The Third Crusade – Battles and Treaties

The topic for this month is Migrations, so I have decided to write this post on the Third Crusade. I recently read an article in BBC History concerning Richard Lionheart, which fed my interest in the Crusades, therefore I chose to write about the Third Crusade.

The Third Crusade only spans 3 years, from 1189-1192. It was intended to be partially led by King Henry II of England, but with his death in 1189 King Richard I of England took over, leading the crusade with King Phillip II of France and the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa.

The Third Crusade was led against Saladin (Salah ad-Din Yusuf), the first Sultan of Egypt and Syria, the founder of the Ayyubid Dynasty. Saladin was a successful ruler, gaining control over several different countries during his reign.

Richard the Lionheart, the only original Christian leader that survived the Third Crusade, seized Acre from Saladin’s forces in the summer of 1191, one of the largest victories of the crusade. Richard had arrived in Acre in the summer of 1191 after the combined attempts of Phillip II of France and Leopold of Austria (Frederick Barbarossa’s successor) failed to gain control of Acre. Richard automatically took control over the siege, by ordering the construction of siege weapons. Acre was seized 1 month after his arrival, which led to the arguments over the spoils and who they would go to, with Richard throwing down the German standard, insulting Leopold. This insult would come back to bite Richard when Leopold captured Richard in December 1192.

After the battle of Acre Richard decided to travel to the city of Jaffa, which was necessary to control before an attempt on Jerusalem was made. However, Saladin attacked Richard and his forces at Arsuf, 30 miles north of Jaffa. Despite Saladin’s attempts Richard won the battle, while not destroying the Muslim forces completely. Due to this victory Richard was able to seize and control Jaffa, gaining moral for the crusaders and threatening Saladin’s hold on Jerusalem.

In 1189 HRE Frederick Barbarossa answered the call to crusade quickly and was ready to set out for the Holy Land in May 1189 with an army of c.100,000 soldiers, including some 20,000 knights. An army of 2,000 men from the Hungarian prince Géza also went with Barbarossa to the Holy Land. However, Frederick never made it to the Holy Land, on the 18th May 1190 the German army sacked Iconium, the capital of the Sultanate. On 10th June 1190 Frederick’s horse slipped while crossing the Saleph River, throwing him against the rocks, drowning him. After this much of his army returned to Germany, while his son Frederick of Swabia led 5,000 of the men to Antioch. There the emperor’s body was boiled to remove the flesh and his bones were packed to be carried throughout the crusade. His body never made it to the Holy Land, being buried in Acre, after Frederick (his son) gained help from Conrad of Montferrat to gain access to Acre.

The advance on Jerusalem included several different political moves, including failed negotiations between Richard and Saladin’s brother, Al-Adil. On 22nd May a strategic town in Egypt, Darum, fell to the crusaders. The victories of the crusaders was constantly eating away at the morale of the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Shortly after the fall of Darum the crusaders’ army advanced on Jerusalem, evening coming into sight of the city, but they were forced to retreat due to a conflict in the leadership.

In July 1192 Saladin’s army lead a surprise attack on Jaffa, recapturing it, however, Saladin lost control of his army due to their anger over the loss of Acre. It is suggested that Saladin even warned the crusaders to shelter in the citadel while he attempted to regain control of the army. Richard led a stealthy naval attack, bringing in 2,000 men to reinforce the crusaders still in the city. Saladin’s army was not prepared for this attack and suffered a complete failure despite superior numbers.

On September 2nd 1192 a strenuous treaty was forged between Richard and Saladin, with the provision that Jerusalem would remain under Muslim control. However, unarmed Christians would be able to travel to Jerusalem on a pilgrimage. One major point of contention in this treaty was the city of Ascalon, however, it was agreed that it would belong to Saladin’s people.

Richard returned from the Holy Land on 9th October 1192. The Third Crusade over.


2 thoughts on “The Third Crusade – Battles and Treaties

  1. Warfare is a fascinating subject. Despite the dubious morality of using violence to achieve personal or political aims. It remains that conflict has been used to do just that throughout recorded history.

    Your article is very well done, a good read.


    1. Thank you for the comment, Gerald. Perhaps in the future we will bring you more of these, and you can share you expertise from your Great Military Battles 🙂


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