Category Archives: Primary Sources

The Seventh Crusade (1249), according to Abu al-Faraj Gregory Bar Hebraeus

Bar Hebraeus (1226-1286) is one the best known Syriac writers of the Middle Ages.  His Chronography contains a history of the world from creation until his own time.  Most of his information relates to events in the Middle East, including … Continue reading

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Robert of Clari’s account of the Fourth Crusade

Robert of Clari was a knight from Picardy who took part in the Fourth Crusade, which ended with the capture of Constantinople in 1204.  Robert seems to have returned to France in 1205, since although his work contains references up … Continue reading

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Two accounts of the conquest of Cyprus by Richard the Lionheart (1191)

The following are two accounts of the invasion of Cyprus by Richard I in 1191.  The Seljuk Turk under Saladin had recaptured Jerusalem in 1187 and Cyprus’ geographical position placed her on the route of the Crusaders from Western Europe … Continue reading

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History of William the Marshal: The taking of Le Mans and the flight of Henry II

The following section details the French capture of Le Mans in 1189.  War had broken out between Henry II against his son Richard and Philip Augustus, King of France.  Henry had gathered his forces, including William, at Le Mans, while … Continue reading

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Frederick I ‘Barbarossa’ issues rules for his army (1158)

The Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick I, nicknamed Barbarossa, often was engaged in campaigns in Italy against rebellious cities such as Milan. As he began one campaign in 1158, Frederick issued a set of rules for his army to follow. Frederick’s … Continue reading

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The Siege of Tyre in 1111-12, according to the Chronicle of Ibn Al-Qalanisi

One of the most interesting contemporary accounts of the crusades comes from a twelfth-century resident of Damascus.  Ibn Al-Qalanisi was a distinguished scholar in Damascus, and was twice elected the mayor of that city.  His Chronicle begins in 1097 with … Continue reading

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The Battle for Antioch in the First Crusade (1097-98) according to Peter Tudebode

Peter Tudebode was a Poitevin priest who was part of the First Crusade, perhaps with forces of the count of Toulouse. He wrote his account, the Historia de Hieroslymitano Itinere, by at least 1111, which was after many of the … Continue reading

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The Battle of Stamford Bridge (1066) and the life of Haraldr Sigurðarson, according to Theodoricus Monachus

Theodricus Monachus’s De antiquitate regum Norwagiensium is one of the oldest historical works of Norwegian history. It is a Latin account of the kings of Norway from Hardaldr harfaagri (around the ninth century), to Sigurð Magnusson, who died in 1130. Continue reading

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The Siege of Tarsos in 965, according to Leo the Deacon

The history, divided into ten books, covers the years from 959 to 976, that is, the reigns of Romanus II (959-963), Nicephorus Phokas (963-969) and John Zimisces (969-976). It describes the wars against the Arabs including the recovery of Crete from the Arabs in 961, the conquest of Antioch and Northern Syria (968-969), the Bulgarian War (969) and the defeat of the Southern Russians (971), one of the most brilliant periods of the later Empire. Continue reading

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Episodes of Medieval Warfare from the History of the Franks by Gregory of Tours

One of the most important sources from the early medieval period is The History of the Franks, written in the late sixth century by Gregory of Tours, the bishop of Tours for twenty-one years and an important political figure in the Merovingian kingdom. Continue reading

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A Byzantine campaign in the Balkans (594), according to Theophylact Simocatta

Theophylact Simocatta, who wrote in the early seventh century during the reign of Heraclius (Herakleios) (610-41), was the last in the succession of secular classicizing historians devoted mainly to the military, diplomatic, and political history of the Roman empire. Continue reading

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Byzantine conquest of Italy in the Sixth-Century, according to the Chronicle of Marcellinus

In this anonymous addition to the Chronicle of Marcellinus Comes, the events from 534 to 547 are described, with much of the text devoted to the conquest of Italy by the Byzantine general Belisarius. Continue reading

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The tournament at Lagny-sur-Marne, from the History of William the Marshal

The following text details the tournament held at Lagni-sur-Marne, in 1179. Organized by Henry, count palatine of Champagne and Brie, this tournament was unusually large, with the writer of our history estimating that 3,000 knights attending. Continue reading

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French Chronicle of London: Naval Battle of Sluys (1340), Siege of Tournai (1341)

The French Chronicle of London, detailing events from 1259 to 1343, provides one of the best accounts of the naval battle of Sluys, and the siege of Tournai by Edward III in 1340. 12 Edward III. [A.D. 1337, 8]. Henry … Continue reading

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Payments made to the men sent by the City to aid the King in his war with France (1338)

Paid to 40 men-at-arms for their arms and wages, 60 pounds.  Paid to the 60 archers, for their wages, bows and arrows, and other necessaries, 30 pounds.  Paid to the men-at-arms and archers aforesaid, as a courtesy, by order of … Continue reading

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Alessandro Beneditti, The Battle of Fornovo (1495)

Charles VIII, attempting to seize control of southern Italy for use as a platform for war against the Ottoman Turks, lead the most powerful army in Europe at that time down through Italy, defeating one Italian province after another. Continue reading

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Annals of Fulda: Battle of Fontenay (841)

The Annals of Fulda are the principal narrative source written from a perspective east of the Rhine for the period in which the Carolingian Empire gave way to a number of successor kingdoms.  The text covers the period from the last … Continue reading

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The First Crusade (1095-99), A short narrative from contemporary sources.

If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me… Continue reading

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Letter from the Bishop of Lichfield and Coventry, with news of the defeat of the Scots at the Battle of Falkirk (July 22, 1298)

On Saturday the Feast of St. Peter’s Chains (August 1st), there came a messenger from Sir Walter de Langestone, Bishop of Coventre and Lychfeld, and Treasurer to our Lord the King of England, bringing a letter from the said Bishop … Continue reading

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Matthew of Edessa, Chronicle, Warfare in the Crusader States (1104-1127)

The Chronicle of Matthew of Edessa is considered by scholars to be a primary source of major importance for the history of the Near East during the period of the early Crusades.  This work relates events that occurred between the … Continue reading

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Jan Duglosz, The Battle of Tannenberg or Grunwald (1410)

On July 15, 1410, one of the most important battles took in the later middle ages.   Fought between Tannenberg and the nearby village of Grünwald, Polish and Lithuanian forces under Ladislaus II (Wladyslaw Jagiello) halted the eastward expansion of the … Continue reading

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Conquest of Cyprus by Richard I (1191)–Two Accounts

The following are two accounts of the invasion of Cyprus by Richard I in 1191.  The Seljuk Turk under Saladin had recaptured Jerusalem in 1187 and Cyprus’ geographical position placed her on the route of the Crusaders from Western Europe … Continue reading

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Walter of Exeter, Siege of Carlaverock

This poem, written in French, is thought to be authored by Walter of Exeter, a Franciscan friar.  The story details the siege of the Scottish castle of Carlaverock in July 1300 by Edward I.  The first portion of the poem … Continue reading

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Christofordo da Soldo, Battle of Caravaggio (1448)

The following is an account of the battle of Caravaggio, fought on September 15,1448, in which the Milanese army led by Francesco Sforza defeated the Venetians under Michele Attendolo.  The text is from the Chronicle of Cristoforo da Soldo. Alli … Continue reading

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John Cantacuzenus, “History”, The War of Galata (1348)

One of the most important figures in the history of fourteenth century Byzantium was John Cantacuzenus, a military commander under Andronicus III, who then rebelled against the regency government of Anna of Savoy, and himself emperor from 1347 to 1354.  … Continue reading

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Dino Compagni, Battle of Campaldino (1289)

Dino Compagni was a prominent silk merchant and an active member of the Florentine government until 1301.  His chronicle, which deals mostly with the internal turmoil of Florence, contains an account of a battle between Arezzo and Florence in 1289. … Continue reading

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Baburnama, Babur’s capture and loss of Samarkand (1501)

Zahiruddin Muhammad Babur (1483-1530), born prince of Fergana in Transoxiana (modern Uzbekistan and Tajikistan), was  scion of the dynasty of Tamerlane, which ruled throughout eastern Iran and Central Asia.  By the age of twelve, Babur had become the ruler of … Continue reading

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Jumi’u’t-Tawarikh, The Battle of ‘Ayn Jalut (September 8, 1260)

The Mongol armies were thought to be unstoppable after they were able to overcome the defences of both Baghdad and Damascus. In 1260 Hulagu sent envoys to Saif ad-Din Qutuz in Cairo demanding his surrender; Quduz responded by killing the … Continue reading

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Letter from Aymeric, Patriarch of Antioch, to Louis VII, King of France (1164)

In the following letter, the Patriarch of Antioch describes events in the Crusader States that took place in 1164.  To describe briefly, the King of Jersualem, Amalric I, joined forces with a Kurdish emir, Shirkuh, to besiege the Egyptian city … Continue reading

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Ibn al-Athīr’s Accounts of the Rūs (10th to 13th centuries)

Translated by William Watson. From: Canadian/American Slavic Studies 35 (2001). 1. al-Kāmil fi ‘t-Ta’rīkh, viii, 412-415 “The Rūs Seizure of the Town of Barda’a” (332 A.H./943-944 A.D.) In this year (332) armed bands of Rūs went by sea (the Caspian) to the … Continue reading

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The Siege of Ascalon (1153) According to Contemporary or Near-contemporary Western European Sources

Translated by Helen Nicholson from the editions in the Monumenta Germaniae Historica Scriptores, ed.Bill Zajac. In 1153, Baldwin launched a major attack on Ascalon, with an army large enough to invest the great city completely. The siege dragged on for months, with … Continue reading

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Boncompagno da Signa, The History of the Siege of Ancona (1173)

Boncompagno da Signa (1168?-1240?) was an important Italian scholar who wrote several treatises and other works as he moved around between cities such as Ancona, Bologna and Venice.  His account of the siege of Ancona, which he wrote around 1201, … Continue reading

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Jumi’u’t-Tawarikh, The Conquest of Aleppo and the surrender of Damascus in 1259-1260

The conquest of Baghdad was not the end of the Mongol invasion of the Middle East.  The following section relates Hulagu’s invasion of modern-day Syria, where he captured the city of Aleppo and gained the surrender of Damascus. Hulagu Khan … Continue reading

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Chronicle of James the Conqueror, Siege of Burriana (1233)

James I, King of Aragon (1208-76), king of Aragón and count of Barcelona (1213-76), was nicknamed the Conquerer because of his many wars and conquests, which included the capture of the Balearic Islands (1229-35) and Valencia (1238) form the Moors, … Continue reading

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Chronicle of Ahimaaz, The Arab invasions of Southern Italy

The Chronicle of Ahimaaz is an epic genealogical work composed in Southern Italy in 1054 by Ahimaaz ben Paltiel.  Although it  intended merely to glorify his own immediate ancestors, this work gives much important information in regard to the history … Continue reading

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Ágrip af Nóregskonungasögum, Battle of Stiklastaðir (1030) and Campaign of King Magnus Barelegs against the British Isles (1102-3)

Ágrip af Nóregskonungasögum wrote his account of the history of the Norwegian kings around 1190.  Along with Theodoricus Monachus’ Historia de Antiquitate Regum Norwagiensium and the anonymous Historia Norvegiae, this work represents one of the earliest surving accounts of the history of Norway and … Continue reading

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