THE LOSS OF JERUSALEM
All Europe streaming to the mystic East:
Now on their sun-smit ranks
The dusky squadrons close in vulture feast.
PALGRAVE: Visions of England.
OST famous of the Sons of Islam who fought
against Christendom is Saladin, the Saracen
general who made himself master of Egypt
in the days of Amalric, King of Jerusalem, and who was
destined in the near future to be the conqueror of the
The time was ripe for such a conquest, for the little
kingdom was torn by the jealousy and strife of two
deadly rivals, Raymond of Tripoli and Guy of Lusignan.
The former was for living at peace with the Saracens,
at least until the coming of a new Crusade should drive
the infidel from the borders of the land. The latter,
moved by causes far other than religious enthusiasm,
was eager to fight at once, hoping thus to obtain the
upper hand over his wretched young brother-in-law,
Baldwin, the leper king. With him was Reginald of
Chatillon, who had spent long years in Saracen dungeons,
and was furiously eager for revenge.
The quarrel between Raymond and Guy and their
adherents led directly to the Fall of Jerusalem, but
 in the meantime the details are full of romantic
A certain Gerard, a knight of France, who had come to
the Holy Land merely to make his fortune, desired to
marry the Lady of Botron, a rich ward of Raymond of
Tripoli. But Raymond, as was frequently the case in
those feudal days, had his own profit to make by the
marriage. He scornfully rejected Gerard, and gave the
lady to a wealthy Italian merchant, who was glad to pay
for his wife her weight in gold.
In great wrath, Gerard left Tripoli, joined the Knights
Templars, and in due course became Grand Master of the
Order, and awaited his chance for revenge. This came
in 1186, when both the leper and his little son were dead,
and Raymond was known to be desirous of occupying
the vacant throne.
Hurriedly summoning Sibylla, wife of Guy of Lusignan,
and sister of the leper king, to Jerusalem, Gerard and
Reginald of Chatillon caused the gates to be shut and the
walls guarded, so that none might come in or out. But
amongst those inside was a spy sent by the watchful
Raymond, who managed to get into the Church of the
Holy Sepulchre, where he saw Sibylla sitting with two
crowns before her. One of these was handed to her by
the Patriarch of Jerusalem, who said, "Lady, you have
been proclaimed queen, but since you are a woman, it is
good that you have a man to help you in your rule.
Take the crown you see before you and give it to him
who can best help you to govern your realm."
Then Sibylla beckoned to her husband, Guy, and
placing the crown upon his head as he knelt before her, said,
"Sire, take this, for I know not where I could bestow it
 Then was Gerard, Grand Master of the Templars, heard
to murmur, "This crown is well worth the marriage
Thus did Guy de Lusignan become King of Jerusalem,
while Raymond of Tripoli, checkmated for the time,
could only refuse him his allegiance and retire in sullen
fury to his own city of Tiberias. Rumour indeed
whispered that he was on no unfriendly terms with
Saladin himself. But it was probably foresight as well
as a sense of justice which roused him to deep wrath when
Reginald of Chatillon, in time of truce, attacked a wealthy
caravan passing from Damascus to Egypt, and
"dishonourably carried off the merchants as prisoners,
together with all their baggage."
"The taking of this caravan," says the chronicler,
"was the ruin of Jerusalem," for from that time dates
the implacable hatred of Saladin for those who held the
Meantime, urged on by Gerard, the Grand Master.
Guy of Lusignan, meanest and weakest of kings, sought
to gratify his personal spite against his former rival by
besieging Tiberias, and was only prevented by a warning
that this might mean an open alliance between Saladin
and Raymond against himself.
Raymond's patriotism, however, was greater than his
desire for revenge. While absent from his own city
with his troops, he heard that the Saracens had crossed
the Jordan, and were advancing upon the Holy City.
Hastening to Jerusalem, he at once put himself and his
men at Guy's disposal in face of this pressing danger.
Meantime Saladin, probably in wrath at this action
of one whom he had hoped to make his ally, began to
besiege Tiberias; and a message arrived in Jerusalem
 from Raymond's wife, begging that an army might be
sent to her aid. A council was hurriedly summoned to
see what could be done to save the city; but Raymond,
to the surprise of all, was strongly of the opinion that
Tiberias should be left to its fate.
"Sire," said he, "I would give you good advice if you
would only trust me." "Speak your mind and fear
nothing," they replied, whereupon he counselled them
not to send troops out of Jerusalem, even if this should
mean the loss of his own fortress.
"If I lose wife, retainers and city," said he, "so be it;
I will get them back when I can; but I had rather see
my city overthrown than the whole land lost."
Though much astonished by such disinterested advice,
the council agreed to follow it, and so dispersed.
But at dead of night there came secretly to the King
the mischief-maker Gerard, bidding him "reject the
counsel of this traitor count," and hinting that
Raymond's advice had been merely to further his own
ends. Guy de Lusignan was so much in the hands of the
man who had made him king that he dared not refuse
to listen to him, and at daybreak the order was given
for the army to march out of Jerusalem in order to
In the terrible battle of Tiberias that followed, the
portents were all against the Crusaders.
"A fearful vision was seen by the King's chamberlain,
who dreamed that an eagle flew past the Christian army
bearing seven darts in its talons, and crying with a loud
voice, "Woe to thee, Jerusalem."
On a mound outside Tiberias had been placed a portion
of the True Cross, and round this the army of Guy, unable
to enter the city, rallied again and again as they were
 dispersed by the followers of Saladin. But heat and
thirst played as much havoc as did the enemy, and at
close of day, the sacred relic itself, together with the King
and Reginald of Chatillon, the truce-breaker, fell into the
hands of the infidel.
It is said that Reginald's head was struck off in the
presence of Saladin, and possibly by his hand, in revenge
for his past perfidy. Guy was thrown into prison, and
Raymond, who had made good his escape, died of grief
at the loss of all that he had held most dear.
Within two months of this battle of Tiberias, Saladin
was master of every important stronghold in the land,
save only Tyre and Jerusalem, and these were closely
The Holy City was indeed in the most perilous
condition, for there were now no soldiers within the walls,
and no leader to look to in all the land, save only Balian
of Ibelin, and he was at this time a fugitive, who had
sought protection within the walls of Tyre.
Bereft of a leader, the city had well-nigh lost hope,
when Balian, acting apparently in good faith, begged
leave of Saladin to conduct his wife and family within
the walls of Jerusalem, promising that he himself would
stay there but one night, and then return to Tyre.
To this Saladin agreed; but when Balian was once
inside the city, the inhabitants refused to let him leave
The patriarch Heraclius, indeed, assured him that he
could not keep his promise without committing grave sin,
saying, "Great shame will it be to you and to your sons
after you if you leave the Holy City in this perilous strait."
So Balian remained and did his best, with only two
knights to aid him, and little enough of food to feed the
 multitudes who came in day by day from the country
round, and set up their tents in the streets of the
"The priests and clerks," says Geoffrey de Vinsauf,
"discharged the duties of soldiers and fought bravely
for the Lord's House . . . but the people, alike ignorant
and timorous, flocked in numbers round the patriarch
and the queen, bitterly complaining and earnestly
entreating that they might make terms of peace with the
Sultan as soon as possible."
Even when the city was given up on condition that
Saladin would accept a ransom for the lives of the
inhabitants, there came small consolation to the
unhappy people. For some thousands of them could pay
no ransom at all, and had nothing to hope for but the
miseries of slavery.
When this fact was known, it called forth all that
chivalry of the infidel chieftains upon which the
chroniclers love to dwell.
Saphadim, the brother of Saladin, and his right hand
during the siege, at once begged a thousand slaves as
his share of the booty.
"For what purpose do you desire them?" asked Saladin.
"To do with them as I will," replied his brother, upon
which the Sultan smiled and granted his request.
As he expected, the unhappy captives were at once
given their freedom. Then the Patriarch and Balian,
who had been treated with the utmost courtesy, each
begged for seven hundred souls; and when those were
granted, Saladin said, "My brother has given his alms;
the bishop and Balian theirs. Now will I give mine
 With that he granted freedom to all aged folk within
the city, " and this was the alms that Saladin made."
Thus did Jerusalem fall once more into the hands of
Islam, and the Crescent shone again over the Holy City,
in which for eighty-eight years the Cross had reigned
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