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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Saladin

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the name given by Western writers to SALAH ED-DIN YUSSEF IBN-AYUB, the sultan of Egypt and Syria, and the founder of the Ayubite dynasty in those countries. As the great Moslem hero of the third crusade, and the beau-ideal of Moslem chivalry, he is one of the most interesting characters presented to us by the history of that period. He belonged to the Kurdish tribe of Ravad, and was born at Tekrit (a town on the Tigris, of which his father, Ayub, was kutwal, or governor, under the Seljuks) in 1137. Following the example of his father and uncle, he entered the service of Noureddin (q.v.), prince of Syria, and accompanied his uncle in his various expeditions to Egypt in command of Noureddin's army. Saladin was at this time much addicted to wine and gambling, and it was not till, at the head of a small detachment of the Syrian army, he was beleaguered in Alexandria by the combined Christians of Palestine and the Egyptians, that he gave indications of possessing the qualities requisite for a great captain. On the death of his uncle, Shirkoh, Saladin became grand-vizier of the Fatimite caliph, and received the title of El-melek el-nasr, "the Victorious Prince." But the Christians of Syria and Palestine, alarmed at the elevation of a Syrian emir to supreme power in Egypt, made a combined and vigorous attack on the new vizier. Saladin foiled them at Danietta, and transferred the contest to Palestine, taking several fortresses, and defeating his assailants near Gaza; but about the same time his new-born power was exposed to a still more formidable danger from his master, Noureddin, whose jealousy of the talents and ambition of his able young lieutenant required all the skill and wariness at Saladin's command to allay.

On Noureddin's death in 1174, Saladin began a struggle with his successor, which ended in his establishing himself as the sultan of Egypt and Syria, a title which was confirmed to him by the caliph of Bagdad. The next ten years were occupied in petty wars with the Christians, and in the arrangement and consolidation of his now extensive dominion. The plundering by the Christians of a rich pilgrim caravan on its way to Mecca, an infringement of the treaty with Saladin, brought down upon them the latter's vengeance. Their army suffered a dreadful defeat at Tuberias (July 4, 1187). The king of Jerusalem, the two grand-masters, and many other warriors of high rank were taken captive; Jerusalem was stormed (Oct. 2), and almost every other fortified place in Palestine was taken. The news of this great success of the infidels being brought to Western Europe, aroused the enthusiasm of the Christians to its highest pitch, and a powerful army of crusaders, headed by the kings of France and England, speedily made their appearance on the scene of strife. They captured Acre in 1191, and Richard Coeur-de-Lion, at the head of that portion of the crusading army which adhered to him, continued the war with success, twice defeated Saladin, took Caesarea and Jaffa, and finally obtained a treaty for three years (Aug. 1192), by which the coast from Jaffa to Tyre was yielded to the Christians. In the following year, Saladin died at Damascus of a disease under which he had long suffered. Saladin was not a mere soldier; his wise administration left behind it traces which endured for centuries; and the citadel of Cairo and sundry canals, dikes, and roads are existing evidences of his careful attention to the wants of his subjects. In him the warrior instinct of the Kurd was united to a high intelligence; and even his opponents frankly attribute to him the noblest qualities of mediaeval chivalry, invincible courage, inviolable fidelity to treaties, greatness of soul, piety, justice, and moderation.

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Saladin'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/s/saladin.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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