The Capture of Jerusalem by Saladin, 1187
translated by James Brundage
The Battle of Hattin decimated the knights and soldiers of the Latin states. The remnants of the fighting forces of the Kingdom sought refuge in the fortified coastal cities and especially at Tyre. Through the months of July and August, Saladin successively occupied the remaining towns, cities, and castles of the Holy Land. His initial attack upon Tyre failed, however, and the city was bypassed. Late in September Saladin's armies camped before the Holy City itself.
The Holy City of Jerusalem was besieged on September 20. It was surrounded on every side by unbelievers, who shot arrows everywhere into the air. They were accompanied by frightening armaments and, with a great clamor of trumpets, they shrieked and wailed, "Hai, hai." The city was aroused by the noise and tumult of the barbarians and, for a time, they all cried out: "True and Holy Cross! Sepulchre of Jesus Christ's resurrection! Save the city of Jerusalem and its dwellers!"
The battle was then joined and both sides began courageously to fight. But since so much unhappiness was produced through sorrow and sadness, we shall not enumerate all the Turkish attacks and assemblies, by which, for two weeks, the Christians were worn down.... During this time it seemed that God had charge over the city, for who can say why one man who was hit died, while another wounded man escaped? Arrows fell like raindrops, so that one could not show a finger above the ramparts without being hit. There were so many wounded that all the hospitals and physicians in the city were hard put to it just to extract the missiles from their bodies. I myself was wounded in the face by an arrow which struck the bridge of my nose. The wooden shaft has been taken out, but the metal tip has remained there to this day. The inhabitants of Jerusalem fought courageously enough for a week, while the enemy settled down opposite the tower of David.
Saladin saw that he was making no progress and that as things were going he could do no damage to the city. Accordingly, he and his aides began to circle around the city and to examine the city's weak points, in search of a place where he could set up his engines without fear of the Christians and where he could more easily attack the town.... At dawn on a certain day [Sept 26] the King of Egypt (that is, Saladin) ordered the camp to be moved without any tumult or commotion. He ordered the tents to be pitched in the Vale of Jehosephat, on the Mount of Olives, and on Mount joy, and throughout the hills in that region. When morning had come the men of Jerusalem lifted up their eyes and, when the darkness of the clouds had gone, they saw that the Saracens were pulling up their tents as if they were going to leave. The inhabitants of Jerusalem rejoiced greatly and said: "The King of Syria has fled, because he could not destroy the city as be had planned." When the turn of the matter was known, however, this rejoicing was quickly turned into grief and lamentation.
The tyrant[Saladin] at once ordered the engines to be constructed and balistas to be put up. He likewise ordered olive branches and branches of other trees to be collected and piled between the city and the engines. That evening he ordered the army to take up arms and the engineers to proceed with their iron tools, so that before the Christians could do anything about it, they would all be prepared at the foot of the walls. The cruelest of tyrants also arrayed up to ten thousand armed knights with bows and lances on horseback, so that if the men of the city attempted a foray they would be blocked. He stationed another ten thousand or more men armed to the teeth with bows for shooting arrows, under cover of shields and targets. He kept the rest with himself and his lieutenants around the engines.
When everything was arranged in this fashion, at daybreak they began to break down the comer of the tower and to attack all around the walls. The archers began shooting arrows and those who were at the engines began to fire rocks in earnest.
The men of the city expected nothing of the sort and left the city walls without guard. Tired and worn out, they slept until morning, for unless the Lord watch the city, he labors in vain who guards it. When the sun had risen, those who were sleep ing in the towers were startled by the noise of the barbarians. When they saw these things they were terrified and overcome with fear. Like madmen they yelled out through the city: "Hurry, men of Jerusalem! Hasten! Help! The walls have already been breached! The foreigners are entering!" Aroused, they hastened through
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