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), and G. Regan (1988); J. Reston, Jr., Warriors of God: Richard the Lionheart and Saladin in the Third Crusade (2001).
(born 1137/38, Tikrīt, Mesopotamia—died March 4, 1193, Damascus, Syria) Kurdish sultan of Egypt, Syria, Yemen, and Palestine and founder of the Ayyūbid dynasty. Though as a youth he preferred religious to military studies, he began his military career under his uncle, a military commander of the Zangid dynasty. On his uncle's death, Saladin became vizier of the
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Salahadin Ayyubi (Arabic:صلاح الدين يوسف بن أيوب; Kurdish: سهلاحهدین ئهیوبی Selah'edînê Eyubî; c. 1138 - March 4, 1193), better known as Saladin in medieval Europe, was a Sultan of Egypt and Syria. He was a Kurdish Muslim and led the Islamic opposition to the Third Crusade. At the height of his power, the Ayyubid dynasty he founded, ruled over Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Hejaz, and Yemen. He led Muslim resistance to the European Crusaders and eventually recaptured Palestine from the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem. As such, he is a notable figure in Arab, Kurdish, and Muslim culture. Saladin was a strict practitioner of Sunni Islam. He did not maim, kill or retaliate against those whom he defeated, with the notable exception of certain events following the Battle of Hattin. His generally chivalrous behaviour was noted by Christian chroniclers, especially in the accounts of the siege of Krak in Moab.
His career in the military began when his uncle Asad al-Dīn Shīrkūh, or simply named Shirkuh, started training him. Shirkuh was an important military commander under the emir Nūr al-Dīn, who was the son and successor of Zangī. During three military expeditions led by Shīrkūh into Egypt to prevent its falling to the Latin Christian Crusaders who already ruled Jerusalem. Amalric I, the king of Jerusalem; Shāwar, the powerful vizier of the Egyptian Fāṭimid caliph; and Shīrkūh formed a struggle. After Shīrkūh's death and after ordering Shāwar's assassination, Saladin, in 1169 was appointed both commander of the Syrian troops in Egypt and vizier of the Fāṭimid caliph there. Saladin was only 31 when he received the position in the military and tried to finish much of his uncle's work. His relatively quick rise to power was due to the fact he had come from Kurdish cultural background and is cited as having many talents including being an effective and efficient military leader. He became from then onwards a Sultan of Egypt and his clear demonstration of being an efficient leader quickly built up his reputation of a great leader, although he had received the title of king, many had referred to him as the Sultan of Egypt. The founding of the Ayyubid dynasty and restoring Sunni Islam in Egypt is all credited to Saladin. He expanded his territory westwards in the Maghreb and when his uncle was sent up the Nile to pacify some resistance of the former Fatimid supporters, he continued on down the Red Sea to conquer Yemen. Saladin's position was further enhanced when, in 1171, he abolished the ineffective Shīʿite Fāṭimid caliphate, and lead a return to Sunni Islam in Egypt. When the caliph died in 1171, Saladin had the ˤulamā' pronounce the name of al-Mustadi, the Sunni - and, more importantly, Abbassid - caliph in Baghdad at sermon before Friday prayers; by their authority, they simply deposed the old line. Saladin ruled Egypt, but officially as the representative of the Turkish Seljuk ruler Nūr ad-Dīn, who himself conventionally recognized the Abbassid caliph. Although he remained for a time a vassal of Nūr al-Dīn, the relationship he had had ended with the Syrian's death in 1174. Saladin quickly used the emir's rich agricultural possessions in Egypt as a financial base, Saladin soon moved into Syria bringing with him a strictly disciplined army to claim the regency on behalf of the young son of his former suzerain, however the army he brought was small. Soon, however, he abandoned this claim, and from 1174 until 1186 he rigorously pursued a goal of uniting all the Muslim territories of Syria, northern Iraq, Palestine, and Egypt. Saladin is credited to have revitalized the economy of Egypt, reorganized the military forces and, following his father's advice, stayed away from any conflicts with Nur ad-Din, his formal lord, after he had become the real ruler of Egypt. He waited until Nūr ad-Dīn's death before starting serious military actions, at first against smaller Muslim states, then directing them against the Crusaders. Sources such as Encyclopaedia Britannica are quoted as explaining Saladins techniques in warfare and his attitudes to the conquered:
This he accomplished by skillful diplomacy backed when necessary by the swift and resolute use of military force. Gradually his reputation grew as a generous and virtuous but firm ruler, devoid of pretense, licentiousness, and cruelty. In contrast to the bitter dissension and intense rivalry that had up to then hampered the Muslims in their resistance to the Crusaders, Saladin's singleness of purpose induced them to re-arm both physically and spiritually.
Immediately after Nūr ad-Dīn's death, Saladin marched on Damascus and was welcomed into the city. He reinforced his legitimacy there in the time-honored way, by marrying Nūr ad-Dīn's widow Ismat ad-Din Khatun. Aleppo and Mosul, on the other hand, the two other largest cities that Nūr ad-Dīn had ruled, were never taken but Saladin managed to impose his influence and authority on them in 1176 and 1186 respectively. While he was occupied in besieging Aleppo, on May 22, 1176, the shadowy Ismaili assassin group, the Hashshashin, attempted to murder him. They made two attempts on his life, the second time coming close enough to inflict wounds.
While Saladin was consolidating his power in Syria, he usually left the Crusader kingdom alone, although he was generally victorious whenever he did meet the Crusaders in battle. One exception was the Battle of Montgisard on November 25, 1177. He was defeated by the combined forces of Baldwin IV of Jerusalem, Raynald of Chatillon and the Knights Templar. Only one tenth of his army made it back to Egypt.
Saladin spent the subsequent year recovering from his defeat and rebuilding his army, renewing his attacks in 1179 when he defeated the Crusaders at the Battle of Jacob's Ford. after which a truce was declared between Saladin and the Crusader States in 1180. However, Crusader counter-attacks provoked further responses by Saladin. Raynald of Chatillon, in particular, harassed Muslim trading and pilgrimage routes with a fleet on the Red Sea, a water route that Saladin needed to keep open. In response, Saladin built a fleet of 30 galleys to attack 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 thirteenth century Old French Continuation of William of Tyre, Raynald captured Saladin's sister in a raid on a caravan, although this claim is not attested in contemporary sources, Muslim or Frankish, rather 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 Kerak sieges, Saladin temporarily turned his attention back to another long-term project and resumed attacks on the territory of ˤIzz ad-Dīn (Masˤūd ibn Mawdūd ibn Zangi), around Mosul, which he had begun with some success in 1182. However, since then, Masˤūd 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 July 4, 1187, he faced at the Battle of Hattin the combined forces of Guy of Lusignan, King Consort of Jerusalem and Raymond III of Tripoli. In this battle alone the Crusader army was largely annihilated by the motivated army of Saladin in what was a major disaster for the Crusaders and a turning point in the history of the Crusades. Saladin captured Raynald de Chatillon and was personally responsible for his execution in retaliation for previously attacking Muslim pilgrim caravans. Guy of Lusignan was also captured but his life was spared.
That night, "with uncharacteristic coldbloodedness", Saladin ordered the execution of the "hundred or so" Templar and Hospitaller knights among the prisoners. Because of their religious "devotion and rigorous training", they were the "most feared" of the Christian soldiers. Seated on a dais before his army, Saladin watched as "the band of scholars, sufis and ascetics... carried out the ceremonial killing".
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--however, Saladin chose to pursue Jerusalem first because of the importance of the city to Islam). The city was now commanded by Conrad of Montferrat, who strengthened Tyre's defences and withstood two sieges by Saladin. In 1188, at Tortosa, Saladin released 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.
The armies of Saladin engaged in combat with the army of King Richard I of England at the Battle of Arsuf on September 7, 1191, at which Saladin was defeated. All attempts made by Richard the Lionheart to re-take Jerusalem failed. However, Saladin's relationship with Richard was one of chivalrous mutual respect as well as military rivalry. When Richard became ill with fever, Saladin offered the services of his personal physician. Saladin also sent him fresh fruit with snow, to chill the drink, as treatment. At Arsuf, when Richard lost his horse, Saladin sent him two replacements. Richard suggested to Saladin that Palestine, Christian and Muslim, could be united through the marriage of his sister Joan of England, Queen of Sicily to Saladin's brother, and that Jerusalem could be their wedding gift. However, the two men never met face to face and communication was either written or by messenger.
As leaders of their respective factions, the two men came to an agreement in the Treaty of Ramla in 1192, whereby Jerusalem would remain in Muslim hands but would be open to Christian pilgrimages. The treaty reduced the Latin Kingdom to a strip along the coast from Tyre to Jaffa. This treaty was supposed to last three years.
Notwithstanding the differences in beliefs, the Muslim Saladin was 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 again.
In April 1191, a Frankish woman's three month old baby had been stolen from her camp and had been sold on the market. The Franks urged her to approach Saladin herself with her grievance. After Saladin used his own money to buy the child, "he gave it to the mother and she took it; with tears streaming down her face, and hugged it to her breast. 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.
The name Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn means "Righteousness of Faith," and through the ages Saladin has been an inspiration for Muslims in many respects. Modern Muslim rulers have sought to commemorate Saladin through various measures. A governorate centered around Tikrit and Samarra in modern-day Iraq, Salah ad Din Governorate, is named after him, as is Salahaddin University in Arbil. A suburb community of Arbil, Masif Salahaddin, is also named after him.
Few structures associated with Saladin survive within modern cities. Saladin first fortified the Citadel of 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 citadel, and Saladin introduced this essential feature to Egypt.
Among the forts he built was Qalaat al-Gindi, a mountaintop fortress and caravanserai in the Sinai. The fortress overlooks a large wadi which was the convergence of several caravan routes that linked Egypt and the Middle East. Inside the structure are a number of large vaulted rooms hewn out of rock, including the remains of shops and a water cistern. A notable archaeological site, it was investigated in 1909 by a French team under Jules Barthoux.
The Ayyubid dynasty he founded continued fifty-seven years after his death. The legacy of Saladin within the Arab World continues to this day. With the rise of Arab nationalism in the Twentieth Century, particularly with regard to the Arab-Israeli conflict, Saladin's heroism and leadership gained a new significance. 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 (Iraq, Palestine, and Yemen).
In 1963 an Egyptian film about Saladin was directed by Youssef Chahine and was released, titled Al Nasser Salah Ad-Din. In the 1965 Doctor Who serial The Crusade he was played by Bernard Kay. 2005's Kingdom of Heaven, directed by Ridley Scott, has Saladin portrayed by Syrian actor Ghassan Massoud. In the 2007 Swedish film Arn – The Knight Templar (Arn – Tempelriddaren), Saladin is portrayed by the British Asian actor and supermodel Milind Soman.