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The Battle of Hittin

Compiled by: Syed Muhammad Bokreta
Algiers, Algeria

* THE 04th of JULY 1187
* TIBERIAS (Occupied Palestine)
* The Battle of Hattin (also known as "The Horns of Hattin because of a nearby extinct volcano of the same name) took place on Saturday, July 4, 1187
between the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem and the forces of the Muslim Ayyubid Dynasty.
The Muslim armies under Salah Uddin or Saladin as kown in the Christian world, captured or killed the vast majority of the Crusader forces, removing their capability to wage war , as a direct result of the battle, Islamic forces once again became the Eminent military power in the Holy Land, re-conquering Al Qods or Jerusalem and several other Crusader-held cities.
* Guy of Lusignan became king of Jerusalem in 1186 in right of his wife Sibylla after the death of Sibylla's son Baldwin V , the Kingdom of Jerusalem was at this time divided between the "court faction" of Guy, Sibylla, and relative newcomers to the kingdom such as Raynald of Chatillon as well as Gerad of Ridefort and the Knights Templar the "nobles faction", led by Raymond III of Tripoli,who had been regent for the child-king Baldwin V and had opposed the succession of Guy. Disgusted, Raymond of Tripoli watched as his fellow poulain barons hastened to Jerusalem to make obeisance to King Guy and Queen Sibylla.
* The great lord of Tripoli rode in the opposite direction, up the Jordan River Valley to Tiberias,the situation was so tense that there was almost open warfare between Raymond and Guy, who wanted to besiege Tiberias, a fortress held by Raymond through his wife Eschiva, Princess of Galilee, as such war was avoided through the mediation of Raymond's supporter Balian of Ibelin.
* Meanwhile, the Muslim states surrounding the kingdom had been united during the 1170s and 1180s by Salh Eddin or Saladin, Salah had been appointed vizier ofEgypt in 1169 and soon came to rule the country as Sultan, Whereas in 1174, he imposed his rule over Damascus and his authority extended to Aleppo by by 1176 and Mosul in present Iraq by 1183, and for the first time, the Kingdom of Jerusalem was encircled by Muslim territory united under one ruler, to recall the crusaders defeated Saladin at the Battle of Montgisard in 1177, and in the early 1180s there was an uneasy truce between the two sides, which was broken by the raids of Raynald on Muslim caravans passing through his fief of Oultrejordain, Raynald also threatened to attack the Holy city of Makkah ,in April 1187, Raymond agreed a treaty with Saladin ,as part of their agreement, Raymond allowed theSultan to send a reconnaissance force to Galilee. At the same time a group led by Balian of Ibelin on Guy's behalf was journeying through the area. Raymond advised Balian to remain in the castle of Afula until the Muslim forces had moved on, however his suggestion was ignored.
By late May Salah Uddin assembled the largest army he had ever commanded, around some 30,000 men including about 12,000 regular cavalry, he himself inspected his forces at Tell Ashtara before crossing the River Jordan on June 30,the opposing Crusader army amassed at Zippori as it consisted of around 20,000 men, including 1,200 knights from Jerusalem and Tripoli and 50 from Antioch according to some Historians , the army was smaller than Salah Uddin's it was still larger than those usually mustered by the Crusaders. After reconciling, Raymond and Guy met at Acre with the bulk of the crusader army. According to the claims of some European sources, aside from the knights there was a greater number of lighter cavalry, and perhaps 10,000 foot soldiers, supplemented by crossbowmen from the Italian merchant fleet, and a large number of mercenaries (including Turcopoles) hired with money donated to the kingdom by HenryII of England.
In the meantime, Guy thus ordered the army to march against Saladin at Tiberias, which is indeed just what Saladin had planned, for he had calculated that he could defeat the crusaders only in a field battle rather than by besieging their fortifications, moreover Salah had also unexpectedly gained the alliance of the Druze community based in Sarahmul led by Jamal ad-Din Hajji, whose father Karama was an age old ally of Noureddine Zangi ,the city of Sarahmul had been sacked by the crusaders on various occasions and according to Jamal ad-Din Hajji the crusaders even manipulated the Assasins to kill his three elder brothers.
* The crusaders began their march from Sephoria on July 3. Raymond led the vanguard; Guy the main army; and Balian, Raynald, and the military orders made up the rearguard. The crusaders were almost immediately under harassment from the Muslim skirmishers on horseback, and by noon on that day, the Frankish army had reached a spring at the village of Turan some six miles (10 km) from Sephoria, here, according to Saladin, "The hawks of the Frankish infantry and the eagle of their cavalry hovered around the water."
It was still nine miles (14 km) to Tiberias. Therefore, with only a half day of marching time remaining, any attempt to leave this sure water source to seek that objective the same day, all while under the constant attack of Saladin's army, would be foolhardy. (In 1182 the Frankish army had only advanced 8 miles (13 km) in a full day in face of the enemy and in 1183 Guy had managed but six miles (10 km) in a similar situation, taking a full day.) But, as Saladin wrote, "Satan incited Guy to do what ran counter to his purpose." That is, for unknown reasons, Guy set out that very afternoon, marching his army forward, seeming to head for Tiberias.
* When Saladin arrived from the taking of Tiberias, and after the Frankish army left Turan, the Muslims began their attack in earnest. Saladin sent the two wings of his army around the Frankish force and seized the spring at Turan, thus blocking the Frankish line of retreat. This maneuver would give Saladin his victory, and in the ensuing struggle, the Frankish rearguard was forced to a standstill by continuous attacks, thus halting the whole army on the plateau. The crusaders were thus forced to make camp surrounded by the Muslims, they now had no water nor any hope of receiving supplies or reinforcements.
* On the morning of July 4, the crusaders were blinded by smoke from fires that Saladin's forces had set to add to the Frankish army's misery, through which the Muslim cavalry particularly the divisions commanded by Gokbori pelted them with 400 loads of arrows that had been brought up during the night. Gerard and Raynald advised Guy to form battle lines and attack, which was done by Guy's brother Amalic, while Raymond led the first division with Raymond of Antioch, the son of Bohemund III of Antioch and Joscelin III of Edessa formed the rearguard. While this was being arranged, five of Raymond's knights defected to Saladin and told them of the dire situation in the crusader camp.
* Thirsty and demoralized, the crusaders broke camp and changed direction for the springs of Hattin, but their ragged approach was attacked by Saladin's army which blocked the route forward and any possible retreat. Count Raymond launched two charges in an attempt to break through to the water supply at the Sea of Galilee. The second of these saw him cut off from the main army and forced to retreat. Most of the crusader infantry had effectively deserted by moving on to the Horns of Hattin. Guy attempted to pitch the tents again to block the Muslim cavalry, but without infantry protection the knights' horses were cut down by Muslim archers and the cavalry was forced to fight on foot. Then they too retreated to the Horns.
* Now the crusaders were surrounded and, despite three desperate charges on Saladin's position, were eventually defeated. An eyewitness account of this is given by Saladin's son, Al Afdal. It is quoted by the Great Muslim Historian Ibn Al Athir: “When the king of the Franks [Guy] was on the hill with that band, they made a formidable charge against the Muslims facing them, so that they drove them back to my father [Saladin]. I looked towards him and he was overcome by grief and his complexion pale. He took hold of his beard and advanced, crying out "Give the lie to the Devil!" The Muslims rallied, returned to the fight and climbed the hill. When I saw that the Franks withdrew, pursued by the Muslims, I shouted for joy, "We have beaten them!" But the Franks rallied and charged again like the first time and drove the Muslims back to my father. He acted as he had done on the first occasion and the Muslims turned upon the Franks and drove them back to the hill. I again shouted, "We have beaten them!" but my father rounded on me and said, "Be quiet! We have not beaten them until that tent [Guy's] falls." As he was speaking to me, the tent fell. The Sultan dismounted, prostrated himself in thanks to God Almighty and wept for joy”.
The Muslim forces had captured the royal tent of King Guy, as well as the True Cross after the Bishop of Acre was killed in the fighting. Prisoners included Guy, his brother Amalric II, Raynald de Chatillon, William V of Montferrat, Gerard de Ridefort, Humphrey IV of Toron, Hugh of Jabala, Plivain of Botron, Hugh of Gibelet, and many others. Perhaps only as few as 3,000 Christians escaped the defeat. The anonymous text De Expugnatione Terrae Sanctae per Saladinum Libellus claims that Raymond, Joscelin, Balian, and Reginald of Sidon fled the field in the middle of the battle, trampling "the Christians, the Turks, and the Cross" in the process, but this is not corroborated by other accounts and reflects the author's hostility to the Poleins.
The exhausted captives were brought to Saladin's tent, where Guy was given a goblet of iced water as a sign of Saladin's generosity. When Guy passed the goblet to his fellow captive Raynald, Saladin allowed the old man (Raynald was about 60) to drink but shortly afterwards said that he had not offered water to Raynald and thus was not bound by the Muslim rules of hospitality. When Saladin accused Raynald of being an oath breaker, Raynald replied "kings have always acted thus. I did nothing more." Saladin then executed Raynald himself, beheading him with his sword. Guy fell to his knees at the sight of Raynald's corpse but Saladin bade him to rise, saying, "It is not the wont of kings, to kill kings; but that man had transgressed all bounds, and therefore did I treat him thus. This man was only killed because of his maleficence and perfidy."
The True Cross was fixed upside down on a lance and sent to Damascus. Several of Saladin's men now left the army, taking Frankish prisoners with them as slaves.
On Sunday, July 5, Saladin traveled the six miles (10 km) to Tiberias and, there, Countess Eschiva surrendered the citadel of the fortress. She was allowed to leave for Tripoli with all her family, followers, and possessions. Raymond of Tripoli, having escaped the battle, died of pleurisy later in 1187.
*According to the Great Chronicler Ernoul, news of the defeat caused Pope Urban III to die of shock.
News of the disastrous defeat at Hattin was brought to Europe by Joscius, Archbishop of Tyre, as well as other pilgrims and travelers. Plans were immediately made for a new crusade; Pope Gregory VIII issued the bullAudita tremendi, and in England and France the Saladin tithe was enacted to fund expenses.
The subsequent Third Crusade, however, did not get underway until 1189, being made up of three separate contingents led by Philip Augustus, Richard Lionheart, and Frederick Barbarossa.

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