Latin Reading Club (14) - The Crusaders (part 1)

By Cato, in 'Reading Latin', Oct 27, 2006.

  1. Cato Consularis

    • Consularis
    Chicago, IL
    William of Tyre, Historia XVII.4

    William of Tyre was a 12th century archbishop who wrote a chronicle of the early Crusades. The selection below is part of a passage recounting the Crusader reversal at Damascus in 1148.

    Videbatur satis in expedito--si propitia nobis esset Divinitas--quod urbem in vicino obtenturus esset populus Christianus. Sed aliter visum est ei qui terribilis est in consiliis super filios hominum. Nam dum, ut diximus, civitas in arcto constituta esset, nec ejus cives resistendi aut salutis spem haberent ullam, sed compositis sarcinis migrare e loco disponerent, peccatis nostris exigentibus coeperunt de nostrorum praesumere cupiditate. Et pecuniarum interventu, eorum expugnare animos sunt aggressi, quorum corpora posse vinci diffidebant. Tota enim sollicitudine in argumenta varia se attollentes, quibusdam de principibus promissa et collata infinitae quantitatis pecunia, ut eorum studio et opera obsidio solveretur, ut Judae proditoris officio fungerentur persuaserunt. Hi ergo datis et pollicitis corrupti, et--vitiorum omnium fomitem--cupiditatem secuti, in id sceleris descenderunt, ut regibus et peregrinis principibus, de eorum fide et industria confidentibus, impiis suggestionibus persuaderent ut, relictis pomeriis, in oppositam civitatis partem transferrent expeditiones.

    Videbatur satis - lit. "it seemed enough", but here perhaps more like "it seemed obvious"; the clause beginning at quod explains this.
    terribilis...hominum - Cf. Psalms 65:4.
    in arcto - "in a tight spot"
    resistendi - gerund, "resisting"
    compositis sarcinis - abl. absolute
    peccatis...exigentibus - abl. absolute; exigens here is more impersonal: "emerging"
    se attollentes - "raising themselves", i.e. for the various arguments
    quibusdam de principibus - "(to) certain of the princes"
    obsidio - "siege"; abl. of separation after "solveretur"
    ut...fungerentur - object clause after persuaderunt; fungerentur is from fungor, fungi, functus - "perform, discharge, execute (a duty)" (takes the dative)
    in id sceleris - Classically we might expect simply in scelerem
    ut regibus et...principibus...suggestionibus persuaderent - To untangle this, note that regibus et principibus (referring here to the whole leadership rather than the few who have been corrupted) are dative after persuaderent, and suggestionibus is ablative.
    pomeriis - "orchards"

    This text is not at Perseus (found it in the Patrologia Latina database at the University of Chicago; starts at bottom of p. 677D).
    English translation from Fordham's "Internet Medieval Source Book" (search on the word "evident" to find start of text; ends at "opposite side of the city").

    We'll continue the story next time. Habete ludum
  2. Cato Consularis

    • Consularis
    Chicago, IL
    I decided with this one to try something from the Middle Ages, since this period is often overlooked by Latinists steeped in the classics (not to mention students who--outside of some hymns--rarely read any of this 1000 years worth of written Latin from this age).

    The usual problem with Medieval Latin is that the quality--judging only from a classical grammar/syntax perspective--is extremely broad. William of Tyre, however, writes excellent Latin; barring a few easily-understood medievalisms (e.g. reflexive use of participles), any student who can translate Caesar should be able to read much of his Historia. William was perhaps not up to modern standards of history--many parts are simply legendary tales, and as one would expect from a cleric there is a veneer of divine providence coated over every action, as the passage above illustrates--but he is an enjoyable read. The conclusion of the passage above, which I hope to post by Friday (after some editing), should illustrate the Archbishop's literary skill.

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