Remembering the Crusades: Myth, Image and Identity

28th Annual Conference of the Center for Medieval Studies

Fordham University, Lincoln Center, New York City: March 29-30, 2008

Jeanette Beer, Enigmas of the Gesta Francorum

Omnia que egimus antequam urbs esset capta nequeo enarrare, quia nemo est in his partibis, sive clericus sive laicus, qui omnino possit scribere vel narrare sicut res gesta est: tamen aliquantulum dicam. This is the only statement by the anonymous author of the Gesta Francorum about the manner of its composition. Unfortunately it is more tantalizing than it is informative.

Clearly his account of the events at Antioch was written after the city’s capture and clearly the Anonymous participated in that capture. But how should we interpret his enigmatic comment: as an apology? A confident expression of the value of the work? Or an unusual variant of the modesty topos? And what of the tantalizing phrase sive clericus sive laicus and the accompanying scribere vel narrare? Do they really imply, as Louis Bréhier suggested, the collaboration of a Latin-illiterate soldier with a cleric who embellished the Gesta with passages of his own invention? This paper will look at the literary evidence in an effort to shed further light upon a vexed subject.


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