Previous First Next
Geoffrey de Vinsauf
Itinerary of Richard I and others to the Holy Land
On the same Sunday, next preceding the feast of St. Peter ad vincula, being the same day on which King Richard came with his army to Acre, Saladin advanced with his troops to assault Joppa. On the Monday following they began to attack the castle; but the citizens issuing forth into the suburbs, resisted them the whole day, and prevented them from approaching the town. Tuesday and Wednesday also passed away in the same manner; nor was it till Thursday, that the Turks, ashamed of being baffled by so few, made a great exertion, and formed the siege at once. By the command of Saladin, four powerful petrariǽ were erected, and two mangonels of great efficiency for casting missiles. The besieged were about 5,000 in number, and they now began to be afflicted at their desperate condition, and to call out upon the Lord to save them. They also turned their thoughts towards the king of England, and to wish that he had not gone to Acre, leaving them there to be destroyed. Meanwhile, the Turks pressed on the siege; and it would have melted any one to tears to have
seen the distracted state of the townspeople, who offered the bravest resistance, though they were overwhelmed with a thousand cares at once in the defence of their city. The petrariǽ and mangonels played without intermission; though the latter instruments were worked the most successfully. At last, by the exertions of the Turks, the gate leading to Jerusalem was broken open on the Friday by the frequent strokes of their petrariǽ, and the wall on the right-hand side was shattered, about two poles in width. The conflict was then fierce, whilst the besieged resisted the entrance of the Turks, who at length, however, became so reinforced by numbers, that the Christians were driven back, and followed even as far as the citadel of the fortress. What a terrific slaughter then took place! The Turks put to death without mercy all those whom they found in the houses sick and lying in their beds. Some of our people fled down to the seashore and escaped; whilst the enemy plundered every thing; and knocking out the heads of the casks which they found in the houses, let the wine run about the streets. Some of them, however, attacked the principal tower of the fortress; and others pursued those who fled down to the seaside. Numbers of the hindmost were cut off; and Alberic of Rheims, whose duty it was to defend the town, fled on board ship to escape being slain; but his companions reproaching him for his cowardice, recalled him to a sense of duty, and absolutely forced him into one of the towers; where, seeing nothing but danger on every side surrounding him, he exclaimed, "Here then we shall devote our lives to God’s service;" for it was the only thing that remained for him to do. The Turks now fiercely assaulted the tower, and the arrows flew like hail, so as to darken the sky: the besieged knew not which part first to defend, and so the attack lasted the whole day; and the besieged would certainly have at length yielded to its violence, if by God’s good pleasure the newly-elected patriarch had not been present: and he proved himself, at that moment, a man whom no fear of death could vanquish, nor any danger terrify. This man, instigated by the necessity of the case, proposed to Saladin and his brother to grant them a respite from the attack until the next day, on condition, that if before three o’clock, they should not receive assistance, each of those who were in the tower, should pay Saladin ten bezants of gold, every woman five, and every child three
bezants, in return for the respite which he had granted them; and that the patriarch, with others of the nobles, should be given up to Saladin to be kept in chains as hostages until the hour agreed on should arrive. Saladin assented; and when the guarantee was completed for observing the conditions of the truce, the following hostages were given over to Saladin: the patriarch, Alberic of Rheims, Theobald of Trèves, Augustin of London, Osbert Waldin, and Henry de St. John, besides others, whose names we do not remember, all of whom were carried off prisoners to Damascus; for the besieged had now conceived hopes of obtaining succour from the king, for which, indeed, they had already sent, the moment they first saw Saladin approaching.
Chapter XIV. - How King Richard, though on the point of embarking to return home, and refused aid by the French, no sooner heard of the message from Joppa, than he proceeded thither immediately by sea, having first sent on his troops by land.
Meanwhile, King Richard was busily engaged in preparing to leave Acre for his own country, and his ships were all but ready: he had also obtained consent and a blessing from the Templars and Hospitallers, and had sent forward seven of his galleys, with troops to dislodge the enemy from Baruth, by which he would pass; and the expedition had succeeded, for the enemy fled in alarm. The king was in big tent, talking with his officers about embarking for their homes on the morrow, when, lo! the
Previous First Next
* * *