battle of hattin

Battle of Hattin (July 4th, 1187)

A confrontation between Saladin’s troops and Christian army that ended with decisive defeat for the latter. A large chunk of the Crusading states’ and Knight Templars’ military force was swept away and this was a loss they simply couldn’t afford. Consequently Jerusalem and the other Christian strongholds fell like dominoes after the defeat.

King Guy of Lusignan and his closest subordinates are usually blamed for this disaster and there are certainly ground for this accusation. At least the ineptitude the king showed during the episode is just unbelievable. The whole thing began with a siege of Tiberias by Saladin’s army. Among the besieged was the wife of count of Tripoly and king and his council thought that a rescue mission was in order. The count, Raymond III, adviced strongly against  such an action since he thought that this is just an attempt to lure Christian army out in the desert. Being familiar with the territory he argued that marching through the arid and rugged area in the heat of  Summer would be absolute madness. Raymond also felt that his wife was in no real danger due to Saladdin’s famous chivalry. The count was outvoted though and council decided that Christian army shall march in full force to aid the besieged city.

Just before departure the king had some qualms though and after some pondering he decided to overturn the decision. This wasn’t the end of story though, since Guy changed his opinion once again after parlouring with his closest cronies. Eventually the honor “demanded” that Christian army marched out to meet Saladin’s forces.

The rest is history. Muslim troops harassed their enemies  constantly, “rescue mission” ran almost out of water and consequently changed their course towards Hattin horns. The final battle was fought on the slopes of the hill  where most of the Guy’s soldiers and Knight Templars were killed. King Guy was captured, but Saladin spared him due to his status. Count Raymond III also survived the disaster. In the end of the battle he led a cavalry charge against Muslim lines that allowed him pass through. One could speculate that this has something to do with friendly relations that the count had with Saladin ;).

One could also add, that Raymond’s trust in Saladin’s chivalry wasn’t futile, since count’s wife was allowed to leave Tiberias unharmed with all her possessions after the city was captured .  

Scholarly Saturday: The Battle of Hattin

All right, so we’re going to do something different this week!

For the previous Scholarly Saturday posts, I’ve just done a straightforward academic essay, but part of the reason I love history so much is that it’s dramatic, complex, and very human (how can it not be? It’s about us). Hence why I like to write about it, and hence why the post this week is about the Battle of Hattin in July 1187, which led to the fall of the European kingdoms in the Holy Land, the recapture of Jerusalem by the Muslims, and the calls for a Third Crusade. It’s the prologue to my historical novel, The Trinity Crown, and since I post a crapton of my fanfic on here, this gives you the chance (if you are interested) to read some of my original writing and learn something at the same time. Whaddadeal.

Quick background: The Crusades were called in November 1095 by Pope Urban II, responding to Byzantine Emperor Alexius Comnenus’ asking for help to drive the Turks out of Constantinople and the East. Both Alexius and Urban expected one deployment of professional soldiers, but instead they got an overwhelming upsurge of popular piety, with hundreds of thousands of common knights and poor peasants setting off from Europe with exalted ideals of reaching the Holy Land. After four years and unthinkable carnage, they recaptured Jerusalem in 1099 after a grisly siege. The Crusader kingdom of Outremer (French for “across the sea”) was established, and Palestine was ruled by kings of French extraction until 1187.

In 1187, a Poitevin (from the Poitou region of France) baron named Guy de Lusignan was king by virtue of his marriage to Queen Sibylla (you may have met these two if you’ve ever watched the Ridley Scott film Kingdom of Heaven, but their historical reality is pretty much unrecognizable, big surprise). Nobody liked him and he already had a reputation for incompetence and double-crossing. The Muslims, on the other hand, were led by Sultan Saladin, who is remembered even in the West as a gallant, generous, and chivalrous leader. Guy’s tactical blunders gave Saladin the opportunity to strike back, after Palestine had been under Western Christian control for almost 100 years. The two armies met at Hattin, in northern modern-day Israel, on July 4, 1187.

What happened next?

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A depiction of the Battle of Hattin from Matthew Paris’s manuscript Chronica majora. Saladin rides in from the left and seizes the relic of the Holy Cross from King Guy of Jerusalem. Hattin was the death knell of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem. Their army broken, they were unable to stop the Ayyubids from marching on Jerusalem to lay siege.