Battle of Jaffa (1192)

Battle of Jaffa
Part of the Third Crusade
Battle of Jaffa (1192).jpg
A Victorian illustration of Richard I at the battle
Date8 August 1192 (the conflict at Jaffa extended from 27 July to 8 August)
LocationJaffa
ResultCrusader victory
Belligerents
English Crusaders (Angevin Empire)
Genoese Crusaders
Pisan Crusaders
Ayyubids
Commanders and leaders
Richard I, King of EnglandSaladin, Sultan of Egypt and Syria
Strength
An unknown number of the garrison of Jaffa

54 Knights, 300-500 infantry, 2,000 Genoese and Pisan crossbowmen + unknown number of sailors (only the numbers of knights and Italians are recorded in primary sources)[1]
7,000 to 10,000 heavy and light cavalry
Casualties and losses
2 dead + many wounded[2] (all combatant and casualty numbers for Medieval battles should be treated with caution)700 dead + 1500 horses[3]

The Battle of Jaffa took place during the Crusades, as one of a series of campaigns between the army of Sultan Saladin (Ṣalāḥ al-Dīn Yūsuf ibn Ayyūb) and the Crusader forces led by King Richard I of England (known as Richard the Lionheart). It was the final battle of the Third Crusade, after which Saladin and King Richard were able to negotiate a truce. Although the Crusaders did not regain possession of Jerusalem, Christian pilgrims were permitted entry into the city, and the Crusaders were able to retain control of a sizable strip of land stretching from Beirut to Jaffa.

Although largely a footnote among the greater events that unfolded during the Crusades, the battle was a decisive encounter, in that it forced Saladin to negotiate an end to the immediate hostilities. The battle illustrated the determined spirit of Saladin and the courage and tactical skill of Richard. It was the final armed encounter between the two monarchs before the ratification of the Treaty of Jaffa brought the Crusade to an end. The battle ensured that the Crusader presence in the south of Palestine was secure.

Prelude

On September 7, 1191, after the Battle of Arsuf, the Crusader army proceeded from Arsuf to Jaffa, which the Crusaders took and fortified. Jaffa, they hoped, would be the base of operations in a drive to reconquer Jerusalem itself. As the winter of 1191–1192 approached, sporadic negotiations between Richard the Lionheart and Saladin were taken up, though without any immediate result.[4]

In late November 1191 the Crusader army advanced inland towards Jerusalem. In early December Saladin was under pressure from his emirs to disband the greater part of his army, which he reluctantly did on the twelfth of that month. Learning this, Richard pushed his army forward, spending Christmas at Latrun. The army then marched to Beit Nuba, only 12 miles from Jerusalem. Muslim morale in Jerusalem was so low that the arrival of the Crusaders would probably have caused the city to fall quickly. However, the weather was appallingly bad, cold with heavy rain and hailstorms. The poor weather, combined with the fear that if it besieged Jerusalem the Crusader army might be trapped by a relieving force, caused the decision to retreat back to the coast to be made.[5]

During the winter months, Richard's men occupied and refortified Ascalon, whose fortifications had earlier been razed by Saladin. The spring of 1192 saw continued negotiations and further skirmishing between the opposing forces. The Crusader army made another advance on Jerusalem, coming within sight of the city before being forced to retreat once again because of dissension amongst its leaders. During this period, Richard began to receive disturbing news of the activities of his brother John and the French king, Philip Augustus. As the spring gave way to summer, it became evident that Richard would soon have to return to his own lands to safeguard his interests.[6]