Third Crusade  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

The Third Crusade (1189–1192) was an attempt by European Christian leaders to reconquer the Holy Land following the capture of Jerusalem by the Ayyubid sultan, Saladin, in 1187. Also known as the Kings' Crusade for its main leaders, kings Richard I of England and Philip II of France (echoing the name "Princes' Crusade" given to the successful First Crusade), the campaign was largely successful in capturing the important cities of Acre and Jaffa, and reversing most of Saladin's conquests, but it failed to re-capture Jerusalem.

After the failure of the Second Crusade, the Zengid dynasty controlled a unified Syria and engaged in a conflict with the Fatimid rulers of Egypt. The Egyptian and Syrian forces were ultimately unified under Saladin, who employed them to reduce the Christian states and recapture Jerusalem in 1187. Spurred by religious zeal, King Henry II of England and King Philip II of France (known as Philip Augustus) ended their conflict with each other to lead a new crusade. The death of Henry in 1189, however, meant the English contingent came under the command of his successor, King Richard I of England. The elderly German Emperor Frederick Barbarossa also responded to the call to arms, leading a massive army across Anatolia, but he drowned in a river in Asia Minor on 10 June 1190 before reaching the Holy Land. His death caused tremendous grief among the German Crusaders, and most of his troops returned home.

After the Crusaders had driven the Muslims from Acre, Philip in company with Frederick's successor, Leopold V, Duke of Austria (known as Leopold the Virtuous), left the Holy Land in August 1191. On 2 September 1192, Richard and Saladin finalized a treaty granting Muslim control over Jerusalem but allowing unarmed Christian pilgrims and merchants to visit the city. Richard departed the Holy Land on 9 October. The successes of the Third Crusade allowed the Crusaders to maintain considerable states in Cyprus and on the Syrian coast.

The failure to re-capture Jerusalem inspired the subsequent Fourth Crusade, but the city would only be regained, and then briefly, by the Sixth Crusade, in 1229.

Background

Muslim unification

After the failure of the Second Crusade, Nur ad-Din Zangi had control of Damascus and a unified Syria. Eager to expand his power, Nur ad-Din set his sights on the Fatimid dynasty of Egypt. In 1163, Nur ad-Din sent his most trusted general, Shirkuh, on a military expedition to the Nile. Accompanying the general was his young nephew, Saladin. With Shirkuh's troops camped outside of Cairo, Egypt's sultan Shawar called on King Amalric I of Jerusalem for assistance. In response, Amalric sent an army into Egypt and attacked Shirkuh's troops at Bilbeis in 1164.

In an attempt to divert Crusader attention from Egypt, Nur ad-Din attacked Antioch, resulting in a massacre of Christian soldiers and the capture of several Crusader leaders, including Bohemond III, Prince of Antioch. Nur ad-Din sent the scalps of the Christian defenders to Egypt for Shirkuh to proudly display at Bilbeis for Amalric's soldiers to see. This action prompted both Amalric and Shirkuh to lead their armies out of Egypt.

In 1167, Nur ad-Din again sent Shirkuh to conquer the Fatimids in Egypt. Shawar again opted to call upon Amalric to defend his territory. The combined Egyptian-Christian forces pursued Shirkuh until he retreated to Alexandria. Amalric then breached his alliance with Shawar by turning his forces on Egypt and besieging the city of Bilbeis. Shawar pleaded with his former enemy, Nur ad-Din, to save him from Amalric's treachery. Lacking the resources to maintain a prolonged siege of Cairo against the combined forces of Nur ad-Din and Shawar, Amalric retreated. This new alliance gave Nur ad-Din rule over virtually all of Syria and Egypt.

Saladin's conquests

Shawar was executed for his alliances with the Christian forces, and Shirkuh succeeded him as vizier of Egypt. In 1169, Shirkuh died unexpectedly after only weeks of rule. Shirkuh's successor was his nephew, Salah ad-Din Yusuf, commonly known as Saladin. Nur ad-Din died in 1174, leaving the new empire to his 11-year-old son, As-Salih. It was decided that the only man competent enough to uphold the jihad against the Franks was Saladin, who became sultan of Egypt and Syria and the founder of the Ayyubid dynasty.

Amalric also died in 1174, leaving Jerusalem to his 13-year-old son, Baldwin IV. Although Baldwin suffered from leprosy, he was an effective and active military commander, defeating Saladin at the battle of Montgisard in 1177, with support from Raynald of Châtillon, who had been released from prison in 1176. Raynald later forged an agreement with Saladin to allow free trade between Muslim and Christian territories. He also raided caravans throughout the region and expanded his piracy to the Red Sea by sending galleys to raid ships, and to assault the city of Mecca itself. These acts enraged the Muslim world, giving Raynald a reputation as the most hated man in the Middle East.

Baldwin IV died in 1185, and the kingdom was left to his nephew Baldwin V, whom he had crowned as co-king in 1183. Raymond III of Tripoli again served as regent. The following year, Baldwin V died before his ninth birthday, and his mother Princess Sybilla, sister of Baldwin IV, crowned herself queen and her husband, Guy of Lusignan, king. Raynald again raided a rich caravan and had its travelers thrown in prison. Saladin demanded that the prisoners and their cargo be released. The newly crowned King Guy appealed to Raynald to give in to Saladin's demands, but Raynald refused to follow the king's orders.




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