Updated on the 1st and 15th of every month
An Upside-Down History of the World [Japanese]
[Chapter 3] The Origins of Monotheism

Part 1: A Human Hypothesis
38 The End of the Crusader States

Saladin. Saladin was largely lauded as a merciful leader who rarely killed his prisoners of war. Instead, he almost always set them free.

illustrator/Masato Kumagai

For the Christians, Richard I of England was a leader, a man who, in part of his plan to recapture Jerusalem, had decided to seize the port of Jaffa (Tel Aviv) and turn it into a Christian stronghold.

So in August of 1191, Richard I left his base of Acre and launched a sortie against Jaffa. But things were far from easy for the “Lionheart” who, while on route in the city of Arsuf, was ambushed and drawn into a bloody battle by Saladin’s army. Still, it wasn’t enough to take Richard I down or stop him from leading his forces to victory over Jaffa in the Battle of Arsuf. The win gave Richard I valuable breathing time to regroup and recharge, fueling eventually a subsequent attack on Jerusalem the following January. But Saladin had been readying his troops for a counterattack. He made sure the city of Jerusalem’s defenses were robust.

Despite entering Jerusalem with a sizeable army, Richard I knew he was outmatched and was forced into retreat.

Saladin had also sent his forces to retake Jaffa, but was repelled by Richard I’s army. The two entered a deadlock, and Richard I, along with his men, began to doubt the prospects of a successful recapture of Jerusalem. Apprehension overshadowed any hope of continuing the fight. What’s more, there was troubling news regarding French king Phillip II, the leader, if you remember, who abandoned the fight with Richard I to return to his own country. The French king had instigated Richard I’s younger brother, John, by trying to coerce him into wresting the crown from Richard I.

On the Islamic side, the situation wasn’t any brighter. Saladin sensed his own feebleness and was in no way looking for a long, drawn-out conflict.

It’s what led to, in September of 1192, a reconciliation between the two camps. Christians would place the harbors that stretched from its newly acquired Acre to Jaffa under the control of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, and Muslims would continue to rule Jerusalem while also allowing unarmed Christian pilgrims entrance beyond its city walls.

Richard I wasted no time in returning to the Kingdom of England, marking the end of the Third Crusade.

That next year, having used what must have been every last ounce of his strength, the sickly Saladin died at the age of fifty-six (some argue he was fifty-seven).

Richard I and Saladin—Two Disparate Personalities

On route back to England, Richard I found himself shipwrecked and land-bound on a difficult route through central Europe. Not long after its inception, his journey home met an early end in Austria, where he was immediately recognized and taken prisoner in Dürnstein Castle by Leopold V, a man who was still resentful over Richard I’s decision to let his close aid tear down his flag. Once Richard I finally made his way back to England after paying ransom, he had business to take care of. He would punish French king Phillip II for meddling in the Kingdom of England’s affairs and would command his troops to cross the channel to the mainland.

In the end, Richard I’s reign would last only six months, and in 1199, from injuries sustained in battle, Richard I died. He was forty-two.

Richard I and Saladin were also two very different people. Richard I, who lost his life on the battlefield, had, perhaps owing to his larger-than-life personality, a habit of treating his prisoners extremely harshly. Mercilessly he would execute his prisoners when Islamic forces failed to abide by his treaty.

Saladin, on the other hand, led a life of compassion and is to this day widely lauded as an exceptional leader. Saladin rarely killed his prisoners of war and would almost always set them free.

In Christian eyes, the Islamic sultan (leader) Saladin was not only a heretic but also a person who was, in comparison to the “devout” Richard I, inferior in temperament and constitution. But of course, this was a prejudice and was far off from reality. We read that Saladin’s generous and kind nature actually changed the minds of those Christians who actually knew and interacted with him. To these contacts, he was simply a great man, regardless of his religious affiliation.

What continued were several more crusades, running up to eight total. But I will not be discussing them in detail. Because this is but a bird’s-eye view of history, my aim is to show how the three monotheistic traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam changed the course of human history.

I will touch, you could say, only the major points of the remaining crusades.