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Geoffrey de Vinsauf
Itinerary of Richard I and others to the Holy Land
page. 3


His father was called Job, and his own name was Joseph. For according to the tradition of Mahomet, it is customary among many of the heathens, when they circumcise their children, to give them, Hebrew names also; but their princes, that they may be admonished by their names to be zealous defenders of the Mahometan law, take their own names from the very name of that law. Now, law in their language, is Hadin. Hence Saladin is so called as the upholder of the law; and, as our princes are called either emperors or kings, so theirs are called sultans (soldani ), as it were solddominants.(4) Now Saladin, under Noradin, sultan of Damascus, as a first omen of his power, began by raising an infamous tribute for himself out of the venal courtezans of that city; for he would not allow them to exercise their profession until they had first purchased of him a license. Whatever money he obtained by this base patronage, he lavishly expended on players, and so under the plea of largess, he concealed the design of obtaining the venal favour of the multitude. He was led to aspire at sovereignty by the prediction of a certain Syrian, that he should obtain the government of Damascus and Babylon.(5) Thus he arranged in his own mind the different steps to power, and soon began to aim at more than a kingdom of a small or limited dimensions. In process of time, when his years were matured and he was fit for military service, he came to Enfrid of Tours, the illustrious prince of Palestine, to be mantled, and after the manner of the Franks, received from him the belt of knighthood.

Chapter IV. - How Saladin seized on the kingdoms of Egypt and Damascus, with India and other countries.

At that time a certain Mahometan, named Sewar, governed all Egypt, under Molanus, whom they called Lord in the language of their country, and he had been compelled to pay tribute to Amalric, the victorious king of Jerusalem. Now Molanus shewed himself only three times a year to the

(4)This must be considered rather as a monkish pun, than as offered for a derivation of the Saracenic word.

(5)The Babylon referred to is of course Babylon in Egypt, now Fostat the seat of the Fatimite khalifs.

Egyptians, who made adoration to him on those occasions, and all his subjects bought him so powerful, that it was said the Nile overflowed at his command. Moreover, in obedience to the statutes of the heathen law, he had as many concubines as there are days in the year, and so passing his life in his harem, he gave up all the business of his kingdom to Sewar. At this time Saladin, with his uncle, Saracun, was serving in Egypt, and by an act of treachery, he put to death Molanus and Sewar, and thus gained for himself the sovereignty of Egypt. Not long after, Noradin died, and Saladin, marrying the widow, expelled the lawful heirs, and secured for himself through her the possession of their kingdom. Thus the caprice of fortune brought about the establishment of his great power; she is able to make a rich man out of a poor one: a great man out of a little one; and a lord out of a peasant. If things were measured by judgment, and not by opinion, all earthly power, which can be gained by the wicked and the unworthy, would be estimated as dross. That patron of prostitutes, whose power was among stews, his campaigns in a tavern, his studies among dice and garlic, is suddenly lifted up; he sits among princes, and is even greater than princes; he rules on the throne of Egypt; subdues Damascus; occupies the lands of Roasia and Gesyra, and carries his sovereignty to the centre of India Citerior. Wherefore he assails also and subdues the neighbouring kingdoms, at one time by arms, at another time by deceit, and making one monarchy out of several sceptres, arrogates to himself alone the power of so many kings. Neither is the tyrant’s cupidity ever gratified; the more he gets the more he covets, and strives with all his power to occupy the land which is the inheritance of our Lord. At length an opportunity arose favourable to his wishes, and he hoped to obtain what he never before presumed to hope for. For Raimund, count of Tripoli, and Guy, the eighth king of the Latins,(6) quarrelled for the sovereignty, and a fatal sedition arose among the people.

(6)This was Guy de Lusignan, king of Jerusalem from 1186 to 1191. If we count from Godfrey de Bouillon, Guy was the ninth, and not the eighth, of the Latin kings of Jerusalem. 9

Chapter V. - Of the immense army with which Saladin attacked the army of the Christians, and captured our Lord’s cross with the king Guy, and Acre, and reduced to submission the Land of Promise.

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