History

Sultan Saladin And the 3rd Crusade “Horns of Hattin”

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Severus July 2nd 1187, the armies of the crusader states marched to war leading them are three nobles of the Christian kingdoms of the middle east founded during the first crusade, mistletoe Lucian king of Jerusalem, Raymond iii count of Tripoli, and the grand master of the knights templar. before them, they carry the true cross a piece of wood from the crucifix Christ died on, secured in an ornate silver box and they re on a rescue mission to relieve the besieged city of Tiberias. But, they are not allies. in fact, until a few days ago these men were divided over a bitter succession crisis.
however, now they’ve put that aside to face a threat so great no one kingdom can face, it the man who united the Muslim middle east against them, Saladin and they don t know it yet but they re marching right into a trap, a trap at the horns of a Hattin.
the man who would unite the Islamic middle east, and battle the crusader states was born in Tikrit in 1137, his personal name was Yusuf with the honorific Saladin meaning the righteous of the faith, a name westerners would contract to Saladin which we’ll be using for this series for simplicity but whatever you call him young Saladin was born into a world politically defined by the crusades, and how to be so successful the answer is weakness by happenstance the first crusade managed to strike the Islamic middle east at a time of fragmentation and infighting, when the Turkish seljuk empire was losing control over satellite states and breaking into competing provinces that were unable to coordinate a response, after all why let a united Muslim front get in the way of a good crusade.
in that vacuum, the invading franks were able to carve out a series of crusader states, which became new wild card players in middle eastern politics by the time Saladin became a young adult there were three main kingdoms the county of Tripoli, the principality of Antioch, and the kingdom of Jerusalem a fourth had fallen to the Turks sparking a second crusade that failed to capture Damascus, Saladin s family were Sunni Muslims of Kurdish origin and served as soldiers and politicians under a family allied to the seljuk Turks growing up with a classical Islamic religious education and frequent games of polo to train him as a cavalryman he would actually receive most of his useful tutelage under his uncle who trained him as a soldier and commander.
the first four decades of Saladin’s life found him fighting other Muslims far more than the crusader states, and this is because Saladin and his uncle served under Nuradine the ruler of the seljuk Syrian empire province and while Nuradin s leadership was a critical factor in defeating the second crusade he devoted much of his life to consolidating Muslim power in the middle east, trying to unite the disparate Muslim provinces behind a jihad or holy war declaring a crusade against the crusaders of course political religious and ethnic divisions stood in the way of unity but nuradin believed the only way to defeat the crusader states and reclaim their territory, especially the holy city of Jerusalem, was to create an allied force among the Muslim states. as part of that effort Saladin and his uncle took control of Egypt which had been a Shia kingdom briar then when his uncle died the young Saladin took over as vizier of Egypt where the charismatic soldier showed great talent for leadership, particularly in attracting talent through generosity until he was declared sultan by his patrens the Abbasid caliph in Baghdad, Saladin also began putting his brothers and sons in high ranking positions building his family into what would be the ayubi dynasty, and when nuradin died, Saladin took on his mission to unite the powers of Islam against the crusader states via force when necessary.
by 1186, he’d been named the sultan of both Egypt and Syria skirmished with the secret of assassins and had become famous for largely fighting other Muslims, he mounted a propaganda campaign arguing that his conquest was necessary to defeat the infidels but critics pointed out that when he did battle the crusaders he didn’t always win. eventually, he finally had sufficient force to confront the crusader states, and it just so happened to be a good time to attack because the most powerful of the crusader states the kingdom of Jerusalem was in a succession crisis. king Baldwin vi a teenager with leprosy had come to the throne in 1174 unable to have children and expected to die at any time, Baldwin was surrounded by plots throughout his 11 year reign with Raymond iii, Guy de Lusignan, his sister Sibylla, and a free booting noble named Ranald of Chatillon among the chief plotters, when Baldwin died followed by Sibylla s son that he d named as his heir, who also had leprosy by the way, the nobles nearly came to blows, so to keep the crown away from Guy, Sibylla became the compromise candidate, but then upon her coronation she shocked the court by marrying Guy thus putting him on the throne, an event so divisive Raymond temporarily allied himself with Saladin against the kingdom of Jerusalem,
which just goes to show that politics often played as much a role as religion during these conflicts. meanwhile Rayland of Chatillon, a man who acted more like a pirate than an idealized image of a knight, was provoking Saladin. he began raiding Muslim trade routes on the red sea striking close to mecca and medina, but it was his blundering of a pilgrim caravan headed to mecca in 1186 that made Reynold one of the most hated men in the Muslim middle east, in retaliation Saladin sprung his trap he besieged the fortress of Tiberius knowing that the crusaders would be forced to attempt a rescue, and they did the rivals put their squabbles aside and formed an alliance to crush Saladin, though really even then they argued Raymond insisted it was a trap that Tiberius which was his fort commanded by his wife should be sacrificed, but the others called him a coward.
so they marched July 2 1187 ,it is so hot, the crusader forces weighed down by armor trudged toward Tiberius, Saladin they find has filled the wells along their route and mounted archers keep ambushing them with volleys of arrows before slipping away, the plan had been to march to Tiberius in a day but wounded men are slowing them down so they decide to stop at a spring for the night, but Saladin got there first instead of attacking however the exhausted crusader army stakes camp then Saladin’s troops surround the crusaders, beating drums through the night to keep them awake, yelling that god is great and lighting grass fires to blanket, the encampment in smoke. meanwhile, Sullivan has a supply chain of camels bringing his forces fresh water and in an extra twist of the knife they take skins of it up to the crusader lines and dump it out in front of the exhausted parched men.
the next morning exhausted and choked by smoke the crusaders make a desperate drive toward the springs at the village of a teen, again, and again the demoralized crusaders smash against Saladin’s infantry pierced by an unending reign of arrows, at this point Raymond who had not wanted this plan in the first place gives up, and manages to break his forces through and flee to lake Tiberius where he can withdraw. Saladin lets him go, he wanted king Guy, he wants Jerusalem, and with Raymond’s forces gone this fight is unwinnable for the crusaders the sun beats down knights stumble into the Muslim lines, unarmed begging to be killed. but Guy makes one last gamble, he withdraws his forces to a ruined iron aged hill fort on a high plane, two low hills the horns of Hattin guard the approach, and when Saladin’s army begins to press him he calls on god and the true cross for aid, and orders a charge. if he can kill Saladin, he reasons, the Muslims will break. the assault takes Saladin off guard directing his troops his son by his side, he suddenly sees the Christians surging toward him in a downhill charge the desperate attack buckles his infantry line driving his front ranks back so the combat swirls mere feet from him, but Saladin advances yelling encouragement to his troops they throw the Christians back only for the enemy to rally once more and crash the front line again the combat nearly reaching Saladin, who by this point realized that he was the objective, but his lines hold and the crusaders are sent scrambling back uphill his son says it s over, but Saladin says it will not be over until the king s opulent tent falls, but as he says this he sees the canvas topple in the distance, the sultan dismounts and prostrates himself in prayer god has given victory Saladin has just annihilated the military power of the crusader states captured the king of Jerusalem, taken their most holy relic and now the city of Jerusalem lies nearly undefended.

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