Today in the Middle Ages: May 27, 1218

On May 27, 1218, the first ships of the Fifth Crusade reached Egypt.

Pope Innocent III had instigated the crusade but died in 1216, before it began. His successor, Pope Honorius III, adopted Innocent's idea that this crusade should be run by the Papacy, since the European kings had been unsuccessful at leading earlier crusades. However, the crusading army ended up being officered by a mixture of church and secular authorities.

A few weeks after invading Egypt, the Europeans laid siege to the city of Damietta. As the siege stretched, many on both side died of illness. The Crusaders succeeded in capturing the city for a while, but quickly began fighting for control among themselves. The defenders used the Nile to their advantage against the Europeans, and in the end the latter had to accept the Egyptians' terms and go home with little more than their lives.