What General Gouraud did at Saladin’s tomb in Damascus in 1920

When I saw this article I remembered one of my favorite sources on Syria’s modern history.

This is a little book called “Partant pour la Syria” by Pierre La Mazière. It was published in Paris in 1926. The author visited Lebanon, Damascus, and Aleppo when Henry de Jouvenel was the French High Commissioner in those countries (1925-1926).

For me this book is especially important because of the chapter on Aleppo. The author visited Aleppo at a crucial time when Aleppo was about to fall to Damascus. The story which the author tells about Aleppo has interesting details which I have not seen elsewhere. However, that story (as well as the rest of the book) must be read critically, because the author has obvious biases. With regard to Syria, the author is clearly biased for Damascus against Aleppo and Lebanon. I have discussed the author’s disposition here.

This is what the author has about Gouraud’s visit to Saladin’s tomb (p. 191):

Gouraud_Saladin_La_Mazière_p_191

 

The author clearly sympathizes with Damascus (because he was there when the French bombed the city in 1926), and he has a negative opinion of Gouraud overall. However, the words which he ascribes to Gouraud are not like those which we read in other sources. According to the author, Gouraud said at Saladin’s tomb that his presence there “consecrated the victory of the Cross over the Crescent.” The usual statement ascribed to Gouraud in other sources is “Saladin, we’re back!” (in Arabic لقد عدنا يا صلاح الدين).

The author blames the Maronite clergy of Lebanon for putting Gouraud in a Crusader mood. We should also remember that the French intervention in Syria started under the banner of defending the Christians, and particularly the Maronites of Lebanon whom Gouraud successfully defended in 1920.

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3 thoughts on “What General Gouraud did at Saladin’s tomb in Damascus in 1920

  1. I have a copy of James Barr’s book (a line in the sand), and in the seventh chapter (named: the crusader), he did mentioned this incident, referencing it from Ross Burns (the monuments of Syria), but it is interesting that Mr.Barr is saying in this article that it might be general Goybet who said this, and it’s interesting because it seems that this crusaders mood was widely spread between the mandates’ men back then!

    And actually I’m not surprised by the fact that Pierre La Mazière blamed the Maronite clergy of Lebanon for putting Gouraud in a Crusaders mood, because I had lived in Lebanon for a while -BTW I’m half Lebanese/half Iraqi- and I have many Maronite close friends, and I can’t say that this crusaders mood is over even nowadays!!! LoL

    Best regards

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