Our latest Underdog is esteemed Military Genius, General Saladin, leader of the Muslim Armies during the Third Crusades.
Saladin (1137 – 4 March 1193), was the first Sultan of Egypt and Syria and the founder of the Ayyubid dynasty. A Sunni Muslim of Kurdish ethnicity, Saladin led the Muslim military campaign against the Crusader states in the Levant.
At the height of his power, his Sultanate included Egypt, Syria, Upper Mesopotamia, the Hejaz, Yemen and other parts of North Africa.
He led forays against the Crusaders in Palestine, and commissioned the successful conquest of Yemen, as well as Upper Egypt. Saladin launched his conquest of Syria, peacefully entering Damascus and by 1182, Saladin had completed the conquest of Muslim Syria after capturing Aleppo.
Under his command, the Ayyubid army defeated the Crusaders at the decisive Battle of Hattin in 1187, and thereafter wrested control of Palestine – including the city of Jerusalem – from the Crusaders, who had conquered the area 88 years earlier.
Although the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem continued to exist until the late 13th century, its defeat at Hattin marked a turning point in its conflict with the Muslim powers of the region.
While Saladin’s legacy is the retaking of Jerusalem, he is also well known for his generosity and compassion. While he was a military genius and a warrior with a cause, he believed that all people were inherently good.
After their defeat, the Christian crusaders who fought against him in the battle to retake Jerusalem were treated with kindness, and he made sure to keep every promise made to the inhabitants of the city. He agreed to a treaty allowing Europeans to hold ports on the Palestinian coast and also allowed Christians the right to make pilgrimages to Jerusalem.
Indeed it has been posited that Saladin’s gracious treatment of the Crusaders forms the basis of today’s Rules of Engagement under the Geneva Convention, particularly with regard to the treatment of Prisoners of War.
He died in Damascus in 1193, having given away much of his personal wealth to his subjects. He has since become a prominent figure in Muslim, Arab, Turkish and Kurdish culture.
Peep the links below for more on Saladin as well as the Crusades Documentaries on our YouTube Channel’s ‘History & Politics’ Playlist.
Links & Credits