Historia de Expeditione Frederici Imperatoris:
The Third Crusade: Death of Frederick Barbarossa, 1190
[Adapted from Brundage] With Jerusalem in his hands Saladin
and his army retired from the field, leaving the remaining defenders
of the Holy Land concentrated in Tyre, the only major Latin stronghold
left in the East. The conqueror's army could not, in any case,
have been kept together much longer and there must have seemed
little likelihood that Tyre or its garrison could cause any great
difficulty for the new master of the Holy Land. Saladin could
afford to postpone an attack upon Tyre until some more convenient
News of the disaster in the Holy Land was carried quickly to
the West. The collapse of Western Christendom's design to hold
the shrines of the Holy Land was apparent and only heroic measures
would suffice to retrieve the situation. On October 29, 1187,
Pope Gregory VIII appealed for another Crusade, even before the
news of Saladin's capture of Jerusalem had reached him . The Pope
also ordained for all the faithful a general abstinence from meat
on Fridays for a five-year period in atonement for the sins which
had brought on the recent disasters in the East.
Even before the full measure of the disaster was known in the
West, efforts were made to enlist the services of the three greatest
European monarchs in a grand expedition to Palestine. Contact
was made with the German Emperor, Frederick Barbarossa, with the
King of France, Philip Augustus, and with the King of England,
Henry TI. The obstacles to a joint expedition by these monarchs
were formidable. Barbarossa was elderly and bad spent the greater
part of his career at odds with the Papacy. Philip Augustus was
not enthusiastic for the venture and, furthermore, he had been
almost constantly at war with Henry II of England. To expect either
the French King or the English King to depart for the East and
to leave his rival behind in Europe was simply unrealistic. Either
both must go or neither would go, and cooperation between the
two men would not be easy to arrange.
In January 1188 the French and English Kings met at Gisors
to discuss the situation. After much talking an agreement was
reached which obliged the monarchs with their respective armies
to proceed to the Holy Land together. Peace between the kingdoms
was not so quickly arranged, however. Before the year was out,
war between them had begun again; then, in July 1189, while the
war was still in progress, Henry II of England died. The accession
of his son, Richard, greatly improved the prospects for the expedition.
Another meeting between the English and French monarchs took place
and new agreements about the Crusade were made.
Barbarossa, meanwhile, bad already set his part of the expedition
in order and in May 1189 a German army departed on Crusade. Barbarossa's
force was large, well-equipped, admirably controlled. The German
army set out to follow the land route through the Balkans and
Asia Minor to the Holy Land. Aside from some incidents near Constantinople,
the German army passed through the Balkans with a minimum of difficulty.
In Asia Minor the Germans were harried from time to time by Turkish
soldiers, but only one pitched battle took place there, near Konya
on May 17, 1190. Barbarossa's men were victorious and his army
passed from Konya through the Taurus Mountains and on to the plains
of Seleucea . Then cam a problem:-
One June 10  the advance unit of the army camped on the
plains of Seleucea. Up to this point the whole army of the Holy
Cross the rich and the poor, the sick and those who seemed
healthy had journeyed through the glare of the sun and
the burning beat of summer along a torturous road which led them
across rocky cliffs accessible only to birds and mountain goats.
The Emperor,311 who had shared in all the dangers, wished both
to moderate the inordinate heat and to avoid climbing the mountain
peak. Accordingly, he attempted to swim across the very swift
Calycadmus River. As the wise man says, however, "Thou shalt
not swim against the river's current ."[Eccles. 4:32] Wise
though he was in other ways, the Emperor foolishly tried his strength
against the current and power of the river. Although everyone
tried to stop him, he entered the water and plunged into a whirlpool.
He, who had often escaped great dangers, perished miserably. Let
us comment the secret judgment of God, "to Whom no man dares
say: Why have you acted thus," when he takes such or so many
men in death. The Emperor was, indeed, a knight of Christ and
a member of his army. He was taken up while on a laudable mission
to recover the Lord's land and his cross and thus, even though
he was taken unexpectedly, we may believe that, without doubt,
be was saved. When, therefore, the other nobles around him hastened,
although too late, to help him, they took him from the water and
dragged him to the bank.
Everyone was afflicted with great sorrow over his death; so much
so, indeed, that some, caught between hope and dread, would have
ended their lives with him. Others, however, despaired and, as
it seemed that God did not care for them, they renounced the Christian
faith to become pagans among the heathen.
Mourning and unrestrained sorrow not unmerited by the death
of such a prince occupied the hearts of all, so that they
could rightly lament, saying with the prophet: "Alas, we
are sinners, the wreath has faded from our brows; there are sad
hearts everywhere. " [Lam 5:16-17] The Duke of Swabia, a
most illustrious prince and his father's right noble heir, was
duly chosen and acclaimed as leader of Christ's army. The Duke
took up his father's body and bore it with him to the city of
Tarsus in Cilicia, where his father's intestines were devotedly
laid to rest.
The army divided there. Some made their way toward Tripoli, which
was in Christian bands. The others, who followed the Duke of Swabia,
marched toward Antioch. On June 17 they came to Port Saint Simeon
and on June 19 they came to Antioch, where the messengers of the
Lord Leo of the Mountain bad come to meet the lord Emperor. The
messengers had as yet heard nothing ot the Emperor's death; learning
of it there, they were affected more than the others. In Antioch
the Emperor was given a royal burial, as was fitting. To the accompaniment
of disconsolate mourning, they laid the remains of his body to
rest in the cathedral church of Peter, Prince of the Apostles.
Historia de Expeditione Frederici Imperatoris, [History
of the Expedition of the Emperor Frederick], ed. A. Chroust, Quellen
zur Geschichte des Kreuzzügges Kaiser Frederichs I, MGH,
SSRG new series, translated by James Brundage, The Crusades:
A Documentary History, (Milwaukee, WI: Marquette University
Press, 1962), 164-66
Copyright note: Professor Brundage informed the Medieval
Sourcebook that copyright was not renewed on this work. Moreover
he gave permission for use of his translations.
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© Paul Halsall December 1997