William of Tyre

William of Tyre
Archbishop of Tyre
A miniature painting from a medieval manuscript, showing a man sitting at a desk writing a book.
William of Tyre writing his history, from a 13th-century Old French translation, Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, MS 2631, f.1r
Elected6 June 1175
Term ended29 September 1186
PredecessorFrederick de la Roche
SuccessorJoscius, Archbishop of Tyre
Personal details
Jerusalem, Kingdom of Jerusalem
Died29 September 1186 (aged 55–56)
Tyre, Kingdom of Jerusalem
DenominationRoman Catholicism
OccupationMedieval chronicler, chancellor

William of Tyre (Latin: Willelmus Tyrensis; c. 1130 – 29 September 1186) was a medieval prelate and chronicler. As archbishop of Tyre, he is sometimes known as William II to distinguish him from his predecessor, William I, the Englishman and former Prior of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, who was Archbishop of Tyre from 1127 to 1135.[1] He grew up in Jerusalem at the height of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, which had been established in 1099 after the First Crusade, and he spent twenty years studying the liberal arts and canon law in the universities of Europe.

Following William's return to Jerusalem in 1165, King Amalric made him an ambassador to the Byzantine Empire. William became tutor to the king's son, the future King Baldwin IV, whom William discovered to be a leper. After Amalric's death, William became chancellor and archbishop of Tyre, two of the highest offices in the kingdom, and in 1179 William led the eastern delegation to the Third Council of the Lateran. As he was involved in the dynastic struggle that developed during Baldwin IV's reign, his importance waned when a rival faction gained control of royal affairs. He was passed over for the prestigious Patriarchate of Jerusalem, and died in obscurity, probably in 1186.

William wrote an account of the Lateran Council and a history of the Islamic states from the time of Muhammad. Neither work survives. He is famous today as the author of a history of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. William composed his chronicle in excellent Latin for his time, with numerous quotations from classical literature. The chronicle is sometimes given the title Historia rerum in partibus transmarinis gestarum ("History of Deeds Done Beyond the Sea") or Historia Ierosolimitana ("History of Jerusalem"), or the Historia for short. It was translated into French soon after his death, and thereafter into numerous other languages. Because it is the only source for the history of twelfth-century Jerusalem written by a native, historians have often assumed that William's statements could be taken at face value. However, more recent historians have shown that William's involvement in the kingdom's political disputes resulted in detectable biases in his account. Despite this, he is considered the greatest chronicler of the crusades, and one of the best authors of the Middle Ages.

Early life

The Kingdom of Jerusalem in the Near East. To the southwest is the Fatimid Caliphate of Cairo. To the east is the Emirate of Damascus, and to the west is the Mediterranean Sea. To the north are the County of Tripoli, Principality of Antioch, County of Edessa, Principality of Armenian Cilicia, the Byzantine Empire, and the Sultanate of Rum.
The Crusader states in 1165

The Kingdom of Jerusalem was founded in 1099 at the end of the First Crusade. It was the third of four Christian territories to be established by the crusaders, following the County of Edessa and the Principality of Antioch, and followed by the County of Tripoli. Jerusalem's first three rulers, Godfrey of Bouillon (1099–1100), his brother Baldwin I (1100–1118), and their cousin Baldwin II (1118–1131), expanded and secured the kingdom's borders, which encompassed roughly the same territory as modern-day Israel, Palestine, and Lebanon. During the kingdom's early decades, the population was swelled by pilgrims visiting the holiest sites of Christendom. Merchants from the Mediterranean city-states of Italy and France were eager to exploit the rich trade markets of the east.[2]

William's family probably originated in either France or Italy, since he was very familiar with both countries.[3] His parents were likely merchants who had settled in the kingdom and were "apparently well-to-do",[4] although it is unknown whether they participated in the First Crusade or arrived later. William was born in Jerusalem around 1130. He had at least one brother, Ralph, who was one of the city's burgesses, a non-noble leader of the merchant community. Nothing more is known about his family, except that his mother died before 1165.[5]

As a child William was educated in Jerusalem, at the cathedral school in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The scholaster, or school-master, John the Pisan, taught William to read and write, and first introduced him to Latin.[6] From the Historia it is clear that he also knew French and possibly Italian, but there is not enough evidence to determine whether he learned Greek, Persian, and Arabic, as is sometimes claimed.[7]

Around 1145 William went to Europe to continue his education in the schools of France and Italy, especially in those of Paris and Bologna, "the two most important intellectual centers of twelfth-century Christendom."[8] These schools were not yet the official universities that they would become in the 13th century, but by the end of the 11th century both had numerous schools for the arts and sciences. They were separate from the cathedral schools, and were established by independent professors who were masters of their field of study. Students from all over Europe gathered there to hear lectures from these masters.[9] William studied liberal arts and theology in Paris and Orléans for about ten years, with professors who had been students of Thierry of Chartres and Gilbert de la Porrée. He also spent time studying under Robert of Melun and Adam de Parvo Ponte, among others. In Orléans, one of the pre-eminent centres of classical studies,[10] he read ancient Roman literature (known simply as "the Authors") with Hilary of Orléans, and learned mathematics ("especially Euclid") with William of Soissons. For six years, he studied theology with Peter Lombard and Maurice de Sully. Afterwards, he studied civil law and canon law in Bologna, with the "Four Doctors", Hugo de Porta Ravennate, Bulgarus, Martinus Gosia, and Jacobus de Boragine.[11] William's list of professors "gives us almost a who's who of the grammarians, philosophers, theologians, and law teachers of the so-called Twelfth-Century Renaissance", and shows that he was as well-educated as any European cleric. His contemporary John of Salisbury had many of the same teachers.[12]

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Willem van Tyrus
العربية: وليم الصوري
беларуская: Вільгельм Цірскі
български: Гийом Тирски
čeština: Vilém z Tyru
français: Guillaume de Tyr
македонски: Гијом Тирски
Nederlands: Willem van Tyrus
português: Guilherme de Tiro
slovenščina: Viljem iz Tira
српски / srpski: Виљем од Тира
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Guillaume od Tira
Türkçe: Surlu Vilyam