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William of Tyre


Historian, diplomat, and polyglot (Latin, Greek, French, Arabic); b. Jerusalem, c. 1130; d. c. 1187. He was of a European merchant family in the Holy Land, and returned to Europe c. 1145, where for 20 years he pursued his studies: arts and theology in France, civil law and canon law in Bologna. Among his teachers were peter lombard and Hugh de Porta Ravennata. Having been ordained before 1161, he returned to the Holy Land in 1165. He became archdeacon in 1167, and was consecrated archbishop of Tyre, June 6, 1175. He has to his credit diplomatic missions to Constantinople and Rome (1169). In 1170, William was appointed tutor to Baldwin, the son of Amalric (Amaury), king of Jersualem (116374). In 1174, he became chancellor of the Latin Kingdom of jerusalem. William represented his church at the Third lateran council in 1179. When he failed to secure the patriarchate of Jerusalem in 1183, he retired from public life to spend his remaining years completing his history.

After 1169, at the request of Almaric, William had begun his Historia rerum in partibus transmarinis gestarum, covering crusading events from 1095 to 1184. It was translated into French in the 13th century and printed in Basel as early as 1549. His lost works include the Gesta orientalium principum, on the Arabs, and a treatise on the Third Lateran Council. William was familiar with the writings of Albert of Aachen (Aix), Fulcher of Chartres, and Balderic of Bourgueil, as well as with certain versions of the Gesta Francorum. The Historia is one of the most important works of medieval historiography, especially of the period after 1127, when its author became the primary witness. After c. 1144, it is a contemporary record. Though confused at times in its chronology, the Historia is an honest judgment of men and events, viewed by its author from the threefold aspect of religion, morality, and politics. His judgment of the Christian military effort in the Middle East is rather severe. The prologue to his work, written in 1184, is a brilliant statement of the author's determination to achieve objectivity, despite his association with the events he describes.

Bibliography: Editions. Patrologia Latina, ed. j. p. migne, 217 v., indexes 4 v. (Paris 187890) 201; Recueil des historiens des croisades: Historiens occidentaux 1 (Paris 1844); Eng. A History of Deeds Done beyond the Sea, ed. and tr. e. a. babcock and a. c. krey, 2 v. (New York 1943). Literature. a. c. krey, "William of Tyre, The Making of an Historian in the Middle Ages," Speculum 16 (1941) 149166. h. e. mayer, "Zum Tode Wilhelms von Tyrus," Archiv für Diplomatik 56 (195960) 182201; Deutsches Archiv für Erforschung des Mittelalters 19.1 (1963) 240241. r. b.c. huygens, "Guillaume de Tyr étudiant," Latomus 21 (1962) 811829.

[b. lacroix]

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