Saladin in Egypt

Saladin in Egypt

Saladin in Egypt

Saladin in Egypt


The rise of Saladin to power in Egypt is a chapter of both Mediterranean and Islamic history. In the period covered by this study, the second half of the twelfth century, profound changes took place in the Eastern Mediterranean affecting the history of the region. The book is divided into two parts. The first deals with the rise of Saladin to power in Egypt (1169-1174) and offers a new interpretation for the demise of the Fatimid state. The second part deals with topics such as the formation of Saladins army in Egypt, the creation of the navy and the role of the navy in the battle for Acre. The author also addresses topics such as the religious policies of Saladin in Egypt and his attitudes toward the non-Muslim communities.


The main aim of this book is to discuss the waning of the Fatimid state and to examine Saladin's policies in Egypt, which created a new political and social order. At the beginning, it seemed a simple and straightforward matter, the sources abundant and freely available. However, progress was hampered by problems with the source material. It became clear that most of our data on Saladin's administrative, fiscal, military and naval policies in Egypt are derived from a single source: the lost contemporary chronicle by Qadi alFadil. Only Saladin's religious policies are well attested to by a variety of the sources due to the rich late medieval biographical literature. Other sources contemporary with Saladin do provide information on his internal policies, but the data are beset by immense contradictions. The difficulties with the sources are not a new problem. A number of scholars have devoted great effort in the attempt to understand and clarify these problems, and my own work relies much on their findings.

The content of the book is shaped by the need to re-examine the sources and events that led to Saladin's rise to power in Egypt. It must be said that re-examination of the sources is frustrating and occasionally quite futile. Saladin is portrayed in diametrically opposed ways by his admirers and some of his critics, notably Ibn al-Athir. Our ability to penetrate beyond these contradictory accounts is seriously hampered by our limited understanding of the system of political and moral values that guided the men of the twelfth century. Therefore, our ability to discern the hidden motives behind the conflicting presentations of Saladin is restricted. Chapter One reflects and deals with these difficulties.

But the situation is not altogether hopeless. The obvious way out of such difficulties with conflicting and contradictory data is to employ sources which do not belong to the two opposing his-

This aspect has been dealt with in great detail by G. La Viere Leiser, see

See the works of H. A. R. Gibb, P. M. Holt and D. S. Richards listed in the
bibliography and quoted in Chapters One and Two.

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