Previous First Next
Geoffrey de Vinsauf
Itinerary of Richard I and others to the Holy Land
thither, we have learnt neither by writing nor by hearsay. The river which flows by the city is named Belus, and although its bed is narrow, and not deep, Solinus has rendered it celebrated by numbering it amongst the wonders of the world, as being enriched with glassy sand. For there was a certain sandy foss, the sand of which supplied materials for making glass; these, if taken out, were altogether useless; but, if let in, from the secret virtue of the place assumed a glassy nature. Not far from the river is pointed out a low rock near the city, at which it is said that the three divisions of the world, Asia, Europe, and Africa meet; and though it contains separately the other parts of the world, the place itself, dependent on none, is distinct from and independent of all three. Mount Carmel rises aloft on the southern side of the city, where Elijah the Tishbite is known to have had an habitation of modest cost, as his cave still testifies; but although we are often wont in a description to wander away to the pleasant parts of the circuit, we must at present overlook the attractions of the surrounding places, while we turn our attention to the course of the war.
Chapter XXXIII. - How the people of the city were reduced to such starvation that they offered to surrender; the Sultan comes to their assistance with fifty galleys, they capture and put to flight our galleys.
When therefore our men had encompassed Acre on all sides with a blockade, the townspeople, having consumed their provisions, began to be severely pressed by famine, so that they offered to surrender the city on condition that they should be allowed to depart, with their property, unmolested. These conditions did not satisfy the chiefs, who had determined, either to compel them by extreme necessity to submit to their will, or to gain, by every means in their power, the glory of storming the city. But whilst they were slowly negotiating for the surrender of the city, the sultan had fully equipped at Alexandria fifty galleys, with men, provisions, and arms, which he sent to succour Acre. These arrived on All Saints’ Eve, and when they were seen at a distance, vague rumours distracted the people with various forebodings. Some report that the
enemy are at hand; others that subsidies are come for the Christians. While they were still doubting, the enemy threw themselves into the city, and even carried with them, by force, one of our ships laden with provisions, which they found in the port; and being long sustained with those provisions, pressed upon us with the greater courage. Not First with plundering our ship of burden, they put to death without mercy the crew and every one else they had found therein, and hung them round the walls on the day of All Saints. Moreover, the galleys of the enemy kept watch over both the exit and entrance of the port of the city, that no one dared to come to our assistance for fear of falling into their hands. And on the morrow of the Nativity of our Lord, one of our galleys deeming the fleet an arrival of Christians, went for the purpose of making inquiries after our succours, incautiously to meet this Babylonian fleet as it approached, and with it a smaller vessel, called a galleon; this taking the lead, owing to its lightness, fell suddenly into the midst of the enemy, instead of meeting with friends as was supposed. The voice of some who answered, and the suspicious silence of others, undeceived them; upon which the terrified sailors cast themselves into the sea, and escaped, by means of swimming, according as each was able. Thus then occupying that part of the sea, and our galleys which were by far the least numerous, having gone away secretly to Tyre, the enemy had free and open communication with the city by sea. At that time the Germans, making a large mill for the grinding of corn, turned by horses, while the millstones grated as they were drawn round, the Turks, gazing with great earnestness at the mill at work, thought that it was some instrument for their destruction, or for storming their city; for never before had a mill of that description been seen in that land.
Chapter XXXIV. - Of the sea-fight between the fleet of the marquis and our men and that of the enemy, and how we gained the victory.
At a season of calm, when Easter was close at hand, the marquis at our request returned from Tyre with a large equipment and supplies of men, arms, and provisions. For by the provident care of the chiefs, the king
and marquis were pacified on the pretext that the marquis should have possession of Tyre, Berytus, and Sidon, and on condition that he should be faithful and strenuous for the interests of the king and his kingdom. But rash ambition always turns to evil the avaricious and iniquitous heart; for inflamed with the desire of obtaining the kingdom, he broke the faith he had pledged; and while to the outward eye he appeared a friend, within his breast he concealed the foe. At length the townspeople liked not their
Previous First Next
* * *