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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 588

it was chiefly because of his reputation for scrupulous observance of his
plighted word and for uncalculating generosity that they surrendered so easily.
Those critics who have found fault with him for allowing such numbers of
knights and merchants to find a refuge in Tyre and so to build up a bridgehead
there for the counterattack have generally failed to consider what the course
of the Third Crusade might have been if on its arrival it had found Saladin
still engaged in the task of reducing one by one the castles of the interior,
without complete freedom of movement and complete security in his rear. That
he did not in fact capture Tyre as well was the result partly of the accident
of Conrad's arrival, and partly of the impatience and insubordination of
the eastern regiments. 
 The second of these causes illustrates sharply the persisting defects of
the forces with which he had to meet the later struggle with the crusaders.
But this was still in the future, and it is unhistorical to imagine Saladin
as preparing plans and disposing his forces to meet the forthcoming invasion
from the west. His thought had from the beginning been concentrated upon
offensive, not defensive, warfare; it was for this purpose that he had built
up his armies, and it had now been largely, and brilliantly, fulfilled. Though
he grieved over the lack of staying-power of his vassals before Tyre and
again in I 188 before Antioch, he saw in these no more than temporary checks,
and confidently expected to make up for them in later campaigns. The first
hint of the coming invasion reached him from the Sicilian admiral Margarit
at Latakia in the autumn of ii88, and so little disturbed was he by the report
that he granted Bohemond a truce only until May 1189, and busied himself
during the winter with preparations to attack Antioch and Tripoli. 
 In all probability, therefore, he was taken by surprise when the first convoys
arrived and Guy's troops succeeded in marching to Acre and investing the
city, on August 27, 1189. From that moment his role was transformed, and
he was faced with a new and grimmer task which no Moslem commander, for centuries
before him, had ever attempted: the task of holding an army in the field
for three years, and that with every circumstance of discouragement. Had
he been no more than a leader of armies, he could not have achieved it; his
feudal troops would have melted away and left the field to the Franks. But
it was in this wholly unexpected conjunction that the true greatness of Saladin
and the inner strength of the instrument which he had created were 

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