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History of Jerusalem:
Richard the Lionheart Makes Peace with Saladin

(1192)


History of Jerusalem: Table of Contents | First Temple | Second Temple


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[Adapted from Brundage] Two days later the Crusading army left Acre and marched south along the coast, trailed by Saladin's forces. An unsuccessful attempt at negotiation between Saladin and Richard broke down early in September and on September 7 battle was joined near Arsuf. The Crusading army, though hard-pressed, held its ground and at the end of the fray Richard's men retained control of the battlefield.

The army proceeded from Arsuf to Jaffa, which the Crusaders took and fortified strongly. Jaffa, they hoped, would be the base of operations in a drive to reconquer Jerusalem itself. As the winter of 1191­1192 approached, active campaigning was abandoned and further sporadic negotiations between Richard and Saladin were taken up, though without any immediate result. During the winter months Richard's men occupied and refortified Ascalon, whose fortifications had earlier been razed by Saladin.

The spring of 1192 saw continued negotiations and further skirmishing between the opposing forces. During this period Richard began to receive disturbing news of the activities of his brother John and of Philip Augustus, and as the spring gave way to summer it became evident that Richard must soon return to Europe to safeguard his own interests there. Saladin several times attacked Jaffa and once was on the point of taking the city during Richard's absence; the plan, however, was foiled by Richard's unexpected return.

During the summer Richard fell ill and this, added to the news of the rapidly deteriorating situation in Europe, brought him finally to accept Saladin's peace terms . The departure of Richard the Lion­Hearted from the Holy Land in October 1192 ended the third major Western invasion of the East. On this expedition three great armies had toiled to conquer Jerusalem and the whole of Palestine for the West. But, in 1192, Jerusalem was still in Saladin's hands and the deliverance of the East from the Moslems was still a pious hope. The positive achievement of this Crusade was modest: it had re­established a tiny Latin Kingdom on the Palestinian coast. The major task of the Crusade, however, was left undone.


As his illness became very grave, the King despaired of recovering his health. Because of this he was much afraid, both for the others as well as for himself. Among the many things which did not pass unnoted by his wise attention, he chose, as the least inconvenient course, to seek to make a truce rather than to desert the depopulated land altogether and to leave the business unfinished as all the others bad done who left the groups in the ships.

The King was puzzled and unaware of anything better that he could do. He demanded of Saif ad­Din, Saladin's brother, that he act as go­between and seek the best conditions be could get for a truce between them. Saif ad­Din was an uncommonly liberal man who bad been brought, in the course of many disputes, to revere the King for his singular probity. Saif ad­Din carefully secured peace terms on these conditions: that Ascalon, which was an object of fear for Saladin's empire so long as it was standing, be destroyed and that it be rebuilt by no one during three years beginning at the following Easter.[March 28, 1193] After three years, however, whoever had the greater, more flourishing power, might have Ascalon by occupying it. Saladin allowed Joppa to be restored to the Christians. They were to occupy the city and its vicinity, including the seacoast and the mountains, freely and quietly. Saladin agreed to confirm an inviolate peace between Christians and Saracens, guaranteeing for both free passage and access to the Holy Sepulcher of the Lord without the exaction of any tribute and with the freedom of bringing objects for sale through any land whatever and of exercising a free commerce.

When these conditions of peace had been reduced to writing and read to him, King Richard agreed to observe them, for he could not hope for anything much better, especially since he was sick, relying upon scanty support, and was not more than two miles from the enemy's station. Whoever contends that Richard should have felt otherwise about this peace agreement should know that he thereby marks himself as a perverse liar.

Things were thus arranged in a moment of necessity. The King, whose goodness always imitated higher things and who, as the difficulties were greater, now emulated God himself, sent legates to Saladin. The legates informed Saladin in the hearing of many of his satraps, that Richard had in fact sought this truce for a three year period so that he could go back to visit his country and so that, when he had augmented his money and his men, he could return and wrest the whole territory of Jerusalem from Saladin's grasp if, indeed, Saladin were even to consider putting up resistance. To this Saladin replied through the appointed messengers that, with his holy law and God almighty as his witnesses, he thought King Richard so pleasant, upright, magnanimous, and excellent that, if the land were to be lost in his time, he would rather have it taken into Richard's mighty power than to have it go into the hands of any other prince whom be had ever seen.


Sources: Itinerarium Peregrinorum et Gesta Regis Ricardi, ed. William Stubbs, Rolls Series, (London: Longmans, 1864) VI, 27-28 (pp. 427-30), translated by James Brundage, The Crusades: A Documentary History, (Milwaukee, WI: Marquette University Press, 1962), 185-86 on Internet Medieval Source Book

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