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  • Published: 29 September 2020
  • ISBN: 9780099572749
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 512
  • RRP: $24.99

The Life and Legend of the Sultan Saladin

The riveting and definitive biography of the Islamic world's most famous military hero

'Superbly researched and enormously entertaining... One of the outstanding books of the year' The Times

An epic story of empire-building and bloody conflict, this ground-breaking biography of one of history's most venerated military and religious heroes opens a window on the Islamic and Christian worlds' complex relationship.


When Saladin recaptured Jerusalem from the Crusaders in 1187, returning the Holy City to Islamic rule, he sent shockwaves throughout Christian Europe and the Muslim Near East that reverberate today.

It was the culmination of a supremely exciting life. Born into a significant Kurdish family in northern Iraq, this warrior and diplomat fought under the banner of jihad, but at the same time worked tirelessly to build an empire that stretched from North Africa to Western Iraq. Gathering together a turbulent coalition, he was able to capture Jerusalem, only to trigger the Third Crusade and face his greatest adversary, King Richard the Lionheart.

Drawing on a rich blend of Arabic and European sources, this is a comprehensive account of both the man and the legend to which he gave birth, describing vividly the relentless action of his life and tracing its aftermath through culture and politics all the way to the present day.

'An authoritative and brilliantly told account of the life of one of the world's greatest - and most famous - military leaders' Peter Frankopan

  • Published: 29 September 2020
  • ISBN: 9780099572749
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 512
  • RRP: $24.99

About the author

Jonathan Phillips

Jonathan Phillips is Professor of Crusading History at Royal Holloway, University of London. He is the author of Holy Warriors: A Modern History of the Crusades; The Second Crusade: Extending the Frontiers of Christianity; The Fourth Crusade and the Sack of Constantinople; The Crusades, 1095-1197; Defenders of the Holy Land, 1119-1187 and the co-editor of three academic essay collections on the Crusades. Phillips is the co-editor of the academic journal Crusades, writes for BBC History and History Today and has made numerous radio and television appearances.

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Praise for The Life and Legend of the Sultan Saladin

An authoritative and brilliantly told account of the life of one of the world's greatest - and most famous - military leaders. Jonathan Phillips leaves no stone unturned in this impressive and lively history of the genius who was Saladin

PETER FRANKOPAN, author of The Silk Roads

This illuminating and fascinating biography of Saladin could not be timely. Today political figures often inspire little admiration, but Saladin's career at the height of the Crusades reminds us that moral charisma and integrity can be recognised and honoured by people on both sides of a vicious conflict. His concluding account of the intense emotion that the memory of Saladin still inspires in the Middle East today reveals the sensitivity and pain that underlies so many of the region's unresolved problems

KAREN ARMSTRONG, author of Fields of Blood

Outstanding. Jonathan Phillips has written a compelling account of arguably the most inspirational of Islamic military heroes

CHRISTOPHER DE BELLAIGUE, author of The Islamic Enlightenment

Vivid and authoritative, with glistening details on every page. Phillips explains Saladin's ability to mesmerise not just through the achievements of his lifetime but through his inspiration of Arab leaders, including Nasser, Assad and Saddam Hussein, ever since

JAMES BARR, author of A Line in the Sand

Beautifully researched and authoritative, Jonathan Phillips's very fine biography of this fascinating historical character underlines how serious history made accessible to the general reader is invaluable if we hope to understand our world today

JASON BURKE, author of The 9/11 Wars

Jonathan Phillips explores new themes and makes use of various underused or wholly neglected Arabic sources ... vivid and convincing

Robert Irwin, Literary Review

Superbly researched and enormously entertaining ... one of the outstanding books of the year

Gerard DeGroot, The Times

Superb, highly readable and definitive ... One of the world's leading crusades scholars ... Phillips's narrative of Saladin's career is vivid and judicious, punctuated by set pieces that charge along like battle scenes from Game of Thrones

Dan Jones, Sunday Times

More than just a biography ... this book paints a rich, absorbing picture of the 12th-century Middle East ... gives expert accounts of the many hard-fought battles and sieges ... vividly describes the Crusader fightback ... One major lesson of this book is that the facts about the distant past are much, much more interesting than the opportunistic uses made of them by anyone in the present


Fascinating, authoritative and intelligent


Phillips produces an absorbing, readable narrative. an excellent introduction to the life of Saladin by a scholar who is respected around the world for his work on the sultan and the crusades. an invaluable guide

Helen Nicholson, BBC History

Phillips's careful scrutiny of the surprisingly numerous contemporary sources underlies an impressive piece of historical reconstruction

Michael Prodger, New Statesman, *Books of the Year*

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