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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 76

The army, after accomplishing its march with much difficulty, arrived that day at Cǽsarea. The Turks had been there before them, and broken down part of the towers and walls, and destroyed the city as much as possible; but on the approach of our army they fled. There the army pitched their tents, and passed the night by the side of a river close to the city, called the river of Crocodiles, because the crocodiles once devoured two soldiers while bathing therein. The circuit of the city of Cǽsarea is very great, and the buildings are of wonderful workmanship. Our Saviour with his disciples often visited it, and worked miracles there. It was here the king had charged his ships to meet the army. Meanwhile the king caused it to be proclaimed by voice of herald in the city of Acre, that those who had remained behind from slothfulness should embark on board the ships which he had sent, and come to the army, for the love of God, and to promote the success of the Christian cause, and to perform their vow of pilgrimage more fully. In obedience to his mandate, many came to Cǽsarea with the fleet, which was amply laden with provisions; and be arranged that the ships should advance from that place in attendance on the army. A large number of ships here came together, and when the king had divided the army into squadrons, they set out one day about nine o’clock, at a slow pace, on account of the Turks, who continually harassed them when they left their stations, and, coming up to them as close as they dared, caused them all the molestation and annoyance in their power. They troubled us more than usual on this day, but by the help of God we escaped unhurt, having cut off the head of one of their admirals, a man of the greatest courage, and renowned for his valour: he was said to have such strength that no one could throw him from his horse, or even dare to attack him; and he carried a lance heavier than two of ours, to which he gave the name of aias estog. The Turks were overcome with grief and lamentation at his fall, so that they cut off their horses’ tails, and, had they been permitted, would have carried off the corpse of their chief. After that the army arrived at a river called the Dead River, which the Saracens had previously covered over, in order that, not being seen, our men might endanger their lives by falling into it; but by the providence of God they were preserved from danger, and, the river having been uncovered, our men drank thereof, and passed the night there.

Chapter XV. - How on quitting the Dead River, our army, before they arrived at the Salt River, were much harassed by the Turks, who slew many of our men, and horses.

On the third day the army advanced slowly from the Dead River, through a country of a most desolate character, and destitute of every thing; for they were compelled to march through a mountainous country, because they were unable to go by the sea-side, which was choked up by the luxuriant growth of the grass; and the army on its march kept itself in closer companies than usual. The Templars on that day had charge of the rear, and they lost so many horses by the attacks of the Turks that they were almost reduced to despair. The count of St. Paul also lost many horses; for he himself opposed the Turks with great valour, when they attacked and made incursions against us; so that by his exertions the rest got off in safety, and thus he earned the thanks and favour of the whole army. On that day the king was wounded in the side by a dart while he was driving the Turks; but this slight hurt only incited him to attack them more vehemently; for the smarting of the wound made him more eager for vengeance, and during the whole of the day he fought against them and drove them back. The Turks, on the other hand, obstinately annoyed our men, and, keeping by the side of our army, did them all the injury they could, by throwing darts and arrows, which flew like hail. Alas! how many horses fell transfixed with darts! how many died afterwards of the wounds which they received! There was such a stream of darts and arrows, that you could not find four feet of ground, where the army passed, free from them. This terrible tempest continued all day, until at night-fall the Turks returned to their tents and dwellings. Our people also stopped near what was called the Salt River, and passed the night there: they arrived there on the Tuesday after the festival of St. Giles, and tarried there two days. Here there was a great throng on account of the horses who died from their wounds; for the people were so eager to purchase the horse-flesh, that they even had recourse to blows. The king, on hearing this, proclaimed by herald that he would give a live horse to whoever would distribute his dead one to the best men in his service who needed it; and thus they ate horse-flesh as if it was venison, and they reckoned it most savoury, for hunger served in the place of seasoning.

Chapter XVI. - How our army marched from the Salt River, through the forest of Assur, in safety, to the river Rochetailie.

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