Page 1411

1411 THE CRUSADES-FALL OF THE CROSS.

of honorable treatment. Sultan Bibars, however, violated his pledge, and gave his prisoners their option of death or the acceptance

of Islam. All chose death, and gave up

their lives as a seal to their fidelity. Before

the year 1270, all the inland castles belonging to the Orders, including the fortresses

of Cesarea, Laodicea, and Jaffa, had been

taken by the Infidels. At last, in 1268, the

city of Antioch was captured by the Mamelukes. Many thousands of the Christians

were massacred, and no fewer than a hundred thousand sold into slavery. For a while

it seemed that Acre itself would share the fate

of the Syrian capital; but the opportune arrival

of the king of Cyprus, and the still more opportune prevalence of the tempest in which

the Egyptian fleet was well-nigh destroyed,

postponed for a season the final catastrophe.

Such was the imminent doom now impending over the Christian power in the East

that the Roman See was at last awakened

from its slumbers. The news of the capture

of Antioch produced something of the same

shock in Western Christendom which had

been felt on so many previous occasions.

The zeal of Pope Clement IV cooperated

with the devotion of Saint Louis to revive

the flagging cause. Nevertheless so completely

had the impulses of fanaticism abated that

three years were consumed in preparation

before the now aged French king was able to

gather the armies of the Eighth Crusade,

and set out for the East. On the 4th of

July, 1270, the expedition departed from the

port of Aignes-Mortes, and came to Sardinia. Here it was determined-such being

the king's own wish in the premises-to make

a descent on the coast of Africa with a view

to the conquest of Tunis. For it was believed

that both the king of this country and his

subjects might be converted to Christianity.

Such was the extraordinary nature of this

enterprise that many of King Louis's barons

tried to dissuade him from the project. But

the piety of the king, backed as it was by

the interested motives of his brother Charles

of Anjou, now king of Naples and Sicily,

proved superior to all objections, and on the

24th of July the squadron was brought to anchor in the harbor of ancient Carthage.

At this epoch the kingdom of Tunis was

torn by faction. The royal or Saracenic

party was opposed by the Berbers. It appears that King Louis had hoped to profit

by this dissension and by espousing the

cause of the Saracen ruler to bring him

and his countrymen to Christianity. The

presence of the French army, however, had

the effect to heal the breach in the African

kingdom, and both parties made common

cause against the invaders. The king of

Tunis raised a powerful army to drive his

officious friends into the sea. He desired

neither them nor their religion. For the

time no general battle was fought. Both

parties avoided it. The Moors knew, and the

Christians soon came to know that the climate

of that sun-scorched region would avail more

than the sword in the destruction of a European army.

Pestilences broke out in the camp of the

Crusaders. The soldiers died by hundreds

and then by thousands. The air became

laden with poisonous vapors. The dead lay

unburied, for the living were sick. Many

of the noblest of France yielded to the blight.

The counts of Vend6me, La Marche, Gaultier, and Nemours, and the barons of Montmorency, Pienne, and Bressac sickened and died. The king's favorite son, the Duke of

Nevers, followed them to the land of shadows, and then Saint Louis himself fell before

the destroyer. The few who remained alive

eagerly sought to save themselves by flying

from the horrid situation and returning to

France.

In the mean time, however, another

train of circumstances had been laid which

led to a continuance of the Crusade after

the death of King Louis and the ruin of

his army. The barons of England, also,

hearing of the fall of Antioch, had felt a

generous pang and taken the cross for the

rescue. Prince Edward Plantagenet, son of

Henry III, and heir of the English crown,

rallied his nobles to aid the French in the

salvation of the Christian states of the

East. He was supported in the work by

five of the great earls of England, and a

force of lords and knights' numbering about

a thousand. With this small but spirited

army Edwards set out from the kingdom

which he was soon to inherit, and landing

on the African coast joined himself and

his brave followers with the army of King

Louis to aid in the conquest of Tunis. The

French forces, however, were already in