- Paperback: 448 pages
- Publisher: Anchor; Reprint edition (May 14, 2002)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0385495625
- ISBN-13: 978-0385495622
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 111 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #82,761 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Warriors of God: Richard the Lionheart and Saladin in the Third Crusade Paperback – May 14, 2002
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Throughout the medieval era, the Holy Land was a fiercely contested battlefield, fought over by huge Muslim and Christian armies, by zealots and assassins. The Third Crusade, spanning five years at the end of the 12th century, was, writes James Reston Jr. in this absorbing account, "Holy War at its most virulent," overseen by two great leaders, the Kurdish sultan Salah ad-Din, or Saladin, and the English king Richard, forevermore known as Lionheart.
Writing with a keen sense of historical detail and drama, Reston traces the complex path by which Saladin and Richard came to face each other on the field of battle. The Crusades, he observes, began "as a measure to redirect the energies of warring European barons from their bloody, local disputes into a 'noble' quest to reclaim the Holy Land from the 'infidel'." Of the five Crusades over 200 years, only the first was successful, to the extent that the Christian armies were able to conquer their objective of Jerusalem. The Third Crusade, as Reston ably shows, was complicated by fierce rivalries among the Christian leaders, by a chain of military disasters that led to the destruction of an invading German army and its emperor, and by the dedication of an opposing Islamic army that shared both a goal and a language.
Saladin, Reston writes, was a brilliant leader and a merciful victor, but capable of costly errors; Richard was extraordinarily skilled at combat, but his lack of resolve cost him many battles, and, ultimately, Jerusalem. Richard returned to Europe, Saladin to Damascus. Neither leader has long to live, and the peace they made would soon be broken. James Reston's splendid book does them both honor while examining a conflict that has never really ended. --Gregory McNamee --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Chronicling the often inglorious exploits during the third crusade (1187-1192) of King Richard I of England and Saladin, the sultan of Egypt, Syria, Arabia and Mesopotamia, Reston's panoramic narrative begins with the first crusade, launched by Pope Urban II in the last years of the 11th century. In the story's unfolding, we are privy to a world peopled by a bevy of characters, compelling and repulsive: starving, horse-and-grass-eating Christian soldiers, who, in sturdier moments, cut down the enemy with something akin to religious relish; mighty Muslim swimmers, traversing ocean waters and trailing leather pouches heavy with money and messages; the seafaring ghost of St. Thomas of Canterbury, urging onward fearful and flagging crusaders; Christian and Muslim men who betray gleefully savage contempt for women of all confessions. Some passages lend this account the flavor of historical fiction, complete with the requisite romance: a purported sexual liaison between Richard the Lionheart and King Philip Augustus of France. This is, nonetheless, a worthwhile introduction for those eager to be swept along by an often lively narrative thick with disturbing and provocative details. The interweaving of Islamic perspectives with those of Christians is especially valuable. This frankly accessible work may capture the imagination of those who have thus far resisted the pull of crusade history, presenting, as it does, both the extraordinary and less well known participants for whom this peculiar drama was the stuff of everyday life.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
I had just begun reading this book before the events of Sept. 11th, and as I delved further and further into the text in the days that followed, I realized to my amazement that it was like reading yesterday's newspaper. So little has changed...we're still fighting the same war, still reaping the bitter harvest of enmities played out over hundreds of years now. The cast of characters has not even changed that much... It was fascinating to read about the cult-like Assassins who would commit suicide at the command of their mysterious leader, and who were feared by both Muslims and Christians because of their terrorist attacks and their tendency to destabilize situations for their own ends--a la Bin Laden and al-Q'aeda.
The homosexual relationship between Richard and Philip Augustus is dealt with intelligently and sensitively, and the author makes a rather convincing case for the farreaching ramifications of their post-relationship bitterness.
The only thing I would fault the author for is a tendency to romanticize Saladin's virtue and intelligence--almost to the point of rendering him as the sole "good guy" in the whole sorry mess... But the book is absolutely worth reading!
Warriors of God shows the folly of man that has been created by Judeo-Christian religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) over a region supposedly holy to all. The Unbelievers (as Richard the Lion Hearted and his troops called the Arab armies) against the Infidels (as Saladin and his soliders referred to the Christian knights) is intriguing series of battles and machinations with much in-fighting amongst the Christian Knights, as they battled for the Kingdom of Jerusalem in the latter years of the 12th Century. The facts alone are compelling enough, but Reston brings us to the front lines in a most engaging way informing us on such interesting bits of information as Richard's homosexuality, the etymology of the word "assassin" and the desires of Saladin to unite the Arab kingdom from Cairo to Damascus (which President Gabel Nassar of Egypt also attempted in the 1960s... so the dream burned for a long time).
It's well worth reading, considering all the source material is 900 years old and the actual details of the battles must have come from propaganda spewing minstrels at the time.
Mr. Reston focuses quite clearly on Richard and Saladin as the protagonists of this third crusade, and in them he has found characters as large as life. They were educated, wily, impassioned leaders whose stature has not been diminished by the passage of nine hundred years.
I recommend this book both for the dirt and the history. It's a fascinating look at characters and events, as well as a witness to how the Crusades have never really ended.