In the city important to three faiths, the defenders were defiant. Many wanted to fight, but they had no leader. Not, that is, until Balien arrived to fetch his wife, Queen Maria.
As soon as Balien entered the city, people were ecstatic: A leader had arrived! But Balien had sworn an oath to Saladin: He would stay in Jerusalem one night and would not bear arms. A man of his word, Balien was conflicted.
Tired of war, he simply wanted to take his wife to Tyre. On the other hand, he had a duty to defend his people and a religious obligation, he believed, to defend Jerusalem.
In an action which may seem incomprehensible today, he brought his dilemma to Saladin who relieved Balian of his oath. Balien would lead the city’s defenders while Saladin’s escort ensured Marie had safe travel to Tyre.
With the help of Queen Sibylla and the Patriarch Heraclius, Balien organized Jerusalem’s defenses. It was a hopeless cause.
Vastly outnumbered, the Christians had no chance to hold the city. Before Balien arrived, the inhabitants had already rejected Saladin’s peace offer:
- Surrender the city and you will not be harmed;
- Those who wish to leave may take their property;
- Christian places of worship will be respected;
- Future pilgrims will be unmolested.
When the people flatly rejected his offer, Saladin swore an oath they would fight to the death.