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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 65

for he saw the Turks constantly challenging our men, and pressing on them importunately, and he was prevented by sickness from meeting them, and he was more tormented by the importunate attack of the Turks than by the severity of the fever that scorched him.

Chapter VIII. - How the Turks burnt with Greek fire all the machines and the cat and cercleia belonging to the king of France, when assaulting the city.

The city of Acre, from its strong position, and its being defended by the choicest men of the Turks, appeared difficult to be taken by assault. The French had hitherto spent their labour in vain in constructing machines and engines for breaking down the walls, with the greatest care; for whatever they erected, at a great expense, the Turks destroyed with Greek fire or some devouring conflagration. Amongst other machines and engines which the king of France had erected for breaking down the walls, he had prepared one, with great labour, to be used for sealing it, which they called "a cat;" because like a cat it crept up and adhered to the wall. He had also another, made of strong hurdle twigs, put together most compactly, which they used to call a "cercleia," and under its covering of hides the king of Franco used to sit, and employ himself in throwing darts from a sling; he would thus watch the approach of the Turks, above on the walls, by the battlements, and then bit them unawares. But it happened one day that the French were eagerly pressing forward to apply their cat to the walls, when, behold! the Turks let down upon it a heap of the driest wood, and threw upon it a quantity of Greek fire, as well as upon the hurdle they had constructed with such toil, and then aimed a petraria in that direction, and all having forthwith caught fire, they broke them in pieces by the blows from their petraria. Upon this, the king of France was enraged beyond measure, and began to curse all those who were under his command; and rated them shamefully for not exacting condign vengeance of the Saracens, who had done them such injuries. In the heat of his passion, and when the day was drawing in, he published an edict, by voice of herald, that an assault should be made upon the city on the morrow.

Chapter IX. - How, while the French army were undermining the city walk, the Christians within the trenches vigorously repelled the Turks, who had fiercely attacked them from without.

In the morning, therefore, all armed themselves, and some of the bravest soldiers chosen from the whole army were posted at the trenches towards the exterior, against the repeated annoyances and sudden attacks of the Saracens; for Saladin had vaunted that on that day he would cross the trenches in force, and prove his valour in humbling to the dust the army of the Christians. But he kept not his word, and came not; though his army, under the command of Kahadin, his vizier, came in a body to the trenches and attempted to cross them; but the French were not slow to resist, and endeavoured to drive them off. The slaughter on both sides was great; and the Turks dismounting, advanced on foot with greater ease, and having joined battle, fought most obstinately with swords, hand to hand, and with poignards and two-edged axes, and some of them used clubs bristling with very sharp teeth. Their strokes on the one hand, and cries on the other, were terrific, and many were slain on both sides. The Turks pressed on, and the Christians drove them back; the one the most obstinate, the others the most valiant of men; but they effected this with so much the more difficulty, as the numbers of the Turks who pushed on was the greater, and both melted with twofold heat, as it was now summer. Those who directed their attacks against the city tried by every means in their power to batter down or undermine the walls, or else to surmount them with scaling-ladders. The Turks who were shut up in the city, dreading the spirit of our men, hoisted a signal to the Turks of Saladin’s army without, and intimated to them, either to make an attack, for the purpose of removing the French from the walls, or to give them instant succour. The Turks from without pressed on obstinately, when Kahadin learnt this, and driving our men back with all their might, violently filled the ditch; but the Christians, notwithstanding, resisted, and opposed their attacks, so that by God’s aid our men stood as an impenetrable wall, and the enemy was repulsed. Meanwhile, the men employed by the king of France to undermine the wall, advanced so far as to remove the foundations, and they filled the space thus dug out with logs of wood, and set them on fire; these ignited the piles of wood forming the foundations of the wall, which sunk down gradually, with a slight inclination, and without falling altogether. A large number of Christians hastened to that part, in order to enter and drive back the Turkish army. 0! how many banners might then be seen there, and piles of wood, of different shapes, and on the other hand the Turks throwing Greek fire; on the one side were the French applying ladders to the wall, that was but partially thrown down, and trying to cross

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