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What Killed Sultan Saladin 800 Years Ago? Experts Finally Have An Answer

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Saladin was the sultan of Syria and Egypt, most known for reclaiming Jerusalem for Islam. What really caused the death of this legendary historical figure?   ( Hulton Archive | Getty Images )

The death of Sultan Saladin is a mystery that is already eight centuries old. However, a doctor searched the limited medical history to finally unveil what might have caused the mighty sultan's death.

The cause of Sultan Saladin's death is just one of the many mysteries surrounding the legendary warrior. As he lived during a time before modern diagnostic medicine, records of his illnesses are scarce, and what is left are merely clues to what he may have suffered from.

Modern Diagnosis Possible

To uncover the mystery illness, Dr. Stephen Gluckman of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine scoured through the limited records of the sultan's health and presented his findings at the Historical Clinicopathological Conference last May 4.

Although a definitive diagnosis is really unlikely, the results revealed the likeliest cause of the sultan's death.

Mystery Illness

Evidence shows that the sultan's health woes began in December 1185 when he was 47 years old. There is no documentation of his symptoms, but his ordeal apparently lasted for over two months and his illness was so severe that his colleagues thought he was going to die.

He eventually managed to overcome his illness but evidently experienced fluctuating bouts of fever and colic in the months that followed. In 1190, he once again had a fever that had him confined to bed for a month.

When he was 56 years old, he complained of lost appetite, indigestion, weakness, and lethargy. He then experienced a bilious fever and his illness continued to grow more serious as he experienced severe headaches and bleeding.

On the seventh and eighth day of his illness, his mind began to wander, and by the 11th day, he was sweating so profusely that his perspiration went right through his mattress and mats. The next day, the patient was already going in and out of consciousness.

He died after the morning prayer on March 4, 1193, on the 14th day of his final illness.

Typhoid Diagnosis

Despite the limited information on the sultan's health, Dr. Gluckman was able to rule out several possible illnesses such as smallpox, plague, and tuberculosis.

Based on the evidence, the likeliest possibility is that he suffered from typhoid, a disease that that was rather common at the time. It is contracted when a person ingests food that is contaminated with Salmonella typhi. The symptoms of the illness include weakness, stomach pains, high fever, loss of appetite, and headache.

Sultan Saladin, or Salah al-Din Yusuf, is most known for unifying the Muslim world in the 12th century and recapturing Jerusalem from Christians.

His case was reviewed and discussed at the Historical Clinicopathologic Conference as part of the annual clinical exercise of discussing challenging historical cases.

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