Friday, October 1, 2010


Or more to the point, who am I referring to? Of whom is Saladin speaking in this passage from Chapter 8 of The Swords of Faith, a novel about the Third Crusade by Richard Warren Field?
September 19, 1187
The Road from Ascalon to Jerusalem
Mid Morning

“He is asking my permission to violate his oath,” Saladin said. He was smiling as he shook his head.
Saladin and his entourage of guards and top command leaders had halted in the midst of a large column of soldiers. Support personnel with supplies, including catapults and large wooden components for siege engines, marched with the column. The column moved at a comfortable travel speed across a gently rolling, brownish-green terrain, through a mild, late summer climate. Saladin’s entourage remained mounted.
Saladin held up a letter he had just finished reading. “He says the people of Jerusalem have taken him into custody and demand he organize the defense of the city.” 
Taqi al-Din frowned with an “I-told-you-so” expression, then snorted in disgust. “Why do we ever accept the oaths of these Franks?” 
“At least he asks permission to violate the oath,” al-Adil said. “Usually the Franks just get one of their priests to release them from the oath, on the grounds that an oath to a non-Christian is not binding.” 
Saladin studied the letter. “We keep hoping to teach our opponents … something of honor.” He grinned. “XXXX writes me in perfect Arabic, respectfully, as if I am his sultan.” 
Taqi al-Din shrugged. 
“He’ll violate his oath. We know that,” al-Fadil said. “Make him squirm. Deny him permission.” 
Saladin shook his head. “Since we know he will violate the oath regardless of what we say, it costs us nothing to be magnanimous. We have yet another opportunity to demonstrate the superiority of our faith.” 
Al-Adil nodded. Taqi al-Din grinned. Al-Fadil shrugged. 
“In fact, we’ll take it a step further.” Saladin looked at Imad al-Din.
“Prepare our reply. Release XXXX from his oath.” He turned to his guards. 
“Take a squad. Tell XXXX we will escort his wife and children to Tyre, their safety guaranteed by my orders.” 
“What if XXXX believes this is a trick to take his wife and children hostage?” al-Fadil asked. 
Taqi al-Din laughed out loud. 
“They know our sultan,” al-Adil said. “They’ll know it’s no trick.” 
Saladin smiled. His brother’s observation was the greatest compliment possible. Even his enemies could count on his reputation of honor. Adherence to the principles of Islam—the world knew this was the source of that reputation. 
“In the meantime,” Taqi al-Din said, “we have reports from our advance scouts that Franks from Jerusalem are gathering all the supplies they can find to prepare for our attack. We have posted advance guards around the water supplies.” 
“We will be in position outside the Holy City before the sun sets tomorrow. That will end their runs for supplies.” Saladin looked at Taqi al-Din. “Don’t despair of our gesture of generosity to XXXX. The Holy City’s days of captivity will be ended by fire and sword as I have sworn. XXXX may yet curse his presence there to witness our triumph. Within the next four Fridays, we will have Friday prayers in the Holy City.” 
Taqi al-Din nodded and smiled.
Click comment below to post your answer. Even if only to have an educated guess, or just a stab in the dark. Here's a clue: If you saw the movie “Kingdom of  Heaven,” you may have an advantage.

1.    King Guy/Guy of Lusignan
2.    Conrad of Montferrat
3.    Balian of Ibelin
4.    Richard the Lionheart

When a few answers have rolled in, I'll give more details about this event in history included what each of the above were up to at this time. Meanwhile, you can find out more at Richard's website.

1 comment:

lordteaspoon said...

This was probably a little tricky, hence no replies to it. The correct answer is 3. Balian of Ibelin.

As is depicted in “Kingdom of Heaven,” Balian of Ibelin does command the defence of Jerusalem in late 1187. But as dramatized in this passage, the circumstances of his presence in Jerusalem are much different than portrayed in the movie. (For more details, see the author's article “‘Kingdom of Heaven:’ Sorting Fact from Fiction” -

King Guy/Guy of Lusignan was still in Saladin’s custody at this time. Conrad of Montferrat was up in Tyre, where he had thwarted Saladin’s efforts to take the coastal city a few months earlier. Richard the Lionheart was in Europe concerned about whether his father would declare Richard heir to the English throne; he would not learn of the disastrous Christian defeats at the hands of Saladin until later in the year.