Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Hattin: The Battle

The army of Jerusalem customarily carried the True Cross into battle, and both sides saw the moment of its capture at Hattin as decisive in Guy's defeat.

Saladin drew Guy into a long march across open territory, which favoured his highly mobile tactics and enabled him to cut the Franks off from crucial water sources.

c. 20,000 including 1,300 knights, at least 13,000 light cavalry and a large infantry force
Commanded by Guy of Lusignan, king of Jerusalem  
All infantry and majority of knights killed or captured
c.30,000 including infantry occupied at Tiberias and not a major element
Commanded by Saladin, ruler of Syria and Egypt
Unknown casualties

The battle Saladin's army advanced towards Saffuriyah on 2 July, but Guy refused to accept battle. That night there was a dramatic and angry council to decide what to do. The accounts given of this by those we think may have known what happened are coloured by the desire of the various Christian factions to distribute blame for the defeat that followed. Two courses of action were suggested: that battle should be given, or that battle should be declined and Tiberias left to its fate. It is not clear who urged what, though many sources suggest that Raymond of Tripoli was in favour of declining battle while his enemies, Reynald of Chatillon and Gerard of Ridefort, Grand Master of the Temple, took the opposite view.

There was a good case for either course of action. The kingdom was anchored by its fortified cities and castles and no attacker could undertake a serious siege as long as a field army existed. Accordingly, as in 1183 when Guy had been in command, the crusaders usually preferred to shadow their enemy so that he could achieve little before the campaigning season ended and his army dissolved, avoiding the risks of battle. Tiberias was a minor city and its fall would achieve little. If Saladin's army did not then disperse it could be lured into challenging the crusaders on grounds of their choosing.

On the other hand, Guy had a huge army and an opportunity to defeat Saladin, and revenge the destruct ion he had wrought on the kingdom. Moreover, Guy needed the prestige of victory to unite the kingdom. He would have remembered that many who urged avoidance of battle had attacked him for doing just that in 1183 and he would have been fearful of criticism for abandoning the lady of Tiberias. Therefore he decided to lead the army out to battle on 3 July. That he intended to give battle is obvious, but we have no idea where and how he hoped to do this.

The core of Guy's army were the knights , and they were drawn up in three divisions for the march, a vanguard under Raymond of Tripoli, a rearguard commanded by Balian of Ibelin and a centre where Guy marched. They were protected from enemy missile attack by a screen of foot soldiers marching about them. Saladin’s army had its own heavy cavalry and clouds of mounted archers. The crusader army paused on the springs of Tur'an then resumed its eastward march. Saladin’s cavalry surrounded and cut them off from Tur'an, and attacked the rearguard ferociously as they struggled uphill to Maskana. There the army halted for the night, desperately short of water and surrounded by their enemies.

The next morning the Muslims held back until the heat of day sapped the crusaders. We have no dependable account of the fighting on 4 July, but it seems that the infantry, their will sapped by the lack of water, deserted the cavalry and took refuge on the hills known as the 'Horns of Hattin', William of Tyre tells us: 

‘They left the Springs of Saffuriya to go to the relief of Tiberias. As soon as they had left the water behind. Saladin came before them and ordered his skirmishers to harass them from morning to midday. The heat was so great that they could not go on so as to reach water. The king and all his men were too spread out and did not know what to do. He sent to the Count of Tripoli, who led the vanguard, to ask his advice. The message came back that he should pitch his tent and make camp. The king gladly accepted this bad advice, though when he gave him good advice he would never take it.' 

The cavalry, exposed to attack by enemy horse-archers, tried to break the encirclement, but only Raymond of Tripoli and Balian of Ibelin and a few others escaped. After a last desperate attempt to establish a camp on Hattin, Guy surrendered. Saladin's superior numbers had enabled him to hold off the increasingly desperate Christian charges. It seems inconceivable that Guy expected to march 26 km (16 miles) to Tiberias in one day, exposing his army to terrible thirst in an arid countryside. Whatever his plan, it evidently went wrong.

The significance of the battle
Saladin treated Guy with courtesy and most of the noble survivors were ransomed, but he personally decapitated Reynald and ordered a massacre of the Templars and Hospitallers. The remaining survivors were enslaved. Because of the effort Guy had made to raise troops, the cities of Palestine were virtually helpless before Saladin's army. Acre surrendered on 8 July. Sidon on 29 July. Beirut on 6 August and Ascalon on 4 September. Balian of Ibelin held out in Jerusalem, but surrendered on terms on 2 October. This disaster created a wave of crusading fervour in Europe which endured until the Seventh Crusade. 1248-54. led by St Louis of France (1226-70). The kingdom never recovered from the defeat of Hattin, after which it was always dependent on external forces for its very survival.

The Gasmouloi

                                      Latin mercenaries armed with crossbows and swords.
In the latter life of the Empire, Latin merchants often made their homes within the Byzantine cities they did business in, often taking Greek women as their brides. Their children were known as Gasmuli. Gasmuli had the reputation of being very skilled sailors and fearsome marines. They often took part in the city's defence as militia, often using crossbows and the swords as their weaponry.

The Gasmouloi were the product of mixed marriages between Byzantines and Latins. Pachymeres and Gregoras call them people of mixed race and excellent soldiers, whose military skills combined the prudence of the Byzantines with the boldness of the Latins. They manned Michael VIII’s fleet and they had considerable successes in the Aegean Sea against the naval forces of the Latins who were established in the Aegean islands after the Fourth Crusade. When Andronikos II, following the advice of his counselors reduced the size of the fleet, their role in the Byzantine fleet seems to have declined. However, they did not disappear. Probably, they played a significant role in the civil war of 1341–1347. The sources do not specify whether the Gasmouloi were paid only during military operations or not. That they were permanent residents of the empire means that we cannot exclude the possibility that they received their payment only for the purposes of the campaigns they participated. The Cretan refugees were established in Asia Minor by Andronikos II sometime before 1295. They were to receive annual grants and they provided the army with cavalry troops. They disappear from the sources after the suppression of the rebellion of Alexios Philanthropenos in Asia Minor; although they instigated it, they later opposed and captured Philanthropenos. The Alans were recruited in 1301 and the following year they were sent to Asia Minor. A part of them was sent to Bithynia under the command of Leo Mouzalon and another part was sent to campaign in Magnesia under the orders of Michael IX. The above-mentioned groups of people provided the army with mercenaries, whenever they requested to do so. It seems logical to conclude that, since they were permanent residents of the empire, they also possessed lands, which provided them with their income during periods of peace. Therefore, while these groups consisted a permanent source of mercenary troops for the state, their soldiers were recruited on a casual basis.


Following the Fourth Crusade, mixed unions between Greeks and Latins occurred to a very limited extent when the Latin Empire and the other Western principalities were established on Byzantine soil. The term gasmoulos itself is of unknown etymology and first appeared in the second half of the 13th century. It is, however, not unlikely that it has some relation with the Latin word mulus, "mule". Although it was generally used to refer to children of these mixed unions, it more specifically designated the children of a Byzantine woman and a Latin (often Venetian) father. The Gasmouloi were socially ostracized and distrusted by both the Byzantines and the Latins, who distrusted their ambiguous identity. In the words of a French treatise of ca. 1330, "They present themselves as Greeks to Greeks and Latins to Latins, being all things to everyone...". In a treaty signed in 1277 between Michael VIII and the Venetians, the Gasmouloi of Venetian heritage were considered as Venetian citizens, but in subsequent decades, many reverted to a Byzantine allegiance. As some of their descendants in turn wished to reclaim their Venetian citizenship, the issue of the Gasmouloi would plague Byzantine-Venetian relations until the 1320s.

After the recovery of Constantinople by the forces of Michael VIII in 1261, the Gasmouloi were hired by the Emperor as mercenaries. Together with men from Laconia, they served as lightly armed marine infantry in Michael's effort to re-establish a strong "national" Byzantine navy. The Gasmoulikon corps played a prominent role in the Byzantine campaigns to recover the islands of the Aegean Sea in the 1260s and 1270s, but after Michael VIII's death, his successor, Andronikos II Palaiologos, largely disbanded the navy in 1285. Denied of any remuneration by the Emperor and out of work, some Gasmouloi remained in imperial service, but many others sought employment in the Latin and Turkish fleets, as hired bodyguards for magnates, or turned to piracy.

By the early 14th century, the notion of gasmoulikÄ“ douleia ("service as a gasmoulos") had lost its specific ethnic connotations, and gradually came to refer to any service as a lightly armed soldier, both on sea and on land. In this capacity, Gasmouloi served the Byzantines and Ottomans in the 14th century, and the Latin principalities of the Aegean (where the servitio et tenimento vasmulia was hereditary) in the 15th and 16th centuries. The Byzantine navy, such as it was during the empire's last century, continued to use their services. The Gasmouloi played a role in the Byzantine civil war of 1341–1347, fiercely supporting their commander, the megas doux Alexios Apokaukos, against John VI Kantakouzenos. After the latter's victory, many of the Gasmouloi of Constantinople must have been dismissed. Those of Kallipoli eventually joined the Ottoman Turks, providing the crews for the first Ottoman fleets

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Outremer is Established

The first organized crusade, led by Raymond of St Gilles, count of Toulouse, Godfrey of Bouillon, his brother Baldwin, Hugh of Vermandois, Bohemond of Taranto and his nephew Tancred, set out in August 1096 by various routes, reaching Constantinople in April and May 1097. After swearing oaths of homage and fealty to Alexius, the Crusaders crossed the Bosphorus. The Byzantine troops accompanying them took Nicaea on 19 June and the first Frankish victory occurred at Dorylaeum on 1 July. The army then crossed Anatolia, taking Iconium (modern Konya), and arrived at the Taurus Mountains, where they divided into two groups; one led by Baldwin crossed the mountains and took Cilicia, while the other skirted around Anatolia to Caesarea and hence to Antioch.

The first major Frankish territorial gain and the establishment of the first Frankish state in the East came in March 1098 following the death of Thoros, prince of Edessa (Urfa), who after asking for Baldwin of Boulogne’s aid against the Seljuk attacks had adopted him as co-ruler and heir. With Thoros’ death during an uprising, timely from the point of view of Baldwin and perhaps instigated by him, Baldwin became count of Edessa. Prior to this, in the previous October, the Crusaders had gathered outside the walls of Antioch and a seven-month siege of the city began. Antioch was still protected by its remarkable fortifications built by Justinian and repaired in the tenth century. The long wall had over 400 well-placed towers. It surrounded not only the built-up area of the town but also its gardens and fields, and it climbed up Mount Silpius, making an effective siege almost impossible. Raymond of Toulouse was in favour of a direct attack on the walls. Such a strike might have succeeded, but instead a decision was made to try to encircle the city. In the end it was only through the treachery of one of the defenders, an Armenian named Firouz, that on 3 June 1098 Bohemond gained access to the city. With the capture of Antioch, the second Frankish state, the principality of Antioch, was established. After much delay, the march to Jerusalem commenced on 13 January 1099. Skirting the coastal towns, the Crusaders moved south to Jaffa and then turned inland to Lydda, Ramla and Nebi Samwil where on 7 June they encamped before the Holy City. After a six-week siege, on 15 July 1099 the wall was breached near the north-eastern corner by troops under the command of Godfrey of Bouillon. A week later Godfrey was elected ruler of the newly established kingdom of Jerusalem.

During the reign of Baldwin I (1100–18) the kingdom of Jerusalem expanded as the coastal cities fell one by one to the Franks. Jaffa and Haifa had already been occupied in 1099. Caesarea and Arsuf fell in 1101, Akko in 1104, Sidon and Beirut in 1110, Tyre in 1124 and Ascalon in 1153. At its peak in the twelfth century, the kingdom occupied an area extending from slightly north of Beirut to Darum in the south on the Mediterranean coast, and inland to several kilometres east of the Jordan valley and the Arava Desert, down to the Gulf of Eilat.

The county of Tripoli, last of the mainland states, was founded by Raymond of Toulouse between 1102 and 1105, although the city of Tripoli itself fell to the Franks only in 1109. The northern principalities of Antioch, Tripoli and Edessa were essentially dependencies of the kingdom of Jerusalem, though they often acted independently. In 1191 Cyprus also came under Frankish rule.

Division amongst the Muslims enabled the Frankish states to maintain a degree of stability; but towards the middle of the twelfth century the Franks suffered a major blow when in 1144 Zangi, master of Aleppo and Mosul, took Edessa. This county, which had been the first territorial gain of the Crusades, now became its first major loss and Zangi became known by his followers as the leader of the Jihad (Holy War). After his death and following the humiliating failure of the Second Crusade which had attacked Damascus rather than Edessa, Zangi’s son Nur al-Din took Damascus. In order to strengthen his position Nur al-Din sent Shirkuh, a Kurdish general, together with Shirkuh’s nephew, Saladin, to occupy Egypt. Shirkuh took Cairo in January 1169 and on his death Saladin became vizier of Egypt. Although formally he was under the overlordship of Nur al-Din, Saladin was in practice sultan of Egypt. When Nur al-Din died in 1174, Saladin occupied Damascus and united Egypt and Syria, thereby establishing himself as the leader of the Jihad against the Franks.

At the time when Muslims were finding unity under Saladin, Frankish rule was falling apart. After the death of King Amalric in 1174, the 13-year-old Baldwin IV, who suffered from leprosy, ascended the throne of Jerusalem. Despite his youth and illness Baldwin proved to be an able ruler, but as his disease progressed it became clear that he would have to delegate rule to a regent until the coming of age of his heir, the future Baldwin V, who was the son of his sister Sibylla and William of Montferrat. The king reluctantly appointed as regent Guy of Lusignan, who had married the recently widowed Sibylla, but shortly thereafter replaced him with Raymond III of Tripoli. Baldwin IV died at the age of 24 in 1185, and Baldwin V died in the following year.

Whatever Raymond’s expectations may have been, it was Guy of Lusignan who became king. In the meantime Saladin had consolidated his hold over the region and in 1187 events came to a head. A truce which Saladin had signed with the Franks in 1181 was broken by Reynald of Châtillon, who even attempted to attack Mecca itself. A subsequent four-year truce signed in 1185 was broken two years later when Reynald attacked a caravan on its way to Mecca, capturing Saladin’s sister. Saladin prepared for war. A huge Muslim army that has been estimated at 30,000 with 12,000 cavalry prepared for battle. First Saladin attacked Reynald’s fortresses of Montreal and Kerak. Then in June 1187 he crossed the Jordan and on 2 July his troops laid siege to Tiberias. The Frankish army marched to Saffuriya (Tsipori) and on the morning of 4 July met the Muslims in battle at the Horns of Hattin. The Frankish army was encircled and destroyed.

Within a few months most of the castles and towns of the kingdom, including Jerusalem, fell to Saladin and by the end of 1189 only Tyre remained in their hands. Much of the territory to the north was also lost, though Antioch and the castles of Crac des Chevaliers, Margat (Marqab) and Qusair remained in Frankish hands, as did Tripoli. Even with the reoccupation of the coast by the Third Crusade (1189–92) and the short-lived recovery of Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Nazareth, Toron and Sidon following a treaty reached in 1229, the Franks never really overcame this defeat. One of the few lasting consequences of the Third Crusade was the occupation of the island of Cyprus, which fell to Richard I of England in 1191. He sold it to the Templars and it was eventually granted to the deposed king of Jerusalem, Guy of Lusignan.