I was told of an incident where a French general in 1920 after having put down an anti-colonial uprising, supposedly went on to insult the grave of Saladin. I attempted to find a source for that belief but the nearest I come is an article that doesn't state sources which has the following claim:

Similarly, it has not forgotten either the content or the tone of the statements made by French General Henri Gouraud when he entered Damascus in July 1920. Striding to Saladin's tomb next to the Grand Mosque, Gouraud kicked it and exclaimed, "Awake Saladin, we have returned. My presence here consecrates the victory of the Cross over the Crescent."

Are there any reliable sources for this claim, or do we have some idea where it's originating from?

  • Sort of like "Lafayette, we are here!" Only very, very different.
    – mmyers
    May 19, 2011 at 15:47
  • @mmyers "Why don't they just eat cake?" also springs to mind.
    – Kit Sunde
    May 19, 2011 at 15:59
  • There is a lot more english copies of this claim than french versions.
    – ogerard
    May 19, 2011 at 17:21
  • 1
    The French won a conflict? I find that hard to believe! :) May 20, 2011 at 14:55
  • @Andrew Grimm - I was thinking that it would seem like I'm French bashing, but I got to this question by happenstance I swear!
    – Kit Sunde
    May 20, 2011 at 15:46

1 Answer 1


Probably not.

Dr Jonathan Landis, Director of the Center of Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, searched for the source of the story and provides a well-reasoned analysis of the evidence in a 2016 blog article:

A reporter, Maria Rosette Shapira, who was attached to the French force, covered both events for the French weekly, L’Illustration. Shapira, who wrote under the pseudonym Myriam Harry, described the battle of Maysaloun and, briefly, Goybet’s arrival in Damascus in an article published on 21 August. It is her follow-up piece, which was printed on 11 September, that is of interest, because it hints that Goybet may have said something that caused offence.


Unless a definitive eye-witness emerges, Harry’s reportage suggests that it was Goybet, rather than Gouraud, who is more likely to have made the notorious remark.

  • 2
    Welcome to the site! Please quote the relevant parts from your link in your post.
    – Laurel
    Apr 13, 2017 at 1:23
  • According to Goybet's wiki page his ancestor had been taken prisoner in Damascus, Jean Montgolfier during the Second Crusade in 1147. Goybet is quoted saying "Isn’t it justice that allowed the descendant of a slave to come victorious into the Holy City."
    – SIMEL
    Apr 13, 2017 at 8:30

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