Tiberias today is a pretty small place in an area where Israel is incredibly narrow. I visited the town and there is surprisingly little of the crusader presence left, compared to Acre for example. But some very significant history is embedded in this place.
Very near to Tiberias, an appalling battle occurred at the Horns of Hattin. This was a decisive defeat for the Templars and the crusaders at the hands of Saladin. He massed about 30,000 troops to besiege the Christian forces at Tiberias. The crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem was riven with internal disputes in the wake of the death of Baldwin V with Raymond of Tripoli in open revolt against Baldwin’s successor Guy of Lusignan.
While the crusaders were disunited, Saladin – an ethnic Kurd – had united Egypt and Syria and solidified the Muslim polity. Saladin was determined to take back Jerusalem and any hope of peace overtures were snuffed out when the volatile Reynald of Chatillon raided a Muslim caravan that included Saladin’s sister. She was allegedly raped.
Saladin laid siege to Tiberias but Raymond of Tripoli was strangely reticent to join battle even though his own wife was in the city. This has led to speculation that he had reached a deal with the Saracen leader that he would help Raymond overthrow Guy and become king of Jerusalem.
The Knights Hospitaller were also cagey about taking on Saladin but the Templar Grand Master Gerard de Ridefort urged Guy on to attack the Saracens. And so he left Jerusalem with an army two thirds the size of that commanded by Saladin – a move that has rightly been described as suicidal.
The intention was to relieve Tiberias but they never got there. Instead, they struck camp at Hattin where Saladin could not believe his luck. Far better to battle the crusaders in the open than when they were behind thick walls.
The rest, as they say, is history!
So…here is a picture I took of medieval Tiberias just three weeks ago.
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