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|Next: Fourth Crusade|
|Date: 11 May 1189-2 September 1192|
|Place: Levant and Anatolia|
|Outcome: Crusader victory|
Richard I of England
The Third Crusade was a military expedition undertaken by the Christian rulers of Western Europe from 1189 to 1192 with the objective of reconquering Jerusalem from the Ayyubid Sultanate. The crusade was nicknamed the "Crusade of Kings", as its leaders included the renowned King of England Richard the Lionheart, King of France Philip Augustus, and Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa. These rulers met their match in the Egyptian sultan Saladin, who fought them to a draw at the Battle of Arsuf and ultimately negotiated a peace with them in late 1192. The peace resulted in a three-year truce, restored Crusader control over Acre, Jaffa, and other major port cities, recognized the continued Muslim control of Jerusalem, provided for the safety of unarmed pilgrims to holy sites in the Levant, and led to the establishment of the Crusader Kingdom of Cyprus.
The First Crusade had come to a climactic end with the capture of Jerusalem in 1099. Most Christian believers felt that their mission had been accomplished, but their leaders knew that without control of the hinterland, the Holy City was vulnerable. Fighting continued and, as time went on, it grew harder to see how the Christian presence in the Middle East was to be maintained. To make matters worse, a new generation of energetic Muslim leaders, like the Emir of Syria Nur ad-Din and Saladin, were coming to the fore.
Nur ad-Din had worked hard to unite Islam after the collapse of the Second Crusade, inspiring his followers with a cold-blooded determination to drive out the infidels. As far as Syria went, he succeeded. In 1157, he had confined the Knights Hospitallers to their fortress and destroyed the army that marched out from Jerusalem to relieve them. In 1162, he captured Reynald de Chatillon, Prince of Antioch (he was to hold him prisoner for 16 years).
Saladin was ultimately Nur ad-Din's rival (the two had came close to open war), and shared Nur ad-Din's overriding aims. Saladin was also a politician of rare talent and a general of genius.
An anthology of ancient Bedouin poetry by the 9th century Arab poet, Abu Tammam, records the words: "The sword is truer than what is told in books. In its edge is the separation between truth and falsehood." One man who carried this volume wherever he went was Salah al-Din, famous as a warrior yet a reader and thinker too. Born in Tikrit, Iraq of Kurdish ancestry, he had risen in the service of Egypt's Fatimid caliphs; by 1131 he had set himself up as sultan, founding his own dynasty, the Ayyubids. The following years saw him extending that power as he cut a swathe through the crusader states, finally taking Jerusalem in 1187, but he always saw himself as fighting in the service of the truth.
Kings in conflict
An unusual figure by any standard, "Saladin" was a leader of extraordinary magnetism: he impressed his enemies as much as he inspired his followers. The Third Crusade, declared within a few weeks of Saladin's recapture of Jerusalem, is often referred to as the "Crusade of Kings"; it is so-called because it was led by kings Richard the Lionheart of England, Philip II of France, and Frederick I of Germany. Frederick I set off in 1188, months before his fellow monarchs, and drowned while corssing a river in Anatolia en route to the Holy Land. His successor, Leopold V of Austria, was unable to take charge effectively in the ensuing panic and a huge German army was practically wiped out. Leopold made it through, but only with a few thousand troops he could do little to help the crusader king, Guy of Jerusalem, who was bogged down in a stalemate with Saladin outside Acre.
The port city was important to the Christians, who could not anticipate holding on to Jerusalem (in the event of their retaking it) without some safe of way of bringing in supplies. Not until 1191 did Philip and Richard arrive: the reinforcements they brought with them were decisive and Acre was taken.
Relations between Richard and Saladin were amicable at first but the situation deteriorated when - apparently certain that the Saracen leader was tricking him - the English king had 2,700 Muslim prisoners killed. Saladin reciprocated with mass executions of his Christian prisoners. But there was also rancor within the Christian camp. Unable to agree with Richard over how to proceed next, Leopold returned home; while Philip II also had to leave the field following reports of unrest back in France.
The Road to Arsuf
This left Richard alone at the head of the Third Crusade. He was undaunted, planning his mission in great detail. On 22 August 1191, he left Acre, marching his army south to where they could find food and water. Progress was slow; they were harried by Saladin's mounted archers, but Richard's bowmen maintained their own hail of arrows to keep the attackers at bay.
To their right, the cavalry were able to make progress relatively safely, while up ahead the baggage train lurched along, shielded by both the infantry and horses. Meanwhile, their ships tracked them down the coast to fend off any potential threat from the seaward side. Under Richard's leadership, his men remained calm as they inched along. The king's aims, in fact, went further than keeping his army intact: he hoped that his apparently beleaguered situation would tempt the enemy into a full-scale charge. On 7 September, at Arsuf, north of Jaffa, the pressure from Saladin's forces became so unrelentingly intense that the Christian Knights Hospitaller could tolerate no more and, in their mounting frustration, broke first. Even now Richard remained in control of the situation, his generalship turning certain defeat into triumph - albeit not the definitive victory he had desired. The result was inconclusive. Saladin and his army of Saracens had suffered a disastrous setback; Richard the Lionheart's reputation had been boosted, though it was difficult to see any tangible benefits from his victory. He himself was recalled to England soon after, having failed to win back the holy city of Jerusalem from the Saracnes.
On 2 September 1192, King Richard and Saladin finalized a peace settlement with the Treaty of Jaffa, which granted Muslim control over Jerusalem but allowed unarmed Christian merchants and pilgrims to visit the city. Richard's conquest of Cyprus from the Byzantines during his voyage to the Levant was confirmed, with the island becoming a puppet kingdom of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. In addition, much of the Syrian coast was reconquered by the Crusaders.