Baldwin, M. W. (ed.) / The first hundred years
XVIII: The Rise of Saladin, 1169-1189, pp. 562-589 PDF (10.8 MB)
Ch. XVIII THE RISE OF SALADIN 587 al-'Adil with his troops and at once besieged and captured the two remaining castles in Palestine, Safad and Belvoir. After the surrender of the latter on January 5 the rest of his forces dispersed, and Saladin made a tour of inspection of his coastal fortresses from Ascalon to Acre.14 The spectacular success of Saladin in reducing the holdings of the crusaders in Syria to three cities, Tyre, Tripoli, and Antioch, with a few outlying fortresses, within the short space of eighteen months, has led both Moslem and western historians to regard him primarily as a great and successful general, whose victories were due to the same military qualities as those of other successful commanders of armies. This is a complete misapprehension. Saladin possessed, indeed, personal military virtues of a high order; but his victories were due to his possession of moral qualities which have little in common with strategic gifts. He was a man inspired by an intense and unwavering ideal, the achievement of which involved him necessarily in a long series of military activities. Down to i i86 these activities were directed to imposing his will upon the prevailing feudal military system and shaping it into the instrument which his purpose required; and the preceding pages have shown that their military aspect was subordinate, in his own mind and to a large extent in practice, to uniting the political forces of western Asia "in one purpose'.' and imbuing them with something of his own tenacity and singleness of outlook. It was by these means, and not by superior strategic ability, that he succeeded in assembling the army that was to destroy the kingdom of Jerusalem. Even the striking campaigns of 1187 and I i88 cannot be held to prove that Saladin possessed outstanding generalship. The victory at Hattin owed as much to the mistakes of the Franks as to his strategy, even when every credit is given to the skill with which the opportunity was seized. The subsequent crumbling of the inner defenses of Jerusalem and Antioch demonstrate rather the fundamental weaknesses of the crusading states than the military genius of the conquerors, a point emphasized by the fact that many of them fell to small detached forces. Furthermore, these very successes were due largely to the exercise of the qualities which most sharply distinguished him from his military contemporaries. Nothing is more remarkable in the sources than his reiterated appeal from the criticisms of his officers to the principles of honor, of good faith, and of a firm religious conviction. When the turn of the Christian cities and castles came, 14 For the campaigns of 1187—1189, see also below, chapter XIX, pp. 615—619.
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