Warriors of God: Richard the Lionheart and Saladin in the Third Crusade

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9780385495615: Warriors of God: Richard the Lionheart and Saladin in the Third Crusade
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The epic story of the battle for the Holy Land and the two larger-than-life figures at its center.

James Reston, Jr., the author of Galileo: A Life (called "masterful" and "brilliant" by the Washington Post) and the critically lauded The Last Apocalypse, a stunningly original portrait of the Christian world at the turn of first millennium, now re-creates the collision of the Christian holy wars and the Muslim jihad at the end of the twelfth century. A dual biography of the legendary Richard the Lionheart and the Sultan Saladin, iconic hero of the Islamic world, Warriors of God recounts the life of each man and reveals the passions of the times that brought them face-to-face in the final battle of the Third Crusade.

Richard the Lionheart, commonly depicted as the romantic personification of chivalry, here emerges in his full complexity and contradictions as Reston examines the dark side of Richard's role as the leader of the blood-soaked Crusades and breaks new ground by openly discussing Richard's homosexuality. Reston's compelling portrait of Saladin brings to life the wise, highly cultured leader who realized an enduring Arab dream by uniting Egypt and Syria and whose conquest of Jerusalem not only sparked the Third Crusade but ignited the first jihad and turned Saladin into a hero of epic proportions. In riveting descriptions, Reston captures the fascinating clash of the two armies as they battled their way to the outskirts of Jerusalem. There, Saladin's brilliant maneuvers and Richard's sudden failure of nerve turned the tide. Sweeping readers into a mesmerizing period of history, Warriors of God is a provocative look at two towering leaders and the not always noble causes for which they fought.


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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

From the Back Cover:

Praise for James Reston, Jr.'s The Last Apocalypse:

"Boldly written... Can the last millenium enlighten the next? Reston ... gives us the question dipped in blood."
--Atlantic Journal-Constitution

"Reston weaves the poetry of the age; many of the book's most pleasurable passages into his narrative... [A] vivid tale."
Business Week

"A vivid portrait... [Reston] has an eye for unforgettable detail."
Knight Ridder Newspaper

Praise for Galileo: A Life:

"It is to James Reston's credit that his masterful new biography of Galileo Galilei manages to capture... the Renaissance as colorfully as it does, without making his subject seem too much like some time-traveling hero from a more sensible age... a brilliant biography."
--Bruno Maddox, Washington Post Book World

"A spirited evocation of Galileo's charisma and capacity... fresh, sinewy, and altogether admirable."
--Los Angeles Times Book Review

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