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Aftermath: the Third Crusade

The Third Crusade turned at Acre with Richard's arrival.
The Third Crusade turned at Acre with Richard's arrival.

The Christians won the Third Crusade, but felt disappointed by the end result. They consistently defeated Saladin and secured their position in the Holy Land, but failed to take Jerusalem. On the other side, the Muslims had been thoroughly defeated and even lost their cohesion as a fighting force. Despite their issues, the Muslims maintained control of Jerusalem. In the end, each side finished the Third Crusade in extreme disappointment.

Richard the Lionheart's arrival in the Holy Land changed the entire dynamic of the Third Crusade. Saladin had little problem brushing aside amateurs, but failed to defeat a real military mind. The English king defeated Salain at Acre, Arsuf, and Jaffa. His victories secured Crusader colonies in the Middle East. However, he failed to take Jerusalem for a number of reasons. Weather, lack of military intelligence, treason in England, and Richard's own doubts and intransigence allowed the Muslims to retain the Holy City. In the end, the Crusaders reached an accord with Saladin allowing Christians to visit the city. As a result, some considered the Third Crusade a failure.

Richard might have failed in his ultimate objective, but he quashed Saladin. The Islamic warlord lost his reputation to the English king. People believed he was unbeatable until the Lionheart arrived. However, his victories came at the expense of second rate knights and amateurs. The Crusaders managed to destroy the morale of Saladin's army, which he struggled to maintain control of. The sheik himself believed Islam might not survive the Christian onslaught. He worried they would take more territory which would "ruin" Muslims in the region. Saladin's empire fractured upon his death in 1193.

Saladin's death must have energized the Christians. They decided to launch a Fourth Crusade to capture Jerusalem. That crusade fell apart in 1204 when the army sacked Constantinople rather than rescue the Holy City. Despite this, the Crusader states, most notably Acre, thrived for another century until Europe lost interest. Trade and intellectual exchanges thrived for a time in the Mediterranean region. The Crusades helped Europe emerge from the Dark Ages.

While Richard's efforts in the Holy Land led to trade, he failed to stop his brother John from capturing the English throne. The great Crusader king was arrested by Duke Leopold for the suspected murder of his cousin Conrad. The Holy Roman Emperor, Henry VI, eventually took custody of the English king. The emperor ransomed Richard back to England. Richard the Lionheart died in battle in 1199 leaving the throne to his brother John.

The Third Crusade was a dramatic success for the Christians. They accomplished everything they set out to do except capture Jerusalem. They broke Saladin's invincible reputation, won multiple battles, and secured the Crusader kingdoms. The effort led to increased trade and opened Jerusalem for pilgrims. However, they did not recapture the Holy City, which led to another crusade. Meanwhile, both Saladin and Richard the Lionheart died before the turn of the thirteenth century.