Post-classical history

BOOK V

THE TRIUMPH OF ISLAM

CHAPTER I

MOSLEM UNITY

The wise shall inherit glory: but shame shall be the promotion of fools.’ PROVERBS III, 35

To Saladin, watching anxiously in Cairo, King Amalric’s death came as a sign of God’s favour. Shia intrigues against him had come to a head in April when a plot to kill him was betrayed to him. He struck at once and crucified the ring-leaders; but he could not be sure that there were not others ready to conspire, should a Christian army come to their aid. And in the meantime Nur ed-Din’s heritage might pass firmly into other hands. Now, with Amalric dead, there was no danger of an invasion by land. A Sicilian fleet was, it is true, in the offing; for King William II had heard neither of the collapse of the Shia conspiracy nor of the death of Amalric. On 25 July 1174 the Sicilians, with two hundred and eighty-four ships to convey their men, their beasts and their provisions, under Tancred, Count of Lecce, appeared suddenly before Alexandria. But they found themselves deprived of the support on which they had counted; and they had already refused to countenance any help from the Emperor, for William had quarrelled with Manuel, who had offered him the hand of his daughter Maria and then had withdrawn the offer; and anyhow he wished to show that he could do better than the Byzantines in 1169. On their failure to surprise the city and on Saladin’s approach with an army, they took to their ships again and sailed away on 1 August. Saladin was free now to march into Syria.

Ibn al-Muqaddam, governor at Damascus, was frightened and appealed to the Franks for help. His fear increased when the young as-Salih fled with his mother to Aleppo to the more vigorous guardianship of Gumushtekin. Ibn al-Muqaddam next appealed to Saif ed-Din of Mosul to come to his rescue; but Saif ed-Din preferred to consolidate his gains in the Jezireh. The people of Damascus then insisted on their governor summoning Saladin. Saladin set out at once, with seven hundred picked horsemen. He rode swiftly through Oultrejourdain where the Franks made no attempt to stop him, and arrived at Damascus on 26 November. He was received there with joy. He spent the night at his father’s old house. Next morning Ibn al-Muqaddam opened the citadel gates to him. He installed his brother Toghtekin as governor in as-Salih’s name and, after delighting the Damascenes by generous gifts to them from as-Salih’s treasury, marched on northward against Gumushtekin.

1174: Raymond of Tripoli Regent

King Amalric’s death had left the Franks powerless to intervene. The only remaining prince of the royal house was the thirteen-year old leper, Baldwin. His sister Sibylla, a year older, was still unmarried. His step-mother, Queen Maria Comnena, had only given birth to daughters, of whom one had died and the other, Isabella, was aged two. The barons accepted Baldwin as their king without demur. Four days after his father’s death he was crowned by the Patriarch. No regent was appointed. The Seneschal, Miles of Plancy, the late King’s closest friend and lord in his wife’s right of the great fief of Oultrejourdain, carried on the government. But Miles was unpopular, particularly amongst the locally-born aristocracy, with whose support Count Raymond of Tripoli claimed the regency. Next to the King’s sisters Raymond was his closest relative on the royal side of the family. His mother, Hodierna of Jerusalem, had been Amalric’s aunt. Though Bohemond of Antioch was descended from Hodierna’s elder sister, Alice, he was a generation further away from the Crown. Moreover, he lived far off; whereas Raymond had recently married the second great heiress in the Kingdom, Eschiva of Bures, Princess of Galilee, widow of Walter of Saint-Omer. Raymond’s supporters, led by the old Constable, Humphrey II of Toron, by the Ibelin family and by Reynald of Sidon, insisted on his rights being heard before the High Court. Miles prevaricated for as long as he could, but had to yield. Late in the autumn Raymond was installed as Regent. A few weeks later Miles, who had taken his fall from power with an ill grace, was assassinated one dark night in the streets of Acre.

Raymond was now aged thirty-four, a tall, thin man, dark-haired and dark-skinned, his face dominated by a great nose, in character cold and self-controlled and a little ungenerous. There was nothing in him of the enthusiastic chivalry of the early Crusaders. During his long years in captivity he had read deeply, he had learnt Arabic and he had studied the ways of the Moslems. He saw the problems of the Frankish states from a local standpoint. He was interested in their survival, not in their role as the spearhead of aggressive Christendom. He was able and ably supported by his friends, but he was only regent and he had enemies.

His regency began a cleavage within the kingdom. There had been factions before, especially in the days of Queen Melisende. But they had been short-lived. The Crown had kept control. Now two definite parties arose, the one composed of the native barons and the Hospitallers, following the leadership of Count Raymond, seeking an understanding with their foreign neighbours and unwilling to embark on risky adventures; the other composed of newcomers from the West and the Templars. This party was aggressive and militantly Christian; and it found its leaders in 1175, when at last Reynald of Chatillon was released from his Moslem prison, together with Joscelin of Edessa, a Count without a county, whom fate had turned into an adventurer. Personal animosities were even stronger than differences in policy. Most of the nobles now were cousins of each other; and family quarrels are always the most bitter. The two wives of King Amalric hated each other. Agnes of Courtenay, Count Joscelin’s sister, had married twice since her divorce. Her next husband, Hugh of Ibelin, had died a few years after the marriage; his successor, Reynald of Sidon, was glad to discover that he, like Amalric, was too closely related to his wife and secured an annulment. While Agnes sided with her brother and the Templars, he joined the other party. Queen Maria Comnena was soon remarried, to Hugh of Ibelin’s brother Balian, to whom she brought her dower-fief of Nablus. This marriage was happy; and the Dowager-Queen played a great role in her husband’s party. Reynald of Chatillon, a few months after his release, married the heiress of Oultrejourdain, Stephanie, the widow of Miles of Plancy, who considered Count Raymond to be her husband’s murderer. Raymond’s long quarrel with the Templars began on a personal question. A Flemish knight, Gerard of Ridfort, came to Tripoli in 1173 and took service under the Count, who promised him the hand of the first suitable heiress in his county. But when the lord of Botrun died a few months later, leaving his lands to his daughter Lucia, Raymond ignored Gerard’s claim and gave her to a rich Pisan called Plivano, who ungallantly put the girl on to a weighing-machine and offered the Count her weight in gold. Gerard, angry and disappointed, joined the Order of the Temple and soon became its most influential member and its seneschal. He never forgave Raymond.

1174: Saladin attacks Aleppo

The young King, precociously aware of the intrigues around him, tried to hold the balance between the parties. Raymond remained his regent for three years; but ties of kinship drew him closer to the Courtenays. He made his uncle Joscelin seneschal in 1176; and his mother, the Lady Agnes, returned to the Court. Her influence was disastrous. She was vicious and greedy, insatiable for men and for money. She had not been allowed to bring up her children. Baldwin had been given to the care of William of Tyre and Sibylla to that of her great-aunt, the Princess-Abbess Joveta of Bethany. But now she began to interfere in their lives. Baldwin listened to her, against his better judgment; and Sibylla fell under her domination.

Raymond’s first duty as regent was to curb the growth of Saladin’s power. The Franks had been unable to prevent the union of Damascus with Cairo; but at least Aleppo was still separate. As soon as reinforcements came from Egypt Saladin had marched to Aleppo from Damascus. On 9 December 1174 he entered Homs and left troops to invest the castle, which held out against him. He passed on through Hama to Aleppo. When Gumushtekin closed the gates in his face, he began a regular siege of the city, on 30 December. The citizens were half inclined to surrender to him; but the young as-Salih came down himself into their midst and pleaded with them to preserve him from the man who had filched his heritage. Touched by his plight the defenders never flagged. Meanwhile Gumushtekin sent for help from the Assassins and from the Franks. A few days later some Assassins were found in the heart of Saladin’s camp, at his very tent. They were slain after a desperate defence. On 1 February Count Raymond and a Frankish army appeared before Homs, and with the help of the castle garrison began to attack the city walls. This had the desired effect. Saladin raised the siege of Aleppo and came hurrying south. Raymond did not stay to meet him. For the next month Saladin was held up by the siege of the castle of Homs. By April he was master of all Syria as far north as Hama; but Aleppo was still independent. In gratitude to the Franks Gumushtekin released Reynald of Chatillon and Joscelin of Courtenay and all the other Christian prisoners languishing in the dungeons of Aleppo.

Saladin’s successes roused Nur ed-Din’s nephew, Saif ed-Din of Mosul, who sent his brother, Izz ed-Din, with a large army into Syria to join Gumushtekin. Saladin, hoping perhaps to cause trouble between Aleppo and Mosul, offered to cede to Gumushtekin Hama and Homs. The offer was rejected. But the allied army was caught in a ravine amongst the hills north of Hama and cut to pieces by Saladin’s veterans. Saladin did not feel strong enough to follow up his victory. A truce was arranged, which allowed Saladin to occupy a few towns north of Hama but otherwise left things as they were.

Saladin now threw off his alleged vassaldom to as-Salih. He had, he said, done his best to serve him loyally, but as-Salih had preferred other counsellors and rejected his help. He therefore took the title of King of Egypt and Syria and struck coins in his own name alone. The Caliph at Baghdad graciously approved and sent royal robes that reached him at Hama in May.

1176: Saladin defeats Saif ed-Din of Mosul

The truce with the house of Zengi was short-lived. In March 1176 Saif ed-Din of Mosul himself crossed the Euphrates with a large army and joined with Gumushtekin’s troops outside Aleppo. Saladin, whose army had been reinforced again from Egypt, went up to meet him. An eclipse of the sun on 11 April alarmed his men as they crossed the Orontes near Hama; and they were caught by surprise ten days later by Saif ed-Din, as they were watering their horses. But Saif ed-Din hesitated to attack at once. Next morning, when Saif ed-Din brought all his forces up to attack Saladin’s camp on the Mound of the Sultan, some twenty miles south of Aleppo, it was too late. Their first onrush almost succeeded; but Saladin counter-charged at the head of his reserves and broke the enemy’s lines. By evening he was master of the field. The treasure that Saif ed-Din had left in his camp on fleeing was all given by Saladin to reward his own men. The prisoners that were taken were well treated and soon sent back to their homes. His generosity and clemency made an excellent impression.

Aleppo still refused to open its gates to Saladin; so he attacked and captured the fortresses between the city and the Euphrates, Biza’a and Menbij, then laid siege to Azaz, the great fortress that commanded the road to the north. There, once again, he nearly perished at the hands of one of the Assassins, who entered the tent where he was resting. Only the cap of mail that he wore under his turban saved him. Azaz capitulated on 21 June. On 24 June he appeared again before Aleppo. But now he agreed to come to terms. As-Salih and the Ortoqid princes of Hisn Kaifa and Mardin who had supported him agreed to cede to Saladin all the land that he had conquered; and they and Saladin swore solemnly to keep the peace. When the treaty had been signed on 29 July, as-Salih’s little sister came out to visit Saladin’s camp. He asked her kindly what gift she would like; and she answered: ‘The Castle of Azaz.’ Saladin thereupon gave it back to her brother.

Though Aleppo was still unconquered, as-Salih and his cousins were cowed. Saladin could turn to deal with the Assassins and the Franks. He entered the Nosairi mountains to lay siege to Masyaf, the chief Assassin stronghold. Sheikh Sinan was away; and as he hurried home, Saladin’s soldiers could have captured him had not some mysterious power restrained them. There was magic about. Saladin himself was troubled by terrible dreams. One night he woke suddenly to find on his bed some hot cakes of a type that only the Assassins baked, and with them a poisoned dagger and a piece of paper on which a threatening verse was written. Saladin believed that the Old Man of the Mountains had himself been in the tent. His nerves gave way. He sent a messenger to Sinan asking to be forgiven for his sins and promising, in return for a safe-conduct, henceforward to leave the Assassins undisturbed. The Old Man pardoned him, and the treaty between them was kept.

With the Franks no such treaty could be made. There had been a truce in 1175, when Saladin, in order to be able to deal with Saif ed-Din, had released the Christian prisoners in his possession. But next year the Franks broke the truce. While Saladin was besieging Aleppo, Raymond of Tripoli invaded the Beqa’a from the Buqaia, while the royal army under Humphrey of Toron and the fifteen-year old King came up from the south. Raymond seems to have suffered a slight defeat at the hands of Ibn al-Muqaddam, now governor of Baalbek; but the Christians made a junction and severely defeated Saladin’s brother Turan Shah and the militia of Damascus. They retired again as soon as Saladin approached from the north. He did not follow after them. He was anxious to return to Egypt. Leaving Turan Shah in command of a strong army in Syria, he once more slipped through Oultrejourdain and arrived at Cairo at the end of September.

1176: Sibylla s first Marriage

For a year there was a respite from fighting, for which both sides were thankful. While Saladin reorganized Egypt and rebuilt and refortified Cairo, the government at Jerusalem faced its main internal problem. In 1177 King Baldwin came of age, at sixteen, and Raymond gave up the regency. But the King’s leprosy was growing worse; he surely could not live for many years. To provide for the succession the Princess Sibylla must be married. In 1175, probably at the suggestion of Louis VII of France, Baldwin had invited William Long-Sword, eldest son of the Marquis of Montferrat, to come to Palestine and accept Sibylla’s hand. It was a good choice. William was well-connected. His father was the richest prince in northern Italy. He was cousin both of the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa and of King Louis. He himself, though no longer young, was gallant and handsome enough to please the gay Princess. He landed at Sidon in October 1176. On his marriage to Sibylla a few days later he was given the county of Ascalon and Jaffa and generally accepted as heir to the throne. But the hopes based on his vigour and his high connections were vain. Early in 1177 he fell ill of malaria. His illness dragged on for some months; and in June he died. His widow gave birth to a son in the late summer, an heir to the kingdom but one that made a regency inevitable. The King’s envoys scoured Europe once more to find a second husband for the Princess.

His envoys also scoured Europe to find allies against Saladin; for the lull in the war would certainly not last long. But the princes of the West were fully occupied in their own affairs; and even Constantinople could not provide the same help as before. The year 1176 was a turning-point in the history of Byzantium. The Seldjuk Sultan, Kilij Arslan II, had grown restive against the Emperor. While Nur ed-Din lived he had been kept under control; for Nur ed-Din had intervened in Anatolia in 1173, to prevent the Seldjuks from swallowing the lands of the Danishmends. Nur ed-Din’s general Abdalmassih, his brother Qutb ed-Din’s former minister at Mosul, restored Caesarea-Mazacha to the Danishmend Dhu’l-Nun and himself remained with a garrison in Sivas. Kilij Arslan’s brother Shahinshah was at the same time confirmed in the possession of Ankara, where the Emperor had installed him some years before. But Nur ed-Din’s death removed this restraint on Kilij Arslan. By the end of 1174 Abdalmassih was back in Mosul, Dhu’l-Nun and Shahinshah were in exile at Constantinople, and Kilij Arslan was in possession of their lands. He then turned against Byzantium. In the summer of 1176 Manuel determined to deal once and for all with the Turks. Some slight successes the previous summer had encouraged him to write to the Pope to announce that the time was propitious for a new Crusade. Now he would make the road across Anatolia safe for ever. While an army under his cousin Andronicus Vatatses was sent through Paphlagonia to restore Dhu’l Nun to his territory, Manuel himself led the great Imperial army, swelled by all the reinforcements that he could muster, against the Sultan’s capital at Konya. Kilij Arslan, hearing of the expedition, sent to ask for peace. But Manuel no longer had faith in his word.

1176: Battle of Myriocephalum

Early in September the Paphlagonian expedition came to disaster before the walls of Niksar. The head of Vatatses was sent as a trophy to the Sultan. A few days later Manuel’s army moved out of the Meander valley, past the fortress that he had built at Sublaeum the year before, and round the top of the Lake of Egridir into the hills that led up toward the great range of the Sultan Dagh. Heavy wagons containing siege-machinery and provender slowed its progress; and the Turks had devastated the land through which it must travel. The road led through a pass called Tzibritze by the Greeks, with the ruined fort of Myriocephalum standing at the far end. There the Turkish army was gathered visible on the bare hill-side. Manuel’s more experienced generals warned him not to take his lumbering army through the difficult passage in face of the enemy; but the younger princes trusted in their prowess and were eager for glory. They persuaded him to march on. The Sultan had gathered troops from all his allies and vassals. His army was as large as Manuel’s, less well-armed but more mobile. On 17 September 1176 the vanguard forced its way through the pass. The Turks yielded before them, to swing round into the hills and charge down the slopes into the pass as the main Imperial army pressed along the narrow road. The Emperor’s brother-in-law, Baldwin of Antioch, at the head of a cavalry regiment, counter-charged up the hill into the enemy; but he and all his men were killed. The soldiers in the valley saw his defeat. They were so tightly packed together that they could scarcely move their hands. Brave leadership might still have saved the day. But Manuel’s courage deserted him. He was the first to panic and fled back out of the pass. The whole army now tried to follow him. But in the chaos the transport wagons blocked the road. Few of the soldiers could escape. The Turks, waving the head of Vatatses before them, massacred as they pleased till darkness fell. Then the Sultan sent a herald to the Emperor as he tried to rally his troops in the plain, and offered him peace on condition that he retired at once and dismantled his two new fortresses of Sublaeum and Dorylaeum. Manuel gratefully accepted the terms. His unconquered vanguard came back safely through the pass, and joined up with the pathetic remnant that Manuel now led home-wards, harassed by Turks who could not understand Kilij Arslan’s forbearance. It is probable that the Sultan did not comprehend the completeness of his victory. His main interest was now in the East. He was not at the moment interested in expanding westward. All that he wanted there was security.

Manuel, however, was well aware of the significance of the disaster, which he himself compared to that of Manzikert, just over a century before. The great war-machine that his grandfather and father had built up had suddenly been destroyed. It would take many years to rebuild it; and indeed it was never rebuilt. There were troops enough left to defend the frontiers and even to win a few petty victories in the next three years. But nevermore would the Emperor be able to march into Syria and dictate his will at Antioch. Nor was there anything left of his great prestige which had in the past deterred Nur ed-Din at the height of his power from pressing too far against Christendom. For the Franks the disaster at Myriocephalum was almost as fateful as for Byzantium. Despite all the mutual mistrust and misunderstanding, they knew that the existence of the mighty Empire was an ultimate safeguard against the triumph of Islam. At the moment, when the ruler of northern Syria was the weak boy as-Salih, they did not notice the importance of the battle. But when William of Tyre visited Constantinople three years later and learnt fully what had happened, he realized the dangers ahead.

1177: Philip of Flanders in Palestine

Though Manuel’s army had perished, his fleet was still strong, and he was ready to use it against Saladin. Once again, in 1177, he promised to send it in support of a Frankish attack against Egypt. During that summer there had been rumours of a new Crusade from the West; both Louis VII and Henry II of England were said to have taken the Cross. But only one western potentate appeared in Palestine. In September, while King Baldwin was recovering from a bad attack of malaria, Philip, Count of Flanders, landed with a considerable following at Acre. He was the son of Count Thierry and of Sibylla of Anjou; and the Franks, remembering his father’s four Crusades and his mother’s pious love of the Holy Land, hoped great things of him. The news of his coming brought four high-born ambassadors from the Emperor, offering money for an Egyptian expedition; and on their heels a Byzantine fleet of seventy well-fitted men-of-war arrived off Acre. King Baldwin, too ill to fight himself, hastened to offer him the regency if he would lead an expedition into Egypt. But Philip hesitated and prevaricated. He had come, he said first, merely for the pilgrimage, next that he could not assume such responsibilities alone; and when the King suggested that Reynald of Chatillon should be joint leader, he criticized Reynald’s character. It was pointed out to him that the Byzantine fleet was there ready to co-operate. He merely asked why he should oblige the Greeks. At last he revealed that his only object in coming to Palestine had been to marry off his two cousins, the Princesses Sibylla and Isabella, to the two young sons of his favourite vassal, Robert of Bethune. This was more than the barons of Jerusalem could bear. ‘We thought you had come to fight for the Cross and you merely talk of marriages’, cried Baldwin of Ibelin when the Count made his demand before the Court. Thwarted and furious, Philip prepared to depart again. The wrangling had shocked the Emperor’s ambassadors. It was clear that there was going to be no expedition to Egypt. They waited about a month, then disgustedly sailed away with the fleet, to give warning to their master of the incurable frivolity of the Franks.

The Count of Flanders left Jerusalem for Tripoli at the end of October. Perhaps his conscience now troubled him, for he agreed to accompany Count Raymond on an expedition against Hama; and King Baldwin provided troops from the kingdom to reinforce him. While a small contingent raided the territory of Homs, only to fall into an ambush and lose all the booty that it had collected, the two Counts laid siege to Hama, whose governor was seriously ill. But when troops came up from Damascus, they retired, having achieved nothing. From Tripoli Count Philip moved on to Antioch, and there agreed to help Prince Bohemond attack the town of Harenc. Harenc had belonged to as-Salih’s former minister Gumushtekin; but he had quarrelled with his master, who had put him to death. His vassals at Harenc had therefore revolted against as-Salih, but on the Franks’ approach their mutiny ended. Bohemond and Philip half-heartedly laid siege to the town. Their mining operations were unsuccessful; and as-Salih was able to send a detachment through their lines to reinforce the garrison. When as-Salih sent envoys to point out to them that Saladin, the real enemy both of Aleppo and Antioch, was back in Syria, they agreed to raise the siege. Philip of Flanders returned to Jerusalem for Easter, then took a ship from Lattakieh for Constantinople.

1177: Saladin s Defeat at Montgisard

Saladin had crossed the frontier from Egypt on 18 November. His intelligence service was always excellent. He knew that the Franco-Byzantine alliance had collapsed and that the Count of Flanders was away in the north. He decided on a sudden counterattack up the coast into Palestine. The Templars summoned all the available knights of the Order to defend Gaza; but the Egyptian army marched straight on to Ascalon. The old Constable Humphrey of Toron was seriously ill, and the King had only recently risen from a sickbed. With the troops that he could muster, five hundred knights in all, and with the Bishop of Bethlehem bearing the True Cross, Baldwin hurried to Ascalon and entered the fortress just before the enemy came up. He had summoned every man of arms in the kingdom to join him there; but the first levies were intercepted by Saladin and taken prisoner. Leaving a small force to contain the King in Ascalon, Saladin marched on towards Jerusalem. For once, Saladin was over-confident. There was no enemy left between him and the Christian capital; so he loosened the discipline of his troops and allowed them to wander round the countryside pillaging. With the courage of despair, Baldwin managed to send a message to the Templars telling them to abandon Gaza and join him. When they came near he broke out of Ascalon and rode with all his men up the coast to Ibelin and then swung inland. On 25 November the Egyptian army was crossing a ravine near the castle of Montgisard, a few miles south-east of Ramleh, when suddenly the Frankish knights fell on it coming from the north. It was a complete surprise. Some of Saladin’s troops were absent foraging; and he had no time to regroup the remainder. Many of them fled before the first shock. Saladin himself was only saved by his personal Mameluke Guard. The regiments that held their ground were almost annihilated. Among the Christians the King was in the forefront. The bravery of the Ibelin brothers, Baldwin and Balian, and of Raymond’s stepsons, Hugh and William of Galilee, helped on the victory; and Saint George himself was seen fighting by their side.

Within a few hours the Egyptian army was in full flight home-wards, abandoning all the booty and the prisoners that it had taken. The soldiers even threw away their weapons in order to flee the quicker. Saladin managed to restore some measure of order; but the crossing of the Sinai desert was painful, with Bedouins harassing the almost defenceless fugitives. From the Egyptian frontier Saladin sent messengers on dromedaries to Cairo to assure any would-be rebels that he was still alive; and his return to Cairo was announced by pigeon-post all over Egypt. But his prestige had suffered terribly.

It had been a great victory and it had saved the kingdom for the moment. But it had not in the long run changed the situation. The resources of Egypt are limitless; whereas the Franks were still short of men. Had it been possible for King Baldwin to pursue the enemy into Egypt or to make a swift attack upon Damascus, he might have crushed Saladin’s power, but without help from outside he could not risk his own small army on an offensive. Instead, he decided to erect strong fortifications along the Damascene frontier, where the loss of Banyas had upset the defensive system of the kingdom. While Humphrey of Toron fortified the hill of Hunin, on the road from Banyas to Toron, the King set about building a castle on the upper Jordan between Lake Huleh and the Sea of Galilee, to command the ford by which Jacob had wrestled with the angel, a ford known also as the Ford of Sorrows. The land on either side was inhabited by Moslem peasants and herdsmen, some owing allegiance to Damascus, some to the Christians. They passed to and fro freely across the frontier, which was marked only by a great oak tree; and the Franks had undertaken never to fortify the crossing. Baldwin had wished to abide by the treaty and build a castle elsewhere; but the Templars overruled him. The local Moslems complained of the breach of faith to Saladin, who offered Baldwin first 60,000, then 100,000 gold pieces to give up the work. On the King’s refusal, he vowed to take action himself.

1179: Death of Humphrey of Toron

After his disaster at Montgisard he had remained for several months in Egypt, till he was sure that everything was well under control. In the late spring of 1178 he returned to Syria and spent the rest of the year at Damascus. The only warfare of the year consisted of a few raids and counter-raids. Farther north there was peace between Antioch and Aleppo, and an alliance between Antioch and Armenia, whose renegade Prince Mleh had been overthrown soon after Nur ed-Din’s death by his nephew Roupen III. Roupen was a friend of the Franks, whom he had assisted at the ineffectual siege of Harenc. Bohemond III also sought the friendship of the Emperor, and in 1177 married as his second wife a relative of Manuel’s, called Theodora.

In the spring of 1179, when the seasonal movement of flocks began, King Baldwin set out to round up the sheep that would be passing towards Banyas from the plains of Damascus. Saladin sent his nephew Faruk-Shah to see what was happening. He was to inform his uncle by pigeon-post of the direction taken by the Franks. On 10 April Faruk-Shah suddenly came upon the enemy in a narrow valley in the forest of Banyas. The King was taken by surprise. He was only able to extricate his army owing to the heroism of the old Constable, Humphrey of Toron, who held up the Moslems with his bodyguard till the royal army had escaped. Humphrey was mortally wounded; he died at his new castle at Hunin on 22 April. Even the Moslems paid tribute to his character. His death was a terrible blow to the kingdom; for he had been its one universally respected elder statesman.

Saladin followed up the victory by laying siege to the castle at Jacob’s Ford. But the defence was so vigorous that he retired after a few days to encamp before Banyas. From there he sent raiders into Galilee and through the Lebanon to destroy the harvests between Sidon and Beirut. King Baldwin gathered together the forces of the kingdom and summoned Raymond of Tripoli to join him. They marched up through Tiberias and Safed to Toron. There they learnt that Faruk-Shah and a party of raiders were coming back from the coast laden with booty. They moved north to intercept them in the valley of Marj Ayun, the Valley of Springs, between the Litani river and the upper Jordan. But Saladin had noticed from an observation post on a hill north of Banyas that the flocks on the opposite side of the Jordan were scattering in panic. He realized that the Frankish army was passing by and set out in pursuit. On 10 June 1179, while the royal army routed Faruk-Shah at Marj Ayun, Count Raymond and the Templars moved on a little ahead towards the Jordan. By the entrance of the valley they came on Saladin’s army. The Templars joined battle at once; but Saladin’s counter-attack drove them back in confusion on Baldwin’s troops. These, too, were forced back; and before long the whole Christian army was in flight. The King and Count Raymond were able with part of their men to cross the Litani and shelter at the great castle of Beaufort, high above the western bank. All the men left beyond the river were massacred or later rounded up. Some of the fugitives did not stop at Beaufort but made straight for the coast. On the way they met Reynald of Sidon with his local troops. They told him that he was too late; so he turned back, though had he advanced to the Litani he might have saved many other fugitives.

Amongst Saladin’s prisoners were Odo of Saint-Amand, Grand Master of the Temple, whose rashness had been the prime cause of the rout, Baldwin of Ibelin and Hugh of Galilee. Hugh was soon ransomed by his mother, the Countess of Tripoli, for 55,000 Tyrian dinars. For Baldwin of Ibelin Saladin demanded 150,000 dinars, a King’s ransom, so highly did he rate Baldwin’s importance. After a few months Baldwin was released on the return of a thousand Moslem prisoners and on his promise to find the money. It was proposed to exchange Odo for an important Moslem prisoner; but the Grand Master was too proud to admit that anyone could be of equal value to him. He remained in a dungeon at Damascus till his death the following year.

1180: Two YearsTruce

Saladin did not follow up his victory by an invasion of Palestine, perhaps because he had heard of the arrival there of a great company of knights from France, led by Henry II of Champagne, Peter of Courtenay and Philip, Bishop of Beauvais. Instead, he attacked Baldwin’s castle at Jacob’s Ford. After a siege of five days, from 24 to 29 August, he succeeded in mining the walls and forcing an entrance. The defenders were put to death and the castle rased to the ground. The French visitors would not go out to try to save the castle but soon returned home. Once more the Crusaders from the West had been utterly ineffectual.

After the Egyptian fleet had carried out a successful raid in October on the shipping in the very port of Acre, and after a great Moslem foray into Galilee early in the new year, King Baldwin sent to ask Saladin for a truce. Saladin agreed. There had been a terrible drought throughout the winter and early spring; and the whole of Syria was faced with famine. No one desired raids that might damage the meagre harvests. And Saladin had probably decided that the conquest of Aleppo should precede the conquest of Jerusalem. A two-years’ truce was fixed by a treaty signed by representatives of Baldwin and of Saladin in May 1180. Tripoli was excluded from the truce; but after the Egyptian navy had raided the port of Tortosa and Saladin had been checked in a raid on the Buqaia, he made a similar treaty with Raymond. In the autumn he marched northwards to the Euphrates, where the Ortoqid prince, Nur ed-Din of Hisn Kaifa, who had become his ally, had quarrelled with Kilij Arslan the Seldjuk. Nur ed-Din had married the Sultan’s daughter, but neglected her in favour of a dancing-girl. On 2 October 1180 Saladin held a congress near Samosata; the Ortoqid princes were there and envoys from Kilij Arslan, from Saif ed-din of Mosul and from Roupen of Armenia. They solemnly swore to keep peace with one another for two years to come.

King Baldwin spent the respite in an attempt to build up a Christian front against Islam. William of Tyre, Archbishop since 1175, went to Rome to a Lateran council in 1179 and on his way back visited Constantinople during the last days of the year. The Emperor Manuel was as courteous and friendly as ever; but William could see that he was a dying man. He had never recovered from the shock of the battle of Myriocephalum. But he still showed great interest in Syria. William stayed there for seven months. He was present at the great ceremonies when Manuel’s daughter Maria, a spinster of twenty-eight, married Rainier of Montferrat, Sibylla’s brother-in-law, and Manuel’s son, Alexius, aged ten, married the Princess Agnes of France, aged nine. He returned with Imperial envoys as far as Antioch. The Armenian Prince Roupen was eager to strengthen his alliance with the Franks. Early in 1181 he came on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and there he married the Lady Isabella of Toron, the daughter of Stephanie of Oultrejourdain. Even the Syrian Jacobites proclaimed their loyalty to the united Christian cause when their Patriarch, the historian Michael, visited Jerusalem and had a long interview with the King.

1180: Sibylla and Baldwin of Ibelin

There were hopes, too, of an ally from the Farther East. Since 1150 a letter purporting to be written by that great potentate Prester John to the Emperor Manuel had been circulating through western Europe. Though it was almost certainly the forgery of a German bishop, its account of the Priest-King’s wealth and piety was too good not to be believed. In 1177 the Pope sent his doctor Philip with a message asking for information and for aid. It seems that Philip ended his journey in Abyssinia; but it had no concrete result.

But still no powerful knight came from the West, not even to accept the offer of the hand of Princess Sibylla and the succession to the throne. Frederick of Tyre, when he was in Rome, had sent to Hugh III of Burgundy, of the royal Capetian line, to beg him to accept the candidature. Hugh agreed at first, but preferred to remain in France. Meanwhile, Sibylla herself had fallen in love with Baldwin of Ibelin. The family of Ibelin, though its origins had been modest, was now in the forefront of the Palestinian nobility. On the death of Balian the Old, the founder of the family, Ibelin itself was given to the Hospitallers; but Ramleh passed to his eldest son Hugh, and on Hugh’s death to his brother Baldwin, who had married but repudiated, on the convenient excuse of kinship, the heiress of Beisan. The youngest brother, Balian, was now the husband of Queen Maria Comnena, and lord of her dower-town of Nablus. Baldwin and Balian were the most influential of all the local nobles; and despite his undistinguished pedigree Baldwin’s marriage to Sibylla would have been popular throughout the land. Before any betrothal was arranged, Baldwin was captured at Marj Ayun. Sibylla wrote to him to his jail to assure him of her love. But when he was released she told him coldly that she could not contemplate marriage while he still owed a vast ransom. Her argument was reasonable, if discouraging; so Baldwin, not knowing how to raise the money, journeyed to Constantinople and begged it from the Emperor. Manuel, with his love of generous gestures, paid it all. Baldwin came back triumphant to Palestine in the early spring of 1180, only to find Sibylla betrothed to another man.

The Lady Agnes never liked the relatives of her various husbands and disapproved of the Ibelins. Some years before a knight from Poitou, Amalric, second son of the Count of Lusignan, had arrived in Palestine. He was a good soldier; and on Humphrey of Toron’s death he was appointed Constable. About the same time he married Baldwin of Ibelin’s daughter Eschiva. He was also Agnes’s lover. He had in France a young brother called Guy. With Agnes’s backing he began to tell Sibylla of the extraordinary good looks and charm of this youth till at last she begged him to bring him out to Palestine. While Baldwin was at Constantinople Amalric hurried home to fetch Guy, and to prepare him for the part that he was to play. Sibylla found him as handsome as she had been told and announced that she intended to marry him. The King, her brother, protested in vain; for Guy, as anyone could see, was a weak and foolish boy. The Palestinian barons were furious to realize that they might have as their future king this youngest son of a petty French noble whose only distinction was his descent from the water-fairy Melusine. But Agnes and Sibylla pestered the sick weary King till he gave his consent. At Easter 1180 Guy was married to Sibylla and was enfeoffed with the counties of Jaffa and Ascalon.

1180: The Patriarch Heraclius

For political as well as for personal reasons the Ibelins were disgusted, and the breach between them and the Courtenays, supported by Reynald of Chatillon, grew greater. In October 1180 the King tried to bring them together by betrothing his half-sister Isabella to Humphrey IV of Toron. Isabella was Balian of Ibelin’s stepdaughter and Humphrey Reynald of Chatillon’s stepson. Humphrey was, moreover, as grandson and heir of the great Constable and heir-apparent through his mother of the fief of Oultrejourdain, the most eligible of the local nobility, whom the marriage might be expected to gratify. Owing to the youth of the Princess, who was only eight, the actual ceremony was postponed for three years. But the betrothal did no good. A few days later the Courtenays showed their power in the appointment of a new Patriarch. The Patriarch Amalric died on 6 October. On 16 October the Chapter of Jerusalem, under pressure from the Lady Agnes, elected as his successor Heraclius, Archbishop of Caesarea. He was a barely literate priest from the Auvergne whose good looks Agnes had found irresistible; and her favour had procured his steady advancement. His present mistress was the wife of a draper at Nablus, Paschia de Riveri, who was soon to be known throughout the realm as Madame la Patriarchesse. William of Tyre came bustling from his diocese to try to prevent the election, but in vain. The electors named him as their second choice; but the King, at his mother’s bidding, confirmed the appointment of Heraclius.

Power was now firmly in the hands of the Courtenays and the Lusignans and their allies, Reynald of Chatillon and the new Patriarch. In April 1181 they struck at William of Tyre, who, as the King’s old tutor, was dangerous to them. On a trivial excuse Heraclius excommunicated him. After fruitless attempts to heal the breach, William left in 1182 or 1183 for Rome, to plead his cause at the papal Court. He stayed on there; and there he died, poisoned, men said, by an emissary sent by the Patriarch. Raymond of Tripoli was the next to be attacked. When early in 1182 he prepared to cross from his county into his wife’s territory of Galilee, the King’s officers forbade him to enter the kingdom; for Agnes and her brother Joscelin had persuaded Baldwin that he was plotting against the Crown. Only after furious protests from the barons of the kingdom would Baldwin relent. He reluctantly consented to see Raymond, who convinced him of his innocence.

1180-2: The Reign of Alexius II

The intrigues round the dying leper King would have been less dangerous had not the foreign situation been critical. On 24 September 1180, the Franks lost their most powerful ally, when the Emperor Manuel died at Constantinople. He had genuinely liked them and had genuinely worked for their benefit, except when it had clashed with the interests of his Empire. He had been a brilliant and impressive man, but not a great Emperor; for his ambition to dominate Christendom had led him into adventures that the Empire could no longer afford. His troops had been sent into Italy and into Hungary when they were needed on the Anatolian frontier or in the Balkans. He had treated his treasure-chest as though it were inexhaustible. The disaster at Myriocephalum was a deadly blow to his over-strained army; and in a long series of commercial concessions made to the Italian cities in return for immediate diplomatic advantages he had sapped the economic life of his subjects; and in consequence the Imperial treasury would never be full again. The splendour of his Court had dazzled the world into the belief that the Empire was greater than in fact it had become; and, had he lived longer, his fleet and his gold might yet have been of value to the Franks. His personality had held the Empire together; but with his death its decline became evident. He had fought against death, determinedly clinging to prophecies that offered him fourteen more years of life, and he made no effort to arrange for the regency that his son would need.

The new Emperor, Alexius II, was aged eleven. According to the old-established precedent the Empress-Mother took over the regency. But the Empress Maria was a Latin from Antioch, the first Latin to be ruler of the Empire, and as a Latin she was disliked by the people of Constantinople. Manuel’s love for the Latins had long been resented. The long sequence of ecclesiastical wrangles at Antioch had added to the bitterness of the Byzantines. The tumultuous passage of the Crusaders through imperial territory had never been forgotten, and there were memories of the massacres of Cyprus, and massacres by Venetians, Pisans and Genoese. Most hated of all were the Italian merchants who strutted through Constantinople, complacent in their control of the Empire’s trade, obtained, often, by attacks on peaceful citizens in the provinces. The Empress took as her adviser and, it was thought, as her lover, a nephew of her husband, the Protosebastus Alexius Comnenus, the uncle of Queen Maria of Jerusalem. He was unpopular and unwise. Together they leaned on the Latin element and especially on the Italian merchants. The opposition to the Empress was led by her stepdaughter, the Porphyrogennete Maria and her husband Rainier of Montferrat. Their plot to murder the favourite failed; but when they took refuge in the Church of St Sophia he further offended the populace by attempting to profane the sanctuary. The Empress was forced to pardon the conspirators; but in her insecurity she begged her brother-in-law, Bela III of Hungary, to come to her rescue. Her husband’s cousin, Andronicus Comnenus, forgiven after his career of seduction in the East, was now living in retirement in Pontus. His compatriots remembered his gallantry and glamour; and when his friends put him forward as a national leader there was a ready response. In August 1182 he marched across Anatolia. The few troops that did not rally to him were easily defeated. Soon the Empress was left in Constantinople with only the Latins to support her. As Andronicus approached the Bosphorus the people of Constantinople suddenly fell on all the Latins in the city. Latin arrogance had provoked the massacre, but its horrible course shocked many of the most patriotic of the Byzantines. Only a few Italian merchants survived. They took to their ships and sailed westward, raiding the coasts that they passed. The road to Constantinople was open to Andronicus.

His first action was to eliminate his rivals. The Protosebastus was imprisoned and cruelly blinded. The Porphyrogennete Maria and her husband suffered mysterious deaths. Then the Empress was condemned to be strangled and her young son was forced himself to sign the warrant. Andronicus became joint-Emperor; then, two months later, in November 1182, the boy Alexius II himself was murdered, and Andronicus, at the age of sixty-two, married his widow, the twelve-year-old Agnes of France.

1185: The Fall of Andronicus Comnenus

Apart from these murders Andronicus began his reign well. He purged the civil service of its corrupt and supernumerary members; he insisted on the strict administration of justice; he forced the rich to pay their taxes and he protected the poor against exploitation. Never for centuries had the provinces been so well governed. But Andronicus was frightened, with good cause. Many of his kin were jealous of him and the aristocracy resented his policy; and foreign affairs were menacing. He realized the dreadful impression made in the West by the massacre of 1182 and hastened not only to make a treaty with Venice in which he promised a yearly indemnity as compensation for Venetian losses, but he also sought to placate the Pope by building a church for the Latin rite in the capital; and he encouraged western merchants to return. But the main enemies of Byzantium were the Hohenstaufen Emperor and the King of Sicily; and in 1184 an ominous marriage took place between the Emperor Frederick’s son Henry and William II’s sister and heiress, Constance. Knowing that the Sicilians were certain to attack him soon, Andronicus wished to be sure of his eastern frontier. He saw that Saladin was in the ascendant there; so, entirely reversing Manuel’s policy, he made a treaty with Saladin, giving him a free hand against the Franks in return for his alliance against the Seldjuks. It seems that details of the divisions of future conquests and spheres of influence were planned. But the treaty came to nothing; for Andronicus, fearful for his position at Constantinople, began to take repressive measures that increased in ferocity till no one in the capital felt safe. Not only did he strike at the aristocracy, but even merchants and humble workmen were arrested by his police on the flimsiest suspicion of conspiracy, and were blinded or sent to the scaffold. When in August 1185 a Sicilian army landed in Epirus and marched on Thessalonica, Andronicus panicked. His wholesale arrests and executions drove the populace into revolt; which broke out when an elderly and inoffensive cousin of the Emperor’s, Isaac Angelus, succeeded in escaping from his jailers to the altar of St Sophia and appealed from there for help. Even his own bodyguard deserted Andronicus. He tried in vain to flee across to Asia, but he was captured and paraded round the city on a mangy camel, then tortured and torn to death by the furious mob. Isaac Angelus was proclaimed Emperor. He restored some sort of order and made a humiliating peace with the King of Sicily. But he was utterly ineffectual as a ruler. The ancient Empire had become a third-rate power with little influence in world-politics.

The decline of Byzantium upset the balance of power in the East. The Princes of Armenia and Antioch were delighted, and celebrated their relief by quarrelling with each other. On the news of Manuel’s death Bohemond III repudiated his Greek wife in order to marry a loose lady of Antioch called Sibylla. The Patriarch Aimery had not liked the Greek marriage, but he was shocked by the adultery. He excommunicated Bohemond, put the city under an interdict, and retired once more to Qosair. The nobles of Antioch hated Sibylla, with reason; for she was a spy who received an income from Saladin in return for information about the strength and movements of the Frankish armies. They supported Aimery. A civil war was breaking out, when King Baldwin sent an ecclesiastical deputation, headed by the Patriarch Heraclius, to arbitrate. In return for financial compensation Aimery agreed to raise the interdict but not the excommunication, but Sibylla was recognized as Princess. Many of the nobles were dissatisfied with the settlement and fled to Roupen’s court. Relations between the two Princes were further complicated at the end of 1182, when the Byzantine governor of Cilicia, Isaac Comnenus, in revolt against Andronicus, sought help from Bohemond against Roupen and admitted his troops into Tarsus. Bohemond promptly changed his mind and sold Tarsus and the governor to Roupen, then repented of it. The Templars ransomed Isaac on the understanding that the Cypriots, who sympathized with him, should pay them back. Isaac thereupon retired to Cyprus, where he set himself up as an independent Emperor and forgot about the debt. Roupen next alarmed his neighbours by swallowing up the little Armenian principality of the Hethoumians, which had lasted on at Lampron in the north-west of Cilicia under the patronage of Constantinople. His extension of power alarmed Bohemond, who in 1185 invited him to a banquet of reconciliation at Antioch and arrested him on his arrival. But Roupen’s brother Leo finished off the conquest of the Hethoumians and attacked Antioch. Roupen was released on ceding Mamistra and Adana to Bohemond; but on his return to Cilicia he soon recovered them and made himself master of the whole province. Bohemond made various ineffectual raids but achieved nothing more.

1181: Reynald of Chatillon breaks the Truce

These deplorable squabbles between the petty Christian rulers were very convenient for Saladin. Neither Byzantium nor even the Franks of northern Syria would impede his progress nor send help to the kingdom of Jerusalem. The only Christian state in the East that commanded respect amongst the Moslems was the distant kingdom of Georgia, at present engaged in growing at the expense of the Seldjuk princes of Iran, whose difficulties were very convenient to the Sultan. Under these circumstances it was essential for the kingdom to keep the truce of 1180. But Reynald of Chatillon, lord now of Oultrejourdain, could not understand a policy that ran counter to his wishes. By the terms of the truce Christian and Moslem merchants could pass freely through each other’s territory. It irked Reynald to see the rich Moslem caravans passing unscathed so close to him. In the summer of 1181 he yielded to temptation and led his local troops out eastward into Arabia, to Taima, near the road from Damascus to Mecca. Close to the oasis he fell upon a caravan that was travelling peacefully to Mecca and made off with all its goods. He seems even to have contemplated moving down to attack Medina; but Saladin, who was in Egypt, sent a hasty expedition under his nephew Faruk-Shah from Damascus into Oultrejourdain, which brought Reynald hurrying home. Saladin complained to King Baldwin of the breach of the treaty and demanded compensation. Baldwin admitted the justice of the claim; but in spite of his urgent representations, Reynald refused to make any amends. His friends at the Court supported him, till Baldwin weakly let the matter drop. But Saladin followed it up. A few months later a convoy of fifteen hundred pilgrims was forced by the weather to land in Egypt near Damietta, ignorant that the truce had been violated. Saladin threw them all into chains and sent to Baldwin offering to release them as soon as the merchandise pillaged by Reynald was returned. Once again Reynald refused to give anything back. War was now inevitable.

Reynald and his friends persuaded the King to concentrate the royal army in Oultrejourdain, to catch Saladin as he came up from Egypt. The Ibelins and Raymond vainly pointed out that this would expose Palestine to him should he get by. Saladin left Egypt on 11 May 1182. As he bade a ceremonious farewell to his ministers, a voice from the crowd shouted out a line of poetry whose meaning was that he would never see Cairo again. The prophecy came true. He took his army across the Sinai desert to Akaba, and moved northward without difficulty, well to the east of the Frankish army, destroying the crops as he went. When he arrived at Damascus he found that Faruk-Shah had already raided Galilee and sacked the villages on the slopes of Mount Tabor, taking twenty thousand head of cattle and one thousand prisoners. On his return Faruk-Shah attacked the fortress of Habis Jaldak, carved out of the rock above the river Yarmuk beyond the Jordan. A tunnel that he cut through the rock put it at his mercy; and the garrison, Christian Syrians with no great wish to die for the Franks, promptly surrendered. Saladin spent three weeks in Damascus, then with Faruk-Shah and a large army left on 11 July and crossed into Palestine round the south of the Sea of Galilee. The King, aware now of the folly of his previous strategy, had come back from Oultrejourdain and marched up the west bank of the river, bringing the Patriarch and the True Cross to bless his arms. The two armies met beneath the Hospitallers’ castle of Belvoir. In the fierce battle that followed the Franks held their ground against Saladin’s attacks, but their counter-attacks did not break the Moslem lines. At the end of the day each side retired, claiming the victory.

1181: Death of as-Salih

It had been a check for Saladin as the invader, but only temporary. In August he once again crossed the frontier in a lightning march through the mountains to Beirut. At the same moment his fleet, summoned from Egypt by the pigeon-post that operated between Damascus and Cairo, appeared off the coast. But Beirut was well fortified; and its bishop, Odo, organized a brave, vigorous defence. Baldwin, on the news, rushed his army up from Galilee, only pausing to collect the ships that lay in the harbours of Acre and Tyre. Failing to take the city by assault before the Franks arrived, Saladin withdrew. It was time for him to deal with business that was more urgent.

Saif ed-Din of Mosul died on 29 June 1180, leaving only young children. The emirs of Mosul invited his brother, Izz ed-Din, to succeed him. Eighteen months later, on 4 December 1181, as-Salih of Aleppo died suddenly of a colic, universally attributed to poison. He was only eighteen, a bright, intelligent boy who might have been a great ruler. On his death-bed he begged his emirs to offer the succession to his cousin of Mosul, so as to unite the family lands against Saladin. Izz ed-Din arrived at Aleppo at the end of the year and was given an enthusiastic welcome. Messengers came from the emir of Hama to offer him allegiance. But the two years’ truce with Saladin had not run out; and Izz ed-Din refused their offer, more from indolence than from honour. He had enough to worry him: for in February 1182 his brother Imad ed-Din of Sinjar claimed a share in the inheritance and intrigued with the commander of the army of Aleppo, Kukburi. In May Izz ed-Din returned to Mosul, and Imad ed-Din gave him Sinjar in return for Aleppo. Kukburi was rewarded with the emirate of Harran. From there he plotted with his Ortoqid neighbours, the princes of Hisn Kaifa and Birejik, against the princes of Aleppo and Mosul and the Ortoqid Qutb ed-Din of Mardin; and the conspirators called Saladin to their aid. The truce among the Moslem princes ended in September. The day that it was over Saladin crossed the frontier and after a feint attack on Aleppo he moved over the Euphrates at Birejik. The towns of the Jezireh fell before him, Edessa, Saruj, and Nisibin. He pressed on to Mosul and began the siege of the city on 10 November. Once again he was thwarted by fortifications too strong to storm. His spiritual master, the Caliph an-Nasir, shocked at this war between fellow-Moslems, tried to negotiate a peace. The Seldjuk ruler of Persarmenia and the Prince of Mardin prepared to send a relieving force. So Saladin retired to Sinjar, which he took by storm after a fortnight’s siege. For once he was unable to restrain his soldiers from pillaging the city; but he released the governor and sent him honourably attended to Mosul. Izz ed-Din and his allies marched out to meet him near Mardin, but sent ahead to suggest a truce. When Saladin answered truculently that he would meet them on the battlefield, they dispersed and fled to their homes. He did not pursue them, but went north to conquer Diarbekir, the richest and greatest fortress of the Jezireh, with the finest library in Islam. He gave the city to the Prince of Hisn Kaifa. After reorganizing the Jezireh, setting each city to be held as a fief under an emir that he trusted, he appeared again, on 21 May, before Aleppo.

1183: Saladin takes possession of Aleppo

When Saladin moved against them, both Imad ed-Din and Izz ed-Din had sought help from the Franks. An embassy from Mosul promised them a yearly subsidy of 10,000 dinars, with the retrocession of Banyas and Habis Jaldak, and the release of any Christian prisoner that might be found in Saladin’s possession, if they would make a diversion against Damascus. It was a hopeful moment; for a few days after Saladin invaded the Jezireh, his nephew Faruk-Shah, governor of Damascus, suddenly died. King Baldwin, accompanied by the Patriarch and the True Cross, thereupon led a raid through the Hauran, which sacked Ezra and reached Bosra, while Raymond of Tripoli recaptured Habis Jaldak. Early in December 1182 Raymond led a cavalry raid that again penetrated to Bosra; and a few days later the royal army set out against Damascus and encamped at Dareiya in the suburbs. It has a famous mosque, which Baldwin spared after receiving a delegation from the Christians of Damascus warning that reprisals would be taken against their churches should it be harmed. The King did not try to attack the city itself, and soon retired laden with booty, to spend Christmas at Tyre. He planned a further campaign for the spring, but early in the new year he fell desperately ill of a fever at Nazareth. For some weeks he lay between life and death; and his disease immobilized his army. Farther north, Bohemond III was powerless to take any action against Saladin. He sent to his camp before Aleppo and concluded a four years’ truce with him. It enabled him to repair the defences of his capital.

At Aleppo Imad ed-Din made little effort to oppose Saladin. He was unpopular there; and when Saladin offered to give him his old home at Sinjar together with Nisibin, Saruj and Rakka, to hold as a fief, he gladly complied. On 12 June 1183 Saladin took possession of Aleppo. Five days later Imad ed-Din departed for Sinjar, honourably escorted, but mocked by the crowds of the city that he abandoned so lightly. On 18 June Saladin made his formal entry and rode up to the castle.

On 24 August the Sultan returned to Damascus, which was to be his capital. His Empire now stretched from Cyrenaica to the Tigris. For more than two centuries past there had not been so powerful a Moslem prince. He had the wealth of Egypt behind him. The great cities of Damascus and Aleppo were under his direct government. Around them and north-eastward as far as the walls of Mosul were military fiefs on whose rulers he could rely. The Caliph at Baghdad supported him. Izz ed-Din at Mosul was cowed by him. The Seldjuk Sultan in Anatolia sought his friendship, and the Seldjuk princes of the East were powerless to oppose him. The Christian Empire of Byzantium was no longer a danger to him. It only remained now to suppress the alien intruders whose possession of Palestine and the Syrian littoral was a lasting shame to Islam.

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