Archive for the ‘myths’ Category

Going to the Sources

November 26, 2016

I apologize for not getting this to you before.  I almost had the whole list finished when I was called away for a family emergency.  I’m still playing catch-up.  Those of you who were in my class won’t be surprised that most of these books are translations of primary sources.  There are others in Arabic, French, German and Latin but these are a good place to begin. I have included authors from several sides of the Crusades.  Not just Western European and Muslim, but Greek, Armenian, Syrian and Jewish points of view, as well.

At this time, when contradictory information is flying about everywhere, I believe it’s useful to examine what we think we know about history and then apply it to a critical look at the report of an horrendous atrocity that one’s brother-in-law just posted.

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Crusade Bibliography

Primary Sources: Muslim

Ibn al-Athir, The Chronicle of Ibn al-Athir for the Crusading Period 2. Volumes. tr. D. S. Richards (Ashgate, 2007) [He wrote in the 13th century and was an advocate for Saladin, but he had access to a lot of older material]

Baha’ al-Din Ibn Shaddad, The Rare and Excellent History of Saladin. tr. D. S. Richards (Ashgate, 2002) [a contemporary and friend of Saladin who witnessed many of the events]

Francesco Gabrieli, ed. and tr. Arab Historians of the Crusades, (Dorset Press, 1969) [For a long time this was one of the few English translations. It covers the time between the First Crusade and the fall of Acre and is a good introduction]

Ibn Al-Qalansi. The Damascus Chronicles of the Crusades. Tr. H.A.R. Gibb (Luzac & Co. London, 1932) [An account by an important member of the government of Damascus who was an adult at the time of the First Crusade.  He died in 1160.]

Usama ibn-Munqidh. An Arab-Syrian Gentleman and Warrior in the Time of the Crusades. Tr. Phillip K. Hitti (Columbia University Press, 1929) [Usama (1095-1188) wrote this memoir late in his eventful life. An Arab aristocrat who refused to learn Turkish, although he fought with the Turkish armies, he was born at Shaizar and died in Damascus.  Arrogant but entertaining, his account shows the ways in which the Christian settlers and upper-class Arabs interacted. The Templars kept a place for him to pray; he hunted with the king of Jerusalem, but that didn’t stop him from killing them in battle. Some stories are hearsay and other embellished.  Great fun.]

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Primary Sources: Western:

Edward Peters, ed. The First Crusade: the Chronicle of Fulcher of Chartres and Other Source Materials. (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1978)

Malcolm Barber and Keith Bate, ed. & tr. Letters from the East: Crusaders Pilgrims and Settlers in the 12th and 13th Centuries, (Ashgate, 2013) [While not all these are letters as we would term them, the collection gives first-hand slices of information on events that are often only given a sentence or two in histories.]

Fulcher of Chartres. A History of the Expedition to Jerusalem, 1095-1127, tr. Frances Rita Ryan (Norton 1969) [Fulcher went on the First Crusade and stayed in Jerusalem.  He was a cheerleader for settlement and sometimes his description is a bit too rosy, but his account is invaluable.]

Anon. Gesta Francorum: The Deads of the Franks and the other Pilgrims to Jerusalem ed. Rasalind Hill. (Oxford University Press, 1962) [ An eyewitness account of the Frist Crusade from the speech at Clermont in 1095 to the siege of Ascalon in 1099.  The author was an educated soldier, not a cleric.  His descriptions of battle and the siege of Antioch are harrowing]

Guibert de Nogent, The Deeds of God through the Franks, tr. Robert Levine. (Boydell, 1997) [Guibert was a French monk who got his information from returning pilgrims.  He presents various views on the crusades.  He also wrote an autobiography, which I find very amusing]

Albert of Achen.  History of the Journey to Jerusalem  2 vols. Tr. Edgington (Ashgate 2013) [Albert also stayed in Europe and acquired his information from returning travelers, but his account fills in gaps in others]

William of Tyre. A history of Deeds Done Beyond the Sea, ed. Babcock and Krey. (Farrar Straus, Giroux, 19760 [born in Jerusalem, William was sent back to Europe for schooling and returned to become bishop of Tyre and tutor to Baldwin IV, the leper king.  Many of the events he recorded happened while he was gone, but he is excellent, if opinionated, on people he knew and interviewed many who had lived through the time he chronicles.]

The Gesta Tancredi of Ralph of Caen Bachrach, Bernard S. and Bachrach, David S. (eds.), (Ashgate.)  The Norman view of the early Italo-Norman rulers of Antioch.  I haven’t had a chance to read it, yet.

Odo of Deuil, The Journey of Louis VII to the East. Tr, Virginia Berry. (Norton, 1948, many editions) [Odo went with Louis and Eleanor and was miserable most of the way.  His chronicle ends when he reached Antioch and things started to get interesting.  He seems to have been to depressed to say more.]

Peter Edbury, ed. The Conquest of Jerusalem and the Third Crusade (Ashgate 1998)  [This is a translation of the continuation of William of Tyre.  It covers the complicated dynastic struggles in Jerusalem, the rise of Saladin and the resulting crusade.]

The Itinerarium Peregrinorum et Gesta Regis Ricardi tr. Helen J. Nicholson, (Ashgate 2001)[ A flattering portrait of the Third Crusade and King Richard the Lionheart.]

G. A. Loud, ed. & tr. The Crusade of Frederick Barbarossa: The History of the Expedition of the Emperor Frederick and Other Accounts. (Ashgate, 2010) The best known life of Frederick and his time on the third Crusade was written by his uncle, Otto.  Loud gives translations from a variety of other chroniclers

Robert de Clari. The Conquest of Constantinople, tr. Edgar Holmes McNeal (University of Toronto Press,1996) [Robert was a soldier on the Fourth Crusade.  His report from the ground is illuminating , since he stayed through the capture of Constantinople.]

Janet Shirley tr. Crusader Syria in the Thirteenth Century  (Ashgate 1999) [A translation of two chronicles covering the crusades from 1229 – 1261, led by Theobald of Champagne and then Louis IX of France.  The first, Rothelin, is totally disjointed but wonderful in that he veers from accounts of the expeditions to magic and protest songs from the ranks.  Eracles is not so much fun but contains much information]

Peter Jackson, ed. & tr. The Seventh Crusades, 1244-1254: Sources and Documents (Ashgate, 2007)

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Primary Sources: Levantine

Walter the Chancellor. The Antiochene Wars tr. Asbridge and Edginton (Ashgate 1999) [Walter was chancellor in Antioch in the early days of the Latin settlement.  He gives the story of the battles among both the Crusaders and the local Muslims, making it clear that they often allied against a common foe.  He tells of his time as a hostage in Aleppo.  A good counterpoint to the completely Eurocentric accounts]

Anna Comnena. The Alexiad.  tr. E.R.A. Sewter (Penguin Classics, 1969/2003) [Opinionated Anna was in the thick of things in Constantinople during the First Crusade.  The book was written to glorify her father, the usurper, Emperor  Alexis, but everyone else is fair game.  Her comments on the leaders of the Crusade are priceless]

Matthew of Edessa, Armenia and the Crusades. Tr. Ara Doustourian. (Armenian Heritage Press, 2014) [This new, revised edition is fabulous.  Matthew lived in Edessa before and during the early Crusades.  He is highly opinionated and he gives accounts of life there under Muslim and Frankish rulers that are barely mentioned in other sources.  Everyone interested in the crusader period should read this.  We have so few minority views of life then.]

 

General Histories of the Crusades:

Thomas F. Madden The New Concise History of the Crusades. (MD: Rowman &Amp; Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2006)[I’ve liked much of his earlier work but haven’t had a chance to look at this]

Hans Eberhard Mayer The Crusades (Oxford University Press, 1988) An expert German historian who takes a less French-centered view.

Jonathan Riley-Smith, The First Crusaders, 1095-1131, (Cambridge UP, 1997) [A comprehensive look at the leaders and ranks of the first wave from the west.  He also wrote a three volume history on all the Crusades.]

Carole Hillenbrand. The Crusades: Islamic Perspectives. (Edinburgh University Press, 2010) [This is a fabulous book, full of quotes, analysis and pictures.  She discusses relations among the Arab/Turkish/North African Muslims as well as their interactions with other groups.  Her writing is clear and she makes her biases obvious so that the reader can take them into account.  Whatever general history you read, this should be a companion.]

Christopher Tyerman. God’s War: a New History of the Crusades. (Belnap/Harvard, 2006)  [A vast history, strong on military and political events.  It’s not intended to be a social history and powerful women are given less space than the men.  The strengths of the book are an emphasis on the role of the Italian city-states, his coverage of the crusades in Spain and the Baltic, and a section on the Albigensian Crusade.]

WARNING!!!  Whatever book you choose for a general survey of the period, if the author is listed as a reporter for the New York Times or the Washington Post, put it back on the shelf.  These books are popular but wildly inaccurate.  I have no idea why these people think they can write a history because they’ve been to the Middle East and read a couple of books on the topic.  ARRGH!

 

Websites and blogs:

Andrew Holt is a medieval historian and local TV pundit who has a blog that often covers the Crusades.

https://apholt.com/2016/10/26/byzantine-recruitment-of-western-warriors-before-the-first-crusade-peter-frankopans-call-from-the-

He has also edited a book with Alfred J. Andrea, Seven myths of the Crusades, Hackett Publishing, Indianapolis, 2015 ($19.00)  This is a good corrective for a lot of things that “everyone knows”, including the non-connection between the Templars and the Freemasons.

The Medieval Sourcebook.  This is a wonderful resource for primary sources in translation.  Paul Halsall has maintained it for many years.

http://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/sbook.asp

Weathering the Apocalypse in France? What a Great Idea!

November 26, 2012

 

I’ve spent a lot of time in the back country of Southern France.  I even drove up to Rennes-le-Chateau for my book on the Da Vinci Code,   but even when I was researching THE REAL HISTORY OF THE END OF THE WORLD, I totally missed the news about the town of Bugarach (really) apparently known as being a psychic vortex and, when the world ends, will be the only place spared.  It seems, from the articles I’ve read, that the people who survive will largely be reporters.  This should make the post-apocalyptic world interesting.   For those who, like me, have missed this, here is a link from The Guardian:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/nov/19/bugarach-french-village-survive-mayan-apocalypse
I have radio interviews right up to Dec. 21, so I suppose that I’ll miss this one.  However, the nice thing about predicting the End is that there is always another coming up.

The Election as Apocalyptic Sign

October 27, 2012

This is the usual American image of Halloween.  Adorable children in costumes, going door to door, collecting treats and laughing.  When I was a child we went out alone and ranged as far as we could walk.  Now children are shadowed by parents or organized into parties at community centers.  In my grandfather’s day they were

closer to the original meaning of Halloween.  He and his friends stole furniture from porches, tipped over outhouses and generally destroyed anything they could.

Now, what has this to do with either the election or the end of the world?  OK, it’s a tenuous connection.  But I was thinking about how many people feel that if their candidates don’t win, the world is headed down in a spiral to destruction.   Nothing prophetic, Biblical, Mayan or mathematical.   One group is certain that the world will be crushed under a load of debt.  The other is sure that international industrialists will run amok and destroy the ecosystem so we’ll have nothing left to eat, drink or breathe.

I’m not as concerned about the accuracy of these theories as I am about the climate that is producing them.   Even though the Mayan believers have been quiet lately along with the ones worried about a galactic alignment, sunspots and rogue killer asteroids, there is still an overarching sense of impending DOOM.

Campaign ads are to blame, I’m sure of it.  Never mind racial or gender slurs, opposing candidates have become antichrists.  If we don’t vote for the correct one, Satan will rule.  If you don’t believe me, watch a few hundred of these.  Therefore, my feeling is that we’ve done this to ourselves because in our collective id, we like feeling on the edge of disaster.  Why?  I’m really asking.  I have no idea.  Is it adrenalin?  A need to wipe the slate and start over?  Too many post-apocalyptic movies where the main characters are gorgeous and compassionate and we think there will be more of them then for us to meet?

Why aren’t we thinking more about saving the world for the cute, innocent kids to trick or treat in?
Just a thought.

 

Pilgrims, Apocalypse, Churchill, Fleming and myths that won’t die

November 25, 2011

 

A few days ago a friend sent me an inspiring story about how the young Winston Churchill was saved from drowning by the father of Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of penicillin.  As a reward, Churchill’s father sent young Alexander to medical school.  In 1943 Church was ill and saved by a dose of penicillin.  My bs radar immediately went off.  So I checked and the story has no basis in fact at all.  What is amazing is that this story has been around for decades despite the fact that it is easy to disprove.  There are several sites that give the story and the reality behind it.  The one I used was http://www.snopes.com/glurge/fleming.asp

Churchill

Was not saved by Fleming's father.

paid his own way through medical school

So, what does this have to do with the Pilgrims — Puritans, actually?   Well, despite lots of research by historians, the records of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and plain old common sense, we still have an image of the First Thanksgiving as a wonderful, squdgy time of friendship and sharing between the English settlers and the Native Americans. It’s an idea of a Golden Age that we somehow have lost, an era of abundance and brotherhood.  And the thing that I still have trouble with is, even though most of us know that this is a myth, we cling to it anyway.   When the first settlers were starving, they stole from the Indians rather than trade.

And now we come to the Apocalypse. I didn’t know about this until I was researching THE REAL HISTORY OF THE END OF THE WORLD.   I knew that the Puritans were Calvinist Protestants who came, according to my schoolteachers, for religious freedom.  What I was ignorant of was that many of them were part of a sect that believed the end of the world was near.  They had come to America to prepare for it.  Converting the natives was part of this belief although some thought that the Indians were in league with demons.

After the Mayflower landed, word came that King Charles I had been overthrown and that England was now a Puritan theocracy.  Some of those who had left England returned to take part in this new society.  They were among those who, by a complex twist of logic and Biblical interpretation, believed that England was the new Jerusalem and that this was where Jesus would arrive at the Second Coming.   For other arcane reasons (see my post on the End in October) 1666 was considered the date for the event.

When the end didn’t come and Charles II did, the American Puritans put their faith in their new colony.   Within a few decades they were expelling dissidents and hanging women for witchcraft.

pilgrims meeting the local neighbors.

Not as much good will and mutual respect as we were taught.

Again, most of us know about the downside of the story of the Pilgrims and how that made a deep impression on the country for generations.  And yet, we still cherish the warm, fuzzy, inaccurate memory of the first Thanksgiving.   I really can’t understand this and it fascinates me.  I’m beginning to fear that I need to go back for a degree in behavioral psychology.

ps.  Looking at the list of how many times my posts have been read, I realize that by far the most popular was the one on chastity belts.   No comment.