Acre is the name by which the West has known this city for centuries. From the time of Alexander the Great until the Arab conqest, it was known among Macedonians, the Romans, and the Byzantines as Ptolemais. Before that, the ancient Greeks called it Ake, meaning “cure.” And before them, the Hebrews called the place ʻAko, the Egyptians ’Aāk, the Assyrians Ak-ku-u, and Phoenicians Akka. However, it is thought that the true origins of the name are lost to the mists of history and myth. The Syrians, Arabs, Turks, Persians, and other Levantine peoples call the port city ʻAkkā. Since the early decades of the thirteenth century, the Franks have come to call it St. Jean d’Acre, a reference to the great influence that the Hospitaller Military Order increasingly exerts over its continued development and security.

Acre is a truly ancient city. As far as the mortals of the region are concerned, people have lived here forever. Local Cainite historians of the Brujah, the Cappadocians, and the Banu Haqim are more unsentimental (though not without humour) in their appraisals, claiming that the vintage of the earliest recorded settlement in the area is a mere forty centuries. Certainly by 1800 BC, a fortified Canaanite town was perched on the promontory, taking advantage of the natural harbour below to conduct trade with the Israelites, the Egyptians, the Assyrians, the Hittites, and the Mitanni. The city has endured the rule of all of these empires at times, occasionally being razed to the ground but always rising from those ashes to grow only stronger.

The people who dwelt within the fortified city, called the Phoenicians by some historians, became known as a great sea-fearing people, and their first recorded Cainite prince was a Brujah known as Ahmunn, the Brother of the Sea. Ahmunn held the city for over 1000 years, but he was a scholar and sorcerer, keenly interested in the stars, the waves, and the patterns of the seasons, and he rarely chose to intervene in the mortal politics of his city. He left such matters to his more ambitious and worldly childe, Bōdashtart, who was deeply involved in a web of Cainite alliances seeking to counter the ambitions of the Assamites and Gangrel who drove the Assyrian empire to conquer all in its path. Bōdashtart’s allies, stretching from Sūr (Tyre) in the south to Gebal (Byblos) in the north and Dammaśq (Damascus) in the east, were ultimately unsuccessful and Akka was wrapped up into the neo-Assyrian empire by 700 BC. Both sire and childe survived the transition, but Ahmunn soon grew bitter at his loss of freedom and departed to the city of Carthage, there to join his Antediluvian sire in the golden age that followed.

In his absence, Bōdashtart finally came into her own as prince in name as well as fact, although she would chafe under foreign supervision for centuries, first under the fracturing neo-Assyrians, then the Persians. By 300 BC, with the triumphs of Alexander the Great Ake would become Ptolemais in Phoenicia, and the powerful Brujah had finally thrown off foreign oppression. She looked to the West, hoping to draw upon support from her sire in Carthage, but Ahmunn seemed reticent to offer it. She would instead take her place as one of the premier princes of the new Seleucid power. Moreover, her own progeny, Hannimelqart, would prove to be a childe after his own sire’s heart, both figuratively and literally. A consummate politican, who had spent more than a century preparing his coup, Hannimelqart took the throne, and Bōdashtart’s heart’s blood, in 268 BC.

He would rule for more than two centuries, through the highs and ultimately the lows of the Seleucid empire, before Hannimelqart too would fall, this time to the fangs of Eliodorus, a Syrian with allies among the mortal dynasty of Antiochus XIII Philadelphus. The new Ventrue ruler would also cultivate allies among his Greek and Roman clan-mates, seeking to make Ptolemais a commercial rival to Tyre and Antioch. In this he met considerable success, making the city a centre for glass production even though Seleucid power continued to wither away in the face of growing Roman and Parthian power on the Levantine coast. In response, Eliodorus would make a practice of welcoming many mortal Greeks, Jews, and Romans to the port, and seeking to find clients among the Cainites who came with them.

Eliodorus would ultimately prove to be a weak prince, however, submitting much of his authority to more potent powers both in the Levant and abroad in order to protect his rule. Despite his attempts to create a harmonious marketplace for his own enrichment, rebel Brujah descended from Hannimelqart continually stirred up trouble for his city, using the wars between Pontus and Rome, then later Parthia and Rome, to terrorise the Cainites of Ptolemais. Despite alliances made with Roman and Judean Ventrue, Ptolemaic Settites, and even, it has been said, the reviled Baali, Eliodorus was unable to contain the fury of the Brujah. Frantically, the prince entertained envoys from the Eternal Senate in 37 BC, concluding with them treaties that saw him surrender his sovereignty in return for their protection. It did not help him. Just seven years later, not long after Mark Antony and Cleopatra perished, the Ventrue and his brood were attacked in his palace by a coterie of vengeful Syrian and Jewish vampires of the Brujah, Assamite, and Salubri clans, a number of whom claimed direct descent from Hannimelqart. Neither Eliodorus, nor any of his progeny, were ever seen again.

Roman Rule

In their place rose Caius Servilius Vatia, a Roman Ventrue ancilla descended from the bloodline of mighty Mithras, who had gained some fame as a military man in Macedonia throughout his mortal years. Supported by a strong coterie, Vatia did not arrive in time to save the client-prince, but he and his cadre threw down the Brujah in a brutal exchange, forcing them to flee the port or perish. Vatia then declared himself prince, and set to putting his new home in order.

Soon, the city settled in to another period of relative stability. Sea walls were built to protect the port from the tides of nature and of war, the client-king of Judea, Herod, built a gymnasium, and baths were added by the end of Augustus’ rule. Paul the Apostle visited the settlement on his third missionary journey, making it an early centre for the cult of Christianity. Under the name Colonia Claudia Felix Ptolemais Garmanica Stabilis, the city became a centre of Romanisation in the East, and a frequent port of arrival and departure for the imperial legions that would sweep away all resistance in Syria and Judea. And by AD 52, along with Caesarea Maritima, Aelia Capitolina (Jerusalem), and Berytus, it would become one of the four capitals in which retired legionnaires would settle to lay the foundations of long term rule.

This trend did not take place without resistance. After almost 100 years, once again the blood of Hannimelqart would return in the person of the Jewish elder Tevye, who organised cells of the feared Sicarii zealots in opposition to the Roman occupation of Judea. Having learned his lesson in the defeat suffered at the hands of Vatia, Tevye chose not to confront the Ventrue head-on, but instead supported the zealot leader Eleazar ben Simon, moved him to assassinate the thralls of the Roman prince and his powerful coterie. He also used his mortal retainers and contacts to stir up dissension among the native Phoenecian and Jewish residents of Judea, many of whom were displeased with the status quo. Eventually, the spark of rebellion of grew into a wildfire known as the Great Revolt of Judea. The Romans responded with draconian measures, butchering nearly all of the Jews of Acre in AD 66 and continuing on to destroy Jerusalem itself 4 years later. The culmination of the Siege of Masada, finally brought Judea to heel once more by AD 74, but Tevye and many of his undead allies escaped capture, and he would continue to agitate in the years to come.

In the wake of the Great Revolt, the population of the settlement quickly rebounded, but the heavy legionary presence meant that it remained quiet throughout the troubling years ahead. Moreover, the Cainites of the city came to feel that something disquieting had occurred. Legend has it that it started as little more than an itch, or a slight sense of unease, but the undead began to feel uncomfortable in Colonia Claudia Felix Ptolemais Garmanica Stabilis. In those times, the pain of True Faith was not unknown to Children of Caine, but it was little studied. Few had felt the sting of it in Rome for centuries, for the true worshippers of the heathen gods of the Greco-Roman pantheon rarely manifested properties so anathematic to Cainites as those exhibited by the Jews, the Zoroastrians, and this new sect of Christians. The gradual growth in its intensity was marked by Prince Vatia and his court, who looked on in increasingly helpless consternation as it intruded upon their daytime sleep and occasionally grew so noisome as to cause actual physical pain.

The spectre of Tevye would return in the bloody Kitos War (AD 115-117) as well as the Bar Kokhba Revolt (AD 132-136), for during these conflicts the city was a base for the legions’ forays against the Judeans. However, despite his avowed enmity for Vatia, the attentions of Tevye were for the most part directed elsewhere than Ptolemais, and the city continued to prosper quietly. Gradually, the local Phoenicians became outnumbered as more Jews and Assyrians migrated to the port, hoping to take advantage of its commercial success. Throughout the 2nd century, the cult of Christianity continued to grow steadily, but the Jewish population and faith was still in the majority, and would remain so until the end of the 4th century. The aura of True Faith emanating from the city only continued to grow in intensity, driving some of the weaker members of Prince Vatia’s court to emigrate to more hospitable climes in Efa to the south or Tyre to the North.

By the turn of the 3rd century, so harrowing had the aura grown that the writing appeared to be on the wall. Correspondence with other Cainites abroad revealed that the phenomenon was not isolated to Ptolemais, for the sect of Christianity was growing rapidly throughout the Roman world, but nowhere else had it become so inhospitable as to be so injurious to vampires over so great a radius. Neither study of the phenomenon, nor prayers to Mithras and Elagabalus, yielded any solutions or relief for Prince Vatius and his court. After an incident in AD 224 where his Cappadocian Keeper of the Lore, Bacabius, spontaneously immolated while entering through the gates of the city, Prince Vatius faced a general desertion as his court, up until that time held there only by his own formidable leadership skills, fled the city in a panic.

The stoic Roman Ventrue prince, a powerful and respected elder in his own right now, deserted by his coterie and by his gods, struggled on for less than a year before he too was forced to abandon his proud accomplishment. Embittered and embattled, as only an exiled prince can be, he travelled to Efa and took ship for the West. Caius Servilius Vatia was known to have been a resident of Rome in the time of the Tetrarchy, but by the time of the rule of Magnus Maximus, he had vanished from the annals of Cainite historians altogether.

Ptolemais, now deserted of the undead, would remain so. As the port city became a possession of the Eastern Roman Empire, Vatius’ fellow Ventrue, Bassianus of Efa, soon began to style himself Princeps Ptolemaida et Sycaminum but all knew that it was an empty boast. Doubtless, Bassianus was able to indirectly influence the outcome of some events in the settlement, but that was all.

Byzantine Rule

The destiny of the port city would be charted by Byzantium for the next 400 years. They were relatively peaceful ones, but for another Jewish uprising in AD 351, which was crushed by Caesar Constantius Gallus and his uncle, Magister Equitum Ursicinus, in a bloody display that saw the rebels routed and executed.

Over the centuries to come, the vast majority of Latin speaking Romans were either absorbed or returned to the West, while most of the native Canaanites would be assimilated by waves of Jews, Syrians, Aramaens, and Greeks. These peoples had never really grown used to the Latin name for the city, and they continued to call it by their own names — ʻAko, Akku, and Ake.

Intermittent wars throughout the 6th century were fought between the Eastern Romans and the Sassanians, but almost always to the north and east, from the environs of Armenia to the Caucasian frontier. At times, even the capitals of each empire were threatened by the other power, but Ptolemais and its neighbours was never directly troubled. However, the cost of the generational wars between the great powers exhausted the revenues of each realm, and ruinous taxation upon their citizens was the cost. Ptolemais and the other cities of the Byzantine Levant were no different, and one final time Tevye would return to prominence.

The Jewish revolt against Heraclius took place in AD 613, immediately after the Eastern Empire was routed in the Battle of Antioch. A desire to gain independence from Constantinople, as well as resentment over the high taxes, led to a Jewish army from Galilee throwing in their lot with the Sassanians. Tevye, with assurances from Persian Banu Haqim, Qabilat al-Khayal, Ray’een al-Fen, and his fellow Bayt Mushakis that Israel and Judea would be free and independent, worked from the shadows to support his mortal coreligionists and hamper efforts from the local Christian potentates. He based himself in a caravanseray outside his beloved ’Ako, manipulating events against the Eastern Empire in hopes of seeing his dreams fulfilled, but it was the first city retaken from the Jews by the Byzantines in 614. The Greeks were in no mood to be merciful to the Jewish residents, but they allowed the Christians to leave in peace. Thousands of Jews were massacred, and the city was put to the torch. Tevye himself is thought to have gone to the Final Death fighting, rather than abandon his city and his people.

Unfortunately for the late Tevye’s dreams, the Sassanians ultimately abandoned their Jewish allies in the face of a resurgent Byzantium and the rise of the Arabs on their southern border. In 630, a victorious Emperor Heraclius chose to break his promises of mercy to the leaders of the revolt, and a general massacre of the Jewish population in many of the cities of Palestina Prima and Palestina Secunda ensued. Those who survived did so only by fleeing to the mountains or to Egypt, and afterwards they would learn that they had been barred from Jerusalem permanently.

Just 2 years later, with the Battle of Yarmouk, the Byzantine army was broken by the rapidly expanding armies of the unstoppable Arab empire. However, it would take several more years to eject the Eastern Empire totally and bring the entire region to heel. In 638, an army under the command of the great general Shurahbil ibn Hasana arrived at the walls of the still recovering settlement, and the few thousand Christians within immediately capitulated. The Ashirra vampires that shadowed Shurahbil immediately realised that the shattered city was no prize, however, for it was a shadow of its former greatness and the holy aura had not diminished despite the destruction and despoilation of 614. Indeed, the discomfort could be felt as much as a mile beyond its walls, and destruction was certain within a hundred yards of it.

Arab Rule

Under the ensuing Rashidun, Umayyad, and Abbasid Caliphates, the Greek and Syrian Christians of ’Akka (as the Arabs called the city) were treated as dhimmi (protected ones). They had to pay the jizya tax to practice their own religion, but they were entitled to the protection of the armies of the Caliph, and judged in their own courts according to their own laws, except where it conflicted with Islamic law. They were also forbidden to carry weapons or ride horses. Even so, they were generally justly treated, and taxed considerably less than when they were under the aegis of Byzantium.

No matter how brutalised or decimated, the active port cities of the region continued to remain gleaming prizes, however, and the spectre of war was not finished with the people of ’Akka. The city was destroyed once again by the Eastern Romans under Justinian II in 692, a fate shared by Caesarea and Ashkelon. The city recovered slowly, but support from the Umayyad Caliph and extensive immigration from other cities in the region would see it start to prosper by middle of the 8th century.

Centuries would pass with no Cainite involvement in the city of ‘Akka, and those who did approach reported that the holy aura had grown only stronger with the years. The city was refortified under the Umayyads, extensive shipyards were also built, and a large mosque and a beautiful masjid were added to the city’s architectural bounty. The population rebounded in time, and gained something of its earlier cosmopolitan character. By the 9th century and the arrival of the provenance of the great general ibn Tulun, it had become the premier port of Palestine.

Although the Jews never came close to reaching their former numbers, they continued to find a place in the religious and economic life of ‘Akka alongside the Syrians. In smaller numbers they were joined by Armenians, Arabs, and many, many Persians. One of the visitors intrigued by the city’s possibilities, and fascinated by its holy aura, was the elder Varsik, an Armenian Ravnos of the Bashirite bloodline. His fascination would eventually grow into obsession, as his research yielded the possibility that it was an ancient Christian relic from the time of Christ himself that might be behind the holy aura. Further studies yielded the legend among followers of the via Caeli that only a Cainite of perfect faith could perform the miracle of suffering the crucible of the aura and enter the gates of the city, thereby redeeming the Curse of Caine in the eyes of God.

By the turn of the 12th century, and the advent of the First Crusade, ’Akka’s population had grown to a healthy 35 000 people. Syrian Christians were the dominant group, but the cultural and religious climate of the Abbasid Caliphate had led to many conversions among the locals, and increasing arabisation of all of the inhabitants of the city. Arabic had long since replaced Aramaic and Greek as the most common tongue of the city, and naming practices had gradually shifted to reflect Arab traditions also.

Crusader Rule

During the First Crusade, the port city was identified as a strategic target. However, it was only 4 years after the capture of Jerusalem, and after a harrowing siege, that the armies of the nascent Kingdom of Jerusalem conquered ’Akka. Like their neighbours in Haifa, however, the city fathers managed to surrender the city peacefully, and they were spared the sack in return for their pledge not to fire their own shipyards and warehouses. In short order, those same slips would be put to good use for the kingdom, as the Franj made it their principal port. Very soon, immigration from Europe added Italians, French, Occitanians, Flemmings, and Normans to the cosmopolitan mix of peoples and accents on its streets. By the middle of the 12th century, the population had grown by a further 10 000, making Acre (as the Europeans interpreted the name) the most populous city in the entire kingdom.

In 1120, the Ravnos Varsik arrived at Acre with his neonate progeny, the crusader Etienne, Chevalier de Fauberge. Mortally wounded by his own compatriots for trying to prevent the rapine and slaughter at Antioch in 1099, Varsik chose to embrace the dying man because he felt that he had finally found his perfect instrument of faith to brave the aura of Acre. Dutifully, the godly French Bashirite prayed next to his sire, then he crossed the plain in front of the city to the gate of Acre. He made it almost to the threshold, closer than any Cainite had come to passing the fateful moment in some 900 years. Then, he burst into flames and fled into the night.

Bitterly disappointed, Varsik nonetheless summoned his usual humour, rescued his progeny, then charged him with the dual responsibilities of watching over the city as its prince, and also discovering the true secret of the aura of faith. The neonate would be safe to do so, he said, because no one else could be bothered. Varsik’s advice would prove to be correct. Prince Etienne set himself up in the ancient caravansery known as the Three Kings, on the very cusp of the holy aura, and settled in to watch Acre grow. It was decades before he had any company other than the odd visitor who came to feel the intensity of the aura, or the penitent determined to challenge it. Of the former, he made many friends and contacts. Of the latter, none survived to do so.

Acre prospered under the rule of the Franj throughout the 12th century, and Etienne prospered along with it. Although he could not enter his own city, he established many contacts among the mortals that entered and left it each day and night, which in turn allowed him to invest his silver and gold in a good number of businesses and other ventures within Acre and without. Eventually, others saw the utility of his approach, and Cainite visitiors became more common. Few elected to remain long, but Etienne became known for his hospitality, generosity, and willingness to use his contacts for benefit of other Cainites who needed business within the walls conducted by proxy. His caravansery (known as the Three Kings) also became a frequent drop-off point for missives and a rendezvous for meetings between distant travellers. In return for his largesse, Etienne asked for little other than his claim of praxis over the port city be recognised. Naturally, other vampires were content to do so, especially as the holy aura made any claim of such quite empty indeed. Behind his back, other Cainites came to snidely call Etienne de Fauberge the Prince of Dirt, for his domain was practically worthless, even if he was a useful fellow to know.

By the 1170s, Acre was also accounted the wealthiest port in the entirety of the eastern Mediterranean. Indeed, the tax revenues it alone provided to the crown of Jerusalem were equal to the revenues of King Henry II of England, who was accounted one of the wealthiest monarchs in all of Europe.

The period of peace and prosperity ended quite abruptly in the early days of July, 1187, as the Battle of Hattin marked the sudden implosion of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. Immediately after the stunning victory, Saladin made it known that Christians within the kingdom could remain in peace under Islamic rule or taking advantage of 40 days’ grace to leave. As the army of Saladin rolled up the coast, general panic and mayhem ensued as many of the western traders fled Acre with their wealth, while doing their best to vandalise what was left behind. Within a matter of months, fifty-two settlements and fortifications were forced to surrender to the Saladin, including Nablus, Jaffa, Toron, Sidon, Beirut, Ascalon, and Acre. Like so many other towns and cities of the kingdom, the port city had been denuded of much of its fighting strength due to the folly of Guy de Lusignan and his supporters, and they simply lacked the strength and will to resist. With the negotiated surrender of Jerusalem on October 3rd, only the fortress city of Tyre stood strong against the huge army of the Sultan of Egypt. Conrad of Montferrat, brother to Boniface (who would one day lead the ill-fated 4th Crusade to Egypt) led the defence of Tyre, refusing to capitulate either to Saladin or King Guy and Queen Sybilla, who unsuccessfully demanded entry into the city several times in 1188 and 1189.

In response, in August of 1189 Guy and Sybilla coopted arriving reinforcements from Sicily and Pisa, then marched on Acre instead. The ensuing siege would prove to be the most perilous and storied campaign in the unfolding story of the Crusades.

The Siege of Acre

The army of Guy and Sybilla approached the walls of Acre on the 28th of August, 1189. Numbering less than 250 knights and close to 3000 soldiers against a garrison army twice their size, they also faced the peril of Saladin’s army, which was camped within several days march of the city. Luckily for them, the sultan had been laid low by malaria and an overabundance of his customary caution. Surprised by Guy’s foolhardiness, Saladin suspected a trick, so rather than engage immediately he chose to summon reinforcements from further castles in Turkestan, Syria, Mesopotamia, and Egypt. Aware of the nearness of Saladin’s army, the Christian army hastily attempted a surprise assault on the walls, which ended in a stinging failure. Owing to Saladin’s hesitation though, they had the opportunity to establish a fortified camp less than a mile east from the city walls. Around a series of mounds that they called Toron, King Guy’s army dug a ditch, moated it with water from a diverted stream, and created earthwork defences. Smaller siege fortifications were built to the north and south of Acre by the time Saladin and his army had arrived to counter the Christians.

By then, however, the sultan’s hesitation had cost him, for other reinforcements arrived by sea to join the camp of the King of Jerusalem. Danes and Frisians replaced the withdrawing Sicilians, then Flemings and Frenchmen, some Germans, and some more Italians arrived over the next week, adding enough numbers to seriously threaten the city and establish a strong camp. Notable leaders among these early reinforcements were Count Érard II of Brienne (father of John of Brienne), his brother Lord André of Ramerupt, Lord James of Avesnes, and Philip of Dreux, the bishop of Beauvais. News soon arrived at the sultan’s camp that King Leo II of Armenia was on the march, and the following week on the 14th of September, Saladin marched his army to relieve the garrison. By this time, however, more than 10000 Christians besieged the city, and they could not be easily dislodged. Several indecisive engagements followed over the next weeks, ending in stalemate as more reinforcements steadily arrived on both sides.

On the 4th of October, the arrival of an army led by Conrad of Montferrat and Louis III, the landgrave of Thuringia, emboldened the Christian army, though the new arrivals refused to take orders from King Guy over their own captains. An attack, led by the Templars, was launched against Saladin’s forces and it very nearly succeeded, as a feigned retreat by the sultan’s right wing turned into an actual rout, causing his centre to crumble as well. Rather than capitalise on their advantage, however, the crusader army began plundering the enemy camp rather than maintain their formations. This gave Saladin the opportunity to find safety with the intact left wing of his army, and meet the challenge of restoring order to his men.

Whether hungry for glory and plunder, or perhaps seeing the movements of the enemy from afar, King Guy ordered his reserves to join the move forward also, leaving an opening for most of Acre’s Muslim garrison to issue forth and reinforce Saladin’s left wing as well. Together, these elements were able to counterattack. The result was a disastrous rout for the disorganised crusader army, as the Muslim cavalry was able to sweep through, isolating and butchering many of their enemies. Thousands of Christian soldiers were slain, among them the Grandmaster of the Templar Order, Gerard of Ridefort, and Lord André of Ramerupt, of the House of Brienne. Fortunately, the crusaders managed to return to their fortified camp with enough of their strength before Saladin could finish them, and the siege resumed.

The following winter passed, with the forces of the Kingdom of Jerusalem besieging the city, while the army of the Ayyubid Sultan in turn besieged the crusaders. Both armies were supplied by sea, although the position of the western forces was considerably more spare than that of their enemies. This double siege would continue for many months, as the situation grew more and more precarious for the Christian army, as lack of food and sanitation brought disease. Conrad succeeded in breaking out to Tyre on a supply run in the spring of 1190, and the first supply ships full of grain arrived in March, carrying news that Philip II of France and Richard I of England were on the move, and that Frederick Barbarossa’s 200 000 man army was marching across Anatolia. Word of this sent the Muslim camp into paroxisms of desperation, as many emirs deserted the Egyptian camp to see to the defence of their own lands.

A failed assault on the walls on the 5th of May, 1190, led to the destruction of Conrad of Montferrat’s siege towers by a new formulation of Greek Fire, and in return Saladin launched an attack on the crusader camp on the May 20th. This battle was fierce, and costly for both sides, but the Muslim army was repulsed after 8 days of hard fighting. Yet another attack on Saladin’s camp by the Christian army on the 25th of July also ended in terrific failure, with many thousands of wasted crusader lives. And by this time, scurvy, camp fever, malaria, and dropsy were rife in both armies.

At the end of July, Guy and Sybilla’s daughters, Alice and Maria, would perish from the epidemic. Queen Sybilla would join her children just a few days later. With them went King Guy’s legal claim on the throne. Led by Balian of Ibelin and his wife, the dowager queen Maria Komnena, most of the barons of the realm immediately seized the chance to dethrone him by throwing their support behind the late queen’s sister Isabella, who was now the rightful heir. They hoped to anull her union to the weak Humphrey of Toron and marry her to the heroic Conrad of Montferrat, but Guy of Lusignan stubbornly refused to step aside. Many of the European crusaders, unused to the convoluted dynastic practices of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, chose to stand with him. The Christian camp, wracked by disease, appeared also to now suffer the bedevilment of politics.

Once more, however, a measure of fortune was with the crusaders. At the start of September, 10000 crusaders from France, led by Count Henri II of Champagne and Count Thibaut V of Blois, and others from England, led by Baldwin, the Archbishop of Canterbury, joined the siege a month later. Finally, the meagre remnants of the German crusade arrived, just 700 knights and some 4000 soldiers strong. Frederick Barbarossa had perished on the march, and most of his army abandoned the crusade afterwards, but the ragged remnants of his army, led by his son Duke Frederick VI of Swabia, arrived at the start of October, followed a few days later by Henri, the Count of Bar, who was terribly wounded in a successful attack on Haifa. Another engagement led to the death of Count Stephen of Sancerre, younger brother to Thibaut of Blois. With their entrance into the fray, the fatally ill Landgrave of Thuringia, Louis III, would then depart, only to perish aboard ship on his way to Cyprus on the 16th of October.

With the crusader camp strengthened by these numbers, and Saladin’s own army having grown strong from reinforcements, a stalemate settled over the siege as a hard winter settled over Syria. Both armies were weakened by disease, and the city was cut off from resupply, but the surrounded Franks were boxed in by the Ayyubids. Eager to be rid of the incompetent Guy de Lusignan, the barons of the Kingdom of Jerusalem arranged for the marriage of Princess Isabella, the late Sybilla’s younger sister, to the heroic Conrad of Monferrat. Despite protestations concerning bigamy and consanguinity, the wedding took place on the 24th of November, but still Guy refused to step aside as king. In response, Conrad and Isabella withdrew to Tyre once more, though he commanded his ships to maintain the blockade of the harbour.

Meanwhile, good commanders succumbed to the epidemics plaguing the Crusader camp. Count Thibaut the Good of Blois perished on the 20th of January, joined a short time later by Patriarch Heraclius of Jerusalem. His nephew, Henri II of Champagne, already weakened by a wound taken in November, was laid low as well. He hovered at death’s door for many weeks before recovering with the arrival of spring. Worst of all, Frederick of Swabia succumbed to camp fever at the end of January, leaving the German contingent of the crusade leaderless.

In February, Saladin’s ships succeeded in breaking through the blockade to resupply the city, only to find it decimated with disease and starvation. Conrad of Montferrat returned to lead a marine attack focussed on the Tower of Flies, but the attack was befouled by poor weather and repulsed. In March, Duke Leopold V of Austria arrived to take charge of the German crusaders, bearing the news that King Richard of England and King Philip of France would shortly follow.

Philip of France was the first to arrive, supported by a strong Genoese fleet under Simon Dorea. The French king immediately set to improving the siegeworks of the exhausted Christian camp. Trebuchets were constructed under the supervision of the king’s engineers, and by May they were doing their work. Richard the Lionheart’s arrival on the 8th of June with a further 8000 men gladdened the hearts of his fellows, for no leader of the West enjoyed such a formidable reputation for successfully conducting sieges. However, within weeks both he and his French rival were also struggling with the epidemics bedevilling the besiegers and the besieged alike. Despite his life-threatening illness, Richard insisted on being carried to the lines on a litter so that he might direct the trebuchets.

Throughout June, a number of breaches in the walls were created, leading to further assaults which were answered in turn by the armies of the Sultan that encircled the Christians. This gave the Muslim garrison the opportunity to make desperate patches to the walls each time, but the fate of the city was all but written on its failing walls. Meanwhile, the formidable Philip of Alsace, count of Flanders and Vermandois, succumbed to disease on the 1st of July. His wise counsel and feudal support would be missed by the Philip II, particularly as his failure to produce an heir would now plunge the north of his kingdom into a succession crisis when its king was thousands of miles away.


The Concord of Ashes Haligaunt