In the year 1189 a very strong and valiant army of the Christians was mustered from many kingdoms and different regions, and set out on the way of the Holy sepulchre. The lord emperor and his son the duke of swabia, with many princes from the kingdom, bishops, dukes, margraves and counts, along with a huge multitude of [other] people, set off to travel through Hungary and Greece, immediately after the season of Easter, which fell on 9 April. The emperor travelled by ship down the danube, and arrived at Passau on the first day of rogations, that is on 15 May. diepold, the lord Bishop of Passau, along with certain of his brother canons, namely the greater and more distinguished men of the chapter of Passau, manfully joined this journey and the emperor’s enterprise both for the sake of the Lord and for the redemption of his soul, choosing this path not because he sought temporal wealth, for he left many possessions behind, but knowing that he would receive life everlasting in the Heavenly Jerusalem once this life was over. In this same year the aforesaid bishop sent a letter from Greece, the text of which is as follows. ‘diepold, by the grace of God humble minister of the church of Passau to the friend of his heart Leopold, illustrious duke of Austria, [wishing him] salvation and sincere regard. We wish to communicate to you the joyful and sweet tidings of our heart, and we [also] want to notify your diligence of all the unfortunate events that have befallen our army. You would wish to know that on entering Bulgaria we sustained many injuries at the hands of the Bulgarians, since they wounded many of our men with javelins. so whenever we captured any of them we had them hanged. Coming to the city of Nish, we encountered there the Great Count of serbia, who met us in state. The lord emperor received him honourably and had long discussions with him, giving him worthy gifts, while he too received great things from him. similarly all the princes were overwhelmed with wine, mead and animals by the count. We then moved on to the first of the passes, where we sustained serious losses to our baggage. A certain worthy knight from Halle was killed here. In these regions most of the army fell sick, some with tertian fever, others with quartan, while some were indeed suffering with
1 Translated from Magni Presbiteri Chronicon, ed. Wilhelm Wattenbach, MGH ss xvii.509-17. Magnus died in 1195, and so his chronicle represents contemporary testimony to the Crusade of Frederick Barbarossa, but its particular importance in this context is that he copied within his own work the contemporary Crusade diary of Tageno, dean of Passau cathedral, whose death at Tripoli late in 1190 he recorded [see the introduction, pp. 3-5,
strengthened further by rocks and wood, and a great crowd of looters and robbers had gathered there. This had been arranged by the duke of Branchevo, who had treacherously gone in advance of us. But the duke of swabia, who commanded the first battle line, did them great damage. Then the division subject to us and the duke of Merania, which was the middle one, charged them, inflicting wounds on some, and the greater part of their equipment was captured. Around the hour of Vespers, we and the aforesaid duke of Merania were guarding the flanks of our group, and we were riding with only about a dozen knights when suddenly two sons of one of the counts of that province, with at least a hundred companions, launched a vigorous and daring attack upon us, and fought with us for a long time with swords and spears. But with the help of God we put them to flight, leaving more than forty wounded concealed in hiding places. We gathered up some twenty-four of these people and tied them to the tails of our horses. We brought them back to our camp and ordered them to be strung up by their feet. At stralitz we found hardly any men left, since by the order of the duke of Branchevo the men of that province had gone up into the mountains and taken their supplies with them. Here the army suffered greatly through a shortage of wine. In the third pass, which was so fortified that it threatened to make the passage of our men difficult, we sustained no setback. Although the scouts of the duke of swabia spotted more than five hundred well-armed Greeks there, as soon as the latter saw the leading knights of the duke they immediately turned tail and fled. In that place the suffering of the army was entirely relieved through an abundance of bread, wine and fresh fruit, and the division of the lord emperor joined us. At Circuviz a certain Hungarian count named Lectoforus, who had gone before us on an embassy to the Emperor of Constantinople, returned to us with an envoy from the king of the Greeks. The aforesaid king proudly and arrogantly described himself as Emperor of the romans, an angel of God and the source of our faith. He conveyed his grace to our emperor, saying that he had learned from messages from the kings of France and England, and the duke of Brindisi,2 that the lord emperor had entered Greece with the intention of extinguishing his line and that he wished to transfer rule over the Greeks into the power of his son the duke of swabia. Moreover he said that the treaty of friendship that he had heard had been concluded between the emperor and the Great Count was suspicious and very much against his interests. He added also that the lord emperor should send hostages to him to secure his agreement to the army’s crossing of the Bosphorus,3 and once he swore to do this then he would grant a market [for the army]. He said furthermore that he wanted half the land which our army conquered from the
2 Who this might be is a good question, since no such official can be identified. Was this Margaritus of Brindisi [below note 8], the sicilian admiral, who was himself a Greek, or was this perhaps a reference to Tancred of Lecce, the future king of sicily, whose county
extremely annoyed when they heard this, in the circumstances they responded politely and wisely, saying that when they had secured the return of his envoys, who were at this time robbed of their possessions, shamefully exposed to the insults and mockery of the envoys of saladin, treated shamefully and cast into a squalid prison where they were suffering cruelly, then they could look favourably upon this request, provided that it was in accordance with the honour of God and the empire. We then marched on to the town of Philippopolis, which we found empty of men but full of wine, corn and other valuable supplies. At that time the brother of the king of the Greeks was six miles away from us with a great army, but when one day our men incautiously approached them they put them to flight, and they did not appear in these parts again. Thereafter the king of the Greeks, his brother and their army continually tried to trick us, and delayed us more and more.4 However, by the grace of God and through a great deal of effort and ingenuity we recovered our envoys, only barely clothed. And then at first the king promised us that we would make the crossing during the winter season, if we would give hostages to him that the peace of the land be respected, and he pledged the other things that had been sworn at Nuremberg. The lord emperor saw that all these offers were fraudulent, and he had no wish to agree to them, both because his envoys had been treated quite dreadfully and shamefully, and since he had no wish to entrust either himself or the army of the holy pilgrimage to the deceitful oaths of these people. And so while at first he spoke humbly so as to recover his envoys, once they had been restored to him he spoke in an imperial fashion. If the king of the Greeks would give as hostages his son, his brother and uncle, on whose advice he and all of Greece depended, and he could travel through the land and make the crossing of the Bosphorus in peace and safety and have good markets, then in response he would have whomever the latter wanted to choose from his army swear that he had entered his land with no evil intent or ulterior motive. We still have no idea how the king will respond [to this offer]. We can scarcely explain to you what joy there was among us on the day when the envoys were restored to us, for more than three thousand chosen knights rode out at least six miles on their war horses with lance and shield, and as a result the chancellor and great men of the Greeks were absolutely terrified, since they feared that ambushes had been prepared for them. But when the duke of swabia and the other nobles realised this they immediately put down their shields and received them kindly, explaining that this was a custom of the Germans, and that it had been done to welcome those rescued and for the glory of the Greeks. Then after taking care of the Greek envoys, they brought our envoys to the lord emperor with great rejoicing, with some chanting “You have come, desired ones”;5 others crying out, Hiute herre din tach. The lord emperor came out from his lodging,
give thanks to God, ‘for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost and is found’”.6 The following day the bishop tearfully informed the princes of the circumstances of his captivity, so that they too were moved to tears. Then the Greek envoys finished the business of their legation, and the lord emperor gave them a crisp response, in the terms described above, saying that he would be satisfied with nothing without the aforesaid hostages. As a result the Greeks were greatly disturbed. since, however, the king of the Greeks had sent letters to the lord emperor on three occasions, but had neither called him by name nor described him as emperor, in the presence both of the Greeks and of our princes he addressed them in a suitably imperial manner and speech.