Third Crusade

Dimitris Stamatios | June 4, 2023


The Third Crusade (1189-1192) was initiated by Popes Gregory VIII and (after the death of Gregory VIII) Clement III. Four of the most powerful European monarchs took part in the Crusade – the German emperor Frederick I Barbarossa of the Staufen dynasty, the French king Philip II Augustus of the Capetian dynasty, the Austrian duke Leopold V Babenberg, and the English king Richard I the Lionheart of the Plantagenet dynasty. Also allied with the European monarchies was the ruler of Cilician Armenia, Levon II. The Third Crusade was preceded by the sultan of Egypt and Syria, Saladin of the Ayyubid dynasty, seizing Jerusalem in October 1187.

A new direction of affairs in the East was given by Saladin (under him the Egyptian caliphate was merged with the Baghdad caliphate. Saladin’s political acumen was far superior to that of his European enemies. Saladin began his activities after the Second Crusade (1147-1148), at the age of 16, taking part in the capture of Fatimid Damascus by the troops of Mosul and Khaleb emir Nur-ud-Din. In 1161 he takes part in the occupation of Cairo by the troops of commander Nur al-Din Asad al-Din Shirkukh ibn Shadi. In 1165, 27-year-old Salah ad-Din as commander already repelled the attack called by the Caliph Imam of Egypt Crusaders. In 1169, Asad ad-Din Shirkukh captured all of Egypt, strangled the caliph and became emir himself under caliph Nur ad-Din. His closest aide and formally vizier became 31-year-old Salah ad-Din. In 1169 Asad ad-Din Shirkuh died, and Salah ad-Din became vizier of Egypt and commander of Nur ad-Din. In 1174 Nur-ud-Din and King Amori I of the Kingdom of Jerusalem die.

After Nur ad-Din’s death, his sons started an internecine struggle. Salah ad-Din took advantage of this strife, came to Syria with his troops, and laid claim to Aleppo and Mosul. The enemy of the Christians, a true Muslim who made a name for himself as a military leader, Salah ad-Din combined, with his vast estates and formidable military forces, energy, intelligence, and a deep understanding of political circumstances. The eyes of the Muslim world turned to him; on him rested the hopes of the Muslims as the man who could restore the political predominance lost by the Muslims and regain possessions taken by the Christians. The lands conquered by the Christians were equally sacred to Egyptian and Middle Eastern Muslims alike. On the other hand, Salah ad-Din deeply understood that the return of these lands to the Muslims and the restoration of the forces of Islam in Asia Minor would elevate his authority in the eyes of the Muslim world and provide a solid foundation for his power in the region.

Thus, when Salah ad-Din took power in Aleppo and Mosul in 1183, there was a very important moment for the crusaders to respond to immediately. But the crusader rulers were far beneath their role in these circumstances. At a time when they were already surrounded on all sides by a single enemy, they were engaged in arranging their power: not only was there no solidarity between the individual principalities, but they were in extreme demoralization; nowhere was there such room for intrigue, ambition, and murder as in the eastern principalities of the crusaders. An example of immorality was the Jerusalem patriarch Heraclius, who not only resembled the worst of the popes, but in many ways surpassed them: he lived openly with his mistresses and squandered all his means and income on them; but he was no worse than others; no better were the princes, barons, knights and clergymen. Complete dissoluteness of manners prevailed among those men who had very serious tasks to perform in the face of the oncoming formidable enemy. The barons and knights, who pursued their own personal selfish interests, did not think it at all shameful to leave the ranks of the crusaders on their own business at the most important moments, during the battle. But it cannot be said that the Crusaders did nothing. The Templar order was concerned with deep reconnaissance in the ranks of Salah ad-Din. For example, the noble Templar Robert of St. Albans, supposedly defected to Salah ad-Din, converted to Islam. Yes, he had a high position in the Muslim army, in the court of Salah ad-Din, but due to his lack of authority with ordinary Muslim warriors, he was not endowed with any commanding powers.

If treachery was to be expected among knights and barons, the principal leaders, princes and kings, were no better. Baldwin IV ruled in Jerusalem, a man of energy, courage, and valor who had more than once taken personal part in battles with the Moslems. Baldwin IV, unable to cure leprosy, intended to crown his minor nephew Baldwin V, and a custody dispute arose between Guido Lusignan, Baldwin V’s son-in-law, and Raymund, Count of Tripoli.

Renaud de Chatillon was a hardliner against Muslims (he was disrupting trade between Muslim cities and diverting trade routes from Egypt to Tyre, Sidon, Ascalon, Antioch and other Christian cities of the Crusaders.

During one of these attacks, which Reynald carried out from his castle, he robbed a caravan in which Salah ad-Din’s sister was also present. This circumstance may be considered as the immediate motive that caused the war between the Muslim ruler and the Christian princes. Salah ad-Din had before pointed out to the king of Jerusalem the unworthy deeds of Renaud de Chatillon, but the king had no need to change his policy. Now that Salah ad-Din had been insulted in his honor and affection, he declared war on the Christians in spite of the truce that had been concluded between him and the Christian princes.

The war began in 1187. Salah ad-Din resolved to punish the king of Jerusalem, both for the misdeeds of Renaud de Chatillon and for his mere apparent independence. Salah ad-Din’s troops advanced from Aleppo and Mosul and were quite substantial compared to the Christian forces. Only up to 2,000 knights and up to 15,000 infantry could be recruited in Jerusalem, but even these forces were not local, but composed of visiting Europeans.

Battle of Hattin

News of what had happened in the East was not immediately received in Europe, and the movement did not begin in the West until 1188. The first news of the events in the Holy Land came in Italy. For the pope at that time there was no room for hesitation. It was necessary to uphold both the honor of the church and the spirit of all Western Christianity. Despite all difficulties and obstacles, the pope accepted under his auspices the idea of raising the Third Crusade.

Soon several definitions were drawn up with the purpose of spreading the idea of a crusade throughout the Western states. The cardinals, struck by the events in the East, gave the pope their word to take part in the raising up of the crusade and to march barefoot through Germany, France, and England. The pope, however, resolved to use all ecclesiastical means to facilitate the participation in the march as far as possible of all the estates. To this end an order was made to end internal wars, the sale of tenements to knights was facilitated, the collection of debts was postponed, and it was announced that all assistance to the liberation of the Christian East would be accompanied by absolution.

It is known that the Third Crusade took place under circumstances more favorable than the first two. Three crowned heads took part in it: the German emperor Frederick I Barbarossa, the French king Philip II Augustus, and the English king Richard the Lionheart. The only thing missing from the campaign was a common guiding idea. The Crusader movement to the Holy Land was guided in different ways, and the very goals of the leaders participating in the campaign were far from the same.

As a consequence, the history of the Third Crusade breaks down into separate episodes: the Anglo-French movement, the German movement, and the siege of Acre.

A significant issue that long prevented the French and English kings from agreeing on a campaign depended on the mutual relations of France and England in the twelfth century. The fact was that the Plantagenets, Counts of Anjou and Maine, sat on the English throne as a result of the marriage of one of them to the heiress of William the Conqueror. Any English king who remained at the same time count of Anjou and Maine, duke of Aquitaine and of Guienne, which was also annexed here, had to swear an oath of allegiance to the French king over these lands. By the time of the Third Crusade, the English king was Henry II Plantagenet and the French king was Philip II Augustus. Both kings found opportunities to harm one another through the fact that their lands in France were contiguous. The English king had his two sons John and Richard as rulers of his French regions. Philip made an alliance with them, armed them against their father, and more than once put Henry of England in a very awkward position. Richard was married to the French king’s sister Alice, who was then living in England. Rumor has it that Henry II had an affair with his son’s fiancée; understandably, a rumor of this sort must have influenced Richard’s favoritism toward Henry II. The French king took advantage of this circumstance and began to stir up enmity between his son and father. He incited Richard, and the latter betrayed his father by swearing an oath of allegiance to the French king; a fact which only served to increase the enmity between the French and English kings.

There was another circumstance that prevented both kings from giving the eastern Christians as much aid as possible as quickly as possible. The French king, wishing to secure considerable funds for the coming campaign, announced a special tax in his state under the name of “Saladin’s tithe”. This tax applied to the estates of the king himself, to the secular princes, and even to the clergy; no one, in view of the importance of the enterprise, was exempt from paying the “Saladin’s tithe.” The imposition of the tithe on the church, which had never paid any taxes, but still enjoyed the collection of the tithe itself, aroused discontent among the clergy, who began to put up obstacles to this measure and to make it difficult for the royal officials to collect the “Saladin tithe.” Nevertheless, the measure was quite successful in both France and England and provided much of the funds for the Third Crusade.

Meanwhile, during the levies, disrupted by war and internal revolts, King Henry II of England died (1189), and the succession to the English crown passed into the hands of Richard, a friend of the French king. Now both kings could boldly and amicably begin to implement the ideas of the Third Crusade.

In 1190 the kings went on the crusade. The success of the Third Crusade was greatly influenced by the involvement of the English king. Richard, a highly energetic, lively, irritable man who acted under the influence of passion, was far from the idea of a general plan, seeking above all, chivalrous exploits and glory. In the very gatherings of his campaign his character traits were all too clearly reflected. Richard surrounded himself with a brilliant retinue and knights, for his army, according to contemporaries, he spent in one day as much as other kings spent in a month. When preparing to march, he converted everything into money; he either rented out his possessions or mortgaged and sold them. Thus he did raise enormous funds; his army was well armed. It would seem that good money and a large, armed army should have ensured the success of the venture.

Part of the English army set out from England by ship, while Richard himself crossed the Channel to join with the French king and direct his way through Italy. This movement began in the summer of 1190. The two kings had intended to march together, but the large number of troops and the difficulties in obtaining food and forage meant they had to split up. The French king marched ahead and in September 1190 arrived in Sicily and stopped in Messina, waiting for his ally. When the English king arrived here as well, the movement of the allied army was delayed by the consideration that it was inconvenient to begin the campaign by sea in autumn; thus both armies spent the autumn and winter in Sicily until the spring of 1191.

The sojourn of the allied armies in Sicily was to show both the kings themselves and those around them the impossibility of working together toward the same goal. At Messina Richard began a series of celebrations and festivities, and by his actions put himself in a difficult position in relation to the Normans. He wanted to rule as the sovereign lord of the country, with the English knights allowing themselves violence and arbitrariness. A movement in the city immediately erupted and threatened both kings; Philip barely managed to put out the uprising, mediating between the two hostile sides.

There was another circumstance that put Richard in a difficult position vis-à-vis both the French and German kings, and that was his claim to the Norman crown. The heiress to the Norman crown, daughter of Roger and aunt of William II, Constanze, married Frederick Barbarossa’s son Henry VI, the future German emperor; thus the German emperors legitimized their claim to the Norman crown by this marriage union.

Meanwhile, Richard, upon his arrival in Sicily, asserted his claim to the Norman possessions. In fact, he justified his right by the fact that Joanna, daughter of King Henry II of England and sister of Richard himself, had been married to the dead William II. The temporary usurper of the Norman crown, Tancred, held William’s widow in honorable custody. Richard demanded her surrender to him and forced Tancred to give him a ransom for leaving the English king in actual possession of the Norman crown. This fact, which aroused enmity between the English king and the Germanic emperor, was of great importance for all Richard’s subsequent fate.

All this made it clear to the French king that he would not be able to act on the same plan as the English king. Philip considered it impossible, in view of the critical state of affairs in the East, to remain in Sicily and wait for the English king; in March 1191 he boarded ships and crossed to Syria.

The main goal sought by the French king was the city of Ptolemaida (the French and German form is Accon, the Russian is Akra). This city during the time from 1187-1191 was the main point on which the views and hopes of all Christians were centered. On one side all the Christian forces were directed to this city; on the other, the Muslim hordes were massed here. The whole Third Crusade centered on the siege of this city; when the French king arrived here in the spring of 1191, it seemed that the main direction of affairs would be given by the French.

King Richard made no secret of his reluctance to act in concert with Philip, whose relations had cooled especially since the French king had refused to marry his sister. Richard’s fleet, sailing from Sicily in April 1191, was overtaken by a storm, and the ship carrying Richard’s new bride, Princess Berengaria of Navarre, was thrown onto the island of Cyprus.

The island of Cyprus was at this time in the power of Isaac Comnenus, who had been laid off from the Byzantine emperor of the same name. Isaac Comnenus, the usurper of Cyprus, did not distinguish between friends and enemies of the emperor, but pursued his own personal selfish interests; he declared his bride a prisoner of the English king. Thus Richard had to start a war with Cyprus, which was unforeseen and unexpected for him, and which required much time and effort from him.

After taking possession of the island, Richard chained Isaac Comnenus in silver chains; a series of celebrations began to accompany the triumph of the English king. For the first time the English nation had gained territorial possession of the Mediterranean. But it goes without saying that Richard could not count on long possession of Cyprus, which was at such a great distance from Britain.

At the time when Richard was celebrating his victory in Cyprus, as he staged celebration after celebration, Guy de Lusignan, king of Jerusalem, who had lost his possessions, arrived in Cyprus. Guy de Lusignan, who came to Cyprus to declare signs of loyalty to the English king, increased the luster and influence of Richard, who sold him the island of Cyprus.

Encouraged by Guy de Lusignan, Richard finally left Cyprus and arrived at Acre, where for two years he and the other Christian princes took part in a futile siege of the city. The very idea of a siege of Acre was highly impractical and downright useless. The Christians still had in their hands the coastal cities of Antioch, Tripoli and Tyre, which could provide them with communications with the West. This idea of a useless siege was inspired by the selfish feeling of schemers like Guy de Lusignan. It aroused in him envy that Antioch had its prince, Tripoli was ruled by another, Conrad of the house of the Dukes of Monferrath sat in Tyre, while he, the king of Jerusalem, had nothing but one name. This purely selfish purpose explains his visit to the English king on the island of Cyprus, where he lavished declarations of allegiance on Richard and tried to favour the English king. The siege of Acre is a fatal mistake on the part of the figures of the Third Crusade; they fought, wasted time and effort over a small piece of land, essentially worthless, useless, which they wanted to reward Guy de Lusignan.

The great misfortune for the whole crusade was that the old tactician and clever politician Frederick Barbarossa could not take part in it together with the English and French kings. When he learned of the situation in the East, Frederick I began to prepare for the crusade; but he did not begin the affair as others did. He sent embassies to the Byzantine emperor, to the Iconic sultan, and to Saladin himself. Favorable responses were received from everywhere, vouchsafing for the success of the enterprise. Had Frederick Barbarossa participated in the siege of Acre, the error on the part of the Christians would have been eliminated by him. The fact is that Saladin had an excellent fleet, which brought him all the supplies from Egypt, and troops were coming to him from the middle of Asia – from Mesopotamia; it goes without saying that under such conditions Saladin could successfully withstand the longest siege of the coastal city. That is why all the constructions of Western engineers, towers and battering rams, all the exertion of strength, tactics and intelligence of Western kings – all went to waste, proved unsuccessful in the siege of Acre. Frederick Barbarossa would have brought the idea of practice to the crusade and, in all likelihood, would have directed his forces to the right place: the war had to be fought within Asia, to weaken Saladin’s forces within the country, where the very source of his troop replenishment was located.

Frederick Barbarossa’s crusade was undertaken with every precaution to ensure as little loss of strength as possible on the way through the Byzantine possessions. Friedrich had previously concluded a treaty at Nuremberg with the Byzantine emperor, whereby he was granted free passage through the imperial lands and the delivery of foodstuffs at prices fixed in advance. There is no doubt that the new movement of the Latin West to the East alarmed the Byzantine government; in view of the turbulent state of the Balkan Peninsula, Isaac Angel was interested in the exact observance of the treaty.

The crusaders had not yet set out on the march when Byzantium received a secret message from Genoa about preparations for a campaign in the East. “I have already heard of it,” Isaac wrote in reply, “and have made my arrangements. Thanking Baudouin Guerzo for this news, the emperor continues: “And for the future, be diligent to bring to our attention what you learn and what is important for us to know.

It goes without saying that in spite of their outward friendliness Isaac did not trust the sincerity of the Crusaders, and for this he cannot be blamed. The Serbs and Bulgarians were not only on their way to liberation from Byzantine rule at the time, but were already threatening the Byzantine provinces; Friedrich’s unconcealed relations with them were in any case a violation of this allegiance, although they were not provided for by the Nuremberg terms. For Byzantium, Friedrich’s intentions to take possession of the Dalmatian coast and connect it with the lands of the Sicilian crown were very well known. Although Frederick rejected, as if, the offers of the Slavs to lead him safely through Bulgaria and did not enter into an offensive alliance with them against Byzantium, it was natural for the Byzantines to doubt the purity of his intentions; moreover, it is hardly fair that the offers of the Slavs were later rejected.

On May 24, 1189, Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa entered Hungary. Although King Bela III did not personally dare to participate in the crusade, he showed Frederick signs of sincere affection. Not to mention the valuable gifts offered to the emperor, he outfitted a detachment of 2,000 men, which was of considerable benefit to the crusaders with their knowledge of the local conditions and choice of routes.

Five weeks later the crusaders were already on the border of the Byzantine emperor’s possessions. Arriving in Braničevo on July 2, they for the first time entered into direct relations with the emperor’s officials, which at first seemed, however, satisfactory. From Braničev the best road to Constantinople went through the valley of the Morava to Nis, then on to Sofia and Philippopolis. The Greeks, as if, did not want to lead the Latins by this way and deliberately spoiled it; but people from the Ugrian detachment, who knew well the ways of communication, convinced the crusaders to insist on the choice of this very road, which they undertook to fix and make passable contrary to the wishes of the Greeks.

The Moravian river was probably already disputed between the Greeks and the Serbs, in other words, there was no Byzantine or other administration there at the time. The course of the Morava was most likely already disputed between the Greeks and the Serbs; in other words, there was no Byzantine or other administration here at the time. Gangs of brigands attacked small crusader detachments at their own fear and without the instigation of the Byzantine government. On the other hand, it should be borne in mind that the crusaders themselves were not ceremonious with those who fell into their hands: to the fear of others, they subjected those captured with weapons in their hands to terrible tortures.

On about the 25th of July ambassadors of Stefan Nemanja came to Frederick, and on his arrival in Nis on the 27th the emperor received the Grand Duke of Serbia himself. Here in Nis the negotiations with the Bulgarians were in progress. It is clear that there were no Byzantine authorities left in Nis, otherwise they would not have allowed Stefan Nemanja to have personal explanations with the German emperor, which, in any case, were not in favor of Byzantium. And if the crusaders on their way from Braničevo to Nis and then to Sofia were subjected to unexpected attacks and suffered losses in manpower and transport, then, in all fairness, the Byzantine government should hardly be held responsible for this. One has only to wonder why it never once made a corresponding statement to Frederick I and did not draw his attention to the situation on the peninsula.

The Serbs and Bulgarians offered the crusaders essentially the same thing – an alliance against the Byzantine emperor, but as a reward they demanded recognition of the new order in the Balkan Peninsula. Not only that, the Slavs were ready to accept the protectorate of the Western emperor over themselves, if he agreed to secure for the Serbs the conquests they had made at the expense of Byzantium and to annex Dalmatia and if the Ascens were given Bulgaria as an undisputed possession. In particular the grand jupan of Serbia begged the Emperor’s consent for his son’s marriage to the daughter of Duke Berthold, ruler of Dalmatia. Although it was no secret that there were views attached to this marriage project to transfer the ruling rights over Dalmatia to the House of Nemanja, the consent of Frederick was nevertheless received.

This circumstance, together with the new negotiations which took place between the German emperor and the Slavic chiefs, enables some doubts to be cast against the testimony of Ansbert, as if Friedrich’s answer at Nis was definitely of a negative character. With the actual purpose of the crusade, Frederick, perhaps, out of caution and unwillingness to get involved in new complicated relations, evaded a direct and decisive answer to the Slavic proposals. But we shall see further on that the Slavic question has more than once caused him to ponder and hesitate. Had Frederick been in the place of Robert Guiscard, Bohemund or Rogier, events would have taken an entirely different turn and the proposals of the Slavic princes would probably have been appreciated.

There is no reason not to trust the words of Nikita Khoniat, who accuses of shortsightedness and ordinary negligence the then logothete of Drome (John Duca) and Andronicus Cantacuzin, whose responsibility was to lead the Crusader militia. Mutual mistrust and suspicion were fuelled not only by the fact that the crusaders sometimes did not receive a supply of supplies, but also by rumors that the most dangerous passage (the so-called Trajan’s Gate) leading through the Balkan mountains to Sofia to Philippopolis was occupied by an armed detachment.

Of course, it is impossible not to see the violation of the Nuremberg treaty in those measures which were taken by the Byzantine government to delay the movement of the crusaders: spoiling of roads, blockade of passes and equipping of the monitoring detachment; but it tried to explain its precautions and expressed open displeasure with relations of Friedrich with the rebellious Serbs and Bulgarians. Thus, when the Crusaders were still near Nis, Alexei Gide appeared to them, who expressed a severe censure to the governor of Braničevo and promised to arrange everything according to Friedrich’s wishes, if only he himself would forbid the troops to plunder the surrounding villages, adding that the Germans should have no suspicions about the armed detachment guarding the passes, for this was a precaution against the jupan of Serbia.

As the crusaders advanced to the main pass leading to the Philippopolitan plain, the difficulties of the journey increased more and more for them. Small units disturbed them with unexpected attacks in the most dangerous places, so the crusading militia proceeded slowly and in fighting order. The German embassy sent to Constantinople was rumored to have been received in a most undignified manner. The nearer the crusaders came to Macedonia, the greater their displeasure against the Greeks grew. A month and a half they marched from Braničevo to Sofia (how strained were the relations between the Greeks and Germans can be judged from the fact that when the latter reached Sofia on 13 August they found the city abandoned by the inhabitants; it goes without saying that there were neither Byzantine officials nor the promised supplies.

On August 20 the crusaders held their way through the last pass, which was occupied by a Greek detachment; the latter, however, retreated when the crusaders gathered to make their way with weapons in hand.

The crusaders approached Philippopolis already as enemies of the empire, and from that time until the end of October individual leaders made attacks on towns and villages and behaved entirely as enemies in the Greek land. If the government of Isaac Angelus cannot be excused for distrusting the crusaders, neither can the actions of the latter be called plausible. Not trusting the Greeks, Frederick used the services of the Ugrian guides and the Serbian detachment. As much as the crusaders wished to prove their case, the testimony of persons for whom there was no reason to conceal the present state of affairs should not be overlooked. Frederick did not interrupt his relations with the Slavs, who served him throughout the crossing through Bulgaria, though he could not but know that this fed Isaac Angel’s suspicion.

In the autumn of 1189, since the occupation of Philippopolis by the Crusaders, the mutual irritation should have increased even more, since the Byzantine observer detachment had repeatedly clashed with the Crusaders, and the latter had occupied towns and villages with an armed hand. Nevertheless, even by the end of the autumn the situation had not been clarified, meanwhile it was dangerous for Frederick to embark on a further journey through Asia Minor without having secured accurate and faithful promises from the Greek emperor.

A new embassy was sent to Constantinople to clarify relations and was instructed to say approximately the following: “It is in vain that the Greek emperor does not allow us to go forward; never, neither now nor before, have we plotted evil against the empire. To the Serbian prince, an enemy of the Greek emperor, who came to us in Nis, we have never given as a benefice Bulgaria or any other land subject to the Greeks, and with no king or prince have we plotted anything against the Greek empire.”

This second embassy succeeded in rescuing, not without much trouble, however, the first embassy, which had previously been sent to Constantinople. All the ambassadors returned to Philippopolis on 28 October. The next day, in a solemn assembly of chiefs, the ambassadors made a report of what they had experienced at Constantinople, and recounted all that they had seen and heard. “The emperor not only treated us very badly, but he received an ambassador from Saladin without any embarrassment and made an alliance with him. And the patriarch in his sermons, spoken on feast days, called the warriors of Christ dogs, and impressed upon his hearers that the most wicked criminal, charged with even ten murders, would be absolved of all sins if he killed a hundred crusaders.”

The assembly heard such a report before the Byzantine emperor’s ambassadors were introduced. No wonder the negotiations could not be friendly, the arrogant demands of the crusaders being refused by the Greek ambassadors. What the Greeks and crusaders could reach in their feeling of mutual irritation and suspicion, by the way, is shown by the following case. When a large group of crusaders attacked Hradec, they were astonished by strange pictures found in churches and private homes: the pictures depicted the Latins with the Greeks sitting on their backs. This so embittered the Crusaders that they set fire to both churches and houses, massacred the population and devastated the whole area without regret. It is most likely that the Latins became enraged at the sight of the pictures of the terrible trial, in which the local painters, for certain purposes, may have used Western types as well. The custom is at any rate excusable, if the hatred and intolerance of the Latins toward the Greeks had not already reached extreme limits.

The Byzantine government had every reason to assume that the Serbian prince was acting in alliance with Frederick, and it would be very difficult to prove that Frederick was not reassuring Stefan Nemanja in his ambitious schemes. At a time when the crusaders were already threatening the very capital of the Greek empire (Adrianople and Dimotica were in crusader hands), their rear, protected by Serbian troops, was perfectly safe, so they found it possible to move the Philippopolis garrison to Adrianople.

The chroniclers mention many times the ambassadors of the Serbian grand jupan and the relations of the crusaders with the Slavs. It is known that it was most difficult to satisfy Stefan Nemanja’s claim to Dalmatia, a circumstance which might have involved Frederick in unpleasant clashes with the Normans and the Ugrians. It is not unimportant that each time Duke Berthold, the same one whose daughter had been promised for Stefan Nemanja’s son, is put forward in negotiations with the Serbs. In difficult moments, when all hope of an agreement with the Byzantine emperor was lost, the help of the Slavs was for the crusaders a true boon, which they could not neglect in case of a final break with the Greeks. But since there were still some indications that the Greek emperor also feared a rupture, the Slav embassies were listened to graciously as usual, small detachments of Serbs were taken into service, but Frederick feared to resort to drastic measures during his entire stay on the Balkan Peninsula and the most petty facts and indications of this kind are very curious.

In early November, when the crusaders were approaching Adrianople, King Bela III demanded that his detachment return, and on November 19 the Hungarians firmly declared that they could no longer stay with the crusaders. No other explanation need be sought for this action on the part of the Hungarian king than his displeasure at negotiations with the Slavs. It is clear that Frederick, when he got to Bulgaria, had new plans and that his relations with the Slavic chiefs were not at all part of the considerations of the Hungarian king, who was of course on the side of Byzantium regarding the Slavic question. A report by the cleric Ebergard, an ambassador of Emperor Frederick to the Hungarian king, who returned with a letter from the latter to Isaac, sheds light on the state of affairs at that time. The letter, however, contained nothing of importance: in it Bela showed Isaac the dangers that his obstinacy with the crusaders might bring upon the empire. But the ambassador was able to illustrate the contents of the letter with personal observations, and to give it an entirely new explanation: “The king,” he said, “is very confused and amazed at the victorious successes of the crusaders and the desolation they have brought into the Greek land. When the news was received of the crusaders’ devastation of the district of Dimotiki, the king completely changed in his treatment of the ambassador. Since then he was no longer as kind and gracious as before: the ambassador no longer received any fodder or pocket money from the king’s chamber.” Among other news, the same cleric Ebergard reported that while passing through Bulgaria, he found all the graves of the crusaders who had died on the way dug up, and that the corpses had been taken out of the coffins and were lying on the ground.

By the beginning of 1190 the crusaders were still exchanging embassies with the Greek emperor, but no agreement could be reached. Frederick, it seems, seriously thought to use the services of Peter, the leader of the Bulgarians, who offered to expose the spring of 40 thousand Bulgarians and Cuman, with what reinforcements could make an attempt to pave the way to Asia Minor and beyond the consent of the Greeks. But the German emperor was obliged not only to recognize the freedom of Bulgaria, but also to secure for Peter the imperial title.

Understanding the importance of the situation and the responsibility for such a step, Frederick nevertheless did not refuse Peter’s offer and tried to assess in advance all the means he could get to the Slavs. So on January 21, 1190 on one hand he had negotiations with the Byzantine emperor’s ambassadors, on the other hand he inquired through the mediation of the Duke of Dalmatia about the intentions and dispositions of Stephen Nemanja. On the latter could not pin much hope, because he at this time began to wage war on his own fear and was occupied with enterprises on the border of Serbia and Bulgaria.

It is possible to explain to some extent the motives why in January 1190 Frederick still hesitated to undertake the task of resolving the Slavic question, which circumstances pushed him to do. There was still a hope for him to get help from Europe by spring, by eliminating the help of the Slavs, which was connected with unpleasant and heavy obligations. In these considerations he wrote to his son Henry: “Since I do not hope to make the crossing of the Bosporus, unless I obtain from the Emperor Isaac the most chosen and noble hostages, or submit all Romania to my power, I ask your royal majesty to send deliberate ambassadors to Genoa, Venice, Antioch and Pisa and other places and to send auxiliary detachments by ship, that they, coming up to Tsaregrad in March, should begin to besiege the city from the sea, when we shall surround it from land.” By mid-February, however, relations had settled: on 14 February in Adrianople Frederick signed the terms on which the Byzantine emperor agreed to allow the crusaders to cross into Asia Minor.

The stay of Frederick I in Bulgaria was in any case not useless for the Bulgarians and the Serbs. The former, encouraged by the German emperor, broke the peace previously made with the Greeks, and, although deceived in the hope of pressing the Greeks together with the Germans, nevertheless not without benefit to themselves took advantage of the confusion in Constantinople and in the subsequent struggle with Byzantium took decisively offensive action. The Serbs, having at the same time considerably extended their possessions north-east of the Morava and south-west to Sofia, came to realize the importance of simultaneous actions with the Bulgarians: they made an alliance with Peter and Asen and have conducted the same business with them ever since.

No matter how evasive the promises of Frederick I were, he still did not interrupt negotiations with the Slavs and kept them hostile to Byzantium. Although he did not conclude a treaty with the Bulgarians or Serbs, which would have obliged them both to put up 60,000 troops by spring (but the troops were collected and without the participation of crusaders began to win back cities and regions from Byzantium. The crusader movement was accompanied by all the consequences of the enemy invasion, causing new discontent with the Byzantine government in Bulgaria: fugitives, hungry, deprived of homes and wealth settlers had to cling to the Bulgarian or Serbian leaders.

In May 1189 Frederick of Swabia, third son of Barbarossa, left Regensburg and headed an excellent army, overcoming the hostility of the Byzantine emperor Isaac Angelus, headed for Asia Minor to join his father.

Crossing of crusaders across Bosporus began on March 25, 1190. Barbarossa’s route went through the western regions of Asia Minor, partly devastated by the wars with the Seljuks, partly occupied by the latter. The Turkic detachments disturbed the crusaders and made them constantly on guard. Especially the Christians suffered from a shortage of food and fodder for pack animals. In May they approached Iconium, gained a considerable victory over the Seljuks, and forced them to give provisions and hostages. But in Cilicia the German army was befallen by misfortune, which ruined their entire enterprise. When Barbarossa approached the lands of Cilician Armenia, the prince of Armenia Levon sent an ambassadorial escort to meet him. But, on June 10, 1190 Frederick Barbarossa, either swimming, or trying to cross the river Kalikadnus (Goksu) near Selevkia (now Selefke), suddenly drowned. The second Armenian embassy, headed by the venerable bishop and writer Nerses of Lampron, arrived too late to catch the emperor alive and returned to Tarsus already with the emperor’s son, Frederick of Swabia, the clergy and the German army. The death of Frederick Barbarossa, who swore a solemn oath to reward Levon’s loyalty with the royal crown, rudely sobered the Armenians. However, Levon gave the Crusaders every kind of support: his troops took part in the siege of Acre and, before that, he joined the English King Richard the Lionheart in the conquest of Cyprus.

The significance of Barbarossa was well appreciated by Saladin and was awaiting his arrival in Syria with fear. In fact, Germany seemed ready to correct all the mistakes of the previous campaigns and restore the dignity of the German name in the East, as an unexpected blow destroyed all good hopes. Part of the German detachment refused to continue the campaign and returned by sea to Europe, the other part, led by Duke Frederick of Swabia in early October 1190 united with the Christian army near Acre, where the heavily malaria-depleted remnants of the German crusaders did not have to play an important role. He left his father’s remains partly in Tarsus, Antioch, and Tyre during the campaign. A few months after his arrival in Acre, Frederick of Swabia died of malaria on January 20, 1191, after which the last members of the Germanic campaign left the Holy Land.

From 1188 to 1191 Christian princes came under the walls of Acre alone; there was not a single time when all the available forces of Christians coming from the West were concentrated here at one time. Some of the Christians who came to Acre perished under the attacks of the Muslims, from disease and starvation; they were replaced by another detachment and in turn suffered the same fate. In addition, there were many other difficulties for the Christians, which had a heavy impact on the course of the whole affair.

The Christians besieged the city from the sea – the only part of the city on which they could aim their siege weapons. The interior was occupied by Saladin’s troops, who had convenient and easy access to Mesopotamia, which served for him as a source of replenishing his military forces. Thus the Christians came to Acre one by one, exposing themselves to Muslim attacks, never joining their forces, while Saladin was constantly renewing his forces with fresh tides of Muslims from Mesopotamia. Clearly the Christians were at a great disadvantage, Saladin could defend Acre long and vigorously. Besides, the siege of the city needed building timber; which the Christians could not get anywhere near them – they had to get it from Italy.

The Italians, especially the coastal cities of Venice, Genoa, and Pisa, whose commercial interests in the East forced them to take a large part in the Crusades, the French, the Germans, and the English, depending on which nation was in greater numbers at the time, were alternately favored in the war.

Added to this uncomfortable situation was the rivalry of the eastern chieftains. Guy de Lusignan was at enmity with Conrad of Montferrat. Their rivalry also divided the crusader camp into two hostile parties: the Italian peoples concentrated around the Tyrian prince, the English took Guy’s side. Thus, the affair of Acre, not only in its purpose, but also in the relation between the nations involved, could not end in a favorable way for the Christians. The inconvenience of delivering timber slowed down the enterprise, and the untimely delivery and sometimes lack of edibles, famine and pestilence weakened the Christian army.

In the summer of 1191 the French and English kings, in whom the Eastern Christians had high hopes, came to Acre. Besides these two kings, another crowned man came, Duke Leopold V of Austria. It was now to be expected that things would go the proper way, according to a certain plan. But, unfortunately, no such plan was formulated by the representatives of the Christian nations.

The personal relationship between the French and English kings, the most important persons in their military forces, became clear as early as Messina: they parted, if not as enemies, then not as friends. When Richard took possession of Cyprus, the French king laid claim to part of the conquered island by virtue of the treaty concluded between them while they were still on the campaign, a treaty by which both kings undertook to share equally between themselves all the lands that they conquered in the East. Richard did not recognize the French king’s right to Cyprus: “The treaty,” he said, “concerned only the lands to be conquered from the Moslems.

At Acre the misunderstandings between the two kings became more acute. Richard, still in Cyprus, favored Guy de Lusignan; Philip Augustus sided with Conrad of Montferrat, who may have gained the sympathy of the French king by his heroic defense of Tyre, but in this case Philip may have been guided by a personal dislike of Richard. Thus neither the French nor the English king was capable of combining their forces and acting on a single plan.

The personal characters of the kings also separated them. Richard’s chivalrous character was very sympathetic to Saladin; immediately sympathy was found between the Muslim lord and the English king, and they began to exchange embassies and to pay each other benevolence. Such behavior on Richard’s part had an adverse effect on his standing among the Christians; the idea gained ground among the army that Richard was ready to betray them. Thus all his strength, all his power and energy were paralyzed in Richard; at the same time the French king did not possess personal energy enough to shift the main direction of the siege to himself. Thus all the advantages, all the favorable conditions, were on Saladin’s side.

In July, Acre was exhausted and the garrison began to negotiate its surrender. Saladin was not averse to making peace, but too harsh terms were offered by the Christians: the Christians demanded the surrender of Acre, the Muslim garrison of the city would be free only when Jerusalem and other areas conquered by Saladin were returned to the Christians; in addition, Saladin had to give 2 thousand Muslim nobles as hostages. Saladin apparently agreed to all these conditions. The Christian princes, in view of the speedy surrender of the city, became vigilant to ensure that no edibles were brought into the city.

On July 12, 1191, Acre was surrendered to the Christians. The fulfillment of the preconditions of peace soon met with an obstacle. Meanwhile, there was a very grave misunderstanding among the Christians when Acre was occupied. The Duke of Austria Leopold V, seizing one of the walls of the city, displayed the Austrian banner: Richard ordered to tear it down and replace it with his own; this was a great insult to the entire German army and from that time Richard acquired an implacable enemy in the person of Leopold V.

In addition, the Western princes placed themselves in a difficult relationship with the native population of the city. When Acre was occupied, it turned out that a large part of the city’s population consisted of Christians, who enjoyed various kinds of privileges under Muslim rule. After the liberation of Acre from the Muslims, both the French and the English wanted more power in the city and began to harass the population; the kings did not care about the other points of the agreement being enforced by the Muslims. The French king reached the point of extreme irritation; Philip’s dislike of Richard fanned rumors that the English king was plotting to sell the entire Christian army to the Muslims and was even preparing to infringe on Philip’s life. An irritated Philip left Acre and went home.

It goes without saying that the French king’s premature return did a sensitive disservice to the cause of the crusade. The main role remained with Richard, who, with his ardent chivalrous character and lack of political acumen, was a weak rival to Saladin, a clever and cunning politician.

During the siege of Acre, the merchants of Bremen and Lübeck, following the example of other military-religious orders that arose during the First Crusade, founded with their own funds a brotherhood that aimed to help poor and sick Germans. Duke Frederick of Swabia took the brotherhood under his patronage and petitioned a papal letter in its favor. This institution later acquired a military character and became known under the name of the Teutonic Order.

The Franks set out on August 23 along the Syrian coast. They crossed the Acre River and arrived in Haifa on the first day. Three days later they left Haifa and encamped in the gorges of Atlit. “The Templars formed the vanguard and the Hospitallers the rearguard. To those who saw them line up the troops, they seemed to be men who knew their business well, and the army was convoyed better than on the first day.” On September 7, after passing through the forest, the crusader army approached Arsuf. On this crossing, the Templars led the way, while the Hospitallers trailed under the sights of Saracen crossbowmen.

The crusader army under Richard undertook a march south along the coast of Syria to the city of Arsuf. Having left the forest that served as their cover, the Latins somehow had to cover a distance of 10 km in one day, which is not insignificant, given the fact that they were under constant attack by the enemy. In an effort to secure his forces from the “fire” of Muslim mounted archers, Richard built them in a box formation. The knights and their horses were covered by a barrier of infantrymen. Only the horsemen of military orders were at risk. The Templars marched in the vanguard, while the Hospitallers were at the back of the column. Under the scorching heat and the rain of arrows from the Muslim archers, the crusaders advanced slowly toward their objective. At one point, the Hospitallers could not hold out – they were losing too many horses – and attacked the advancing enemy. Richard was able to react in time to the change in the situation, moved the rest of his forces into action and ended the day with a victory over the enemy.

The crusader army continued on its way to Jerusalem. Having traversed the desert, the crusaders felt exhausted. The goal had been reached, all that remained was to drive the Arabs out of the city. The long siege had exhausted the warriors and there were tiny results – part of the city was in their hands. Richard understood that they were not strong enough and asked for a truce, but Saladin refused, he agreed to only one condition – the armies of Europeans leave and pilgrims are allowed to visit the Holy Sepulchre.

Philip, who came to France, began to retaliate against the English king in his French possessions. The English kingdom was then ruled by Richard’s brother John (the future English King John the Soothless), with whom Philip entered into a relationship. Philip’s actions to Richard’s detriment were in direct violation of the treaty they had made during the gathering for the crusade. Under this treaty, the French king had no right to attack the English king during his entire absence and could declare war on him only 40 days after Richard’s return from the crusade. Needless to say, Philip’s violation of the treaty and his encroachment on Richard’s French possessions must have been detrimental to the English king’s spirit.

Richard, staying in Acre, waited for Saladin to fulfill the rest of the peace treaty. Saladin refused to return Jerusalem, did not release prisoners, and did not pay war costs. Then Richard took one step which frightened all the Muslims and which must be regarded as the most characteristic of the infamy Richard had gained in the East. Richard ordered the stabbing to death of as many as 2,000 noble Muslims who were in his hands as hostages. Such facts were unusual in the East and caused only anger on the part of Saladin. Saladin was not slow to respond in kind.

Richard took no decisive and correct action against Saladin, but limited himself to petty attacks. These raids for the purpose of plundering characterized, it is true, knightly times, but when applied to the head of the crusading militia, who represented the interests of all Christian Europe, denounced only the inability to take up the cause. Since Saladin sacrificed Acre, the Christians should not have allowed him to fortify himself elsewhere, but should have gone at once to Jerusalem. But Guido Lusignan, this nominal king without a kingdom, whose enmity to Conrad of Montferrat can only be explained by envy, persuaded Richard to clear the coastal strip first of all of the Muslims; Guido Lusignan was also supported by the Venetians, who had commercial aims: it was more convenient for them that the coastal towns should be owned by Christians rather than by Muslims. Richard, succumbing to this influence, moved from Acre to Ascalon, an enterprise entirely futile, which was inspired by the commercial interests of the Italian cities and by Guido’s ambition.

Saladin himself had not expected such a senseless step on Richard’s part; he decided on an emergency measure; he ordered the strong walls of Ascalon to be torn down and the city itself to be turned into a pile of stones. Throughout the fall of 1191 and the spring of 1192 Richard stood at the head of the crusading militia. All this time he lost in the pursuit of false plans and unnecessary tasks and made it clear to his talented opponent that he was dealing with a very short-sighted man. More than once the task of marching directly on Jerusalem seemed perfectly clear to Richard; his army itself was aware that it had not yet fulfilled its task and encouraged the king to do the same. Three times he was already on his way to Jerusalem, three times frantic ideas forced him to stop the march and move back.

By early 1192 news from France arrived in Asia, which had a strong effect on Richard. At the same time there was a fact in the East that gave Richard misgivings about the outcome of the venture. Conrad of Montferrat understood that with Richard’s tactlessness the Christians could hardly defeat Saladin, so he began negotiations with the latter, demanded Tyre and Acre for himself, and promised to unite with him and destroy Richard with one blow.

Then Richard, greatly embarrassed by affairs in the East and worried about his English possessions, which were threatened by the French king, used all means to enter into relations with Saladin. In a dreamy self-deception he devised a plan which was quite unfeasible. He proposed to Saladin to be united to him by the ties of kinship: offering to marry his sister Joanna to Saladin’s brother Malek-Adel. The idea is utterly dreamy and can satisfy no one. Even if such a marriage could take place, it would not satisfy the Christians; lands sacred to them would still remain in Muslim hands.

Finally Richard, who risked losing his crown by staying in Asia, made a treaty with Saladin on September 1, 1192. This shameful peace for Richard’s honor left the Christians a small coastal strip from Jaffa to Tyre, Jerusalem remained in Muslim hands, and the Holy Cross was not returned. Saladin gave the Christians peace for three years. During this time they were free to come and worship the holy places. After three years, the Christians were obliged to enter into new agreements with Saladin, which, needless to say, were to be worse than the previous ones. This inglorious peace lay a heavy indictment on Richard. Contemporaries even suspected him of treason and treachery; Muslims reproached him for excessive cruelty.

In October 1192 Richard left Syria. For him, however, returning to Europe was no small challenge, for he had enemies everywhere. After much hesitation he decided to land in Italy, from where he intended to sneak into England. But in Europe he was guarded by all the enemies he had made. Near Vienna in the Duchy of Austria he was found out. By order of Leopold V, he was captured by Knight George Roppelt and imprisoned in the castle of Durnstein, where he was kept for about two years. It was only under the influence of the pope and the intense agitation of the English nation that he was granted his freedom. For his freedom, England paid Leopold V up to 23 tons of silver.


  1. Третий крестовый поход
  2. Third Crusade
  3. 1 2 Leon’s troops also took part in the siege of Acre M. Chahin (1987). The Kingdom of Armenia: A History. Curzon Press. p. 245. ISBN 0-7007-1452-9
  4. 1 2 Тем не менее Левон оказал крестоносцам всяческую поддержку: его войска принимали участие в осаде Акры, и он присоединился к английскому королю Ричарду Львиное Сердце в завоевании Кипра. (Подробнее в книге: Дэвид Лэнг. Армяне: Народ-созидатель. — М.: Центрполиграф, 2008.)
  5. H. Chisholm, The Encyclopædia Britannica : A Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, Literature and General Information, 294
  6. «Крестовые походы» (Военная энциклопедия Сытина, 1913 год.
  7. ^ Lyons, Malcolm Cameron and D. E. P. Jackson, Saladin: The Politics of the Holy War, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), 264.
  8. ^ Hans E. Mayer, The Crusades. Oxford University Press, 1965 (trans. John Gillingham, 1972), p. 139.
  9. ^ Webster, Douglas Raymund. “Pope Urban III.” The Catholic Encyclopedia
  10. ^ Runciman, Steven (1987-12-03). A History of the Crusades.
  11. ^ Malcolm Cameron Lyons, D. E. P. Jackson (1984). Saladin: The Politics of the Holy War. Cambridge University Press. p. 277.
  12. ^ Frederick’s eldest son, Henry VI, who had already been elected king of the Romans, was to remain behind as regent. On 10 April 1189, Frederick wrote to Pope Clement III asking for a postponement of Henry’s planned coronation as co-emperor because he did not want Henry to leave Germany during the regency.[23] Frederick formally appointed his son as regent at Regensburg on the eve of his departure.[24]
  13. Thomas S. Asbridge: Die Kreuzzüge. 7. Auflage. 2016, S. 403.
  14. Heinz Halm: Kalifen und Assassinen, Ägypten und der Vordere Orient zur Zeit der ersten Kreuzzüge. C. H. Beck, München 2014, ISBN 978-3-406-66163-1, S. 306.
  15. Heinz Halm: Kalifen und Assassinen, Ägypten und der Vordere Orient zur Zeit der ersten Kreuzzüge. C. H. Beck, München 2014, ISBN 978-3-406-66163-1, S. 307.
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