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1911 Encyclopedia Britannica
(Arab. Sala-ud-din, " Honouring the Faith") (1138-1193), first Ayyubite sultan of Egypt, was born at Tekrit in 1138. The brilliance of his career was only made possible by the condition of the East in the 12th century. Such authority as remained to the orthodox caliph of Bagdad (see Caliphate) or the heretical Fatimites of Cairo was exercised by their viziers. The Seljukian empire had, after 1076, been divided and subdivided among Turkish atabegs. The Latin kingdom of Jerusalem had Lexisted ['since 1089 only because it was a united force in the midst of disintegration. Gradually, however, Christian enthusiasm had aroused a counter enthusiasm among the Moslems. Zengi, atabeg of Mosul, had inaugurated the sacred war by his campaigns in Syria (1137-1146). Nur-ed-din, his son, had continued his work by further conquests in Syria and Damascus, by the organization of his conquered lands, and, in 1157, by "publishing everywhere the Holy War." The opportunity of Saladin lay therefore in the fact that his lifetime covers the period when there was a conscious demand for political union in the defence of the Mahommedan faith. By race Saladin was a Kurd of Armenia. His father, Ayyub (Job), and his uncle Shirkuh, sons of a certain Shadhy of Ajdanakan near Dawin, were both generals in Zengi's army. In 1139 Ayyub received Baalbek from Zengi, in 1146 he moved, on Zengi's death, to the court of Damascus. In 1154 his influence secured Damascus to Nur-ed-din and he was made governor. Saladin was therefore educated in the most famous centre of Moslem learning, and represented the best traditions of Moslem culture.
His career falls into three parts, his conquests in Egypt 1164-1174, the annexation of Syria 1174-1187, and lastly the destruc tion of the Latin kingdom and subsequent campaigns against the Christians, 1187-1192. The conquest of Egypt was essential to Nur-ed-din. It was a menace to his empire on the south, the occasional ally of the Franks and the home of the unorthodox caliphs. His pretext was the plea of an exiled vizier, and Shirkuh was ordered to Egypt in 1164, taking Saladin as his lieutenant. The Christians under Count Amalric immediately intervened and the four expeditions which ensued in 1164, 1167, 1168 and 1169 were duels between Christians and Saracens. They resulted in heavy Christian losses, the death of Shirkuh and the appointment of Saladin as vizir. His relations towards the unorthodox caliph Nur-ed-din were marked by extraordinary tact. In 1171 on the death of the Fatimite caliph he was powerful enough to substitute the name of the orthodox caliph in all Egyptian mosques. The Mahommedan religion was thus united against Christianity. To Nur-ed-din he was invariably submissive, but from the vigour which he employed in adding to the fortifications of Cairo and the haste with which he retreated from an attack on Montreal (1171) and Kerak (1173) it is clear that he feared his lord's jealousy.
In 1174 Nur-ed-din died, and the period of Saladin's conquests in Syria begins. Nur-ed-din's vassals rebelled against his youthful heir, es-Salih, and Saladin came north, nominally to his assistance. In 1174 he entered Damascus, Emesa and Hamah; in 1175 Baalbek and the towns round Aleppo. The next step was political independence. He suppressed the name of es-Salih in prayers and on the coinage, and was formally declared sultan by the caliph 1175. In 1176 he conquered Saif-ud-din of Mosul beyond the Euphrates and was recognized as sovereign by the princes of northern Syria. In 1177 he returned by Damascus to Cairo, which he enriched with colleges, a citadel and an aqueduct. From 1177 to 1180 he made war on the Christians from Egypt, and in 1180 reduced the sultan of Konia to submission. From1181-1183he was chiefly occupied in Syria. In 1183 he induced the atabeg Imad-ud-din to exchange Aleppo for the insignificant Sinjar and in 1186 received the homage of the atabeg of Mosul. The last independent vassal was thus subdued and the Latin kingdom enclosed on every side by a hostile empire.
In 1187 a four years' truce was broken by the brilliant brigand Renaud de Chatillon and thus began Saladin's third period of conquest. In May he cut to pieces a small body of Templars and Hospitallers at Tiberias, and, on July 4th, inflicted a crushing defeat upon the united Christian army at Hittin. He then overran Palestine, on September 10th besieged Jerusalem and on October 2nd, after chivalrous clemency to the Christian inhabitants, crowned his victories by entering and purifying the Holy City. In the kingdom only Tyre was left to the Christians. Probably Saladin made his worst strategical error in neglecting to conquer it before winter. The Christians had thus a stronghold whence their remnant marched to attack Acre in June 1189. Saladin immediately surrounded the Christian army and thus began the famous two years' siege.
Saladin's lack of a fleet enabled the Christians to receive reinforcements and thus recover from their defeats by land. On the 8th of June 1191 Richard of England arrived, and on the 12th of July Acre capitulated without Saladin's permission. Richard followed up his victory by an admirably ordered march down the coast to Jaffa and a great victory at Arsuf. During 1191 and 1192 there were four small campaigns in southern Palestine when Richard circled round Beitnuba and Ascalon with Jerusalem as objective. In January 1192 he acknowledged his impotence by renouncing Jerusalem to fortify Ascalon. Negotiations for peace accompanied these demonstrations, which showed that Saladin was master of the situation. Though in July Richard secured two brilliant victories at Jaffa, the treaty made on the 2nd of September was a triumph for Saladin. Only the coast line was left to the Latin kingdom, with a free passage to Jerusalem; and Ascalon was demolished. The union of the Mahommedan East had beyond question dealt the death-blow to the Latin kingdom. Richard returned to Europe, and Saladin returned to Damascus, where on the 4th of March 1193, after a few days' illness, he died. He was buried in Damascus and mourned by the whole East.
The character of Saladin and of his work is singularly vivid. In many ways he was a typical Mahommedan, fiercely hostile towards unbelievers - "Let us purge the air of the air they breathe" was his aim for the demons of the Cross, - intensely devout and regular in prayers and fasting. He showed the pride of race in the declaration that "God reserved this triumph for the Ayyubites before all others." His generosity and hospitality were proved in his gifts to Richard and his treatment of captives. He had the Oriental's power of endurance, alternating with violent and emotional courage. Other virtues were all his own, his extreme gentleness, his love for children, his flawless honesty, his invariable kindliness, his chivalry to women and the weak. Above all he typifies the Mahommedan's utter selfsurrender to a sacred cause. His achievements were the inevitable expression of his character. He was not a statesman, for he left no constitution or code to the East; his empire was divided among his relatives on his death. As a strategist, though of great ability, he cannot be compared to Richard. As a general, he never organized an army. "My troops will do nothing," he confessed, "save when I ride at their head and review them." His fame lives in Eastern history as the conqueror who stemmed the tide of Western conquest on the East, and turned it definitely from East to West, as the hero who momentarily united the unruly East, and as the saint who realized in his personality the highest virtues and ideals of Mahommedanism.
The contemporary Arabian authorities are to be found in Michaud's Recueil des historiens des Croisades (Paris, 1876). This contains the work of Baha-ud-din (1145-1234), diplomatist, and secretary of Saladin, the general history of Ibn-Athir (1160-1233), the eulogist of the atabegs of Mosul but the unwilling admirer of Saladin, and parts of the general history of Abulfeda. The biography of the poet Osema ibn Murkidh (1095-1188), edited by Derenbourg (Paris, 1886), gives an invaluable picture of Eastern life. Later Arabian authorities are Ibn Khallikan (1211-1282) and AbuShama (born 1267). Of Christian authorities the following are important, the history of William of Tyre (1137-1185), the Itinerarium peregrinorum, probably the Latin version of the Carmen Ainbrosii (ed. by Stubbs, "Rolls" series, London, 1864), and the Chronique d'outremer, or the French translation of William of Tyre's history and its continuation by Ernoul, the squire of Balian, seigneur of Ibelin, 1228. The best modern authority is Stanley Lane-Poole's Saladin (" Heroes of the Nations" series, London, 1903). See also the bibliography to CRUSADES. (W. F. K.)
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Chisholm, Hugh, General Editor. Entry for 'Saladin'. 1911 Encyclopedia Britanica. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/bri/s/saladin.html. 1910.