ibn Ayyub (Arabic: صلاح الدين
يوسف بن أيوب / ALA-LC: Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn Yūsuf ibn
Ayyūb; Kurdish: سەلاحەدینی ئەییووبی / ALA-LC:
Selahedînê Eyûbî), known as Salah ad-Din or Saladin
(/ˈsælədɪn/; 1137 – 4 March 1193), was the first sultan of
and Syria and the founder of the
dynasty. A Sunni
Muslim of Kurdish ethnicity,
led the Muslim military
campaign against the Crusader states in the Levant. At the height of
his power, his sultanate included Egypt, Syria, Upper Mesopotamia, the
and other parts of North Africa.
Originally sent to
in 1164 accompanying his uncle
Shirkuh, a general of the
army, on orders of their lord Nur
ad-Din, an atabeg of the Seljuks, to consolidate
ongoing power struggle for vizier to the teenage
reinstated as vizier, he engaged in a power
struggle with Shirkuh, which saw the former realigning himself with
Crusader king Amalric.
climbed the ranks of the Fatimid
government by virtue of his military successes against Crusader
assaults against its territory and his personal closeness to al-Adid.
assassinated in 1169 and Shirkuh's natural death later
that year, al-Adid appointed
vizier, a rare nomination of a
to such an important position in the Isma'ili Shia
caliphate. During his tenure as vizier,
began to undermine the
establishment and, following al-Adid's death in 1171, he
and realigned the country's allegiance
with the Sunni, Baghdad-based
In the following years, he led forays against the
Palestine, commissioned the successful conquest of Yemen, and staved
rebellions in Upper Egypt. Not long after Nur ad-Din's
death in 1174,
launched his conquest of Syria, peacefully
at the request of its governor. By mid-1175, Saladin
and Homs, inviting the animosity of other Zengid
lords, the official rulers of Syria's various regions. Soon after, he
army at the Battle of the Horns of
thereafter proclaimed the "
Sultan of Egypt
Sultan of Egypt
and Syria" by the Abbasid
made further conquests in northern Syria
and Jazira, escaping two attempts on his life by the "Assassins",
before returning to
in 1177 to address issues there. By 1182,
had completed the conquest of Muslim
Aleppo, but ultimately failed to take over the
Under Saladin's command, the
army defeated the
Battle of Hattin
Battle of Hattin
in 1187, and thereafter wrested control
of Palestine – including the city of
– from the
Crusaders, who had conquered the area 88 years earlier. Although the
Kingdom of Jerusalem
Kingdom of Jerusalem
continued to exist until the late 13th
century, its defeat at
marked a turning point in its conflict
with the Muslim powers of the region.
1193, having given away much of his personal wealth to his subjects.
He is buried in a mausoleum adjacent to the Umayyad Mosque. Saladin
has become a prominent figure in Muslim, Arab, Turkish and Kurdish
culture, and he has often been described as being the most famous
Kurd in history.
1 Early life
2 Early expeditions
3 In Egypt
Vizier of Egypt
Sultan of Egypt
4 Conquest of Syria
4.1 Conquest of Damascus
4.2 Further conquests in Syria
4.3 Campaign against the Assassins
5 Return to
Cairo and forays in Palestine
5.1 Battles and truce with Baldwin
6 Domestic affairs
7 Imperial expansions
7.1 Conquest of Mesopotamian hinterland
7.2 Possession of Aleppo
7.3 Fight for Mosul
8 Wars against Crusaders
8.1 Capture of Jerusalem
8.2 Third Crusade
11 Recognition and legacy
11.1 Western world
11.2 Muslim world
12 See also
14.1 Primary sources
14.2 Secondary sources
15 Further reading
16 External links
Drawing of the central square of the ancient city Dvin
Saladin was born in
Tikrit in modern-day Iraq. His personal name was
"Yusuf"; "Salah ad-Din" is a laqab, an honorific epithet, meaning
"Righteousness of the Faith." His family was of Kurdish
ancestry, and had originated from the city of Dvin in medieval
Armenia. The Rawadiya tribe he hailed from had been partially
assimilated into the Arabic-speaking world by this time. In 1132,
the defeated army of Imad ad-Din Zengi, the ruler of Mosul, found
their retreat blocked by the
Tigris River opposite the fortress of
Tikrit, where Saladin's father,
Najm ad-Din Ayyub served as the
warden. Ayyub provided ferries for the army and gave them refuge in
Tikrit. Mujahed al-Din Bihruz, a former Greek slave who had been
appointed as the military governor of northern
Mesopotamia for his
service to the Seljuks, reprimanded Ayyub for giving Zengi refuge and
in 1137 banished Ayyub from
Tikrit after his brother Asad al-Din
Shirkuh killed a friend of Bihruz in an honour killing. According to
Baha ad-Din ibn Shaddad,
Saladin was born on the same night that his
family left Tikrit. In 1139, Ayyub and his family moved to Mosul,
Imad ad-Din Zengi acknowledged his debt and appointed Ayyub
commander of his fortress in Baalbek. After the death of Zengi in
1146, his son, Nur ad-Din, became the regent of
Aleppo and the leader
of the Zengids.
Saladin, who now lived in Damascus, was reported to have a particular
fondness for the city, but information on his early childhood is
scarce. About education,
Saladin wrote "children are brought up in
the way in which their elders were brought up." According to his
biographers, Anne-Marie Eddé and al-Wahrani,
Saladin was able to
answer questions on Euclid, the Almagest, arithmetic, and law, but
this was an academic ideal and it was study of the
Qur'an and the
"sciences of religion" that linked him to his contemporaries.
Several sources claim that during his studies he was more interested
in religion than joining the military. Another factor which may
have affected his interest in religion was that, during the First
Jerusalem was taken by the Christians. In addition to
Saladin had a knowledge of the genealogies, biographies, and
histories of the Arabs, as well as the bloodlines of Arabian horses.
More significantly, he knew the Hamasah of
Abu Tammam by heart. He
spoke Kurdish and Arabic.
Equestrian statue of
Saladin in the Citadel, Damascus, Syria
Saladin's military career began under the tutelage of his uncle Asad
al-Din Shirkuh, a prominent military commander under Nur ad-Din, the
Zengid emir of
Aleppo and the most influential teacher of
Saladin. In 1163, the vizier to the
Fatimid caliph al-Adid, Shawar,
had been driven out of
Egypt by his rival Dirgham, a member of the
powerful Banu Ruzzaik tribe. He asked for military backing from Nur
ad-Din, who complied and, in 1164, sent
Shirkuh to aid
Shawar in his
expedition against Dirgham. Saladin, at age 26, went along with
Shawar was successfully reinstated as vizier, he
Shirkuh withdraw his army from
Egypt for a sum of 30,000
gold dinars, but he refused, insisting it was Nur ad-Din's will that
he remain. Saladin's role in this expedition was minor, and it is
known that he was ordered by
Shirkuh to collect stores from Bilbais
prior to its siege by a combined force of
Crusaders and Shawar's
After the sacking of Bilbais, the Crusader-Egyptian force and
Shirkuh's army were to engage in a battle on the desert border of the
River Nile, just west of Giza.
Saladin played a major role, commanding
the right wing of the
Zengid army, while a force of
the left, and
Shirkuh was stationed in the center. Muslim sources at
the time, however, put
Saladin in the "baggage of the centre" with
orders to lure the enemy into a trap by staging a feigned retreat. The
Crusader force enjoyed early success against Shirkuh's troops, but the
terrain was too steep and sandy for their horses, and commander Hugh
of Caesarea was captured while attacking Saladin's unit. After
scattered fighting in little valleys to the south of the main
Zengid central force returned to the offensive; Saladin
joined in from the rear.
The battle ended in a
Zengid victory, and
Saladin is credited with
Shirkuh in one of the "most remarkable victories in
recorded history", according to Ibn al-Athir, although more of
Shirkuh's men were killed and the battle is considered by most sources
as not a total victory.
Shirkuh moved towards Alexandria
where they were welcomed, given money, arms and provided a base.
Faced by a superior Crusader-Egyptian force attempting to besiege the
Shirkuh split his army. He and the bulk of his force withdrew
from Alexandria, while
Saladin was left with the task of guarding the
Saladin in Egypt
Vizier of Egypt
Saladin's battles in Egypt
Shirkuh was in a power struggle over
Shawar and Amalric I
of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, in which
Shawar requested Amalric's
assistance. In 1169,
Shawar was reportedly assassinated by Saladin,
Shirkuh died later that year. Nur ad-Din chose a successor for
Shirkuh, but al-Adid appointed
Saladin to replace
The reasoning behind the
Shia caliph al-Adid's selection of Saladin, a
Ibn al-Athir claims that the caliph chose him after
being told by his advisers that "there is no one weaker or younger"
than Saladin, and "not one of the emirs [commanders] obeyed him or
served him". However, according to this version, after some
bargaining, he was eventually accepted by the majority of the emirs.
Al-Adid's advisers were also suspected of promoting
Saladin in an
attempt to split the Syria-based Zengids. Al-Wahrani wrote that
Saladin was selected because of the reputation of his family in their
"generosity and military prowess". Imad ad-Din wrote that after the
brief mourning period for Shirkuh, during which "opinions differed",
Zengid emirs decided upon
Saladin and forced the caliph to "invest
him as vizier". Although positions were complicated by rival Muslim
leaders, the bulk of the Syrian commanders supported
of his role in the Egyptian expedition, in which he gained a record of
Inaugurated as vizier on 26 March,
Saladin repented "wine-drinking and
turned from frivolity to assume the dress of religion", according to
Arabic sources of the time. Having gained more power and
independence than ever before in his career, he still faced the issue
of ultimate loyalty between al-Adid and Nur ad-Din. Later in the year,
a group of Egyptian soldiers and emirs attempted to assassinate
Saladin, but having already known of their intentions thanks to his
intelligence chief Ali ibn Safyan, he had the chief conspirator, Naji,
Mu'tamin al-Khilafa—the civilian controller of the Fatimid
Palace—arrested and killed. The day after, 50,000 Black African
soldiers from the regiments of the
Fatimid army opposed to Saladin's
rule, along with a number of Egyptian emirs and commoners, staged a
revolt. By 23 August,
Saladin had decisively quelled the uprising, and
never again had to face a military challenge from Cairo.
Towards the end of 1169, Saladin, with reinforcements from Nur ad-Din,
defeated a massive Crusader-Byzantine force near Damietta. Afterward,
in the spring of 1170, Nur ad-Din sent Saladin's father to
compliance with Saladin's request, as well as encouragement from the
Abbasid caliph, al-Mustanjid, who aimed to pressure
Saladin in deposing his rival caliph, al-Adid.
Saladin himself had
been strengthening his hold on
Egypt and widening his support base
there. He began granting his family members high-ranking positions in
the region; he ordered the construction of a college for the Maliki
Sunni Islam in the city, as well as one for the Shafi'i
denomination to which he belonged in al-Fustat.
After establishing himself in Egypt,
Saladin launched a campaign
against the Crusaders, besieging Darum in 1170. Amalric withdrew
his Templar garrison from Gaza to assist him in defending Darum, but
Saladin evaded their force and fell on Gaza instead. He destroyed the
town built outside the city's castle and killed most of its
inhabitants after they were refused entry into the castle. It is
unclear exactly when, but during that same year, he attacked and
captured the Crusader castle of Eilat, built on an island off the head
of the Gulf of Aqaba. It did not pose a threat to the passage of the
Muslim navy, but could harass smaller parties of Muslim ships and
Saladin decided to clear it from his path.
Sultan of Egypt
Saladin as depicted on a dirham coin, ca. 1190
According to Imad ad-Din, Nur ad-Din wrote to
Saladin in June 1171,
telling him to reestablish the
Abbasid caliphate in Egypt, which
Saladin coordinated two months later after additional encouragement by
Najm ad-Din al-Khabushani, the
Shafi'i faqih, who vehemently opposed
Shia rule in the country. Several Egyptian emirs were thus killed, but
al-Adid was told that they were killed for rebelling against him. He
then fell ill, or was poisoned according to one account. While ill, he
Saladin to pay him a visit to request that he take care of his
young children, but
Saladin refused, fearing treachery against the
Abbasids, and is said to have regretted his action after realizing
what al-Adid had wanted. He died on 13 September, and five days
Abbasid khutba was pronounced in
Cairo and al-Fustat,
proclaiming al-Mustadi as caliph.
On 25 September,
Cairo to take part in a joint attack on
Kerak and Montreal, the desert castles of the Kingdom of Jerusalem,
with Nur ad-Din who would attack from Syria. Prior to arriving at
Saladin however withdrew back to
Cairo as he received the
reports that in his absence the Crusader leaders had increased their
support to the traitors inside
Egypt to attack
Saladin from within and
lessen his power especially the
Fatimid who started plotting to
restore their past glory. Because of this, Nur ad-Din went on
During the summer of 1173, a Nubian army along with a contingent of
Armenian refugees were reported on the Egyptian border, preparing for
a siege against Aswan. The emir of the city had requested Saladin's
assistance and was given reinforcements under Turan-Shah, Saladin's
brother. Consequently, the Nubians departed; but returned in 1173 and
were again driven off. This time, Egyptian forces advanced from Aswan
and captured the Nubian town of Ibrim.
Saladin sent a gift to Nur
ad-Din, who had been his friend and teacher, 60,000 dinars, "wonderful
manufactured goods", some jewels, and an elephant. While transporting
these goods to Damascus,
Saladin took the opportunity to ravage the
Crusader countryside. He did not press an attack against the desert
castles, but attempted to drive out the Muslim Bedouins who lived in
Crusader territory with the aim of depriving the Franks of guides.
On 31 July 1173, Saladin's father Ayyub was wounded in a horse-riding
accident, ultimately causing his death on 9 August. In 1174,
Turan-Shah to conquer
Yemen to allocate it and its port
Aden to the territories of the
Conquest of Syria
Conquest of Damascus
In the early summer of 1174, Nur ad-Din was mustering an army, sending
summons to Mosul, Diyar Bakr, and the Jazira in an apparent
preparation of attack against Saladin's Egypt. The Ayyubids held a
council upon the revelation of these preparations to discuss the
possible threat and
Saladin collected his own troops outside Cairo. On
15 May, Nur ad-Din died after falling ill the previous week and his
power was handed to his eleven-year-old son as-Salih Ismail al-Malik.
His death left
Saladin with political independence and in a letter to
as-Salih, he promised to "act as a sword" against his enemies and
referred to the death of his father as an "earthquake shock".
In the wake of Nur ad-Din's death,
Saladin faced a difficult decision;
he could move his army against the
Egypt or wait until
invited by as-Salih in
Syria to come to his aid and launch a war from
there. He could also take it upon himself to annex
Syria before it
could possibly fall into the hands of a rival, but he feared that
attacking a land that formerly belonged to his master—forbidden in
the Islamic principles in which he believed—could portray him as
hypocritical, thus making him unsuitable for leading the war against
Saladin saw that in order to acquire Syria, he either
needed an invitation from as-Salih, or to warn him that potential
anarchy could give rise to danger from the Crusaders.
When as-Salih was removed to
Aleppo in August, Gumushtigin, the emir
of the city and a captain of Nur ad-Din's veterans, assumed the
guardianship over him. The emir prepared to unseat all his rivals in
Syria and the Jazira, beginning with Damascus. In this emergency, the
Damascus appealed to Saif al-Din of
Mosul (a cousin of
Gumushtigin) for assistance against Aleppo, but he refused, forcing
the Syrians to request the aid of Saladin, who complied. Saladin
rode across the desert with 700 picked horsemen, passing through
Kerak then reaching Bosra. According to his own account, was joined
by "emirs, soldiers, and Bedouins—the emotions of their hearts to be
seen on their faces." On 23 November, he arrived in
general acclamation and rested at his father's old home there, until
the gates of the
Citadel of Damascus, whose commander Raihan
initially refused to surrender, were opened to
Saladin four days
later, after a brief siege by his brother Tughtakin ibn Ayyub. He
installed himself in the castle and received the homage and
salutations of the inhabitants.
Further conquests in Syria
19th-century depiction of a victorious Saladin, by Gustave Doré
Leaving his brother Tughtigin as Governor of Damascus, Saladin
proceeded to reduce other cities that had belonged to Nur al-Din, but
were now practically independent. His army conquered
relative ease, but avoided attacking
Homs because of the strength of
Saladin moved north towards Aleppo, besieging it on
30 December after Gumushtigin refused to abdicate his throne.
As-Salih, fearing capture by Saladin, came out of his palace and
appealed to the inhabitants not to surrender him and the city to the
invading force. One of Saladin's chroniclers claimed "the people came
under his spell".
Gumushtigin requested Rashid ad-Din Sinan, grand-master of the
Assassins of Syria, who were already at odds with
Saladin since he
replaced the Fatimids of Egypt, to assassinate
Saladin in his
camp. On 11 May 1175, a group of thirteen
Assassins easily gained
admission into Saladin's camp, but were detected immediately before
they carried out their attack by Nasih al-Din Khumartekin of Abu
Qubays. One was killed by one of Saladin's generals and the others
were slain while trying to escape. To deter Saladin's
progress, Raymond of Tripoli gathered his forces by Nahr al-Kabir,
where they were well placed for an attack on Muslim territory. Saladin
later moved toward
Homs instead, but retreated after being told a
relief force was being sent to the city by Saif al-Din.
Meanwhile, Saladin's rivals in
Syria and Jazira waged a propaganda war
against him, claiming he had "forgotten his own condition [servant of
Nur ad-Din]" and showed no gratitude for his old master by besieging
his son, rising "in rebellion against his Lord".
Saladin aimed to
counter this propaganda by ending the siege, claiming that he was
defending Islam from the Crusaders; his army returned to
engage a Crusader force there. The
Crusaders withdrew beforehand and
Saladin proclaimed it "a victory opening the gates of men's
hearts". Soon after,
Homs and captured its citadel
in March 1175, after stubborn resistance from its defenders.
Saladin's successes alarmed Saif al-Din. As head of the Zengids,
including Gumushtigin, he regarded
Mesopotamia as his family
estate and was angered when
Saladin attempted to usurp his dynasty's
holdings. Saif al-Din mustered a large army and dispatched it to
Aleppo, whose defenders anxiously had awaited them. The combined
Aleppo marched against
Saladin in Hama. Heavily
Saladin initially attempted to make terms with the
Zengids by abandoning all conquests north of the
but they refused, insisting he return to Egypt. Seeing that
confrontation was unavoidable,
Saladin prepared for battle, taking up
a superior position at the Horns of Hama, hills by the gorge of the
Orontes River. On 13 April 1175, the
Zengid troops marched to attack
his forces, but soon found themselves surrounded by Saladin's Ayyubid
veterans, who crushed them. The battle ended in a decisive victory for
Saladin, who pursued the
Zengid fugitives to the gates of Aleppo,
forcing as-Salih's advisers to recognize Saladin's control of the
provinces of Damascus,
Homs and Hama, as well as a number of towns
Aleppo such as Ma'arat al-Numan.
After his victory against the Zengids,
Saladin proclaimed himself king
and suppressed the name of as-Salih in Friday prayers and Islamic
coinage. From then on, he ordered prayers in all the mosques of Syria
Egypt as the sovereign king and he issued at the
Cairo mint gold
coins bearing his official title—al-Malik an-Nasir
Yusuf Ayyub, ala
ghaya "the King Strong to Aid, Joseph son of Job; exalted be the
Abbasid caliph in
Baghdad graciously welcomed Saladin's
assumption of power and declared him "
Sultan of Egypt
Sultan of Egypt and Syria". The
Hama did not end the contest for power between the Ayyubids
and the Zengids, with the final confrontation occurring in the spring
Saladin had gathered massive reinforcements from
Saif al-Din was levying troops among the minor states of Diyarbakir
and al-Jazira. When
Saladin crossed the Orontes, leaving Hama, the
sun was eclipsed. He viewed this as an omen, but he continued his
march north. He reached the Sultan's Mound, c. 25 km from Aleppo,
where his forces encountered Saif al-Din's army. A hand-to-hand fight
ensued and the
Zengids managed to plow Saladin's left wing, driving it
before him, when
Saladin himself charged at the head of the Zengid
Zengid forces panicked and most of Saif al-Din's officers
ended up being killed or captured—Saif al-Din narrowly escaped. The
Zengid army's camp, horses, baggage, tents and stores were seized by
the Ayyubids. The
Zengid prisoners of war, however, were given gifts
and freed. All of the booty from the
Ayyubid victory was accorded to
Saladin not keeping anything himself.
He continued towards Aleppo, which still closed its gates to him,
halting before the city. On the way, his army took Buza'a, then
captured Manbij. From there, they headed west to besiege the fortress
A'zaz on 15 May. Several days later, while
Saladin was resting in
one of his captain's tents, an assassin rushed forward at him and
struck at his head with a knife. The cap of his head armour was not
penetrated and he managed to grip the assassin's hand—the dagger
only slashing his gambeson—and the assailant was soon killed.
Saladin was unnerved at the attempt on his life, which he accused
Gumushtugin and the
Assassins of plotting, and so increased his
efforts in the siege.
A'zaz capitulated on 21 June, and
Saladin then hurried his forces to
Aleppo to punish Gumushtigin. His assaults were again resisted, but he
managed to secure not only a truce, but a mutual alliance with Aleppo,
in which Gumushtigin and as-Salih were allowed to continue their hold
on the city and in return, they recognized
Saladin as the sovereign
over all of the dominions he conquered. The emirs of
Mardin and Keyfa,
the Muslim allies of Aleppo, also recognised
Saladin as the King of
Syria. When the treaty was concluded, the younger sister of as-Salih
Saladin and requested the return of the Fortress of A'zaz; he
complied and escorted her back to the gates of
Aleppo with numerous
Campaign against the Assassins
Saladin ended his siege of the Ismaili ("Assassins") fortress of
Masyaf, which was commanded by Rashid ad-Din Sinan, under uncertain
circumstances in August 1176.
Saladin had by now agreed truces with his
Zengid rivals and the
Kingdom of Jerusalem
Kingdom of Jerusalem (the latter occurred in the summer of 1175), but
faced a threat from the Ismaili sect known as the "Assassins", led by
Rashid ad-Din Sinan. Based in the an-Nusayriyah Mountains, they
commanded nine fortresses, all built on high elevations. As soon as he
dispatched the bulk of his troops to Egypt,
Saladin led his army into
the an-Nusayriyah range in August 1176. He retreated the same month,
after laying waste to the countryside, but failing to conquer any of
the forts. Most Muslim historians claim that Saladin's uncle, the
governor of Hama, mediated a peace agreement between him and
Saladin had his guards supplied with link lights and had chalk and
cinders strewed around his tent outside Masyaf—which he was
besieging—to detect any footsteps by the Assassins. According to
this version, one night Saladin's guards noticed a spark glowing down
the hill of
Masyaf and then vanishing among the
Saladin awoke to find a figure leaving the tent. He saw
that the lamps were displaced and beside his bed laid hot scones of
the shape peculiar to the
Assassins with a note at the top pinned by a
poisoned dagger. The note threatened that he would be killed if he
didn't withdraw from his assault.
Saladin gave a loud cry, exclaiming
that Sinan himself was the figure that had left the tent.
Another version claims that
Saladin hastily withdrew his troops from
Masyaf because they were urgently needed to fend off a Crusader force
in the vicinity of Mount Lebanon. In reality,
Saladin sought to
form an alliance with Sinan and his Assassins, consequently depriving
Crusaders of a potent ally against him. Viewing the expulsion
Crusaders as a mutual benefit and priority,
Saladin and Sinan
maintained cooperative relations afterwards, the latter dispatching
contingents of his forces to bolster Saladin's army in a number of
decisive subsequent battlefronts.
Cairo and forays in Palestine
Saladin assured the protection of caravan routes that allowed travel
to distant lands.
After leaving the an-Nusayriyah Mountains,
Saladin returned to
Damascus and had his Syrian soldiers return home. He left Turan Shah
in command of
Syria and left for
Egypt with only his personal
Cairo on 22 September. Having been absent roughly
two years, he had much to organize and supervise in Egypt, namely
fortifying and reconstructing Cairo. The city walls were repaired and
their extensions laid out, while the construction of the
was commenced. The 280 feet (85 m) deep Bir
Well") was built on Saladin's orders. The chief public work he
commissioned outside of
Cairo was the large bridge at Giza, which was
intended to form an outwork of defense against a potential Moorish
Saladin remained in
Cairo supervising its improvements, building
colleges such as the Madrasa of the Sword Makers and ordering the
internal administration of the country. In November 1177, he set out
upon a raid into Palestine; the
Crusaders had recently forayed into
the territory of Damascus, so
Saladin saw the truce as no longer worth
Christians sent a large portion of their army to
besiege the fortress of Harim north of Aleppo, so southern Palestine
bore few defenders.
Saladin found the situation ripe and marched
to Ascalon, which he referred to as the "Bride of Syria." William of
Tyre recorded that the
Ayyubid army consisted of 26,000 soldiers, of
which 8,000 were elite forces and 18,000 were black soldiers from
Sudan. This army proceeded to raid the countryside, sack
Lod, and dispersed themselves as far as the Gates of Jerusalem.
Battles and truce with Baldwin
The Ayyubids allowed King Baldwin to enter Ascalon with his Gaza-based
Templars without taking any precautions against a sudden attack.
Although the Crusader force consisted of only 375 knights, Saladin
hesitated to ambush them because of the presence of highly skilled
generals. On 25 November, while the greater part of the
Saladin and his men were surprised near
Ramla in the
battle of Montgisard. Before they could form up, the Templar force
Ayyubid army down. Initially,
Saladin attempted to organize
his men into battle order, but as his bodyguards were being killed, he
saw that defeat was inevitable and so with a small remnant of his
troops mounted a swift camel, riding all the way to the territories of
Not discouraged by his defeat at Tell Jezer,
Saladin was prepared to
Crusaders once again. In the spring of 1178, he was encamped
under the walls of Homs, and a few skirmishes occurred between his
generals and the Crusader army. His forces in
Hama won a victory over
their enemy and brought the spoils, together with many prisoners of
Saladin who ordered the captives to be beheaded for
"plundering and laying waste the lands of the Faithful". He spent the
rest of the year in
Syria without a confrontation with his
The battlefield at Jacob's Ford, looking from the west bank to the
east bank of the River Jordan
Saladin's intelligence services reported to him that the Crusaders
were planning a raid into Syria. He ordered one of his generals,
Farrukh-Shah, to guard the
Damascus frontier with a thousand of his
men to watch for an attack, then to retire, avoiding battle, and to
light warning beacons on the hills, after which
Saladin would march
out. In April 1179, the
Crusaders led by King Baldwin expected no
resistance and waited to launch a surprise attack on Muslim herders
grazing their herds and flocks east of the Golan Heights. Baldwin
advanced too rashly in pursuit of Farrukh-Shah's force, which was
concentrated southeast of
Quneitra and was subsequently defeated by
the Ayyubids. With this victory,
Saladin decided to call in more
troops from Egypt; he requested al-Adil to dispatch 1,500
In the summer of 1179, King Baldwin had set up an outpost on the road
Damascus and aimed to fortify a passage over the Jordan River,
known as Jacob's Ford, that commanded the approach to the
(the plain was divided by the Muslims and the Christians).
offered 100,000 gold pieces to Baldwin to abandon the project, which
was particularly offensive to the Muslims, but to no avail. He then
resolved to destroy the fortress, called Chastellet and manned by the
Templars, moving his headquarters to Banias. As the
down to attack the Muslim forces, they fell into disorder, with the
infantry falling behind. Despite early success, they pursued the
Muslims far enough to become scattered, and
Saladin took advantage by
rallying his troops and charged at the Crusaders. The engagement ended
in a decisive
Ayyubid victory, and many high-ranking knights were
Saladin then moved to besiege the fortress, which fell on 30
In the spring of 1180, while
Saladin was in the area of Safad, anxious
to commence a vigorous campaign against the Kingdom of Jerusalem, King
Baldwin sent messengers to him with proposals of peace. Because
droughts and bad harvests hampered his commissariat,
Saladin agreed to
a truce. Raymond of Tripoli denounced the truce but was compelled to
accept after an
Ayyubid raid on his territory in May and upon the
appearance of Saladin's naval fleet off the port of Tartus.
In June 1180,
Saladin hosted a reception for Nur al-Din Muhammad, the
Artuqid emir of Keyfa, at Geuk Su, in which he presented him and his
brother Abu Bakr with gifts, valued at over 100,000 dinars according
to Imad al-Din. This was intended to cement an alliance with the
Artuqids and to impress other emirs in
Mesopotamia and Anatolia.
Saladin offered to mediate relations between Nur al-Din
and Kilij Arslan II—the Seljuk
Sultan of Rum—after the two came
into conflict. The latter demanded that Nur al-Din return the lands
given to him as a dowry for marrying his daughter when he received
reports that she was being abused and used to gain Seljuk territory.
Nur al-Din asked
Saladin to mediate the issue, but Arslan refused.
After Nur al-Din and
Saladin met at Geuk Su, the top Seljuk emir,
Ikhtiyar al-Din al-Hasan, confirmed Arslan's submission, after which
an agreement was drawn up.
Saladin was later enraged when he received
a message from Arslan accusing Nur al-Din of more abuses against his
daughter. He threatened to attack the city of Malatya, saying, "it is
two days march for me and I shall not dismount [my horse] until I am
in the city." Alarmed at the threat, the
Seljuks pushed for
Saladin felt that Arslan was correct to care for his
daughter, but Nur al-Din had taken refuge with him, and therefore he
could not betray his trust. It was finally agreed that Arslan's
daughter would be sent away for a year and if Nur al-Din failed to
Saladin would move to abandon his support for him.
Leaving Farrukh-Shah in charge of Syria,
Saladin returned to
the beginning of 1181. According to Abu Shama, he intended to spend
the fast of
Egypt and then make the hajj pilgrimage to
Mecca in the summer. For an unknown reason he apparently changed his
plans regarding the pilgrimage and was seen inspecting the Nile River
banks in June. He was again embroiled with the Bedouin; he removed
two-thirds of their fiefs to use as compensation for the fief-holders
at Fayyum. The Bedouin were also accused of trading with the Crusaders
and, consequently, their grain was confiscated and they were forced to
migrate westward. Later,
Ayyubid warships were waged against Bedouin
river pirates, who were plundering the shores of Lake Tanis.
In the summer of 1181, Saladin's former palace administrator Qara-Qush
led a force to arrest Majd al-Din—a former deputy of
the Yemeni town of Zabid—while he was entertaining Imad ad-Din at
his estate in Cairo. Saladin's intimates accused Majd al-Din of
misappropriating the revenues of Zabid, but
Saladin himself believed
there was no evidence to back the allegations. He had Majd al-Din
released in return for a payment of 80,000 dinars. In addition, other
sums were to be paid to Saladin's brothers al-Adil and Taj al-Muluk
Buri. The controversial detainment of Majd al-Din was a part of the
larger discontent associated with the aftermath of Turan-Shah's
departure from Yemen. Although his deputies continued to send him
revenues from the province, centralized authority was lacking and
internal quarrel arose between Izz al-Din Uthman of
Aden and Hittan of
Saladin wrote in a letter to al-Adil: "this
Yemen is a treasure
house ... We conquered it, but up to this day we have had no return
and no advantage from it. There have been only innumerable expenses,
the sending out of troops ... and expectations which did not produce
what was hoped for in the end."
Conquest of Mesopotamian hinterland
Isometric laser scan data image of the Bab al-Barqiyya Gate in the
Ayyubid Wall. This fortified gate was constructed with
interlocking volumes that surrounded the entrant in such a way as to
provide greater security and control than typical city wall gates.
Saif al-Din had died earlier in June 1181 and his brother Izz al-Din
inherited leadership of Mosul. On 4 December, the crown-prince of
the Zengids, as-Salih, died in Aleppo. Prior to his death, he had his
chief officers swear an oath of loyalty to Izz al-Din, as he was the
Zengid ruler strong enough to oppose Saladin. Izz al-Din was
welcomed in Aleppo, but possessing it and
Mosul put too great of a
strain on his abilities. He thus, handed
Aleppo to his brother Imad
al-Din Zangi, in exchange for Sinjar.
Saladin offered no opposition to
these transactions in order to respect the treaty he previously made
with the Zengids.
On 11 May 1182, Saladin, along with half of the Egyptian
and numerous non-combatants, left
Cairo for Syria. On the evening
before he departed, he sat with his companions and the tutor of one of
his sons quoted a line of poetry: "enjoy the scent of the ox-eye plant
of Najd, for after this evening it will come no more."
this as an evil omen and he never saw
Egypt again. Knowing that
Crusader forces were massed upon the frontier to intercept him, he
took the desert route across the
Sinai Peninsula to
Ailah at the head
of the Gulf of Aqaba. Meeting no opposition,
Saladin ravaged the
countryside of Montreal, whilst Baldwin's forces watched on, refusing
to intervene. He arrived in
Damascus in June to learn that
Farrukh-Shah had attacked the Galilee, sacking
Daburiyya and capturing
Habis Jaldek, a fortress of great importance to the Crusaders. In
Saladin dispatched Farrukh-Shah to attack Kawkab al-Hawa. Later,
in August, the Ayyubids launched a naval and ground assault to capture
Saladin led his army in the Bekaa Valley. The assault was
leaning towards failure and
Saladin abandoned the operation to focus
on issues in Mesopotamia.
Kukbary (Gökböri), the emir of Harran, invited
Saladin to occupy the
Jazira region, making up northern Mesopotamia. He complied and the
truce between him and the
Zengids officially ended in September
1182. Prior to his march to Jazira, tensions had grown between the
Zengid rulers of the region, primarily concerning their unwillingness
to pay deference to Mosul. Before he crossed the Euphrates,
Aleppo for three days, signaling that the truce was
Once he reached Bira, near the river, he was joined by Kukbary and Nur
al-Din of Hisn Kayfa and the combined forces captured the cities of
Jazira, one after the other. First, Edessa fell, followed by Saruj,
then Raqqa, Qirqesiya and Nusaybin.
Raqqa was an important
crossing point and held by Qutb al-Din Inal, who had lost
Saladin in 1176. Upon seeing the large size of Saladin's army, he made
little effort to resist and surrendered on the condition that he would
retain his property.
Saladin promptly impressed the inhabitants of the
town by publishing a decree that ordered a number of taxes to be
canceled and erased all mention of them from treasury records, stating
"the most miserable rulers are those whose purses are fat and their
people thin". From Raqqa, he moved to conquer al-Fudain, al-Husain,
Maksim, Durain, 'Araban, and Khabur—all of which swore allegiance to
Saladin proceeded to take
Nusaybin which offered no resistance. A
Nusaybin was not of great importance, but it was
located in a strategic position between
Mosul and within
easy reach of Diyarbakir. In the midst of these victories, Saladin
received word that the
Crusaders were raiding the villages of
Damascus. He replied "Let them... whilst they knock down villages, we
are taking cities; when we come back, we shall have all the more
strength to fight them." Meanwhile, in Aleppo, the emir of the
city Zangi raided Saladin's cities to the north and east, such as
Balis, Manbij, Saruj, Buza'a, al-Karzain. He also destroyed his own
A'zaz to prevent it from being used by the Ayyubids if they
were to conquer it.
Possession of Aleppo
Saladin's troops, French manuscript, 1337
Saladin turned his attention from
Mosul to Aleppo, sending his brother
Taj al-Muluk Buri to capture Tell Khalid, 130 km northeast of the
city. A siege was set, but the governor of Tell Khalid surrendered
upon the arrival of
Saladin himself on 17 May before a siege could
take place. According to Imad ad-Din, after Tell Khalid,
a detour northwards to Ain Tab, but he gained possession of it when
his army turned towards it, allowing to quickly move backward another
c. 100 km towards Aleppo. On 21 May, he camped outside the city,
positioning himself east of the
Citadel of Aleppo, while his forces
encircles the suburb of Banaqusa to the northeast and Bab Janan to the
west. He stationed his men dangerously close to the city, hoping for
an early success.
Zangi did not offer long resistance. He was unpopular with his
subjects and wished to return to his Sinjar, the city he governed
previously. An exchange was negotiated where Zangi would hand over
Saladin in return for the restoration of his control of
Sinjar, Nusaybin, and Raqqa. Zangi would hold these territories as
Saladin's vassals on terms of military service. On 12 June,
formally placed in
Ayyubid hands. The people of
Aleppo had not
known about these negotiations and were taken by surprise when
Saladin's standard was hoisted over the citadel. Two emirs, including
an old friend of Saladin, Izz al-Din Jurduk, welcomed and pledged
their service to him.
Saladin replaced the
Hanafi courts with Shafi'i
administration, despite a promise he would not interfere in the
religious leadership of the city. Although he was short of money,
Saladin also allowed the departing Zangi to take all the stores of the
citadel that he could travel with and to sell the remainder—which
Saladin purchased himself. In spite of his earlier hesitation to go
through with the exchange, he had no doubts about his success, stating
Aleppo was "the key to the lands" and "this city is the eye of
Syria and the citadel is its pupil." For Saladin, the capture of
the city marked the end of over eight years of waiting since he told
Farrukh-Shah that "we have only to do the milking and
Aleppo will be
After spending one night in Aleppo's citadel,
Saladin marched to
Harim, near the Crusader-held Antioch. The city was held by Surhak, a
Saladin offered him the city of Busra and property in
Damascus in exchange for Harim, but when Surhak asked for more, his
own garrison in Harim forced him out. He was arrested by Saladin's
deputy Taqi al-Din on allegations that he was planning to cede Harim
to Bohemond III of Antioch. When
Saladin received its surrender, he
proceeded to arrange the defense of Harim from the Crusaders. He
reported to the caliph and his own subordinates in
Yemen and Baalbek
that was going to attack the Armenians. Before he could move, however,
there were a number of administrative details to be settled. Saladin
agreed to a truce with Bohemond in return for Muslim prisoners being
held by him and then he gave
A'zaz to Alam ad-Din Suleiman and Aleppo
to Saif al-Din al-Yazkuj—the former was an emir of
Aleppo who joined
Saladin and the latter was a former mamluk of
Shirkuh who helped
rescue him from the assassination attempt at A'zaz.
Fight for Mosul
Saladin in the
Egyptian Military museum
Egyptian Military museum in Cairo
Saladin approached Mosul, he faced the issue of taking over a large
city and justifying the action. The
Mosul appealed to
Abbasid caliph at
Baghdad whose vizier favored them.
An-Nasir sent Badr al-Badr (a high-ranking religious figure) to
mediate between the two sides.
Saladin arrived at the city on 10
November 1182. Izz al-Din would not accept his terms because he
considered them disingenuous and extensive, and
laid siege to the heavily fortified city.
After several minor skirmishes and a stalemate in the siege that was
initiated by the caliph,
Saladin intended to find a way to withdraw
without damage to his reputation while still keeping up some military
pressure. He decided to attack Sinjar, which was held by Izz al-Din's
brother Sharaf al-Din. It fell after a 15-day siege on 30
December. Saladin's soldiers broke their discipline, plundering
Saladin only managed to protect the governor and his
officers by sending them to Mosul. After establishing a garrison at
Sinjar, he awaited a coalition assembled by Izz al-Din consisting of
his forces, those from Aleppo, Mardin, and Armenia.
his army met the coalition at
Harran in February 1183, but on hearing
of his approach, the latter sent messengers to
Saladin asking for
peace. Each force returned to their cities and al-Fadil wrote: "They
[Izz al-Din's coalition] advanced like men, like women they
On 2 March, al-Adil from
Egypt wrote to
Saladin that the
struck the "heart of Islam". Raynald de Châtillon had sent ships to
Gulf of Aqaba
Gulf of Aqaba to raid towns and villages off the coast of the Red
Sea. It was not an attempt to extend the Crusader influence into that
sea or to capture its trade routes, but merely a piratical move.
Nonetheless, Imad al-Din writes the raid was alarming to the Muslims
because they were not accustomed to attacks on that sea, and Ibn
al-Athir adds that the inhabitants had no experience with the
Crusaders either as fighters or traders.
Ibn Jubair was told that sixteen Muslim ships were burnt by the
Crusaders, who then captured a pilgrim ship and caravan at Aidab. He
also reported that they intended to attack
Medina and remove
Al-Maqrizi added to the rumor by claiming Muhammad's
tomb was going to be relocated to Crusader territory so Muslims would
make pilgrimages there. Fortunately for Saladin, al-Adil had his
warships moved from Fustat and
Alexandria to the
Red Sea under the
command of an Armenian mercenary Lu'lu. They broke the Crusader
blockade, destroyed most of their ships, and pursued and captured
those who anchored and fled into the desert. The surviving
Crusaders, numbered at 170, were ordered to be killed by
various Muslim cities.
From the point of view of Saladin, in terms of territory, the war
Mosul was going well, but he still failed to achieve his
objectives and his army was shrinking; Taqi al-Din took his men back
to Hama, while Nasir al-Din
Muhammad and his forces had left. This
encouraged Izz al-Din and his allies to take the offensive. The
previous coalition regrouped at Harzam some 140 km from Harran.
In early April, without waiting for Nasir al-Din,
Saladin and Taqi
al-Din commenced their advance against the coalition, marching
eastward to Ras al-Ein unhindered. By late April, after three days
of "actual fighting", according to Saladin, the Ayyubids had captured
Amid. He handed the city to Nur al-Din
Muhammad together with its
stores, which consisted of 80,000 candles, a tower full of arrowheads,
and 1,040,000 books. In return for a diploma granting him the city,
Nur al-Din swore allegiance to Saladin, promising to follow him in
every expedition in the war against the Crusaders, and repairing
damage done to the city. The fall of Amid, in addition to territory,
convinced Il-Ghazi of
Mardin to enter the service of Saladin,
weakening Izz al-Din's coalition.
Saladin attempted to gain the Caliph an-Nasir's support against Izz
al-Din by sending him a letter requesting a document that would give
him legal justification for taking over
Mosul and its territories.
Saladin aimed to persuade the caliph claiming that while he conquered
Yemen under the flag of the Abbasids, the
Zengids of Mosul
openly supported the
Seljuks (rivals of the caliphate) and only came
to the caliph when in need. He also accused Izz al-Din's forces of
disrupting the Muslim "Holy War" against the Crusaders, stating "they
are not content not to fight, but they prevent those who can." Saladin
defended his own conduct claiming that he had come to
Syria to fight
the Crusaders, end the heresy of the Assassins, and stop the
wrong-doing of the Muslims. He also promised that if
Mosul was given
to him, it would lead to the capture of Jerusalem, Constantinople,
Georgia, and the lands of the Almohads in the Maghreb, "until the word
of God is supreme and the
Abbasid caliphate has wiped the world clean,
turning the churches into mosques".
Saladin stressed that all this
would happen by the will of God, and instead of asking for financial
or military support from the caliph, he would capture and give the
caliph the territories of Tikrit, Daquq, Khuzestan, Kish Island, and
Wars against Crusaders
Guy of Lusignan
Guy of Lusignan after Battle of Hattin
On 29 September 1182,
Saladin crossed the
Jordan River to attack
Beisan, which was found to be empty. The next day his forces sacked
and burned the town and moved westwards. They intercepted Crusader
reinforcements from Karak and
Shaubak along the
Nablus road and took a
number of prisoners. Meanwhile, the main Crusader force under Guy of
Lusignan moved from Sepphoris to al-Fula.
Saladin sent out 500
skirmishers to harass their forces, and he himself marched to Ain
Jalut. When the Crusader force—reckoned to be the largest the
kingdom ever produced from its own resources, but still outmatched by
the Muslims—advanced, the Ayyubids unexpectedly moved down the
stream of Ain Jalut. After a few
Ayyubid raids—including attacks on
Zir'in, Forbelet, and Mount Tabor—the
Crusaders still were not
tempted to attack their main force, and
Saladin led his men back
across the river once provisions and supplies ran low.
Crusader attacks provoked further responses by Saladin. Raynald of
Châtillon, in particular, harassed Muslim trading and pilgrimage
routes with a fleet on the Red Sea, a water route that
to keep open. In response,
Saladin built a fleet of 30 galleys to
Beirut in 1182. Raynald threatened to attack the holy cities of
Mecca and Medina. In retaliation,
Saladin twice besieged Kerak,
Raynald's fortress in Oultrejordain, in 1183 and 1184. Raynald
responded by looting a caravan of pilgrims on the
Hajj in 1185.
According to the later 13th-century Old French Continuation of William
of Tyre, Raynald captured Saladin's sister in a raid on a caravan;
this claim is not attested in contemporary sources, Muslim or
Frankish, however, instead stating that Raynald had attacked a
preceding caravan, and
Saladin set guards to ensure the safety of his
sister and her son, who came to no harm.
Following the failure of his
Saladin temporarily turned
his attention back to another long-term project and resumed attacks on
the territory of ʻIzz ad-Dīn (Masʻūd ibn Mawdūd ibn Zangi),
around Mosul, which he had begun with some success in 1182. However,
since then, Masʻūd had allied himself with the powerful governor of
Azerbaijan and Jibal, who in 1185 began moving his troops across the
Zagros Mountains, causing
Saladin to hesitate in his attacks. The
defenders of Mosul, when they became aware that help was on the way,
increased their efforts, and
Saladin subsequently fell ill, so in
March 1186 a peace treaty was signed.
In July 1187,
Saladin captured most of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. On 4
July 1187, at the Battle of Hattin, he faced the combined forces of
Guy of Lusignan,
King Consort of Jerusalem, and Raymond III of
Tripoli. In this battle alone the Crusader force was largely
annihilated by Saladin's determined army. It was a major disaster for
Crusaders and a turning point in the history of the Crusades.
Saladin captured Raynald and was personally responsible for his
execution in retaliation for his attacks against Muslim caravans. The
members of these caravans had, in vain, besought his mercy by reciting
the truce between the Muslims and the Crusaders, but Raynald ignored
this and insulted the Islamic prophet, Muhammad, before murdering and
torturing a number of them. Upon hearing this,
Saladin swore an oath
to personally execute Raynald.
Guy of Lusignan
Guy of Lusignan was also captured.
Seeing the execution of Raynald, he feared he would be next. However,
his life was spared by Saladin, who said of Raynald, "[i]t is not the
wont of kings, to kill kings; but that man had transgressed all
bounds, and therefore did I treat him thus."
Capture of Jerusalem
Saladin had captured almost every Crusader city.
Saladin preferred to
Jerusalem without bloodshed and offered generous terms, but those
inside refused to leave their holy city, vowing to destroy it in a
fight to the death rather than see it handed over peacefully.
Jerusalem capitulated to his forces on Friday, 2 October 1187, after a
siege. When the siege had started,
Saladin was unwilling to
promise terms of quarter to the Frankish inhabitants of Jerusalem.
Balian of Ibelin threatened to kill every Muslim hostage, estimated at
5,000, and to destroy Islam's holy shrines of the
Dome of the Rock
Dome of the Rock and
the al-Aqsa Mosque if such quarter were not provided. Saladin
consulted his council and the terms were accepted. The agreement was
read out through the streets of
Jerusalem so that everyone might
within forty days provide for himself and pay to
Saladin the agreed
tribute for his freedom. An unusually low ransom for the times
(around $50 today) was to be paid for each Frank in the city, whether
man, woman, or child, but Saladin, against the wishes of his
treasurers, allowed many families who could not afford the ransom to
leave. Patriarch Heraclius of
Jerusalem organised and
contributed to a collection that paid the ransoms for about 18,000 of
the poorer citizens, leaving another 15,000 to be enslaved. Saladin's
brother al-Adil "asked
Saladin for a thousand of them for his own use
and then released them on the spot." Most of the foot soldiers were
sold into slavery. Upon the capture of Jerusalem, Saladin
summoned the Jews and permitted them to resettle in the city. In
particular, the residents of Ashkelon, a large Jewish settlement,
responded to his request.
Tyre, on the coast of modern-day Lebanon, was the last major Crusader
city that was not captured by Muslim forces. Strategically, it would
have made more sense for
Saladin to capture Tyre before Jerusalem;
Saladin, however, chose to pursue
Jerusalem first because of the
importance of the city to Islam. Tyre was commanded by Conrad of
Montferrat, who strengthened its defences and withstood two sieges by
Saladin. In 1188, at Tortosa,
Guy of Lusignan
Guy of Lusignan and
returned him to his wife, Queen Sibylla of Jerusalem. They went first
to Tripoli, then to Antioch. In 1189, they sought to reclaim Tyre for
their kingdom but were refused admission by Conrad, who did not
recognize Guy as king. Guy then set about besieging Acre.
Saladin was on friendly terms with Queen Tamar of Georgia. Saladin's
Bahā' ad-Dīn ibn Šaddād reports that, after Saladin's
conquest of Jerusalem, the Georgian Queen sent envoys to the sultan to
request the return of confiscated possessions of the Georgian
monasteries in Jerusalem. Saladin's response is not recorded, but the
queen's efforts seem to have been successful as Jacques de Vitry, the
Bishop of Acre, reports the
Georgians were, in contrast to the other
Christian pilgrims, allowed a free passage into the city with their
banners unfurled. Ibn Šaddād furthermore claims that Queen Tamar
outbid the Byzantine emperor in her efforts to obtain the relics of
the True Cross, offering 200,000 gold pieces to
Saladin who had taken
the relics as booty at the battle of Hattin, but to no
The elite garrison of Saladin's armies during the Siege of Acre
It is equally true that his generosity, his piety, devoid of
fanaticism, that flower of liberality and courtesy which had been the
model of our old chroniclers, won him no less popularity in Frankish
Syria than in the lands of Islam.
René Grousset (writer)
Hattin and the fall of
Jerusalem prompted the Third Crusade
(1189–1192), financed in England by a special "
Richard the Lionheart, King of England led Guy's siege of Acre,
conquered the city and executed 3,000 Muslim prisoners, including
women and children. Bahā' ad-Dīn wrote:
The motives of this massacre are differently told; according to some,
the captives were slain by way of reprisal for the death of those
Christians whom the Musulmans had slain. Others again say that the
king of England, on deciding to attempt the conquest of Ascalon,
thought it unwise to leave so many prisoners in the town after his
departure. God alone knows what the real reason was.
The armies of
Saladin engaged in combat with the army of King Richard
Battle of Arsuf
Battle of Arsuf on 7 September 1191, at which Saladin's forces
suffered heavy losses and were forced to withdraw. After the battle of
Arsuf, Richard occupied Jaffa, restoring the city's fortifications.
Saladin moved south, where he dismantled the fortifications
of Ascalon to prevent this strategically important city, which lay at
the junction between
Egypt and Palestine, from falling into Crusader
In October 1191, Richard began restoring the inland castles on the
coastal plain beyond Jaffa in preparation for an advance on Jerusalem.
During this period, Richard and
Saladin passed envoys back and forth,
negotiating the possibility of a truce. Richard proposed that his
sister, Joan of England, Queen of Sicily, should marry Saladin's
brother and that
Jerusalem could be their wedding gift. However,
Saladin rejected this idea when Richard insisted that Saladin's
brother convert to Christianity.
In January 1192, Richard's army occupied Beit Nuba, just twelve miles
from Jerusalem, but withdrew without attacking the Holy City. Instead,
Richard advanced south on Ascalon, where he restored the
fortifications. In July 1192,
Saladin tried to threaten Richard's
command of the coast by attacking Jaffa. The city was besieged, and
Saladin very nearly captured it; however, Richard arrived a few days
later and defeated Saladin's army in a battle outside the city.
Battle of Jaffa (1192)
Battle of Jaffa (1192) proved to be the last military engagement
of the Third Crusade. After Richard reoccupied Jaffa and restored its
fortifications, he and
Saladin again discussed terms. At last Richard
agreed to demolish the fortifications of Ascalon, while
to recognize Crusader control of the Palestinian coast from Tyre to
Christians would be allowed to travel as unarmed pilgrims
to Jerusalem, and Saladin's kingdom would be at peace with the
Crusader states for the following three years.
Mausoleum of Saladin
Saladin's tomb, Damascus, Syria
Saladin's tomb, near Umayyad Mosque's NW corner
Saladin died of a fever on 4 March 1193, at Damascus, not long after
King Richard's departure. In Saladin’s possession at the time of his
death were one piece of gold and forty pieces of silver. He had
given away his great wealth to his poor subjects, leaving nothing to
pay for his funeral. He was buried in a mausoleum in the garden
Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, Syria. Seven centuries later,
Wilhelm II of Germany donated a new marble sarcophagus to the
mausoleum. However, the original sarcophagus was not replaced;
instead, the mausoleum, which is open to visitors, now has two
sarcophagi: the marble one placed on the side and the original wooden
one, which covers Saladin's tomb. (Muslims are buried in a simple
shroud, so if there are any sarcophagi present, they are usually used
for covering the top of the Islamic burials.)
According to Imad al-Din,
Saladin had fathered five sons before he
Egypt in 1174. Saladin's oldest son, al-Afdal, was born in 1170,
and Uthman was born in 1172 to Shamsa who accompanied
Saladin had a third son named, Az-Zahir Ghazi, who later became
Lord of Aleppo. A letter preserved by Qalqashandi records that a
twelfth son was born in May 1178, while on Imad al-Din's list, he
appears as Saladin's seventh son. Mas'ud was born in 1175 and Yaq'ub
in 1176, the latter to Shamsa.
Recognition and legacy
Saladino, by Cristofano dell'Altissimo, ante 1568
In the nineteenth century,
Saladin achieved a great reputation in
Europe as a chivalrous knight, due to his fierce struggle against the
crusaders and his generosity. Although
Saladin faded into history
after the Middle Ages, he appears in a sympathetic light in Gotthold
Ephraim Lessing's play
Nathan the Wise
Nathan the Wise (1779) and in Sir Walter
Scott's novel The Talisman (1825). The contemporary view of Saladin
originates mainly from these texts. According to Jonathan Riley-Smith,
Scott's portrayal of
Saladin was that of a "modern [19th-century]
liberal European gentlemen, beside whom medieval Westerners would
always have made a poor showing". Despite the Crusaders'
slaughter when they originally conquered
Jerusalem in 1099, Saladin
granted amnesty and free passage to all common
Catholics and even to
the defeated Christian army, as long as they were able to pay the
aforementioned ransom (the Greek Orthodox
Christians were treated even
better, because they often opposed the western Crusaders).
Notwithstanding the differences in beliefs, the Muslim
respected by Christian lords, Richard especially. Richard once praised
Saladin as a great prince, saying that he was without doubt the
greatest and most powerful leader in the Islamic world. Saladin
in turn stated that there was not a more honorable Christian lord than
Richard. After the treaty,
Saladin and Richard sent each other many
gifts as tokens of respect but never met face to face. In April 1191,
a Frankish woman's three-month-old baby had been stolen from her camp
and sold on the market. The Franks urged her to approach Saladin
herself with her grievance. According to Bahā' al-Dīn,
his own money to buy the child back:
He gave it to the mother and she took it; with tears streaming down
her face, and hugged the baby to her chest. The people were watching
her and weeping and I (Ibn Shaddad) was standing amongst them. She
suckled it for some time and then
Saladin ordered a horse to be
fetched for her and she went back to camp.
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The Eagle of
Saladin in the Egyptian coat of arms
The Eagle of
Saladin in the coat of arms of the Kurdistan Regional
Wilhelm II visited Saladin's tomb to pay his
respects. The visit, coupled with anti-imperialist sentiments,
Arabs to reinvent the image of
Saladin and portray him
as a hero of the struggle against the West. The image of
used was the romantic one created by
Walter Scott and other Europeans
in the West at the time, conveniently ignoring Saladin's Kurdish
ethnicity. It replaced Saladin's reputation as a figure who had been
largely forgotten in the Muslim world, eclipsed by more successful
figures, such as
Baybars of Egypt.
Modern Arab states have sought to commemorate
Saladin through various
measures, often based on the image created of him in the 19th-century
west. A governorate centered around
modern-day Iraq, Salah ad Din Governorate, is named after him, as is
Salahaddin University in Erbil, the largest city of Iraqi Kurdistan. A
suburban community of Erbil, Masif Salahaddin, is also named after
Few structures associated with
Saladin survive within modern cities.
Saladin first fortified the
Cairo (1175–1183), which had
been a domed pleasure pavilion with a fine view in more peaceful
times. In Syria, even the smallest city is centred on a defensible
Saladin introduced this essential feature to Egypt.
Ayyubid dynasty that he founded would only outlive him by
57 years, the legacy of
Saladin within the
Arab World continues to
this day. With the rise of
Arab nationalism in the 20th Century,
particularly with regard to the Arab–Israeli conflict, Saladin's
heroism and leadership gained a new significance. Saladin's recapture
of Palestine from the European
Crusaders is considered an inspiration
for modern-day Arabs' opposition to Zionism. Moreover, the glory and
comparative unity of the
Arab World under
Saladin was seen as the
perfect symbol for the new unity sought by Arab nationalists, such as
Gamal Abdel Nasser. For this reason, the Eagle of
Saladin became the
symbol of revolutionary Egypt, and was subsequently adopted by several
other Arab states (the United Arab Republic, Iraq, Libya, the State of
Palestine, and Yemen).
Middle East portal
List of Kurdish dynasties and countries
Sharaf Khan Bidlisi
List of rulers of Damascus
List of rulers of Egypt
Kingdom of Heaven
Saladin: The Animated Series
Saladin the Victorious
Salah al-Din (TV series)
Arn – The
^ Spevack, Aaron (2014) . The Archetypal
Sunni Scholar: Law,
Theology, and Mysticism in the Synthesis of Al-Bajuri. State
University of New York Press. p. 44.
^ Lēv, Yaacov (1999).
Saladin in Egypt. Brill. p. 131.
^ Halverson, Jeffry R.; Corman, Steven R.; Goodall Jr., H. L. (2011).
Master Narratives of Islamist Extremism. Palgrave Macmillan.
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^ Eddé, Anne-Marie "Saladin" trans. Jean Marie Todd Harvard
University Press, 2011, p. 17, ISBN 978-0-674-28397-8, "Syria,
all the territory of present day Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine and
^ a b A number of contemporary sources make note of this. The
Ibn Khallikan writes, "Historians agree in stating that
[Saladin's] father and family belonged to Duwin [Dvin]. ... They
Kurds and belonged to the Rawādiya (sic), which is a branch of
the great tribe al-Hadāniya": Minorsky (1953), p. 124. The medieval
historian Ibn Athir, who is a Kurd and therefore his credibility is
questionable, relates a passage from another commander: "... both
Kurds and you will not let power pass into the
hands of the Turks": Minorsky (1953), p. 138.
^ Humphreys, R. Stephen (1977). From
Saladin to the Mongols: The
Ayyubids of Damascus, 1193–1260. State University of New York Press.
p. 29. ISBN 0-87395-263-4. Among the free-born amirs the
Kurds would seem the most dependent on Saladin's success for the
progress of their own fortunes. He too was a Kurd, after
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vol. 1: The First Hundred Years, ed.
Kenneth M. Setton
Kenneth M. Setton (University of
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^ Bahā' al-Dīn (2002), p. 17.
^ Ter-Ghevondyan 1965, p. 218
^ Tabbaa, 1997, p. 31.
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Wikimedia Commons has media related to Saladin.
Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article
Stanley Lane-Poole, "The Life of
Saladin and the Fall of the Kingdom
of Jerusalem", in "btm" format
Rosebault Ch.J. Saladin. Prince of Chivalri
De expugnatione terrae sanctae per Saladinum A European account of
Saladin's conquests of the Crusader states. (in Latin)
Sultan and His Times, 1138–1193
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