Saladin, Saracen leader, is a Kurd whose Arabic name is Salah ad-Din Yusuf.

  • A native of Kurdistan, but educated at an illustrious centre of Islamic learning near Cairo, Saladin is intelligent, well read and a brilliant soldier.
  • Despite being physically unimpressive - he is a short, stout little man and blind in one eye - he became Sultan of an empire that stretched from Egypt to Byzantium.
  • Four years ago, in 1187, whilst the Christians in Outremer quarrelled amongst themselves, the Saracens became united under their leader Saladin who recaptured Jerusalem from the Crusaders.
  • Saladin's Death came very shortly after he had negotiated peace terms with King Richard.

At the age of 14 Saladin joined other members of his family (the Ayyubids) in the service of the Syrian ruler Nur ad-Din. Between 1164 and 1169 he distinguished himself in three expeditions sent by Nur ad-Din to aid the Fatimid caliphate of Egypt against attacks by the Christian Crusaders based in Outremer.

When only 31 years old, he became governor of Egypt and when his uncle Nur ad-Din died he became Sultan with a powerful army at his command. He used the same ruthlessness to invade Syria and the Holy Land that had brought him to power and his army almost wiped out the entire Christian army of Jerusalem on a rocky hill known as the Horns of Hattin in the desert country overlooking the sea of Galilee. Saladin captured a part of the true sacred Holy Cross and after the battle executed all Knights Hospitallers and Templars.

All other Christian towns in Outremer including Jerusalem fell to Saladin with one exception - the port of Tyre managed to hold out under Conrad of Montferrat who became a Christian hero. The King of Jerusalem, Guy of Lusignan, captured at the battle of Hattin, was released by Saladin on his oath that he would take no further part in the fighting; of course, no one is expected to keep an oath with an infidel and he had little difficulty in finding a priest to release him.

Conrad of Montferrat, not recognising Guy of Lusignan as the King of Jerusalem, refused him entry into Tyre but unabashed and against all the odds, Guy besieged Acre with a small number of his own supporters. Setting up his camp on the hill of Turon, a mile east of Acre, Guy and his men were outnumbered four to one and though unable to take the town, neither could Saladin dislodge them.

Saladin brought up more of his forces overland while Christian reinforcements constantly arrived from Europe and Scandinavia. Knights and bishops came from all over Europe - Germans overland, while Flemings and Danes sailed into the port as a combined fleet. The growing Christian force repulsed all Saracen attacks, though not without cost: 'never died knights so unafraid or so quick to lend others aid . . . and among others, the master of the Temple died amid the raging battle-tide.'

The Christians were in a poor position. While they besieged Acre from land and sea, Saladin's forces attacked them from the landward side, pinning them between the hills and town walls. Barricading themselves in trenches bolstered by timber-ends and shields, the Christians repelled Saladin's Turkish cavalry who 'assailed them whether torrid or chilly was the weather.'

They held on through the hard winter waiting for help from King Richard and King Philip and their crusading armies, and eventually Saladin was forced to sign a truce with King Richard.

Saladin's Death

On Friday 19 Febuary 1193, though very ill, Saladin rode out from Damascus to welcome home pilgrims returning from Mecca. His greatest ambition had been to make the pilgrimage to Mecca but he had never found the time. It was a bitterly cold day as the northerly wind from Syria whipped up the dust and that evening Saladin had to take to his bed with a fever.

As days passed his condition worsened and he lapsed into unconsciousness. On 3 March, the Cadi read the Koran over him. When he came to the words: 'There is no God but God, in Him do I trust,' Saladin opened his eyes, smiled, and died.

King Richard Sets Off
Two Kings in Sicily
Siege of Acre
Marriage Arranged
King Richard Weds
Arrival at Acre
Acre Falls
Battle of Arsuf
Retreat from Holy City
King Richard's Crusade


Saladin Defeated at Jaffa
King Richard Captured
Eleanor of Aquitaine
William Marshall
Earl John
Chancellor Longchamps
Double Dealing
Attack on Nottm. Castle

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