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Third Crusade (1189-1192)

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For naming conventions, see Medieval Kingdoms of Western Europe.

The Third Crusade (1189–1192), also known as the Kings' Crusade, was an attempt by European leaders to reconquer the Holy Land from Saladin (Salāh ad-Dīn Yūsuf ibn Ayyūb). It was largely successful, yet fell short of its ultimate goal—the reconquest of Jerusalem.

After the failure of the Second Crusade, the Zengid dynasty controlled a unified Syria and engaged in a conflict with the Fatimid rulers of Egypt, which ultimately resulted in the unification of Egyptian and Syrian forces under the command of Saladin, who employed them to reduce the Christian states and to recapture Jerusalem in 1187. Spurred by religious zeal, Henry II of England and Philip II of France ended their conflict with each other to lead a new Crusade (although Henry's death in 1189 put the English contingent under the command of Richard Lionheart instead). The elderly Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa responded to the call to arms, and led a massive army across Anatolia, but drowned before reaching the Holy Land. Many of his discouraged troops left to go home.

After driving the Muslims from Acre, the Christian powers argued over the spoils of war; frustrated with Richard, Frederick's successor Leopold V of Austria and Philip left the Holy Land in August 1191. Saladin failed to defeat Richard in any military engagements, and Richard secured several more key coastal cities. Nevertheless, on September 2, 1192, Richard finalized a treaty with Saladin by which Jerusalem would remain under Muslim control, but which also allowed unarmed Christian pilgrims to visit the city. Richard departed the Holy Land on October 9. The successes of the Third Crusade would allow the Crusaders to maintain a considerable kingdom based in Cyprus and the Syrian coast. But the failure of the Third Crusade to recapture Jerusalem would lead to the call for a Fourth Crusade six years later.

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