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Why did Saladin, when Richard the Lionhearted was sick with a fever, send him a gift of fruit? Or when Richard's horse was killed in battle, he sent a steed to be led to his camp?

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the recorded reasons (which can be known to historians) might be different from the actual one. –  Louis Rhys Oct 12 '11 at 2:08
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I second @LouisRhys, I wouldn't consider any of these historical facts - more a legend that might be based on real facts but distorted them very significantly. –  Wladimir Palant Oct 12 '11 at 9:46

2 Answers 2

up vote 15 down vote accepted

Saladin was an unusual man who tried to win the "hearts and minds" of people he conquered.

When he occupied Jerusalem, he ordered his men NOT to kill and plunder (in contrast even to the crusaders).

When he occupied Cairo, Egypt, he built hospitals and universities for the city, even though he had to take harsh measures against the leaders of his former enemies.

In his dealings with the Crusaders, he allowed them to "save face" by permitting Christian pilgrimages to Jerusalem, even though he controlled the city. In an era when chivalry was just developing in Europe, Saladin won the reputation of being exceptionally "chivalrous." He and Richard I each became the other's "favorite" opponent.

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This is slightly misleading, in that Saladin did in fact commit a few minor atrocities (or his armies did at least), although rather less so than most previous Muslim crusaders and many Christian crusaders. –  Noldorin Oct 24 '11 at 22:52
    
While Jerusalem was not sacked, all Christian had to be ransomed before being allowed to leave. Sure, the price was really low (10 denari for men, 5 for women and 1 for a child) but still some 15,000 could not afford it and were taken in slavery. Source: T. F. Madden in Crusades amazon.co.uk/… –  Sardathrion Oct 25 '11 at 9:31
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@Noldorin:"rather less so than most." Many would say, "it's all relative." Especially for the TIMES. –  Tom Au Oct 25 '11 at 12:51
    
@Sardathrion: See my note to Noldorin. –  Tom Au Oct 25 '11 at 12:51
    
@TomAu: Not a problem at all. I wanted to add more information as I knew it. Not meant to offend or claim you did not know yourself. ^_~ –  Sardathrion Oct 25 '11 at 12:58

Assuming this truly did happen, there are a couple of reasons that might explain why. First of all, Saladin was Muslim, and one of the of the main principles of Islam is that Muslims should help those in need. Secondly, Saladin could use this as an opportunity to send men into Richard's camp and report back on the condition and size of Richard's army, thereby giving Saladin a strategic advantage.

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The second point may very well be true. There is a story/legend that Richard sent an emissary with a gift. Saladin discovered that emissary was actually there to investigate the camp and assess Saladin's strength. Saladin was amused and allowed the emissary full access to his camp. –  System Down Oct 13 '11 at 19:49
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And if I remember correctly, it wasn't long after that before they both decided to call a truce. The Crusaders agreed to break off and leave in exchange of Saladin's agreement to allow Christian pilgrimages to return to the Holy Lands under his protection. –  Steven Drennon Oct 13 '11 at 20:06
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Saying "one of the main principles of Islam is that Muslims should help those in need" is a bit misleading. While this it is perfectly true that this is stated in the Qur'an, as it is stated to Christians in the Bible, it is far from all Christians or Muslims who follow this principle regularly. It would more more accurate to say that Saladin was a man of honour to some degree, and had respect for King Richard's courage and skills. The same was true in reverse. –  Noldorin Oct 24 '11 at 22:51
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+1 definitely for the second point and not for the first, as per @Noldorin comment. –  Lohoris Oct 25 '11 at 16:13
    
Indeed, Saladin as well as arguably being an honourable general, nonetheless would have used spying tactics as well as anyone! –  Noldorin Oct 25 '11 at 17:06

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