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The Battle of Hattin (also known as "The Horns of Hattin" because of a nearby extinct volcano of the same name) took place on Saturday, July 4, 1187, between the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem and the forces of the Ayyubid dynasty.

The Muslim armies under Saladin captured or killed the vast majority of the Crusader forces, removing their capability to wage war. As a direct result of the battle, Islamic forces once again became the eminent military power in the Holy Land, reconquering Jerusalemmarker and several other Crusader-held cities. These Christian defeats prompted the Third Crusade, which began two years after the Battle of Hattin.


The battle took place near Tiberiasmarker in present day Israelmarker. The battlefield, near the town of Hittinmarker, had as its chief geographic feature a double hill (the "Horns of Hattin") beside a pass through the northern mountains between Tiberiasmarker and the road from Acremarker to the west. The Darb al-Hawarnah road, built by the Romans, served as the main east-west passage between the Jordanmarker fords, the Sea of Galileemarker and the Mediterraneanmarker coast.


Guy of Lusignan became king of Jerusalem in 1186, in right of his wife Sibylla, after the death of Sibylla's son Baldwin V. The Kingdom of Jerusalem was at this time divided between the "court faction" of Guy, Sibylla, and relative newcomers to the kingdom such as Raynald of Chatillon, as well as Gerard of Ridefort and the Knights Templar; and the "nobles’ faction", led by Raymond III of Tripoli, who had been regent for the child-king Baldwin V and had opposed the succession of Guy. Disgusted, Raymond of Tripoli watched as his fellow poulain barons hastened to Jerusalem to make obeisance to King Guy and Queen Sibylla. The great lord of Tripoli rode in the opposite direction, up the Jordan River Valley to Tiberias. The situation was so tense that there was almost open warfare between Raymond and Guy, who wanted to besiege Tiberias, a fortress held by Raymond through his wife Eschiva, Princess of Galilee. War was avoided through the mediation of Raymond's supporter Balian of Ibelin.

Meanwhile, the Muslim states surrounding the kingdom had been united during the 1170s and 1180s by Saladin. Saladin had been appointed vizier of Egyptmarker in 1169 and soon came to rule the country as sultan. In 1174, he imposed his rule over Damascusmarker; his authority extended to Aleppomarker by 1176 and Mosulmarker by 1183. For the first time, the Kingdom of Jerusalem was encircled by Muslim territory united under one ruler. The crusaders defeated Saladin at the Battle of Montgisard in 1177, and in the early 1180s there was an uneasy truce between the two sides, which was broken by the raids of Raynald on Muslim caravans passing through his fief of Oultrejordain. Raynald also threatened to attack Meccamarker itself.

When Guy became king, Raymond made a separate truce with Saladin, and in 1187 allowed the sultan to send an army into the northern part of the kingdom. At the same time, an embassy was on its way from Jerusalem to Tripoli to negotiate a settlement between Raymond and Guy. This embassy was defeated at the Battle of Cresson on May 1, by a small force under the command of Al-Afdal. Raymond, wracked with guilt, reconciled with Guy, who assembled the entire army of the kingdom and marched north to meet Saladin.

Siege of Tiberias

After reconciling, Raymond and Guy met at Acre with the bulk of the crusader army. According to the claims of some European sources, it consisted of knights, a greater number of lighter cavalry, and perhaps 10,000 foot soldiers, supplemented by crossbowmen from the Italian merchant fleet, and a large number of mercenaries (including Turcopoles) hired with money donated to the kingdom by Henry II of England. Also with the army was the relic of the True Cross, carried by the Bishop of Acre, who was there in place of the ailing Patriarch Heraclius.

On July 2, Saladin, who wanted to lure Guy into moving his army away from the springs at Saffuriyamarker, personally led a siege of Raymond’s fortress of Tiberias while the main Muslim army remained at Kafr Sabt. The garrison at Tiberias tried to pay Saladin off, but he refused, later stating that "when the people realized they had an opponent who could not be tricked and would not be contented with tribute, they were afraid lest war might eat them up and they asked for quarter...but the servant gave the sword dominion over them." The fortress fell the same day. A tower was mined and, when it fell, Saladin's troops stormed the breach killing the opposing forces and taking prisoners.

Holding out, Raymond's wife Eschiva was besieged in the citadel. As the mining was begun on that structure, news was received by Saladin that Guy was moving the Frank army east. The Crusaders had taken the bait.

Guy's decision to leave the safety of his defenses was the result of a Crusader war council held the night of July 2. Though reports of what happened at this meeting are biased due to personal feuds among the Franks, it seems Raymond argued that a march from Acre to Tiberias was exactly what Saladin wanted while Sephoria was a strong position for the Crusaders to defend. Furthermore, Guy shouldn't worry about Tiberias, which Raymond held personally and was willing to give up for the safety of the kingdom. In response to this argument, and despite their reconciliation (internal court politics remaining strong), Raymond was accused of cowardice by Gerard and Raynald. The latter influenced Guy to attack immediately.

Guy thus ordered the army to march against Saladin at Tiberias, which is indeed just what Saladin had planned, for he had calculated that he could defeat the crusaders only in a field battle rather than by besieging their fortifications.

The battle

Horns of Hattin, 2005, as viewed from the east
The crusaders began their march from Sephoria on July 3rd. Raymond led the vanguard; Guy the main army; and Balian, Raynald, and the military orders made up the rearguard. The crusaders were almost immediately under harassment from the Muslim skirmishers on horseback.

By noon on that day, the Frankish army had reached a spring at the village of Turan some six miles (10 km) from Sephoria. Here, according to Saladin, "The hawks of the Frankish infantry and the eagle of their cavalry hovered around the water."

It was still nine miles (14 km) to Tiberias. Therefore, with only a half day of marching time remaining, any attempt to leave this sure water source to seek that objective the same day, all while under the constant attack of Saladin’s army, would be foolhardy. (In 1182 the Frankish army had only advanced in a full day in face of the enemy and in 1183 Guy had managed but six miles (10 km) in a similar situation, taking a full day.) But, as Saladin wrote, "Satan incited Guy to do what ran counter to his purpose." That is, for unknown reasons, Guy set out that very afternoon, marching his army forward, seeming to head for Tiberias.

When Saladin arrived from the taking of Tiberias, and after the Frankish army left Turan, the Muslims began their attack in earnest. Saladin sent the two wings of his army around the Frankish force and seized the spring at Turan, thus blocking the Frankish line of retreat. This maneuver would give Saladin his victory.

In the ensuing struggle, the Frankish rearguard was forced to a standstill by continuous attacks, thus halting the whole army on the plateau. The crusaders were thus forced to make camp surrounded by the Muslims. They now had no water nor any hope of receiving supplies or reinforcements.

Behe ad-Din summarizes the situation of the Frankish army:

They were closely beset as in a noose, while still marching on as though being driven to death that they could see before them, convinced of their doom and destruction and themselves aware that the following day they would be visiting their graves.

On the morning of July 4, the crusaders were blinded by smoke from fires that Saladin’s forces had set to add to the Frankish army’s misery, through which the Muslim cavalry pelted them with 400 loads of arrows that had been brought up during the night. Gerard and Raynald advised Guy to form battle lines and attack, which was done by Guy's brother Amalric. Raymond led the first division with Raymond of Antioch, the son of Bohemund III of Antioch, while Balian and Joscelin III of Edessa formed the rearguard. While this was being arranged, five of Raymond's knights defected to Saladin and told them of the dire situation in the crusader camp.

Thirsty and demoralized, the crusaders broke camp and changed direction for the springs of Hattin, but their ragged approach was attacked by Saladin's army which blocked the route forward and any possible retreat. Count Raymond launched two charges in an attempt to break through to the water supply at the Sea of Galilee. The second of these saw him cut off from the main army and forced to retreat. Most of the crusader infantry had effectively deserted by moving on to the Horns of Hattin. Guy attempted to pitch the tents again to block the Muslim cavalry, but without infantry protection the knights' horses were cut down by Muslim archers and the cavalry was forced to fight on foot. Then they too retreated to the Horns.

Now the crusaders were surrounded and, despite three desperate charges on Saladin's position, were eventually defeated. An eyewitness account of this is given by Saladin’s son, al-Afdal. It is quoted by Ibn al-Athir:

When the king of the Franks [Guy] was on the hill with that band, they made a formidable charge against the Muslims facing them, so that they drove them back to my father [Saladin].
I looked towards him and he was overcome by grief and his complexion pale.
He took hold of his beard and advanced, crying out "Give the lie to the Devil!"
The Muslims rallied, returned to the fight and climbed the hill.
When I saw that the Franks withdrew, pursued by the Muslims, I shouted for joy, "We have beaten them!"
But the Franks rallied and charged again like the first time and drove the Muslims back to my father.
He acted as he had done on the first occasion and the Muslims turned upon the Franks and drove them back to the hill.
I again shouted, "We have beaten them!" but my father rounded on me and said, "Be quiet!
We have not beaten them until that tent [Guy's] falls."
As he was speaking to me, the tent fell.
The sultan dismounted, prostrated himself in thanks to God Almighty and wept for joy.


The Muslim forces had captured the royal tent of King Guy, as well as the True Cross after the Bishop of Acre was killed in the fighting. Prisoners included Guy, his brother Amalric II, Raynald, William V of Montferrat, Gerard de Ridefort, Humphrey IV of Toron, Hugh of Jabala, Plivain of Botron, Hugh of Gibelet, and many others. Perhaps only as few as Christians escaped the defeat. The anonymous text De Expugnatione Terrae Sanctae per Saladinum Libellus claims that Raymond, Joscelin, Balian, and Reginald of Sidon fled the field in the middle of the battle, trampling "the Christians, the Turks, and the Cross" in the process, but this is not corroborated by other accounts and reflects the author's hostility to the Poleins.

The exhausted captives were brought to Saladin's tent, where Guy was given a goblet of iced water as a sign of Saladin's generosity. When Guy passed the goblet to his fellow captive Raynald, Saladin allowed the old man (Raynald was about 60) to drink but shortly afterwards said that he had not offered water to Raynald and thus was not bound by the Muslim rules of hospitality. When Saladin accused Raynald of being an oath breaker, Raynald replied that "kings have always acted thus." Saladin then executed Raynald himself, beheading him with his sword. Guy fell to his knees at the sight of Raynald's corpse but Saladin bade him to rise, saying, "Real kings do not kill each other."The True Cross was fixed upside down on a lance and sent to Damascus. Several of Saladin’s men now left the army, taking Frankish prisoners with them as slaves.

On Sunday, July 5, Saladin traveled the six miles (10 km) to Tiberias and, there, Countess Eschiva surrendered the citadel of the fortress. She was allowed to leave for Tripoli with all her family, followers, and possessions. Raymond of Tripoli, having escaped the battle, died of pleurisy later in 1187.

On Monday, July 6, two days after the battle, the captured Templars and Hospitallers were given the opportunity to convert to Islam. According to Imad al-Din, only a few accepted, although those that did became devout Muslims.

The executions (one of only two executions of prisoners ordered by Saladin) were by beheading. In an act of solidarity, many of the captured crusaders falsely claimed to be Templar knights, forcing Saladin's men to behead them as well . Saint Nicasius, a Knight Hospitaller venerated as a Christian martyr, is said to have been one of the victims.

"Saladin ordered that they should be beheaded, choosing to have them dead rather than in prison. With him was a whole band of scholars and sufis and a certain number of devout men and ascetics, each begged to be allowed to kill one of them, and drew his sword and rolled back his sleeve. Saladin, his face joyful, was sitting on his dais, the unbelievers showed black despair" - Imad ed-Din, Saladin's Secretary

Guy was taken to Damascusmarker as a prisoner and the others were eventually ransomed.

By mid-September, Saladin had taken Acremarker, Nablusmarker, Jaffamarker, Toronmarker, Sidonmarker, Beirutmarker, and Ascalon. Tyre was saved by the fortuitous arrival of Conrad of Montferrat. Jerusalem was defended by Queen Sibylla, Patriarch Heraclius, and Balian, who subsequently negotiated its surrender to Saladin on October 2 (see Siege of Jerusalem).

News of the disastrous defeat at Hattin was brought to Europe by Joscius, Archbishop of Tyre, as well as other pilgrims and travelers. Plans were immediately made for a new crusade; Pope Gregory VIII issued the bull Audita tremendi, and in England and France the Saladin tithe was enacted to fund expenses.

The subsequent Third Crusade, however, did not get underway until 1189, being made up of three separate contingents led by Richard Lionheart, Philip Augustus, and Frederick Barbarossa.

Legends, fiction and nonfiction

According to the chronicler Ernoul, news of the defeat caused Pope Urban III to die of shock.

The battle, and much of the background of the conflict, is depicted in the novel The Brethren by Sir Henry Rider Haggard.

Although the battle itself was not shown, the aftermath, including the execution of Raynald, was depicted in the 2005 film Kingdom of Heaven.

The Battle of Hattin is able to be played in Stronghold Crusader for the PC. The level is called Battle of Hattin, Battle on the Hill.

"The Horns of Hattin" is a battle able to be played in the game Medieval: Total War as Saladin.

"The Horns of Hattin" is also a Campaign Scenario in the Saladin Campaign in Age of Empires II: Age of Kings.

Youssef Chahine's 1963 epic Al Nasser Salah Ad-Din (in English titled 'Saladin') depicts a highly fictionalised version of the battle of Hattin.

The opening scene of Jack Whyte's 2007 book Standard of Honour depicts the Battle of Hattin.

The Swedish novel Tempelriddaren (The Knight Templar in English), by Jan Guillou, portrays Arn Magnusson, also known as Arn de Gothia, as one of the few survivors (the only one of two surviving Templar Knights) after the battle.

The novel Knight Crusader by Ronald Welch has the Battle of Hattin included as a major part of the book.

Dahlia Ravikovitch's poem "Karnei Hittin" ("The Horns of Hittin") describes the battle in detail.


Further reading

External links

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