A study of the style and method of Ralph of Caen



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The Gesta Tancredi in expeditione Hierosolymitana, written in the early twelfth century by Ralph of Caen, has rarely attracted close attention from students of the First Crusade. Several factors account for this lack of interest. The book is incomplete. Although Ralph announced in the -preface that he intended to relate the life and deeds of Tancred, the story ends abruptly in 1105, about seven years before Tancred's death. The author did not personally participate in the First Crusade, but only came to Syria nine years after the Frankish capture of Jerusalem. Consequently Ralph's book is not an eye-witness account of the First Crusade. Finally, the style of the book is affected and pretentious. Ralph expressed the hope- that the muse of Virgil would inspire him as he wrote. The Gesta Tancredi contains many quotes and paraphrases from Virgil and many other classical authors. While these classical references indicate that Ralph was well educated, they often tend to complicate the story which Ralph narrates.