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Richard the Lion-Hearted Conquers Cyprus at 1191
translated by James Brundage
page 2


scheme with peaceful words) called upon the Queens [Richard's younger sister, Queen Joanna of Sicily, and his fiancee Joanna of Navarre] to come in safety. He alleged that they might count on him, that they would be at liberty in every particular, that there would be no molestation of their people, and that there would be no danger to fear. They declined to come, but again, the next day, the Emperor, on the pretext of doing them honor, sent welcoming gifts to them: bread, goat meat, and the best wine of the Cypriot grapes, said to be unlike that of any other nation. On the third day, a Sunday, he tried to get around the Queens with blandishments and to lead them astray with his wiles. They were now in a difficult position and shifted from one alternative to the other. They were worried lest, if they yielded to the Emperor's persuasions, they might be made captive, while, if they steadfastly refused to accede to him, they feared that he might do them violence.... While they were conferring and speaking sadly with one another that Sunday, the lookouts all at once spied two ships bearing directly toward them, looking like waving spikes among the frothy tips of the curling waves. While the Queens and those with them were still arguing about this unverified news, they caught sight of still more ships following the first ones. There was no delay. The naval force was followed by a multitude of ships and they were heading directly for the port. Discussing this royal fleet they were jubilant with great glee, in proportion as they bad previously been desperate and despairing. Now, indeed, after many unwelcome labors, by God's providence, King Richard was brought to the Island of Cyp. On the feast of St. John before the Latin Gate [May 6] King Richard and his whole army arrived in the port of Limassol. The King, however, remained on board ship. When the King learned of the hardships of the shipwrecked men, of the stealing from them, and about the other things which had meanwhile befallen them, he was deeply grieved. The next day, a Monday, he sent two knights as emissaries to the Emperor and peacefully asked him and his men to make voluntary satisfaction for the injuries which had been done and also to restore in full the goods stolen from the shipwrecked men. The Emperor was quite indignant at this command, as if the greatest injury had been done to him. He heaped harsh words upon the King's emissaries and said scornfully to them: "Tut, tut, my lords" He claimed that the English King was as nothing to him and, glorying mightily in his usurped imperial excellence, he believed that whatever he wished to do was quite all right. When the ambassadors reported his reply to the King, he was displeased with the Emperor's arrogance and with his rude reply, as well as with the treatment of his men. The King at once cried out and ordered all his men: "Arm yourselves!" They obeyed immediately. The King armed himself and set off with all his men in the skiffs of the transport ships to land in the port. The Emperor with many forces resisted the landing parties. All sorts of obstacles and bars and every sort of impediment that could be found in the town were placed at each of the entrances to the port to ward off the attackers. They collected the very doors and windows, which they ripped from houses, together with jars and posts, stools and stair-steps, and long timbers which they laid down, along with bucklers and shields, old galleys as well as boats which had been deserted and left to rot, and all kinds of utensils. What else? Every kind of portable wood or stone that could be found in Limassol was gathered by the Cypriots on the shore to keep off the landing crews. The Emperor, moreover, armed himself and with his people patrolled the shore. The Emperor's men were ever so nicely decked out! They were carefully armed and clad in expensive, multicolored costumes, with warlike steeds which frothed and chewed at their bridles and with very beautiful mules. They came out with innumerable streamers and precious golden banners waving. They were prepared for the fight, either to hold off the attackers for a long while or else to draw out the fight courageously. They sought to frighten away our men, who were hurrying to the attack, with terrible sounding shouts, like dogs baying. The shouting affected us like dogs and the enemy hastened to attempt the impossible. They had on shore some ballistas and archers; also five galleys, sufficiently well armed and full of young men experienced in naval fighting. It seemed an unequal combat to many of our men, for they were setting out, rowing themselves, in a very few fragile skiffs to occupy a port full of men. Furthermore, they were deprived of many men who were exceedingly fatigued from the continual tossing of the sea. Also, the infantry were fully weighed down with their own weapons. The natives, on the other hand, were in their own homeland and were acting entirely of their own free will. When our men advanced one by one into the skiffs, the nearer ones at first stood up to fight the balistarii and archers who were attacking them in the boats. Our balistarii turned on them and during an attack in which the two sides pelted one another with rocks many of the Cypriots were killed. The rest retreated, since they could not bear up under the weight of the fighting. The arrows were flying thick and fast and three or four of the men who were retreating flung themselves to death in the waves in order to escape from the arrows. As they fled eagerly to the fort, their men were running into each other. When our men had taken their galleys and had landed their own boats, balistarii and the archers, emboldened by their first success, hurled torrents of javelins at those whom they saw trying to escape from the beach. Without delay, the Cypriots, who could not bear up under the brunt of our attack, gave up the site and retreated to firmer ground. Both our balistarii and theirs were using arrows and javelins continuously. The sky seemed clouded over by them and the serenity of the day was darkened by the showers of javelins. The city boiled with a throng of men and the whole area was occupied by a multitude of balistarii who were working persistently. Victory hung in the balance and wavered as to which party it would favor. All of our men gave the foe tit for tat, but they were making no progress, while the King deliberated for a bit over sending our brave men out of the skiff s and on to the shore. Then, he leaped first from his barge into the sea and bravely set upon the Cypriots. Our other men imitated his steadfast attitude. Henceforth they accompanied the King and shot arrows at those who were resisting, in order to make the Cypriots take flight. As soon as our people hed in, their mangled battle lines gave up. There could be seen the flying rain of spears, the Greeks,

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