RIchard the Lionheart was a man of war and he had many adversaries in his lifetime. He fought his father more than once in his early years, and fought with his father against the rebellious lords of the Aquitaine and against the French King even more frequently. He spent the last six years of his life in a bitter struggle against King Philip II. Yet of all his adversaries few have captured the imagination of chroniclers, novelists or artists as much as the man he fought in the Holy Land - Sultan Salah ad-Din Yusuf ibn Ayyub, more commonly known as Saladin.
Saladin has long been viewed as the epitome of “chivalry.” His honesty and sense of honor is often compared favorably to the duplicity and dishonor of Richard's Christian foes such as the Holy Roman Emperor and Philip of France. Indeed, in the 19th century it became common to suggest that, while the crusaders (including Richard!) were treacherous barbarians, Saladin stood out as a paragon of virtue and honor, a shining light of decency and chivalry in an otherwise brutal age. This is the view of Saladin that dictated the highly sympathetic portrayal in Ridley Scott's film “The Kingdom of Heaven.”
Yet, as Andrew Ehrenkreutz meticulously documents in his biography of Saladin, far from being the embodiment of "magnanimity, real chivalry and gentle culture," Saladin used deceit, hypocrisy, propaganda, bribery, extortion, murder and, ultimately aggressive war to establish an empire in the Near East. Notably, Saladin spent much more time and many more resources fighting (and killing) fellow Muslims than he did fighting Christians, and that Saladin was responsible for the loss of many more Sunni Muslim lives than Christian ones.
So, yes, Saladin did break his word when it suited his purposes -- as he did to Richard the Lionheart with regard to the surrender of Acre.
Saladin in a character in my three-part biography of Balian d'Ibelin:
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