Archive for May 23rd, 2014

A dive into history

Friday, May 23rd, 2014

I take the field of literature in a broad sense. As I have mentioned before I like to read books from earlier times which are often not truly novels but relatively contemporary narrations of historic events. As they are written in the times they author lived in he writes from his own cultural and social perspective which gives each of these narratives a unique feeling.

These days many webshops provide the option to create wishlist. Here you can store items you don’t want to buy yet, usually because they are of lesser priority or because they are too expensive and you want to wait for an acceptable discount. Recently I decided to clean up one of my wishlists a bit as I realized many had been in there so long they wouldn’t get a serious discount soon and that I have been buying cheap books for such a long time now that its not that bad to buy some books for a more regular price.

The batch that I have purchased covers a wide range: Books XI to XIV of the Library (30 BC) by Diodorus Siculus. It is the only work that covers the period of Greek history between the rise of Athens and Sparta after their victory over the Persian Empire in 480 BC and the conflict that would mark the decline of Greek power in 431 BC. The books continue until 401 BC, but for that period contemporary historic works have survived and Diodorus Siculus uses these much as source. In a way the work by John Zonaras is similar. Books XII and XIII of The Epitome Of Histories (1134) covers Roman history between the years 218 and 395, which also lack suitable sources. More contemporary is History Of The Lombards ( 799) by Paul the Deacon, who lived in Italy in the eight century. The man who conquered the Lombards was Charlemagne. A combined book I bought contained two biographies: The Life Of Charlemagne (836) by Einhard and Charlemagne (887) by Notker the Stammer, of which the first is more famous as Einhard was knew Charlemagne personally. Next follow several books from the later Middle Ages: The Orkneyinga Saga (ca. 1200), a history of the Orkney Islands around they years 1000 and earlier. No author is known. The same is the case for Njal’s Saga (ca. 128o), which provides detailed stories of life in Iceland. And finally are two chronicles of the Crusades: The First is narrated by Ralph of Caen in the Gesta Tancredi (1118), which describes the Norman participation, and The Chronicle Of The Third Crusade (1222), written by multiple authors and thus not clearly attributable, in which the most powerful rulers of that time joined in like Frederick Barbarossa of Germany and Richard the Lion Heart of England. Both narratives are eyewitness accounts of these events.

It is a grand set of works. They are of course not on top of my read list but regularly I am much in the mood to pick something like this up for a different kind of read.