The greatest of the castles in the principality of Antioch, and one of the most impressive in the entire corpus of Crusader building on the 12th century, is the castle at Saone (which has also been given the name Qal'at Salah al- Din/ Saladin's castle). The site, in modern northern Syria, had been fortified already in the 12th century by the Hamdadid dynasty. In 975 it was conquered by the Byzantine emperor Ioannis Tsimiskes, who constructed a citadel on top of the rocky spur. The site was taken by the Franks in the 11th century and the first Lord appears to be Robert son of Fulk, also known as Robert the Leprous. Although he maintained very good relations with the Muslims, this didn't save him when he was captured during a battle and refused to renounce his Christian faith: his erstwhile friends used his skull, inlaid with jewels, as a drinking cup...
It was probably Robert, or his son William (d. 1132) who built the castle at Saone, around the Byzantine redoubt. The most impressive feature is a mighty rock-cut trench on the east front, with a stone "needle" left, to support a wooden drawbridge. Three round towers and the keep (22m high) overlook the trench. To the west another ditch was cut in the rock, to separate the castle from a lower bailey, where a small castle-town was enclosed; this trench, unfortunately for the defenders, was never completed on the northern edge... The southern front of the castle is guarded by 3 massive square towers, each one of them probably built as an independent tower- house, sharing a common court. Smaller towers defended the 2 entrances to the castle-town. Robert's successors maintained the castle under the family's control for another 56 years, until 1188, when Saladin attacked. Like so many other Frankish castles, Saone was undermanned (the previous year, 1187, had seen the crushing defeat of the Frankish army at Hattin, inflicted by Saladin) and fell to the Muslim forces after a brief siege.
Arab chronicles give us a full account of the siege at Saone: Saladin's assault began on 27 July 1188, when he and one of his sons arrived with their forces. Saladin camped and set his siege engines on the plateau opposite the east front, while his son established himself across the valey from the weakly defended north side of the lower enclosure. The bombardment began; some of the stones, weighting between 50 and 300 kg, can still be seen on the site. The bombardment lasted all of the next day and much of the fabbric was damaged. On Friday, 29 July, Saladin gave the order for a general attack. His son's men stormed the castle- town, where the inhabitants fled to the fortress, leaving their meals uneaten. The muslims continued their advance and it was then that they made use of the weak point by the west castle wall, where the ditch separating castle and lower town had not been completed. They soon stormed the walls and found themselves in the courtyard of the castle itself, where they seized beasts and other supplies. The garrison, all wounded, had by now retired to the keep. By the end of the day the Lord, Matthew de Saone and the survivors were allowed to ransom themselves and take refuge to Antioch.
Saone continued to be an important military and economic centre under Muslim rule in the 13th century, and a number of buildings, including a mosque and some fine baths were added. Nor was the castle completely unknown to the Franks; in 1225, for example, a Venetian ambassador was received here by the local Amir, and a commercial treaty was signed.
History taken from Hugh Kennedy's "Crusader castles" and Steven Runciman's "History of the Crusades".
Hello everybody, this is a classic siege scenario, where you can take command of the Muslim forces and attack Saone.
The castle is massive ( in real life it lies on a rocky spur 700m long) and there are multiple lines of defence, so you have to plan your attack carefully. However you have sufficient forces, and with a little patience (and the use of shields!) you should be able to repeat Saladin's achievement. That's all, enjoy, Velerefontis