Saladin, the great twelfth century Middle East leader, not only created an empire, but also reduced the Crusader presence in the Holy Land. In a comprehensive manner and clear prose, Peter Gubser describes how Saladin rose to power, conquered lands, governed peoples, and raised armies. In addition, he clearly addresses Saladin’s imperial motives, a combination of ambition and devotion to the ideal of unity in Islam.
6 x 9
Saladin, the great Muslim leader of the twelfth century, generated far-reaching change in the Middle East. During his life, he profoundly altered the region’s landscape in religious, political, geographic and ethnic terms. In the West, he is famous for sharply curtailing the Crusader presence in the region, but also for the chivalrous and honorable way he dealt with adversaries and neighbors. In Muslim lands, he is well known – even lionized – for his success vis-à-vis the Crusaders.
Saladin’s achievements in other spheres also notably influenced the course of Middle East history. First, by eliminating Fatimid rule in Egypt as he built his own Ayyubid Empire, he deracinated Shia Islam from that important part of the region. Second, Saladin built a new empire from Egypt, North Africa, and Yemen to the Levant, Syria, Iraq and parts of Anatolia. Third, the Seljuk Turks had ruled large sections of the Middle East. With the ascendancy of Saladin, who was of Kurdish heritage, the role of the Seljuk Turks declined, to be replaced by a more varied group – Kurds, Arabs, Turks, and others – but with a unifying Muslim identity.
The portrait that emerges is that of a complex, humane but hardly sentimental warrior-king with both great talents and inherent flaws, one whose rightful place in history may be closer to conquerors who also built, like Alexander the Great or Napoleon Bonaparte, than to those like Genghis Khan, who merely conquered.