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Baldwin, M. W. (ed.) / The first hundred years

XVIII: The Rise of Saladin, 1169-1189,   pp. 562-589 PDF (10.8 MB)

Page 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.

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