Friday, April 30, 2010

Comments on Book Two

Book Three is very short and almost completely translated but before I move on I would like to say a few things about Book Two. One thing that strikes me is the big hoop-de-doo over markets. If you figure it, there are thousands of people on the move; they are hungry, they need stuff, their horses need stuff. You cannot go down to Costco and load up the wagon so you need a market.
When the Roman empire collapsed in the West, most of the cities were abandoned and empty. The population of Rome was reduced to about 20,000 people from about a million after the collapse of the empire. London was left largely empty too, since the Anglo Saxon invaders feared the cities as abodes of ghosts and demons. Paris could not shrink much because it never was the capital of the Roman province of Gaul. It was Clovis I who made Paris a capital.
You need urban centers to support guilds, shops and markets. Most people in the early Middle Ages grew their own food and there were few means of preserving anything. You can imagine that it would be like at the end of summer when you are crossing the road to share your excess zucchini and tomatoes with your neighbor and find them coming the other way with a basket of zucchini and tomatoes for you. You could try to sell them, but who would buy. Occasionally traveling merchants would pass through town and if you had some gold or coin and they had something you wanted, this would be your opportunity to buy, until towns started growing again. Kings began to give charters to towns to run their own affairs and to have fairs, that is annual markets. Since kings were rulers over their people not the land, these fairs were a source of tax revenue for the kings and is partly why the Crusaders needed Alexius to give them a market.
Of course the Eastern part of the empire did not fall with the West and so probably still had trade and shops but when 50,000 hungry men show up on your doorstep (or however many people actually appeared with the Crusader army) the local bakery is probably not going to be able to keep up with the demand for bread. This brings me to the topic of bread. At Nicea, the men, not having any bread to eat, sat quietly on the plain before the city. Once the bread showed up, the men, glutted with carbs, attacked. Frances Moor Lappe, who wrote Diet For a Small Planet, wrote that meat makes people aggressive. Clearly it is carbs that do so. Stay away from the bread!!
Aggression leads me to the third item that I would like to point out - the flinging of the heads of Turks, who were killed, over the walls. I do not know if Tolkien was acquainted with this work or if this was a common act in sieges, but the orcs did this when they attacked Minas Tirith in the Return of the King. 'Our guys' are the orcs.
I found a nice webpage with four accounts from the Middle Ages about markets. It is worth taking a look at.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Deeds Of the Franks, Book Two, Chapter Eight, cont.

However, there was on one side of the city a very large lake, in which the Turks were sending their own ships, both coming and going, and bearing food, wood and many other things. Then our nobles, as one in agreement, sent messengers to Constantinople to speak with the emperor that that he would send ships to be lead to Cyiot where there is a port and order oxen to be brought together which they would drag the ships across the mountains and forests and all the way to near the lake. Which he did immediately and he ordered his Turcopoles to go with these ships. On the day the ships, thus brought over, had arrived, they were not willing to set these immediately into the lake; but with night coming over them, they sent these ships onto that very lake, full of Turcopoles with well ornamented weapons. At earliest daylight, the ships were standing at the appointed place just in time, speeding across the lake to fight against the city. The Turks, seeing this, were wondering, not knowing whether it was their own people or the emperor's. Afterwards they recognized them to be people of the emperor, they were frightened unto death, wailing and crying; the Franks were rejoicing and gave glory to God. Moreover, the Turks, seeing that they would not be able to have any help from their own armies, sent an envoy to the emperor saying that they would voluntarily give back the city, if they would be permitted to leave the city with their wives and children and their property. Then the emperor, full of vain and evil thinking, ordered that these may depart unpunished and without fear, and to be lead to Constantinople with great faith. Very zealously he saved those people as he had these people protected from injuries and obstructions of the Franks.

We were in that siege for seven weeks and three days and many of our men there received martyrdom and dying joyfully gave back their happy souls to God. And among the poorest people were many who died of hunger in Christ's name. These triumphing in heaven bear the robe of martyrs that they received, crying out with one voice, "Avenge our blood Lord, he who is devoted to you, who is blessed and praiseworthy in the lives of the ages. Amen"

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Deeds Of the Franks, Book Two, Chapter Eight

However, on the day of the Ascension of the Lord, we began to attack around the city (Nicea) and to build wooden siege equipment and towers, with which we would be able to flatten towers of the wall of the city. We attacked the city with such strength and enthusiasm for two days. We had even dug out under the wall of the city. Since the Turks, who were in the city, had sent out messengers to others who came to give help to the city. In this way, they would boldly and confidently draw near. They would enter the city through the south gate because no one will rush out to meet them from the city nor did any darken their path. This was the very gate at which the Count of St. Giles and the Bishop of Puy were encamped on the sabbath after the Ascension of the Lord. The Count, coming from other parts, was defended by divine virtue and was flashing his earthly weapons with his very strong army. And thus here he found Turks, coming to fight against us. Armed with the sign of the cross on all sides, he impetuously rushed out against the Turks and vanquished them. They had given flight and there was a very great number of dead on the part of those. Who, rejoicing with the aid of others and exulting, came back to unwavering battle, dragging ropes with them, with which they would have lead us bound to Corosanus. However, arriving and killing, they began gradually to descend from the peak of the mountain. However many would descend, the heads of these men stayed behind, yielded to the hands of our men. Moreover they were flinging the heads of the slain men as pebbles into the city so that the Turks would be more frightened from this.

Then the Count of St. Giles and the Bishop of Le Puy were one in agreement how they would dig under the walls of a certain turret, which was in front of their tents. They arranged for men who would dig under this wall and men who would defend them with projectiles and arrows on all sides. They dug all the way to the foundations of the wall and had placed posts and wood, and then they set fire to them. Moreover by this late deed, the tower fell in the night, but since it was night, they were not able to engage the Turks in battle. The Turks were roused quickly that night and had rebuilt the wall so strongly that with the coming day, no one was able to break them from that part.

The Count of Normandy, Count Stephan, and many others came and in succession Roger of Barneville. Then Bohemond besieged the city on the main front and next to him was Tancred, and after him Duke Godfrey, and then Count of Flanders, next to whom was Robert of Normandy, and next to him was the Count of St. Giles, next to whom was the Bishop of Puy. Thus the city was blockaded across the land, so that no one dared to leave or enter. There all men were united as one. And who would be able to count so great an army of Christ? I reckon that no one saw so many most skillful soldiers before or will be able to see again.
second half tomorrow.........

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Deeds Of the Franks, Book Two, Chapter Seven

Tancred and Richard of the Principality, because they had sworn to the emperor, were ferried across the strait in secret and just about all the people of Bohemond in close proximity to them. And soon the army of the Count of St. Giles approached Constantinople. The count remained there with his own people. Bohemond remained with the emperor so that he could take counsel from him. In this way, they were able to order a market from the people who lived outside the city of Nicea. Duke Godfrey who had gone before to Nicomedia together with Tancred and others, had been there for three days. The duke, seeing that there was no road open along which one could lead these people all the way to the city of Nicea, since so great a group of people are not able to pass along that road that the others had travelled along before, sent three thousand men ahead with axes and sword to carve and open up this road, so that our pilgrims would be able to travel all the way to Nicea. This road was opened up through a narrow and immense mountain and they made their way back along the road with iron and wooden crosses, which they were placing on stakes so that our pilgrims would know the way. Meanwhile, we came to Nicea, which is the capital of Romania, in fourth day, (not sure what II is) on the Nones of May (May 7, usually it is the 5th but in May, Nones is on the 7th), There we set up a camp. Bohemond had arrived before us and there was such a lack of bread to share among us that one loaf was being sold for 20 or 30 denaries. After this, that cautious man Bohemond ordered the largest market to be conducted by the sea and merchants came likewise by both land and sea and there was the greatest abundance of provisions for the whole Christian army.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Deeds Of the Franks, Book Two, Chapter Six

Phew! This passage had some difficult sentences!

When the emperor dared to allow that most honorable of men, Bohemond, to come before him, he ordered him to be received honorably and cautiously offered him to be his guest outside the city. The emperor send some with Bohemond to this guest house, so that he could come and speak with him in secret. Then Duke Godfrey came to that place with his brother and also the Count of Saint Giles approached near to the city. Then the emperor, worrying and boiling with anger, was thinking in what way he could cunningly and treacherously arrest those soldiers of Christ. But by revelation of divine grace, neither a place or an opportunity for harming them had been devised by him or his men. Very recently a meeting had been held with all the upper nobility who were born in Constantinople by Alexius, fearing that they would not be able to save their country, they were let in on his plans and clever schemes by which our dukes and counts or all our nobles ought to swear an oath of fidelity to the emperor.
Which our men had altogether hindered(refused at first to do), they had said "Certainly we are not deserving of this and it seems no justice to us to swear fealty to him." Perhaps from this we will often be lead astray by our nobles. To what end are these deeds done? Since they say they are compelled by necessity, unwilling and willing, they have humbled themselves before the will of the most wicked emperor.
However, he gave from Antioch and, as an extension, fifteen days travel and eight days wide to Bohemond, whom he feared greatly since it is said Bohemond before had often sent him from the field with his army, in return seeing that he would gladly swear to him. Bohemond had sworn so much to him that if Alexius held this oath faithfully, never would that notorious Alexius depart from his own oath. Such brave and hardy soldiers, why do they do such things? Perhaps they are forced by much necessity.

The emperor also gave assurances of faith and security to all of our men, he even swore that he would come with us together with his own army across the land and sea; and he would faithfully give a market to us by land and sea, and he would restore all of our lost things, he had not permitted and had not wanted any of our foreigners(travellers/pilgrims) to be disturbed or be distressed on the road to the Sacred Sepulcher.

However the Count of Saint Giles was housed in a castle outside the city, and he had remained behind with his people. Therefore the emperor ordered the count that he and his men swear faith just as the others had done. And after the emperor had ordered this, the Count was reflecting on how he might be able to have revenge against the army of the emperor. But Duke Godfrey and Count Robert of Flanders and other noblemen said to him, it would be an injustice to fight against Christians. Also that wise man Bohemond said, if anyone should do an injustice to the emperor, even refuse to made faith with the emperor, he himself would become on the side of the emperor. Therefore the count having accepted this plan from his men, pledged life and honor to Alexius that neither he nor through others would he consent these to be destroyed and with the count being called to pay homage, he would not do this in spite of the danger to his head/life. Then the people of the Lord Bohemond approached Constantinople

Friday, April 23, 2010

Deeds of the Franks, Book Two, Chapter Five

The ill-omened emperor sent a messenger, whom he esteemed greatly and who was called the 'Master of the Imperial Household' (Corpalatius), at the same time with our messengers, so that he could lead us safely through his land until we arrived at Constantinople. Since we came before his cities, he ordered the locals to carry on a market for us just as those men we spoke of had done. Certainly they feared the very many, very powerful people of the Lord Bohemond that they allowed none of our men to pass beyond the walls of their city. Our men were wanting to attack a certain fort and seize it, for the reason that it was full of good booty. But Bohemond, who was a prudent man, was unwilling to agree to this, as much for the law of the land as for the trust of the emperor. For this, he was very angry with Tancred and others. This happened in the evening. In the morning, the inhabitants came out of the fort and with a procession, bearing crosses in their hands, they came into the presence of Bohemond. He was in truth rejoicing to receive those men and with joy permitted them to go away. Then they came to a city called Serra where we set up our tents and had a large enough market that was meeting those days. There Bohemond came to an agreement with two masters of the imperial palace and on behalf of their friendship and on behalf of the law of the land, he ordered all animals to be returned that had been seized by our men. Then we came to the city Rusa. Now the Greeks came out and came rejoicing and running to meet Lord Bohemond, bringing to us a very great market and there we set up camp in the fourth day of the week before the Supper of the Lord. There also Bohemond sent away all of his people and went on ahead to Constantinople to speak with the emperor, however he took a few soldiers with him. Tancred remained behind as the head of the Christian military, and seeing men buy foreign foods, he said to himself that he would go outside the road and lead his people to where they could happily live. Then he came into a valley where there was plenty of all good things brought together that nourish the body, in which we celebrated Easter most devoutly.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

On Language

I have been translating this text literally as much as possible and have it make sense. It is interesting to see how people expressed themselves back then, because it is different than how we express ourselves today. As an example of this we have Margery Kempe referring to herself in the third person as a creature, that is 'a being created by God'. Most translators will clean up the language and render it into modern English which involves a bit of interpretation.
There is a line in Gesta Francorum that I translated as "We are subject to the emperor". In reality it read, "In roga imperatoris locati sumus". It does not translate well into English but it basically means how I translated it.
This is what it is literally in English "On the funeral pyre of the emperor, placed we are". This is not how a modern slave would explain their slavery.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Deeds of the Franks, Book One, Chapter Four, cont.

Note that Anonymous has shifted to 'we' since this is where he joins Bohemond.

Then exiting from that place, they traveled through extraordinary abundance from farm to farm, from state to state, from castle to castle, until we came to Castoria. There we solemnly celebrated the Nativity of the Lord. We were there for many days and we tried to obtain a market but they had been unwilling to approve this for us because they were so afraid of us, not reckoning us to be strangers but they thought we wished to take their land and kill them. Wherefore we seized cows, horses and asses and everything that we were finding. Having left Castoria, we entered Pelagonia, which was what one might call a fortified town of heretics. Because we attacked them from all sides, they soon fell under our rule. Thus by starting a fire, we burned the town with its inhabitants. Afterwards we came to the river of Vardar. Then Lord Bohemond made his way beyond with his people but not with all of them. For the Count of Russignolo remained there with his brothers. The army of the emperor came and attacked him and his brothers and everyone who was with them. Hearing this, Tancred turned back, threw himself into the river to swim across and came to the others, and two thousand men threw themselves into the river following. Then they found the Turcopoles and Patzinaks fighting with our men. Those strongly regretted having attacked. Our men skillfully vanquished them and seized many of those men, tied them up, and led them to present to Lord Bohemond. He said these words to those men, " Why , wretched men, do you seek to kill men of Christ and my men? I have no quarrel with you emperor." To which they responded, "We are unable to do otherwise. We are subject to the emperor and whatever he orders us, it is proper to compel us." Bohemond allowed those men to go away unpunished. This battle had taken place in the fourth day of the week(Thursday), which is the beginning of fasting. On behalf of all, blessed is God. Amen.
End of Book 1, Book 2 to follow.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Deeds of the Franks, Book One, Chapter Four

But valiant Bohemond, who was at the blockade of Malfi, at Scafardi Bridge(or sea the word pontis could be either and I can't figure out where Scafardi is), hearing that innumerable people of Christians from France had arrived and were about to go to the Sepulcher of the Lord and prepared to fight against the pagan people, he began carefully to inquire as to what weapons for fighting these people were carrying and how they carried indications of being Christians along the way or what signal would they sound in battle. To which these words were spoken through the ranks, 'They carry suitable weapons to war, on either the right or in between both shoulders, they bear the cross of Christ, they cry out loud "God wills it! God wills it! God wills it!" with one voice." Soon having been aroused by the Holy Spirit, he ordered his most precious cloth/cloak which he had near him to be cut up and immediately the whole cloth was laid out in crosses. Then a greater part of the soldiers who were at that siege began to flock eagerly towards him so much so that count Roger (his half brother) nearly remained alone, and he returned to Sicily grieving since he was deserving to lose his men.
Then returning for a second time to his own land, Lord Bohemond carefully steeled himself for the purpose of beginning the journey to the Sacred Sepulcher. Then he was ferried across the sea with his army, and with him went Tancred, son of the Marquis, Captain Richard, his brother Ranulf, Robert de Ansa, Herman of Cannes, Robert de Surda Valle, Robert son of Toustan, Humphrey son of Ralph, Richard son of Count Ranulf and the Count of Russignolo with his brothers, Boel of Chartres, Alberedus de Cagnano, Humphrey de Monte Scabioso. These men all crossed the sea in service to Bohemond and they landed in parts of Bulgaria; where they found a great abundance of grain, wine and other provisions. Then marching down into the Valley of Andronopoli; they awaited their men until all had crossed the sea the same. Then Bohemond arranged an assembly with his men, strengthening them much and warning all that they be good and humble; and that they not prey upon this land because it was Christian and he would welcome no man unless that he was up to the task.
cont. ....

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Deeds of the Franks, Book One, Chapter Three

The second group entered the Slavic regions, that is to say the Count of Saint Gilles, Raymond, and the Bishop of Le Puy (Adhemar). However the third group came along the ancient road of Rome. In this group was Bohemond, Richard the Principate, Robert the Count of Flanders, Robert the Norman, Hugo the Great (Vermandois, brother of the king of France), Everard de Puisset(Viscount of Chartres), Achard de Montmerle, Isard de Mouzon and many others besides. Then they came to the port of Brandisi, or Bari, or Otranto. Hugo the Great and Wilhelm, son of the Marquis, entered the sea at the port of Bari and having been ferried across came to Durachium. The leader of these parts, hearing that these most prudent of men had been steered towards this place, his heart was soon touched with bad thinking and he seized them and he ordered that they be cautiously taken to Constantinople and the emperor and they should pledge faith to him.

Then Duke Godfrey, who was the first of all the nobles to arrive in Constantinople, arrived with a great army two days before the birthday of our Lord and was as a guest outside the city. Then the prejudiced emperor ordered that he be housed in a castle of the city as a guest. And when the Duke was made comfortable, he sent his soldiers out securely one day so that they could carry away straw and other necessities for the horses. And when they reckoned they could confidently go where they wished, the wrong headed emperor Alexius commanded his Turcopoles and Patzinaks to attack and kill them. Baldwin, brother of the duke, hearing this, sent himself to verify these plots and found those men killing his people. He attacked them with great spirit and, with God aiding him, he overcame them. Seizing sixty of those men, Baldwin killed some of them and others he presented to his brother, the duke. When the emperor had heard of this, he was very angry. After that, seeing the anger of the emperor, the Duke left the castle with his men and set up camp outside the city. Now after this last action, the destructive emperor ordered his own army to attack the Duke and the Christians. At this, the Duke, unbeaten, killed seven of these men with his Christian soldiers and pursued the rest all the way to the gate of the city. Returning to his own tents, the Duke remained there for five days, then he entered into a pact with the emperor and said the emperor would ferry them across the Strait of Saint George and would allow them to have a market there just as in Constantinople and to bequeath alms to the poor so that they would be able to live.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

A Brief Comment from Anna and Me

Anna Comnena commented on the initial wave of crusaders in the Alexiad. It is interesting to see how they were regarded by someone outside their camp. She did not doubt the sincerity of Peter the Hermit, who had suffered torture when he made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, or that of many of the poor people who came with him, but they were large groups including women and children who were ill equipped to fight.
She wrote that their arrival was preceded by plagues of locusts which was taken as a sign that the Kelts, as she often called them, would be as a plague to the Turks. It was quickly apparent that they would do more damage to the Christian Byzantine empire, which they attacked as often if not more than they attacked the Arabs.
She also blames much of their misfortune on their own arrogance. When Alexius told Peter to wait until the other counts arrive, Peter refused trusting in the numbers of his followers. She called the town where Peter was staying Helenopolis and not Cuiotte. She wrote that some 10,000 Normans broke off from the main group and attacked Nicaea (which was the headquarters of the Turkish Kilij Arslan) with particular cruelty. 'They cut babies to pieces, impaled some on spikes and roasted them over fires'. They tortured old people and returned to Helenopolis with booty. Then there were fights over the booty. So another group (Anna called them Normans but she often had trouble telling the foreigners apart) left for Xerigordon (Exerogogo). These were crushed by the Sultan. Kilij Arlsan then set a trap for the remainder sending spies in Helenopolis with the story that Nicaea had been taken and was being looted for all its gold. That made a crowd run out of Helenopolis to be slaughtered by the Turks. Considering that Peter complained in Gesta Francorum that his people would not listen to him, I think we can consider this a fact. Only Anna writes that Peter was with the handful of survivors that made it back to Helenopolis and that Alexis thought it would be a shame if the Sultan captured him and sent Constantine Euphorbenus Catacalon to rescue him and bring him back to Constantinople.
The Crusaders did not behave well in Constantinople, raiding Christian outskirts and rioting when Alexis granted them a 'market' as a courtesy. Small wonder that he took their weapons away when they returned. Some of the Crusaders were, as Anna says, opportunists and brigands who were not interested in liberating the Holy Land as much as they were interested in empire and booty. Okay enough from me and Anna, back to our story.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Deeds of the Franks, Book One, Chapter Two, cont.

Our men were afflicted with such a great thirst that they drained the blood from their own horses and donkeys and drank their blood. Others were letting down belts/girdles and bits of cloth into the fish pond and then squeezing out the water into their mouth. Others were urinating into their cupped hands and drinking it. Others were digging in the damp earth, and were laying themselves down, and spreading the mud over their own chests so that they would not be so dry from thirst. Our priests and bishops were strengthened much by the Truth and were reminding men not to desert. This trial went on for eight days. Then the leader of the Alamanni(Germans) made an agreement with the Turks, that he would hand over his allies, and arranging to go out to fight, he fled to them(Turks) and many men with him. However, those who were unwilling to deny God received the death penalty. Others who had been captured alive had been one by one divided like sheep. The Turks set some of the men up as targets and were shooting arrows at them. They were selling other men and were giving men away just as if they were animals. Certain men were collecting men in their own home, they sent others to Khorasan, others to Antioch, other to Aleph or where they themselves were living. These men were the first to receive the happy martyrdom in the name of the Lord Jesus.

Then, the Turks, hearing that Peter the Hermit and Walter the Penniless were in Cyuito(Kibotos), a city north of Nicea, came there with great joy that they might kill those men and others who were with them. And when they had come, they encountered Walter with his men and soon killed him. Peter the Hermit a little while before this had gone to Constantinople, on account that he was unable to keep the men from going different ways, who were not willing to heed his words or himself. Truly, rushing in, the Turks killed many besides those men that the Turks found, others sleeping or nude. They killed all of these with any they found celebrating the sacred mass, who had been immediately martyred and sent above to the high altar. Those men, who had been able to get out, fled Cyuito. Other men threw themselves into the sea, others were hiding in the woods and the mountains. The Turks pursued those that were united into a fort made of wood so that they could burn those men along with the fort.
Therefore the Christians who were in the fort gathered up burning wood and fired it back at the Turks and their own fire send back consumed those same Turks but from that fire, God then freed our men. Then the Turks captured those left alive and divided up those men just as they had done before with the others and dispersed them through all these regions, some to Corosanum, other went to Persia.
All this had been done in the month of October. The emperor, hearing that the Turks had thus scattered our men, greatly rejoiced, decreed and arranged for those to be brought back across the strait. After they arrived on the other side, all weapons were taken from them.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Deeds of the Franks, Book One, Chapter Two

This really should be annotated but that would be an even larger task. I am keeping the translation literal as well. Perhaps I will put it together in order when it is all done.

In a word, the Gauls made up three parties. One group of Franks penetrated into the region of Hungary, of course this was Peter the Hermit, Duke Godfrey, his brother Baldwin, and Baldwin an associate from the mountain. These most important soldiers and others besides unknowing had come along the road that Charles the Great (Charlemagne), the wonderful king of the Franks, had caused to be built long ago all the way to Constantinople.
Peter speaking the truth came to Constantinople on the first of August and with him came the greatest part of the Alamanni. There they found the Lombards and Longobards and many other assembled, who the emperor had ordered to be given a 'market', as a courtesy, and he said to them, "Do not pass over the strait until the greatest strength of Christians has come, since you are not so many that you would prevail in battle with the Turks."
The Christians were wickedly misled by themselves because they were overwhelming the palace of the city and were burning and were firing lead shot by which they overwhelmed the assembly of the Greeks and betrayed them. Then the emperor was angry and ordered them to pass over strait. After they had crossed the sea, they did not cease to stir up all manner of bad things, ruining and devastating homes and churches. At last they came to Nicomedia, when they separated into two groups, the Lombards, the Longobards and the Alamanni from the Franks, because the Frank were swelling up with arrogance. The Lombards and the Longobards chose the senior from among themselves, who was named Rainold. The Alamanni did the same. They went into Romania and after four days arrived outside the city of Nice. They had found a fortified town which was named Exerogorgo(called by Anna Xerigordon) which had been emptied of people. They took ahold of this fort, in which they had found enough grain, wine and meat and an abundance of good things. Hearing that the Christians were at this fort, the Turks came and lay siege. Before the gate of the fort was a well and at the base of the fort was a lively fountain, to which Rainold withdrew beside, plotting against the Turks.
The Turks arriving on the true feast of Saint Micheal found Rainald and those with whom he was. The Turks slew many of these. Others fled into the fort, which the Turks immediately beseiged and cut off the water from.
to be continued tomorrow.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Deeds of the Franks, Book One, Section One

The following is my own translation of the text from Latin Library:
When now that time approached, for which the Lord Jesus had daily shown his own acts of faiths, especially by evangelizing saying, "If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny disagreement and let him take up his own cross and follow me", there had been thereafter a strong movement throughout the entire regions of the Gauls. If anyone would desire to follow God zealously with a pure heart and mind, and he wished to bear his own cross faithfully, let him not be lazy to quickly take the road of the Sacred Sepulcher. The apostle of the Roman seat set out the sooner the better over the mountainous parts and, with his archbishops, overseers, Abbots and priests, he began plainly to lecture and foretell, saying that if any man wished to save his own soul, he should not be in doubt to humbly begin on the way of the Lord, and, if he lacked an abundance of money, he would give enough in excellent mercy. For the lord apostle said , "Brothers, it is proper for you to endure many things in the name of the Annointed One, clearly poverty, exposure, persecution, want, sickness, hunger, thirst and other wretchedness of this kind just as the Lord said to his disciples:'It is proper to you to endure much on behalf of my name', and 'Do not be ashamed to speak before the faces of men; I will give to you the voice and eloquence to speak the truth.', and after this 'Abundance will follow you in repayment'." And, when this sermon began to gain strength little by little across all the regions and homelands of the Gauls, the Franks, hearing this, on the spot stitched together such a cross on their right shoulder, saying unanimously they would follow the footsteps of the Annointed One, by whom personally the infernal regions had been redeemed. At this time now, the Gauls are far from their homes.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Clash of the Titans

I was going to start on the Gesta Francorum today but I went to the movies yesterday and changed my mind. In 1981, when the first Clash of the Titans came out, I was one of the few people take saw it and I enjoyed it. So, I was looking forward to the updated version with 'special effects' since the kraken in the first one was clearly a guy in a rubber suit and he looked like the creature from the black lagoon.
If a movie is called a 'remake' of an earlier movie, then should it not be very similar to the first one? This 'remake' was not only loosely based on Greek myth but also loosely based on the 1981 film. Okay, there was a guy called Perseus, he killed Medusa, flew on Pegasus and saved Andromeda. That is where the similarity ends to myth or movie.
The movie was clearly about the special effects and violence. My 13 year old son loved it. My daughter and I, who both have some familiarity with Greek myth, sat there gnashing our teeth. This is a list of the things that annoyed me (with spoilers):
  • Perseus marries Andromeda, that is why he saves her.
  • Andromeda is chained to a rock not suspended over the harbor. It is a huge part of the imagery about her, she is chained nude to a rock.
  • Perseus does not run off with Io, who is literally a cow
  • Perseus is conceived when Zeus appears to his mother in a shower of gold, she was not raped as punishment for her husbands' impiety. She did not have a husband.
  • His mother survived being thrown into the sea
  • Perseus did not hate Zeus, the gods helped him all along to kill Medusa.
  • Hades did not hate Zeus and attempt to overthrow the government.
  • There are no Jinn in Greek myth. They are Arabic. And I am certain they are not zombies.
  • Perseus was pursued by Thetis and no one else
  • Zeus did not create humans, Prometheus did.
  • The only Olympian to have created something like the Kraken was Poseiden and his monster was called Cretus.
I would like to say on that last point that I did not mind the Kraken being the sea beast sent out to kill Andromeda. The best part of the film is when Liam Neeson says "Release the Kraken".
Now that I have mentioned Liam Neeson, I have to say that I have never seen a more Biblical Zeus. He looked like Moses and acted like the Judeo Christian God. It was nauseating how he kept saying that he 'loved humans' and did not want to punish them for their impiety. Perseus, who insisted that he was not a son of Zeus, kept insisting he was a simple fisherman. Jesus was a fisher of souls.
In the end, out comes the Kraken, deadly scorpions, a deadly disfigured monster and because, every movie has to have zombies or vampires, the undead Jinn. With all that divine anger and death, it seemed so very Old Testament and nothing like the Iliad. Anyway, I thought it sucked. Shame on the producers of this 'remake'; I do not think they ever saw the film they were basing this on.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Medieval Latin

I have been studying Classical Latin for 3 years, getting straight A's and I feel ready to tackle Medieval Latin. So I looked at two texts and straight away noticed words that are not in my Oxford Latin Dictionary. The dictionary is exclusively Classical Latin but I thought the whole point of using Latin as the language of scholarship meant that clerics and scholars could always speak a common language no matter where they came from. And, by using a dead language as the language of choice, one would always be able to read latin texts no matter which century they were written in. Silly me.
Oxford does not have a dictionary of Medieval Latin. They do have a dictionary of Medieval Latin from English sources. There are dictionaries with German and French sources. Time and place do matter in translating Medieval Latin. It is a bit of a shock to me. I thought it might be fun for a summer project to read Walter Map's De Nugis Curialium in the original latin or Gesta Francorum.
The Bodleian Library, which owns the only manuscript of De Nugis Curialium, jealously guards it. I could shell out $170 American for their book. This is better than the version I saw on Amazon last year that was going for close to $300. At the same time, Gesta Francorum is on Latin Library for free. Gesta Francorum features one of my favorite characters - Bohemond of Taranto, the studmuffin, who , if a movie is ever made of the First Crusade featuring him, should be played by Brad Pitt. That movie should be made soon before Brad gets too old.
Gestae Francorum it is. Chapter One, Book One will be posted tomorrow. It is already done as best as I can.
And I think a link to Latin Library is in order.

Friday, April 2, 2010

More People Should Read Ovid

There are two books that we know for certain Shakespeare has owned: Ovid's Metamorphoses and Michel de Montaigne's Essaies. One does not have to read much Ovid, especially his poems to see that Shakespeare was a devotee. Milton was not as dedicated to Ovid's poetry because Ovid was too naughty for Milton but he was still influenced by Ovid. Even more than Ovid, Milton was influenced by Horace and Virgil.
Few Renaissance writers, apart from Jonson and Milton read the other three elegist Catullus, Tibullus and Propertius. I think they are worth reading too. Milton was lucky enough to be able to read Greek and so he was also able to read Homer.
Why should we care about the Romans and the Greeks? Because by reading them, we get all the Easter eggs hidden in the texts. By reading them, you can get what Milton was trying to do with his incredibly complicated way of stating things. By reading them, you understand so much more and not just Shakespeare and Ovid. If you can, read them in Latin.
I am thinking of taking Ovid in translation and putting him back into Latin and see how close to his own words I get. That is studying Latin old school. They did it like that in Milton and Shakespeare's day. That is how they got to be so good at it.