The Capture of Jerusalem by Saladin, 1187
translated by James Brundage
the city as bravely as they could, but they were power less to repulse the Damascenes from the walls, either with spears, lances, arrows, stones, or with molten lead and bronze.
The Turks unceasingly hurled rocks forcefully against the ramparts. Between the walls and the outer defenses they threw rocks and the socalled Greek fire, which bums wood, stone, and whatever it touches. Everywhere the archers shot arrows without measure and without ceasing, while the others were boldly smashing the walls.
The men of Jerusalem, meanwhile, were taking counsel. They decided that everyone, with such horses and arms as could be mustered, should leave the city and march steadily through the gate which leads to Jehosephat. Thus, if God allowed it, they would push the enemy back a bit from the walls. They were foiled, however, by the Turkish horsemen and were woefully defeated….
The Chaldeans [Saladin and his army] fought the battle fiercely for a few days and triumphed. The Christians were failing so by this time that scarcely twenty or thirty men appeared to defend the city walls. No man could be found in the whole city who was brave enough to dare keep watch at the defences for a night, even for a fee of a hundred besants .With my own ears I heard the voice of a public crier between the great wall and the outer works proclaiming (on behalf of the lord Patriarch and the other great men of the city) that if fifty strong and brave sergeants could be found who would take up arms voluntarily and keep guard during the night over the comer which had already been destroyed, they would receive five thousand besants. They were not found....
Meanwhile, they sent legates to the King of Syria, begging him to temper his anger toward them and accept them as allies, as he had done for others. He refused and is reported to have given this reply: "I have frequently heard from our wise men, the fakih,[from al-Fakih - a wise man] that Jerusalem cannot be cleansed, save by Christian blood, and I wish to take counsel with them on this point." Thus, uncertain, they returned. They sent others, Balian and Ranier of Naples"' and Thomas Patrick, offering a hundred thousand besants. Saladin would not receive them and, their hopes shattered, they returned. They sent them back again with others, demanding that Saladin himself say what kind of agreement he wanted. If possible they would comply; if not, they would hold out to the death.
Saladin had taken counsel and laid down these ransom terms for the inhabitants of Jerusalem: each male, ten years old and over, was to pay ten besants for his ransom; females, five besants; boys, seven years old and under, one. Those who wished would be freed on these terms and could leave securely with their possessions. The inhabitants of Jerusalem who would not accept these terms, or those who did not have ten besants, were to become booty, to be slain by the army's swords. This agreement pleased the lord Patriarch and the others who had money ....
On Friday, October 2, this agreement was read out through the streets of Jerusalem, so that everyone might within forty days provide for himself and pay to Saladin the tribute as aforesaid for his freedom. When they heard these arrangements, the crowds throughout the city wailed in sorrowful tones: "Woe, woe to us miserable people! We have no gold! What are we to do? . . ." Who would ever have thought that such wickedness would be perpetrated by Christians? .
But, alas, by the hands of wicked Christians Jerusalem was turned over to the wicked. The gates were closed and guards were posted. The fakihs and kadis, [judges] the ministers of the wicked error, who are considered bishops and priests by the Saracens came for prayer and religious purposes first to the Temple of the Lord, which they call Beithhalla and in which they have great faith for salvation. They believed they were cleansing it and with unclean and horrible bellows they defiled the Temple by shouting with polluted lips the Muslim precept: "Allahu akbar! Allahu akbar! . . ." [God is Great]
Our people held the city of Jerusalem for some eighty-nine years. . . . Within a short time, Saladin had conquered almost the whole Kingdom of Jerusalem. He exalted the grandeur of Mohammed's law and showed that, in the event, its might exceeded that of the Christian religion.
This text is part of the Internet Medieval Source Book.
* * *