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The Role of the Knights Templar

Allies and Enemies in the Holy Land

"Come to Death"

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Allies and Enemies in the Holy Land

"Come to Death"

"The knights also excelled in military architecture and their castles in Palestine were exceptionally well designed and virtually impregnable. Foremost amongst these imposing fortresses was Atlit (Castle Pilgrim) which...had been built in the year 1218 by the fourteenth Grand Master of the Templars, William of Chartres..." - Graham Hancock, The Sign and the Seal

"...Some of the nearest castles to the Assassin 'state' as it developed were the Templar castles of Tortosa (granted to the Templars in 1152) and Chastel Blanc." "The austere and spiritual Templars looking back to some imagined form of lost perfection, an exalted and nostalgic idea of an ideal order of chivalry, conscious themselves of their courage, loyalty and religious purpose, cannot have failed to recognize the goals and methods of the Assassins as close to their own. The same kind of men, not great noblemen but men from modest country manors who would have no role in the non-religious context, appear to have joined the Assassins and the Templars. There were essentially new men whose success derived from their search for personal and spiritual identity reinforced by the tight religious structure, rules and hierarchy of the two orders." "...The lay brothers, sergeants and knights of the Templars duplicate the lasiq (layman), fida'i (agent) and rafiq (companion) of the Assassins, while the knightly equivalent within the Assassins, the rafiqs, wore white mantels trimmed with red which correspond to the white mantle and red cross of the Templars." "The higher ranks of both orders, with priors, grand priors and Master, are also strikingly similar; prior, grand prior and Master correspond to da'i, da'i kabir and the Grand Master. In this context it is worth observing that while St Bernard provided the Rule of the Templars, the hierarchical structure seems to have come later and evidently from some other source." - Edward Burman, The Assassins - Holy Killers of Islam

'Come to death, Templars!'

"It is unlikely that there were very often more than three hundred heavily armed Templars in the Holy Land, even when knights and sergeants are counted together. But these shock troops were surrounded by squires, servants, Turkish mercenary troops and other dependents, so that in the greatest Palestinian castles fifty or sixty knights and sergeants would form the nucleus of a garrison of four or five hundred." - Peter Partner, The Murdered Magicians

"Assassin castles usually consisted of a walled compound with a keep built at its weakest point, designed as a fortified base for operations rather than to defend territory. Before sophisticated siege warfare, such as that used by Hulegu against Alamut over a century later they were in Syria relatively small and without the natural defense of remoteness of the Persian castles. It is this strategic, colonizing function of the castle which the Templars and other crusading orders may have developed from the Assassins, with no thought of territorial control, and no qualms about letting enemies pass between the castles." - Edward Burman, The Assassins - Holy Killers of Islam

"The famous question of the three thousand gold pieces paid the by Syrian branch of the Assassins to the Templars is another matter which has never been settled. One opinion holds that this money was given as a tribute to the Christians; the other, that is was a secret allowance from the larger to the smaller organization. Those who think that the Assassins were fanatical Moslems, and therefore would not form any alliance with those who to them were infidels, should be reminded that to the followers of the Old Man of the Mountains [Rashid al-Din Sinan, Grand Master of the Syrian Assassins fron 1162 to 1193] only he was right, and the Saracens who were fighting the Holy War for Allah against the Crusaders were as bad as anyone else who did not accept the Assassin doctrine."

Saladin "attacked nearby Hittin at dawn on Friday, July 3rd [1187]. Thirty thousand Crusaders were captured, including the King of Jerusalem. No Templar is mentioned in the detailed Arab account as asking for mercy on religious or other grounds, although all knew that Saladin had issued a war-cry: 'Come to death, Templars!' The Grand Master, Gerard of Ridefort, and several other knights were among those taken. Saladin offered them their lives if they would see the light of the True Faith. None accepted, and all these knights were beheaded except, admittedly, the Templar Grand Master." Other accounts refer to "a body of Templars who went over to the Saracen side, and whose supposed descendants survive to this day as the Salibiyya (Crusader) tribe in north Arabia." - John J. Robinson, Born in Blood

"...A poem written in Provencal dialect by; a troubadour who is thought to have been a Templar" refers " to the disastrous fall of a number of the main cities and castles of the Crusader kingdom in 1265 (notably the town of Caesarea and the fortress of Arsuf)..." - Peter Partner, The Murdered Magicians

"Pain and wrath invade my heart so that I almost think of suicide, or of laying down the cross I once assumed in honour of he who was laid upon the cross, for neither the cross nor his name protect us against the accursed Turks. Indeed, it seems clear enough that God is supporting them in our despite. "At one stride they have captured Caesarea and taken by force the strong castle of Arsuf. O lord God, what a hard road have the knights, the sergeants and the burghers taken, who were harbored within the walls of Arsuf! Alas! the losses of the kingdom of Syria have been so heavy that is power is dispersed for ever! "Then it is really foolish to fight the Turks, not that Jesus Christ no longer opposes them. They have vanquished the Franks and Tartars and Armenians and Persians, and they continue to do so. And daily they impose new defeats on us. for god, who used to watch on our behalf, is now asleep, and Mohammed (Bafometz] puts forth his power to support the Sultan." - Ricault Bonomel

" But even though the Kingdom of Jerusalem now consisted of no more than a narrow coastal strip from Acre to Beirut, it remained rich and the annual revenues of mid-13th century Acre alone were greater than the normal revenues of the King of England." - David Nicolle - Acre 1291

PERFORMANCE OF THE CHRISTIAN ARMY


Christian morale and potential may have been damaged by a previous defeat at the
Springs of Cresson, while the events surrounding that smaller battle had clearly
undermined the prestige of the Latin army's ablest commander, Count Raymond of
Tripoli. Sir Charles Oman's suggestion that the Latin army could have reached water
at the Wadi al Hammam, many kilometres north of Hattin, was almost certainly
wrong. In fact the only major mistake that King Guy made was marching east from
Sephorie in the first place. Having made that decision, however, he and his advisers
seem to have done whatever they could, and probably whatever they should, to trap
Saladin in a disadvantageous position. Once battle was joined, the Christian army
stuck to the tactics which had served it well in the past. The fact that these now failed
was partly because of improvements in the opposing Muslim forces, but mostly
because of the exhaustion of the infantry. They in turn let their cavalry down by
failing in their primary task of protecting the knights' horses. Horse-armour may have been used in the Latin army but would have been extremely rare in 1187. It
would also have made the knights even more unwieldy than they were. The supposed
military-technological superiority of the European armoured knight is still accepted
by many historians who should know better. Given the circumstances in which he
had to fight in the Middle East, we should leave the last word with Saladin's friend
and biographer, Baha al Din:
A Latin knight, as long as his horse was in good condition, could not be
knocked down. Covered by a mail hauberk from head to foot... the most
violent blows had no effect on him. But once his horse was killed, the knight
was thrown and taken prisoner. -  From Osprey Campaign #019 - Hattin 1187 Saladin's greatest victory
-----------------------------------

the Springs of Cresson

Gerard de Ridefort summoned all Templar troops in the area and at nightfall on 30 April the
Marshal of the Temple brought 90 knights from the castle at Caco (AI Qaqun).

Next morning Gerard led these and his own followers to Nazareth where they were joined
by secular knights before riding east towards the Springs of Cresson (Ayn Juzah) near
the present village of Ayn Mahil. By this time Gerard had a force of about 130 knights,
an unknown number of Turcopoles and up to 400 infantry. Gokbori's force was said
to consist of 7,000 men though this is a huge exaggeration, 700 seeming more likely.
The course of the battle which followed is clear, even if the numbers are not.
Against the advice of the Master of the Hospital and the Marshal of the Temple,
Gerard insisted on a sudden charge against the Muslims. This has been presented as
a case of suicidal overconfidence, yet the Muslim chroniclers indicate that the brief
struggle was a close-run thing fought out in a forest. The Templars, Hospitallers and
other cavalry caught their enemy unawares, though in so doing they left their infantry
behind. Dildirim al Yaruqi's troops from Aleppo received the brunt of the charge and
were praised for standing firm. It seems that Gokbori and Qaymaz al Najmi then led
a counter-charge with spear and sword, the Latin cavalry being surrounded and
overwhelmed. Only Gerard de Ridefort and a handful of knights escaped death or
capture, the Muslims then scattering the Christian infantry before pillaging the
surrounding area. The fact that Gokbori's force then returned across Raymond's
lands without doing further damage says a lot for their discipline.
This rout at the Springs of Cresson on 1 May 1187 had a greater impact than
might be realized. Although it encouraged King Guy and Count Raymond to patch
up their quarrel, the Hospitallers had lost their chief and the Templars had suffered
severe losses.


Among those taken captive were King Guy, his brother Geoffrey de Lusignan,
the Connetable Amalric de Lusignan, Marquis William de Montferrat, Reynald of
Chatillon, Humphrey de Toron, the Master of the Templars, the Master of the
Hospitallers, the bishop of Lidde and many other leading barons.


All captured turcopoles would, as renegades from the Muslim faith, probably
have been killed on the battlefield. The rest of the prisoners reached Damascus on
6 July and there Saladin made a decision which has been seen as a blot on his humane
record. All captured Templars and Hospitallers were given the choice of converting
to Islam or execution. Conversion under threat of death is contrary to Muslim law
but on this occasion Saladin seems to have considered that the military orders, as
dedicated fanatics with a bloody record of their own, were too dangerous to spare 230
were slaughtered. A few converted and one Templar of Spanish origin later
commanded the Damascus garrison in 1229, though if he were a survivor of Hattin
he would have been a very old man.

 

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