Towards the end of the movie Kingdom of Heaven, after Balin surrenders control of Jerusalem to Saladin, he asks the question, "What is Jerusalem worth?" Is there any deeper meaning to the reply?

As per the IMDB quotes page:

Balian of Ibelin: What is Jerusalem worth?

Saladin: Nothing. [walks away]

Saladin: Everything!


To put things (very) simply; the whole bloody war was over the city or Jerusalem. Many lives were taken, from both sides, in an effort to possess it. In his moment of despair, Balian wonders if this city is worth all those losses, and shares his bewilderment with Saladin. Saladin at first replies "Nothing". Echoing this earlier exchange with Balian:

Balian of Ibelin: Before I lose it, I will burn it to the ground. Your holy places - ours. Every last thing in Jerusalem that drives men mad.

Saladin: I wonder if it would not be better if you did.

The city, as a geographic location, as cold stone, is almost worthless. The rational, secular view.

Then he goes back and smiles and says "Everything!" as there is deeper, more spiritual, value to city. Not only religious, but nationalistic as well. This is the emotional, spiritual view.

This dichotomy is the prevailing conflict that fuels the unrest in the region that continues to this day. I have always noted that among the more moderate people involved in the middle east conflict that there is always this struggle in their mind. Is this piece of land worth all the anguish?


Jerusalem with it's castles, forts, bricks and mortars, gold and silver and silk and everything else of material value is considered to be devoid of any true value in the eyes of salahuddin. Hence he says 'nothing'.

Remember that Balian asks the question 'what is Jerusalem worth' in the context of being bewildered as to why Salahudding fought such a long and arduous war, which cost the lives of thousands of people, in order to capture the city? Balian is portrayed in the film as someone who does not entirely understand spirituality, hence he says 'God does not speak to me'. Therefore, Balian and Salahuddin are shown to be men who are driven by two completely different things; and Balian does not entirely understand Salahuddin.

So to negate any possible assumption Balian might have had in his mind, that salahuddin fought for some kind of material gain, salahuddin says jerusalem is worth nothing. But then he adds, that it is worth everything.

Now, something which only carries material value cannot logically be worth more than everything else. And by everything Salahudding literally means the entire world. Thus by making this statement, Salahudding makes it clear to Balian that the true value of Jerusalem stems from the fact that it has been exalted above all other places by God.

  • Not "quite" right. Balian's wife committed suicide, a mortal sin putting her in purgatory. Balian's half-brother was his village's priest, ordered his wife's body to be beheaded before burial. Balian found out about this and killed his half-brother, committing his own mortal sin. Now considered to be bereft of God, it's not that Balian didn't understand spirituality, it's that he knew he was lost to God, that "God no longer spoke to him." When Balian took up arms in Jerusalem, it was never to protect the holy places, which no longer meant anything to him, it was for the people. – CGCampbell Sep 20 '14 at 16:32

An epic quote condensing the tragedy of the human condition into two words. Nothing and everything. Nothing refers to the pure materialistic value of property, gold, silver jewleries, food, water, land etc. This does not make Jerusalem special; other places are equally bestowed with such goods, hence it is worth nothing more than any other city on earth. However, Jerusalem carries a none-materialistic value that cannot be measured in terms of tons of gold, money or whatever other worldly possessions one can have but rather an immaterial value that cannot be exchanged, measured or traded for, thus making it worth everything.


Also worth noting: this is a play on the context of the scene prior. (And a easter egg referring a previous scene.)

Both negotiators started out at a position they did not really hold to reach a result they wanted. Especially Balian. They played out their hands to no avail. Only after this did they play their honest hands to reach agreement.

Parallel to this: Balian asks what it's all worth, and Saladin first responds by the politically savvy answer to hide how much he had received in the deal. Only then did he honestly reveal that he thought it immensely important to him. It's a game of appearances masquerading over their inner makings. Good men needing to play their parts in society. Pawns in the game - getting release from the game when bringing their owns souls to the moves they made. As set put by the King earlier in the film.

Quite brilliant writing in my opinion. :)

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