Walter Scott, The Talisman, the Crusades, Richard I of England and Saladin: Myths, Legends and History
by Ibn Warraq
Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 4 / Part 5 / Part 6 / Part 7 / Part 8 / Part 9 / Part 10 / Part 11 / Part 12 / Part 13 / Part 14 / Part 15 / Part 16 / Part 17 / Part 18 / Part 19 / Part 20 / Part 21 / Part 22 / Part 23 / Part 24 / Part 25 / Part 26 / Part 27 / Part 28 / Part 29 / Part 30 / Part 31 / Part 32 / Part 33
Mayer continues, “As a consequence of his objectives the author concentrates not so much on the famous wars of Saladin against the Crusaders as on his rise in Egypt and his conquests in Syria and Mesopotamia. There is virtue in this, although basically the shift in emphasis was made by others before. Studying this rise to power inevitably leads to the conclusion that Saladin was not always the gentlemanly enemy he was depicted as being. He could be quite ruthless when he chose to be or when political expediency demanded it.”
Mayer even singles out one of Ehrenkreutz’s genuinely new viewpoints: “On the other hand, Saladin’s dependency on the Egyptian war effort and the growing estrangement from his secretary al-Fadil on this account is well-brought out in this book, and to the best of my knowledge this is a genuinely new viewpoint”.
In the last paragraph of his review, Mayer takes issue with Gibb’s thesis, “Whether Saladin should really be considered as the champion of Muslim unity, as Sir Hamilton Gibb suggested, and whether this was his prime objective rather than the aggrandizement of the Ayyubid family, or whether the expulsion of the Crusaders from the Holy Land was for Saladin an end in itself, to which the power buildup in the Muslim world was only a prelude, is hard to tell, although Ehrenkreutz is probably correct in echoing Prawer’s sentiments that Saladin was a clever politician rather than a hero of the faith….In support of Ehrenkreutz’s views one would also wish for more emphasis on the fact that Saladin is not always eulogized in Muslim sources; the Mosul chroniclers are highly critical of him.”
C.3.3 Ira Lapidus [born c.1935] is an Emeritus Professor of History, Islamic Social History at The University of California at Berkeley, and the author of A History of Islamic Societies and Contemporary Islamic Movements in Historical Perspective, among other works.
As an undergraduate at Harvard, he took a course in Middle Eastern history taught by none other than Sir Hamilton Gibb. Lapidus wrote a very positive account of Ehrenkreutz’s work , praising his biography of Saladin from the opening lines of the review, “The subject of Saladin is fun, and Professor Ehrenkreutz gives an attractive and interesting account of his political career. In the main, Saladin’s career is well known, but Professor Ehrenkreutz nonetheless presents new information carefully culled from the Arabic sources. Saladin’s family background and early life are embellished with fresh and illuminating detail….Professor Ehrenkreutz gives us an amplified account of Saladin’s succession to the generalship of the Syrian forces in Egypt, his accession to the Fatimid wazirate, his consolidation of power, and the return of Egypt to Sunni and Abbasid allegiance.”
Lapidus continues, “Saladin’s subsequent career as ruler of Egypt is well known. Professor Ehrenkreutz confirms that his ambition in the main, was to recapture the former Zengid [Zangid] domains in Syria and Mesopotamia, while his interest in the jihad and war against the Crusaders was clearly secondary, despite his constant propaganda to the contrary. However Professor Ehrenkreutz takes a new and dim view of Saladin’s final struggle with the Crusaders. The great battle of Hattin is only partly to his credit, for Christian mistakes seem to have been decisive. His campaigns against Tyre and Acre, Professor Ehrenkreutz sees as failures and, indeed, disasters….The protracted sieges of Tyre and Acre, which Gibb interprets as a moral triumph frustrated by circumstances, Professor Ehrenkreutz sees as a failure of political will, and indeed, as a moral failure in a man whose conquests were without moral and ideological purpose”.
 Ira M.Lapidus. Saladin by Andrew S. Ehrenkreutz in Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 94, No. 2 (Apr.-Jun., 1974), pp.240-241. Published by American Oriental Society.
To be continued.