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GEOFFREY VINSAUF Itinerary of Richard I and others to the Holy Land

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Itinerary of Richard I and others to the Holy Land
page 5

them from above. When the noise of battle had ceased, Saladin seeing prisoners carried off in all directions, and the ground on all sides covered with the slain, lifting up his eyes to heaven, gave thanks to God for the victory which he had gained. This was his practice in all cases; but at present among other things, he is reported to have said, that it was not his own power but our crimes which had given him the victory; and it was proved to be so by the character of the event. In other engagements, our army, however moderate in size, with Divine aid always conquered; but now, because we were not with God, nor God with us, our people were altogether defeated, even before the conflict, though they were reckoned at more than 1,000 knights and more than 20,000 footmen: so entirely had the whole force of the kingdom flocked together at the king’s command to that fatal campaign, that those only remained to guard the cities and castles, whom weakness of sex or age rendered unfit to bear arms. This disastrous battle was fought on the day of the translation of St. Martin, and in one moment all the glory of the kingdom passed from it and was extinguished. The sultan, therefore, trusting that the fortresses of the kingdom would be easily taken, now that their defenders were slain, carried the captive king in triumph through the castles of Syria, reserving him as a mark for his ridicule, to be shewn to the cities which he wished to take and to enforce their surrender. With this view he marched first to Acre, and took it without a blow, granting the citizens leave to remove themselves and their effects to whatever place they pleased.

Chapter VI. - Of the capture of the Christians, who unwarily put in at the port of Acre.

Meanwhile our sailors were proceeding on their customary voyage to Acre, coming from Christian countries, and laden some with merchandise, others with pilgrims. Alas! they had not heard what had happened, and they entered the hostile port to be made prisoners. It was indeed a sad destiny: they hailed the sight of land, where chains were prepared for them on landing: they rejoiced to have passed the dangers of the sea, and the sword awaited them: they hoped for repose after their fatigues, and they found persecution: some of them were kept as prisoners, many of them were made objects of derision, a few were allowed to escape, but designedly naked and helpless, that others might be deterred by their example.

Chapter VII. - How the Marquis Conrad escaped being taken in the same snare, and proceeded to Tyre.

Among others, the marquis, on his way from Constantinople, dropped his sails outside the port of Acre, and, as it was near sunset, lay to till the morning. For the silence which prevailed in the city created suspicion, since at other times there was a general shout of congratulation when any vessel appeared; the ensigns of the sultan, seen in different parts of the city, gave still more cause for apprehension. Some of the Saracen galleys were now seen approaching, but the rest of the crew becoming alarmed, the marquis commanded them to be silent, and stood forth as their spokesman. When, therefore, those who were sent asked who they were, he said it was a merchantship, and he was the master; that he had heard what had happened, and being a devoted servant of the sultan, would wait on him at break of day and exhibit his wares. That same night, the wind being favourable, he sailed to Tyre, and undertook the task of defending it: his arrival was alike a protection to all other Christians who should come, and would have contributed to his own glory, if he had only persevered to the end in the same line of conduct. This was the marquis Conrad, an Italian by birth, a man of singular activity, and brave in all he undertook.(7) But however noble the beginning, when it is tarnished by a disgraceful end, it merits shame rather than glory. The sultan, after the capture of Acre, followed by the surrender of Berytus and Sidon, expected to take Tyre with the same ease, but was shamefully repulsed from its walls, and raised the siege.

(7)Conrad was the son of William III., marquis of Montferrat; he had given powerful assistance in quelling a rebellion at Constantinople, and in reward had received the hand of the emperor’s sister.

Chapter VIII. - How Saladin, after the capture of Berytus and Sidon, was repulsed from the walls of Tyre, and took Ascalon by a false treaty.

Saladin, taking the king with him, proceeded thence to Ascalon, and planting his machines for throwing stones, began to assail it. The town is easy to be taken if defended by a weak garrison, though its great strength renders it invincible if sufficiently garrisoned. The insatiable invader, eager above all things to obtain this city, nevertheless distrusted his ability to take it by force, for he did not know how things were within its walls, nor how deficient it was both in arms, men, and victuals. He therefore agreed to a capitulation, by which the citizens were to depart freely with their effects, and the king, with fifteen other distinguished captives, were to be

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