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Saladin

Saladin

Saladin (1138-1193), a Kurdish ruler of Egypt and Syria, is known in the West for his opposition to the forces of the Third Crusade and for his capture of Jerusalem.

From about 1130 Zengi, the Turkish atabeg (regent) of Mosul and his son, Nur-ad-Din (Nureddin), who succeeded him in 1146, undertook a holy war to unify Syria. Saladin Arabic, Salah-ad-Din Yusuf ibn Aiyub) served with his uncle, Shirkuh, under Nur-ad-Din and was strongly impressed with the need to complete the unity of Islam under orthodox rule.

After several expeditions into Egypt, where the Fatimid dynasty remained the most important of the successor kingdoms established after the fall of the Abbasid empire, Saladin assumed full military power on the death of Shirkuh in 1168. He was successful in repulsing the combined French-Byzantine invasion of Amalric, King of Jerusalem, a victory which opened the way for him to move his armies up into the Transjordan area. The Fatimid caliphate was crushed by 1171, and on the death of Nur-ad-Din 3 years later, Saladin began the conquest of the Frankish lands and of the old Zengid empire. He shortly occupied Damascus and married the widow of Nur-ad-Din. He thus faced increased hostility from two sides: from the Zengid rulers at Mosul, who were in no way enthusiastic about his conception of the jihad, or holy war, and from the Latin forces under Baldwin IV, the Leper King. The complexities of operating on two fronts at the same time were reduced somewhat by diplomatic negotiations with Baldwin and Raymond of Tripoli as well as with the Byzantine emperor and certain of the Italian maritime cities. In the former case the result was essentially negative. A series of provisional treaties served to forestall an attack on the vulnerable western side, for Baldwin proved to be quite capable of containing Saladin, although he was unable to do him any damage. But in the latter case not only were assurances of nonintervention given, but material aid was obtained.

By the end of 1185 Saladin had imposed his authority in northern Syria and Mesopotamia, and he was ready to turn his full attention to the crusading kingdom. After the unfortunate betrayal of a peace treaty by a Western knight, the jihad was declared in the beginning of 1187. Drawing troops from Syria as well as from Egypt, Saladin brought his combined forces to face the Latin army at Hattin near Tiberias in July. The star-crossed monarchy in Jerusalem, born of the antagonisms among the leaders of the First Crusade, was never able to operate from a position of strength, and once again personal jealousies were responsible for the overwhelming defeat by the Moslem forces. Saladin set a trap for the crusaders; they marched into it and were annihilated. By any measure Hattin was a disaster for the West, and in rapid sequence most of the other important towns, Acre, Sidon, Jaffa, Caesarea, Ascalon, fell into Moslem hands. Finally, Jerusalem was occupied on October 2. Further campaigning reduced the extent of Frankish power in Syria to Tyre, Antioch, and Tripoli.

The kings of western Europe responded to the fall of Jerusalem by taking the cross and then by gathering their knights together in the expeditions known to history as the Third Crusade. Their chief victory was the successful siege and relief of Acre, which capitulated in July 1191. King Richard I of England defeated Saladin at Arsuf and then concluded an armistice in the fall of 1192 without having been able to retake Jerusalem. Nevertheless, Richard's presence in the East clearly prevented Saladin from capitalizing fully on his victory at Hattin. After 12 days of illness, Saladin died on March 4, 1193.

Saladin is described in the pages of his biographer, Baha ad-Din, as one who was entirely committed to the justice of the jihad against the unbelievers. Of medium height and gentle manners, courageous, even ruthless, but generous and humane, he was respected by his followers and by his adversaries for the steadfast manner in which he kept his promises. Strong in his faith, he was orthodox to the point of intolerance, as in the summary murder of as-Suhrawardi, a heretical preacher of Aleppo. It should be remembered that it was Saladin who carried on the work of Nur-ad-Din and completed the unity of Islam, although his success did not long survive him.

Further Reading

The fundamental full-length treatment of Saladin is S. Lane-Poole, Saladin and the Fall of the Kingdom of Jerusalem (1898; rev. ed. by H. W. C. Davis, 1926). Other works on him are Charles J. Rosebault, Saladin, Prince of Chivalry (1930), and G. E. T. Slaughter, Saladin, 1138-1193 (1955). An important chapter on his early career by Sir H. A. R. Gibb is in Kenneth M. Setton, A History of the Crusades, vol. 1 (1969). □

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Saladin

Saladin (săl´ədĬn), Arabic Salah ad-Din, 1137?–1193, Muslim warrior and Ayyubid sultan of Egypt, the great opponent of the Crusaders, b. Mesopotamia, of Kurdish descent. He lived for 10 years in Damascus at the court of Nur ad-Din, where he distinguished himself by his interest in Sunni theology. He accompanied his uncle, Shirkuh (or Shirkoh), a lieutenant of Nur ad-Din, on campaigns (1164, 1167, 1168) against the Fatimid rulers of Egypt. Shirkuh became vizier there and on his death (1169) was succeeded by Saladin. Saladin later caused the name of the Shiite Fatimid caliph to be dropped from the Friday prayer, thus deposing him.

After the death of Nur ad-Din, who was planning to campaign against his too powerful subordinate, Saladin proclaimed himself sultan of Egypt, thus beginning the Ayyubid dynasty. He spread his conquests westward on the northern shores of Africa as far as Qabis and also conquered Yemen. He took over Damascus after Nur ad-Din's death and undertook to subdue all of Syria and Palestine. He had already come into conflict with the Crusaders (see Crusades), and he put the rulers of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem (see Jerusalem, Latin Kingdom of) on the steadily weakening defensive. He was unsuccessful in his efforts to conquer the Assassins in their mountain strongholds, but he took Mosul, Aleppo, and wide areas from rival Muslim rulers and became the principal warrior of Islam.

Gathering a large force of Muslims of various groups—but all called Saracens by the Christians—he set out to attack the Christians. Raymond of Tripoli was at first his ally, but then joined the other Crusaders, and the great battle of Hattin (near Tiberias) in 1187 found Christians matched against Muslims. Saladin won brilliantly, capturing Guy of Lusignan and Reginald of Châtillon. The city of Jerusalem also fell to him. The Third Crusade was gathered (1189) and came to the Holy Land to try to recover Jerusalem. Thus it was that Richard I of England and Saladin met in the conflict that was to be celebrated in later chivalric romance. The reputation that Saladin had among the Christians for generosity and chivalry does not seem to have been a legend, and there seems no doubt that Saladin admired Richard as a worthy opponent. The Crusaders, however, failed in their purpose and succeeded only in capturing Akko. In 1192, Saladin came to agreement with the Crusaders upon the Peace of Ramla, which left the Latin Kingdom only a strip along the coast from Tyre to Yafo. The Christians were never to recover from their defeat.

See biographies by A. R. H. Gibb (1973), M. C. Lyons and D. E. Jackson (1982), S. Lane-Poole (1985), G. Regan (1988), and A.-M. Eddé (2011); J. Reston, Jr., Warriors of God: Richard the Lionheart and Saladin in the Third Crusade (2001).

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Saladin

Saladin (1138–93) ( Salah ad-din) Muslim general and founder of the Ayyubid dynasty. From 1152, he was a soldier and administrator in Egypt. Appointed grand vizier in 1169, he overthrew the Fatimids in 1171, and made himself Sultan of Egypt. After conquering most of Syria, he gathered widespread support for a jihad to drive the Christians from Palestine (1187). He reconquered Jerusalem, provoking the Third Crusade (1189). Saladin's rule restored Egypt as a major power and introduced a period of stability and growth.

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Saladin

Saladin (1137–93), sultan of Egypt and Syria 1174–93. Saladin invaded the Holy Land and reconquered Jerusalem from the Christians in 1187, but he was defeated by Richard I at Arsuf (1191) and withdrew to Damascus, where he died. He earned a reputation not only for military skill but also for honesty and chivalry.

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Saladin

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