“The Third Crusade” – Assassin’s Creed: Real History

“The Third Crusade” – Assassin’s Creed: Real History


Hello and welcome everyone to the eleventh
episode in the new iteration of Assassin’s Creed the Real History. My name is Robius, and I’m pleased to present
to you the first in a sub-series of these episodes. Although I normally cover the history of individuals
depicted in the Assassin’s Creed franchise, and then compare them to the historical source
material that inspired their portrayal, this marks the beginning of a slight alteration
in that project. For the next few videos, I intend on chronologically
covering the time periods used for the various Assassin’s Creed games, touching on the
major historical points included while also filling in the gaps and introducing you to
the figures in the game who actually existed. I feel as though this should be an interesting,
albeit complicated undertaking but I’m looking forward to sharing it with you all. With all of that in mind, in today’s episode
we’ll start at the beginning of the franchise by evaluating the history behind the Third
Crusade. Please be aware of potential story spoilers
throughout this video. For the sake of clarifying and establishing
a better understanding of the Third Crusade’s origins, I’m going to provide you with some
additional background information to the events that preceded the first AC title. At its core, the concept of Crusading was
the act of waging a Holy War, in the name of the Latin Church for a series of set goals
against certain religion-based adversaries. For this video, we’ll solely be discussing
the context behind the crusades in the Levant. These were a grouping of expeditions with
the goal of initially reclaiming important cities in the name of Christianity, establishing
safe passage for Christian pilgrims while fundamentally installing and maintaining European
military and economic control in a region they had lost years ago. Therefore, although the Crusades technically
spanned from the 11th to the 16th century, we will only be concentrating on the events
occurring from 1189 to 1192. Now that we’ve covered the basic concept
of crusading, I’m going to provide you with a quick recap of what led to the Third Crusade. Evidently, European military involvement in
the Holy Land recommenced with the launching of the First Crusade in 1095 in which a joint
coalition of Christian nations spent approximately four years fighting and negotiating their
way through the ranks of multiple independent Islamic factions, leading to a resounding
victory in 1099. This success led the church to once again
lay claim to Jerusalem, thus establishing the Kingdom of Jerusalem and the other Crusader
States which would remain their seats of power in the region. Although the Europeans experienced a period
of expansion in the Levant, further consolidating the size and control of their Crusader States,
they were soon challenged by united Muslim forces. These more organized adversaries proved difficult
to fight, leading to the 1144 fall of their first Crusader State, the County of Edessa. This in turn led to the call for a Second
Crusade in 1147 which lasted only 2 years and ultimately ended in failure when it was
unsuccessful in re-establish their control. At this point, the son of Edessa’s conqueror,
Nur ad-Din became the leader of a unified Syria. Over the following years, both through political
negotiations and military expeditions, he would essentially come to control most of
Egypt. By 1174 however, both Nur ad-Din and his most
trusted general had passed away from illness. This made way for Salah ad-Din to initially
take control of Egypt and begin the extended process of unifying its forces with those
in Syria, a goal he eventually achieved. In his new role as sultan, he represented
an Islamic threat to the Crusader States, in the form of his new Ayyubid Dynasty, the
likes of which had not yet been faced. It is said that Salah ad-Din’s wide empire
was well chronicled by the geographer Ibn Jubayr during his travels that immediately
preceded the start of the Third Crusade. During this period of Islamic unification,
the Kingdom of Jerusalem experienced its own shifts in leadership, eventually reaching
the reign of King Guy of Lusignan. Guy’s rule represented one of the most divisive
periods among the leadership of the remaining Crusader States and included increasing aggression
with the sultan of Egypt and Syria. Consequently, Guy was soon put in a difficult
position when Salah ad-Din’s forces circled his Kingdom and besieged certain cities, leading
the King to muster his forces and respond. Unfortunately, his adversary manipulated him
into marching his men through the desert, leaving them exhausted, thirsty and easy targets
for their Ayyubid enemies. Salah ad-Din’s superior forces crushed Guy’s
army at the Battle of Hattin, the King was subsequently imprisoned and later ransomed
and the majority of the Crusader army in the Levant collapsed. Among those captured in the aftermath in the
Battle of Hattin was William V, Marquess of Montferrat, a Crusader who was eventually
released the next year. In the coming months, the Sultan captured
both Jerusalem and Acre, thus putting a significant strain on the European presence in the region. In response to these developments, Pope Gregory
VIII called for a new Crusade. England and France, who had been at war with
each other agreed on peace terms so that they could crusade together, leading both countries
to begin preparations. Around the same time, in light of the coming
war and his intent to conquer further territory, in 1188 Salah ad-Din enlisted Baha ad-Din
ibn Shaddad as his chronicler. In this position, he would be an eye witness
to the events of the later Siege of Acre and Battle of Arsuf, giving him first-hand experience
from which to write. For this accurate work, he would eventually
be promoted to a role as city administrator] Back in Europe, although not the first ruler
to officially answer the call of the Third Crusade, the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick
I Barbarossa quickly amassed a large army with Hungarian support, his German forces
were the earliest to begin their march to the Holy Land, opting out of a naval departure. Depending on your perspective, this may mark
the beginning of the Crusade. Unfortunately, upon their arrival in Byzantine
territory, the Germans were slowed down due to the interference of the Byzantine Emperor,
who’d sided with Salah ad-Din. Meanwhile, in Europe the newly crowned King
Richard I of England had been amassing his own troops and funds, alongside his now-ally
King Philip II of France. By April of 1190, the English fleet was launched
and set to meet up with their remaining forces before heading to the Holy Land. Unfortunately, within just a few months of
the other European forces commencing their voyage to the Levant, the elder Emperor Frederick
Barbarossa, after bypassing the Byzantine delays and fighting off Seljuq resistance
to his advances, suddenly fell off his horse while crossing a river and drowned. Nonetheless, after they continued facing off
against many attacks on behalf of the local Islamic factions, and without a clear leader,
much of the German army either routed, or returned home to await the appointment of their
new ruler. A small faction of the original crusaders,
thought to have numbered around 5,000 remained in the Holy Land under the command of Frederick
of Swabia, son of the Emperor. They reached the Principality of Antioch,
but lost even more men due to illness, although they eventually did join the siege of Acre. Notably, among the remaining German crusaders
was Meister Sibrand who is credited as later operating a temporary hospital during the
siege of Acre, and eventually opening a full hospital once the city was taken by crusaders. This establishment would become the center
of power for the Teutonic Knights, of which Sibrand was considered the unofficial first
grand master. In Europe, King Richard and his forces finally
departed in a separate fleet in early August of 1190, with King Philip’s troops soon
following a few weeks later. Their armies briefly met in Sicily, and had
a dispute with its King. Ultimately, Philip and the French left Sicily,
reached the Holy Land via the Crusader-held city of Tyre and proceeded onwards to Acre
in April of 1191 where they joined the siege that had been started nearly two years earlier
by the former King of Jerusalem, Guy of Lusignan. Before joining the Crusader efforts, Richard
briefly stopped at Cyprus, and when hostilities erupted with its ruler, he conquered the island. The English King finally joined the siege
of Acre in early June of 1191, with Robert de Sable being among his commanders. Together, the English and French provided
their support in the form of building additional siege engines which proved an integral component
in taken Acre by mid-July. Although this proved to be a major Crusader
victory, the immediate aftermath was filled with internal strife between the Europeans,
both in terms of dividing the captured wealth and in terms of who they desired as the King
of Jerusalem. Richard’s support ensured that Guy would
maintain the title until his death, despite the protests of the French King and Austrian
Duke who supported Conrad of Montferrat for the crown. However, it was agreed that once Guy died,
the crown would pass on to Conrad and his family. In this time, King Philip II of France was
ill with dysentery and after this immediate conflict with his supposed allies, he decided
to return home to France, much to the displeasure of Richard, however he did leave behind most
of his crusaders and the funds to pay them. This would be the point where the plotline
of the first Assassin’s Creed game takes place, generally believed to be between mid-July of 1191
to September of 1191 which represented a block of downtime between larger events of the third
crusade. After the siege, it is said there were initial
communications between Richard and Salah ad-Din. The sultan attempted to negotiate the release
of his captured garrisons, however it is said that Richard felt the Ayyubid leader continued
to purposefully delayed the proceedings to impact the Crusade and therefore responded
by having all of these prisoners executed in view of Salah ad-Din’s army. This was met by a Saracen response in which
all of their Christian prisoners were also executed. This massacre, on the crusader side, was presented
as the doing of William de Montferrat in the game, rather than Richard. Thereafter, Richard wished to take Jerusalem,
but understood that controlling the port city of Jaffa was necessary before launching such
an endeavour. Recognizing what this new Crusader march represented,
Salah ad-Din prepared a pre-emptive counter-attack. The Saracen strategy consisted of goading
the Crusaders into breaking ranks and attacking by constantly firing arrows at them, but Richard
held his forces together, pushing them in a slow march along the coast on their way
to Jaffa. Realizing small attacks would not work, the
sultan prepared his troops for a large-scale engagement in the forested, marshy region
of Arsuf. Richard’s forces camped the night before
the battle on September 6th, 1191. In the game, this is where Altair came to
meet him, fought through Saracen and Crusader forces and eventually faced off against Robert
de Sable. Evidently, in history there was clearly no
talk of a potential alliance between the Crusader and Saracen factions against the Assassin
order, with whom Salah ad-Din was actually on good terms with at the time. From this point onwards, we’ll be discussing
the history of the Third Crusade after the events of the first AC game. Historically speaking, identifying that they
may be ambushed, Richard re-organized his army with the Templars under the command of
Robert de Sable leading the front and the rearguard being defended by the Knights Hospitaller,
who were led by Garnier de Nablus. The Saracens continued to launch small scale
attacks, which Richard did not want to pursue in fear of breaking ranks. In the end, when he declined their requests
to counter-attack, the Hospitallers disobeyed orders, broke ranks and charged Salah ad-Din’s
troops, forcing Richard to commit to a full-scale attack in which he could re-coordinate his
forces. Ultimately, this surprisingly fast strike
led to an overwhelming Crusader victory, thus boosting their morale and proving that Salah
ad-Din was in fact not an invincible commander. The Crusaders then took Jaffa, and
although negotiations were re-opened with the sultan, these quickly fell apart. Consequently, by November Richard marched
to within a few miles of Jerusalem. Unfortunately, when severe weather suddenly
struck, the Crusaders made the difficult decision to pull back to their coastal position instead
of risking a battle with an unknown force, or possibly getting trapped and besieged in
the city if they took it. Within the Crusader camp, tensions rose as
Richard and Conrad of Montferrat developed a bitter rivalry which finally came to head
when the kingdom’s nobles took a vote and decided that Conrad and not Guy of Lusignan
would be King of Jerusalem, a verdict that Richard had to accept. However, prior to his official coronation,
Conrad of Montferrat was killed by a pair of Assassins thought to be sent by Rashid
ad-Din Sinan, the Syrian leader of their order. It is unknown if this was done at the behest
of Richard, Salah ad-Din or simply for the agenda of the Old Man of the Mountain himself. In response to this sudden death, Henry II
of Champagne was married to Queen Isabella, the apparent inheritor of the crown, thus
making him the new ruler of Jerusalem. After more failed negotiations, the Crusaders
occupied a few key positions around Jerusalem and by June they were ready to strike, however
the joint-venture’s leaders reached a disagreement. Fundamentally, the Crusader forces were divided
on how they should take the city with Richard and his supporters wanting to force Salah
ad-Din to surrender it by cutting his supply routes to Egypt, whereas the Duke of Burgundy,
who led the French in Philip’s stead, demanded a direct assault on the Holy City. With both sides thoroughly split and unwilling
to fully commit to one plan, the Crusaders again needed to pull back. Within a month, seizing the advantage provided
by this delay, Salah ad-Din succeeded in suddenly capturing Jaffa. Upon hearing of this invasion Richard prepared
a small elite force and led a stealthy attack on Jaffa by sea. They caught the Ayyubids off guard, freed
their captured comrades and pushed the sultan’s forces out of the city. Although Salah ad-Din attempted another attack,
it was resisted. This Crusader victory provided Richard with
some leverage, which he used in September of 1192 as negotiations were once again opened
and finally came to fruition. Although many elements were discussed, the
central points of this treaty were that Salah ad-Din would respect the existing Crusader
holdings, that they in turn would respect his and that although Jerusalem would remain
within the sultan’s dominion, Christian pilgrims and traders would be allowed to visit
the city. With all of these issues settled, Richard
began his trip back home on October 9th 1192, thus signalling the end of the Third Crusade. In conclusion, although both sides benefited
from this treaty, they were each disappointed with the end results, as a total victory had
been desired. In Western eyes, it was seen as a general
success due to the reconstruction of the Crusader states and the fortification of their coastal
control, however the crusade fell short of its ultimate objective of re-taking Jerusalem. Whereas in the Saracen view, although peace
was eventually achieved and they held the city of Jerusalem, they were strongly disappointed
that Salah ad-Din had failed to expel Western influence from their region altogether. Now that we’ve reached the end of this historic
event, we can proceed to the final chapter in the video where we review everything that’s
been learned so far and compare its depiction in the game to the actual history. I’ll start by first stating that before
analyzing anything, it’s important to recognize that although it wasn’t blatantly stated
in the narrative, the first Assassin’s Creed game is generally agreed to have only taken
place during a period of a few months at the most. This is noteworthy, because it seems that
the writers chose this timeslot as it represented a general lull in military activities during
the Third Crusade. I’m also going to try and not go into detail
about every inaccuracy in the game, but rather concentrate on those connected to major events
as they relate to the Crusade. Having said that, historically, during Altair’s
adventures the political landscape of the playable cities was correct, with the Saracens
holding Jerusalem and Damascus, while the Crusaders were positioned in Acre. In terms of the blatantly fictionalized elements,
the main two that come to mind are the sieges of Masyaf, led by Crusader forces in 1189
and Templar forces in 1191, as was shown in Revelations and the first AC title. There were no such militarized endeavors in
which European forces attacked the Assassin stronghold. Next, it can be stated that the assassination
targets that weren’t discussed in this video were fictionalized individuals and did not
play a role in ruling their respective cities. In addition, the final portion of the game
which was completely invented was the range of the Templar order. It can definitively be said that they were
not widespread between both sides of the conflict and consequently did not have access to Saracen-held
cities as was shown in the game. Now we can move on to the realm where Assassin’s
Creed excels, which is to say the portions of the game where they alter the history to
better fit their narrative. This first point in this category was when
the game presented King Richard chastising William de Montferrat for having all of Acre’s
prisoners executed, when in reality it was the King himself who ordered the massacre. Next, although the Assassin order did conduct
multiple assassinations during the Third Crusade, some of which were high profile, it was not
to the extent that was presented in the game. It’s also worth mentioning that in most
cases, the figures selected as assassination targets in the game weren’t killed by the
Assassin order, although many did die within a year or so of their depicted murder, for
a variety of different reasons. However, I’d like to bring up that although
William de Montferrat was not historically assassination, his son Conrad, the soon-to-be
King of Jerusalem was, just a year later. Lastly, the final point I’d like to bring
up was the depiction of the prelude to the Battle of Arsuf. Although Richard’s force did set camp in
the wooded area, there was clearly no negotiations for establishing a Crusader-Saracen alliance
against the Assassins which was interrupted by Altair. In reality, at that time Salah ad-Din was
on reasonable terms with the Assassin mentor. Keeping all of this information in mind, let’s
now talk about whether the Third Crusade was fairly depicted in the Assassin’s Creed
games. Personally, I think it was a reasonable depiction
which definitely included a series of embellishments and tweaks to the history. On one hand, the game exaggerates the presences
and influence of both the Templar and Assassin orders, however this is somewhat understandable
because it is the central point in their fictional narrative. On the other hand, the game really sets a
great atmosphere. I personally liked how the orators in each
city spin their own explanation on the current events, as the Christian celebrate the acquisition
of Acre and feel they are re-taking their Crusader states, whereas their Muslim counterparts
warn of the European invaders and cheer on the efforts of Salah ad-Din who rises against
the threat presented by King Richard. Overall, although the game simplified certain
portions of this military campaign, given the short time period in which it occurs,
I still found its depiction of this short, transitional period within the Third Crusade
to be particularly interesting. And with that final point, we’ve reached
the end of today’s video. If you enjoyed the content, please share this
series with your friends and be sure to watch our other episodes. Although I have a current plan for the next
few videos, feel free to leave any other topic requests in the comments. My sources for making this video will be in
the description bar below. Thanks for watching.

20 comments

  1. There's talk that future AC games will have less narrative and be focused more on "anecdotes". This sounds like they've basically given up trying to write compelling stories and characters and are just going to increase the focus on bland, repetitive side quests instead. This is really bad news in my opinion.

  2. Yesss!! Thank you for covering the time periods!! I'm looking forward and hoping you cover the French Revolution and the Victorian era. Love these videos!! Keep them up!!

  3. Saladin actually had a run in with the assassins while he was sleeping he got away with a flesh wound but he soon encountered them again

  4. I don't know why, but somehow the cities in AC1 felt more real and alive than any of the others. They felt more active, human, and the crowds had more of a personality. Unity's marketing made so much of what huge crowds they had, but they didn't really do anything. Crowds in AC1 would scream and run away when you got into a fight, hide you from the authorities if you met certain conditions, and so forth. I guess it was quite a brutal time back then when it really sucked to be an ordinary guy on the street. It just about makes sense that people would collaborate with an assassin back then, but that aspect hasn't aged well. In subsequent games the devs have made a token attempt at introducing consequences for the player's actions, but I've always maintained that the notoriety system in Assassin's Creed is way too easy to deal with – you cause loads of chaos and the meter advances a bit, then you tear down a poster or two and it gets back to normal. And then in Unity, just when that kind of system would be needed the most, they scrapped it entirely.

  5. And I loved how the first game managed to tackle topics like humanity and free will in a deep, philosophical way that wasn't confused like AC3 or pretentious like Unity. The Crusades worked quite well as an impetus for that.

  6. Are you planning to do more characters in AC Syndicate? If so I suggest doing some scientists like David Brewster, John Elliotson, Richard Owen and of course Charles Darwin.

  7. This video was a real help! It gave me some nice information to help with my book I'm writing set in the third crusades.

  8. You know the irony of the first AC game is that The Assassin's opposed Saladin so they would have been ally's with the crusaders and thus the Templars

  9. I love the whole religious backdrop.. It adds another level of depth to the game.. The blend in plain sight feature wouldn't work (Not as well at least..) in any other period.. It all added up to this fanatical faction aka the Assassins of Masyaf being stuck in the middle of two other fanatical factions, all of them wholeheartedly believing in their cause and beliefs.. It also was just a thinking man's game.. With all the philosophies and views of the world, along with putting you in the shoes of a man living in that period.. I loved the game, and to me still has the best "Assassiny" feel to it, with the whole "Killer Monk" thing going on, and actually having to hunt and kill targets, and a big part of it to me, is that you are fully devoted.. You dont decide to kill these men.. Your leader does.. And that to me makes all the difference, ive always thought a Assassin council/ leader is an essential thing to making a classic Assassins Creed game.

  10. Also salahdin and other Islamic emperors or King’s believed the cities were theirs no one asked for the crusades?

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