Saladin

At WU History it is time for out of your comfort zone! So far I have predominately looked at the eighteenth century and the twentieth century with a particular focus on cultural history. This January post would contain a biography of the first Sultan of Egypt and Syria, Saladin.

Saladin was the first Sultan of Egypt and Syria during the twelfth century and is considered to be a very wise and effective ruler according to historians. Saladin came from a Kurdish background and in the Islamic world he was known by another name, Salah al-Din Yusuf. In spite of Saladin becoming s great military leader he was in actual fact more interested in other things during his youth. According to source material Saladin had an interest in religion during his early life rather than taking an interest in military. This is interesting as Saladin lived in an area where there were many religions and customs which included Islam, Judaism and Christianity. Saladin also moved to different places within the Arab region, this first instance occurred soon after his birth where his family moved from Tikrit to Mosul and eventually Damascus in Syria.

Saladin was known for his great military prowess during the Crusades, The forces he led were able to triumph over European forces who came to the Holy land in order to control it during the Battle of Hattin in 1187. As a result of this battle the Muslims recaptured the Holy land, which included Jerusalem. However another crusade resulted when the European forces were defeated by Saladin and his men, known as the Third Crusade. Saladin and his forces were defeated by Richard the Lion heart and his crusaders at the Battle of Arsur in 1191. In spite of Saladin losing his territory he was a good negotiator and was able to make a pact with Richard, enabling Muslim control to remain in Jerusalem.

However before he became famous for the Battle of Hattin his military career started with his uncle, Asad al-Din Shirkuh and was a subordinate of the north Syrian military leader of Mesopotamia, Nur al-Din. He aided and eventually led in conflicts with other Muslim territories. An example of this occurred in Egypt, where Saladin offered his military service over three campaigns. In 1169 he rose through the ranks to become an expeditionary leader, after this his position in Egypt improved to the extent that he brought an end to the Shi’ite Fatimid caliphate, a powerful dynasty that ruled not only Egypt but stretching as far as the Maghreb region, North Africa. Upon capturing Egypt, it generated a lot of wealth for Saladin and using this wealth established a dynasty of his own, the Ayyubid dynasty that covered from Egypt towards parts of Mesopotamia, notably Syria and the Levant coast, bringing many major cities in those regions under his control such as Damascus and Mosul, which united the Muslims of those areas before fighting against crusaders again.

As well as being a good military commander and being skilled in battle, Saladin was a wise ruler and ruled efficiently, particularly when it came to foreign affairs. In spite of being of his army killing many of the crusaders in battle and capturing many others to sell as slaves after the warring disputes over who should rule the Holy land, Saladin did allow Christian pilgrims to visit Jerusalem and Christian merchants to trade there without any interferences or hostility even though Saladin and his forces defeated Richard and his forces, ending the Third crusade.

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