Part 9: Episode 09: Acre - The Poor DistrictThe following is a summary of the events leading up to and following the Siege of Acre. If you skip this bit of reading, you won't miss out on anything; I'm just giving a bit of information on what was going on around this point in history. Most of it is off the top of my head with a little Wikipedia memory-jogging for the numbers/years, so let me know if something is wrong
In 1169, the Fatimid Caliphate that held Egypt was crushed by the Zengid Dynasty of the Seljuk Empire. The Zengid general who led these forces, Shirkuh, was left in charge of the newly conquered territory. Mere weeks after taking Egypt, Shirkuh died (not too long afterward, his replacement died of indigestion. Seriously). Saladin, the general's nephew, then took command. Now in a position of power, he declared himself independent from the Seljuks, and before anything could be done in turn, the head of the Zengid Dynasty, Nur ad-Din, died due to poisoning. His teenage son was the next in line of the Dynasty, and though Saladin pledged himself to be the young heir's vassal, he eventually married Nur ad-Din's widow and absorbed more territory so that he could unify Syria and Egypt.
Across the next two decades, Saladin conquered the splintered regions that once were a part of the Great Seljuk Empire. By the late 1180s, the Crusader Kingdom was completely surrounded by a unified Muslim force.
In 1187, the bulk of the Crusader forces, led by Guy of Lusignan, were heavily saturated around a base of operations known as La Sephorie (today known as Tzippori, Sepphoris, Dioceserea, and Saffuriya). Saladin wanted to draw the main forces away, and, in an attempt to do so, in the Summer of 1187 he laid siege to the city of Tiberias, which lied just east of Acre. The Crusader war council met, and most were in favor of rushing out to aid Tiberias. Oddly enough, Raymond of Tripoli, who actually ruled over Tiberias, was against this move. He saw it as a ploy by Saladin to expose their forces. Given the potential repercussions, he said he was willing to lose Tiberias, for the good of the Kingdom. Guy wasn't swayed, and the council in general pushed Raymond's opinion aside, calling him a coward. With that, King Guy led his army toward Tiberias, right in to Saladin's trap.
Under constant harassment by Saladin's skirmishers, the Crusaders were left on edge. Six miles from La Sephorie, they reached Turan, the last major water source. The following nine miles were dry until Tiberias. With his men already exhausted, Guy forged ahead. Soon thereafter, Saladin's army met with the Crusaders, who were already weathered from the summer heat. At the same time, Saladin sent two wings of his army around the Crusaders, claiming Turin at the rear. With no water source or means of retreat, the Crusaders were trapped.
After a solid day of fighting, the Crusaders were left trapped on a plateau, and forced to stay there through the night, without supplies or water, and completely surrounded by the Muslim opposition. In the morning, Saladin's forces set fire to the ground surrounding the plateau, combining the suffocating smoke with a constant volley of arrows. Multiple desperate charges were made by Guy's army to break through, but they were crushed every time. The force of 20,000 ended up with estimates ranging up to 90% dead, with a good chunk of the remainder captured (Guy among the prisoners). This one-sided victory became known as The Battle of Hattin. If you've ever seen Kingdom of Heaven, Hattin's aftermath is shown nearing the final siege.
With that, the Crusaders' backs were broken, and Saladin mowed through the Holy Land, securing all the territories, except for Tyre, Antioch, and Tripoli due to their defensive fortifications. This brought about the call to arms in Europe to kick-start the Third Crusade.
The Siege of Acre (1189-1191. Yes, two years) -
Acre was the site of the first major confrontation in the Third Crusade. Conrad of Montferrat, who oversaw Tyre, was eventually approached by Saladin for negotiations, since the Saracens had been unable to capture the location. Saladin offered many things in return for occupation of Tyre, one of which being Guy of Lusignan, who Conrad didn't get along with too well (to put it mildly). Conrad was rather quick to reject the offers outright, but Saladin just said "ehh, screw it" and let Guy go free. Guy approach Tyre and requested entry, but Conrad wouldn't let him in. At that point, Guy merely set up camp outside of Tyre and waited for the surge of crusaders from Europe to arrive. Guy recruited a number of these crusaders, but found that Conrad wouldn't budge. In need of a base of operations, he trekked a short ways south along the coast, to Acre.
Acre's occupying Saracen force had twice the headcount of Guy's army. He attempted a direct strike, but was easily stopped. With the aid of a Sicilian ship blockade offshore of Acre, Guy dug in like a tick to wait things out. Louis of Thuringia arrived with the surge and swung by Tyre to talk with Conrad. Conrad was eventually talked in to lending Guy some manpower to help his siege. Saladin caught wind of this, and, in the fall of 1189, swept in to strike Guy's forces with a support army from outside the Acre garrison, leaving Guy sandwiched on two fronts. In spite of constant pressure from the Saracen forces, Guy refused to budge from his position.
Soon, word arrived that the Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick Barbarossa, was arriving to join in the crusades. Word of Barbarossa's arrival caused a morale boost for the Crusaders, and further unease for Saladin. In response, he further reinforced the army that was laying siege to Guy's forces.
The naval struggle flip-flopped regularly from side to side, allowing both sides to receive intermittent supply of food and water. In spite of this, and increased manpower, conditions in the Crusader camp grew worse and worse. Disease, limited clean water, lack of food, and decreasing morale left things looking rather bleak. Adding to it, Guy's wife ended up dying due to malaria; this is significant because Guy married Queen Sibylla as a marriage of convenience, so he could ascend to the throne. The topic of succession to the throne was one of the main reasons that Conrad hated him so, and this resulted in further dissent among the ranks. The winter of 1190-1191 led to even more trouble for Guy's forces, as the weather in the sea ended up cutting off his supplies and reinforcements almost entirely.
The Saracens within Acre and the Crusaders both saw fresh supplies and reinforcements in early 1191, and by the summer, King Richard and his army arrived to lend aid. Richard took control of the siege, and began battering Acre's walls. By early July, a particularly large breach was formed, and a week later, the Saracens within the Garrison finally surrendered.
The two sides negotiated prisoner exchanges, and Richard laid out a very specific list of nobles he wanted among the prisoners. The Saracens presented a group of Crusade prisoners, but the specified nobles weren't among them. Enraged by this, Richard ordered to have 2,200 Saracen prisoners decapitated. Saladin did the same to his captives in turn. Talks broke off not long after this, and in late August, Richard set out southward to capture Jaffa. Saladin pursued him, and the forces collided on September 7th, 1191, at Arsuf. But that comes later!
Episode 09: Acre - The Poor District
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- I put an asterisk by one of the Despot's lines. It sounds like "hold oh close", which I mentally interpreted as another way of saying "stay oh so close" or "show patience", essentially. It fits with the rest of the message, so I left like that.
It actually sounds like the Despot is saying "Hold hope close!" to me.
- Small typo: in the conversation with the Rafiq, I noticed that instead of saying the abandoned market "merits" watching, I typed "warrants" watching. Just in case someone decides to call me on that. Didn't notice it until my HD versions were already on Blip.