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Saladin of Arabia in Dante's Inferno

Yevanit Reschechtko AP Language and Composition Period 4 4/19/10
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Yevanit Reschechtko

on 22 April 2010

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Transcript of Saladin of Arabia in Dante's Inferno

Saladin of Arabia in Dante's Inferno Yevanit Reschechtko
AP Language and Composition
Period 4 4/19/10 Saladin in the Inferno “And sitting at a distance separately I saw lone Saladin of Arabia.” Canto IV lines 113-114
While Saladin was Muslim and therefore the Christians’ rival in the Crusades, Dante puts him in the first circle of Hell, along with the other virtuous, un-Baptized souls, like those of Aristotle and the other great Roman Thinkers. Why would Dante put this man, who is not only Muslim, but also was one of the main enemies of the Christian Crusaders, in a ring of Hell with other people whom he clearly admires?

Historical Saladin Saladin’s full name was Salah al-Din Yusef ib-Ayyub, but he was also called salah al-Din al Ayubi. To the West, he was known simply as Saladin.
Saladin was born in Tikrit, Iraq in 1138. He reigned as sultan of Egypt and Syria from 1174 to 1193, and he died on March 4, 1193.
He was a Kurd and a Sunni Muslim.
Saladin started out as a Kurdish warrior, trained by his Uncle, Shirkuh, who was an important military commander.
His first major role in an expedition was a battle against Crusader-Egyptian forces on the border of the Nile River. Recruited by Shawar, vizier of Egypt, who commanded their army.
Saladin’s side won the battle and Saladin was credited as a major help in this remarkable victory. Later, Saladin reportedly assassinated Shawar, the vizier of Egypt and that man with whom his uncle, Shirkuh, was struggling for power. (Also the man for whom Saladin fought his earliest victorious battle.)
He was then appointed as Shawar’s replacement by a man named al-Adid. This was surprising, because al-Adid was a Shiite and Saladin was Sunni; furthermore the caliphs supposedly told al-Adid that Saladin was too young and weak for the emirs to obey him.
Once he was vizier of Egypt, Saladin had split loyalties between al-Adid, and his uncle’s friend Nur ad-Din, who threatened to get Saladin in trouble if Saladin did not obey Nur ad-Din’s orders. Saladin crushed some attempts for his assassination and a revolt, and participated in more battles against the Crusaders.
Saladin also began granting his family members high-ranking positions in the Egyptian government.
As Saladin won more and more important battles against the Crusaders, he gained a stronger hold in Egypt. In 1174, Nur ad-Din was poisoned and died, leaving Saladin with much more political independence. He was now able to annex Syria and was received as their new king. Saladin continued to conquest other lands that used to belong to Nur ad-Din.
His adversaries claimed that he showed no gratitude to Nur ad-Din and had forgotten him and was using Nur ad-Din’s death to gain power. Saladin countered that he was defending Islam from the Crusaders. In 1175, Zengid troops claimed Saladin had usurped Syria, which was rightfully theirs; Saladin’s army annihilated them and Saladin became the king of Syria as well.
He was now officially the Sultan of Egypt and Syria, a huge and important Arab kingdom.
Saladin continued to extend his empire and deceive and outsmart his adversaries who wanted to overthrow him.
Saladin's Capture of Jerusalem Jerusalem was the Holy City both for Muslims and for Christians, so it was inevitable that many of the Crusades were fought there.
In 1099, the Latin Kingdom took over the city of Jerusalem, led by Richard "the Lionhearted". During the takeover of the city, the Crusaders treated the citizens of Jerusalem horrendously:
Muslim and Jewish men living in the city were executed, women were raped or expelled from the city, and homes and holy places were raided and pillaged. Saladin set his sights on Jerusalem in 1187. He had already captured almost every other holy site belonging to the Crusaders.
Saladin waged war against the inhabitants of Jerusalem for three bloody months.
The leaders of Jerusalem, most notably the Patriarch Heraclius and Balian of Ibelin, held a meeting to decide what their military options were, since they could no longer hold the city.
While many men advocated for launching a massive attack so that they could die honorably in defense of the holy city, the patriarchs argued that if all the men were killed, the women and children would be converted to Islam. Heraclius decided that the only option was surrender.
After much discussion on Saladin's side, both with Balian from the Christian side, and with Saladin's advisors, Saladin agreed to accept their surrender rather than continuing an attack that would surely annihilate everyone in the city.
Saladin allowed all Christians to leave the city safely if they paid a departure tax.
When the city was surrendered in October 1187, Saladin released 3,000 religious prisoners. Meanwhile, the Latins began preparing to leave the city, taking all of the treasures and precious metals from their churches with them. Saladin's advisor complained to Saladin that the Latins were carrying 200,000 dinars worth of treasure out of the city. While they had signed the safe conduct agreement, the advisor argued, it had to do only with the people and their homes, not their churches.
However, Saladin insisted that his army let them go with the treasures, saying "If we interperet the treaty (now) against their interest, they will accuse us of treachery, as though they are unaware of the real meaning of the treaty. Let us deal with them according to the wording of the treaty so they may not accuse the believers of breaking the covenant. Instead they will talk of the favors we have bestowed upon them." It soon came to Saladin's attention that many of the older and poorer citizens would not be able to pay the departure tax, and the other Christians weren't willing to pay it for them. Instead of executing these people or simply letting them fend for themselves, Saladin sent out word that any elderly person who could not afford the tax could leave anyway.
Saladin also released thousands of slaves and allowed many noble and even common women to leave city without having to pay the departure tax. He also realeased 1,500 Armenians without making them pay the tax. During the departure of the Christian refugees, Saladin ordered 50 of his officers to escort each group out of the city and into Christian territories to ensure their safety. The officers even were said to have let the weak and elderly ride their horses and carry Christian children who grew tired.
Finally, Saladin outlawed any rape, pillage, torture, or unjust treatment of the refugees, claiming that this behavior was un-Islamic.
After the takeover of the city, Saladin still allowed religious freedom in Jerusalem, encouraging Christians, Muslims, and Jews to live side by side in the city. Should Saladin Really be in Limbo? In the Inferno, Dante Places Saladin in the first Circle of Hell, Limbo. Dante reserves Limbo for people whom he respected as good and honorable people who were either born before Christ and therefore couldn't be baptized, or belonged to a different religion and so were not baptized. Saladin belongs to the latter category.
But was Saladin really honorable enough to be in Limbo, or does he belong lower down in Hell? The Bad Saladin did a few pretty nasty things in his life:
Later, Saladin reportedly assassinated Shawar, the vizier of Egypt and that man with whom his uncle, Shirkuh, was struggling for power. (Also the man for whom Saladin fought his earliest victorious battle.)

Assassination is the same as murder, so Saladin murdered someone. But that's not all. Saladin murdered Shawar, who was his boss when he was in the army. If he assassinated his boss, that's betrayal, isn't it? Now who else betrayed their boss? What about Judas Iscariot, Jesus's apostle? Guess where Judas is in Hell: he's in the pit of hell, the ninth circle. Not only that, he got a whole part of Hell named after him: Judecca. And now, according to Dante, Judas is being eaten alive by Lucifer--for eternity. So why does Saladin get to be in Limbo when he, too, betrayed his master, which is what Dante considers the very worst sin? The Good Saladin has to have done something good, otherwise why would Dante put an enemy in the most humane circle of Hell? Saladin set his sights on Jerusalem in 1187. He had already captured almost every other holy site belonging to the Crusaders.
Saladin waged war against the inhabitants of Jerusalem for three bloody months.

Saladin was fighting the Christians in the Crusades; when he was in Jerusalem, he was even fighting Latin Christians, who were Dante's ancestors. And Saladin must have done some pretty bad things while he was fighting the Crusaders, otherwise how would he have won so many wars? Who else fought against Dante's ancestors? What about Sinon, the Greek who convinced the Trojans to take the Trojan horse? Sinon was sent to the tenth pouch of the eighth circle of Hell for this little lie; but he was just supporting his side in the war! It seems that Sinon got punished so horribly because Dante descended from the Trojans. But if Sinon is so severely punished for being clever and beating Dante's ancestors in a war, why isn't Saladin punished for doing almost the same exact thing? Saladin agreed to accept their surrender rather than continuing an attack that would surely annihilate everyone in the city.
Saladin allowed all Latins to leave the city safely if they paid a departure tax.
When the city was surrendered in October 1187, Saladin released 3,000 religious prisoners.

During this time period, the Crusaders were never very humane with their war captives. So it would have been fine if Saladin had simply murdered and raped all of the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Yet not only didn't he rape or murder them, he allowed them to leave safely and released their prisoners. That's pretty nice. "If we interperet the treaty (now) against their interest, they will accuse us of treachery, as though they are unaware of the real meaning of the treaty. Let us deal with them according to the wording of the treaty so they may not accuse the believers of breaking the covenant. Instead they will talk of the favors we have bestowed upon them."

Saladin could have easily ordered the Christians to leave the treasures from their churches in Jerusalem. Instead, he cared more about how the Christians would look back on their conquerers, rather than thinking about the amount of money he would gain from taking their riches. Saladin sent out word that any elderly person who could not afford the tax could leave anyway.
Saladin also released thousands of slaves and allowed many noble and even common women to leave city without having to pay the departure tax. He also realeased 1,500 Armenians without making them pay the tax.

These measures, too, were unnecessary. Instead of killing those who were too poor to pay the departure tax, Saladin took pity on them and let them leave without paying anything. Saladin ordered 50 of his officers to escort each group out of the city and into Christian territories to ensure their safety. The officers even were said to have let the weak and elderly ride their horses and carry Christian children who grew tired.
Saladin outlawed any rape, pillage, torture, or unjust treatment of the refugees, claiming that this behavior was un-Islamic.

These measures seem almost over the top. Why would Saladin bother to ensure that the Christian refugees arrived in Christian territories safely? Wasn't it enough that they were leaving Jerusalem alive? The Verdict Saladin did some great things for both his people and for the Christians. He also did some pretty awful things. How did Dante choose to put Saladin in Limbo instead of Judecca or the Malebolge? It's impossible to know for sure. Maybe Dante thought that Saladin's virtues outweighed his sins. It's also possible that he didn't even know about the assassination of Shawar, as it's unlikely that Dante was so up-to-date on the political scandals of Arabia that occured 100 years before he was born. Dante is certain to have heard good things about the way Saladin treated the refugees in Jerusalem, so maybe that's all he really knew about Saladin, and just assumed that he was a good man because the West considered him to be honorable. Whatever the reason, Dante decided to place Saladin in Limbo, and it's pretty hard to argue with Dante's Inferno. Works Cited "Saladin-Salah al-Din Ayubbi." Jewish Virtual Library. American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise, 2010. Web. 21 Apr 2010. <http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/biography/Saladin.html>.
Soufan, Saira W. "The Magnanimity of Salah al-Din." Jerusalemites. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Apr 2010. <http://www.jerusalemites.org/jerusalem/islam/36.htm>.
"Saladin." Wikipedia. 2010. Web. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saladin>.
"Illustration of Salah al-Din Yusef ib-Ayyub." About.com. Web. 21 Apr 2010. <atheism.about.com/.../blxtn_crus_ill39.htm>.
"Jerusalem." BibleWalks.com. Web. 21 Apr 2010. <www.biblewalks.com/Sites/jerusalem.html>.
"An Alley in the Old City in Jerusalem." planetware. Web. 21 Apr 2010. <http://www.planetware.com/picture/jerusalem-jewish-quarter-isr-jer138.htm>.
"Artistic Representation of Saladin." Wikipedia ONDVD. Web. 21 Apr 2010. <www.wikipediaondvd.com/nav/art/a/h/p.html>.
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