he 4th of July 1187 was the day of the worst single military disaster in the Holy Land. At Hattin, a barren but brushed double hill guarding a pass on the road from Tiberias to Acre, the Christians suffered a decimating defeat that enabled Saladin to roam freely all over Palestine, without the Franks being able to do anything about it.
aladin was at Tiberias with 12,000 knights and an army on regular provisions. King Guy of Jerusalem, then, was at the Springs of Al-Quastad, near Sephoria. His army consisted of 1,200 knights and some 15 to 18,000 Turcopoles (native light horsemen) and infantry. Saladin made the first move and took Tiberias with little fighting on 2 July. The Franks were divided in their opinions: Raymond, Count of Tripoli, who was well versed in the ways of the Muslims, said that the Franks ought to sit tight and let Saladin attack. He also reminded the leaders of the contingency that the harvest season was soon approaching and that Saladin's army would likely disperse as all men returned home for harvesting. Raymond's motives were also affected by the fact that his wife was in Tiberias. Gerard de Ridefort, a bitter enemy of Raymond's, thought this treacherous speaking, and claimed that the Franks should attack at once, before Saladin could prepare Tiberias to withhold siege. He also called Raymond a coward.
ing Guy had a lot to figure out. He was on his first campaign as King, and he could not lose face by appearing a weak leader. On the other hand, he could not afford to lose his army, either. Still, he was wary of Raymond, whose ability to speak Arabic and close relations with Muslims did occasionally tar him as an ally of the Muslims. The Templars of Gerard de Ridefort were also direly needed - if Gerard withdrew, the King would not stand a chance.
he Christians left Sephoria on the 3rd of July, aiming to relieve Tiberias. When Saladin learned that the Christians were on the move, he sent skirmishers to harass the contingency. Arab horsemen were able to fire arrows at great distances from galloping horses, and the hail of arrows soon made life hard for the rear guard, who were mostly Templars.
o think again, the Christians halted at the Spring of Turan, but decided to press on. This was the fatal mistake. Day was already waning, and Saladin's forces were able to stop the progress of Christians at a site where there was no water, shelter, or pasturage. The Franks had to make camp, but Saladin's forces harassed them all the way. As night fell, the Muslims set the brushes afire, and the smoke and ashes proved almost unbearable to the Franks. In the morning, half-crazed through lack of water and rest, the Christians broke camp and started towards Hattin. Now Saladin decided it was his chance to strike, and he attacked the rear of the contingency. The Templars who were in charge of the rear fought as best they could, but they were struck down by the well rested and strong Muslim forces. When others saw that the rear fell under Saladin, they started to run towards Hattin, but in the uphill terrain were an easy target for the Muslims. It was said that only knights stood firm and fought their enemy, and mostly died in the process.
aladin saw the Royal Tent in which
the Christians kept their most sacred relic, a piece of the True Cross. He
deemed the battle finished when he held the tent and its contents, and as
the field calmed down, he saw the fullness of his victory. All remaining
Christians were massed together except for the Templars and Hospitallers,
who were herded in separate groups. First Saladin himself killed Reginald
of Karak with a single stroke, and even though he allowed most of the other
knights to be ransomed, the Templars and Hospitallers were beheaded one by
one. As a curious display of his sense of humour, Saladin assigned the task
to a group of Shi'ite mystics who were in his party. The Shi'ites, unaccustomed
in the way of war, managed occasionally to kill the knights with one blow,
but some of them died a painful death with more than eight strokes from the
sword. Saladin thus showed his hatred towards the Military Orders, who had
stung him many times. King Guy and his party were bought out of Saladin's
hold, but the Battle of Hattin was a very decisive event in the decline of
the Latin Kingdom in Palestine.
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