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Biblical Archaeology Review 49:1, Spring 2023

Century Mark: Crusader Battle at Yibna

Nine hundred years ago, on May 29, 1123 CE, Crusader troops crushed the attacking Egyptian army of the Fatimid caliph at Yibna (biblical Yavne), off the coast of the Mediterranean Sea between Ascalon (Ashkelon) and Jaffa (Tel Aviv). The Crusaders were led by the Flemish lord Eustace Granier, who was the constable and bailiff of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. The Muslim challengers were led by the Fatimid vizier Al-Mamun al-Batahi.

The short and decisive battle took place 24 years after the first establishment of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem, which was an ephemeral state founded by European Christian conquerors of the Holy Land following the First Crusade. At the time, King Baldwin II of Jerusalem was in captivity in northern Syria. This encouraged the Cairo-based Fatimids to attack and try to recapture the coastal stronghold of Jaffa, the center of one of the Crusader seigneuries that made up the Kingdom of Jerusalem. The Crusaders’ victory eliminated the Fatimid threat for the next 30 years.

Ultimately Jaffa was conquered by the Mamluk sultan Baibars in 1268, and the whole Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem came to an end 23 years later.

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