Muslim Hero of the Third Crusade

Image of Saladin from a 15th century manuscript. Public Domain

Saladin was also known as:

Al-malik An-nasir Salah Ad-din Yusuf I. "Saladin" is a westernization of Salah Ad-din Yusuf Ibn Ayyub.

Saladin was known for:

founding the Ayyubid dynasty and capturing Jerusalem from the Christians. He was the most famous Muslim hero and a consummate military tactician.


Military Leader
Crusader Adversary

Places of Residence and Influence:

Asia: Arabia

Important Dates:

Born: c. 1137
Victorious at Hattin: July 4, 1187
Recaptured Jerusalem: Oct. 2, 1187
Died: March 4, 1193

About Saladin:

Saladin was born to a well-off Kurdish family in Tikrit and grew up in Ba'lbek and Damascus. He began his military career by joining the staff of his uncle Asad ad-Din Shirkuh, an important commander. By 1169, at the age of 31, he had been appointed vizier of the Fatimid caliphate in Egypt as well as commander of the Syrian troops there.

In 1171, Saladin abolished the Shi'ite caliphate and proclaimed a return to Sunni Islam in Egypt, whereupon he became that country's sole ruler. In 1187 he took on the Latin Crusader Kingdoms, and on July 4 of that year he scored a resounding victory at the Battle of Hattin. On October 2, Jerusalem surrendered. In retaking the city, Saladin and his troops behaved with great civility that contrasted sharply with the bloody actions of the western conquerors eight decades earlier.

However, though Saladin managed to reduce the number of cities held by the Crusaders to three, he failed to capture the coastal fortress of Tyre. Many Christian survivors of the recent battles took refuge there, and it would serve as a rallying point for future Crusader attacks. The recapture of Jerusalem had stunned Christendom, and the result was the launch of a third Crusade.

Over the course of the Third Crusade, Saladin managed to keep the greatest fighters of the West from making any significant advances (including the notable Crusader, Richard the Lionheart). By the time fighting was finished in 1192, the Crusaders held relatively little territory in the Levantine.

But the years of fighting had taken their toll, and Saladin died in 1193. Throughout his life he had displayed a total lack of pretension and was generous with his personal wealth; upon his death his friends discovered he'd left no funds to pay for his burial. Saladin's family would rule as the Ayyubid dynasty until it succumbed to the Mamluks in 1250.

More Saladin Resources:

Saladin in Print
Biographies,  primary sources, examinations of Saladin's military career, and books for younger readers.

Saladin on the Web
Websites that offer biographical information on the Muslim hero and background on the situation in the Holy Land during his lifetime.

Medieval Islam
The Crusades

Chronological Index

Geographical Index

Index by Profession, Achievement, or Role in Society

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Snell, Melissa. "Saladin." ThoughtCo, Sep. 20, 2021, Snell, Melissa. (2021, September 20). Saladin. Retrieved from Snell, Melissa. "Saladin." ThoughtCo. (accessed February 6, 2023).