Annals and Chronicles

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Along with hagiography, annals and chronicles constitute the typical forms of medieval historical literature. In practice, annals and chronicles often overlap in content and form, but they are theoretically distinct. Annals may be described as brief chronological listings of events regarded as important in the history of a kingdom, bishopric, or monastery, etc., by contemporary compilers who are usually anonymous. Chronicles list such events in chronological order also, but they furnish more detail, deal with the past, even the remote past, as well as with the contemporary period, and their authors are frequently known. Annals as described give way to chronicles in the later Middle Ages, but the term annals continues to be used to designate what may properly be considered chronicles, and the later chronicles themselves in part assume the character of "history" in the strict sense, since their authors tend to indicate causal relations between events and to inject formally their own judgments or evaluations.

Annals to the 7th Century A.D. As a literary genre, annals go back to the Hittites and Assyrians, who left records of their military campaigns in annalistic form. The Greeks apparently did not compose annals as distinct from chronicles. However, the early Roman historians were more properly annalists, as they presented historical events in a bald, annalistic fashion. The Romans adopted the practice also of recording contemporary historical events on their calendars, a procedure that anticipated the Christian usage, which is the foundation of all medieval annals.

The pattern for medieval annals was set by the chronographer of 354. This work contains an official Roman calendar, a long list of consuls, Paschal Tables for 100 years beginning with the year 312, a list of popes from pontianus (230235) to liberius, and a brief chronicle to the year 338. The Paschal Tables took on a new significance in chronology in the West after the disintegration of the Western Roman Empire and the abandonment of the consular system of dating. The easter controversy between the Irish and the Anglo-Saxons, which was finally settled at the Synod of Whitby (664), indicates the special importance of the Paschal Tables in early Christian Britain. Anglo-Saxon missionaries carried their Paschal Tables to the Continent during the 7th century, and in the early 8th they were equipped with the invaluable De temporum ratione of bede, which, in addition to Paschal Tables, contained a brief chronicle of the Six Ages of the world from Creation to a.d. 729. It had already become customary in England to make marginal notes of historical or other events thought worthy of record opposite the given years in the Paschal Tables. These notes were at first very short, occupying not more than a single line, but as they necessarily had a chronological sequence, they were annals in embryo. The practice was likewise introduced on the Continent. Annals proper were created when the notations mentioned were detached from the Paschal Tables and assembled and circulated in an independent form. This final stage in the development of annals was reached in the course of the 7th century in Merovingian Gaul.

Chronicles to the 7th Century A.D. The so-called Babylonian Chronicle (a cuneiform document now in the British Museum, No. 21946) is an annalistic record rather than a chronicle in the strict sense. The chronicle proper was a creation of the Greeks. The Atthis, or Chronicle of Athens, and especially the Marmor Parium, or Parian Chronicle, covering a period from the 13th to the middle of the 3d century b.c., may be cited as typical examples. Pagan histories and chronicles could not satisfy the early Christians, preoccupied as they were with salvation history as contained in the Old and New Testaments and as reflecting the universal power of God, the Father of all mankind. Furthermore, it was of the greatest importance for Christian apologetics to show that the history of the people of God, particularly their religious history, began long before that of the Greeks and Romans. Hence the Christian chronicle was created to meet a twofold Christian need by Sextus julius africanus, whose Chronicles (preserved only in fragments) furnished a synchronized record of profane and Biblical events from Creation (5500 b.c.) to a.d. 221. A few years later (a.d. 234), hippolytus of rome published a somewhat similar Chronicle of world history which is preserved only in fragments and in Latin translation. It was based in part on Africanus, but relied most heavily on the Bible itself. Africanus and, especially, Hippolytus were millenarians. see millenarianism.

The Chronicle of Eusebius-Jerome. The greatest and most influential of all Christian chronicles was compiled by eusebius of caesarea. His Chronicle (first published in 303, but later brought down by him to 325) contains a brief survey of universal history as it was then known, followed by elaborate synchronistic tables of sacred and profane history. He begins his chronology with the birth of Abraham (20162015 b.c.), maintaining that no certain dates could be established for the period from Adam and the Fall to Abraham. He wished to demonstrate that the religion of the Hebrews was the oldest of all religions and that Christianity was its continuation and fulfillment. He used much better profane sources than his Christian predecessors and abandoned their millenarian ideas. The Greek original is lost except for fragments, but an Armenian translation of the whole work made in the 6th century is extant. The second part is preserved also in the free translation (c. 380) of St. jerome, who introduced much new material, especially from Roman history, and added a section covering the years from 325 to 378. The Chronicle of Eusebius or of Eusebius-Jerome became the immediate source of almost all subsequent universal Christian chronicles and histories in East and West until early modern times.

Post-Eusebian Chronicles. Among the other chronicles compiled before the 7th century, in part as supplements or continuations of Eusebius or Eusebius-Jerome, some in particular deserve mention. As already noted, the Chronographer of 354 included a world chronicle to a.d. 334, which was essentially a Latin translation and continuation of the Chronicle of Hippolytus of Rome. The African Bishop Quintus Iulius Hilarianus (second half of the 4th century) compiled a chronicle, De cursu temporum, recounting events from Creation to a.d. 397. A pronounced chiliast, he set the end of the world for a.d. 470. The World Chronicle (Chronicorum libri duo ) of sulpicius severus, which runs from Creation to a.d. 400, is well organized and is especially valuable for the history of the 4th century a.d. Reference must be made also to St. augustine's De civitate Dei and to orosius's Historiae adversus paganos. In dealing with the past, and especially the remoter past, they present their material in chronicle fashion, and by their division of world history, beginning with Creation, into six and four periods respectively, both exercised an enormous influence on all later Western historiography down to the 17th century. prosper of aquitaine compiled a World Chronicle (Epitoma chronicon ) from Creation to a.d. 455. For the period before 412, he took his material from Eusebius-Jerome and other sources, but the coverage of the years from 412 to 455 is his own. The Chronicon of the Spanish bishop hydatius may be described as a continuation of the Chronicle of Eusebius-Jerome to 468. Marcellinus Comes compiled a Chronicon in Latin for the years 379 to 534. He restricted it almost exclusively to the Eastern Empire. The Chronica of cassiodorus, which goes down to 519, is based directly on Eusebius-Jerome and other sources, having independent value only for the last 20 years. Of the Chronicle of the African bishop victor of tunnuna, only the second part, which covers the years 444 to 566, is extant. isidore of seville compiled a short World Chronicle (Chronicon ) from Julius Africa-nus, Eusebius-Jerome, and Victor of Tunnuna, continuing the work of the last to 615. He followed St. Augustine in dividing world history into six periods. The first book of the Historia Francorum of gregory of tours must be included among the Latin chronicles of this period, because it is actually a brief chronicle of world history from Creation to the death of St. Martin of Tours (397).

Of the post-Eusebian chronicles compiled in the East and written in Greek or Syriac before the middle of the 7th century, it will suffice to mention the following. About 400 an anonymous Greek writer composed a World Chronicle down to the year 387. The work is extant only in a Latin translation made in the Merovingian period, the so-called Excerpta Latina Barbari. john malalas (d. 577) compiled an elaborate and influential but uncriticalChronographia in 18 books. The extant text breaks off at the year 563. An anonymous Syrian writer composed, after 540, the Chronicle of Edessa covering the period from 133 to 132 b.c. to a.d. 540, in which he made good use of the archives of his native city. The most important and most valuable of the Eastern chronicles from this period is the so-called Chronicon Paschale, the name given to it by du cange because of the preoccupation of its anonymous author with the dating of Easter. Written most probably at Constantinople before the middle of the 7th century, it runs from Adam to a.d. 629.

Annals and Chronicles, c. 6501100. The period down to 900 was a golden age of annals; historical works of the high quality of Bede's Ecclesiastical History and einhard's Life of Charlemagne must be regarded as rare and isolated phenomena. The annals fall into two major categories, monastic and royal, although their authors were all monks or clerics. The older type of annals appearing as notes in Paschal Tables continued to flourish also, especially locally in monasteries somewhat removed from the main centers of ecclesiastical and political life. Chronicles became increasingly important in the 10th, 11th, and early 12th century. In this period one notes also the rise of a third type of historical work that is closely related to annals and chronicles and that was to have a wide development in the Middle Ages, namely, the Gesta of kings, bishops, abbots, etc., in which emphasis was placed on achievements and events rather than on biographical details. The liber pontificalis served as a model. The Gesta episcoporum Mettensium of paul the deacon (c. 784) and the Gesta abbatum Fontanellensium (c. 833) may be cited as early and typical medieval examples. The gradual adoption of the birth of Christ as a starting point in chronologies is evident in both annals and chronicles. Finally, it is of interest that the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, and the early Irish annals in part, were composed in the vernacular.

Annals. Among the earlier and rather sketchy annals produced in these four centuries may be mentioned the Annales S. Amandi (708810), Annales Mosellani (70398), Annales Guelferbytani (74190), and the Annales Mettenses priores (late 7th and early 8th century). The Royal Annals are represented by the collection formerly called Annales Laurissenses maiores (741829). Considering their central interest in the Carolingian kings, royal campaigns, and government, they could hardly have been composed at lorsch or any other monastery. The Annales Bertiniani continue the Royal Annals to 882. In this case it is certain that prudentius of troyes compiled the section for 835 to 861, and hincmar of reims, that for 862 to 882. For the 9th century, in part continuing the Royal Annals, of special note are the Annales Xantenses (83173); the Annales Fuldenses, more properly called Magontiacenses (680901, especially in its last sections); and the Annales Vedastini, or of saint-vaast (875900). The so-called Annales Einhardi is merely a worked over and extended portion of the Royal Annals. After long controversy it has been almost definitely established that the Royal Annals derived some material from earlier and shorter annals and that the latter must be given priority.

Among the annals dealing with the Saxon House, particular value attaches to the Annales of flodoard of reims for the years 919 to 968; the Annales Quedlinburgenses, beginning with Creation and exhibiting a fuller form from 708 on, and especially from 913 to 1025; and the Annales Hildesheimenses, likewise beginning with Creation, but becoming a valuable independent historical source for the years from 818 to 1137. The Salian House is better covered in the chronicles than in the annals. Lambert of Hersfeld, for example, incorporated much material from the lost Annales Altahenses maiores and from other annals into his own Annales, which, despite the name, should be classified as a chronicle or even a history.

The annals compiled in Italy during this period were relatively few and poor in quality. Although England was the land of origin of annals based on the historical notations in Paschal Tables, no significant annals or chronicles in Latinapart from the work of bedewere produced in that country before the Norman conquest. One collection provides an exception, namely, the Annales Cambriae, covering the years 444 to 954. The Irish were very fond of annals and compiled them in the vernacular as well as in Latin. The annalistic material from these early annals was incorporated into the much more elaborate Latin and Irish annals of the late Middle Ages and early modern times.

Chronicles. Although few chronicles were produced in the Carolingian Age and the decades immediately following, three are important because they are world chronicles modeled on Bede. Freculf, Bishop of Lisieux (d. c. 853), compiled a Historia a chronicle, despite its namebeginning with Creation and coming down to his own time. The fifth and last book, especially, indicates an effort to write a connected narrative. ado, Bishop of Vienne (85975), wrote a Breviarium chronicorum, beginning with Adam and closing with the year 869. In dealing with events of his own time, and especially with his own episcopal see, he did not scruple to introduce his own forgeries or falsifications. Regino of Prüm, Abbot of Prüm in Lotharingia (89299) and then of St. Martin's in Trier (to his death in 915), composed a chronicle, Chronica, beginning with the birth of Christ and ending at the year 905. Book one covers the period to 740, and book two, from 741 through 905. He was interested primarily in the events of the western half of the Frankish Empire. Despite their shortcomings, these works reveal the awareness of their authors that they belonged to a new age and that it was important to have an understanding of the past and of its relation to the present.

In the 10th and 11th centuries numerous chronicles, universal, regional, or local, were composed on the Continent north of the Alps. Several were typical and at the same time of major importance. thietmar of merseburg (9751018) composed a Chronicle of the Kings of Saxony. Lambert of Hersfeld (d. 1077) wrote a work called Annales, which was really a world chronicle. marianus scotus (102883), one of the last of the significant Irish scholars on the Continent, compiled a World Chronicle exhibiting a number of personal ideas and contributions. hermannus contractus (101354) produced a similar work, Chronicon, extending from the birth of Christ to 1054 and distinguished for its remarkable accuracy and objectivity. The World Chronicle, once assigned to Ekkehard of Aura (d. 1225), who revised and continued the work, was actually written by frutolf of michelsberg. In content and arrangement it is one of the superior works of its kind. Much of its material for the period down to the middle of the 11th century was taken from the Chronicon Wirziburgense composed in 1045 or 1054. sigebert of gembloux (10301112) produced a universal chronicle, Chronographia, which begins with the year 381. It is one of the best of the universal chronicles of the Middle Ages and probably the most influential of all such works in subsequent medieval historiography. Hugh of Flavigny (d. after 1112) wrote a Chronicon Virdunense seu Flaviniacense, which begins with the birth of Christ and ends at 1102. It is not strictly a universal chronicle, although it is often so designated, or it is concerned almost exclusively with Church history and more specifically with northern France in the 10th and 11th centuries. Among the Gesta which are closely related to chroniclescomposed in the German area in this period, was the Gesta Hammaburgensis ecclesiae pontificum of Adam of Bremen (d. 1076), one of the major historical works of the Middle Ages. All seven chronicles listed, especially those of the 11th century, reveal a greater concern for the immediate past and for contemporary events than do the earlier chronicles, and their writers often indicate their own convictions about events. This is true in particular in matters pertaining to the investiture struggle.

Historical events of England in this period are recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, more properly the Old English Annals. All extant versions stem from the compilation made in 891. Successive annalists carried the record down, in the E text, even to the middle of the 12th century (1154). These Annals, written in the vernacular, are of primary importance for the early history of England and for the history of the English language. Typical of Italy in the same period is the Chronicon Salernitanum (ed. U. Westerbergh, Stockholm 1956), which, after listing the Lombard kings from 574, begins its narrative in some detail with the year 775, ending at 964. This should, perhaps, be regarded as a history rather than as a chronicle in the strict sense.

Chronicles of the 12th Century. The distinction between annals and chronicles largely disappeared in the 12th century. The rather sparse, annalistic material was confined mainly to the earlier and unoriginal portions of chronicles as they became much more preoccupied with their own age and its immediate backgrounds. Their increasing fullness of treatment, and their interpretations, however embryonic, of historical events justify the classification of at least some chronicles as histories. The chronicles from the 12th century on, thanks to the Norman conquests, the Crusades, and the entry of northern Europe into the full life of Christendom, reveal much wider horizons of knowledge and interests. They exhibit the new intellectual depth and maturity and the greater mastery of Latin expression that are characteristic features of the renaissance of the 12th century. Furthermore, in the universal chronicles especially, alongside the traditional division of world history into six or four ages, a new tripartite division was introduced: ante legem, sub lege, sub gratia (before the Mosaic Law, under the Law, in the Age of Grace).

Universal Chronicles. The Chronicon ex chronicis of florence of worcester (d. 1118) is the first attempt in England after the time of Bede to compile a universal chronicle. It is independent only from 1030 on, but is valuable for its record of events from that date to 1117. It was continued by John of Worcester to 1141, and by other writers to 1295. Five universal chronicles written on the Continent are more important. The Norman robert of torigny, Abbot of Mont-Saint-Michel (d. 1186), continued the Chronicle of Sigebert of Gembloux. His work is especially valuable for the period from 1150 to 1186. It was continued by later chroniclers to 1272. Robert of Auxerre (11561212) composed a universal chronicle, Chronologia, divided according to the six ages of the world. Its geographical data, lists of rulers, the critical spirit displayed in the handling of legends, and the selection of material from the better earlier works ensured its success and its employment as a model by later chroniclers. It is one of the best historical contributions of the Middle Ages. vincent of beauvais put it to good use in his Speculum historiale. Guy of Bazoches (d. 1203) wrote a Chronographia in seven books, covering the time from Creation to 1199; this too has independent value for its contemporary age. hÉlinand of froidmont (d. after 1230) was the author of a universal Chronicle (6341204) in 49 books made up largely of extracts from other authors and arranged in the manner later adopted by Vincent of Beauvais. otto of freising (c. 111258) shares with john of salisbury the distinction of being the most personal and original writer of the 12th century. His universal chronicle Historia de duabus civitatibus deliberately echoes in its title the De civitate Dei of Augustine. It is unique in that it is permeated throughout with philosophico-theological ideas and interpretations, which have as their immediate background, not paganism, but the history of the Christian centuries from Augustine to his own time. Romuald II of Salerno (d. c. 1182) compiled Annales ab ortu Christi usque ad 1178, for which sources now lost were employed; it has independent value especially for the years 1125 to 1178. Romuald compares the six ages of Augustine to the six ages of man, adding two others: a seventh, that of the elect before the Resurrection, and an eighth, that after the Last Judgment. In many respects the Historia ecclesiastica of ordericus vitalis (10751142) is notable because, although the work was projected as a history of the Abbey of saint-Évroult, it was transformed in the course of composition into a kind of universal chronicle that is of the greatest value for the period from 1125 to 1140.

Regional and Local Chronicles Composed on the Continent. A few of the more important and typical regional chroniclers in France were: suger of saint-denis (d. 1151), Liber de rebus in administratione sua gestis (begun in 114445); Rigord of Saint-Denis (d. c. 1209), Gesta Philippi II Augusti; Geoffrey of Vigeois, Chronicon, covering Limousin and La Marche (1184). Those from Italy were: Falco of Benevento, Chronicon (1140); Caffaro of Caschifelone (d. 1166) et al., Annales Genuenses (10991294); Bernard Marangon (fl. 1175) et al., Annales Pisani (10041178); leo marsicanus (d. c. 111418) and Peter the Deacon of Monte Cassino (first half of 12th century), Chronica monasterii Cassinensis (10981138). Germany and the Low Countries had: Annales Erphesfurdenses (112557); Gislebert of Mons (second half of 12th cent.), Chronicon Hanoniense (10501195); Reiner, monk of the Abbey of St. Lawrence at Liège (d. after 1182), De ineptiis cuiusdam idiotae (in part a history of important abbots and monks of his monastery). Eastern and northern Europe include: Helmold of Bosau (c. 112077), Chronica Slavorum [to 1172; continued by Arnold of Lübeck (d. c. 121114) to 1209]; Chronica Polonorum (written between 1109 and 1113); Cosmas of Prague (10451125), Chronica Bohemorum, continued by successive writers to 1283; Saxo Grammaticus (d. c. 1220), Gesta Danorum, in prose and verse; Kaiserchronik, a German chronicle in verse running from the time of Caesar to the Crusade of Conrad III in 1147. (It was written at Regensburg after 1160 by several ecclesiastics and continued in Bavaria to Frederick II, and in Swabia to Rudolph of Hapsburg.)

Anglo-Norman Chronicles. The chronicles produced in the Anglo-Norman world deserve special attention. Through the Norman conquest of 1066 England was brought into the full current of European affairs and into active participation in religious reform, in the new intellectual movement of the 11th and 12th centuries, and in the Crusades. A series of Anglo-Norman writers produced a number of outstanding chronicles and related works in a fluent Latin style. The universal chronicle of Florence of Worcester was mentioned above. william of malmesbury (d. 1143) wrote Gesta regum Anglorum in 1125, Historia novella as a continuation to 1142, Gesta pontificum Anglorum, and De antiquitate ecclesiae Glastoniensis. He was much admired centuries later by Milton. henry of huntingdon (10841159) wrote a Historia Anglorum, divided into four periods: Roman, Saxon, Danish, and Norman. He revised the work five times. However, as a historian he was inferior to William of Malmesbury. John of Salisbury (d. 1180) wrote the Historia pontificalis (1162), preserved in part only, but an excellent work intended especially to correct Sigebert of Gembloux and his continuators. Roger of Hoveden (d. 1201) compiled his Chronica in two parts, running from 732 to 1201. His chronicle was much read and used well into the 15th century. The Cistercian Ralph of Coggeshall (d. c. 1228) compiled a Chronicon Anglicanum covering the years from 1066 to 1224. geoffrey of monmouth (c. 110055), with his Historia regum Britanniae, produced a work of little historical value but one that from the first exercised an enormous influence on all the European literatures. Typical 12th-century monastic chronicles were: Jocelin of Brakelond (d. c. 1215), Chronica, recording the events in bury-st.-edmunds for the years 1173 to 1202; gervase of canterbury (d. 1210), Chronica of the Abbey of Christ Church, Canterbury (110599).

Chronicles and Annals of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Centuries. The last years of the 12th century and all of the 13th were the golden age of monastic chronicles (often anonymous) and related works. The franciscans and dominicans gave a new impetus to the writing of such narratives. The universal chronicle enjoyed a revival, and the rise of towns encouraged the production of city-chronicles. The Crusades and the rapidly developing national literatures led to the composition of chronicles in vernacular prose and verse, as well as in Latin. The volume of chronicle literature from the early 13th century is especially large, and all parts of Europe are represented. Therefore, a few of the more important and typical chronicles are indicated here and further guidance is given in the bibliography to complete lists and detailed descriptions.

England and Ireland. Roger of Wendover (d. 1236), a monk of saint albans, compiled a universal chronicle, Flores historiarum, which has independent value only from 1188 and especially from 1202 to 1235. matthew paris, his successor at Saint Albans, the greatest of the Anglo-Norman chroniclers, wrote an elaborate universal chronicle, Chronica majora, which depends essentially on Roger of Wendover up to 1235 but from then to 1259 is an independent work of special interest because of the author's personal outlook and observations; his Historia Anglorum (Historia minor ) is his revision and abridgment of the larger work. Bartholomew Cotton, monk of Norwich (d. c. 1298), wrote a Historia Anglicana (4491298); Geoffrey Baker (d. c. 135860), a Chronicon (130356) and a Chroniculum (from Creation to 1336); ralph higden, a Benedictine monk (d. 1364), a universal chronicle, Polychronicon, to 1342 (translated by John trevisa in 1387, printed by Caxton in 1482, and by Wynkyn de Worde in 1495); nicholas trevet (c. 12581328), Annales sex regum Angliae (1135328); Walter of Hemingburgh, prior of St. Mary's, Gisborn (d. after 1313), Chronicon (10481364); Thomas walsingham, monk of Saint Albans (d. 1422), Chronicon Angliae (132888); and William Worcester (Botoner; d. c. 1480), Annales rerum Anglicarum (13241468).

Ireland exhibits among its chronicles: Annals of Innisfallen (to 1215, and later continued to 1318), in Irish and Latin; Annals of Ulster (from 444), compiled by Cathal Maguire (d. 1498) and continued first to 1541 and then to 1604; Annals of Boyle (from earliest times to 1253), in Irish and Latin; Annals of Clonmacnois (to 1408), written originally in Irish but preserved only in the English translation of 1627.

France. The wide use of the vernacular in what may be regarded as national chronicles of France is noteworthy. The Dominican vincent of beauvais (c. 11901264) wrote a universal chronicle on a vast scale with copious citations from his sources, the Speculum historiale (from the beginning of the world to 1250). Albéric of Trois Fontaines, a Cistercian (d. after 1251), composed a universal chronicle, Chronicon (to 1251). The Grandes chroniques de France, or Chronique de Saint-Denis (from the beginnings of the monarchy to the end of the 15th century), is based in large part on earlier Latin chronicles and related works. Les Gestes des Chiprois is a collection of French chronicles written in the East in the 13th and 14th centuries. Jean Froissart (d. after 1404) wrote Chroniques de France, d'Angleterre, d'Ecosse, de Bretagne, de Gascogne, de Flandre et lieux circonvoisins (13281400), one of the greatest of medieval historical works.

Germany and the Low Countries. Eike von Repkow wrote Sächsische Weltchronik (c. 1230), the first German historical work in prose; the Dominican martin of troppau, or Polonus (d. 1278), the Chronicon pontificum et imperatorum (to 1277), one of the most widely disseminated historical works of the Middle Ages. The Chronicon Austriacum (9731327) is very valuable from the last part of the 13th century; the Chronica S. Petri Erfordensis moderna (11334) has copious information on the early 14th century. C. Kuchimeister produced Niiwe Casus Monasterii Sancti Galli (12281329); John of Thilrode, a monk of Saint-Bavon in Ghent, a Universal Chronicle (to 1298); William Procurator, a monk of egmond in Holland from 1324 to 1333, Chronicon (6471332).

Italy and Spain. The Franciscan salimbene of Parma (1221c. 89) wrote a Chronica (11671287), in which the record of historical events is spiced with anecdotes, satire, and humor; the Dominican bartholomew of lucca (12361326), an Annales (10631303) of great value for the history of the Church in the 13th century. The Chronicon Estense is especially valuable for the period from 1241 to 1354. The Historie Fiorentine, or Chronica universale (from Creation to 1348) by Giovanni Villani (c. 12751348) is a work of the greatest value for the history of Florence because of its exact and detailed information on all aspects of Florentine life; it is one of the best historical works of the Middle Ages. The Chronicae or Summa historialis of antoninus (13891459), Archbishop of Florence, is a universal chronicle that enjoyed a great vogue for two centuries, but which has independent value only for the late 13th and the 14th century. It should be remarked that Italy in the late Middle Ages is especially rich in city-chronicles.

Spain produced Lucas of Túy (d. 1249), Chronicon mundi (to 1236); Rodrigo-Jiménez de Rada (11701247), Historia Gothica, or De rebus Hispaniae (to 1212); La crónica general, a vast universal chronicle on the Spanish kings, inspired by Alfonso X of Castile, the Wise (125284), covering history from the time of the Flood to his own time; Pero López de Ayala (13321407), compiler of chronicles of the reigns of Peter the Cruel, Henry II, John I, and Henry III; Gutierre Díez de Games (13791450), Crónica de Don Pedro Niño, o El victorial; Bernat Dezcoll (d. c. 1390), Crónica of Pedro IV, King of Aragon (133687).

General Evaluation. Annals, chronicles, and the related genre, gesta, constitute a huge mass of historical source material from the end of antiquity to the beginning of modern times. They continued to exercise an influence on the form, at least, of 16th-century historiography, for baronius, the centuriators of magdeburg, and, at a lower level, Holinshed reflect the annalistic or chronicle tradition. The medieval annals, chronicles, and gesta dealt with world history, secular rulers, popes, peoples, cities, bishops, abbots, and monasteries. In a large number of cases they are anonymous. In general, it may be said that all these works take on real historical value only as they approach periods contemporary with or immediately preceding those of their writers. Many of those extant have gone through repeated reworkings and enlargement by addition of later continuations, so that the original form is not always easy or even possible to establish. The material covering world history before the 5th century a.d. is based essentially on the Bible, Eusebius-Jerome, Augustine's De civitate Dei, and Orosius. This material is usually not taken directly from these sources in the later annals and chronicles, but is simply incorporated from earlier medieval works of the same kind.

The vast majority of the authors of annals, chronicles, and gesta were monks, friars, or members of the secular clergy. All regarded history in a religious sense, that is, as the working out of the history of salvation. With a small number of important exceptions, writers were more or less uncritical or even credulous in dealing with secular as well as religious themes. Furthermore, the horizons of writers of local or regional chronicles, and especially of annals, are very limited. Almost all are preoccupied not only with ecclesiastical affairs, but primarily with the special interests of the religious orders and the diocesan clergy. The monastic writers constituted the larger and more influential group.

Given the handicap that beset the obtaining, using, and disseminating of knowledge before the invention of printing, it is surprising to note that so many works, relatively speaking, were so widely known and employed. Latin was the international language, and French became a second international language in the course of the Norman expansion and the Crusades. The monks and friars played a very important role in the spread of annals and chronicles of a general nature. Medieval authors of annals, chronicles, and gesta were not trained historians nor could they be expected to be critical before the rise of genuine historical criticism centuries later. Their works contain precious metal, but the percentage shows wide variation, and the separation of the precious metal from the low grade ore is often a complicated and difficult process.

See Also: historiography, ecclesiastical; byzantine literature.

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[m. r. p. mcguire]

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