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Mourning Saladin

This 1831 mezzotint print depicts the battle of Ascalon (circa CE 1192), with Richard I King of England, on a white charger, wielding an axe and grasping shield of Saladin, Yusuf ibn Ayyub ibn Shadhi, on a dark horse. CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 for non-commercial use via the British Museum.

Baha ad-Din praises Saladin for his piety, his generosity, his calm, his chivalry, his just defense of the weak, his courage:

"While I was thinking this [my great dread of the sea], he turned to me and said, “Shall I tell you something” “of Course,” I said. He went on, “I have in mind that, when God Almighty has enabled me to conquer the rest of the coast, I shall divide up the lands, make my testament, take my leave and set sail on this sea to their islands to pursue them there until there no longer remain on the face of the earth any who deny God – or die [in the attempt]”
- Baha ad-Din ibn Shaddad (2002). The Rare and Excellent History of Saladin. Translated by Richards, D.S. Ashgate.

This earthenware, lead-glazed tile from the British Museum, depicts Richard I of England (left) and Saladin (right), circa 1250-60 from Chertsey, England.

Image source: British Museum, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons


Yusuf ibn Ayyub ibn Shadhi ( c. 1137 – 4 March 1193) was the founder of the Ayyubid dynasty and become a legendary role model of kingship. He is praised by his biographer and long time confidant:

Saladin’s generosity was too public to need to be recorded and too famous to need to be recounted, and yet we will give an indication of it in general terms. He ruled all the he ruled and, when he died, in his treasure chest were found only forty-seven Nasiri dirhams of silver and a single Tyrian gold coin, the weight of which was unknown to me.
-Baha ad-Din ibn Shaddad (2002). The Rare and Excellent History of Saladin. Translated by Richards, D.S. Ashgate.

The Talisman Sir Walter Scott was published in 1825 and set during the Third Crusade centers on the relationship between Richard I “The Lion Hearted” and Saladin.

"His blood beats calm as an infant’s,” said the king; ‘‘so throb not theirs who poison princes. De Vaux, whether we live or die, dis- miss this Hakim with honour and safety. Commend us, friend, to the noble Saladin. Should I die, it is without doubt of his faith should I live, it will be to thank him as a warrior would desire to be thanked."
-King Richard in Scott's The Talisman 

The Talisman has given us a noble portrait of the Sultan whose chivalry and generosity excited the admiration of the Crusaders, but the reader is left in uncertainty as to the history and achievements of the hero, and what he is told in those fascinating pages is not always strictly authentic.
- Stanley Lane-Poole (1906). Saladin; and the fall of the kingdom of Jerusalem. Putnam’s sons, London & New York.

Baha ad-Din priases Saladin for his piety, his generosity, his calm, his chivalry, his just defense of the weak, his courage:

While I was thinking this [my great dread of the sea], he turned to me and said, “Shall I tell you something” “of Course,” I said. He went on, “I have in mind that, when God Almighty has enabled me to conquerr the rest of the coast, I shall divide up the lands, make my testament, take my leave and set sail on this sea to their islands to pursue them there until there no longer remain on the face of the earth any who deny God – or die [in the attempt]”
-Baha ad-Din ibn Shaddad (2002). The Rare and Excellent History of Saladin. Translated by Richards, D.S. Ashgate.

The Artuqid Dynasty was named after its founder, Artuk Bey. The Artuqid Dynasty is a Turkish dynasty that ruled in southeast Türkiye between 1101 and 1408. Under Saladin, by the 1180 the Artuqids had come under Ayyubid rule. This coin was issued by Husam al-Din Yuluq Arslan (AH 590-597, CE 1184-1201), son of Il-Ghazi and Grandson of Artuk and recognizes Saladin's brother as Ayyubid overlord.


When first issued in AH 589, the earliest variant of this coin has no reference to the Ayyubid overlord and by the and of AH 589 the al-'adil Saif al-Din Abu Bakr, Saladin's brother, is referenced. The three line coins provide evidence that Yuluk Arslan was asserting independence of Ayyubid authority in AH 589 and this didn't last long.


Mourning Saladin

Sayles has put forward that the scene represents the constellation Virgo surrounded by planets in the Great Conjunction (Sept 13-16, CE 1186 / AH 582) and astrological event that saw the Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn all in Virgo. Astrologers predicted this as a calamitous event that became true with the death of Saladin in AH 589 when this coin was first issued (589-590).

Artuqids of Mardin. Husam al-Din Yuluq Arslan. 1184-1201 AD. AE Dirhem; (29mm, 10.57g). MARDIN, Dated AH 590. References: S/S 35.1; Edhem 56. Album 1829.3.

Obv: Four full-length figures in different postures: one in the center, with veiled head and draped in a long robe, seated toward the left in an attitude of dejection with head turned to the front; second standing behind, face in profile to the left, right arm raised pointing upward, the third standing on the right facing forward, clothed in loose garments tied at the waist, arms hanging downwards; the fourth standing on the left, similarly clothed, arms half raised; all within a beaded circle. no legend.

Rev: Five line legend in late Kufic in center within a solid circle, surrounded by a circular marginal legend read from the inside and starting at 1:30 o'clock with date, all within a beaded circle. A 5-line legend in the inner circle reads "al-Malik al-`adil Saif al-Din Abu Bakr bin Ayyub; Husam al-Din Malik Diyarbakr Yuluq Arslan bin Il-Ghazi bin Artu sana".


Reference: William F. Spengler & Wayne G. Sayles, Turkoman Figurai Bronze Coins and Their Iconography, Vol. I -The Artuqids. Lodi, Wisconsin, 1992.


This coin issued by Nasir al-Din Artuq Arslan, 1201-1239, brother and successor of Yuluq Arslan issued in AH 606 (CE 1209-1210). This coin perhaps designed to express loyalty to Al'Adil (brother of Saladin) during a time when a coalition of dissident Ayyubids, Zengids, Begtiginids, and Rum Seljuqs opposed him.

Nasir al-din Artuq Arslan, Æ Dirham, Mardin 606H, citing the Ayyubid ruler al-‘Adil Abu Bakr I, obverse: leopard-rider, 11.09g, Ref: MANTIS 1917.216.1058


Sayles links the obverse figure to this mosaic of Dionysus riding a leopard, from Delos. Why this figure might have been referenced is unknown although perhaps some astrological reference.

The Hellenistic Mosaic Head from Dor, Israel: Reconsidered, Asher Ovadiah, Tel Aviv University, Israel, Gerión. 2012, vol. 30, 91-102.


This dirham from Saladin's brother Al-Adil. Al-Adil was as known to the Crusaders as Saphadin (derived from his laqab or honorific title Sayf ad-Din, meaning "Sword of the Faith").

Islamic, Ayyubids, Egypt, al-'Adil I Sayf al-Din Ahmad, AH 596-615 / AD 1200-1218, AR Dirham (3.0g, 12h), Type A, Dimashq (Damascus) mint, Dated AH 6[...] (Struck AD 1203-1218). Cf. Balog, Ayyubids 285 (for type); Album ; ICV 906.

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