Why Islam crushed the crusaders

Thomas Abridge explains why for all their celebrated victories and burning religious zeal - the Christian warriors' attempts to wrest the Holy Land from Muslim control in the Middle Ages were ultimately doomed to failure

The Siege of Antioch during the First Crusade, c1200. (Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

At dawn on Friday 18 May 1291 a furious Muslim assault upon the crusader city of Acre began. This bustling, heavily fortified port in northern Palestine had been locked into a siege for more than a month: encircled by tens of thousands of Islamic troops; subjected to an aerial bombardment that brought hundred-pound boulders crashing down onto its battlements and buildings.

Now, on this last morning, the air resounded with the thunderous booming of war drums as thousands of Muslims raced forward, while their archers loosed arrows “in a thick cloud” that, according to one Christian eyewitness, “seemed to fall like rain from the heavens”. Driven forward by the immense force of this onslaught, the Muslims broke through two gates and began rushing into the city.

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