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.
A Sultan Is Born
Early in the twelfth century, in the city of Tovin in northern Armenia close to Georgia, there lived an eminent family of Kurds, the master of whose house was surnamed Najm ad-Din, which meant "excellent prince and star of religion." Najm ad-Din had a boon comrade named Bihruz, a man of intelligence and charm, qualities matched only by his bent for trouble. Bihruz had the misfortune to be discovered in a compromising position with the wife of the local emir, who promptly had Bihruz seized and castrated and banished from his fief.
After this humiliation Najm ad-Din decided to accompany his disgraced friend to Baghdad, the seat of the Abbasid caliphate, where the Caliph, Al Muqtafi li-amri'llah ("he who follows the orders of God"), reigned supreme over the Muslim world of the eastern Mediterranean. In Baghdad the Sultan of Iraq noticed their talents. Since eunuchs were then favored as teachers and administrators, Bihruz became the tutor of the Sultan's...
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