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Geoffrey de Vinsauf
Itinerary of Richard I and others to the Holy Land
or for what they came. When they learnt the truth, they feared not their approach, and treated their intentions with derision. The men of Pisa, who chose to proceed by sea, as shorter and easier, approached Acre in due order in their ships, and bravely occupied the shore; where they had no sooner secured a station, than they formed the siege on the side towards the sea with equal courage and perseverance. The king, with the rest of his army, fixed his tents on a neighbouring hill commonly called Mount Turon, from which, by the eminence of the ground, he overlooked the approach both by sea and land. This hill was higher on the eastern side of the city; and, as it allowed the eye to rove freely round, it gave a prospect over the plain on all sides, far and wide.
Chapter XXVII. - The Christians assault the city, but are attacked by Saladin in the rear, and whilst they are thus between two enemies, they are encouraged by receiving a reinforcement of 12,000 northern warriors.
On the third day after their arrival the Christians made an assault upon the town; and deeming it tedious to await the effect of engines for throwing stones, together with other machines, they trusted to the defence of their shields alone, and carried scaling-ladders to mount the walls. That day would have put a happy termination to the toil of so many days, if the malice of the ancient enemy, and the arrival of false information, had not frustrated their achievement when it was almost completed; for it was reported that Saladin was at hand, and our men returned with speed to the camp; but when they perceived that it was only a small body that had come in advance, they expressed indignation rather than complaint that the victory had been snatched from them. They were indeed few that had come, but fear had reported that an innumerable multitude was at hand: for it is not unusual, that things should be magnified through terror. The sultan, at this time, was besieging the castle of Belfort; and when he heard what was going on, he marched in haste with a large army to Acre. Our men, unequal to cope with him, kept themselves within the limits before described. The Turks assailed them perseveringly, both morning and evening, trying every means to penetrate to the hill-top; and thus, those who came to besiege others, were now besieged themselves. In this position, then, were our men, when the Morning Star visited them from on high; for behold! fifty ships, such as are commonly called coggs, having twelve thousand armed men, on board, are seen approaching, - a grateful sight to our men, on account of the strait which they were in. Grateful is that which comes when prayed for; more grateful still is that which comes contrary to our hope; but grateful beyond all is that which comes to aid us in the last necessity: yet ofttimes we suspend our belief concerning a thing we so much long for, and cannot credit what we too much desire. Our army, from the top of the hill, see the reinforcements coming, and dare not hope for an event so joyful; and the new comers, also, look upon the camp as an object of suspicion. When, however, they came nearer and saw the ensigns of the Christian faith, a shout is raised on both sides, - their joyful feelings find vent in tears: they eagerly flock together and leap into the waves to go and meet them. O happy fleet, which, sailing from the Northern Ocean, and encountering a voyage never before tried, passed over so many seas, so many coasts, so many dangers, and came from Europe, along the shores of Africa, to succour Asia in her distress. The crews of these ships were Danes and Frisons, men inured to labour by the rigours of the north, and having three qualities good in war - large limbs, invincible minds, and devout fervour for the faith. They had sailed from their country, and the kindly breeze had wafted them on: the waves, as well as winds, were benignant, such as give delight to sailors, and so the merciful Lord brought his champions safe and uninjured through so many dangers. But the inhabitants of the lands by which these vessels sailed, were excited when they saw the fleet, and, embarking on ship-board, both Englishmen and Flemings followed them in haste. Nor must I pass in
silence a gallant action which was performed by them as they passed: they courageously attacked a city called Silvia, on the sea-coast of Spain, and having quickly made themselves masters of it, and slain the Gentile inhabitants, they delivered the city up to the Christians, appointed there a bishop, and proceeded victorious on their voyage. To Acre, then, they came; and having pitched their camp between the city and Mount Turon, they turned their invincible prowess to the destruction of the enemy, whom they assailed, not by frequent skirmishes, but by one continued conflict; - for their prodigal valour and reckless fury exposed them to so many dangers that afterwards, when the city was taken, hardly a hundred men remained alive out of the twelve thousand.
Chapter XXVIII. - Of the arrival of James d’Avennes: the siege of the city is pressed with greater vigour: the fiction of Saladin.
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