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The massacre of Aayadieh occurred on the 20th August 1191. It was perpetrated by Richard Coeur de Lion, better known as Richard the Lion Heart, during the Crusades to recover the holy land from the saracens under the command of Saladin. It is best understood in the context of Richard's attempt to take the city of Acre. The struggle for the city was unusually vicious even by Crusade standards, where little mercy was shown or asked for by soldiers on either side, and massacres were common place, particularly against the citizens of a captured city.

On the fall of Acre, Richard attempted to negotiate with Saladin offering a large number of captured prisoners in exchange for the True Cross (reputedly the actual cross upon which Jesus Christ had been crucified), together with a large ransom and a number of Christian captives taken by Saladin's men in earlier clashes with the crusaders.

Saladin stalled for time in the hope that an approaching Muslim army would allow him to retake control of the city. When Saladin refused a request from Richard to provide a list of names of important Christians held by the Saracens, Richard Cour de Lion took this as the delaying tactic that it probably was, and insisted that the ransom payment and prisoner exchange should occur within one month. When the deadline was not met Richard became infuriated and decided on a savage punishment of Saladin for his perceived intransigence. Richard personally oversaw and planned the massacre which took place on a small hill called Ayyadieh, a few miles from Acre. The killings were carried out in full view of the Muslim army and Saladin's own field headquarters. Over 3000 men, women and children, were beaten to death, axed or killed with swords and lances.

A Muslim force so enraged by this act attempted to charge the crusader lines but was repeatedly beaten back, allowing Richard and his army to retire in good order.

Aftermath

Any hope of regaining the True Cross disappeared after Ayyadieh, it was rumoured that Saladin sent it to Damascus. By his orders the Christian prisoners were executed in Damascus.

Aayadieh is perhaps the strongest refutation of Richard as a courteous and chivalrous warrior king. On this occasion his almost "theatrical" staging of the massacre showed that he was capable of using terror tactics in an attempt to terrify his opponents into submission. This form of warfare was used by both sides and the Muslims were no exception once a besieged city had fallen to them.

Sources

  • Payne, R "The Crusades: A History", Robert Hale Publishing Company, Chapter "Richard and Saladin" p 238-39, 1984

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