Battle of Hattin – a contemporary account


HattinAs detailed in the posts immediately before this – the Battle of Hattin is where Saladin finally bested the crusaders and opened up Jerusalem to being conquered by the muslim forces.  A hundred years of crusader and Templar rule in the city was finally brought to an end in the aftermath of the disastrous defeat at Hattin.

En route to relieve Tiberias, the crusaders decided to strike camp on the volcanic outcrop at Hattin.  A contemporary source – the crusader called Ernoul – said many believed King Guy of Jerusalem should have attacked Saladin immediately and with the sheer force of numbers, he would have defeated the Saracen leader.   But Raymond of Tripoli prevailed on the impressionable King Guy and he instead camped on a dry and parched hilltop.

Saladin, with better supply routes, could not believe his luck.

Ernoul describes how Saladin decided to smoke the crusaders out:

As soon as they were encamped, Saladin ordered all his men to collect brushwood, dry grass, stubble and anything else with which they could light fires, and make barriers which he had made all round the Christians. They soon did this, and the fires burned vigorously and the smoke from the fires was great; and this, together with the heat of the sun above them caused them discomfort and great harm. Saladin had commanded caravans of camels loaded with water from the Sea of Tiberias to be brought up and had water pots placed near the camp. The water pots were then emptied in view of the Christians so that they should have still greater anguish through thirst, and their mounts too. A strange thing happened in the Christian host the day they were encamped at the spring of Saffuriya, for the horses refused to drink the water either at night or in the morning, and because of their thirst they were to failt heir masters when they most needed them.

Already tired from their march, the crusaders and military orders of monks – Templars and Hospitallers – made a pretty poor show:

When the fires were lit and the smoke was great, the Saracens surrounded the host and shot their darts through the smoke and so wounded and killed men and horses. When the king saw the disadvantageous position the host was in, he called the master of the Temple and Prince Raynald and told them to give him their advice. They conselled him that he must fight the Saracens.

Fight he did – and lost.  King Guy of Jerusalem and plenty of knights were captured:

He (Saladin) captured the king, the Master of the Temple, Prince Raynald, Marquis Boniface, Aimery the constable, Humphrey of Toron, Hugh of Gibelet, Plivain, lord of Botron, and so many other barons and knights that it would take too long to give the names of all of them; the Holy Cross also was lost. Later, in the time of Count Henry (of Champagne, “Lord of the Kingdom of Jerusalem” 1192-7), a brother of the Temple came to him and said that he had been at the great defeat and had buried the Holy Cross and knew well where it was; if he had an escort he would go and look for it. Count Henry gave him his leave and an escort. They went secretly and dug for three nights but could not find anything; then they returned to the city of Acre.

As I mentioned before – Saladin offered a cup of iced water to King Guy who drank and then passed it on to Raynald, the deranged scourge of the Saracens.  He refused to drink but this only angered Saladin further who had no intention of offering the cup of mercy to Raynald anyway:

Screen Shot 2017-10-12 at 19.11.32When Saladin saw that he (Guy) had handed the cup to Prince Raynald, he was irritated and told him: “Drink, for you will never drink again!”. The prince replied that if it pleased God, he would never drink or eat anything of his (Saladin’s). Saladin asked him: “Prince Raynald, if you held me in your prison as I now hold you in mine, what, by your law, would you do to me?”. “So help me God”, he replied, “I would cut off your head”. Saladin was greatly enraged at this most insolent reply, and said: “Pig! You are my prisoner, yet you answer me so arrogantly?”. He took a sword in his hand and thrust it right through his body. The mamluks who were standing by rushed at him and cut off his head. Saladin took some of the blood and sprinkled it on his head in recognition that he had taken vengeance on him. Then he ordered that they carry the head to Damascus, and it was dragged along the ground to show the Saracens whom the prince had wronged what vengeance he had had. Then he commanded the king and the other prisoners to be taken to Damascus, where they were put in prison as was appropriate for them.

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