Meet the Texts

This post is the first in a series which will introduce eight texts, posited at the start of CITYFALL. But before we start looking at the individual sources in greater detail, this post will offer a very brief overview of all eight, like a table of contents or a post zero if you will.

The texts come from all over the Mediterranean and from transalpine Europe and they all engage with the fall of Acre in one way or another: some at length, presenting detailed accounts of the event and developing complex lamentations and/or political programmes in order to rationalise it, aestheticise it, to render it more plausible, or to use it for political purposes. Others deal with it only in passing or within a limited clearly-defined framework, which nonetheless gives their authors the opportunity to engage with an event whose implications were debated all over the continent.

  1. Templar of Tyre, Gestes des Chiprois, between 1314 and 1321, chronicle, Cyprus, Old French.
  2. Riccoldo da Monte di Croce, Epistolae de Perditione Acconis, 1291, letters, Bagdad, Latin.
  3. Thadeus of Naples, Hystoria de desolatione et conculcatione civitatis Acconensis et tocius terre sancte, 1291, historiographical treatise, Messina, Latin.
  4. Anonymus, Excidium Aconis, 1291, historiographical treatise, Paris (?), Latin.
  5. Marino Sanudo Torsello, Secreta fidelium Crucis, 1306-1307, Venice, chronicle/crusade propaganda, Latin.
  6. Ottokar aus der Gaal, Buch von Akkon, between 1310-1320, Styria, chronicle, Middle High German.
  7. Hugo von Trimberg, Der Renner, c. 1300, Bamberg, moral-didactic treatise, Middle High German.
  8. Jacob van Maerlant, Van den lande van Oversee, before 1300, Flanders, poem/crusade propaganda, Middle Dutch.

The texts cover a wide range of genres, from letters, over poems, to moral-didactic treatises, and chronicles. Most are written in Latin, but in many European vernaculars too writers found a reason to engage with the loss of the city of Acre and the Holy Land. Some were written directly after news of the event had reached their authors, others decades later. Some were written close-by in the Eastern Mediterranean, probably by witnesses to the events or directly informed by eye-witness reports, others, however, were written in far-flung parts of Europe with no apparent connection to Acre.

Over the coming weeks, I will take a closer look at each of these texts in their respective contexts. The aim is to see how they use the city lament as a discourse form and to what effect. Where are similarities and – almost more interestingly – where are differences? How are texts and lamentations embedded in their contexts? Do texts, which originate in the European-Christian networks of the Mediterranean, choose to focus on different aspects than those written further afield from the events, at the courts and in the cities of transalpine Europe? What do they do to appeal to their audiences? Why do they lament Acre in the first place? Where and how do they assign blame? How to they communicate concern, grief, and – yes, let’s go there – collective trauma in the face of the overwhelming impact of historical occurrence? What remedies do they propose? What reactions? What does the impact of a now past event mean for these texts conceptualisation of the future? Another line of enquiry, which would lead away a bit from the research goal of this project, but seems necessary to get a complete picture, is to see if there were other ways to respond to the event than outpourings of grief and lamentation.

The above list is of course not exhaustive and serves mostly as a starting point for further enquiry. So I expects it to grow significantly over the next couple of months. If you know of any relevant texts or if you have come across any other texts from up to the 1340s/50s, in which the lament for a city – any city! – features, I would be most grateful if you could point me in the right direction.

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