. But none of their letters was of avail. King Louis kept them for many months at Paris, where the Bishop of Banyas died, while he explained to them his preoccupations with the Plantagenets. They went on to England where King Henry talked of his troubles with the Capetians. The quarrels between the Pope and the Emperor made a visit to Germany pointless. After two years of ineffectual begging they returned disconsolate to Palestine.

1169: Allied Campaign against Egypt

An embassy to Constantinople was more successful. Manuel was well aware that the balance of power in the East had been dangerously upset. He offered Amalric the co-operation of the great Imperial fleet for his next campaign. The King accepted gladly. Egypt might yet be recovered. Nur ed-Din seemed to be fully occupied in the north. The death of Kara Arslan, the Ortoqid emir of Diarbekir in 1168, and the quarrels over the inheritance had embroiled him with his brother Qutb ed-Din of Mosul; and the revolt of Ghazi ibn Hassan, governor of Menbij, had followed soon afterwards and took several months to liquidate. Now Qutb ed-Din was dying, and the question of the succession to Mosul would soon arise. In Egypt Shirkuh’s titles and power had passed to his nephew Saladin. But Saladin was untried as a ruler. Others of Shirkuh’s emirs had hoped for the succession; but the Caliph had chosen Saladin, trusting that his inexperience would force him to rely on Fatimid officials. Meanwhile al-Adid’s chief eunuch, a Nubian called al-Mutamen, or the Confidential Adviser, wrote secretly to Jerusalem to promise help should the Franks invade Egypt. Unfortunately, one of Saladin’s agents, puzzled by the shape of a pair of sandals worn by a court messenger, took them and unstitched them, and found the letter within. Saladin waited to take vengeance. But news of his insecurity encouraged the Christians.

Amalric had urged haste on the Emperor; and on 10 July 1169, the Imperial armada set out from the Hellespont, under the command of the Grand Duke Andronicus Contostephanus. The main fleet sailed to Cyprus, capturing two Egyptian ships on the way; and a smaller squadron made straight for Acre, bringing money-subsidies for Amalric’s soldiers. Amalric was asked to send to Cyprus as soon as he wished the fleet to sail on. But Amalric was not ready. The campaign of 1168 had disorganized his forces. The Hospitallers’ losses had been very heavy. The Templars still refused to take part; and the barons, discouraged by their previous experience, were no longer as enthusiastic as before. It was only in late September that he summoned the fleet to Acre, where its splendid appearance thrilled the inhabitants; and it was only in mid-October that the whole expedition was ready to leave for Egypt. The delay was doubly unfortunate. Manuel, who was given to optimism, had counted on a short campaign and had provisioned his ships for three months only. The three months were nearly over. Cyprus, not yet recovered from Reynald’s ravaging, had not been able to help in the revictualment; nor were provisions obtainable at Acre. At the same time Saladin received ample warning of the expedition. To secure himself in Cairo, on 20 August 1169, he arrested and beheaded the eunuch al-Mutamen, then dismissed all the palace servants known to be faithful to the Caliph, replacing them by his own creatures. The dismissed officers, encouraged by the Caliph, incited the Nubian Palace Guard to revolt and attack Saladin’s troops. Saladin’s brother, Fakhr ed-Din, counter-attacked but could do nothing, till Saladin set fire to the Guards’ barracks at Fostat. Knowing their wives and families to be there the Nubians fled to rescue them. Fakhr ed-Din then fell on them and slaughtered them almost to a man. The Caliph, who had been watching the battle, hastened to assure Saladin of his loyalty. His desertion of the Nubians completed their rout. The Armenian Guard, which had not taken part in the fighting, was burnt to death in the barracks. The opposition to Saladin in Cairo was silenced.

1169: Siege of Damietta

The Christian army set out at last on 16 October. Andronicus Contostephanus, chafing at Amalric’s delays, offered to convey the bulk of the soldiers by sea; but the Franks insisted on the land-route. On 25 October the army entered Egypt at Farama, near Pelusium. Saladin expected an attack on Bilbeis and concentrated his forces there; but the Franks, ferried over the eastern branches of the Nile by the Byzantine ships, who had kept pace with them along the coast, marched swiftly to Damietta, the rich fortress that commanded the main branch of the Nile, up which the fleet could sail towards Cairo. Saladin was taken by surprise. He dared not leave Cairo himself, for fear that the Fatimid supporters might be encouraged to revolt. But he sent reinforcements to Damietta, and wrote himself to Syria to beg for help from Nur ed-Din. The garrison at Damietta had thrown a great chain across the river. The Greek ships, already delayed by contrary winds, could not sail up past the city and intercept the troops and the provisions that came downstream from Cairo. A sudden assault might have captured the fortress; but though Contostephanus, anxious about his dwindling supplies, urged immediate action, Amalric was awed by the huge fortifications. He wished to construct more siege-towers. His first tower, by some error of judgement, had been placed against the strongest part of the walls. The Greeks, to the horror of local Christians and Moslems, used their engines to bombard a quarter sanctified by a chapel dedicated to the Virgin, who had halted there in her flight. Every day fresh troops arrived in the city. Every day the Greek sailors and their compatriots on shore had their rations reduced; and their Frankish allies, who were amply supplied, would give them no help. Every day Contostephanus pleaded with Amalric to risk a full-scale attack on the walls, and Amalric answered that the risk was too great; and his generals, always suspicious of the Greeks, whispered that Contostephanus’s zeal was caused by a desire to have Damietta as part of the Imperial spoils. By the beginning of December it was clear that the expedition had failed. Without food the Greeks could go on no longer. A fire-boat launched by the defenders into the middle of the fleet had caused heavy losses, though Amalric’s prompt intervention had restricted the damage. The fortress was now well manned and well supplied; and a Moslem army was said to be approaching from Syria. When the rains came early and turned the Christian camp into a morass, it was time to raise the siege. Whether Amalric or Contostephanus was the first to begin negotiations with the Saracens is uncertain; nor are the terms that were arranged known to us. A money-indemnity was probably given to the Christians; and Amalric certainly hoped that a show of friendship towards Saladin might detach him from Nur ed-Din with whom his relations were suspected of lacking cordiality.

On 13 December the Christians burnt all their siege-machines to prevent them falling into Moslem hands, and moved from Damietta. The army reached Ascalon on the 24th. The fleet was less fortunate. As it sailed northward a great storm arose. The starving sailors could not control their ships, and many of them foundered. For days Greek corpses were washed ashore on the coast of Palestine. Contostephanus himself escaped and sailed to Cilicia and thence travelled overland to report to the Emperor. The remnants of the armada reached the Bosphorus early in the new year.

The disastrous outcome of the expedition inevitably gave rise to recriminations. The Franks blamed the Greeks for their shortage of supplies; the Greeks, more reasonably, blamed the Franks for their endless delays. But both Amalric and the Emperor realized that the alliance must not be broken. For Saladin was now unquestioned master of Egypt.

1170: Earthquake at Antioch

Saladin was too wise to fall into the diplomatic trap prepared for him by Amalric. Nur ed-Din had trusted Shirkuh, but he was suspicious of the ambitions of the new ruler of Egypt. Saladin, however, behaved with perfect correctitude. In April 1170 his father, Najm ed-Din Ayub, was sent to him by Nur ed-Din with a company of Syrian troops, partly as a gesture of friendship, partly perhaps as a hint; for Ayub was devoted to his master. As a large number of Damascene merchants travelled with the convoy, eager to open up trade with Cairo, Nur ed-Din himself led a demonstration against Kerak, in order to allow the great caravan to pass safely through the territory of Oultrejourdain. It was Nur ed-Din’s only move against the Franks. During their Egyptian expedition he had left them in peace, and in January 1170 they had even been able to recover the castle of Akkar, on the south of the Buqaia, which had been lost probably in 1165. Amalric, as regent of Tripoli, assigned it together with the town of Arqa to the Hospitallers, who now controlled the whole valley.

On 29 June 1170 Syria was visited by a terrible earthquake, as destructive as those of 115 7; and for the next few months Christians and Moslems alike were busy repairing ruined fortresses. Aleppo, Shaizar, Hama and Homs were all severely damaged, as were Krak des Chevaliers, Tripoli and Jebail. At Antioch the damage was enormous; but the Franks saw divine justice in it. For the Greek Patriarch and his clergy were celebrating Mass in the Cathedral of St Peter, when the edifice collapsed on them. As Athanasius lay dying under the ruins, Prince Bohemond and his court hurried to Qosair, to his rival Aimery, to beg him to return to his see. The brief episode of Greek ecclesiastical rule was ended.

The Emperor could not intervene, angry though he was at the news; for things were going badly in Cilicia. The Armenian prince Thoros died in 1168, leaving a child, Roupen II, to succeed him, under the regency of a Frankish lord called Thomas, whose mother had been Thoros’s sister. But Thoros’s brother Mleh disputed the succession. He had at one time taken vows as a Templar, then, after quarrelling with Thoros and attempting to assassinate him, he had fled to Nur ed-Din and become a Moslem. Early in 1170 Nur ed-Din lent him troops with which he was able not only to dethrone his nephew but also to invade the Cilician plain and take Mamistra, Adana and Tarsus from their Greek garrisons. He then attacked the Templars at Baghras. Bohemond appealed to Amalric, who marched up into Cilicia and temporarily, it seems, restored Imperial rule. This friendly action may have reconciled Manuel to his loss of ecclesiastical control in Antioch. But Mleh was irrepressible. A year or so later he managed to capture Constantine Coloman and again overrun Cilicia.

Nur ed-Din was meanwhile occupied farther east. His brother, Qutb ed-Din of Mosul died in the summer of 1170. His two sons, Saif ed-Din and Imad ed-Din disputed the inheritance; and some months passed before Nur ed-Din could settle the matter to his liking. The respite was useful for the Franks. But the problem of Egypt remained unsolved. Amalric remained faithful to his policy of a close alliance with the Emperor and constant appeals to the West. In the spring of 1171 he decided to pay a personal visit to Constantinople.

1171: Amalric at Constantinople

His departure was delayed by a sudden offensive made by Saladin against his southern frontier. Early in December 1170 a great Egyptian army appeared before Daron, the southernmost Frankish fortress on the Mediterranean coast. Its defences were weak; and though Saladin had no siege-engines with him, its fall seemed imminent. Amalric, taking with him the Patriarch and the relic of the True Cross, hastened with a small but well-trained force to Ascalon, arriving there on 18 December and moving on to the Templars’ fortress at Gaza, where he left Miles of Plancy in charge, as the Templar knights joined him in the march on Daron. He managed to break through the Egyptian army and enter Daron; whereupon Saladin raised the siege and marched on Gaza. The lower town was taken, despite a futile resistance ordered by Miles; and its inhabitants were massacred. But the citadel was so formidable that Saladin did not venture to attack it. As suddenly as he had come he disappeared back to the Egyptian frontier. He then sent a squadron up the Gulf of Akaba, which captured the Frankish outpost of Aila, at the head of the Gulf, during the last days of the year.

Amalric left Acre for Constantinople on 10 March, with a large staff, including the Bishop of Acre and the Marshal of the Court, Gerard of Pougi. The Master of the Temple, Philip of Milly, resigned his post in order to go ahead as ambassador. After calling in at Tripoli the King sailed on to the north. At Gallipoli he was met by his father-in-law, who, as the wind was contrary, took him overland to Heraclea. There he embarked again in order to enter the capital through the palace gate at the harbour of Bucoleon, an honour reserved for crowned heads alone.

Amalric’s reception delighted him and his staff. Manuel liked westerners in general, and he found Amalric sympathetic. He showed his usual lavish generosity. His family, particularly the King’s father-in-law, all joined in offering hospitality. There were endless religious ceremonies and festivities. There was a dancing display in the Hippodrome and a trip in a barge up and down the Bosphorus. In the midst of it all the Emperor and the King discussed the future. A treaty was made and signed, but its terms are unrecorded. It seems that the King recognized in some vague way the Emperor’s suzerainty over the native Christians; that Manuel promised naval and financial help whenever another expedition against Egypt should be planned; and that common action should be taken against Mleh of Armenia. There were probably clauses about the Greek Church in Antioch, and even perhaps in the kingdom, where Manuel had already in 1169 taken charge of the redecoration of the Church of the Nativity at Bethlehem. An inscription on the mosaic attests that the artist Ephraim made them on the orders of the Emperor. He was also responsible for the repairs at the Holy Sepulchre.

Whatever were the details of the treaty, the Franks were well satisfied by their visit and full of admiration for their host. They sailed homeward from Constantinople on 15 June, hopeful for the future.

1171: End of the Fatimid Dynasty

The appeal to the West was less successful. Frederick of Tyre was still wandering ineffectually through the courts of France and England. About the end of 1170 Amalric wrote to him to invite Stephen of Champagne, Count of Sancerre, to Palestine, to marry the Princess Sibylla. The suggestion was prompted by a tragedy that had befallen the royal family. Amalric’s son Baldwin was now nine years old and had been sent with comrades of his own age to be instructed by William, Archdeacon of Tyre. He was a handsome, intelligent boy; but one day, when his pupils were testing their endurance by driving their nails into each other’s arms, William noticed that the prince alone never flinched. He watched carefully and soon realized that the boy was insensitive to pain because he was a leper. It was the judgment of God for the incestuous marriage of his parents, Amalric and Agnes; and it boded ill for the kingdom. Even if Baldwin grew up he could never carry on the dynasty. The young Greek Queen might yet bear a son; but meanwhile, for safety’s sake, Amalric would be wise to marry his eldest child, Sibylla, to some rich experienced western prince who could act if need be as regent or even as king. Stephen accepted the invitation and landed with a party of knights in Palestine in the summer of 1171, a few days before Amalric arrived back from Constantinople. But he did not like the look of Palestine. He brusquely broke off the marriage negotiations and, after paying his vows at the Holy Places, left with his company for the north, intending to visit Constantinople. As he passed through Cilicia he was waylaid by Mleh of Armenia, who robbed him of all that he had with him.

Next year an even more important visitor came to Jerusalem, Henry the Lion, Duke of Saxony and Bavaria, grandson of the Emperor Lothair and son-in-law of Henry II of England. But he, too, refused to fight for the Cross. He had come merely as a pilgrim and left as soon as possible for Germany.

The indifference of the West was bitterly disappointing; but perhaps an expedition against Egypt was not needed at once. For Saladin’s relations with Nur ed-Din seemed close to breaking-point. By January 1171 Nur ed-Din had installed a garrison of his own at Mosul, where his nephew Saif ed-Din ruled, and had annexed Nisibin and the Khabur valley for himself and Sinjar for his favourite nephew Imad ed-Din. Then, piously anxious for the triumph of orthodox Islam, he wrote to Saladin demanding that prayers in the Egyptian mosques should no longer mention the Fatimid Caliph but the Caliph of Baghdad. Saladin did not wish to comply. After two centuries of Fatimid rule Shia influences were strong in Egypt. Moreover, though he might own Nur ed-Din as his master, his authority in Egypt came from the Fatimid Caliph. He prevaricated, till in August Nur ed-Din threatened to come himself to Egypt if he were not obeyed. After taking police precautions Saladin prepared for the change; but no one dared make the first move till on the first Friday of the Moslem year 567 a visiting divine from Mosul boldly stepped into the pulpit of the Great Mosque and prayed for the Caliph al-Mustadi. His lead was followed throughout Cairo. In the palace the Fatimid Caliph al-Adid lay dying. Saladin forbade his servants to tell him the news. ‘If he recovers, he will learn soon enough’, he said. ‘If he is to die, let him die in peace.’ But when the poor youth a few hours before his death asked to see Saladin his request was refused for fear of a plot. Saladin repented of his refusal when it was too late, and spoke of him with affection. With al-Adid the Fatimid dynasty perished. The remaining princes and princesses were rounded up, to spend the rest of their lives in luxury cut off from any contact with the world.

1172: Raymond of Tripoli released

A few days later Saladin set out to attack the castle of Montreal, south of the Dead Sea. He pressed the siege hard; and Amalric, owing to misinformation, left Jerusalem too late to come to its rescue. But, just as the garrison was preparing to capitulate, suddenly Nur ed-Din appeared on the road to Kerak; whereat Saladin raised the siege. He told Nur ed-Din that his brothers’ wars in upper Egypt obliged him to return to Cairo. To Nur ed-Din his action seemed mere treachery that must be punished by force. Hearing of his anger Saladin was alarmed and summoned a council of his family and his chief generals. The younger members of the family counselled defiance. But Saladin’s father, old Najm ed-Din Ayub, rose to say that he for one was loyal to his master and berated his son for his ambition, and scolded him again in private for letting his ambition be so obvious. Saladin took his advice and sent abject apologies to Nur ed-Din; who accepted them for the moment.

In the summer of 1171 Nur ed-Din planned but gave up an expedition into Galilee. In the late autumn, angered by an act of piracy committed by Franks from Lattakieh on two Egyptian merchant ships, he devastated Antiochene and Tripolitan territory, destroying the castles of Safita and Araima, and had to be bought off with a heavy indemnity. But in 1172 he kept the peace, partly because of his distrust of Saladin and partly because he wished to gain Seldjuk help for an attack on Antioch. But the Seldjuk Sultan, after a stern warning from Constantinople, rejected his advances and instead began a two years’ war against the Danishmends. The Byzantine alliance, though it was to achieve little else, at least saved Antioch from a coalition between Aleppo and Konya. About the same time Nur ed-Din at last consented to release Raymond of Tripoli for the sum of 80,000 dinars. The King and the Hospitallers together raised the bulk of the money; and Raymond was allowed to return home. He never paid some 30,000 dinars that remained owing to Nur ed-Din.

War began again in 1173. Amalric felt secure enough to march north into Cilicia to punish Mleh for his outrage against Stephen of Champagne and to carry out his promise to the Emperor. The campaign achieved nothing except to check Mleh’s further expansion. Nur ed-Din used the opportunity to invade Oultrejourdain, and summoned Saladin to come to his support. Saladin, faithful to his father’s advice, came up with an army from Egypt and laid siege to Kerak. Meanwhile Nur ed-Din moved down from Damascus. On his approach Saladin raised the siege and returned to Egypt, saying, with truth, that his father was dangerously ill. But it was clear that he had no wish to destroy the Frankish buffer-state that lay between him and his imperious master. Nur ed-Din in his turn encamped before Kerak. The fief of Oultrejourdain, of which it was the capital, belonged to an heiress, Stephanie of Milly. Her first husband, Humphrey, heir of Toron, had died a few years before. Her second husband, Amalric’s seneschal Miles of Plancy, was away with the King. It was her first father-in-law, the old Constable, Humphrey II of Toron, who came to her rescue. On the mobilization of the forces left in the kingdom, Nur ed-Din retired. His fury against Saladin was unbounded. When he heard of the death, in August, of Najm ed-Din Ayub, his most loyal servant in Cairo, he vowed to invade Egypt himself in the coming spring.

1173: Murder of the Assassin Ambassadors

This disunity in the Moslem world was consoling to the Franks; and in the autumn of 1173 they received overtures from another unexpected quarter. Little had been heard of the Assassins during the last decades, apart from their arbitrary murder of Raymond II of Tripoli in 1152. They had been quietly consolidating their territory in the Nosairi mountains. In general they showed no animosity towards the Franks. Their hated enemy was Nur ed-Din whose power restricted them on the east. But he had been unable to suppress them; and a dagger found on his pillow one night warned him not to go too far. Shia rather than Sunni in their sympathies, they had been shocked by the end of the Fatimid Caliphate. In 1169 the Assassin headquarters at Alamut in Persia sent a new governor for the Nosairi province, Rashid ed-Din Sinan of Basra. This formidable sheikh, who was to be known to the Franks as the Old Man of the Mountains, began a more active policy. He now sent to Amalric suggesting a close alliance against Nur ed-Din and hinting that he and all his flock were considering conversion to Christianity. In return he apparently asked that a tribute which the Templars at Tortosa had succeeded in imposing on various Assassin villages should be cancelled. Whether or not Amalric believed that the Assassins would ever become Christians, he was glad to encourage their friendship. The sheikh Sinan’s envoys returned towards the mountains with the promise of a Frankish embassy to follow soon after. As they journeyed past Tripoli a Templar knight, Walter of Mesnil, acting with the connivance of his Grand Master, ambushed them and slew them all. King Amalric was horrified. His policy was ruined and his honour stained, just because the Order was too greedy to sacrifice a small portion of its revenues. He ordered the Grand Master, Odo of Saint-Amand, to hand over the culprit. Odo refused, merely offering to send Walter to be judged by the Pope, whose sole authority he recognized. But Amalric was too angry to trouble about the Order’s constitution. He hurried with some troops to Sidon, where the Grand Master and the Chapter were staying, forced his way into their presence and kidnapped Walter, whom he cast into prison at Tyre. The Assassins were assured that justice had been done; and they accepted the King’s apologies. Meanwhile Amalric planned to demand from Rome that the Order be dissolved.

The year 1174 opened well for the Christians. The Assassins were friendly. The Byzantine alliance held good. The young King of Sicily, William II, promised naval help for the spring. The discord between Nur ed-Din and Saladin was reaching a crisis; and Saladin himself was none too secure in Egypt, where the Shia nobility was again intriguing against him and was in contact with the Franks. In 1173 he had sent his eldest brother, Turan Shah, to conquer the Sudan, so that it might serve as an asylum for the family, should the worst occur. Turan occupied the country as far as Ibrim, near Wady Haifa, where he slew the Coptic bishop and his flock, both his congregation and his seven hundred pigs. But he reported that the land was unsuitable as a refuge. Saladin then sent him to southern Arabia, which he preferred. He conquered it in his brother’s name and ruled there as viceroy till 1176.

But there was no need to flee from the wrath of Nur ed-Din. In the spring of 1174 the atabeg came to Damascus to plan his Egyptian campaign. As he rode out one morning with his friends through the orchards he talked to them of the uncertainty of human life. Nine days later, on 15 May, he died of a quinsy. He had been a great ruler and a good man, who had loved above all things justice. After his illness nineteen years before, something of his energy had left him; and more and more of his time was spent on pious exercises. But his piety, narrow though it was, won him the respect of his subjects and of his enemies. He was austere and smiled seldom. He lived simply and forced his family to do likewise, preferring to spend his vast revenues on works of charity. He was a careful and watchful administrator; and his wise government consolidated the realm that his sword had won. In particular he sought to curb the restlessness of his Turkish and Kurdish emirs by settling them on fiefs for which they paid the rent in soldiers, but his own law courts kept them strictly under control. This mitigated feudalism did much to restore the prosperity of Syria after nearly a century of the rule of nomads. In appearance he was tall and dark-skinned, almost beardless, with regular features and a gentle, sad expression. Polo-playing was his only recreation.

1174: Death of King Amalric

Nur ed-Din’s heir was his son, Malik as-Salih Ismail, a boy of eleven, who had been with him at Damascus. There the emir Ibn al-Muqaddam, backed by the boy’s mother, seized the regency, while Gumushtekin, governor of Aleppo, which had been Nur ed-Din’s chief capital, proclaimed himself there as regent. The boy’s cousin, Saif ed-Din of Mosul, intervened to annex Nisibin and all the Jezireh as far as Edessa. Saladin, as the governor of Nur ed-Din’s richest province, wrote to Damascus to claim that the regency was his. But he was powerless at the moment to follow up his claim. The collapse of Moslem unity offered the Franks a chance that Amalric was swift to take. In June he marched on Banyas. Al-Muqaddam came out from Damascus to meet him and, probably as Amalric intended, at once proposed to buy him off with the promise of a large sum of money, the release of all the Frankish prisoners at Damascus and an alliance in the future against Saladin. Amalric, who was beginning to suffer from an attack of dysentery, accepted the proposals. After a pact was signed he rode back through Tiberias and Nablus to Jerusalem, refusing the comfort of a litter. He arrived there seriously ill. Greek and Syrian doctors were summoned to his bedside, and he told them to bleed him and give him a purge. They refused, for they thought him too weak to stand the strain. So he had recourse to his own Frankish doctor, who had no such scruples. The treatment seemed to do him good, but only for a day or two. On 11 July 1174, he died, at the age of thirty-eight.

If history is only a matter of challenge and response, then the growth of Moslem unity under Zengi, Nur ed-Din and Saladin was the inevitable reaction to the First Crusade. But fate too often capriciously loads the dice. At the beginning of 1174 Saladin’s star seemed to be setting. The death of Nur ed-Din and the death of Amalric, neither of them expected, saved him and opened the gateway for his victories to come. For the Franks of the East the death of Amalric, at such a moment, and the accidents that had befallen his family foreboded the end of their kingdom. Amalric was the last king of Christian Jerusalem worthy of his throne. He had made mistakes. He had been swayed by the enthusiasm of his nobles in 1168 and by their hesitations in 1169. He had been too ready to accept gifts of money, which his government needed for the moment, rather than carry out a policy far-sightedly. But his energy and his enterprise had been boundless. He had shown that neither his vassals nor the Orders could defy him unscathed. Had he lived longer he might have challenged the inevitability of the triumph of Islam.

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