A Challenge Sent by the Saracens

From Jean Froissart's Chronicles of England and France

A challenge sent by the Saracens to offer combat of ten against ten Christians:

The besiegers and their enemies studied day and night how they could most effectually annoy each other. Agadinquor Oliferne, Madifer de Tunis, Belins Maldages, and Brahadin de Bugia, and some other Saracens, consulted together, and said: "Here are our enemies the Christians encamped before us, and we cannot defeat them. They are so few in number when compared to us, that they must be well advised by their able captains; for, in all our skirmishes, we have never been able to make one knight prisoner. If we could capture one or two of their leaders, we should acquire fame, and learn from them the state of their army and what are their intentions. Let us now consider how we may accomplish this."
Agadinquor replied, "Though I am the youngest, I wish to speak first."

"We agree to it," said the others.

"By my faith," continued he, "I am very desirous of engaging them; and I think, if I were matched in equal combat with one of my size, I should conquer him. If you will therefore select ten valiant men, I will challenge the Christians to send the same number to fight with us. We have justice on our side in this war, for they have quarrelled with us without reason; and this right and the courage I feel, induce me to believe that we ahall have the victory."

Madifer de Tunis, who was a very valiant man, said, "Agadinquor, what you have proposed is much to your honour. To-morrow. if you please, you shall ride as our chief towards the camp of the Christians, taking an interpreter with you, and make a signal that you have something to say. If you be well received by them, propose your combat of ten against ten. We shal1 then hear what answer they give; and, though I believe the offer will be accepted, we must take good counsel how we proceed agsinst these Christians, whom we consider as more valiant than ourselves."

This being determined on, they retired to rest. On the morrow, as usual, they advanced to skirmish; but Agadinquor rode on at some distance in front with his interpreter. The day was bright and clear, and a little after sunrise the Saracens were ready for battle. Sir Guy and sir William de la Tremouille had commanded the guard of the night, and were on the point of retiring when the Saracens appeared in sight about three bow-shots distant. Agadinquor and his interpreter advanced towards one of the wings, and made signs to give notice that be wanted to parley with some one by accident, he came near the pennon of a good squire at arms called Affrenal, who, noticing his signs, rode forward a pace. and told his men to romain as they were, "for that he would go and see what the Saracen wanted: he has an interpreter with him, and is probably come to make some proposition." His men remained steady, and hs rode towards the Saracen.

When they were near each other, the interpreter said, "Christian, are you a gentleman, of name in arms, and ready to answer what shall be asked of you?"

"Yes," replied Affrenal, "I am; speak what you please, it shall be answered."

"Well," said the interpreper, "here is a noble man of our country who demands to combat with you bodily; and, if you would like to increase the number to ten, he will bring as many of his friends to meet you. The cause for the challenge is this: They maintain, that their faith is more perfect than yours; for it has continued since the beginning of the world, when it was written down; and that your faith has been introduced by a mortal, whom the Jews hung and crucified."

"Ho," interrupted Affrenal, "be silent on these matters, for it does not become such as thee to dispute concerning them, but tel1 the Saracen, who has ordered thee to speak, to swear on his faith that such a combat shal1 take place, and he shall be gratified within four hours. Let him bring ten gentlemen, and of name in arms, on his side, and I will bring as many to meet him."

The interpreter related to the Saracen the words that had passed, who seemed much rejoiced thereat, and pledged himself for the combat.

This being done, each returned to his friends; but the news had already been carried to sir Guy and to sir William de la Tremouilles who, meeting Affrenal, demanded how he had settled matters with the Saracen. Affrenal related what you have heard, and that he had accepted the challenge. The two knights were well pleased, and said, "Affrenal, go and speak to others, for we will be of your number ten."

He replied, "God assist us! I fancy I shall find plenty ready to fight the Saracens." Shortly after, Affrenal met the lord de Thim, to whom he told what had passed, and asked if he would make one. The lord de Thim willingly accepted the offer; and of all those to whom Affrenal related it; he might, if he pleased, have had a hundred instead of ten. Sir Boucicaut, the younger, accepted it with great courage, as did sir Helion de Lignac, sir John Russel, an Englishman, sir John Harpedone, Alain Boudet and Bouchet. When the number of ten was completed, they retired to their lodgings, to prepare and arm themselves.

When the news of this combat was spread through the army, and the names of the ten were told, the knights and squires said, "They are lucky fellows, thus to have such a gallant feat of arms fall to their lot." "Would to Heaven," added many, "that we were of the ten." All the knights and squires seemed to rejoice at this event, except the lord de Coucy.

I believe the lord de Thim was a dependent on, or of the company of, the lord de Coucy for, when he repaired to his tent to arm, he found him there, and acknowledged him for his lord. He related to him the challenge of the Saracen, and that he had accepted being one of the ten. All present were loud in praise of it, except the lord de Coucy, who said, "Hold your tongues, you youngsters, who as yet know nothing of the world, and who never consider consequences, but always applaud folly in preference to good. I see no advantage in this combat, for many reasons: one is, that ten noble and distinguisbed gentlemen are about to fight with ten Saracens. How do we know if their opponents are gentlemen? They may, if they choose, bring to the combat ten varlets, or knaves, and, if they are defeated, what is the gain? We shall not the sooner win the town of Africa, but by it risk very valuable lives. Perhaps they may form an ambuscade, and, while our friends are on the plain waiting for their opponents, surround them qnd carry them off, by which we shall be greatly weakened.

"I therefore say, that Affrenal has not wisely managed this matter; and, when he first met the Saracen, he should have otherwise answered, and said, `I am not the commander-in-chief of our army, but one of the least in it; and you Saracen, who address yourself to me and blame our faith, are not qualified to discuss such matters, nor have you well addressed yourself. I will conduct you to my lords, and assure you, on my life, that no harm befal you in going or in returning, for my lords will cheerfully listen to you.'

"He should then have led him to the duke of Bourbon and the council of war, when his proposal would bave been heard and discussed at leisure, his intentions been known, and answers made according as they should think the matter deserved. Such a combat should never be undertaken but after great deliberation, especially with enemies like to those we are engaged with.

[Cooler heads prevail and they get on with the real battle, which the Christians lose.]

Text from Froissart, Chronicles of England, France, and the adjoining countries, from the latter part of the reign of Edward II. to the coronation of Henry IV. Newly translated from the French editions, with variations and additions from many celebrated manuscripts, tr. Thomas Johnes. London. 1803-10. pp. 434 ff.