Battle of Tiberias (Hattin, 4 July 1187)



Meanwhile Saladin had assembled into his hand the reins of Egypt and western Asia. In 1 185 the Christians of Palestine sent an interest for help to every one of the courts of Europe. The approach and extent of the peril drove them to choose the most critical dignitaries as their delivery people : Heraclius, the Patriarch of Jerusalem, together with the Grand Masters of the Hospitallers and Templars. The ministers offered the crown of Jerusalem to King Henry II. of England, giving him the keys of the Holy Sepulcher an*, of the tower of David. The interest of the East was supported by Pope Lucius, whose letter to Henry demonstrates that Europe feared as much as it put on a show to detest the new Moslem pioneer. The letter read : " For Saladin, the most barbaric persecutor, has emerged to such a contribute his rage that, unless the passionate onset of his underhandedness is checked, he may engage a guaranteed trust that all the Jordan will stream into his mouth, and the land be contaminated by his most loathsome superstitions, and the nation yet again be subjected to the damned territory of the most detestable dictator By the distresses accordingly approaching, we beseech your Mightiness with a palpitating heart," and so on. In any case, neither King Henry's inner voice nor his expectation of picking up a brighter crown in paradise was adequate to draw him from activities closer home.

Saladin quickly verified the Pope's estimate of his ability. In May, 1187, he overthrew the Templars in a battle at Nazareth. With eighty thousand horse he then invested and crushed Tiberias on Galilee. The citadel of this place alone remained untaken. The Christians massed fifty thousand men on the plain of Hattin, above the city, for one supreme endeavor. The boldest feared the result. The sight of the wood of the True Cross gave a martyr courage rather than hope of success. Raymond, whose bravery no man questioned, made an address to the assembled barons, counselling retreat. He said : " In this army is the only hope left to the Christians of the East. Here are gathered all the soldiers of Christ, all the defenders of Jerusalem. The archers of Saladin are more skilful than ours, his cavalry more numerous and better trained. Let us abandon Tiberias and save the army." To lose that battle in the open plain would be, as Raymond foresaw, to lose everything. To retreat might force the enemy to fight against strongholds, when the advantage would be on the Christians side.

This discreet counsel of the veteran was derided by the Master of the Templars, who openly taunted Raymond with some secret alliance with Saladin. Raymond rejoined, " I will submit to the punishment of death if these things do not fall out as I have said." The barons were for following the advice of the veteran, but King Guy, after various changes of mind, gave the fatal order for battle.

The day (July 4, 1 187) was excessively hot The Christians, worn out with the march, advanced to the fight, sustained chiefly by the desperation of their resolve. The Mussulmans occupied the vantage-ground on the hills which make the western shore of the Lake of Tiberias, and welcomed their adversaries' approach with a furious discharge of arrows. Then suddenly, as lightning through a pelting storm, the white turbans and cimeters of the Saracen cavalry, led by Saladin in person, flashed across the field. In the language of the Arabic chronicler : " Then the sons of paradise and the children of fire settled their terrible quarrel. Arrows hurtled in the air like a noisy flight of sparrows, and the blood of warriors dripped upon the ground like rain." .

The True Cross, which had enlivened the Christians' strength, was an event of their shortcoming ; for, giving up on triumph through their own valor, they looked for the assurance of the symbol of their religion. Saladin said thereafter that the Franks flew round the cross like moths cycle a light. Over and over the sultan drove his squadrons through the thickest positions of his adversaries, and would that day have fixed the Christians' destiny had not night offered break to the fight. Amid the haziness the Christians moved their in thick cluster. The Saracens, having unrivaled numbers, embraced the inverse arrangement and expanded their lines, so that when morning broke they encompassed their foes on each side. The Christians futile attempted to break the cordon, which was consistently moving closer and closer, restricting the space inside it as one by one the destined knights fell. The Saracens let go the grass of the plain. Swords flashed through the offensive smoke, and the boldest, whom arms couldn't dismay, dropped from suffocation. The Templars and Hospitallers kept up the fight throughout the day, mobilizing about the cross; however that image was at last taken. It was being borne by Rufinus, Bishop of Acre, when he fell, punctured with a bolt. Says a contemporary author: " This was done through the exemplary judgment of God ; for, as opposed to the use of his forerunners, having more noteworthy confidence in common arms than in glorious ones, he went forward to fight prepared in a layer of mail."

Guy was a captive, together with the Master of the Templars and many of the most celebrated knights, who had failed to find death, though they sought it. Raymond cut his way through the line of Saracens, who praised his amazing valor as they witnessed his exploit, while the Christians denounced him for connivance with the foe.

­A scene followed which showed the temper of Saladin. The conqueror received King Guy and his surviving nobles in a manner to lessen, if possible, their chagrin for the disaster. He presented to the king a great goblet filled with drink, which had been cooled in the snows from the Lebanons. Having drunk from it, Guy passed the cup to Renaud, the man who had violated the truce in former years. Saladin could be magnanimous to a worthy antagonist So great was his selfcommand that he observed the most punctilious etiquette even in the rage of a hand-to-hand fight. But to the false and treacherous he could show no mercy. The sight of the truce-breaker fired him with uncontrollable frenzy ; he exclaimed, "That traitor shall not drink in my presence. He gave Renaud the instant choice of death or acceptance of the religion of Mohammed. Renaud refused to subscribe the Koran. Saladin smote him with the side of his sabre, a mark of his contempt. At a signal a common soldier swirled his cimeter, and the head of Renaud fell at King Guy's feet.

Towards the Templars and Hospitallers the sultan had conceived similar hatred from the conviction that they regarded their covenants with their enemies too lightly. As these knights of the white and the red cross were led past him Saladin remarked, " I will deliver the earth of these two unclean races." He bade his emirs each slay a knight with his own hand. Neither the defenceless condition of the captives nor the protestation of his warriors against this cruelty produced any compunction in the breast of the res- olute conqueror.