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WILLIAM (c. 1130-C. 1190)

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Originally appearing in Volume V28, Page 677 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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WILLIAM (c. 1130-C. 1190), archbishop of Tyre and chronicler, belonged to a noble French family and was probably born in Palestine about 1130. This, however, is only an inference from his works, borne out by the fact that he had seen Ralph, the patriarch of Antioch, who died about 1141; that he seems to call himself a contemporary historian from the accession of Baldwin III. to the throne of Jerusalem, an event which he places in November 1142; and that he remembered the fall of Edessa in 1144. Unfortunately the chapter (xix. 12) which relates to his early life has been excised or omitted from every extant manuscript of his Historia, and this remark holds good, not only for the original Latin, but also for the French translation of the 13th century. William was still pursuing his studies in Europe when Amalric I. became king of Jerusalem in 1162, but he returned to Palestine towards the close of 1166, or early in 1167, and was appointed archdeacon of Tyre at the request of Amalric in August 1167. In 1168 he was sent on an embassy, the forerunner of several others, to the emperor Manuel I. at Constantinople, and in 1169, at the time of the disastrous campaign against Damietta, he was obliged to take refuge in Rome from the " unmerited anger " of his archbishop. But he was soon in Palestine again, and about 1170 he was appointed tutor to Amalric's son, Baldwin, afterwards King Baldwin IV. Towards the end of 1174, soon after Baldwin's accession to the throne, he was made chancellor of the kingdom of Jerusalem, an office which he held until 1183, and less than a year later (May 1175) he was consecrated arch-bishop of Tyre. He was one of those who went to negotiate with Philip I., count of Flanders, in 1177, and in 1179 he was one of the bishops who represented the Latin Church of the East at the Lateran council in Rome. On his return to Palestine he stayed seven months at Constantinople with Manuel. This is William's last appearance in history, but he was writing his history in 1181, and this breaks off abruptly at the end of 1183 or early in 1184. He died probably between 1187 and 1190. About fifty years later one of his continuators accused Heraclius, the patriarch of Jerusalem, of procuring his death by poison at Rome, but this story appears to be legendary. Equally untrustworthy is the theory which identifies William with the archbishop of Tyre sent to Europe to preach a new crusade in 1188. It is true that Matthew Paris speaks of the English king, Henry II., as receiving the cross from the hands of Willelmus episcopus Tyrensis; but more contemporary writers omit the Christian name, while others write it Josce or Joscius. If not the greatest, William of Tyre is at least among the greatest, of medieval historians. His Historic rerum in partibus transmarinis gestarunt, or Historic Hierosolymitana or Belli sacri historic covers the period between 1095 and 1184, and is the main authority for the history of the Latin kingdom of Jerusalem between 1127, where Fetcher of Chartres leaves off, and 1183 or 1184, where Ernoul takes up the narrative. It was translated into French in the 13th century, or possibly before the end of the 12th, and this translation, known as the Chronique d'outremer, or Livre d'Eracles or Livre du conquest, is quoted by jean de Joinville, and increased by various continuations, is the standard account of the exploits of the French warriors in the East. William's work consists of twenty-two books and a fragment of another book; it extends from the preaching of the first crusade by Peter the Hermit and Pope Urban II. to the end of 1183 or the beginning of 1184. It was undertaken at the request of Amalric, who was himself a lover of history and who supplied the author with Arabic manuscripts," and William says of it, " in this work we have had no guide, whether Greek or Arab, but have had recourse to traditions only, save as regards a few things that we ourselves have seen." The " traditions " here referred to must be taken to include the Gesta Francorum of Tudebode, the writings of Fulcher of Chartres, of Baudry of Bourgueil and, above all, of Albert of Aix. From the beginning to about 1144 the Historia is taken from these writers; from 1144 to the end it is contemporary and original. William also wrote Historia de orientalibus principibus. This work, which is now unfortunately lost, was partly based upon the Arabic chronicle of a certain Said-ibn-Batrik (d. 940), patriarch of Alexandria. No medieval writer, except perhaps Giraldus Cambrensis, possesses William's power of delineating the physical and mental features of his heroes. Very few, moreover, had his instinctive insight into what would be of real value to future ages; genealogy, topography, archaeology, social life, both political and ecclesiastical, and military and naval matters all find due exposition in his pages. It is hardly too much to say that from his work alone a fairly detailed map of the Levant, as it was in the 12th century, might be constructed ; and it is impossible to praise too highly the scrupulous fidelity with which he defines nearly all the technical terms, whetter relating to land or sea, which he uses. His chief fault is in his chronology, where, indeed, he is often at discord with himself. In the later books of the Historia his information, even regarding events taking place beyond the Nile or the Euphrates as well as in Europe, is singularly exact. His powers of industry were exceptionally great, and although a man of much learning and almost certainly acquainted with Greek and Arabic, he is as ready to enliven his pages with a homely proverb as he is to embellish them with quotations from Cicero, Virgil, Ovid or Plato. A prelate of pious character, he was inclined to see the judgment of God on the iniquities of his fellow-countrymen in every disaster that overtook them and in every success which attended the arms of the Saracens. As Belli sacri historia the Historic rerum was first published in 1549 at Basel. More recent editions are in J. P. Migne's Patrologia Latina, tome cci., and in the " Recucil des historiens des croisades," Hist. occid. i. (Parish 844). Manuscripts are in the British Museum, London, and in Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. It has been translated into German by E. and R. Kausler (Stuttgart, 1848) ; into French in Guizot's Collection des memoires, tomes xvi., xviii. (Paris, 1824) ; into Italian and into Spanish. An English translation has been made for the Early English Text Society by M. N. Colvin (London, 1893). See the Hisloire litteraire de la France, tome xiv. (1869); B. Kugler, Studien zur Geschichte des zweiten Kreuzzuges (Stuttgart, 1866) ; H. Prutz, Studien fiber Wilhelm von Tyrus (Hanover, 1883) ; and H. von Sybel, Geschichte des ersten Kreuzzuges (Leipzig, 1881).
End of Article: WILLIAM (c. 1130-C. 1190)
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