Human history is often the story of conflict and warfare. And, rightly or wrongly, the characters who are best remembered from history are often those who successfully led men into battle. Napoleon is said to have asked about one of his generals, “I know he’s a good general, but is he lucky?” and good fortune no doubt plays its part as well as tactical genius. Here are ten leaders who, at least some of the time, managed to combine luck with a skilled generalship.
Saladin, or An-Nasir Salah ad-Din Yusuf ibn Ayyub to give him his full Arabic name, was born in 1137 into a Kurdish family in the city of Tikrit, located in present-day Iraq. As a Sunni Muslim, much of his education involved studying the Koran, and it’s been said that he was more interested in religion than military affairs when young. However, that was to change drastically.
The defining events of Saladin’s life in the 12th century Middle East were the Crusades, the military campaigns waged by Europeans to conquer the Holy Land in the name of Christianity. And Saladin’s fame rests on the fact that he drew together disparate Arabic forces and turned them into an effective fighting force. His crowning military victory came at the Battle of Hattin, where he defeated the Crusaders, wresting control of Palestine and Jerusalem from them 88 years after they’d taken the Holy City.