Meanwhile a strange new civilization had developed in Christian Syria and Palestine. The Europeans who had settled there since 1099 gradually adopted the Near Eastern garb of wound headdress and flowing robe as suited to a climate of sun and sand. As they became more familiar with the Moslems living in the kingdom, mutual unfamiliarity and hostility decreased. Moslem merchants freely entered Christian settlements and sold their wares; Moslem and Jewish physicians were preferred by Christian patients;28Moslem worship in mosques was permitted by the Christian clergy; and the Koran was taught in Moslem schools in Christian Antioch and Tripolis. Safe conducts for travelers and traders were exchanged between Christian and Moslem states. As only a few Christian wives had come with the Crusaders, many Christian settlers married Syrian women; soon their mixed offspring constituted a large element of the population. Arabic became the daily speech of all commoners. Christian princes made alliances with Moslem emirs against Christian rivals, and Moslem emirs sometimes asked the aid of the “polytheists” in diplomacy or war. Personal friendships developed between Christians and Mohammedans. Ibn Jubair, who toured Christian Syria in 1183, described his fellow Moslems there as prosperous, and as well treated by the Franks. He mourned to see Acre “swarming with pigs and crosses,” and odorous with a vile European smell, but he had some hopes that the infidels would gradually be civilized by the superior civilization to which they had come.29
In the forty years of peace that followed the Second Crusade, the Latin kingdom of Jerusalem continued to be torn with internal strife, while its Moslem enemies moved toward unity. Nur-ud-din spread his power from Aleppo to Damascus (1164); when he died, Saladin brought Egypt and Moslem Syria under one rule (1175). Genoese, Venetian, and Pisan merchants disordered the Eastern ports with their mortal rivalry. Knights quarreled for the royal power in Jerusalem; and when Guy de Lusignan maneuvered his way to the throne (1186), disaffection spread among the aristocracy; “if this Guy is a king,” said his brother Geoffrey, “I am worthy to be a god.” Reginald of Châtillon made himself sovereign in the great castle of Karak beyond the Jordan, near the Arabian frontier, and repeatedly violated the truce arranged between the Latin king and Saladin. He announced his intention to invade Arabia, destroy the tomb of “the accursed camel driver” at Medina, and smash the Kaaba at Mecca in fragments to the ground.30 His small force of knightly adventurers sailed down the Red Sea, landed at el-Haura, and marched to Medina; they were surprised by an Egyptian detachment, and all were cut down except a few who escaped with Reginald, and some prisoners who were taken to Mecca and slaughtered instead of goats at the annual pilgrimage sacrifice (1183).
Saladin had heretofore contented himself with minor forays against Palestine; now, offended to the depths of his piety, he re-formed the army that had won him Damascus, and met the forces of the Latin kingdom in an indecisive battle on the historic plain of Esdraelon (1183). A few months later he attacked Reginald at Karak, but failed to enter the citadel. In 1185 he signed a four-year truce with the Latin kingdom. But in 1186 Reginald, bored with peace, waylaid a Moslem caravan, and took rich booty and several prisoners, including Saladin’s sister. “Since they trusted in Mohammed,” said Reginald, “let Mohammed come and save them.” Mohammed did not come; but Saladin, infuriated, sounded the call for a holy war against the Christians, and swore to kill Reginald with his own hand.
The crucial engagement of the Crusades was fought at Hittin, near Tiberias, on July 4, 1187. Saladin, familiar with the terrain, took up positions controlling all the wells; the heavily armored Christians, having marched across the plain in midsummer heat, entered battle gasping with thirst. Taking advantage of the wind, the Saracens started a brush fire whose smoke further harassed the Crusaders. In the blind confusion the Frank footmen were separated from the cavalry, and were cut down; the knights, fighting with desperation against weapons, smoke, and thirst, at last fell exhausted to the ground, and were captured or slain. Apparently by Saladin’s orders, no mercy was shown to Templars or Hospitalers. He directed that King Guy and Duke Reginald be brought before him; to the King he gave drink as a pledge of pardon; to Reginald he gave the choice of death or acknowledging Mohammed as a prophet of God; when Reginald refused, Saladin slew him. Part of the booty taken by the victors was the True Cross, which had been borne as a battle standard by a priest; Saladin sent it to the caliph at Baghdad. Seeing that no army remained to challenge him, he proceeded to capture Acre, where he freed 4000 Moslem prisoners, and paid his troops with the wealth of the busy port. For a few months nearly all Palestine was in his hands.
As he approached Jerusalem the leading citizens came out to bid for peace. “I believe,” he told them, “that Jerusalem is the home of God, as you also believe; and I will not willingly lay siege to it, or put it to assault.” He offered it freedom to fortify itself, and to cultivate unhindered the land for fifteen miles around, and promised to supply all deficiencies of money and food, until Pentecost; if, when that day came, they saw hope of being rescued, they might keep the city and honorably resist him; if no such prospect appeared, they were to yield peaceably, and he would spare the lives and property of the Christian inhabitants. The delegates refused the offer, saying that they would never surrender the city where the Saviour had died for mankind.31 The siege lasted only twelve days. When the city capitulated, Saladin required a ransom of ten gold pieces ($47.50?) for each man, five for each woman, one for each child; the poorest 7000 were to be freed on the surrender of the 30,000 gold bezants (c. $270,000) which had been sent to the Hospitalers by Henry II of England. These terms were accepted, says a Christian chronicler, “with gratitude and lamentation”; perhaps some learned Christians compared these events of 1187 with those of 1099. Saladin’s brother al-Adil asked for the gift of a thousand slaves from the still unransomed poor; it was granted, and he freed them. Balian, leader of the Christian resistance, asked a like boon, received it, and freed another thousand; the Christian primate asked and received and did likewise. Then Saladin said: “My brother has made his alms, and the patriarch and Balian have made theirs; now I would make mine”; and he freed all the old who could not pay. Apparently some 15,000 of the 60,000 captured Christians remained unransomed, and became slaves. Among the ransomed were the wives and daughters of the nobles who had been killed or captured at Hittin. Softened by their tears, Saladin released to them such husbands and fathers (including King Guy) as could be found in Moslem captivity, and (relates Ernoul, squire to Balian) to “the dames and damsels whose lords were dead he distributed from his own treasure so much that they gave praise to God, and published abroad the kindness and honor that Saladin had done them.”32
The freed King and nobles took an oath never to bear arms against him again. Safe in Christian Tripolis and Antioch, they were “released by the sentence of the clergy from the enormity of their promise,” and laid plans of vengeance against Saladin.33 The Sultan allowed the Jews to dwell again in Jerusalem, and gave Christians the right to enter, but unarmed; he assisted their pilgrimage, and protected their security.34 The Dome of the Rock, which had been converted into a church, was purified from Christian taint by sprinkling with rose water, and the golden cross that had surmounted the cupola was cast down amid Moslem cheers and Christian groans. Saladin led his wearied troops to the siege of Tyre, found it impregnable, dismissed most of his army, and retired ill and worn to Damascus (1188), in the fiftieth year of his age.