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Saladin, the Bane of the Franks

I f there ever was one man who could be called the doom of the Franks in the Holy Land, his name is surely Saladin. Born in 1138 as Salah-ad-Din, Yusuf-bin-Ayub, or Righteousness of the Faith, Joseph son of Job, he was a Sunni Muslim of Kurdish origin. He could be called the fourth great anticrusader after Zengi, Nur-ed-Din, and Shirkuh, his uncle. In his youth he was a student of the Koran, Arabic, and poetry, but he became consumed with Jihad, the Holy War, against the infidel Franks who had installed themselves in Palestine.

S aladin was a very clever strategist, and in 1164 -1169 he was on many campaigns. In 1174 he was on the battle contingecy that took Damascus, and in 1177 he took Ascalon with 26,000 men. However, at Al-Ramlah he suffered a heavy defeat against Franks, who were under Templar command. In the battle he was forced to fight in the desert without supplies, water, or pasturage for horses, and he was eventually forced to retreat to Egypt. He learned his lesson well and was able to put his knowledge in good use at the Battle at the Horns of Hattin.

I n 1179 he won the important battle at Jacob's Ford, which crosses the River Jordan between Lake Huleh and Lake Tiberias. In that battle, fought over the dominion of a small but strong Crusader outpost castle, mostly run by Templars, he took a major victory, as many knights instrumental to the defense of that remote corner of the Kingdom fell. It is reported that the Templars fought very valiantly, but at the end were overrun by a numerically far superior Muslim army. The loss of Jacob's Ford seriously weakened the Crusader defenses, and another such disaster was the Battle of Nazareth.

I n 1183 Aleppo recognized Saladin as the overlord of the territory, and so did Mosul in 1186. Saladin was by now the most influential of all Muslim leaders. Then, in July 1187, the Christians suffered a decimating loss at the Horns of Hattin. After that the fall of Jerusalem was only a question of time, and its time came on 2 October when Saladin entered the Holy City. This caused the Christian world to take a deep breath and try to arrange a reconquest. For this purpose England installed a Saladin tithe to collect funds for fighting the Muslims. On 29 October, Pope Gregory VIII issued the bull Audita Tremendi, with which he proclaimed the start of the Third Crusade. Richard I of England embarked for the Holy Land with Philip II of France. Meanwhile, in 1191 Saladin demolished the fort at Ascalon.

W hen Richard reached Jaffa in September, he rebuilt Ascalon to act as a primary fortress in the area. Saladin attempted to recapture Jaffa in August 1192, only to be thwarted by Richard's courageous defense. After this Saladin entered a treaty with Richard: under the terms, Ascalon's fortifications were to be torn down, Christians were to recover control of the coast between Acre and Jaffa, and Jerusalem was to be opened for Christian pilgrims. Shortly after this treaty, in 1193, Saladin died, leaving the Muslims quarreling over his empire. Succession was under heavy dispute for seven years, but in 1200 Saladin's brother Saphadin took control.

Armory Bailey Barracks Chapel Dungeon Library Pub

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