1187 Battle of Horns of Hattin: Saladin, Sultan of Egypt and Syria, destroys Jerusalem’s crusader army

July 3, 2022

The Battle of the Horns of Hattin was the most important military confrontation of the Second Crusade. It took place over two days, on July 3 and 4 in the year 1187. It involved the Crusaders of the Levant and the armies of the Muslim general Saladin, Sultan of Egypt and Syria. The battle got its name from the horn-shaped volcano Kurûn Hattîn.

During this battle, Saladin's armies were able to kill or capture a large part of the Crusader army, which eliminated their capacity to continue fighting the war. As a result of Saladin's victory, the Muslim forces became the most significant power throughout the Holy Land once again. This led to the conquest of Jerusalem by Muslim forces once more, as well as that of many other cities held by the Crusaders. It was this defeat and its subsequent losses that gave way to what is known as the Third Crusade, which started in 1189, only two years after the loss at Hattin.

The Battle of the Horns of Hattin was won thanks to a simple strategy. During the night of July 3rd, Saladin's forces set fire to the dry grass of the plains, which forced the Crusaders to move towards the springs of Hattin. Soon enough, the blinding effects of the smoke, coupled with thirst and weakness, left the Crusaders no other way out than the Horns of Hattin, where they were decimated by awaiting Muslim forces. After three failed attempts at breaking Muslim lines, the soldiers that were still standing opted to surrender.

It is not known how many Crusaders died over those two fateful days, but the loss of the majority of the Crusader army has been amply documented. It is also said that a relic of the True Cross was also lost during the Battle of the Horns of Hattin, although it has been long held that said relic was later transported to Damascus.

The losses suffered by the Crusaders during the Battle of the Horns of Hattin resounded loudly throughout the Holy Land, as well as the rest of the known world, placing Sultan Saladin in a position of great power and respect among his people. As a consequence of the Battle of Hattin, when Saladin led the charge throughout the land to take back cities held by Christian Crusaders, news of the loss reached Rome, causing Pope Urban III to die of shock when he received the news of the disaster and the collapse of the Crusader forces.

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