Third Crusade, 1189-1192

Crusade that followed Saladin's re-conquest of much of Palestine in 1187, which included the loss of Jerusalem. The Third Crusade was led by Frederick I Barbarossa of Germany, Philip II Augustus of France and Richard I the Lionheart of England, the three greatest monarchs of Western Europe at the time, all of whom were experienced military leaders, although Philip and Richard were already at odds before the crusade began. The crusaders travelled by two separate routes. Barbarossa marched overland from Germany, leaving in the spring of 1189. His march was one of the best organised of any crusade, and the Germans did not suffer crossing Anatolia (1190) as both the First and Second crusades had, but late in the summer Frederick was drowned, and after that the German force fell apart - only 1,000 of the 30,000 who had left Germany reached Acre late in 1190 where they joined the crusaders already engaged in the siege of Acre (1189-1191). Philip and Richard both travelled by sea, spending the winter of 1190-1 on Sicily, where their relationship suffered even more.

When spring came in 1191, Philip sailed straight to Acre to join the siege, while Richard stopped to conquer Cyprus, which gave him a secure base. He arrived at Acre on 8 June 1191, taking control of the siege, and only four days later (12 July), Acre surrendered, ending a two year siege. Soon after this, Philip returned to France, where he began to plot the conquest of Richard's French lands, breaking the convention that one did not attack the lands of a crusader. Meanwhile, Richard took control of the crusading army, now 50,000 strong, and in August began to march down the coast. Richard managed to create one of the best organised of crusader armies, and marched slowly down the coast, keeping his troops free, and denying Saladin any chance to pick away at the crusading army. Finally, Saladin set up an ambush (battle of Arsouf, 7 September 1191), but Richard had a pre-prepared plan to deal with this, and when it was put in place, the Turks were routed. Saladin never again risked a direct attack on Richard. The crusaders wintered at Ascalon, and in 1192 marched on Jerusalem. However, Saladin used a scorched earth strategy, and denied supplies of water and fodder Richard had to abandon his plans to besiege the city. However, he was able to negotiate a treaty with Saladin, which gave Christian pilgrims special rights in Jerusalem. Both Richard and Saladin emerged from the Third Crusade with enhanced reputations, Saladin as the best of the infidels, and a honourable enemy, Richard as one of the great generals, and as a heroic knight.

Saladin - Hero of Islam, Geoffrey Hindley. An invaluable, evenly-paced, full length biography of Saladin that spends as much time looking at his activities within the Islamic world as at his better known campaigns against the Crusader Kingdoms and the conquest of Jerusalem. A valuable look at the life of a leader who was respected on both sides of the religious divide in the Holy Land [read full review]
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Crusades Subject Index - Books on the Middle Ages

How to cite this article: Rickard, J. (24 March 2001), Third Crusade, 1189-1192, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/wars_crusade3rd.html
Last revised: 30 April 2007

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