The Battle of Hattin in many respects was a battle that became a legend. It was fought on 4 July 1187, with the Sultan Saladin taking on the Crusader army under the command of the Latin King of Jerusalem, Guy de Lusigan. Saladin had laid a trap for his opponents but had not expected them to fall for it, which they did and resulted in the defeat of the crusader army.
Basically the objective of Saladin was to at some point to retake the city of Jerusalem for Islam, and overthrow the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem in the process. His opponent Guy had only become king the previous year after his wife’s son (from a previous marriage) had died. Guy’s succession had not been undisputed and the Crusaders were still prone to division. Guy had some fine soldiers in his ranks, the Templars in particular.
Saladin had the advantage of a larger army that was better supplied, especially with precious water. It is usually estimated that there were 30,000 men in his army for the battle. Victory would only be achieved if the Crusader army decided to fight them instead of seeking refuge in Sephoria (in other words the Christians went back to their starting point), or by reaching Tiberias. Guy instead made the mistake of attempting to reach Hattin (now renamed Hittin). Riding towards Hattin gravely exposed the Christians to a stronger enemy in a strategically better position to them. The majority of them could not fight their way out of the trap.
It is estimated that Guy was in charge of a force that numbered in the range of 15,000 to 20,000 men. It seems that it was Guy alone that wanted to fight that day. He could have waited to fight the next day after his army could have had water and sleep, or he could have stayed at Sephoria, to bide his time before Saladin’s army disbanded at the end of the campaigning season.
For Saladin the trap he laid more in hope than in expectation paid full dividends. The overwhelming bulk of the Crusader army was either killed or captured at Hattin, including Guy and most of the leading nobles. Estimates vary as to exactly how many Christians escaped, perhaps as few as several hundred, or as many as 3,000 men.
To conclude Hattin was a significant victory for the Muslims. By the standards of the day Saladin was surprisingly lenient towards the vanquished, less than a handful were executed, some were released, the more important were ransomed, whilst others went into slavery. The rash decision to fight effectively sealed the fate of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem within the next two years.