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1 - Capturing Jerusalem: the Fāṭimid/Seljȗk, Crusader, and Ayyȗbid Fortifications, Ditches, and Military Outworks of the City

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 January 2024

Kelly DeVries
Affiliation:
United States Military Academy
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Summary

This paper attempts to draw together all relevant textual, archival, and archaeological information concerning the appearance of Jerusalem's Fāṭimid and Seljȗk city defenses, including its multiple fortification walls and towers, ditches and outworks, on the eve of the Crusader conquest of that city in July 1099. What were the physical defensive impediments preventing the Crusader forces from getting close to the walls and gaining quick access to the city? Analysis of the textual sources is provided in this paper. What did the ditches and outworks look like, and how formidable were they? Details are provided based on recent archaeological excavation results, as well as from an examination of archival materials, some hitherto unpublished. New data is presented on the physical appearance and chronology of the previously unknown and elusive sunken ditch on the brow of Mount Zion at the spot where Raymond of St. Gilles laid siege to the city from the south. The paper also deals with what eventually transpired to the fortifications of Jerusalem under subsequent Frankish and Ayyȗbid rule. As we shall see, in the aftermath of Ṣalāḥ al-Dīn's conquest of the city in 1187, it appears that Jerusalem came to be protected from the south by two separate fortification walls.

Introduction

This paper will address primarily the archaeological evidence of the defensive outworks and ditches of Jerusalem that would have been major impediments to attacking Crusader forces in June–July 1099. New information on the northern and southern ditches has now become available as a result of recent archaeological excavations conducted to the north and south of the city. A re-examination of archival materials on earlier work done in the nineteenth century helps to contextualize much of this new material. The northern ditch was established at the time of the Fāṭimid Caliphate, and it served as a major defensive obstacle at the time of the Crusader siege in 1099. Indeed, it was still there and needed to be overcome at the time of Ṣalāḥ al-Dīn's siege in 1187. It would appear that the northern ditch was abandoned following the destruction of the Ayyȗbid fortifications in 1219/20, and that its infilling took place in subsequent Mamluk and Ottoman periods.

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Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2023

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