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In Ridley Scott's 2005 film Kingdom of Heaven, only after the bloody 3 day siege of Jerusalem ends in stalemate do Balian and Saladin agree to terms allowing the inhabitants of the city to peacefully evacuate.

Was it explained in the film why Balian didn't simply ask for terms with Saladin before the expected siege began and thus avoid pointless loss of life? If Saladin was agreeable to terms after losing thousands of men at the walls, wouldn't he have been even more favorable to allowing the defenders to leave the city without bloodshed?

Historically, Saladin did seek a peaceful turn over of Jerusalem and offered generous terms but the defenders refused. I don't recall seeing this made explicit in the film, perhaps I missed it.

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I don't know what happened historically, but in the movie there are several aspects which tell us why Balian didn't ask for terms before fighting.

  1. Saladin had already agreed to peaceful terms when Baldwin was the king. Saladin had come to invade Jerusalem initially because of the beheadings of Muslim caravan.

  2. Later, Guy de Lusignan beheads Saladin's sister. It should be obvious that any one would be angry when they lose their dear ones to the enemy, especially after peaceful terms were sought.

  3. Balian knew that Saladin would not agree to peaceful terms because more than half of the Christian force was dead and it would be a cakewalk for Saladin's army to gain Jerusalem.

  4. Following the words of his father, Balian first serves the King of Jerusalem, Baldwin, and when after Baldwin's death Balian then serves the people of Jerusalem. So, for their safety, he decides to defend the walls so that Saladin is forced for more peaceful terms which are more safe for the people.

  5. In the movie they have shown that at Saladin's camp, his chancellor Imad ad-Din asks Saladin for mercy and to leave the city, but Saladin refuses because of the anger of his sister's beheading and comments passed by his brother.

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Balian did not think negotiations were possible. During his meeting with Saladin, he says that when the Christians took the city they massacred everyone in it and is surprised that Saladin would not do the same.

It's natural to expect that the Arabs will want revenge and given that the christian army was utterly destroyed, he has no leverage to negotiate.

I think he though that he'll either repel Saladin or die in the process.

By the way, I watched a YouTube interview with a history professor who wrote a book on that focused on the historic characters that the movie is based on - according to her, the dialogue between Balian and Saladin was pretty much taken word for word from the historic record.

  • Yes, but as depicted in the film, Saladin has already enacted his revenge by destroying the Crusader army at the Battle of Hattin, capturing and humiliating Guy of Lusignan, and executing Raynald of Châtillon. This would have been the best time for Balian to negotiate favorable terms with Saladin. Jerusalem was the prize and I imagine Saladin wanted to preserve it intact. Why would Saladin want to lay siege to the city and inflict his revenge on innocent civilians? – RobertF Apr 13 '15 at 16:39

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