In the autumn of 1187 the Sultan Saladin etched his name in history when he regained the holy city of Jerusalem for Islam from the crusaders. His decision to spare the Christian inhabitants – in stark comparison to the massacre perpetrated by the knights of the First Crusade when they seized the city 88 years before – did much to mark him out as a man of honour and mercy.
This talk traces his emergence as the rising star of an ambitious Kurdish clan who ascended to power through military skill and, in his case, considerable charm, piety and good fortune. Saladin and his followers drew together the Muslim Near East to take the jihad to the Christians and capture Jerusalem. He then faced a huge crusading expedition, led by Richard the Lionheart, king of England but in this epic struggle Saladin held on to Jerusalem. We will explore the sultan’s charismatic leadership, but it will also show him as fallible and prone to long periods of ill-health.
Since his death Saladin’s exploits have attracted admiration and attention in the Muslim world and in the West. This talk shows how a man initially branded as ‘the son of Satan’ became so esteemed in Europe and, through extensive new research, will follow how his character and achievements have acted as a role model for generations across the Near East down to the present day.