Battle of Jaffa

The last battle of the Third Crusade

The Conflict


Following the Battle of Arsuf on September 7 1191 the crusaders captured Jaffa, intending to use it as a base for the recapture of Jerusalem.   Following inconclusive negotiations between King Richard and Salah ad-Din, the Crusaders advanced to within 12 miles of Jerusalem in December 1191. Richard, realising he could not defend the city if he took it, retreated to Ascalon. Further negotiations achieved little and in spring 1192 the Crusaders advanced again on Jerusalem, this time reaching sight of its walls. ertreating once more following disagreements between their leaders. Richard also received reports of the activities his brother Count John and King Philip of France, and realised he needed to return to England to attend to domestic affairs.   On July 5 Richard prepared to leave Palestine. Salah ad-Din quickly laid siege to Jaffa on July 27, storming the walls three days later. Only the citadel held against him, and the defenders managed to get word to Richard at Acre.


Richard sailed south but initially thought the city had fallen completely by the time he arrived. A defender swam to Richard's flagship to tell him the citadel still held, and Richard personally led 54 knights, several hundred infantrymen and 2,000 Genoese and Pisan crossbowmen to retake the city. Ayyubid forces, fearing Richard's assault was just the advance wave of a large army, fled in disarray. Many of the prisoners they had captured when they took the city freed themselves and took up arms against them.   On August 4, following reports more Crusaders were advancing from Caeserea, Salah ad-Din led a counterattack. He ordered his troops to surround the city stealthily, hiding in the fields for a dawn assault the following morning. They were spotted by a sentry who raised the alarm shortly before dawn.   Richard assembled his troops and ordered infantry and dismounted knights to form a shield and spear wall to protect the crossbowmen, who he ordered to work in pairs, one shooting while the other reloaded. He had tent pegs hammered into the ground in front of the shield wall to hinder cavalry charges.

The Engagement

The Crusader formation held despite repeated Ayyubid cavalry charges, each of which suffered casualties from crossbow bolts. When the Ayyubids were finally exhausted, Richard led a charge of around a dozen mounted knights, with the rest of the dismounted knights and infantry, which put the majority of Salah ad-Din's forces to flight.   A small unit of Ayyubid soldiers managed to outflank the Crusaders and enter Jaffa, encountering minimal resistance from the Genoese marines left to guard the city gates. Richard returned to the town to rally troops there, and the Ayyubids were forced to retreat, leaving their dead on the field.


The battle - the last in the series of battles during the Third Crusade - left both sides exhausted. Salah ad-Din retreated to consolidate his troops. Richard fell ill - Salah ad-Din sent his personal physician to help him.   With Balian of Ibelin acting as intermediary, Richard and Salah ad-Din negotiated and agreed the Treaty of Jaffa, which saw the walls of Ascalon razed and left Jerusalem in Ayyubid hands, with a promise Christian prilgrims would be allowed to visit the city safely for three years. The coastal cities from Trye to Jaffa would remain in Christian hands.
Included under Conflict
Conflict Type
Start Date
27 July 1192
Ending Date
8 August 1192
Conflict Result
Crusader victory



54 knights
300-500 infantry
2000 Genoese and Pisan crossbowmen
Garrison of Jaffa
7,000-10,000 light and heavy cavalry


At least 2 dead, many wounded
c. 700 men and 1,500 horses killed


Defend Jaffa
Recapture Jaffa


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