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Wolff, R. L.; Hazard, H. W. (ed.) / The later Crusades, 1189-1311

I: The Norman Kingdom of Sicily and the Crusades,   pp. 2-43 PDF (16.9 MB)

Page 39

Saladin's victorious march northward along the coast and his con quest of
Tortosa, Maraclea, and Jabala. Arabic historians report that after all his
attempts had been frustrated, Margarit approached Saladin with the proposal
of an alliance, on condition that Saladin leave the Christian cities alone
and guarantee them their land and safety; in return he would receive their
help in the conquest of neighboring territories held by Nür-ad-Din's
heirs, the atabegs of northern Syria. Should Saladin reject the pact, Margarit
threatened an invasion of the east by such forces of western Christendom
as to make Saladin's resistance hopeless. As a matter of course, Saladin
refused. Apparently the Christians knew that Saladin hoped to dominate the
north of Syria, were aware of his rivalry with the heirs of Nür-ad-Din,
and tried to exploit this situation. At any rate, it seems that it was through
this interview that Saladin was first informed about a new crusade being
prepared in the west.46 
 During the following summer Margarit received reinforcements from Sicily.
He must have realized that he could not attack Saladin's coastal cities and
castles directly. Instead, he turned to harassing and chasing the enemy like
the corsair he may have been in his early days. Operating back and forth
between Tyre and Tripoli and also along the coast near Antioch, he dealt
telling blows at the Saracen freebooters and warships, keeping the lifeline
for Christian ships carrying supplies, arms, and later an ever growing number
of crusaders to the harassed Christians in their Syrian strongholds. It is
to these activities that an English writer refers when gratefully crediting
Margarit with having supported Antioch, defended Tripoli, and saved Tyre.47
The admiral's activities in Syria came to an end late in the fall of 1189.
On November 18 king William of Sicily died, and Margarit was probably recalled
by Tancred, William's temporary successor, who badly needed armed support
 46 See 'Imäd-ad-Din, Al-fath al-qussi (Amari, BAS, I), pp. 343-344;
AbU-Shämah, Ar raudatain (Amari, BAS, I), pp. 543-544, and Ibn-al-Athir,
Al-kamil (Amari, BAS, 1), pp. 499-501. The west was informed of Saladin's
ambition to subjugate the atabegs of northern Syria. An alliance with the
new sultan of Egypt seemed within the range of political possibilities. Saladin
himself made a similar offer; see Gesta regis Henrici II (Rolls Series, XLIX),
II, 175-176, 18o. Amari (Storia dei musulmani, III, 539, note I) believes
that Saladin made this offer after a defeat suffered at the hands of Margarit
(before 1190). 
 47 Richard of London, Itinerarium (Rolls Series, XXXVIII), I, 27: ".
. . quis dubitat quod Antiochia retenta, quod Tripolis defensa, quod Tyrus
servata . . ." On the reaction of the Arab historians who refer to Margarit's
tactics as purposeless blundering, see Amari, Storia dei musulmani, III,
534. On Margarit's activities at Acre, see Gesta regis Henrici II (Rolls
Series, XLIX), II, 54, and Robert of Auxerre (MGH, SS., XXVI), p. 253. Compare
Amari, Storia dei musulmani, III, 539-540. Margarit's adventures were glorified
as "fes per mer" by the troubadour Raymond Vidal, cited by Chalandon,
Domination normande, II, 417, note 4. On Margarit's identity and career,
see C. A. Garufi, "Margarito di Brindisi, conte di Malta e amiraglio
di Sicilia," Miscellanea . . . Salinas (Palermo, 1907), pp. 273-282.

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