By Susan Woodson
Published online (2006)
Introduction: An important part of Islamic history consists of the Crusades where the Western Christians fought against the Eastern Muslims. Evaluating the Siege of Acre during the Third Crusade shows the beginnings of a Latin re-conquest and a Western pathway into the Holy Land. Through looking at the causes of the Third Crusade, Saladin, Richard I, Philip II, the reasons to capture Acre, the siege of the city, the surrender of Acre, the hostage situation, and the aftermath of the battle, it can be presented that the Siege of Acre could be considered a turning point for the Crusaders in defeating Saladin. Acre may not have been a major city as Jerusalem, but its capture by the Christian crusaders was significant because it created a Christian territory near the Holy Land marking the beginning towards a re-conquest by Christians of the lands taken by the Muslims during the Crusades.
Analyzing the causes of the Third Crusades helps to explain how and why the Siege of Acre occurred and why it’s significant to understand. In 1187, the Third Crusade began as “Jerusalem had been captured by the Infidel and an apparently flourishing Christian Kingdom was tottering on the brink of total ruin.” In other words, Saladin had conquered Jerusalem and had expelled the Christians from the holy city. Saladin fought for Jerusalem because it “was his duty before his God and his faith” as well as to “have liberated the holy city from the yoke of the invaders without a bloodbath, destruction, or hatred.” Due to his conquests of the Holy Land, King Philip II of France and King Richard I of England began the Third Crusade on July 4, 1190 to “win land and plunder as well as glory” The goal for the Christian Crusaders was to recapture the Holy Land, which would lead them to Acre. The importance of capturing the Holy Land by both Muslims and Christians would cause the Siege of Acre to be a critical battle during the Crusades as it was a battle for territory near the Holy Land.
One of the most influential figures of the Siege of Acre includes Saladin, who led the Muslims during part of the Crusades. Saladin was born in Egypt and would become the “Emperor of Syria, and Egypt” during his lifetime creating “united front against the Christians.” Before the Siege of Acre, Saladin captured Jerusalem stating that “‘when God gave me the land of Egypt, I was sure that he meant Palestine for me as well.’” Saladin was the first to unite the Muslims against the Crusaders and would be known for his victory at Jerusalem. In the Siege of Acre, Saladin would be forced to surrender leading to the end of his conquests and the beginning of the re-conquests of the Christians in the future Crusades except for Jerusalem. Understanding the influential Saladin shows how the Siege of Acre during the Third Crusade became a crucial moment as Saladin was defeated.