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

 
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GEOFFREY VINSAUF
Itinerary of Richard I and others to the Holy Land
page 24

In the mean time the Turkish army from without, though deeply bewailing our victory, persisted in making attacks upon our men who were within the trench, endeavouring either to fill up the completed portion by casting back the earth, or to slay those who resisted. Our men, sustaining their attack, though with difficulty, fight under great disadvantages, for they seemed unequal to contend against so countless a multitude, - for the numbers of the assailants continually increased, and we had to take precautions on the side of the city lest they also should rush in and assault us. There was amongst the assailants a fiendish race, very impetuous and obstinate; deformed in nature as they were unlike to the others in character, of a darker appearance, of vast stature, of exceeding ferocity, having on their heads red coverings instead of helmets, carrying in their hands clubs bristling with iron teeth, which neither helmet nor coat of mail could withstand; and they had a carved image of Mahomet for a standard. So great was the multitude of this evil race, that as fast as one party was thrown to the earth, another rushed forward over them. Thus, by their constant attacks, they confounded our men so much, that we doubted which way to turn ourselves; for as there was neither security nor rest, we were distressed on all sides, at one time guarding ourselves from sallies of the besieged from the city, at another from the incessant attacks of the enemy from without; and again from the side of the sea where their galleys were lying in wait to convey the Turks into the city as they arrived, or to intercept the succours which were coming to us the Christians. At length, by favour of the Divine mercy, our adversaries were driven back and repulsed.

Chapter XXXVI. - How our men were on the point of assaulting the city with three wooden towers; the townsmen offer to surrender, while we are attacked by the enemy below, our machines are set on fire.

Our chiefs contribute mutually to the making of machines for storming the city, and construct three moveable towers of dry wood, of which the making of the first fell to the lot of the Landgrave, the second to the Genoese, and the third to the rest of the army. The huge machines raised with zealous emulation, and being carried up by stories, were urged forwards on wheels, which, assisted by mechanical contrivances, moved easily. To prevent their catching fire, the workmen covered them with tarpaulins and raw hides; and that the blow of the petrariǽ might not injure them, which it does if caught by a softer substance, they suspend twisted ropes in front. And the upper parts of the towers, which were much higher than the walls and bulwarks of the city contained slingers and darters, while the middle story was occupied by men armed with stakes and poles. Each camp had its petrariǽ, which stood on the side and afforded protection to the towers as they were drawn along, as well is serving to throw down the opposite walls. The townsmen now entirely despairing, offered to surrender the city if they might be allowed to depart and take away their property with them. Our people refused, and hastened with all their might to bring the machines they had made against the walls, upon which the townsmen resisted, and in turn revenge themselves on their besiegers and assaulters; for, on the Saturday after Ascension-day, when the machines had been brought nearer the walls, after we had assaulted the city from morn till even, behold! the army of the Turks from without came rushing in troops with immense violence upon the trench, to attack from the rear those who were assaulting the city, that they might draw them off if not entirely disperse them. Thus, while our men, held in check on both sides, and having their attention divided, were either defending themselves against the attacks from without, or were engaged in storming the city, and their strength was weakened from having so many objects to contend with, the enemy set fire to our towers, which our utmost endeavours could not extinguish, and being burnt with Greek fire, they were rendered useless. And thus, by an unfortunate accident, our hope of triumph fell, - the more mortifying in the result from being considered so certain at first.

Chapter XXXVII. - Of the famine among the citizens and the succour brought in by the galleys.

The besieged were now so sorely pressed from the great want of provisions, that they ate up their horses and spared not beasts of other kinds, forgetful of the Mahometan law, while, reduced by hunger to eat forbidden things, they satisfied their ravening appetites. Meanwhile, they turned out the older Christian captives, whom they reckoned useless, having become speechless and decrepit, but they reserved the younger captives, who were hale and fit for work. While the Turks were thus straitened, there arrived three vessels of burthen, whose crews suddenly threw themselves into the city, for fear of meeting the Christians, in such

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