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Geoffrey de Vinsauf
Itinerary of Richard I and others to the Holy Land
page. 8

 

patriarch and prince, with the common consent of the citizens, promised the tyrant to surrender, if they should not within a given period receive the assistance which they expected. Inconsolable would have been the grief of all Christ’s followers, if a city so renowned, and honoured by the first origin of the Christian name, had again become subject to the impure heathen, whom, after a long and dreadful chance of war, our victorious troops had formerly expelled. But whence are the expected reinforcements to come? and when or how shall they come? There is no road open for them by land, and the sea is blockaded by their enemies. The ships of the Christians abstain from approaching, for fear of falling among the galleys of the unbelievers, which they see lying in wait for them. But what the Lord has resolved to save, will not be allowed to perish. Behold, the hopedfor troops arrive! the expected ones are coming! Lo! William, the illustrious king of Sicily, sends the first auxiliaries to the Holy Land, consisting of two earls, five hundred knights, and fifty galleys!

Chapter XIV. - How William, king of Sicily, sends Margaritus with fifty galleys and five hundred knights to the assistance of the Holy Land.

To whom else, then, can we give the glory of having saved Antioch, Tripoli, and Tyre, but to Him who preserved from famine and the sword the inhabitants of these cities secure in his strength? At the head of the royal fleet was Margaritus, a very brave man, who, proceeding in advance with the galleys, repressed piratical attempts; and having ascertained that the coast was clear, encouraged the others to follow him. Keeping in check the distant islands, and happily escaping all the dangers of the sea, he had gained such credit by his numerous victories, that he was called the king of the sea, and by some a second Neptune. Already Tripoli appeared in sight to his sailors: the citizens, on the other hand, beheld in the distance his spreading sails. Though they come the heralds of safety, yet fear, that worst prognosticator at critical moments, raises apprehensions. Without delay they man their walls and mount the bulwarks, uncertain, however, whether to offer a surrender or to try the chance of battle. But when the ships arrive near, and the ensigns of the Cross and other emblems of the Christian religion are beheld on their lofty sterns, a loud shout is raised; the waves echo the sound of their mutual congratulations; the shore is covered with the crowds who flock to meet them, and joy unspeakable fills the breasts of all. Among others, Hervy of Dantzic, especially distinguished by the celebrity of his deeds, contributes his veteran wisdom to the defence of that land; and so in a short time, many a valiant band flocked thither, and the coast was preserved front the power of the enemy.

Chapter XV. - Saladin takes the town Erathrum, and Mount Royal is surrendered to him after a siege of two years, in exchange for Remfrid de Tours, and Girard, the master of the Temple. There is a castle called Erathrum, where once stood the city of Petras. It is still a metropolitan see, and the prelate of it, retaining his ancient title, is still called the archbishop of Petras. This castle, lying in the innermost parts of the kingdom, was long held in siege by the admirals of the sultan. If it were not for famine, which conquers all places however secure, this fortress would be impregnable. There is also a castle called Mount Royal, distant about twenty leagues from the aforesaid city, lying further towards Egypt. Against this also the sultan had sent his admirals at the beginning of the war; trusting to reduce it by famine, though he could not by arms. They did not, therefore, erect machines or try to assault it; for it would be ridiculous to try to scale heaven and to carry by storm a place which could not be approached. The siege was protracted two years, when our people began to feel want, and they endured all the horrors which the Spaniards are said in ancient times to have suffered at Saguntum or the Romans at Perusium; but they still kept up their courage, nor did they decline to eat food at which man’s usual habits and nature revolt. Fatherly affection renounces its rights; love, too, heeds no longer what it had once delighted in; the father rejects his son, the son his decrepit parents, and the husband his newly-married bride. They are driven out weeping from the walls and exposed without protection to the enemy, that the remaining stock of food may the longer maintain the fighting men. At last, worn out and half dead with hunger, they enter into terms of capitulation, but yet such as honour would sanction; for they obtained a free passage for themselves and liberty for their lord Remfrid of Tours who had been taken prisoner. By a similar fortune, Gerard do Riddeford, master of the Temple, was also released on the surrender of certain fortresses; and the father of the marquis obtained his liberty in exchange for some of the Mahomedan captives.

Chapter XVI. - How Saladin, extolling the law of Mahomet, is reproved by a jester. Saladin by these means had got possession of nearly all the kingdom,

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