Saladin. By ANNE-MARIE EDIag. Translated by Jane Marie Todd. Cambridge, Mass.: HARVARD UNIVER-sin' PRESS, 2011. Pp. xvii + 660, illus. $35.
From the Saladin tithe that followed his destruc-don of the Frankish army and conquest of Jerusalem in 583/1187 to Abdallah al-Sayed's sculpture erected in 1992 outside the citadel in Damascus, there are few historical figures who have had as great an impact in both Europe and the Middle East, in both the middle ages and the modern day, as Saladin. The victor of Hattin has taken various forms, from hero to villain, in a widespread range of depictions that includes political propaganda, school and university textbooks, movies, and even computer games. He has also been the subject of a number of scholarly biographies. of which Anne-Marie Eddes is an outstanding example. Originally published in French by Editions Flammarion in 2008, this excellent work has now been translated into English, an invaluable service that makes it available to a wider range of scholars and students of the crusading period.
Edde's biography takes an approach that shifts between chronological retelling and thematic study. Thus, for example, she recounts Saladin's rise to power in Egypt and his assertion of authority in Syria up to his agreement of the treaty with Mosul in 581/1186 (chapters two to six), then turns to an extended discussion of the foundations on which his power was based and the ways in which he justified his activities (chapters seven to thirteen), including some review of additional events that took place in the period already discussed. before returning to a narrative of the battle of Hain, the conquest of Jerusalem, and the Third Crusade. While this approach might at times be confusing for those unfamiliar with the chronology, it enables her to explore in more detail topics that arise as the narrative proceeds without delaying them unduly and hence making it more difficult to demonstrate their relevance to the main narrative. Such explorations occupy a greater part of the book than the historical retellings. presenting the reader with a thorough and detailed examination of the issues under discussion that complements the chronology. It is worth noting that the thematic studies include, as the last part of the book, five chapters dedicated to the development of Saladin's legendary status in both medieval and modern times.
Eddd makes comprehensive and careful use of the sources available for Saladin's life...