Decline and Fall of The Roman Empire




Gibbon's The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire

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Chapter LIX: The Crusades. -- Part III.

Philip Augustus, and Richard the First, are the only kings of France and England who have fought under the same banners; but the holy service in which they were enlisted was incessantly disturbed by their national jealousy; and the two factions, which they protected in Palestine, were more averse to each other than to the common enemy. In the eyes of the Orientals; the French monarch was superior in dignity and power; and, in the emperor's absence, the Latins revered him as their temporal chief. ^71 His exploits were not adequate to his fame. Philip was brave, but the statesman predominated in his character; he was soon weary of sacrificing his health and interest on a barren coast: the surrender of Acre became the signal of his departure; nor could he justify this unpopular desertion, by leaving the duke of Burgundy with five hundred knights and ten thousand foot, for the service of the Holy Land. The king of England, though inferior in dignity, surpassed his rival in wealth and military renown; ^72 and if heroism be confined to brutal and ferocious valor, Richard Plantagenet will stand high among the heroes of the age. The memory of Cur de Lion, of the lion-hearted prince, was long dear and glorious to his English subjects; and, at the distance of sixty years, it was celebrated in proverbial sayings by the grandsons of the Turks and Saracens, against whom he had fought: his tremendous name was employed by the Syrian mothers to silence their infants; and if a horse suddenly started from the way, his rider was wont to exclaim, "Dost thou think King Richard is in that bush?" ^73 His cruelty to the Mahometans was the effect of temper and zeal; but I cannot believe that a soldier, so free and fearless in the use of his lance, would have descended to whet a dagger against his valiant brother Conrad of Montferrat, who was slain at Tyre by some secret assassins. ^74 After the surrender of Acre, and the departure of Philip, the king of England led the crusaders to the recovery of the sea-coast; and the cities of Cæsarea and Jaffa were added to the fragments of the kingdom of Lusignan. A march of one hundred miles from Acre to Ascalon was a great and perpetual battle of eleven days. In the disorder of his troops, Saladin remained on the field with seventeen guards, without lowering his standard, or suspending the sound of his brazen kettle-drum: he again rallied and renewed the charge; and his preachers or heralds called aloud on the unitarians, manfully to stand up against the Christian idolaters. But the progress of these idolaters was irresistible; and it was only by demolishing the walls and buildings of Ascalon, that the sultan could prevent them from occupying an important fortress on the confines of Egypt. During a severe winter, the armies slept; but in the spring, the Franks advanced within a day's march of Jerusalem, under the leading standard of the English king; and his active spirit intercepted a convoy, or caravan, of seven thousand camels. Saladin ^75 had fixed his station in the holy city; but the city was struck with consternation and discord: he fasted; he prayed; he preached; he offered to share the dangers of the siege; but his Mamalukes, who remembered the fate of their companions at Acre, pressed the sultan with loyal or seditious clamors, to reserve his person and their courage for the future defence of the religion and empire. ^76 The Moslems were delivered by the sudden, or, as they deemed, the miraculous, retreat of the Christians; ^77 and the laurels of Richard were blasted by the prudence, or envy, of his companions. The hero, ascending a hill, and veiling his face, exclaimed with an indignant voice, "Those who are unwilling to rescue, are unworthy to view, the sepulchre of Christ!" After his return to Acre, on the news that Jaffa was surprised by the sultan, he sailed with some merchant vessels, and leaped foremost on the beach: the castle was relieved by his presence; and sixty thousand Turks and Saracens fled before his arms. The discovery of his weakness, provoked them to return in the morning; and they found him carelessly encamped before the gates with only seventeen knights and three hundred archers. Without counting their numbers, he sustained their charge; and we learn from the evidence of his enemies, that the king of England, grasping his lance, rode furiously along their front, from the right to the left wing, without meeting an adversary who dared to encounter his career. ^78 Am I writing the history of Orlando or Amadis?

[Footnote 71: Magnus hic apud eos, interque reges eorum tum virtute tum majestate eminens . . . . summus rerum arbiter, (Bohadin, p. 159.) He does not seem to have known the names either of Philip or Richard.]

[Footnote 72: Rex Angliæ, præstrenuus . . . . rege Gallorum minor apud eos censebatur ratione regni atque dignitatis; sed tum divitiis florentior, tum bellicâ virtute multo erat celebrior, (Bohadin, p. 161.) A stranger might admire those riches; the national historians will tell with what lawless and wasteful oppression they were collected.]

[Footnote 73: Joinville, p. 17. Cuides-tu que ce soit le roi Richart?]

[Footnote 74: Yet he was guilty in the opinion of the Moslems, who attest the confession of the assassins, that they were sent by the king of England, (Bohadin, p. 225;) and his only defence is an absurd and palpable forgery, (Hist. de l'Académie des Inscriptions, tom. xv. p. 155--163,) a pretended letter from the prince of the assassins, the Sheich, or old man of the mountain, who justified Richard, by assuming to himself the guilt or merit of the murder. *

Note
* Von Hammer (Geschichte der Assassinen, p. 202) sums up against Richard, Wilken (vol. iv. p. 485) as strongly for acquittal. Michaud (vol. ii. p. 420) delivers no decided opinion. This crime was also attributed to Saladin, who is said, by an Oriental authority, (the continuator of Tabari,) to have employed the assassins to murder both Conrad and Richard. It is a melancholy admission, but it must be acknowledged, that such an act would be less inconsistent with the character of the Christian than of the Mahometan king. -- M.]

[Footnote 75: See the distress and pious firmness of Saladin, as they are described by Bohadin, (p. 7--9, 235--237,) who himself harangued the defenders of Jerusalem; their fears were not unknown to the enemy, (Jacob. à Vitriaco, l. i. c. 100, p. 1123. Vinisauf, l. v. c. 50, p. 399.)]

[Footnote 76: Yet unless the sultan, or an Ayoubite prince, remained in Jerusalem, nec Curdi Turcis, nec Turci essent obtemperaturi Curdis, (Bohadin, p. 236.) He draws aside a corner of the political curtain.]

[Footnote 77: Bohadin, (p. 237,) and even Jeffrey de Vinisauf, (l. vi.

  1. 1--8, p. 403--409,) ascribe the retreat to Richard himself; and Jacobus à Vitriaco observes, that in his impatience to depart, in alterum virum mutatus est, (p. 1123.) Yet Joinville, a French knight, accuses the envy of Hugh duke of Burgundy, (p. 116,) without supposing, like Matthew Paris, that he was bribed by Saladin.]

[Footnote 78: The expeditions to Ascalon, Jerusalem, and Jaffa, are related by Bohadin (p. 184--249) and Abulfeda, (p. 51, 52.) The author of the Itinerary, or the monk of St. Alban's, cannot exaggerate the cadhi's account of the prowess of Richard, (Vinisauf, l. vi. c. 14--24,

  1. 412--421. Hist. Major, p. 137--143;) and on the whole of this war there is a marvellous agreement between the Christian and Mahometan writers, who mutually praise the virtues of their enemies.]

During these hostilities, a languid and tedious negotiation ^79 between the Franks and Moslems was started, and continued, and broken, and again resumed, and again broken. Some acts of royal courtesy, the gift of snow and fruit, the exchange of Norway hawks and Arabian horses, softened the asperity of religious war: from the vicissitude of success, the monarchs might learn to suspect that Heaven was neutral in the quarrel; nor, after the trial of each other, could either hope for a decisive victory. ^80 The health both of Richard and Saladin appeared to be in a declining state; and they respectively suffered the evils of distant and domestic warfare: Plantagenet was impatient to punish a perfidious rival who had invaded Normandy in his absence; and the indefatigable sultan was subdued by the cries of the people, who was the victim, and of the soldiers, who were the instruments, of his martial zeal. The first demands of the king of England were the restitution of Jerusalem, Palestine, and the true cross; and he firmly declared, that himself and his brother pilgrims would end their lives in the pious labor, rather than return to Europe with ignominy and remorse. But the conscience of Saladin refused, without some weighty compensation, to restore the idols, or promote the idolatry, of the Christians; he asserted, with equal firmness, his religious and civil claim to the sovereignty of Palestine; descanted on the importance and sanctity of Jerusalem; and rejected all terms of the establishment, or partition of the Latins. The marriage which Richard proposed, of his sister with the sultan's brother, was defeated by the difference of faith; the princess abhorred the embraces of a Turk; and Adel, or Saphadin, would not easily renounce a plurality of wives. A personal interview was declined by Saladin, who alleged their mutual ignorance of each other's language; and the negotiation was managed with much art and delay by their interpreters and envoys. The final agreement was equally disapproved by the zealots of both parties, by the Roman pontiff and the caliph of Bagdad. It was stipulated that Jerusalem and the holy sepulchre should be open, without tribute or vexation, to the pilgrimage of the Latin Christians; that, after the demolition of Ascalon, they should inclusively possess the sea-coast from Jaffa to Tyre; that the count of Tripoli and the prince of Antioch should be comprised in the truce; and that, during three years and three months, all hostilities should cease. The principal chiefs of the two armies swore to the observance of the treaty; but the monarchs were satisfied with giving their word and their right hand; and the royal majesty was excused from an oath, which always implies some suspicion of falsehood and dishonor. Richard embarked for Europe, to seek a long captivity and a premature grave; and the space of a few months concluded the life and glories of Saladin. The Orientals describe his edifying death, which happened at Damascus; but they seem ignorant of the equal distribution of his alms among the three religions, ^81 or of the display of a shroud, instead of a standard, to admonish the East of the instability of human greatness. The unity of empire was dissolved by his death; his sons were oppressed by the stronger arm of their uncle Saphadin; the hostile interests of the sultans of Egypt, Damascus, and Aleppo, ^82 were again revived; and the Franks or Latins stood and breathed, and hoped, in their fortresses along the Syrian coast.

[Footnote 79: See the progress of negotiation and hostility in Bohadin,

  1. 207--260,) who was himself an actor in the treaty. Richard declared his intention of returning with new armies to the conquest of the Holy Land; and Saladin answered the menace with a civil compliment, (Vinisauf
  1. vi. c. 28, p. 423.)]

[Footnote 80: The most copious and original account of this holy war is Galfridi à Vinisauf, Itinerarium Regis Anglorum Richardi et aliorum in Terram Hierosolymorum, in six books, published in the iid volume of Gale's Scriptores Hist. Anglicanæ, (p. 247--429.) Roger Hoveden and Matthew Paris afford likewise many valuable materials; and the former describes, with accuracy, the discipline and navigation of the English fleet.]

[Footnote 81: Even Vertot (tom. i. p. 251) adopts the foolish notion of the indifference of Saladin, who professed the Koran with his last breath.]

[Footnote 82: See the succession of the Ayoubites, in Abulpharagius, (Dynast. p. 277, &c.,) and the tables of M. De Guignes, l'Art de Vérifier les Dates, and the Bibliothèque Orientale.]

The noblest monument of a conqueror's fame, and of the terror which he inspired, is the Saladine tenth, a general tax which was imposed on the laity, and even the clergy, of the Latin church, for the service of the holy war. The practice was too lucrative to expire with the occasion: and this tribute became the foundation of all the tithes and tenths on ecclesiastical benefices, which have been granted by the Roman pontiffs to Catholic sovereigns, or reserved for the immediate use of the apostolic see. ^83 This pecuniary emolument must have tended to increase the interest of the popes in the recovery of Palestine: after the death of Saladin, they preached the crusade, by their epistles, their legates, and their missionaries; and the accomplishment of the pious work might have been expected from the zeal and talents of Innocent the Third. ^84 Under that young and ambitious priest, the successors of St. Peter attained the full meridian of their greatness: and in a reign of eighteen years, he exercised a despotic command over the emperors and kings, whom he raised and deposed; over the nations, whom an interdict of months or years deprived, for the offence of their rulers, of the exercise of Christian worship. In the council of the Lateran he acted as the ecclesiastical, almost as the temporal, sovereign of the East and West. It was at the feet of his legate that John of England surrendered his crown; and Innocent may boast of the two most signal triumphs over sense and humanity, the establishment of transubstantiation, and the origin of the inquisition. At his voice, two crusades, the fourth and the fifth, were undertaken; but, except a king of Hungary, the princes of the second order were at the head of the pilgrims: the forces were inadequate to the design; nor did the effects correspond with the hopes and wishes of the pope and the people. The fourth crusade was diverted from Syria to Constantinople; and the conquest of the Greek or Roman empire by the Latins will form the proper and important subject of the next chapter. In the fifth, ^85 two hundred thousand Franks were landed at the eastern mouth of the Nile. They reasonably hoped that Palestine must be subdued in Egypt, the seat and storehouse of the sultan; and, after a siege of sixteen months, the Moslems deplored the loss of Damietta. But the Christian army was ruined by the pride and insolence of the legate Pelagius, who, in the pope's name, assumed the character of general: the sickly Franks were encompassed by the waters of the Nile and the Oriental forces; and it was by the evacuation of Damietta that they obtained a safe retreat, some concessions for the pilgrims, and the tardy restitution of the doubtful relic of the true cross. The failure may in some measure be ascribed to the abuse and multiplication of the crusades, which were preached at the same time against the Pagans of Livonia, the Moors of Spain, the Albigeois of France, and the kings of Sicily of the Imperial family. ^86 In these meritorious services, the volunteers might acquire at home the same spiritual indulgence, and a larger measure of temporal rewards; and even the popes, in their zeal against a domestic enemy, were sometimes tempted to forget the distress of their Syrian brethren. From the last age of the crusades they derived the occasional command of an army and revenue; and some deep reasoners have suspected that the whole enterprise, from the first synod of Placentia, was contrived and executed by the policy of Rome. The suspicion is not founded, either in nature or in fact. The successors of St. Peter appear to have followed, rather than guided, the impulse of manners and prejudice; without much foresight of the seasons, or cultivation of the soil, they gathered the ripe and spontaneous fruits of the superstition of the times. They gathered these fruits without toil or personal danger: in the council of the Lateran, Innocent the Third declared an ambiguous resolution of animating the crusaders by his example; but the pilot of the sacred vessel could not abandon the helm; nor was Palestine ever blessed with the presence of a Roman pontiff. ^87

[Footnote 83: Thomassin (Discipline de l'Eglise, tom. iii. p. 311--374) has copiously treated of the origin, abuses, and restrictions of these tenths. A theory was started, but not pursued, that they were rightfully due to the pope, a tenth of the Levite's tenth to the high priest, (Selden on Tithes; see his Works, vol. iii. p. ii. p. 1083.)]

[Footnote 84: See the Gesta Innocentii III. in Murat. Script. Rer. Ital., (tom. iii. p. 486--568.)]

[Footnote 85: See the vth crusade, and the siege of Damietta, in Jacobus à Vitriaco, (l. iii. p. 1125--1149, in the Gesta Dei of Bongarsius,) an eye-witness, Bernard Thesaurarius, (in Script. Muratori, tom. vii. p. 825--846, c. 190--207,) a contemporary, and Sanutus, (Secreta Fidel Crucis, l. iii. p. xi. c. 4--9,) a diligent compiler; and of the Arabians Abulpharagius, (Dynast. p. 294,) and the Extracts at the end of Joinville, (p. 533, 537, 540, 547, &c.)]

[Footnote 86: To those who took the cross against Mainfroy, the pope


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