A comparison of the four Latin eyewitness accounts of the first crusade with William of Tyre's Historia Rerum In Partibus Transmarinis Gestarum



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While William Archbishop of Tyre is assured of his position as an historian, and crusading scholars readily admit their debt to him in studying the events between 1160-1186, since the archbishop was an eyewitness to many of them, the value of his work for the earlier period and especially the First Crusade has been questioned. Historians following the view of Heinrich von Sybel have assumed William derived most of his information for the First Crusade from the account written by Albert of Aachen. Consequently, these scholars have neglected William's use of the eyewitness accounts of that peregrination. In view of this lacuna, our study focused on a comparison of William's Historia rerum in partibus transmarinis gestarum with the four Latin eyewitness accounts of the First Crusade. The Latin eyewitness chronicles of the First Crusade include the Gesta Francorum et Aliorum Hierosolymitanorum composed by an unknown author usually referred to as the Anonymous, the Historia Francorum Qui Ceperunt Iherusalem written by Raymond D'Aguilers, the Historia de Hierosolymitano of Peter Tudebode, and the Historia Hierosolymitana recorded by Fulcher of Chartres. By dividing the archbishop's history into stages of the crusade we attempted to show the influence of the Gesta, the chronicles of Peter Tudebode, Raymond D'Aguilers, and Fulcher of Chartres. In some incidences the analogies were striking, even in word usage, while in other cases William provided information not appearing in the eyewitness accounts. Our investigation revealed that while the Archbishop of Tyre did utilize Albert of Aachen's account he also substantially relied on the eyewitness chronicles and particularly upon the history written by Raymond D'Aguilers. Therefore we suggested that, based on the evidence presented in our study, the assertion that William of Tyre followed Albert of Aachen's chronicle of the First Crusade could no longer be considered completely valid.



History, Europe, Eleventh century, Crusades--First, 1096-1099, William, of Tyre, Archbishop of Tyre, approximately 1130-approximately 1190