A Genoese Perspective of the Third Crusade
The Genoese author of The Short History of the Kingdom of Jerusalem relates the story of a Genoese ship that sailed into the harbour of Acre in the summer of 1187. It was not long after the battle of Hattin and rumours had already spread about the devastating results of the battle for the Christians: the deaths of hundreds of knights and the capture of the Holy Cross and the king of Jerusalem. As the ship entered the harbour, the sailors sensed that things were not as usual. They quickly realised that Acre, too, had been seized by Saladin. They feared for their fate but, luckily, a great nobleman, Marquis Conrad of Montferrat, was among the passengers.1 When he saw a Muslim patrol boat approaching their ship, he warned the crew and his fellow passengers that no one should speak but him. He instructed the Muslim guards to sail back to shore and tell Saladin that the ship was full of Christians, “and specifically Genoese merchants.” He then added that “as soon as we heard of Saladin’s victory, we came to his land safely and with trust; we pray and ask that he [Saladin] present us an arrow, as a token of trust.”2 Conrad cunningly obtained Saladin’s permission and saved the ship, which quickly turned back and sailed to Tyre in time to save the last Latin stronghold of the kingdom of Jerusalem. Conrad assumed command of the remaining forces and some of his Genoese companions stayed on to help him in the battle against Saladin.