A different view of history

As I have been posting about several mediaevil books about the history of the Byzantine Empire, they have all been written from the Byzantine point of view. That aspect was of course was interested me mostly, but it is also good to have a different view. This was the books The Conquest Of Constantinople (c. 1207) by Geoffroy de Villehardouin, a French nobleman. Unfortunately I don’t have a Byzantine view (yet), but it is nice to have an eyewitness report of one of the most dramatic and shameful events in Christian history. For those who don’t know: During the Fourth Crusade the main attack was not aimed at the muslims, but at the most important and oldest Christian stronghold in the East, the capital of the Byzantine Empire, Constantinople, which was sacked and plundered, most of the lands divided among the conquerors, breaking up the old unity. Still it was amazing that the Byzantines managed to restore the empire over 50 years later and kept it alive for another 200 years. The question remains if it might have survived longer if it had been able to keep itself intact.

The book itself is only 130 pages long and probably because of this reason the publisher, Penguin, decided to combine it with another book describing events of the Crusades. This was the book The Life Of Saint Louis (1309) by Jean de Joinville, another French nobleman. The Penguin edition is named Chronicle of the Crusades, for those who are interested. As the books are a century apart in age and (obviously) written by different authors, I will treat them as separate books. The Life Of Saint Louis is obviously a biography. It is about the French king Louis IX (1226-1270) who took part in two Crusades. De Joinville was a confidant and advisor to the king, especially during the first Crusade and is just like De Villehardouin an eyewitness of the most important events.

The whole book as such describes three Crusades, although the third only partially as Louis IX died early during that Crusade. Quite unique about these two works is that they have been written by noblemen and not by clergy or the professional writers of those times. I had never heard about that these kinds of works existed, so this was a sort of pleasant surprise. Another nice details is that The Conquest of Constantinople is also one of the first prose narratives to be written in French.

I don’t know when I will be reading the book. I’ve been buying quite a lot of historic work the past months and although I like to read about history I do have to be in the mood for it. It is of a different category than regular novels, so I don’t feel the same rush as I often feel when buying a new book.

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