Professor Barbara Stevenson
(from Bibliotheque Boulogne-s-mer)
LITERATURE OF THE CRUSADES:
Online Sources in English Translation
Department of English, Kennesaw State University
Top of Page
Framed Tale Collections
Top of Page
The Spanish Reconquest proved to be a protracted struggle between Christians
and Muslims beginning in the eighth century (about three hundred years
before the beginning of the Crusades) when Muslims conquered much of the
peninsula, and the conflicts did not end until 1492 when Isabella and Ferdinand
expelled the remaining Moors. Einhard:
The Life of Charlemagne includes Charlemagne's campaign in Spain to
fight against the Muslims in 778 C.E.(Medieval Sourcebook). Hispanic
Peninsula: A Guide to Online Sources contains links to chronicles and
other primary sources about the Reconquest (ORB).
Caliphate Page provides links to Muslim chronicles written throughout
the various Crusades (George McDowell, University of Michigan).
Excerpts from Robert the Monk, William of Tyre, Rabbi Elizier bar Nathan,
and Ibn Al-Athir appear in First
Crusade: Sanctifying War (Norton Topics Online). Pope Urban II proclaimed
the First Crusade in 1096 in response to the Turks' invasion of Byzantine
Empire lands; it ended in 1099 when the Crusaders conquered Jerusalem.
In excerpts from the Alexiad
by Anna Comnena about the First Crusade, the Byzantine princess praises
her father, the Emperor Alexius I whose request to Pope Urban for military
assistance initiated the Crusade, and criticizes the Crusaders (Medieval
Francorum is a chronicle of the First Crusade written by an anonymous
French writer (Medieval Sourcebook).
Herbipolenses provides a hostile view of the Second Crusade of 1147-1149.
Ostensibly the Second Crusade responded to the emir Zanghi's capture of
Edessa, but the Crusade also involved attacks on Jews, Wends, and Slavs
of Hoveden relates the fall of Jerusalem to Saladin in 1187, which
leads to the Third Crusade of 1189-1192 (Medieval Sourcebook).
de Villehardouin narrates events from the Fourth Crusade of 1202-1204,
in which the Venetians encourage the Crusaders to sack Constantinople (Medieval
Regiae Coloniensis tells of The Children's Crusade of 1212 (Medieval
Top of Page
The Song of Roland
is an Old French epic that celebrates Charlemagne's victory and laments
Roland's death in the fight against the Spanish Muslims (OMACL). Though
set at the Battle of Roncesvals in 778, the surviving manuscript dates
from about 1100, the time of the First Crusade. This epic serves as a prototype
for later epics and romances about the Crusades. For example, Orlando
Furioso (OMACL) is an Italian amplification; there are Middle
English Charlemagne romances (TEAMS) that also conflate the wars of
Charlemagne with the later Crusades.
Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar's skirmishes with Muslims from 1065-1099 inspire
the Spanish epic El Cid
In The Divine Comedy
, the allegorical epic of the afterlife written by Italian writer Dante
during the early 1300s, Dante places in Canto XVIII of the Paradisio
the famous warriors who fought against Islam, including Charlemagne, Roland,
and the leader of the First Crusade, Godfrey of Bouillon. Conversely, in
the Inferno he places Muhammad and Ali in Canto XXVIII. Dante assigns
Muslims he admired in Limbo (Canto IV of the Inferno), including
Saladin, who recaptured Jerusalem, and philosophers Averroes and Avicenna.
The Saracen Queen Semiramis appears among the carnal in Canto V(Digital
Morte Arthure ,anonymous fourteenth-century English poems, depict Arthur
as a Crusader king (TEAMS). Arthur as a Crusader king becomes a standard
feature in the Arthurian tradition, as seen in Malory's Le
Mort d'Arthur (Project Gutenberg) and Spenser's Faerie
Queen (Renascence Editions, University of Oregon).
is an Italian epic by Torquato Tasso written in the 1570s celebrating the
successes of the First Crusade (OMACL).
Arabs and Muslims also wrote epics and romances celebrating their victories
over the Crusaders. For a summary of these epics, see M. C. Lyons' The
Arabian Epic, Cambridge UP, 1995. The most relevant of the Arabian
epics is the Sirat Antar, parts of which are translated by H. T.
Norris in The Adventures of Antar, published by Aris and Phillips
in 1980. Some Counter Crusade epics and romances become subsumed
by Book of a Thousand Nights and a Night--see the description and
links below under framed tale collections.)
Framed Tale Collections:
Top of Page
Sir Richard Francis Burton's complete translation of the anonymous Book
of a Thousand Nights and a Night contains tales and romances that
satirize the Crusaders (Project Gutenberg). I have excerpted from Project
Gutenberg and updated Burton's language for the following tales from the
: "Tale of King Omar bin al-Nu'uman and his sons Sharrkan and Zau
al-Makan" (Vols.2 & 3) is an excerpt from a long romance, as is "Ali
Nur Al-Din and Miriam the Girdle Girl (Vols. 8 &9); "The Prior and
Moslem" (Vol. 5), "The Moslem Champion and the Christian Damsel"
(Vol. 5), "The Man of Upper Egypt and his Frankish Wife" (Vol. 9) are short
For tales on Crusaders or Saracens in The
Decameron see the following stories (the day is the first number, the
story number the second): 1.3--Saladin seeks to trick a Jew, Melchisedech;
1.5--King Phillip of the Third Crusade is spurned by a Marchioness; 2.7--The
Sultan of Babylon's daughter sleeps with nine men; 2.9--Madonna Zinevra
disguises herself to become the Sultan's servant; 4.4--Gerbino falls in
love with the daughter of the King of Tunis; 5.2--Two lovers find one another
in Tunisia; 5.6--King Frederick of the Fourth Crusade intends to marry
a woman against her will; 10.9--the friendship and generosity of Saladin
and a merchant. Christian writers, such as Boccaccio, were often complimentary
of Saladin, the Muslim leader who captured Jerusalem (Decameron Web).
See "The Man of Law's Tale" in Chaucer's Canterbury
Tales (Librarius.com) .
Top of Page
of the Spanish Moors (Medieval Sourcebook) and Primary
Documents on Andalusia (New York University) are two websites
that provide translations of lyric poems by Muslims in the Iberian peninsula
from various periods. One frequent theme is the ubi sunt ("where
are they now?"), poems lamenting the destruction of such grand cities as
Cordoba as a result of the Berber invasions and wars with the Christians.
Christine de Pisan
wrote a poem about Joan of Arc in the 1400s, imploring Joan to reinvigorate
the Crusades (Southern Methodist University).
Top of Page
Travels of Ibn Jubayr, 1184 is an account by a Muslim traveling through
Crusader States (Cornell University).
Polo is an Italian explorer of the thirteenth-century who traveled
to China (Medieval Sourcebook).
of Sir John Mandeville is fourteenth-century English fiction; this
work reflects European fantasies about the Islamic East and about Prester
John, the imaginary Christian king who Europeans hoped would join the Crusades
The following Medieval Studies websites contain sections on the Crusades,
which provide additional links to literature of the Crusades in English
N.B.: If you see any errors or have any suggested
additions, please mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
Top of Page
Copyright @ 14 June 2004