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William of Tyre

c.1130-c.1185. Archbishop of Tyre. Born in Jerusalem of a European merchant family, he returned to Europe c.1145 where for twenty years he pursued his studies of arts and theology in France, and civil and canon law at Bologna. Peter Lombard* and Hugh de Porta Ravennata were among his teachers. Ordained before 1161, he returned to Palestine in 1165, becoming archdeacon in 1167, and was consecrated archbishop of Tyre in 1175. Diplomatic missions took him to Constantinople and Rome in 1168-69. In 1170 he was appointed tutor to Baldwin,* son of Amaury the king of Jerusalem (1163-74), from whom he had been given earlier a stipend to write the official history of his reign, Gesta Amaurici.

At royal request, c.1170 he began his Historia rerum in partibus transmarinis gestarum, covering Crusade events from 1095 to 1184. This was translated into French in the thirteenth century and printed in Basle as early as 1549. A signal work of medieval historiography, it was the primary authority from 1127, where Fulcher of Chartes had stopped, and a contemporary chronicle from 1144. Though confusion exists in chronology, men and events are judged honestly in terms of religion, morality, and politics, even to comment on human physical and intellectual characteristics. He was also familiar with the works of Albert of Aachen, Fulcher of Chartes, and Balderic of Bourgueil, as with versions of the Gesta Francorum. A polyglot, he knew Latin, Greek, French, and Arabic. One of his lost works is the Gesta orientalium principum, on the Arabs, and another is on the Third Lateran Council. He became chancellor of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem in 1174, led the Jerusalem delegation to the Third Lateran Council (1179), and failed to procure the patriarchate of Jerusalem in 1183. He retired to his Historia, writing the Prologue in 1184 declaring his determined objectivity.

See A.C. Krey, “William of Tyre, The Making of an Historian in the Middle Ages,” Speculum XVI (1941), pp. 149-66.

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