William of Tyre

William of Tyre a prominent ecclesiastic and judicious historian, lived in the time of the Crusades. He was born in Syria about A.D. 1130, and reared at Antioch or Jerusalem. About 1160 he visited Italy and France as a student of the liberal arts, and on his return to Jerusalem, after an absence of several years, he became the friend and instructor of king Amalric (reigned 1162- 1173). In 1167 he became archdeacon of Tyre, and in the same year was employed by Amalric to negotiate a league with the emperor Manuel I at Constantinople, with a view to the invasion of Egypt. Soon afterwards some unpleasantness arose between his archbishop, Frederic of Tyre, and himself, in consequence of which he visited Rome; and immediately after this Amalric gave him charge of the education and training of his son, the prince Baldwin. In the summer of 1170 a terrible earthquake convulsed the East, destroying many ancient towns and numerous lives, and overthrowing several strong towers in Tyre. King Amaltic died July 11, 1173, and his successor, Baldwin, called William to the post of chancellor; about the same time the archbishop Frederic died, and William was given the vacant see, being the sixth incumbent of that diocese since the founding of the kingdom of Jerusalem. In this capacity he was present, in 1178, at the third Lateran synod at Rome, and on his return wrote out the decisions of the synod, together with a list of the names and titles of all participants in its business, in a work which he deposited in the archives of the principal church at Tyre. He spent seven months in Constantinople in the transaction of business for his see, then visited Antioch on a mission from the emperor Manuel. and, after an absence from home of one year and ten months, returned to Tyre. So much may be gathered from his own writings, which form the almost exclusive source for his life. An ancient French writer adds the statement that William was poisoned through the agency of the patriarch of Jerusalem, Heraclius, at Rome, whither he had gone to effect the deposition of that prelate. Another tradition states instead that William acted as a commissioner to the West after the taking of Jerusalem by Saladin in 1188, and was appointed legate in matters pertaining to crusades by pope Gregory VIII, being present as such at a meeting of Philip Augustus of France and Richard of England, which took place between Gisors and Trie.

William of Tyre composed two historical works, one of which contained the history of Eastern princes from Mohammed to his own time, a period of five hundred and seventy years (Gesta Principium Orientalium). It was based upon Arabic sources which were placed at his disposal by the liberality of king Amaric. This work is no longer extant. The other work contains the history of the Crusades, from A.D. 1100 to 1184, in twenty- three books, the last of which is unfinished (Historia Rerum in Partibus Transmarinis Gestarum a Tempore Mahumeth usque ad A.D. 1184). It, was drawn from documentary sources and from his personal observations and carefully managed inquiries among his contemporaries. Its learning is very great as respects natural, political, and ecclesiastical conditions in both the East and West, and the literatures of the Arabic, Syriac, Greek, and Latin languages. Its matter also is very full, and its tone, upon the whole, impartial, and little affected by the credulous belief of his age in wonders. Its style, finally, is that of animated description, such as best harmonizes with the portrayal of events in which the military element plays a principal part. It earned for its author the reputation of being one of the foremost historical writers of the Middle Ages. The oldest edition of this work extant is that of Basle (1549 fol.; 2d ed. 1560). Other editions are by Bongarsius (1564), in Gesta Dei per Francos, 1:625 sq.; G. du Preau (in French, Paris, 1573 fol.). The continuation of the work to 1285, by an unknown writer, is given in Martene, Thesaur. 5:581. An abridgment is given in Bernhard, Thesaurus, with continuation, in French, to 1284; in Latin, by the Dominican Pippin (1320), in Muratori, Thesaurus, 7:657 sq. A German edition was issued in 1844 at Stuttgart, by Kausler, with the title, Gesch. d. Kreuzzuge u. d. Konigreichs Jerusalem. Comp. Bongarsius, Praef.; Vossius, De List. Lat. page 53; Fabricius, Bibl. Lat. Medii AEvi, s.v.; Wahler, Handbuch d. Gesch. d. Literatur (2d ed. Leipsic, 1823), 2:222; Herzog, Real-Encyklop. s.v.

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