Working simultaneously on two levels, Saladin represents the best kind of biographya portrait of a man who is said to have made an age, and the most complete account we have to date of an age that made the man. Unlike biographies that focus on Saladin’s military exploits, especially the recapturing of Jerusalem from European Crusaders in 1187, Eddé’s narrative draws on an incredible array of contemporary sources to develop the fullest picture possible of a ruler shaped profoundly by the complex Arabian political environment in which he rose to prominence. The result is a unique view of the Crusades from an Arab perspective.
Saladin became a legend in his own time, venerated by friend and foe alike as a paragon of justice, chivalry, and generosity. Arab politicians ever since have sought to claim his mantle as a justification for their own exercise of power. But Saladin's world-historical status as the ideal Muslim ruler owes its longevity to a tacit agreement among contemporaries and later chroniclers about the set of virtues Saladin possessedvirtues that can now be tested against a rich tapestry of historical research. This tension between the mythical image of Saladin, layered over centuries and deployed in service of specific moral and political objectives, and the verifiable facts of his life available to a judicious modern historian is what sustains Anne-Marie Eddé's erudite biography, published to acclaim in France in 2008 and offered here in smooth, readable English translation.
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About the Author
Anne-Marie Eddé is Director of Research at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), Paris, and was Professor of Medieval History at the University of Reims.
What People are Saying About This
[A]n impressive biography of Saladin … supported by a multiplicity of sources, known or previously unknown: chronicles, travel narratives, letters, poems, administrative treatises. . . . Although [Eddé] is intent on placing that extraordinary figure within his context, on understanding his conception of power and how he founded his dynasty, she endeavors above all to analyze the discourses of which he has been the object from the Middle Ages to the present, discourses serving to fashion his myth. The result of that exacting and rigorous undertaking is at once accessible to the non-specialist and compelling, allowing us to rediscover a Saladin richer and more complex than that of his Western or Eastern legend.
Georgia Makhlouf, Le Jour
A central figure in the history of the Crusades, an enlightened sovereign, a reunifier of the Muslim world, Saladin … is more than an icon in the East, he is the greatest figure of its glorious past and the model of the ruler par excellence. Profoundly attached to Arab values, he is awash with unparalleled glory and respect from the time of his reign until the present, and from his own territories to Europe. That cannot fail to raise problems when it comes to writing his biography. In fact, between hagiographical accounts emerging directly from his close circle and hostile criticism from his fiercest detractors, there was no objective middle course. This book constitutes the first step on that path: rigorous without being academic, resituating the man within his context and noting the influences exerted on him, it proposes to discover, beyond the usual panegyrics, the hidden face of Saladin, a portrait in light and shadow.
Chrysostome Gourio, Libraire Le Comptoir des Mots
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
My interest in Saladin began when i saw the movie Kingdom of Heaven which recounts the fictionalized adventures of Balian of Ibelin in the Holy Land between 1184 and 1187. Although it was not the first time i heard about him. I remember reading his story when i was a child, which was written specifically for children. Then this book poped up while i was surfing book catalogues on the internet. So I immediately bought the book. Well, this book is not a chronological history of Saladin, which was a bit of disappointment in the begining but as i moved along the book it became interesing and interesting. It is a kind of analysis or discourse about his era, his personality and his legend. The author discusses almost all aspects (to count a few: the need of legitimacy of his throne; why he needed the caliph's backing; how he managed to build an empire; illustrating his strategy, his wins and losses in war; what were his strategic interests; how he was able to build his image as a hero; his relation to Richard the Lionheart; the trade and markets of his time; his love for orthodoxy and hatered for philosophisizing; his rules of war and treatment of his prisons of war; his realtion to his own subjects; his image vs reality; being guardian of faith; his strengths and weaknesses; how he was able to manage his sufferings; his relation to Christians and Jews of that time; and how his myth and legend was created overtime by both Christian and Muslim authors/historians over the coming years). Well I am not going to discuss all these matters here. It is for you to read and discover for yourself. If you prefer to read his chronologic history then may be this book should not be the first choice. But as far as complete analysis of his life is concerned i would count this book as one of the best. Some readers, i am sure, going to say that the author is biased. But i don't think so. The author gives, most of the times, "two ends of spectrum" like picture and then states that the truth must lie somewhere in between. Plus it is very difficult for any historian to be not biased about Saladin, because all of his personality and his histiography was biased from the begining. Muslims and Christians both exaggerated his picture according to their own interests, and with the passage of time as his legend and myth was created even more disambiguation about his character developed. In the end i would say it is a really good book, i thorougly enjoyed it. Learned some new facts and was able to see and analyze Saladin from different perspectives.
The book has all the information , but the way the author breaks up the book into facets of the man makes it hard to follow the chronology of events . I guess if you were a medieval history professor with a lot of background on the crusades it might work , but for a layman trying to understand the events of the time around Saladin it's hard going back and forth in time trying to match the family life , with the political life with the military career .