[View of the horns of Hattin from the east, standing at Magdala, the home of Mary Magdalene]

It was only 14km…

The famous battle of the horns of Hattin between Saladin and uneasy alliance of Raymond de Chatillon and Guy of Lusignan led to the collapse of the 2nd crusade kingdom of Jerusalem on 2 July, 1187. Raymond de Chattilon had proved himself a royal nuisance by setting himself on the Arab caravans in southern Jordan, even following the requests of the king not to continue. The crusaders had established their position in Jerusalem because of the fortifications of the city, and the difficulty in supply for the besieging troops.
Saladin had established himself as the vizier of Egypt, had been accepted in Damascus, Mosul and Allepo and was becoming the undisputed military leader of the Muslim world. Although with popular support and several victories to indicate the strength of his military command, the efforts had come to a temporary stalemate with a victory over Saladin at Ramla by King Baldwin (Near Rishon le Zion). Saladin’s forces were decimated and Saladin fled on a camel from the battleground.
His strategy was to draw the crusaders from their points of strength. By entrapping Raymond’s wife Eschiva under siege at Tiberias, he lured the forces to march in very dry conditions away from water to challenge the siege. The forces marched slowly carrying “the true cross” leaving in the morning from Sephoria rather than marching at night.

Immediately after leaving, the Frankish forces were placed under skirmishes by muslim cavalry, with the intent of slowing the travel of the host. By midday the army had only travelled 10km arriving at the waters at Turan, where the knights took water, but the remainder of the army was slaked.

The afternoon saw further harassment of the troops by circling cavalry, and as soon as the army had cleared Turan, the waters was blocked by immediate action of Saladin’s horsemen. There was only one way to go, to the waters of the lake. When the army then reached the summit of the Horns, the western margins of Mt Arbel, the trap was set. The hot and wearied army was fatigued and without fortification. The tinder-dry grasses were set alight and the agitated horses reared leaving the helpless heavy armoured knights immobile in the inferno and easy targets. The result was a massacre. The bishop carrying “the true cross” was killed, the king’s tent was surrounded and both Raymond and Guy were captured. But the irony was still to come. Saladin in a grandiose gesture had his horsemen supply snow from Hermon in a cup to Guy who after drinking passed it to Raymond de Chattilon. Saladin used this as a pretext to kill Raymond, his bitter antagonist as this was outside normal rules of hospitality to take a cup un-offered.

Saladin wrote, “Satan incited Guy to do what ran counter to his purpose.” but God was using the Muslim forces to judge the catholic Rome. Sent from the bottomless pit (or the Abyss) an apt name for the expansive rift valley that separated the land from Syria and Jordan.

It was only 14 km to the waters that day, but the troops did not make it…