After seeing Ridley Scott’s movie, “Kingdom of Heaven”, together with reading Marco Polo travels, what I was interested in was that the “Old Man of the Mountain” who Marco Polo mentions in details. “Old Man of the Mountain” is not actually depicted in the movie, but it is nonetheless related with the context it represents. In the Travels of Marco Polo, author’s note at the end of chapter mentions that approximately 1200 assassins were massacred in Persia at the year 1255. Historical records imply that it was Hassan-i Sabbah who founded the group, “Hashshashin” in 12th century. Sabbah was residing in the place called Alamut which Marco Polo talks about in his travels. The last commander of the fortress of Alamut was Ruknud-Dīn Khurshāh (1255-1256), and he was defeated by Hulagu Khan of Mongols, the fortress was destroyed. It is clear that Marco Polo mentions about the leader of the fortress as “old man of the mountains” but he doesn’t provide an exact name. Historically this name refers to the assassin, Rashid ad-Din Sinan; a Syrian member of Hashshashin group. Rashid ad-Din Sinan was an important figure in Crusades. Some historical records say that Rashid ad-Din’s chief enemy was Sultan Saladin, who eluded Rashid’s assassination attempts twice before 1176. After series of conflicts between the two, in 1176 Sultan Saladin agrees to accept the independence of Hashshashin principality. Furthermore, in 1192, Rashid ad-Din Sinan ordered the assassination of King of Jerusalem, Conrad of Montferrat. When Saladin captured Jerusalem, Montferrat was the commander of the city Tyre, and he strengthened cities defenses.
In the movie “Kingdom of Heaven”, it is depicted that Saladin passionately aims to capture Jerusalem. In the film, names of characters such like Balian of Ibelin, Guy of Lusignan, Sibylla of Jerusalem, Baldwin IV, and their experiences are historically true. The director lets us to see the events from Balian’s point of view, and thus the Christians. We don’t exactly know what Saladin thinks or plans throughout the conflict in Kingdom of Jerusalem. Only clear point is that Saladin is very eager to capture Jerusalem. But we should wonder and ask the question; was Jerusalem the only city in the lands ruled by Christians in 12th century? This is not right. A possible historical interpretation would suggest that strategically it would be better for Saladin to capture Tyre first and then Jerusalem. Saladin firstly captured Jerusalem surely because of its importance to Islam. In the movie, Balian asks Saladin at the end of the war, that why is Jerusalem so important. Saladin answers that Jerusalem is nothing. But later, he turns back and says, “It is everything”. It is of course puzzling to hear this kind of expression of Jerusalem but Jerusalem’s symbolic value for all religions ultimately converts a possible atmosphere of heaven into hell of wars and massacres. I think this was the idea depicted in the movie.
Furthermore, the movie begins in 1184, France, with Balian the blacksmith decides to join Godfrey for his travel to Jerusalem to help the King. During his journey to Jerusalem Balian aims to create “Kingdom of Heaven” in Jerusalem, with every people from various religions living altogether. He even states that he would even agree to let this happen under the rule of Saladin. The film depicts conflicts between Christian barons ruling in Jerusalem. Guy de Lusignan intends to be the new King, after the Baldwin IV of Jerusalem who was suffering from leprosy. We don’t know whether he actually wore a mask or not, but it was historically true that he was ill. Additionally, the film depicts him essentially as a peace loving king, rather than a young warrior. He is in good relations with Saladin and even Saladin offers him to send his doctors to him so that they may cure his illness.
There is another historical representation depicted in the film that I find significant. At the end of the movie, Balian returns to his village in France. A group of knights come to find and visit Balian. Their leader Richard I of England say Balian that they are preparing a new crusade to recapture Jerusalem, and looking for Balian for this purpose. Balian states that he is only a blacksmith and refuses to go back to the lands which disappointed him through search of Kingdom of Heaven. Here another period begins, as Richard begins his voyage to Jerusalem. However at the end, the film ends with a message saying that “nearly a thousand years later, peace in the Kingdom of Heaven remains elusive”.
Picture: “Balian From Kingdom of Heaven” http://Neldorwen.deviantart.com/art/Balian-from-Kingdom-of-Heaven-86059555