How on earth did a two thousand year old statue of a Nabatean warrior living under the Roman Empire come to be mistaken for the 12th century Muslim ruler Saladin? As I discovered during my 2013 visit to Jordan – people in the past could get very confused about the origin of historic objects around them. In this case, believing that a statue embedded in the wall of the Templar castle of Kerak was that great enemy of the knights – Saladin.
Nabatean warrior and not Saladin at the Templar castle of Kerak
At Kerak castle, built by crusaders in the 12th century, there is a block of stone in the walls depicting a very muscular figure. For centuries, it was believed to be Saladin – scourge of the Templars and crusaders and the Muslim ruler who re-took Jerusalem. In fact, it definitely isn’t Saladin and is much, much older.
The figure is a Nabatean warrior – the civilisation that built the legendary tomb city of Petra. It dates back to the 2nd century AD and shows a cavalryman equipped for the afterlife. So what on earth is it doing in a crusader castle?
Well, masonry from much older monuments (this would have been nearly a thousand years old when Kerak was built during the crusades) was often incorporated into new buildings.
So this chap – whose name we shall never know – found himself immortalised in the wall of the Templar castle at Kerak. He is definitely not Saladin – unless the great Muslim ruler had been hitting the gym with gusto!