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The Third Crusade

CONTENT WARNING: the following articles may contain some disturbing content including religious commentary, mild language, crude humor, descriptions of medieval war, and irreverent interpretations of sacred texts. *Note: This article was originally written in 2013.

The Christian Crusades (Numbers 1-9) : 1095-1272 C.E.

a medieval book with art depicting knights in the Crusades

PART THREE – Richard the Lion Heart vs Saladin!

Previously on EPiK FAILs – I explained a little bit of the convoluted back-story leading to The First Crusade: the History of Islam, Jerusalem, the Byzantine Empire, and the Catholic Pope’s call for a Holy War against ‘non-believers’. (Click for PART ONE – The Cause of the CrossI then recounted the gory details that played out during the events of the First and Second Crusade: how the Crusading Knights committed wholesale slaughter against Muslims, Jews, and Christians alike, how Jerusalem was laid siege, and how 50 years later calls for reinforcements were met with failure as the Turks began to strike back, bringing the fight to the Templars… (PART TWO – Crusades One AND Two!)

The THIRD Crusade (The Saracens Strike Back… with a Vengeance!) : 1187–1192

Saladin, the Sultan of Syria (Kingdom of Heaven)

The Third Crusade wasn’t just the single most significant episode of The Crusades saga, this was a turning point in medieval history! Following the Siege of Jerusalem, and a failed attempt to send in Templar reinforcements, the Saracens took the opportunity to take back the Holy Land.

It all begins with the Sultan of Syria and the Battle of Hattin

Saladin, or Salāḥ ad-Dīn Yūsuf ibn Ayyūb, was a smooth operator. Saladin was a Turk who became Vizier to the Caliph in 1169. By 1171 he was the Sultan of both Syria and Egypt, and set out to take control of the entire Crusader Kingdom to ensure peace. Saladin was undoubtedly a brilliant military commander, but historians often point out that he was a man of great chivalry in stark contrast to many of the savage acts perpetrated by the Knights of the Templar Order. He condemned inhumane acts, he protected the lives of those who surrendered, and did not take prisoners of war. He even offered to help support those widowed and orphaned by the conflict. By his actions, the Sultan earned the respect of both Muslims and Christians alike throughout the lands. As is evident by his deeds, Saladin was truly a man fighting for what he thought was right.

Now a couple other things happened leading up to this Third Crusade. For starters, the Templar Knights broke a truce with Malik al-Afdal, the son of Saladin, by attacking a peaceful camp of 7,000 Saracens with only a handful of soldiers. This dumb move not only cost the lives of nearly the entire Templar unit, but also was the catalyst for the capture of Crusader castles in the region. Then Lord Reynald de Chatillon raided a Muslim caravan of its riches on its way to Mecca and by sheer happenstance, captured the sister of (you guessed it) Saladin.

Suffice it to say, Saladin was not happy about this turn of events. In response to this affront, it is said that he raised ‘an army without number, like the ocean.’ Modern estimates claim this number was approximately 80,000 loyal troops. Saladin then took the fortress of Tiberias with ease, and captured Lady Eschiva, Countess of Tripoli. He swore to avenge his sister’s honor, and took a personal oath to behead those responsible.

Saladin from the film 'Kingdom of Heaven'

“Talk to the hand.” – Saladin

The Battle of Hattin: Judgment Day

July 4th, 1187 – Guy de Lusignan, King of Jerusalem ordered an army of iron clad knights, led by Baron Raymond III Count of Tripoli, to march through the desert towards the captured fortress of Tiberias to confront Saladin and his Saracens on their own front. Ray attempted to reason with King Guy. Saladin’s reputation had preceded him, they’d be marching into his territory, in the bright daylight no less.

Ray spoke plainly, in the immortal words of Admiral Ackbar: “It’s a trap!”

'Inconceivable!' - 'the Princess Bride' reference

The Frankish King would probably have agreed if it wasn’t for the manipulative words of Gerard de Ridefort, Master of the Templars (and one to blame for the total fuck up at Tiberias, which got them into hot water in the first place). Gerard was a conspiring hypocrite, more interested in power than defending ‘the True Faith’. He utilized the noble warriors under his command to terrorize and plunder helpless citizens. It was Ridefort who convinced the King that they could take on Saladin. They were dead wrong.

The King of Jerusalem with the ‘True Cross’ in tow and 15,000 Knights left his city undefended to trek across the hot desert in search of a battle against a superior adversary on enemy soil, completely outnumbered, and… WITHOUT ENOUGH WATER!?

Yeah, twas an Epic Fail waiting to happen…

the Battle of Hattin (Kingdom of Heaven)

Along the way, as they marched through the middle of an unforgiving heat wave on a two day journey, their water rations ran dry and the men began to complain of thirst. King Guy ignored the opportunity to detour to the Springs of Turan and instead insisted that they could have water once they reached the Sea of Galilee, which was beyond the battleground they were marching towards. The men were lethargic and thirsty, they were surrounded by enemies in the merciless desert heat, and the horses began to collapse from exhaustion under the unbearable sun.

Still, the King would not retreat.

The dazed defenders of Jerusalem could see salvation on the distant horizon: the Sea of Galilee. Unfortunately it was just past the Sultan’s ginormous army. After narrowly surviving the first wave of attack, Raymond urged his liege to make a break for a well towards the north at the Horns of Hattin. The tired King however decided to disregard the predicament, and set up tent right there.

That night things only got worse. The Saracens decided it would be a good opportunity to close in on the miserable knights. They completely surrounded the encampment, taunting them throughout the night by pouring water into the sand. When Saladin’s messenger approached the King the next morning he offered to let them go unharmed if they gave up their foolish quest. Guy de Lusignan spat back in futility: “Tell your sovereign, I, King of Jerusalem, summon him to the Tribunal of Heaven. I’d rather die here with my knights here on this field then see Jerusalem the Holy fall to the Infidel!”

painting depicting the afterma th of Hattin (Sultan Saladin and King Guy)What happened next wasn’t pretty. Only 200 Knights and a thousand foot soldiers survived. Many laid down their arms, bowing before the Saracens, and promised to convert to Islam just for a chance at quenching their dire thirst. The Turks confiscated The Cross, and the captured Frankish barons were led before Saladin himself.

Saladin treated his prisoners with great courtesy. When Saladin handed the King a chalice filled with snow and sherbet fruit, Reynald de Chatillon (the one who captured Saladin’s sister btw), grabbed the cup and downed the slushy so fast he got a brain freeze. Saladin’s face turned a deep shade of red, “That drink will be your last.” Saladin personally led Reynald outside his royal tent where he removed his head from his body.

One by one the cities of the Kingdom of Jerusalem fell to the Sultan’s army: Tiberius, Acre, Jaffa, Nazareth, Saffuriya, Caesaria, and August. With the capture of its King, and a relentless bloody siege, Jerusalem fell back into Muslim control with relative ease.

Jerusalem under siege... yet again...

Jerusalem under siege… yet again…

Upon hearing of Saladin’s unexpected victories over the Crusader states, Pope Urban III died of an equally unexpected heart attack. Within days Pope Gregory VIII replaced him, and called for (you guessed it) another Crusade. The Pope lit up the Bat-signal and Richard the Lion Heart came to the rescue.

Enter: Richard the Lion Heart!

King Richard I was a true warrior, master-strategist, and all around bastard.

Richard the Lion Heart, astride a horse, glowing in sunlight

As King, Richard spent very little time being King in his own Kingdom, instead preferring the comfort of the battlefield.  To Richard, England was a source of income to fund his expeditions, nothing more. He left the politics to his evil brother, Prince John (the villain of Robin Hood)In fact, Richard spent so much time in France that his infamous moniker ‘the Lion Heart’ is a translation from his French nickname: Coeur De Lion.

When he was crowned King, Richard demanded no Jews be present. When a couple of Jewish leaders presented the King with gifts, he freaked the hell out, had the Rabbis stripped, flogged, and then kicked out of his court. This led to a rumor that the new King had ordered the exile or execution of ALL Jews in the country. A massacre swept through London in response. Mobs formed, riots and crime ran rampant. Jewish business were destroyed, their homes were burned down, and dozens were murdered. When Richard discovered this he had the worst of the perpetrators killed.

painting of Crusader KnightsWhen news arrived that Saladin had conquered Jerusalem, and the Church began drafting for the (aptly named) Third Crusade, Richard was the first to sign up. The Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick Barbarossa the First, also answered the call to arms, but died en route, while stupidly attempting to swim across a river like a dumbass.

Meanwhile, King Richard set out to reclaim the Holy Land, by any means necessary…

During his campaigns Richard made enemies of his allies, both Phillip II of France, and Archduke Leopold V of Austria. He also managed to reclaim Cyprus and Acre from Muslim-control before having a run-in with Saladin and his Saracen army.

After hearing tales of his formidable rival, Saladin approached Richard with a request to negotiate: he would surrender various lands around Jerusalem in exchange for the release of the Muslim soldiers that Richard had taken hostage. In response, Richard (the Lion Heart) marched all 2,700 captured soldiers from Acre to the city gates of Jerusalem. In view for all to see, he then ordered his troops to kill every last one of them. Saladin was horrified by this brutal act of indecency.

A scene from "Snow White and the Huntsman" that shows the King slicing a soldier in half.Over the next few years, Richard and Saladin fought numerous campaigns against one another, pitting Saladin’s tactical skill against Richard’s take-no-prisoners attitude. He was determined to avoid the same mistakes his predecessors had made, and didn’t fall for Saladin’s tricks.

I can only imagine that as these two great warriors met on the field of battle they nodded to one another in respect, like a cross between a wild west dual and a cheesy kung-fu flick, before busting out their light-sabers and back flipping into action, presumably while dodging bullets and decimating entire legions of zombies with their heat vision, facing off on the precipice of an erupting volcano during a lightning storm…

In 1191, at the Battle of Arsuf Richard showed Saladin exactly why they called him Lionheart as he led his forces to a decisive victory over Saladin’s Saracens: “King Richard pursued the Turks with singular ferocity, fell upon them and scattered them across the ground. No one escaped when his sword made contact with them; wherever he went his brandished sword cleared a wide path on all sides. Continuing his advance with untiring sword strokes, he cut down that unspeakable race as if he were reaping the harvest with a sickle, so that the corpses of Turks he had killed covered the ground everywhere for the space of half a mile.”

stark black and white depiction of 'the battle of arsuf'

A possible exchange between these two historical warriors:

  • Saladin: “So, we meet again.”
  • Richard: “Last we met, I was but the learner, now I am the Master!”
  • Saladin: “Only a master of evil, Dick!”
  • Richard: “You feelin lucky Punk?”
  • Saladin: “Do you even lift?”
  • Richard: “Come at me bro!”

The Battle of Jaffa ended in a stalemate. After recapturing Jaffa from Saladin, Richard’s forces holed up and managed to survive wave after wave of Saracen attacks, like an all night session of Left4Dead Survival Mode. King Richard held his own until Saladin gave in, and threw in the towel. Following several years of pointless bloodshed, Palestine was in a ruinous state, and both teams were about to keel over from exhaustion.

a modern painting of Knights vs Saracens

Richard the Lionheart had proven his extraordinary bravery and skill in battle, but ultimately failed to take back the Holy Land from Saladin’s forces. He was broke, sick, and had lost 90% of his men. Richard was forced to sign a truce (the Treaty of Jaffa), and returned home to England, his long-neglected stomping grounds. He later
died from an arrow wound that became infected.


To be concluded…Immediately!

                                                                                        Erik Slader

Hope you enjoyed this edition of “Epik Fails!”, if you have any comments, questions, concerns, or suggestions let me know in the comments below! Also, be sure to ’Like’ EPiK FAILs on Facebook, or Followon Twitter, and SHARE IT with your friends!

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“The Crusades, Christianity, and Islam” by: Jonathan Riley-Smith

a cartoon of various knights massacring 'infidels' saying 'repent!'“History’s Greatest Defeats: THE CRUSADES – Failed Holy Wars” by: Cherese Cartlidge

“The Complete Idiot’s Guide to: The Crusades” by: Paul L. Williams, Ph.D.

“Warriors of God: Richard the Lionheart and Saladin in the Third Crusade” by: James Reston, Jr.

“A History of the Crusades” by: Steven Runciman

“The Hinge Factor” by Erik Durschmied

“Brassey’s Book of Military Blunders” by Geoffrey Regan

“The Little Book of Big F*#k Ups” by Ken and Katie Lytle

“The Book of Ancient Bastards” by Brian Thornton

“Crusade” (graphic novel series) By Jean Dufaux and Philippe Xavier

“The Crusades: The Crescent and the Cross” (2005 – documentary)

“Kingdom of Heaven” (2005) – Directed by: Ridley Scott. Starring: Orlando Bloom and Eva Green.

Erik Slader
Erik Slader
Erik Slader is the creator of “Epik Fails of History” a blog (and podcast) about the most epic fails… of history. With Ben Thompson, Erik is the co-author of the Epic Fails book series. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Digital Media, once managed a comic book shop, has a weakness for fancy coffee and currently lives in Green Cove Springs, Florida with too many cats.


  1. […] Find out next time in – PART THREE – Richard the Lion Heart vs Saladin! […]

  2. […] Previously on Epik Fails – After explaining the convoluted back-story leading to the Pope’s call for a Holy War against Jerusalem (Click for PART ONE – The Cause of the Cross), and the events of the first couple Crusades (PART TWO – Crusades One AND Two!), I then gave a detailed account of how Saladin, the Sultan of Syria turned the tide against the barbaric Templar Knights at the Battle of Hattin before reconquering the Holy City effectively kick-starting the Third Crusade where he came to blows with the English King, Richard the Lion Heart. (PART THREE – Richard the Lion Heart vs Saladin!) […]

  3. […] Richard the Lionheart, Columbus, and Andrew Jackson, Napoleon Dynamite Bonaparte is more legend than man, and as a result […]

  4. Rebaz says:

    Salaha din aube hi is kurdish from kurdistan hi is not arab …

  5. […] year later, Richard got bored of being the King of England and joined the Third Crusade with his best buddy Phil. Richard didn’t exactly trust his lil bro, Prince John, so in his […]

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