Saladin is the anglicized name for Salah Ad-Din, one of the most famous Muslim historical figures in the West. Coming from Sunni Kurdish origins in Syria, Saladin built his reputation as a military leader under the Shi’a Fatimid Caliphate that built Cairo, but eventually seized power for himself, founding the Ayyubid Dynasty in 1171 AD and becoming the First Sultan of Egypt and Syria. As the leader of the Ayyubid Dynasty, he defended Egypt and the Levant from the Crusader invasions in the second half of the 12th century AD.
Saladin’s reputation in the West grew out of his leadership of the Muslim armies that opposed Richard I of England during the Third Crusade. Rather than becoming a hated figure in Europe, Saladin was admired for his noble and chivalrous behavior during the course of his campaigns, eventually earning the respect of Richard I and many of the Crusaders. Most notably, he granted amnesty to the Crusader army and the Christians of Jerusalem when he retook the city in 1187 AD in return for an unusually small ransom.
In Arab and Islamic history, Saladin has become a symbol of resistance to the West, especially after the rise of Arab Nationalism in the 20th century. The flag of Egypt bears Saladin’s Eagle as a crest in its center. In addition to his, Saladin’s physical legacy can still be seen in Cairo. Construction of Cairo’s Citadel and extensions t walls of the city were begun under Saladin; however, they were not finished until after his death in 1193 AD.