Saturday, July 4, 2020

The Battle of Hattin

The Battle of Hattin

      Today marks the anniversary of the Battle of Hattin.  Fought in 1187 in what is today northeast Israel and to the west of the Sea of Galilee, the battle pitted the bulk of the Crusader forces against the army of Saladin.

      Two months before Hattin, at the Battle of Cresson, the Knights Templar lost some 150 knights and 300 foot soldiers.  This lose significantly weakened the Crusader forces. The Templars were never a numerically significant portion of the Crusader forces.  They were however highly trained and experienced.   The forces that would clash at Hattin were in the range of 18,000 Crusaders against 40,000 under the leadership of Saladin.  By various attacks, Saladin as able to draw the Crusader army away from a fortified position with water sources (La Saphorie) into the open.

      The battle was a rout.  The forces under Saladin harassed the Crusader forces and kept them from accessing water sources.  Meanwhile they were relatively well supplied.  On the night of the 3rd grass fires were started around the Crusader camp, the smoke irritating already parched throats.  On the morning of the 4th the Crusader army was not an effective force.  Thousands were killed and thousands captured; it was reported that only 3,000 were able to escape.  With the exception of the Grand Master of the Templars, all captured Templars and Hospitillars were executed. The King of Jerusalem, Guy, was among those captured, as was Balion of Ibilin. There may have been as few as 300 free knights left to defend the country. It was reported that Pope Urban III died of shock upon hearing a report of the battle.

      It was the beginning of the end.  The Crusader forces were dead or captured, and the various fortresses had been stripped of their garrisons.  Saladin would move on to capture towns and castles throughout the Crusader states (with the exception of Tyre), including Jerusalem which fell on October 2.

            The Fall of Jerusalem would precipitate the Third Crusade.

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