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Saladin Was A Land-Sea Warfare Innovator Of The Middle Ages


Aug 28, 2006
Historian Benjamin Duval explores how the siege of Beirut shaped Saladin’s military strategy in the 12th-century.

Joint land-sea operations were fairly uncommon in the Middle Ages. Rarer still was it for medieval generals to coordinate such actions across hundreds of miles and several months in advance. Almost unheard of was it to plan such complex offensives down to the week, in an attack that depended on speed, surprise, and timing. Yet this is exactly what Saladin did with his remarkable siege of Beirut in 1182.

Saladin is among the best-known generals of the Middle Ages, famous for his overwhelming victory at the Battle of Hattin in 1187, in which he destroyed the Kingdom of Jerusalem’s entire army, and his showdown with Richard the Lionheart and the Third Crusade, which confined their territory to a sliver of coastline for the next hundred years.


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As discussed in another thread, Saladin wasn't exactly unstoppable in the battlefield. He is NOT famous and renowned for being unstoppable in the battlefield in THEORY. He is rather praised for being a "tactician." Focus on this part:

"Ultimately, Saladin found a much more workable solution to overcome the Kingdom of Jerusalem. Rather than try to distract the enemy army in advance of an important siege, he used another siege to bait them into battle on very disadvantageous ground – this was the famous Battle of Hattin in 1187. His plan worked better than he could have imagined and the Crusader enemy army was crushed – only a few hundred out of over 20,000 soldiers escaped. This victory was not a one-off fluke, but the product of the lessons he had learned from several previous campaigns, including the siege of Beirut."

This battlefield masterstroke was NOT achieved out of the blue. Saladin was bold but patient and willing to experiment in his application of battle tactics and learn from them. He also scanned and studied the regional environment to figure out HOW to set a trap for the crusaders and deliver a decisive blow to them. Saladin was able to PLAN and DICTATE the course of the Battle of Hattin in 1187 by virtue of his prior siege warfare experiments and applications, and wisdom derived from them.

Saladin figured out HOW to win the war that he chose to fight - a war that had much cultural and religious significance and would be remembered till the end of times. This is why he is has legendary status in historical discourses.


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