The Crusade of Frederick Barbarossa:
Letters

To protect his own interest from the crusaders, the Byzantine emperor made an alliance with Saladin. This made the former a greater object of hatred than ever before. In the first crusade, Alexius had been suspected and detested; Manuel had been openly blamed for the failure of the second crusade. Now in the third, no means are too odious to be attributed to the emperor of the East. In a few years, the hatred accumulated for more than a century will vent itself in the sack of Constantinople.

SIBYLLA, EX­QUEEN OF JERUSALEM to FREDERICK I, 1189

Tageno in Freher, SS. 1, p. 410. Rцhricht, Regesta, 681. Latin.

To her venerable and most illustrious lord Frederic, by the grace of God, most victorious emperor of Rome and most friendly champion of the Holy Cross, Sibylla, formerly queen of Jerusalem, his most humble servant, greatly humiliated in the name of the Lord.
Spare the humble and conquer the proud. I, your most humble maid­servant ­ as I said above ­ am compelled to tell your highness and supreme excellency of the grief of the whole city and of the disgrace of the sacred Christians. For the emperor of Constantinople ­, the persecutor of the church of God, has entered into a conspiracy with Saladin, the seducer and destroyer of the holy Name, against the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
I tell this, which I am indeed not able to say without tears. Saladin, the aforesaid enemy of Christ, has sent to the Grecian emperor and the persecutor of the holy Name many presents very Pleasing to mortals, in order to make a compact and agreement. And for the slaughter and destruction of the Christians wishing to exalt the name of God, he sent 600 measures of poisoned grain and added a very large vase of wine, filled with such a malignant poison that when he wanted to try its efficacy he called a man who was killed by the odor alone when the vase was opened.
Along with the rest I am compelled to tell my lord another thing : the aforesaid emperor, in order to increase our misfortunes and magnify the destruction of the Christians, does not permit wheat or other necessary victuals to be carried from his country to Jerusalem. Wherefore, the wheat which might be sent by himself and others, is also shut up in the city of Constantinople.
However, at the end of this tearful epistle, I tell you truthfully that you ought to believe the most faithful bearer of this letter. For he himself witnesses what he has seen with his own eyes and heard with his own ears. This is the reason that with my head bowed to the ground and with bent knees, I ask your Magnificence that inasmuch as you are the head of the world and the wall of the house of Israel, you should never believe the Grecian emperor.

Source:

Trans in Dana C. Munro, "Letters of the Crusaders", Translations and Reprints from the Original Sources of European History, Vol 1:4, (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1896), 20-22


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© Paul Halsall December 1997
halsall@murray.fordham.edu

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