Post-classical history



The battle of Hattin is described at some length by the Latin and Arabic sources, but their stories are not always in harmony. I have attempted above on pp. 455-60 to give a consistent and probable account of the battle, but the divergences need to be recorded. It is unfortunate that the only writers who appear to have been present at the battle, apart from the Templar Terence (or Terricus) who wrote a brief letter about it, and some Moslems whose letters are quoted by Abu Shama, are Ernoul, who as Balian of Ibelin’s squire presumably accompanied his master and escaped with him, and Imad ed-Din who was in Saladin’s entourage. But Ernoul’s original account has been tampered with by Bernard the Treasurer and the other continuators of William of Tyre; and Imad ed-Din’s account, though vivid at times, is apt to be rhetorical rather than precise. The account of the crisis of the battle given by Saladin’s son, al-Afdal, to Ibn al-Athir is vivid but very short.

The Estoire d’Eracles is the only source to make it clear that King Guy held two separate councils before the battle, one at Acre, probably on 1 July and one at Sephoria on the evening of 2 July. Raymond of Tripoli spoke on both occasions, and the two separate speeches quoted in theEstoire no doubt give the gist of his actual words. But the Estoire must be wrong in saying that the council at Acre was called after the Countess of Tripoli had sent to announce Saladin’s capture of the town of Tiberias, as Saladin entered Tiberias on the morning of the 2nd; and Raymond does not mention Tiberias in his speech at Acre but merely advises a defensive strategy. Ernoul, as edited by Bernard the Treasurer, ignores the first council. Bernard probably took it upon himself to decide that Raymond’s two speeches were made on the same occasion. The De Expugnationealso only mentions the second council. Raymond’s second speech was known to Ibn al-Athir, who gives it in almost the same words as the Estoire d’Eracles, Ernoul and the De Expugnatione. Raymond’s advice is therefore certain, though Imad ed-Din believed that he had urged the attack, and later writers of Richard Coeur de Lion’s entourage who favoured Guy of Lusignan accuse him of treachery. Ambroise and the Itinerarium Regis Ricardi both suggest that Raymond lured the army on because of an agreement with Saladin, and the same charge is made in the letter of the Genoese to the Pope, and later by the Syriac Bar-Hebraeus.

Imad ed-Din says that the Countess of Tripoli had her children with her at Tiberias. But Ernoul says that Raymond’s four stepsons escaped with him from the battle, and the letter of the Genoese reports their anxiety to rescue their mother at the council before the battle.

King Guy decided to move from Sephoria at Gerard of the Temple’s request. This is clearly stated by the Estoire and Ernoul but glossed over by the author of De Expugnatione, who for some reason never wished to blame the Templars, to judge from his moments of reticence. Raymond, as lord of the territory, was required to advise on the route to be followed and chose the route through Hattin. This advice, which proved disastrous, was the excuse for Raymond’s enemies to denounce him as a traitor. We are told in the letter of the Genoese and in the Hospitallers’ circular letter on the battle of six traitors, who were apparently Raymond’s knights — one was called Laodiceus or Leucius of Tiberias — and who told Saladin of the state of the Christian army. It is, I think, probable that their treachery took place at this juncture and lay in telling Saladin of the route chosen by the Christians. It is difficult to see what useful information they could later have given him. Both the Estoire and Ernoul blame Raymond for choosing the camping ground before Hattin. He believed that there was water there, but the spring was dry. The author of the De Expugnatione gives a fuller story. He says that Raymond, in the van, recommended hurrying on to the lake, but the Templars, in the rearguard, could go no farther. Raymond was appalled at the King’s decision to encamp and cried out ‘We are lost!’; but as the decision was made he presumably chose the camping site on the mistaken belief that there was water there. Imad ed-Din reports Saladin’s joy at the Christian army’s movements.

The actual site of the camp is uncertain. The De Expugnatione, the Itinerarium and Ambroise call it the village of Marescalcia or Maresallia — perhaps the Khan of Meskeneh preserves the name? — while Imad ed-Din and Beha ed-Din call it the village of Lubieh, which lies on the present road, two miles southwest of the Horns of Hattin. The Arab authors call the battle the battle of Hattin (or Hittin) and make it clear that the final scenes were enacted on the Horns of Hattin. The Annales de la Terre Sainte calls the battle Karneatin (i.e. Qarnei Hattin, the Homs of Hattin). Ernoul says that the battle was fought at two leagues’ distance from Tiberias. The Horns are in fact about five miles from Tiberias as the crow flies and about nine by road.

Imad ed-Din says that the Saracen archers began to fire arrows at the Christians on the march and complicates the story by saying that it was on the Thursday, because he wanted the battle to have taken place on a Friday. Ernoul and the Estoire refer to heavy losses suffered by the Christians on the march. It is uncertain when the ground was set on fire. Ibn al-Athir implies that the fire was started by accident by a Moslem volunteer, and both he and Imad ed-Din make it clear that the fire was raging when the battle began on the morning of 4 July. Imad ed-Din gives a vivid picture of the prayers and songs in the Arab camp during the night.

On the morning of the battle the Frankish infantry tried, according to Ibn al-Athir, to rush towards water. Imad ed-Din says that owing to the flames they could not advance towards the water. The De Expugnatione says that the infantrymen made off at once in a solid mass up a hill away from the knights and refused to come back at the King’s orders, saying that they were dying of thirst. There they were all slaughtered. Ernoul, on the other hand, says that they surrendered, though five of Raymond’s knights went to Saladin to beg him to kill them all. It may be this action was considered to be the treachery referred to by the Hospitallers (see above), though as Ernoul puts it, it might as well be a plea for a quick death for mercy’s sake. Beha ed-Din merely says that the Christian army was separated into two parts, one of which, presumably the infantry, hemmed in by fire, was all killed, while the other, the knights round the King, was captured. The Moslem authorities all say that before the attack on the Frankish knights opened there was a single combat between a mameluk and a Christian knight, in which the former, wrongly believed by the Christians to be the Sultan’s son, was slain.

According to Ernoul, when the King saw the slaughter of the infantry, he told Raymond to lead a charge against the Saracens. Raymond as lord of the district was the proper person to do so, and such a charge offered the only chance for the army to extricate itself. There seems therefore to be no ground for the accusation of treachery levelled at Raymond by later Christian writers, the Genoese and the King’s friends, nor for the accusation of cowardice levelled at him by the Moslems. But Taki’s clever manoeuvre in opening his ranks to let Raymond through seemed to support the former accusation, though Imad ed-Din says that Raymond’s men suffered heavy losses. Ernoul says that Raymond only fled from the battlefield when he saw that the King’s position was hopeless and there was no chance of rescuing him. The De Expugnatione says that Balian and Reynald of Sidon fled with Raymond, without giving details, as does Imad ed-Din. But Ernoul implies that they escaped separately, which is more probable, as they were in a different part of the army. They must have broken through with the few Templars whose escape is reported by Terence. The De Expugnatione’s detailed account of the battle stops with Raymond’s escape. Probably the author’s informant was one of Raymond’s men.

Imad ed-Din says that after Raymond’s escape the King and his knights began to retire up the hill of Hattin, leaving their horses (which presumably had been wounded and were useless). He remarks how powerless Christian knights are without their horses. Ibn al-Athir says that they attempted to set up their tents on the summit but only had time to dress the King’s. The knights were dismounted and exhausted when they were taken. Both say that the Cross was captured by Taki. Al-Afdal’s account gives the story of the last moments of the Christian army; while Ibn el-Kadesi gives the detail that a strong wind arose at midday when the Moslems made their final attack.

The incidents in Saladin’s tent after the battle are told in almost the same language by Ernoul and the Estoire and by Imad ed-Din and Ibn al-Athir. There is no need to doubt the story of the drink given to King Guy nor of Reynald of Chatillon’s death at Saladin’s own hands.

The size of the Christian army is given by the Historia Regni Hierosolymitani as 1000 knights of the Kingdom with an extra 1200 paid for by King Henry II, 4000 Turcopoles and 32,000 infantrymen, 7000 of which were paid for by Henry. This number is clearly exaggerated. TheItinerariumtalks of a total of 20,000, which is still probably too high. The true figure for the knights may be 1000, with 200 more equipped by Henry, that is, 1200 in all. The Estoire d’Eracles gives the whole army as 9000 in one MS. and 40,000 in another. The Hospitaller’s letter talks of 1000 knights being killed or captured at the battle and 200 escaping. Ernoul says that Raymond of Antioch brought 50 or 60 knights (the MS. readings vary). Terence says that 260 Templars were slain at the battle and hardly anyone escaped — he says ‘nos’ which may mean only himself. The Hospitallers’ letter puts the survivors at 200. The infantry cannot have outnumbered the cavalry by as much as ten to one, and probably numbered considerably less than 10,000. The Turcopole light cavalry may have numbered 4000, but it seems to have played no special role in the battle and was probably smaller. Saladin’s army was probably slightly larger, but no reliable figures are given. The figure of 12,000 horsemen and numerous volunteers given by Imad ed-Din is certainly exaggerated, though not as exaggerated as the figure of 50,000 that he gives for the Christian army. (Beha ed-Din, however, goes further, saying that 30,000 Christians were killed and 30,000 captured.) We may perhaps assume that Saladin’s total regular army numbered about 12,000 but that it was swelled by volunteers and contingents from allies to about 18,000. The armies seem to have been amongst the largest put in the field up to that date by either the Crusaders or their enemies; but 15,000 on the Christian side and 18,000 on the Moslem must be regarded as the maximum figure. The Christian knights were better armed than any Moslem soldiers, but the Moslem light cavalry was probably better armed than the Turcopoles and the infantry as well or better than the Christian.

There is a brief account of the battle in Michael the Syrian, III, p. 404, and a longer and inaccurate one in Bar-Hebraeus, trans. Budge, pp. 322-4, in which he mixes up Queen Sibylla with the Countess Eschiva of Tripoli. The Armenian version of Michael the Syrian (pp. 396-8) and Kirakos of Gantzag (pp. 420-1) give inaccurate accounts. The Syriac and Armenian accounts all report Raymond as a traitor.

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