Saladin is chiefly remembered today for the part he played in the Crusades. Although he was a Moslem and fought to hold the holy places of Jerusalem against the Christians, he was admired by the Christian leaders, including King Richard l (Lion Heart) of England, for he was a just and chivalrous enemy.
Salah ud-Din, which was his proper name, was a Kurd from Armenia. He was born at Tekrit, in what is now Iraq, at a time when the Moslem people were much divided. There were rival caliphs (rulers claiming descent from the prophet Mohammed) in Cairo and in Baghdad. Saladin was sent by sent by the Baghdad caliph to invade Egypt and when the caliph of Cairo died in 1171 he succeeded in uniting the followers of the two rivals. In 1174 Saladin's own caliph died, and a year later Saladin made himself sultan (ruler) of both Syria and Egypt. He ruled his lands well, building colleges and an aqueduct in Cairo.
In 1187 Saladin overran the whole of Palestine and entered Jerusalem, previously held by Christians, in the October of that year. This victory roused the kings of the west to set out on what became known as the Third Crusade. Jerusalem remained in the hands of the Moslems, and although Richard Lion Heart won victories elsewhere, it was clear that Saladin, by uniting the Moslems and filling them with religious enthusiasm, had overthrown the Christian power in Jerusalem. During the struggle Saladin sent gifts to Richard and, it is said, sent his own physician to cure him when he was sick.
A truce was finally made with Saladin in 1192, leaving the way to Jerusalem open to Christian pilgrims. A year later Saladin died and was buried in Damascus.
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