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5 - The Battle of Arsur: A Short-Lived Victory

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 November 2014

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Summary

Introduction

On the twenty-second of August, 1191, the Crusader army led by King Richard Lionheart left Acre. More than two weeks later and about 100 kilometers south of Acre, on the seventh of September, the Crusader and Muslim armies clashed in the Forest of Arsur.

I would like to suggest that the battle was practically inevitable because both sides had good reasons to seek a decisive encounter. The Lionheart could not conquer Jerusalem as long as Saladin's army was in the coastal plain, whereas Saladin wanted to minimize the damage Richard could do and to avoid the conquest of Jerusalem and the establishment of a viable Crusader state. Therefore, the main questions to be addressed hereafter are the “when” and “where”. Why did the battle take place more than two weeks after the Crusader army left Acre and not earlier? Why did it erupt in the Forest of Arsur and not elsewhere? Neither sources nor studies are conclusive on these issues. Therefore, it is crucial to scrutinize additional data: in this case both sides' schedules and the battlefield terrain itself are fairly well known and provide clues as to the choice of this specific battlefield. I will demonstrate that although the two armies marched on parallel roads for nearly 100 kilometers, and theoretically could have clashed anywhere along the way, potential battlefields were few, and after a certain point, it was clear that the battle would take place in the Forest of Arsur.

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Journal of Medieval Military History
Volume XII
, pp. 109 - 118
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2014

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