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Friday, October 27, 2017

Rogue or Genius? A Reassessment of Reynald de Châtillon

 Reynald de Châtillon is often portrayed in history and historical fiction as a “rogue baron” — a violent, self-interested man who broke a truce with Salah-ad-Din  triggering the campaign that ended in disaster for Christian forces at Hattin in 1187.  In the Ridley Scott film “The Kingdom of Heaven” he is depicted even more negatively as a madman intent on making war. Yet the noted historian Bernard Hamilton has worked hard to rehabilitate Châtillon, arguing he was an intelligent strategist, who did much to save the Kingdom of Jerusalem rather than the reverse.  Dr. Schrader provides a short summary of Châtillon’s life in the Holy Land.

Châtillon was born in 1125, the younger son of a comparatively obscure French nobleman, the Sire of Donzy. William, Archbishop of Tyre, went so far as to describe his as “almost a common soldier,” but was undoubtedly going too far.  It is fair, however, to call him an adventurer, who came to the Holy Land during the Second Crusade. Apparently, while Louis VII was worrying (probably unnecessarily) about his wife committing adultery with her uncle Raymond of Poitiers, Châtillon was busy seducing Raymond’s wife, the heiress of the Principality of Antioch, Constance. No sooner had Raymond been killed in an ambush in 1153, than Constance took the obscure and still young (he was 28) Châtillon for her second husband. It worth noting that according to Tyre the King of Jerusalem had suggested a variety of other “suitable” bachelors — men of stature and proven ability in the crusader states — to Constance, but the lady chose the patently unsuitable Châtillon.  It was clearly a case of a widow exercising her right to choose her second husband, and so a “love” match — at least on Constance’s part.

It is hard for us, however, to imagine what she saw in him. Within a very short period of time his avarice and violence had scandalized even his contemporaries. Tyre claims that out of sheer animosity to the Patriarch of Antioch, who opposed his marriage and didn’t hesitate to say so publicly, Châtillon had him seized, bound and exposed to the blazing summer sun with his head covered with honey. The honey attracted the flies and the old man, the highest church official in Châtillon’s lordship, was thus tormented with heat and flies until — according to Tyre — the King of Jerusalem intervened. Another version suggests (more plausibly I would think) that he was released when he agreed to pay Châtillon a large sum of money. Regardless of how he secured his release, the Patriarch understandably did not feel safe in Châtillon’s territory and fled to Jerusalem.

Châtillon next attacked the Island of Cyprus, a Christian country under the authority of the Byzantine Emperor. As Tyre points out Cyprus “had always been useful and friendly to our realm.” Châtillon’s justification for the raid was that he had not been paid by the Emperor for his service in subduing the rebellious Armenian Lord Thoros of Cilicia. But as Tyre also points out, the Emperor’s tardy payment of mercenary wages hardly justified over-running an unsuspecting and friendly island destroying cities, wrecking fortresses, plundering monasteries and raping “nuns and tender maidens.” The ravaging lasted for days, showing “no mercy to age or sex.” The violence of Châtillon’s raid, by the way, is confirmed by Syrian sources and so not simply a function of some alleged “bias” on the part of Tyre. Furthermore, his actions so outraged his contemporaries that the King of Jerusalem, Baldwin III, offered to deliver him to the Byzantine Emperor.

Manuel I opted instead to invade Antioch and force Châtillon to submit himself. As the army of the Emperor approached, Châtillon recognized he didn’t stand a chance of defying the Emperor (and probably realized he was in the wrong with no allies) so he threw himself on the Emperor’s mercy in a dramatic gesture. He went barefoot to the Emperor with a noose around his neck and presented his naked sword hilt-first to the Emperor. As if that weren’t enough, he then threw himself face-down at the Emperor’s feet until (according to Tyre) “all were disgusted and the glory of the Latins was turned to shame; for he was a man of violent impulses, both in sinning and in repenting.” Roughly three years had elapsed between the sack of Cyprus and Châtillon’s submission to the Emperor in 1159.

Two years later in 1161 he was captured by the Seljuk leader Nur ad-Din and imprisoned in allegedly brutal conditions because his reputation for brutality was not confined to the treatment of Latin clerics and Orthodox civilians but to his enemies as well.  He was not released for 15 years, by which time his wife, Constance of Antioch had died and her son by her first marriage, Bohemond had come of age.  In short, when Châtillon was released from prison in a political exchange (no ransom was high enough for Châtillon’s captor), he was 52 years old and Prince of nothing. Indeed, he was landless and penniless.

A situation he rapidly remedied by marrying the widow (and heiress) of the vast and important frontier barony of Oultrejourdain, Stephanie de Milly. It is hard to imagine that a man recently released from a Saracen prison after 15 years and well past his prime was particularly seductive to the widow Stephanie de Milly, and he certainly offered her neither wealth nor high connections, but — in retrospect — he offered her something even more important and maybe we should give her credit for having perceived his value at the time: Châtillon was a brilliant tactician, who proved capable of defending her vulnerable inheritance as long as he lived.

Châtillon’s release and remarriage also coincided with the start of the personal reign of Baldwin IV, who came of age in 1176. He appears to have favored Châtillon. He certainly would have had to approve of his marriage to the Stephanie de Milly and Châtillon’s assumption of the title of Baron of Oultrejourdain. In any case, just a year after his release he was entrusted with a mission to Constantinople in which Baldwin IV renewed his father’s “homage” to the Byzantine Emperor (no doubt Reynald’s earlier dramatic submission to the Emperor made him an ideal candidate to do this, combined with the fact that his step-daughter by his deceased wife Constance was now the Byzantine Empress.) In addition, he was to negotiate details of a joint operation against Egypt that Baldwin IV and Manuel I wanted to pursue. While it is hard to see the Châtillon of film and fiction as an ambassador, it must be conceded that he apparently fulfilled his commission in this case well. The Byzantine Emperor sent a fleet of 70 ships to support and land invasion by troops supplied by the crusader states and armed pilgrims.

Unfortunately, the ambitions of Philip Count of Flanders combined with Baldwin IV’s leprosy foiled the joint campaign and while the Counts of Flanders and Tripoli with the young prince of Antioch attacked targets on the border of Antioch, Salah-ad-Din invaded the Kingdom of Jerusalem from Egypt. It was late 1177, and King Baldwin had less than 400 knights left for the defense of the realm. Still he rushed to Ascalon and raised the commons in defense of the realm eventually delivering a crushing defeat of Salah-ad-Din at the field of Montgisard on November 25, 1177. Bernard Hamilton claims that Châtillon was the “real” commander at Montgisard, siting Arab sources. However, the Archbishop of Tyre and the Chronicle of Ernoul, the two contemporary Christian sources both of which were in far better position to position to assess who was commanding on the Christian side, singularly fail to mention his role. He is just one of several prominent men in the King’s forces including Baldwin of Ramla “and his brother Balian, Renaud of Sidon and Count Joscelin, the King’s uncle and seneschal.” The fact that the Arabs attribute the command to Châtillon may have for to do with the fact that they knew him (and hated him) so well than any real role; Châtillon is not the kind of man to be easily overlooked and the Arab sources may have confused prominence on the battlefield with command. Tyre, however, was at this time chancellor of the Kingdom of Jerusalem and made a meticulous attempt to interview the survivors of the battle. It is hardly likely that he would have omitted Châtillon’s role had Châtillon really been the mastermind of the victory of Mongisard. In the absence of credible testimony to the contrary, therefore, the assumption should be that the most senior official at the battle was the commander — and that was none other than King Baldwin himself!

Châtillon’s next important contribution to history was his raid deep into Sinai in November 1181. This raid definitely contributed to his reputation as a war-monger because it occurred in the middle of a truce with Salah-ad-Din. However, as Hamilton points out, far from being an opportunistic act of a self-adventurer with no regard for treaties the raid was a highly effective tactical move in defense of the crusader kingdoms. The raid occurred immediately after the death of Nur-ad-Din’s legitimate heir Prince as-Salih in Aleppo. The prince had designated his cousin, a Seljuk prince and lord of Mosul, as his successor with the explicit intention of preventing the Kurdish usurper Salah-ad-Din from taking any more of his father’s inheritance. Salah-ad-Din immediately recognized that the powerful Lord of Mosul was likely to be a far greater obstacle to his ambitions than the weak as-Salih and so immediately ordered his nephews to prevent any forces from Mosul reaching Aleppo. From the Christian point of view, it was critical to prevent Salah-ad-Din from expanding his power to Aleppo, and the Lord of Mosul was to be preferred to the jihadist Salah-ad-Din.  Châtillon’s raid into Sinai effectively 1) prevented Salah-ad-Din from taking his forces from Egypt north to Aleppo and 2) prevented his nephews from doing his work for him either. Farrukh-Shah had to divert his forces from interdicting the Lord of Mosul to protecting his uncle’s possesses in Sinai. Aleppo therefore did not fall to Salah-ad-Din at this time — a small price to pay for a truce that was due to expire less than six months later.

To be sure, Châtillon also enriched himself by seizing a very lucrative caravan and refusing to ransom the survivors or pay compensation for the dead, but this should be seen as Châtillon’s usual avarice and does not detract from his rapid and effective response to critical threat to the very existence of the Kingdom of Jerusalem.

A year latter, Châtillon expanded on his probably ad-hoc raid into Sinai but launching a fleet of ships in the Red Sea. These raids have generally drawn approbation from historians, who portray them as cruel piracy against innocent pilgrims — largely because the Arabs had no fighting ships in the Red Sea at this time and Châtillon’s ship sacked towns and burned ships initially at will. Against this portrayal is the fact that Arab warships and slavers had preyed upon Christian pilgrims for centuries before the First Crusade, and the fact that the Kingdom of Jerusalem was by this time in a life-or-death struggle with a man who had promised to drive it into the sea and, indeed, wipe out Christianity everywhere in the world. No, Châtillon’s raids were not pretty. Medieval Warfare rarely was. Yes, his ships attacked “unarmed” pilgrims (though it’s hard to imagine Arab men travelling anywhere unarmed at this time). They certainly caused havoc and spread terror across the Arabian Peninsula. And far from being acts of piracy by a “rogue” baron, they served a clear strategic purpose.

Hamilton makes the argument that the costs and complexities of launching these ships far exceeded he resources of Châtillon alone and argues convincingly that he must have had the support of the King of Jerusalem himself. He certainly needed the skills of Italian shipwrights and sailors — scarce commodities in his land-locked, desert lordship. More important, by threatening the trade and pilgrim routes of the Red Sea, Châtillon was challenging Salah-ad-Din’s claim to be the Defender of Islam. As Hamilton words it: “[Salah-ad-Din’s] credibility would have been severely damaged in the eyes of the entire Islamic community if the Franks had succeeded in preventing pilgrims from reaching the holy cities [of Islam] of which he was protector while he and his arms were fighting Sunnite princes in Iraq.” (Hamilton, The Leper King and His Heirs, p. 181.) Hamilton goes on to point out that the campaign had the added advantage of aiding the Frank’s allies in Syria while restraining Salah-ad-Din’s growing power.

Salah-ad-Din had no choice but to respond to the raids. He had warships dragged across Sinai and launched in the Red Sea. These eventually tracked the Christian raiders down, bottled them up in the harbor of al-Haura, and when the Frankish crews abandoned their ships, to track down the survivors. The Sultan than dealt with the survivors in a notably non-chivalry fashion: he ordered them distributed about his kingdom and publicly executed (against the laws of Islam that dictate that prisoners who voluntarily surrender should be shown mercy).  Two of the raiders, presumably the men identified as the leaders, were taken to Mecca and slaughtered like sacrificial animals to the wild jubilation of the crowds of pilgrims on the haj.

Châtillon’s role in these raids (and he took full credit/blame for them despite the probability that he was aided by King Baldwin) made him more hated than ever in the Islamic world. Salah-ad-Din clearly felt personally insulted, and in the years that followed he twice laid siege to Châtillon’s main fortress at Kerak.  The first of these sieges occurred while on the one hand the Queen Mother, Dowager Queen and Princess of Jerusalem had gathered in Kerak for the wedding of Princess Isabella (aged 11) to Humphrey de Toron (aged 15 or 16), and on the other hand when the High Court of Jerusalem was meeting in Jerusalem to discuss Guy de Lusignan’s deplorable performance as Regent of the Kingdom during an invasion of the Kingdom by Salah-ad-Din in October 1183. 

This meant that Châtillon found himself with only his own fighting men but hundreds if not thousands of non-combatants on his hands. Tyre claims he “rashly” tried to defend the town outside the castle, but was nearly overwhelmed by the suddenness of Salah-ad-Din’s attack, and barely managed to pull back into the castle, his villagers losing everything. Although Tyre tries to make this sound like poor leadership on the part of Châtillon, it sounds far more like a successful surprise attack to Salah-ad-Din’s credit. Châtillon was lucky not to lose his castle under the circumstances and despite the overcrowding and lack of combatants he held his castle for more than a month before the royal army came to his relief.

A year later the scene repeated itself, but this time there was no wedding and no constitutional crisis going on. Both sides were better prepared, but the outcome remained the same. The royal army came to the relief of Kerak and Salah-ad-Din was forced to break off his siege. He would not succeed until more than a year after the destruction of the Christian army at Hattin and the execution — at Salah-ad-Din’s own hand — of Châtillon himself.

But that is getting ahead of the story. Châtillon still had two other contributions to history to make. During the succession crisis after the death of Baldwin V, Châtillon threw his weight behind Sibylla — but it is unclear if he supported Guy de Lusignan or not. He is said to have urged the people of Jerusalem to accept Sibylla without naming Guy as her consort. He may have been one of her supporters who urged her to set Guy aside and take a new husband (maybe he even imagined himself as his consort given his past successes!). Or he may have known she intended to keep Guy as her consort. In any case, he can be counted in her faction.

There is no evidence that I have seen, however, that he was particularly hostile to Raymond of Tripoli and there is no reason to believe he particularly agitated for war in 1187. On the contrary, Salah-ad-Din needed no particular provocation. He’d been launching invasions almost yearly from more than a decade and he knew as well as anyone that Guy de Lusignan was neither popular nor powerful. He recognized that the Kingdom of Jerusalem was weaker than it had been at any time in his own lifetime and he gathered his forces and struck again. Châtillon followed the royal summons to muster — as did all the other barons and fighting men of the kingdom. And, as an experienced battle commander with a large contingent of troops he inevitably played a role in the Battle — but nothing suggests he was the one whispering idiocy in King Guy’s hear: that distinction belongs to the Grand Master of the Knights Templar Gerard de Rideford.  

At the Battle of Hattin, Châtillon fought bravely beside the King and was taken captive with him along with many other nobles including Aimery de Lusignan and Humphrey de Toron. The only thing that made him different from the others is that Salah-ad-Din was not willing to forgive the Red Sea Raids and — again in violation of Islamic practice — did not show mercy, although Châtillon surrendered no less than the other lords did. Salah-ad-Din allegedly killed Châtillon with his own hand — or wounded him and let his men finish him off. It was a violent end for a violent man; he may well have preferred it to the thought of languishing in a Saracen prison again or a life in slavery. He would have been 62 years of age at the time of his execution.

Dr. Helena P. Schrader holds a PhD in History.
She is the Chief Editor of the Real Crusades History Blog.
She is an award-winning novelist and author of numerous books both fiction and non-fiction. Her three-part biography of Balian d'Ibelin won a total of 14 literary accolades. Her most recent release is a novel about the founding of the crusader Kingdom of Cyprus. You can find out more at: http://crusaderkingdoms.com
Châtillon is an important character in Schrader's award-winning "Defender of Jerusalem":

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Reddit's OmarAdelX fails miserably at "debunking" a video by Real Crusades History

So recently one of my friends on twitter sent me a link to a Reddit conversation in which some user called OmarAdelX attacked a video I made for Real Crusades History. However, when I took a look at the link, and the video that OmarAdelX was referencing, I found that OmarAdelX was in fact taking issue with parts of the video where I was reading directly from Joseph O’Callaghan, one of the foremost historians of medieval Spain. So this OmarAdelX wasn’t attacking my ideas, he was attacking Joseph O’Callaghan’s. This is what you call not doing your homework, folks.

The video that OmarAdelX claims he’s going to debunk is “Visigothic Brilliance: Pre-Islamic Spain's Thriving Intellectual Life”. This is a video in which I discuss the fact that Visigothic Spain had a fairly impressive high culture:

OmarAdelX starts his post discussing my video with the following:

“The first 6 minutes were kind of ok , though he is using the what-the-media-is-hiding-from-you conspiracy tone. the Visigoths did have a thriving culture and they contributed many things to modern world like family law, property law and gothic manuscript and the famed gothic art, some good poetry too, though not as bright in philosophy and astronomy and natural sciences”

I wasn’t at all using a “conspiratorial” tone in the video, I just pointed out that not a lot of people are aware of the fact that the Visigoths had a high level of culture. Not surprising that OmarAdelX is attacking something he perceives in my tone, not anything that’s actually in the video.

But let’s continue, because here is where it gets really good.

OmarAdelX continues with this:

“here where comes the real shit. In 6:30 he start to talk about how the later post Visigothic period was long and bleak that interrupted the civilization, ugh well, surprise surprise, it wasn't.”

Once again, OmarAdelX doesn’t actually quote anything I say in the video, he just gives his impression. The only words I actually use in my video that he references are “long” and “bleak”. OmarAdelX takes issue with my use of these terms.

There’s just one problem. When I used those terms, I was reading them: specifically, I was reading them from a book written by one of the foremost scholars of medieval Spain, Joseph O’Callaghan. The book is called A History of Medieval Spain, published by Cornell University. Here is the exact passage I was reading in that video as O’Callaghan wrote it:

"Within twenty years of Julian's death the Muslim conquest destroyed the Visigothic kingdom and interrupted the scholarly tradition to which St Isidore had given such impetus. In the long, bleak centuries ahead, however, the Christian people still drew inspiration from that group of scholars whose work had enlightened the Visigothic age."
-Joseph F. O'Callaghan - A History of Medieval Spain. Cornell University, 1975. p. 88.

 I would like to point out that I stated specifically in my video that I was about to read a passage from Joseph O’Callaghan. OmarAdelX should have picked up on that, especially if he’s claiming to debunk my video. Normally, one wants to pay attention to the actual content of a video one is attempting to debunk.

At any rate, if OmarAdelX has a problem with Joseph O’Callaghan’s use of the terms “long” and “bleak”, I’ll let him take it up with O’Callaghan. Personally, I have a lot of respect for O’Callaghan as a scholar, and I have no problem making use of his words when I’m making a video.

Hopefully, though, I can help set OmarAdelX’s mind at ease. O’Callaghan isn’t saying that the entire history of Islamic Spain was some bleak, uncultured wasteland, he’s describing the feelings of Christians living under Islamic rule in Spain. These were long, difficult centuries of living under a foreign power, which had a bleak feeling to them if you were a Christian drawing inspiration from the old days when Christians ruled Spain. Similarly, once the Christians re-captured areas of Spain heavily inhabited by Muslims, I’d imagine the centuries ahead might have seemed “long” and “bleak” to those Muslims. O’Callaghan is talking about the feelings of a conquered populace here, not the achievements of a conquering power.

            O’Callaghan describes many of the grand achievements of Islamic Spain in this same book from which I read. And in this video that OmarAdelX is attacking, I point out several times that Islamic Spain achieved a high level of culture and learning. So OmarAdelX is attacking something he perceives in my video (and in O’Callaghan’s writing) that isn’t there to begin with.

            But OmarAdelX isn’t done yet. His post continues:

“then he tries to mend it all with yet more miserable attempt to paint the people of North Africa as barbarians, forgetting the fact that this entire area was roman territory too, and had produced similar amount of philosophers, theologians, historians whom contributed as much as the Visigoths some of them were even Christians (though regarded as heretics), ever heard of St. Augustine dude? He was North African, ever heard of priscian? or Arius? He was North African too, Pope Gelasius? Donatus magnus? so they weren't illiterate barbarians you punk”

Once again, OmarAdelX doesn’t actually address anything specific I say in my video. Indeed, nowhere in my video do I try to portray the “people of North Africa as barbarians”. But it does seem to be the term “barbarian” that bothers OmarAdelX, and I do use that term in this video. But once again, when I use that term, I’m reading from Joseph O’Callaghan, and yes, O’Callaghan is talking about the Arabs and North African Berbers who conquered Spain in the early 8th century. Here is the quote from O’Callaghan’s book:

"The first Muslims to enter Spain, however, were rude barbarians from the deserts of Arabia and the mountains of Morocco whose contact with Greco-Roman civilization was still minimal. During the first century and a half of their domination in al-Andalus, civil wars and rebellions, the illiteracy of the masses, and the stringent thought-control of the Malachite jurists did not provide a suitable environment for the flowering of literature and learning."
-Joseph F. O'Callaghan, A History of Medieval Spain. Cornell University, 1975. p. 158.

OmarAdelX seems to be confused about the people who actually conquered Spain in the 8th century. It wasn’t North African Romans. It wasn’t Saint Augustine. It was Berber tribesmen and some of the earliest Muslim Arabs. As O’Callaghan points out, the first Muslims to take control of Spain were not a highly literate people with a high level of culture. They were rather rugged types – or, as O’Callaghan calls them “rude barbarians”. Islamic Spain’s high culture developed later.

 So OmarAdelX is just plain wrong if he believes the first Muslims who took Spain were highly literate and cultured. They weren’t. They weren’t Roman philosophers and theologians, as OmarAdelX appears to believe, they were, as O’Callaghan puts it: “rude barbarians from the deserts of Arabia and the mountains of Morocco whose contact with Greco-Roman civilization was still minimal.”

OmarAdelX ends his little failed attempt at a debunk with this:

“In the end of the Video he cited a book and suggested the viewers to read in it, while in fact I doubt he even read it.”

That book I recommend at the end of my video is in fact Joseph O’Callaghan’s A History of Medieval Spain, which I have in fact read, many times. But clearly, OmarAdelX hasn’t read it. I doubt OmarAdelX even knows who Joseph O’Callaghan is.

Oh, and I do hope you'll check out O'Callaghan's wonderful book

Saturday, October 21, 2017

5 Epic Battles of the Knights Templar

Today on Real Crusades History, we’ll be exploring five of the most epic and noteworthy battles in the history of the Knights Templar.

#1: The Battle of Montgisard

In late November, 1177, a large Crusader army had accompanied Count Philip of Flanders on an expedition north of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, into Syria, to attack the Saracen fortress of Hama. Saladin, the powerful Sultan of Egypt and Damascus, took advantage of the Crusader kingdom’s reduced forces to invade with a large army some 26,000 strong. The King of Jerusalem, Baldwin IV, was only sixteen years old, and also stricken with leprosy. Nevertheless, the young King would not let Saladin’s attack go unchallenged, mustering a small army of just five hundred knights and four thousand infantry. The young leper King was joined by Raynald of Chatillon, as well as Odo of Saint-Amand, Master of the Knights Templar, accompanied by some eighty Templar knights.
            Saladin did not believe such a tiny force of Christians should be considered a threat, and so marched at his leisure on Jerusalem, allowing his army to spread out across the countryside and pillage the Kingdom’s farmlands. Meanwhile, King Baldwin, the Templars, and the knights of the Kingdom closed in on Saladin’s army, encountering the enemy at Montgisard, near the city of Ramla.
Saladin was taken by surprise; his forces were in a vulnerable position attempting to cross a river. The young King immediately ordered a charge, and the Templars were at the forefront of the attack. Odo of Saint Amand led the Templars in several charges, which smashed Saladin’s forces. The Templars’ skills as cavalry warriors proved highly valuable that day, as almost the whole of Saladin’s army was wiped out. Saladin himself barely escaped, having to flee for his life on a racing camel.
Montgisard proved to be one of the greatest defeats of Saladin’s life, and a shining moment for King Baldwin IV, the knights of Jerusalem, and the Templars.  

#2: The Battle of Hattin

On June 30, 1187, Saladin once again invaded the Kingdom of Jerusalem; his army was massive, numbering 30,000 men. To incite the Crusaders into a battle, Saladin attacked Tiberias.
            The King of Jerusalem, Guy of Lusignan, marched out with a smaller but considerable army of 20,000, including a large contingent of Knights Templar. Although the other high ranking men of the army advised against it, Guy listened to the advice of the Master of the Temple, Gerard of Ridefort, who suggested an immediate attack on Saladin. The Crusaders made a forced march across scorching dry territory toward Tiberias. But when they tried to reach the Springs of Kafr Hattin, Saladin’s army intercepted them, forcing them to lay camp on the arid plateau. By morning the Crusaders were entirely surrounded by Saladin’s army, and Saladin launched his attack. The Crusaders suffered heavy casualties from Saladin’s archers and cavalry. But despite being outnumbered, exhausted and thirsty, the Crusaders fought with incredible vigor, and several times the Christian knights threw back Saladin’s attacks. The Templars were instrumental in this resistance, and fought with fierce spirit and courage. Indeed, the Saracen chronicler Ibn al-Athir tells us that Saladin, watching the battle unfold before him, was very nervous, tugging at his beard with anxiety as he watched the Templars and the other Crusaders repeatedly hurl the Saracen troops back.
            Nevertheless, the superior numbers of Saladin’s forces finally prevailed and the Crusaders were defeated. It was a devastating loss for the Kingdom. Saladin was so afraid of the Knights Templar that he had every Templar prisoner captured at the Battle of Hattin executed immediately.
            Despite their defeat at Hattin, the Templars once again showed themselves to be brilliant warriors, who fought with fierce determination even in the most desperate of situations.

            For our next battle, we’ll move to the Iberian Peninsula, specifically Portugal:

#3: The Siege of Tomar

The castle of Tomar, built in 1160, was the headquarters of the Knights Templar in Portugal for many years. In the late twelfth century, a powerful Moroccan Berber dynasty, the Almohads, ruled over much of North Africa. They also controlled most of those portions of southern Spain still under Mohammedan rule.
            In 1190, the Almohad Caliph, al-Mansur, crossed the River Tejo and invaded the Kingdom of Portugal. The Almohads captured the castle of Torres Novas, then moved on Tomar, which they put to siege.
            Gualdim Pais, Grand Master, led the Templar garrison in defense of their fortress. Despite being impossibly outnumbered, the Templars held out for six days. Gualdim was around seventy years old at the time, and a long-time veteran of the Crusades both in Iberia and in the Holy Land. The Almohads made several assaults on the walls, but each time they were repulsed by the Templars. Finally, the Almohads managed to breach the fortress gates, but Gualdim led his knights in a counterattack, which devastated the Almohad troops. So heavy were the Almohad casualties during this attack that from then on the entrance to Tomar was known as “The Gate of Blood”.
            At this point al-Mansur gave up his attack, withdrawing his troops and abandoning the siege. Tomar remained in Christian hands. The valor and determination of Gualdim Pais and his Templars had won the day.  

            For our next battle, let’s return to the Crusades in the Holy Land:

#4: The Battle of Arsuf

Following Saladin’s victory at Hattin, Richard the Lionheart, King of England, led a Crusade to the Holy Land to beat back the Saracen advance. After recapturing the wealthy coastal city of Acre from Saladin in the summer of 1191, Richard marched his forces south down the Palestinian coast, placing the Knights Templar at the head of the army.
            Saladin was desperate to stop Richard’s advance, and so, as Richard’s army approached Arsuf on September 7th, Saladin attacked with full force. Once again, the Crusaders, with an army of under 12,000 troops, were outnumbered; Saladin had a host of 25,000. Nevertheless, Richard’s formation was solid and impenetrable. The Knights Hospitaller, who made up the rearguard, charged early, but Richard took advantage of the situation, and ordered a general charge, which crushed Saladin’s troops. The Templars, under their new Grand Master, Robert de Sable, played a key role in the battle, delivering some of the most devastating charges. Saladin was utterly defeated, losing thousands of troops. Richard and the Crusaders won the day, occupying Arsuf, and going on to take the important coastal city of Jaffa as well.
Once again, Templar cavalry tactics had proved very useful in the heat of battle.

            For our last battle, we’ll again head to Spain:

#5: The Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa

In the summer of 1212, the Almohad Caliph, Muhammad al-Nasir, gathered an enormous army of some 25,000 troops and marched north out of Seville, intent on invading the Christian Kingdom of Castile with its capital in Toledo. Meanwhile, Pope Innocent III had proclaimed a Crusade in Spain to counter al-Nasir. Christian knights from virtually every corner of the Iberian Peninsula gathered in Toledo under King Alfonso VIII of Castile, King Pedro II of Aragon, and King Sancho VII of Navarre. Included in this Crusader coalition was a considerable contingent of Knights Templar under their Grand Master, Gomes Ramires, who was Portuguese.

            The Crusaders marched south and the two armies met on July 14th at Las Navas de Tolosa. On the morning of July 16th, the battle began. The Templars and other military orders were in the front lines, and closed quickly with the Almohad troops. The fighting was fierce, and the Templars suffered some of the heaviest casualties on the Christian side. However, the Aragonese and Navaresse contingents, which made up the Christian right and left flanks, carried out a pincer movement that threw the Moors into disarray. A series of cavalry charges now shattered the Almohad army, and the Christian victory was total. Thousands of Almohad troops were slain, and the Caliph himself barely escaped with his life. The Templar Grand Master, Gomes Ramires, was one of the few Christina casualties, since he and his brother Templars had been among the first warriors to ride into battle; they died helping to win an incredible victory for the Iberian Crusade, which led to the collapse of Moorish power in Spain.