Barbarossa - George Upton




The Third Crusade

It will be remembered that the second Crusade, under Conrad III, was disastrous to the Christians in the Holy Land. The discords which everywhere prevailed and the wranglings and jealousies of Templars and Knights of Saint John were not unwelcome to the Turks. There appeared among the latter about that time the mighty hero, Saladin, of Kurdish origin.

He was sent with an army by the vizier Noureddin to Egypt, where he achieved such success as a leader that he made his preparations to dispute the sovereignty of that country with his master, but the latter's sudden death rendered his plans unnecessary. He became Sultan of Egypt and ruler of the whole country from Cairo to Aleppo, so that his possessions inclosed the kingdom of Jerusalem in a half circle. Such an enemy would have been dangerous to a much stronger city, and was all the more dangerous to the weak kingdom of Jerusalem because it could not rely upon concert of action for its defence. Individual leaders contended with their powerful enemy and performed deeds of heroism worthy to be compared with those of the first Crusade, but they were to no purpose. These warriors were glad when a truce was made, but they neglected during its continuance to prepare for the inevitable conflict. They even went so far as to provoke the enemy. Rainald of Chatillon, a Christian Knight, committed an audaciously violent act by robbing the Sultan's mother of her treasures while she was travelling through the Christians' possessions, and by killing her attendants; in revenge for which Saladin attacked him. The Christian army was routed in a single battle at Tiberias. Guy de Lusignan, King of Jerusalem and Grand Master of the Temple, and most of the knights were made prisoners, and the whole country fell into the hands of the Sultan. The crosses were torn from Christian churches; the emblems and vessels used in Christian service were carried away, and Moslems assembled for prayer in the Temple of Solomon.

The appeals of the Christians were heard in the West, and grew in intensity as the deeds of the Turks increased in cruelty. And yet it was Saladin's purpose to avoid carnage. His severest demand was that each man should pay ten gold pieces, each woman five, and each child one, for ransom. Forty days were allowed for payment, and when the time expired he magnanimously released two thousand Christians who could not procure the money, as well as all the prisoners; and besides this he divided nearly twenty thousand gold pieces among the enemy's poor and sick.

Notwithstanding such generosity, the old war spirit was aroused in Europe, as already related. Crusaders flocked from all sides to the army which the Emperor was organizing. Every possible precaution was taken to prevent another disaster. To rid the army of the rabble which had followed it before, and which had hindered and annoyed it and plundered at every opportunity, the Emperor ordered that no one should accompany it who could not show at least three silver marks. He also concluded agreements with Kilidj Arslan, Sultan of Iconium, King Bela of Hungary, and Isaac Angelus, the Emperor of Greece, and received their assurances of help.

Frederick's greatest anxiety was that peace and quiet should prevail in the Empire during his absence. To secure this he destroyed many more of the robber barons' castles while on the march, and issued an order that no one should begin hostile operations without giving three days' notice. Henry the Lion was banished three years longer and submitted to the penalty.

The expedition set out in imposing array for Regensburg, April 2, 1189, the festival of Saint George. Whitsuntide was celebrated at Presburg and in front of Gran the army awaited the arrival of the Hungarian King with his brilliant following. The Emperor reviewed his army before the city of Belgrade on the Hungarian frontier, and found he had about fifty thousand knights and an equal number of warriors of lower grades. Encouraged anew by fortune, which thus far had been so favorable, and relying upon the great strength of his army, Frederick prepared to lead his pilgrims to the Holy Land, confident that he would wrest it from the infidels this time and permanently restore it to the Christians.

We behold the Emperor Frederick seated in his tent in camp at Belgrade, with the most famous of his princes and those leaders of his army who were in his closest confidence. Among them is Conrad of Feuchtwangen, whose sons Raymond and Conrad are standing at a respectful distance, awaiting the Emperor's orders. Owing to the Emperor's affection for their father they have had the good fortune to be selected as his pages. After earnestly discussing the objects of the expedition and the best means of securing them, they begin to talk of the assistance they might expect from their allies.

"Let us wait," said the Emperor, "until our messengers return, and we learn what Isaac proposes to do."

"Do you not fear, your Majesty, that he will violate his word?" asked the Bishop of Mayence.

"What has happened once, or a thousand times, of course may happen now. But it seems to me our messengers will know definitely when they return."

"We shall know for certain if they bring no message of peace."

"In that case they would hurry back, I think, for that would clearly be their duty. I suspect the Greeks will prove faithless."

"It is almost certain," said the Bishop of Passau. "Greeks cannot keep faith."

"It is not yet absolutely certain," replied the Emperor, "and we must do nothing rashly. Still, I confess I am not over hopeful, for, alas, too often has the hatred between the members of the two Churches manifested itself and brought harm to both."

"Then let us attack at once," cried the young Duke of Swabia, Frederick's second son. "Let us fall upon them like a thunderbolt out of the clear sky, before they can make their preparations to help the Turks."

"Gently, my dear son," said the Emperor. "You are carried away by excitement. We can do nothing until we have actual proof of their perfidy. Your ungovernable zeal would make an enemy of our ally if he were not one already."

"He is our enemy," replied the Duke of Swabia. "My messenger who is at hand will tell you so. Tired of the long delay, I despatched an alert and trusty friend to get some news of your messengers. His speedy return proves that my assertion is correct."

All present turned their eyes to the door of the tent and saw a rider in light armor dismounting from his panting steed. Coming into the tent, he announced:

"Isaac is faithless. Our messengers are chained in dungeons because the Emperor fears you are coming to take his empire from him. There is a multitude of his troops in the distance, who have followed me."

"His treachery is beyond all doubt," exclaimed several of the princes.

"Let us act accordingly," said the Emperor, with great seriousness. "As we have not been notified of the dissolution of the alliance, we will go to Constantinople and settle matters. So long as the people do not manifest open hostility to us we will treat them as friends, but at the same time keep in readiness to protect ourselves if we be attacked."

"Let me lead the vanguard," implored the Duke of Swabia.

"You are too young and hot-headed," said the Emperor. "There is double need for prudence and discretion in this emergency. Conrad, my old and tried friend, you shall lead. It will not be the first time you have been through the country, and you know the tricks which those people play at times, while pretending to be friends. You are cautious enough not to rush into unnecessary danger, and yet brave enough to protect yourself against any assault. Above all, I would fain not see Christian arrayed against Christian; but if it must be so, then we will clear the enemies of Christendom from the way with our good swords."

"I thank your Majesty," replied Conrad, "for this unexpected honor, which I hardly ventured to ask in the presence of so many noble princes, renowned for their valor and good judgment. I will ask but one favor. Allow my sons to go with me."

"It is granted. And now to our work."

The council of war was ended. The vanguard left at once, and the remainder of the army followed at intervals.

Conrad's belief in Isaac's treachery was confirmed at the very outset. He not only did not find the new bridges which should have been built, but the old ones had been purposely destroyed. The mountain passes were obstructed, and hordes of Bulgarians harassed the gallant little band on all sides with poisoned arrows. Several stragglers were killed, and one of the prisoners admitted that they had been employed and paid by Isaac for this shameful work.

Conrad at once changed his plans. He began hostile operations, and informed the Emperor of the condition of affairs. Philippopolis was found to be without a garrison and almost depopulated, $$Philippopolis is now the capital of Eastern Rumelia, which is a part of Bulgaria. It was named after Philip II of Macedon.") ?> but the Greek troops in its vicinity made no concealment of their hostility. Frequent encounters took place, in which the invaders were successful, and at last Isaac was forced to submit and release the messengers he had treacherously imprisoned; but he still remained hostile. The patriarch of Constantinople, indeed, stated in a sermon that any one who killed a hundred Germans should have absolution for ten murders.

The Emperor was infuriated by this. He fell upon the hypocritical knaves and scattered them in wild flight. Adrianople was easily taken, and Demotika surrendered to his son after the first assault.

Conrad, who was continually at the front, had the hardest tasks. The Greeks harassed him in great numbers, but never ventured to meet his little force, man to man. He and his Germans, who never seemed to weary, performed prodigies of valor, and his young sons had plenty of opportunity to show their knightly prowess. Upon one occasion they rushed to the defence of their father when he was hard pressed, and at another they hurled themselves upon the cowards and displayed the highest type of knightly gallantry. Victory followed the Crusaders everywhere. Isaac soon realized that he was no match for his adversary, and that, while the Greeks were very courageous when shooting poisoned arrows at safe distances, they dared not face German swords. He abandoned his policy therefore, and a new agreement was made, for Frederick was anxious not to waste his strength and lose time. Isaac promised free passage and the necessary supplies, as well as transportation for the Crusaders over the Hellespont, and Frederick agreed to maintain discipline, so that none of the country people should be harmed.

It is little wonder, however, that after so many exhibitions of treachery the Crusaders had no confidence in the renewed alliance, and took unusual precautions. They rested after the day's hard exertions, partly mailed and with their weapons close at hand. They did not think themselves any too secure, even when surrounded by guards on all sides. If two or three of the Crusaders discussed any matter, they made sure that no Greeks were near, and war councils were always held in the most secret manner. The Emperor's confidants alone were acquainted with his plans. No one was trusted whose faithfulness had not been proved. This was not because there was any fear of traitors in the German army, but because a thoughtless person might let slip a word which would arouse the malice or excite the cunning of the enemy.

Their stay among these faithless people was a hard trial to the honest, high-minded German knights. It galled them to have to protect themselves against an ally as if he were an open enemy. If he only had been one or the other, friend or foe, they would have been better pleased. Hypocrisy was unknown wherever German speech was heard. They would rather suffer from honesty than profit from deceit in word or act.

The Greeks, on the contrary, were so thoroughly degenerate that they were found now on the one side, now on the other, as one or the other seemed to offer them the greater profit. Boasting their Christian orthodoxy, they persecuted with deadly hatred and sought to exterminate all who differed with them, so that they were as greatly detested in western Europe as the Turks themselves. Indeed, they were so blind as not to see that they were precipitating their own ruin when they, too weak by themselves to resist the enemy of Christendom, were obstructing those who were coming to its rescue.

It was impossible to convince either these unfortunate people or their leaders of the fate impending over them. For a long time already, indeed for centuries, they had been controlled and held together only by the absolute and rigorous sway of their masters. They were not content even with those mild and wise sovereigns who ruled by law. Indeed, most of these as well as the tyrants died violent deaths. Sons, urged on by intriguing friends, would dethrone their fathers. Incarcerations and cruel tortures were of common occurrence, and, as so often happens in this world, the very agency by which an undutiful son secured his elevation brought about his ruin.

How could any one keep faith in such a country? Craft and dishonesty were the only protection from harm. The person in authority was treacherously flattered so long as it was of advantage; when he could no longer subserve personal advantage he was forsaken, and the faithless friend became the most malignant of enemies. How could such a people, false to each other, be honest with strangers?

Such were the reasons for the continual distrust shown by the Germans, and their longing to leave the country. As soon as all the preparations for the crossing were completed they started for Asia, hoping to find more regard for honesty among the Turks, or at least to meet them as foes in the open field. The crossing occupied six days, and was made in Grecian vessels. Even at the last moment the Greeks did everything to obstruct it, and it was only the fear of force that restrained them from violating their agreement and attacking the German rear.