The Failure of the Second Crusade

While those who participated in the Second Crusade had probably planned to do so before hearing of the loss of Edessa to Zangi, the urgency of the crusade was likely reinforced by the loss. Pope Eugenius III issued a crusading bull (Quantum praedecessors) to Louis VII of France. A Cistercian abbot, Bernard of Clairvaux, convinced Conrad III of Germany to go on crusade as well. Louis VII and Conrad III arrived in Constantinople in 1147. The crusaders then attacked Damascus, a Muslim city that had been allied to the Christians until the attack. Upon the arrival of Nur al-Din (Nureddin) and his forces, the crusaders gave up their siege, ending the Second Crusade. It is important to note that the majority of the crusaders during this period crusaded either in Iberia (where they seized Lisbon) or (more unsuccessfully) on the eastern border of Germany against the Slavs and Wends.

The Failure of the Second Crusade: The events that followed their departure are fairly clear in the sources. Conrad was the first to set off, in May 1147. He was accompanied by a host of great nobles: King Vladislav of Bohemia, King Boleslav IV of Poland, as well as his nephew and heir, Frederick, Duke of Swabia, and the bishops of Metz and Toul.

Runciman describes the host as 'a turbulent army.'. They moved through Hungary without incident but were met there by Demetrius Macrembolites, an ambassador from the Byzantine court, who asked Conrad to swear an oath to do nothing against the welfare and interests of the emperor. After taking the oath, Conrad crossed the Danube into imperial territory on 20 July, with assistance from the Byzantine navy. He was given an official welcome at Sofia by the emperor's cousin, Michael Paleologus. After this, however, relations between the Germans and the Byzantines became very sour. The German army lacked discipline and the aging Conrad could not control his forces. They pillaged their way east, killing any who opposed them. The emperor sent troops to escort them through Byzantine territory, but this failed to quell the disorder and there were many violent incidents even before Conrad's host reached Constantinople.

In the meantime, king Louis and the French contingent were on the march. They had set off in June, a month behind the German force. Louis' contingent included his wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, who was also niece to Raymond, Prince of Antioch. The Countesses of Flanders and Toulouse and many other great ladies travelled with their husbands. The army also included a contingent of the Knights of the Temple, led by their Grand Master. According to Runciman, some of the French hurried on ahead, to link up with the Germans. They found the Germans unfriendly, refusing to spare them rations, and relations between the two armies became embittered. Both sides developed a dislike for their Byzantine hosts. As Runciman points out, it 'did not augur well for the success of the Crusade.

The French arrived in Constantinople by 4 October where they were well received by the emperor, who nevertheless moved them on across the Bosphorus as quickly as possible. By November they arrived at Nicaea where they linked up with Conrad and the Germans, and learned of a major defeat suffered by Conrad's army. When the German army left Constantinople Manuel made sure to warn them to stick near the coast. But Conrad had other plans. He wished to go through the interior, like the army of the First Crusade. In truth, however, his army was ill-prepared for this route and soon lacked both food and water. On the 25th of October the army came across a small river (at Dorylaeum, near the site of the victory of the First Crusade.) The Seljuk army attacked. It was "not a battle but a massacre." according to Runciman. There is no doubt that this battle was a major factor in the over-all failure of the second crusade.

The two kings now joined forces and decided to take the coast road southward, keeping within Byzantine territory. At Ephesus, Conrad's health deteriorated and he returned without his army to Constantinople, where the Emperor himself nursed him. He remained here for the next few months, until a Byzantine naval squadron escorted him to Jerusalem in March 1148. In the meantime, the combined army, led by king Louis, struggled through Anatolia and across the mountains towards Antioch. The journey was a nightmare of cold, hunger, and attacks by Turkish horsemen.

The two armies eventually reached Attalia, in modern Turkey, from where the cavalry and Louis' royal household embarked by ship to the Holy Land, leaving the foot soldiers to fare for themselves. Acoording to Runciman, fewer than half of them finally reached Antioch.

So far, the failure of this crusade can be detected in a number of ways. To begin, the bad discipline of the German army and the foolish decisions of its leaders had reduced its numbers dramatically. Further, while staying in Constantinople the Germans practically destroyed the palace at Philopatium, an act which did nothing to improve the native Christians' opinions of the crusaders. When the Byzantine emperor Manuel suggested that Conrad should take steps to discipline his troops, Conrad responded by threatening to come back a year later to take over Manuel's empire. It can be imagined that this idle threat did not help the crusaders' cause.

But Manuel had more at stake than just the palace. He had mounting problems with a local Turkish rebel leader, Masud, and when Masud offered him a treaty he had little choice but to accept. Because of this recently formed alliance, Masud and his agents could go freely through the empire, giving them access to the crusading army. Those who fell behind were easy targets for Turkish attack.

While the Turk unceasingly harried and inflicted death upon the crowd of people on foot, who were unable to keep up. Pitying the fate of the suffering people, who were dying both from famine and from arrows fired by the enemy.

When the crusading army found out about this treaty they could not understand Manuel's actions. Distrust and hostility developed between the Crusaders and their fellow Christian Greeks in the Byzantine Empire.

But the most significant mistake was still to come. The decision was made that the remaining crusading force would mount a full scale attack on Damascus. This was suicide. There were many faults in this plan. Damascus was a walled city with a strong garrison and, perhaps more importantly, the people of Damascus wished to remain on friendly terms with the Christians. Not surprisingly the attack failed and soon after the crusaders returned home in disgrace.

But then certain people whom we had no reason to distrust treacherously alleged that the city was impregnable on that side, and they led us to another position where there was neither water for the army nor could anyone gain entry. Everyone was annoyed and also upset by this, and we retreated, abandoning the enterprise as a failure.

According to Runciman, the failure of the Second Crusade was caused by the truculence, ignorance and folly of its noble leaders. (1952, P288). He rejects the notion that the cause of defeat was the treachery of the emperor. The real reasons for the failure of the second crusade may never be known but it is pretty safe to assume that there were four main factors. Firstly, the lack of discipline among the German soldiers. Second, the treaty made by Manuel with the Muslims; thirdly Conrad's decision to ignore Manuel's advice and travel through the interior, thus losing many men; and finally, by far the most important, the decision to attack Damascus. Nothing could be gained by this move and in fact much was lost.

The setbacks of the otherwise successful First Crusade were minor compared to the problems encountered during the Second Crusade. To inspire participation in a Second Crusade, Pope Eugene III cited the success of the First Crusade, forty years earlier, as evidence of God’s favor for such expeditions. He noted that the first crusaders had achieved much, but in keeping with the propaganda of the First Crusade, he claimed that such accomplishments were only brought about by the grace of God. The pope utilized the propaganda of the First Crusade to argue that the recent Muslim re-conquest of the Christian city of Edessa was the result of God’s displeasure with sinful Christians. Because God had punished Christians by allowing for their defeat, Eugene claimed the proper remedy was a new expedition of repentant and holy crusaders to head East and rectify the situation. The pope’s predictions proved wrong, as when the crusade was over, the crusaders had little to show for their massive sacrifices in life, money, and effort. Consequently, the Second Crusade was widely viewed as a debacle.

In reference to the disastrous events of the Second Crusade, the anonymous annalist of Würzburg wrote, “God allowed the Western church, on account of its sins, to be cast down.” The clerical preachers and writers who had called for the expedition would have agreed with the author up to this point. For them, God’s punishment for men’s sins was the most convincing explanation for the failure of the crusaders. However, such clerics would have found the analyst’s following commentary troubling, as he went on to list the clerics as the sinners and their preaching of the crusade as the sin.

Numerous clerical writers and preachers, who had advocated the Second Crusade, unexpectedly found themselves the target of similar criticism. No less a saintly figure than St. Bernard, perhaps the most popular and influential preacher of the twelfth-century, felt compelled to offer an apology for the crusade. Most clerical chroniclers who reflected on the failure of the Second Crusade did not find fault with either themselves or their preaching. Instead, clerical propagandists attempted to refocus the attention and criticism of their detractors on women.

Other chroniclers of the Second Crusade, including Giselbert of Mons and William of Newburgh, echoed Vincent’s sentiments. William of Newburgh went beyond only attributing the failure of the Second Crusade to women, arguing that the cause for launching the crusade resulted from male desire for a woman. According to William, the fall of the crusader state of Edessa in 1144, which effectively inspired the calling of the Second Crusade, was due to the lust engendered in its naïve governor by the daughter of an Armenian whom he referred to as a “perfidious individual.” The Governor, Count Jocelin II, had actually raped the daughter of the “perfidious individual,” which resulted in the victim’s father betraying the city to the Turks. The cleric William of Tyre made similar claims about Jocelin’s inattention to his duties during his pursuit of pleasure.

Result of the failure:

The experiences of the Second Crusade heavily influenced policies of the Third Crusade. The recapture of Jerusalem by the forces of Saladin sent shock waves through Christendom. Pope Gregory the VIII employed much of the same propaganda as his successors. He attributed the loss of the city to God’s anger with the sins of Christians. Regarding the fall of Jerusalem, he told the faithful, “…we do not doubt that the disasters of the land of Jerusalem… have been expressly caused by the sins of the inhabitants of the land and of the whole people of Christendom.” Letters from clerics in the East, that purported to record the events of the Jerusalem’s conquest, supported the pope’s claim that sin was the cause of defeat. A letter written in 1187 by the cleric Ansbert to the Master of the Hospitaller’s was representative of such accounts. He claimed, “because of our sins, very many of ours were killed, the Christian people were conquered, the king was captured.”

A much deeper, fundamental and principled criticism of the crusading movement emerged after the crusaders’ defeat at Damascus in the Second Crusade. Chroniclers lamented that the expedition, which had raised such hopes, had achieved nothing. Disillusionment spread widely. Bernard of Clairvaux, the crusade’s strongest preacher, received much personal criticism, and donations to his Cistercian Order declined. Pope Eugenius III called the Second Crusade "the most severe injury of the Christian name which the church of God has suffered in our time." The efforts of Bernard and others to attribute failure to God’s mysterious will or to explain this defeat as God's judgment on the crusaders' sins did little to ease the pain and renew courage, and crusading stalled for forty years. But opposition was unsystematized. Systematic, philosophical and theological critiques emerged only with the Third Crusade, but what led many to rethink their position was the personal despondency of the Second Crusade. Rationalization followed experience.


Andrew Holt, The Snare of the Devil, Women, Sin, and Crusades Propaganda, University of North Florida 2005.

Hue M, The Failure of the Second Crusade, Journal of Ancient and Medieval History.

Read online references and articles about the second crusade at Crusades-Encyclopedia, Second Crusade.


Five Letters in connection with the Second Crusade

1-(a) King Conrad III writes to Pope Eugenius III from the Diet of Frankfurt to inform him of his plans for the Crusade (March 1147)

Conrad by the grace of God King of the Romans and always Augustus to his father in Christ Eugenius, supreme pontiff of the Holy Roman Church, [expressing to him] filial love and due reverence in the Lord.

We have gratefully received the letter from your holiness sent with your legate Bishop Theodwin of Santa Rufina, a man who has been received by us with love and honour, and we have carried out the suggestions contained within it with filial and cordial charity. Hence we have with God’s assistance taken careful and effective steps for the government of our kingdom, which has been granted to us by God, a matter about which you advised and exhorted us with paternal affection.

This was discussed with great attention and thoroughness at a gathering of the princes at Frankfurt, where we held a general court. A lasting peace has been confirmed throughout every part of our kingdom, and our son Henry has been chosen with the unanimous agreement of the princes and the eager acclamation of the whole kingdom as king and as the successor to our sceptre. We have ordered that in accordance with Divine mercy he should be crowned in the palace at Aachen in the middle of Lent. Indeed, the matter which was of concern to your good self, that we have assumed such a great task, namely the holy and life-giving cross and the intention of [making] so great and lengthy an expedition, without your knowledge, proceeds from a strong feeling of true love. But the Holy Spirit, which ‘bloweth where it listeth’, and is accustomed to ‘coming suddenly’, allowed us to make no delay to take counsel with you or anybody else; and immediately He touched our heart with His wondrous finger, He commanded our absolute obedience without there being any opportunity for delay interposing.

Since we understand both from your letter and from the legate that you will come to Gaul, we request, venerable father, and advise you with the utmost respect and thought, that you seek to cross the Rhine so that we can meet together so that we may be able both to discuss and to plan how, with [the help of] God’s compassion, the peace of the churches and the ordering of the Christian religion may be augmented with appropriate measures and the well-being of the kingdom which has been granted to us by God, and the enhancement of our honour, may be confirmed through necessary decisions. And since there is very little time available for preparing our journey, we would very much like to have a face-to-face meeting with you at Strassburg on the sixth day of Easter Week.

We commend to your sincerity our envoys, men who are especially prudent and discreet, lovers of the Holy Roman Church and of the kingdom, and who are most dear to us, namely Bishop Bucco of Worms, Bishop Anselm of Havelburg and Abbot Wibald of Korvey, so that you may hear those things that they say as though [they were] from our own mouth, and you will not refuse to discuss and arrange the affairs of the Holy Roman Church and the kingdom with them in a friendly fashion.

2- (b) King Conrad III writes to Abbot Wibald of Korvey describing his journey to the east and his future plans (January/February 1148)

Conrad by the grace of God King of the Romans to the venerable Abbot Wibald of Korvey and Stavelot [wishing him] his grace and all good things.

Since we have had proof of your loyalty towards us and our kingdom shown on many occasions, we do not doubt that you will greatly rejoice now that you hear of the favourable state of our affairs. We therefore bring news to you, our loyal subject. After we had arrived at Nicea with a numerous and untouched army, we wanted to complete our expedition in good time. So we set off towards Iconium on the direct route, accompanied by guides to show us the way, and carrying with us as many supplies as we could. But however, after ten days on the road, and with a similar march still left, the supplies began to run short for everyone, particularly for the cavalry, while the Turks unceasingly harried and inflicted death upon the crowd of people on foot, who were unable to keep up. Pitying the fate of the suffering people, who were dying both from famine and from the arrows fired by the enemy, and on the request of all the princes and barons, we led the army away from that wasteland towards the sea, so as to regroup; preferring to keep it unharmed for greater things [in future] rather than to win a bloody victory over the archers.

When we arrived at the sea coast and pitched camp, much to our surprise the king of France arrived at our tents in the midst of a great storm, not wanting to wait for better weather in his joy. He was distressed that our army had been worn down by hunger and toil, but showing no little joy in our company. Indeed he and all his princes faithfully and devotedly offered us their service [obsequium suum]. They provided us with money and whatever else they had which we wanted. They then joined forces with us and our princes, although indeed some of our people were left behind, being unable to follow either because of illness or through lack of money, and because of this they became separated from the army. We then went without difficulty as far as St. John [Ephesus], where the Saint's tomb is, from which Manna is believed to gush forth, and there we celebrated the Lord's Nativity. We stopped there for some days, since both we and many of our men had fallen ill. We wanted to go on when we had recovered our health, but were so ill that we were quite unable to proceed. Hence, after waiting for us as long as they could, the king and his army set off regretfully, but we remained racked by illness for a considerable time.

When our brother the Emperor of the Greeks heard of this he was much upset, and he and our most beloved daughter the empress came to us in haste, and generously provided us and our princes with everything that we needed for our journey from his own resources. He brought us back almost by force to his palace in Constantinople, so that we might he speedily restored to health by his doctors. There he showed us greater honour, so we have heard, than had ever been demonstrated to any of our predecessors. We now plan to set off for Jerusalem on Quadragesima Sunday, we shall muster a new army there over Easter, and then travel on to Rohas [Edessa]. We ask that you yourself pray, and have your brothers also pray, that God should indeed deign to make our journey a success; and commend us to [the prayers of] all the faithful. We ourselves commend our son to your faithful care.

3-King Louis VII gives news of the Crusade to his regent, Abbot Suger (March/April 1148)

Louis, by the grace of God King of the French and Duke of the Aquitanians, to Suger, venerable Abbot of St. Denis, greeting and [his] grace. It is our duty to send news of our affairs in the East as quickly we can to you, who are dear to us. For we know that you have a heartfelt desire to hear about them, and nothing can make us happier than for you to receive good news about us.

After we had departed the frontiers of our kingdom, the Lord favoured our journey, and He brought us in good health and unharmed as far as Constantinople, and by Divine mercy with our whole army safe and in excellent spirits. There we were joyfully and honourably received by the emperor. After remaining there for a little while to gather the supplies that seemed to be needed, we sailed across the Bosphorus and commenced our march through Romania. However, we suffered great damage in these regions, both through the treachery of the emperor and through our own fault, and we were indeed threatened by many and grave perils.

For we were spared neither the vicious ambush of robbers nor the serious difficulties of the route, and faced daily battles with the Turks who with the emperor's permission entered his lands to harry the soldiery of Christ, and who strove with all their might to harm us. Since in many places it was impossible to find food, the people were soon suffering from hunger. And on one particular day Divine judgement exacted punishment for our sins, and a number of our barons were killed. For among those who died on the climb into the mountains of Laodicea the Lesser and in the region round about were our blood-relation the Count of Warenne, Rainald of Tonnerre, Manasses de Bulles, Walter de Montjay, Everard of Breteuil, and many more, the list of whom will be announced at a more favourable moment than the present, since our grief does not allow us to speak further about them now. We ourselves frequently risked death, but on each occasion were saved by Divine grace.

We escaped the attacks of the Turks and, protected by the Lord, arrived at Attalia with our army safe. There we had frequent and prolonged discussions as to the best way to continue our journey, and the general opinion of the bishops and princes was that, since our horses had for a long time been worn down by hunger and the hardships of the journey, and the way forward was beset with great difficulty, we should hurry on to Antioch by ship. We followed their advice, and on the Friday after the middle of Lent we and the majority of our princes arrived safely by sea at the aforesaid city, and it is from there that we have had this letter dispatched to you. As for the rest, all our work is in the hand of God, who, as we trust in him, will not abandon us who have our hopes in him, but will guide His enterprise to a glorious conclusion.

For you should most certainly know that we shall either return in glory or we shall never return at all. It remains therefore for you to think frequently of us, and always commend us most sincerely to the prayers of religious men everywhere. And since our money has been in no small way diminished by many and various expenses, all of which have been entirely necessary to us, you should devote your energy to raising cash, and hasten to send what has been collected to us by trustworthy envoys. We shall only be able to further Christ's business without much expense and great labour. Farewell.

4- Conrad III informs Abbot Wibald of his imminent return home (September 1148)

Conrad by the grace of God august King of the Romans to the venerable Abbot Wibald of Korvey [wishing him] his grace and all good things.

Because we know that you very much want to hear from us and to learn how we are prospering, we take this opportunity to tell you first of this. By God's mercy we are in good health, and we have gone on board ship to return on the festival of the Blessed Mary in September, after having accomplished all that God allowed us to do in these regions, and the men of the land permitted.

Let us speak of these men. We arrived by general agreement at Damascus, and we pitched camp by the city gate, albeit with our men facing considerable resistance. There can be no doubt that we came very close to capturing the city. But then certain people whom we had no reason to distrust treacherously alleged that the city was impregnable on that side, and they led us to another position where there was neither water for the army nor could anyone gain entry.

Everyone was annoyed, and also upset by this, and we retreated, abandoning the enterprise as a failure. However, they all without exception promised to undertake another expedition against Ascalon, and fixed a place and a day for this. But when we arrived there as had been agreed, we found scarcely anybody else present. After we had waited in vain for the rest to arrive for some eight days, and been deceived by these people a second time, we consulted our own interests. In short therefore, we shall with God's aid return to you. We render our thanks to you, as you deserve, for the care that you have shown to our son, and for all the loyalty that you shown us. With regard to other matters, we ask that you continue in the same vein, and all your kindness will be suitably rewarded.

5- Abbot Peter of Cluny writes to King Roger of Sicily, offering to act as a mediator between the king and Conrad III, and urging him to attack Byzantium in punishment for the empire’s ‘betrayal’ of the Second Crusade (c. 1150).

Furthermore, we make known to your royal majesty that we greatly lament the conflicts that are going on between you and the lord King of the Germans (or Emperor of the Romans). Both I and many others are strongly of the opinion that this discord is harmful to the Latin kingdoms and to the Christian Faith. For we have heard many times and often how your military power has brought benefits to the Church of God in the lands of his enemies, that is those of the Saracens. Moreover, we believe that greater advantages would accrue if you and the aforesaid king were united in a lasting peace and concord. There is also another matter which has long been of concern to us, and to almost all of our fellow countrymen in France, in seeking such a peace for you; namely the wicked, unheard of and disgraceful betrayal by the Greeks and their miserable king of our pilgrims, that is those in the army of God.

I shall speak of what I have in mind. If it should be necessary, insofar as is appropriate for a monk, I would not refuse to perish, if the justice of God would, through the death of one of his servants, revenge that of so many men, both nobles and commoners, indeed the flower of almost the whole of France and Germany, destroyed by wretched treason. Moreover, I can see no Christian prince under Heaven through whom this work can be carried out who is better, more suitable nor more effective than yourself, nor so acceptable to Heaven and earth.

For, by the grace of God, I say this not in flattery but on account of your outstanding deeds and from the general opinion about you. You are wiser of mind, better endowed with riches, and more practised in courage than other princes, and furthermore you are physically closer to this place. So therefore, rise up, good prince, to fulfil what not just I with my voice am saying, but what is the wishes both of myself and of everyone else. Rise up to help the people of God, zealously to uphold the law of God like the Maccabees, to revenge so many insults, injuries and deaths, and such effusion of blood in the army of God, shed so impiously.

I myself am ready, should an opportunity present itself, to go immediately to the aforesaid emperor, along with anybody else I can recruit, to secure the peace of which I spoke above. I shall try with all my strength and all my care to restore and confirm between you and him a peace that is so pleasing to God.

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Arsuf Battle

The Christians, after their July 12, 1191 capture of Acre, led by King Richard Edward of Reg en Dahl the Lionhearted and seconded by his able subordinate Baron James of Sul et Zen, were marching south from Acre to liberate Jerusalem (see map below). Richard, having carefully studied previous campaigns in the Holy Land, marched his army and a large baggage train along the coast with his fleet closely in support paralleling the army's movements. Saladin (Salah al-Din Yusuf ibn al Marq mac Lauflin), leader of the Turk's and conqueror of Jerusalem, had been attacking and harrying Richard's march. On September 7, 1191, ibn al Marq ne Saladin launched a general attack as the Christians approached the ruined city of Arsuf.

The Christians were arrayed in march order to closely protect the baggage train, heading south along the coast with a row of hills covering their inland flank. Richard (Edward of Reg en Dahl) placed the baggage train in the center of the force with a solid array of heavy infantry and medium crossbow covering the inland flank. Other forces in the vanguard, commanded by Baron James, consisted of the Anglo-Norman knights, a battle group of crossbow, followed by the Knights Templar. The rear, commanded by Richard himself, consisted of a heavy infantry battle group, the Knights Hospitaller, and a unit of heavy cavalry bringing up the rear.

Saladin (ibn al Marq) attacked from inland with a force heavily weighted with cavalry as was the Turk's typical practice. He put his best forces on his right, four battle groups of Mamelukes, under ali ben Phil's command. On his left under his personal command, he had the remaining heavy cavalry (three battle groups of armored lancers). His center, commanded by the Lady Robyn, consisted primarily of light forces anchored by The Mob. The entire Turk front was well screened by light cavalry and light foot forces.

(From: Wolff, R. L.; Hazard, H. W., Editor The later Crusades, 1189-1311 (A History of the Crusades, volume, II) Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press, 1969, p. 86)

Ibn al Marq's plan was for the forces under his immediate command on the right to act as an anvil to cork the Christian advance, while ali ben Phil's forces, the hammer in the plan, swept in and crushed the Christian rear. The Turkish center was to harass and tie die their opposing number to prevent the Christian center from supporting either the rear or the van. It seems in the end, only the center achieved its objectives, but not before the Christian day very nearly ended in disaster.

The Saracen left under ali ben Phil swept down towards the Christian rear, but due to pre-battle miscommunication among the Saracen commanders, chose to harass and harry Richard rather than attempt to close and destroy him, thereby losing valuable time in developing the battle to the Turkish favor. Saladin's own cavalry cut in front of and halted further advance of the Christians, thereby starting to fulfill his part of the overall plan. Lady Robyn's forces advanced on the Christian center, forcing the Christian's inland flank-guard to defensively deploy along the hill line. In the Christian advanced-guard under James, the Anglo-Norman knights supported on their left flank by heavy infantry deployed to screen the Turkish forces blocking the Christian advance towards the city of Arsuf; the Knights Templar, the cream of the Christian forces, moved to support the Anglo-Norman knights. In the Christian rear, Richard deployed the Knights Hospitaller and his other cavalry, thereby intimidating further advances of the Mamelukes under ali ben Phil.

The beginning of the battle:

Richard, seeing his rear was not being seriously threatened by ali ben Phil, and seeing also that the baggage train had moved significantly further onwards, ordered the Knights Hospitaller to simply reform and head south after the baggage. In the center, desultory bow fire was maintained between the Christians and Saracens. To the south in the Christian van, Saladin attempted to draw the Anglo-Norman knights out where they could be cut to pieces from all sides, but James, spying the trap, closely held the Anglo-Normans in check until the Knights Templar force could come up on their right in support.

(Note. Saladin is the lone figure in the center foreground to the right of the Turkish cavalry line; he has a green flag and his back is to the camera. The Anglo-Norman knights are facing the camera and are deployed in a single rank on the back side of the hill in the foreground; the Knights Templar are the white figures just behind and advancing on the seaward side of the Anglo-Normans. There is a battle group of Christian crossbow men advancing along the beach just in front of the Templar, covering the Templar’s seaward flank.)

Saladin, concerned that he was not seeing the aggressive spirit his battle plan expected of ali ben Phil's Mameluke lancers (the Saracen hammer force), hurriedly conferred with ali ben Phil to put fire into the attack on the Christian center and rear. With Saladin's stinging rebuke echoing in his ears, ali ben Phil hurled two of his four Mameluke units upon Christian crossbow formations poorly prepared to receive such furious assaults. Richard, seeing his center and rear about to crumble, brought the Knights Hospitaller in close support of the crossbow formations, prepared to thwart any break-through by the attacking Mamelukes.

At this point, Baron James at the Christian van was able to launch the creme de la creme of European knighthood, the Knights Templar, upon the Saracen heavy cavalry that was blocking the advance of the baggage train. With Christian crossbow men simultaneously advancing along the beach and threatening the Saracen cavalry flank, things were looking grim for Saladin's own personal command. The rest of the forces in the Christian van continued to screen the baggage train, forcing the Saracen enemy to stay well back from the intimidating display of Christian martial might.

Unfortunately, the Templar were slow in advancing, maintaining an intimidating but measured pace rather than charging with their usual élan [as in obtaining the poorest possible die roll for the charge distance ...]. This delayed the Templar attack sufficiently for Saladin to rush a cavalry lancer battle group from his right around to support his left, simultaneously bringing up light cavalry along the beach to counter-threaten the flank of the Christian crossbow men on the beach. Simultaneously, Saladin used other light cavalry to maintain an annoying fire upon the Anglo-Norman knights, trying to irritate them sufficiently to tempt them into the still waiting trap (see notes in photo below). Despite the delay in the Templar attack, the Templar were making short work of the vastly inferior heavy Saracen cavalry, but still taking sufficiently long so that Saladin had time to shore up his aforementioned crumbling left flank. The Templar did however manage to slay the nameless infidel general leading the lancer battle group opposed to the Templar.

Meanwhile, of the two Mameluke units ali ben Phil had ordered into immediate attack , a Christian crossbow unit holding steady repulsed one in the Christian center. The other Mameluke unit, attacking toward the Christian rear was making short work of the crossbow unit that they were up against. Richard, anticipating imminent collapse of these later crossbow men, extended the line of the Knights Hospitaller behind and in immediate support. Despite the rapidly deteriorating situation of the crossbow, help was on the way. The Christian heavy cavalry covering the extreme rear, having disposed the enemy opposed to it, rushed to strike the flank of the imminently victorious Mamelukes.

Alas, the heavy cavalry would arrive too late to succor the hapless crossbow, doomed as they were to be destroyed under the hooves of the victorious Mamelukes.

Unfortunately, at the rear of the Christian position, Richard had deployed the Knights Hospitaller too close behind the crossbow that they were supposed to support. The crossbow, when they broke, routed directly through the ranks of the knights, thereby throwing the knights into disorder [the knights dropped a cohesion level for being routed through - ed.] This proved a serious tactical error on the part of Richard as the Knights never recovered from this disorder. However, the knights despite their disorder and with the help of the Christian heavy cavalry, were able to charge and dispose of the Mamelukes causing the crossbow rout, as well as routing one other Mameluke unit brought up in support. However, while the knights were busy to their front, disastrous developments were occurring to their right in the Christian center.

In the van of the battle, the Knights Templar were chewing up the Saracen heavy cavalry, as very much according to Saladin's original battle concept to tie up the Christian heavy combat units. Unfortunately, this self same cavalry was being personally led by Saladin himself, an element not exactly in the original plan. Regrettably, for the Christians, the crossbow unit defending the beach, assaulted by desperate attacks to its front from the shreds of the Saracen heavy cavalry and threatened in the flank by Saracen light cavalry, broke and routed back up the beach. This left a gaping hole for the Saracen light cavalry to charge through, directly towards the exposed Christian baggage train. Baron James, though personally leading the Templar, seeing the desperate circumstances occurring to his beachward flank and rear, sent messengers out to the rest of the army calling for all elements to come to the succor of the defenseless baggage train.

The Christian situation looked desperate, even with the buoy in morale as word of the infidel leader's death spread through the Christian ranks. Enemy light cavalry was looting among the baggage wagons. The rear had collapsed, enemy light forces were pouring in through holes in the Christian line, heading straight for the baggage train, and without the treasure in the train, Richard's entire Levant strategy would collapse no matter how many subsequent victories he might win.

In this moment of crisis, the scattered Christian forces heeded Baron James' call for defense of the baggage train. The fleet, arriving just in the nick of time, poured red-hot ballista fire upon the Saracen light cavalry that had broken through along the beach, fragmenting and threatening to destroy the hapless cavalry with the fleet's shooting alone. Richard, rushing back to the train, rallied the routing crossbow unit still on the beach and headed its unsteady members back to the defense of the train. The Anglo-Norman knights about-faced and headed for the baggage train, cutting off in-land escape of the looters. Heavy foot, rushing up from the rear guard, charged among the baggage train, threatening annihilation to all would-be looters. The Knights Templar also about faced and charged, threatening to run down the looting light cavalry.

Unfortunately, the sudden rush to the center by the remaining Christians left their rear open for Saracen forces to charge in upon. The Christian position seemed about to completely collapse.

Fighting in and around the supply wagons was desperate as the Christians sought to eject the one light cavalry unit that had actually managed to reach and loot part of the train. However, in mere moments much of the rest of the Saracen forces were going to be upon the disorganized Christians with general melee occurring in and among the wagons, leading to certain destruction of Richard's treasure. It is in the moments of crisis such as this that great leaders show their true mettle, when the force of great moments hangs by the slimmest of balance. Richard, rather than panicking and heading for the safety of the fleet as he might so easily and justifiably done, instead bolstered the crossbow men he was with, turned them about and ran down the enemy light cavalry before them, destroying most and scattering the rest. The rest of the Saracen army, seeing their comrades streaking from among the supply wagons lost heart and they too turned and fled rather than face the further wrath of the God-fearing Christians.


- (A History of the Crusades, volume, II) Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press, 1969.
- Also We depended on James at