Sometimes, it only takes one great act in history, or one great story for a hero to emerge. Such is the case with the Greek story Iliad, and the historical events in Jerusalem during the time of the crusades. To say that the heroes of these stories do not have anything in common, is a denial of the natural order of things. Both have somehow made a stamp in history, and both are touted as heroes, even up to this day.
Achilles is one of the many heroes in the Greek story Iliad. According to the story, he was recruited by Odysseus to join the sides of the Greeks in fighting against Troy. The Trojan War, as it is known in the story, happened because, Troy’s prince Paris kidnapped Helen, and the Greeks were trying to get her back by waging a war against Troy. Achilles being the son of a sea nymph named Thetis and Peleus, King of Thesaly, is a mythological being, part human and supernatural. He is naturally revered in the story as one who is needed in the Trojan War for the Greeks to achieve their victory in battle. (“Achilles”)
There are several accounts of Achilles’ legend, not only in the Iliad but in other literary works over the ages. Such is the greatness of his legend and history that other Greek writers have created stories using his life as muse for their works. Even other artists used his legend to carve episodes of his life in sarcophagus. During the period of about A.D. 150 to 250, these were a popular custom among the Greeks in their burial custom. These carvings are now considered great works of art in the 21st century. (“Performing Arts in Arts”)
On the other hand, Salah al-Din al-Ayubbi, is an honest to goodness real life hero. He lived during the period of 1138 to 1193. He was the Sultan of Egypt and has come to be known in history as the Champion of Islam. Salah al-Din al-Ayubbi was the one responsible for the failure of the Christian crusaders to take over Jerusalem. During his rule, the English crusaders had a hard time taking over the holy city. Because of his leadership, even the next generation was able to keep Jerusalem and did not allow the crusaders to prevail upon them. The dynasty he founded ruled Egypt from 1169 to 1250. (“Salah al-Din al-Ayubbi”)
Salah al-Din al-Ayubbi came from modest beginnings, in a sense, that he was born when his parents had to flee for their lives into another city in order to live. However, his lineage, were that of a noble, Kurdish tribe, Ar-Rawadia from Hazian. He was raised as a warrior and is considered a great politician, leader and a scholar. For many, it was him who first called forth the Jihad, to counter the crusade by the Christians during his time. Because of him, Jerusalem remained untouched by the Christians, during the rule of his dynasty. (Nasih Ulwan 19-33)
Looking at the facts above, both Salah al-Din al-Ayubbi are heroes in their own way. One is borne of literature, but the other is borne of his times. Both have a place in history. Yet, it is interesting to note, that culturally, both these heroes are warriors of opposing cultures, and have so much in common. Their heroic deeds in battle and in life inspired much debate as well as new acts of heroism both in print and in real life.
On the other hand, Achilles is a character in a book, despite his greatness is seen as someone with so much human weakness. It can even be said that his life is only great as a warrior, beyond that he is too human because of the frailties of his decisions and outlook in life. In the Iliad, his defeat was because of his humanity and the wrong decisions he has made in battle. Salah al-Din al-Ayubbi, though not an immortal character, have carried feat that few in history can take credit for. His prowess as a warrior is overshadowed by the fact that he is one of the greatest tactician and rulers of his times. Not only was he able to defeat armies with great resources and experience in warfare, but the dynasty he built was able to keep these crusaders at bay. His kingdom’s ability to follow his will even beyond his time is a testament to the kind of leadership he fostered.
Consequently, it is a fascinating discussion to study and discover the similarities and discrepancies of the lives of these two heroes. One can glean so much wisdom, and insight on how history was shaped because of them.
Nasih Ulwan, Abdullah, Salah Ad-Din Al-Ayubbi. Kallamullah.com. (2004). 19-33. Web. 29 June 2012
Jewish Viirtual Library . Saladin — Salah al-Din al-Ayubbi. Jewishvirtuallibrary.org. (2012). n. pag. Web. 29 June 2012
J Paul Getty Museum. Sarcophagus with Scenes from the Life of Achilles, Unknown. Getty.edu .(2011) n. pag. Web. 29 June 2012
Myths Encyclopedia. Achilles. mythsencyclopedia.com. (2012). n. pag. Web. 29 June 2012