Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Muslim-Christian Relations, Part 1 (of 2)

The Second Crusade (1145-49) had put a great deal of the Holy Land under European rule, but Saladin (Salah ad-Din Yusuf ibn Ayyub, 1138-1193) had re-conquered much of that territory, prompting several kings of Europe to agree to another crusade. The Third Crusade (1189-92) was unsuccessful in putting the Holy Land under Western European control. It did, however, open up a dialogue between the east and west in unforeseen ways.

The death of Henry II put the English troops under the command of Richard the Lionhearted. Richard loved military campaigns. His first stop was at Cyprus to conquer that island, after which he joined King Philip of France and Leopold V of Austria, who were embroiled in the two-year-long Siege of Acre. Richard's siege machines started destroying the walls. The residents of Acre sent appeals to Saladin to help them, but he could not defeat the Europeans. Acre had no choice but to surrender. Five weeks after Richard's arrival, the Europeans took the city, and banners were raised over the city representing the Kingdoms of Jerusalem, France, England, and the Duchy of Austria.

Richard may have been a great commander, but he was a terrible co-commander. The three lords fought over the disbursement of the spoils of war. Richard argued against the other two over whom should be left as King of Jerusalem; Richard prevailed. Richard also refused to accord Leopold the same respect as a king, and took down Austria's banner. In August, Philip and Leopold had had enough: they went back home, leaving 10,000 French troops with Richard's army.

Richard alone was left to deal with Saladin and establish a treaty after Acre. Payments of money and the transfer of Muslim and Christian prisoners were arranged. Richard did not like the slowness of the payments, and the fact that he wanted more Christians handed over faster. He had 2700 Muslim men, women and children of Acre killed outside the walls. Saladin, not to be outdone, killed all the Christians in his possession.

But the relationship between these two commanders was going to take an odd turn.

[to be continued]

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