In the readings below, Outremer is the European term for the several feudal mini-states ruled by Frankish nobles under the suzerainty of the Christian king of Jerusalem, which were established in the Levant by the First Crusade (1095-1099). The fief of Edessa was reconquered by the Muslims under Imad ad-Din Zengi in 1144. The Second Crusade (1147-1149) was undertaken in response to this loss, but failed utterly.
The hajj is the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca.
Basileus was the Greek term for the Byzantine Emperor in Constantinople.
Nur al-Din was a ruler of Muslim Syria, son of Imad ad-Din Zengi.
Zengids are the descendants of Imad ad-Din Zengi.
Saladin was a Kurd and governor of Muslim Egypt, later overall commander of the Muslim forces, and then Sultan in his own right.
Reynaud of Châtillon was a minor nobleman who came to the Levant with the Second Crusade. At its ignominious conclusion, Reynaud chose to stay on in Outremer rather than return to France, where, as a younger brother from a small fief in the Loire Valley, he could have expected little advancement. A tall and handsome man with reddish hair and an impressive bearing, the young Reynaud eventually turned the head of the princess of Antioch, the widow of Raymond of Poitiers [Christian king of the Outremer fief of Antioch].
The courtship shocked Outremer. The princess, Constance, was one of the grandest ladies of the land, and by rights should have considered only the highest born of men as potential mates. Strong-willed and smitten, Constance shrugged off entreaties from bishop, king, and basileus to consider other suitors --- she married her low-born lover in 1153, making a crusading pauper into a prince of Outremer. It was scandalous, William of Tyre remarked in his chronicle, that "a woman so eminent, so distinguished and powerful, who had been the wife of a very illustrious man, should stoop to marry an ordinary knight."
The new prince of Antioch wasted no time in making his mark. Disregarding the claims of its suzerain, the basileus Manuel Comnenus, Reynaud decided to seize peaceable and prosperous Byzantine Cyprus. To finance this adventure, he demanded money from the Latin patriarch of Antioch, who had opposed Constance's love match in the first place and made no secret of his contempt for the parvenu prince. Predictably, the prelate refused to countenance the scheme. By way of reply, Reynaud had him stripped, beaten to a pulp, covered with honey, and exposed to the sunshine of midday, to be tormented by insects. His mind concentrated, the patriarch opened his treasury, and soon Reynaud sailed to Cyprus.
Once in Cyprus, Reynaud showed that he was a crusader of the old style: his army pillaged, raped, and murdered at will, unmindful of the awkward fact that the islanders were Christian. Reynaud rounded up all the Orthodox priests of Cypress, cut off their noses, and sent the mutilated men to Constantinople as a signal of defiance to the basileus. In no time, he had offended the Latins, by torturing the patriarch of Antioch, and outraged the Byzantines by laying waste to Cyprus.
The Muslims would have to wait their turn: in 1160, while out in the hinterland of Antioch rustling livestock from Syrian Christians, Reynaud was captured by an armed detachment of Nur al-Din's men. He was thrown into a cell in Aleppo's great citadel, to languish for sixteen years, as no one offered to pay his ransom. He was released in 1175 or 1176, in the unsettled period when the Zengids of Aleppo, following the death of Nur al-Din, sought allies among the Latins to deflect the ambitions of Saladin.
Reynaud's wife, Princess Constance, had died two years after his capture, leaving Antioch to a son from her previous marriage. Reynaud therefore had to seek a position elsewhere. Sometime in the late 1170s he wooed and won yet another powerful widow, Stephanie of Milly, heiress to Hebron and the OutreJourdain, the Latin marchland south of the Dead Sea known in the Bible as Moab. A distant corner of Outremer, it was nonetheless of crucial significance: the main caravan routes from Syria to Egypt passed through the OutreJourdain, as did, every year, thousands of pilgrims making the hajj to Mecca. Its two castles, Kerak and Montreal, rivalled the Krak des Chevaliers and Marqab for massive impregnability. Now, Raynaud of Châtillon was master of these fortresses, perched high above a valley frequented by treasure-laden travellers. Even for someone possessing scruples, the temptation would have been great.
The Latin kingdoms were, for once, in concord with their Muslim neighbors: drought and incipient famine had induced the knights to agree, in 1180, to an extended truce with Saladin. Despite these glimmerings of civility, the new master of Kerak could not contain himself. In 1181 Reynaud rode down a column of pilgrims on the hajj, stripping them of all their possessions and hauling away many of them into captivity. This was a flagrant breach of the truce, as an angered Saladin was quick to point out, but the king of Jerusalem dared not take any punitive action against his fiery vassal.
The following year, Reynaud outdid himself. He launched a fleet of five ships at Eilat, on the Gulf of Aqaba. Their destination was, incredibly, Mecca. The pirate flotilla burst into the Red Sea, plundering unsuspecting merchant and pilgrim vessels, raiding both the Arabian and African shores, and making stops to rob and rape hajj pilgrims inland. This insane raid got to within a day's ride of Madina. Eventually, a fleet sent by Saladin's brother arrived from Egypt to capture the perpetrators. They were subsequently beheaded, but the mastermind of the operation, Reynaud, remained untouched in the safety of Kerak.
Saladin, aware of the wave of anger sweeping his empire, marched on Palestine in 1183. Saladin eventually had his men head south to ravage the OutreJourdain and lay siege to Kerak, in the hope that the great castle might yield the most hated Frank of Outremer. Reynaud, however, was too well protected in his clifftop aerie --- and by the time of Saladin's siege, he was not alone. The wedding celebrations of his stepdaughter to a baron of Palestine had brought the quarrelsome nobility of Outremer under his roof. As Saladin's siege engines pounded the fortifications, the festivities continued. Even given the enmity he felt for Reynaud, Saladin showed a sensibility here, as he would elsewhere, that won him a place in the annals of gallantry. On learning of the nuptials, Saladin asked where the newlyweds were to be lodged and consequently directed the fire of his catapults away from that section of the castle."
[After four years of inconclusive campaigns, in 1187 the army of the Christians was lured out of their redoubts and onto a forced march across a baking hot valley in the Galilee. The Latin forces armed themselves with a fragment of the True Cross, but neglected to carry much water. Saladin's larger army blocked their access to water and, in two days of hit-and-run attacks near a hill called Hattin, utterly destroyed the army of Outremer.]
King Guy [of Jerusalem] and his men collapsed from exhaustion. Saladin's envoys found them on the ground, panting from thirst, unable to go on, utterly spent. The great nobles of Outremer were helped to their feet and led down the slope covered with the dead and dying. Saladin welcomed them into his tent. He extended a goblet of rosewater, chilled by snow from Mount Hermon, to the King of Jerusalem. Guy took a long gulp, then passed the cup to Reynaud of Châtillon. The sultan peremptorily noted that he had not offered the drink to Reynaud. Custom held that hospitality implied clemency, and Saladin had made a vow about the raider of the Holy Places. He berated Reynaud for repeatedly breaking truces, and offered to spare him if he converted to Islam. The old knight refused, truculent to the last. Saladin raised his sword and brought it down deep into Reynaud's shoulder. A bodyguard then lopped off his head. Guy fell to his knees, terrified, as the corpse was dragged out. Saladin reassured him, saying: "A king does not kill a king."
All the lay nobles were spared by a gracious Saladin. They would eventually be freed in exchange for great sums of money. One group --- the warrior-monks --- had no mercy shown to it. The Templars and Hospitalers ranked as the sultan's most redoubtable enemies, dedicated to permanent war against the Muslims. Saladin handed over the two hundred or so monks to their Muslim counterparts, at least in religious fervour --- the non-combatant volunteers of his army who had answered the call to jihad. One by one the entire contingent of Templars and Hospitalers was beheaded, in killings often gruesomely botched by the amateur swordsmen from the mosques. As for the thousands of ordinary soldiers on the losing side, they too kept their heads, but were henceforth condemned to a life of servitude. Shackled together, the men of Outremer were led out of Galilee in a long and sorrowful column destined for the slave markets of Damascus. Their numbers soon caused a glut in the trade, triggering a sharp fall in prices. One man, it was said, was sold for a pair of sandals.--- From Sea of Faith:
Islam and Christianity in
the Medieval Mediterranean World