William of Tyre, Preface


WILLIAM, unworthy servant of the holy Church at Tyre by the patience of God, to his brothers beloved in Christ, whom the present work comes to stating that eternal salvation is in the Lord.

That it is dangerous, and a sizeable gamble, to describe the achievements of kings there can be no one of sense who would doubt. But let us dismiss inwardly the work, continual zeal, years of nightwatches for those whose business is accustomed to require it — there is a certain, double danger threatening writers of history: to make scarce with these results in their being able to bring down one another. Since in fleeing Charybdis, they run into Scylla, who is surrounded by dogs, and knows no less how to manage to wreck ships. Or since they proceed with the truth of achievements accomplished, they arouse a lot of ill-will against themselves; or, to alleviate the outrage, they abscond a series of events in which there is certainly the presence of their faults. No, to studiously go through the truth of facts and hide things out of busyness is considered unworthy of their duty. However, to shirk that responsibility headlong entirely in doubt is wrong; though if it is with accuracy it is said that, “Service is an act commensurate with each individual according to customs and principles of the homeland.” So, pursuing the untainted chronology of events accomplished without violating the rule of truth is often a matter which is in the habit of inciting controversy, like that old-time saying which is customarily stated: “Submission brings friends, truth — hatred.” So they either neglect the duty of their occupation, and offer praise undeserved; or, in pursuing the truth of the matter, it will be fitting for them to endure hatred, which is Truth’s mother herself. These things are all too often accustomed to being turned against themselves in this manner, and wound each other with their reciprocal relentlessness. Since, as the saying of our Cicero goes: “Truth is harmful, if indeed hatred is born of it, which is a poison to the soul; but flattery is more harmful, that which indulges in vices, permitting a friend to go in headfirst.”: and he seems to fulfill this, the man who, for the sake of flattery, suppresses the truth against the obligation of official duty. For the lies of those who shamelessly involve themselves in the particulars of events accomplished, out of a zeal for fawning — so loathsome a fact to be believed, — that they ought not be counted amongst the ranks of writers. But if it is contrary to hide the truth of things done, and to fail in one’s capacity as a writer, that would be accounted quite forcefully a sin — to mix up the blemish of lying with true things; and that fails in truth, delivering them together as for the true to future generations’ belief. For these reasons, a fearful decision must habitually take place, no less equal or greater for writers of historical works, that must be avoided with all of one’s strength; meaning, in order that the momentousness of accomplishments bear its own cost for the dryness of the discourse and spareness of eloquence. But words ought to be related to the things they are about; it is not appropriate for a writer’s tongue to fall off from the elegance of more noble material. That is why one must be very cautious that the volume of material not give way to the weakness of convention, and issue a thing too skinny or weak, to the fault of the narrative: something rich and stalwart in its nature. For as the outstanding orator said in the first of the Tusculans: “To send someone your thoughts in letters, who would be able neither to manage nor illustrate them, is not to win a reader over with pleasure ; it is characteristic of someone who violently abuses both letters and leisure.” So this difficulty and increase of danger do we seem to have entered upon, presently. Indeed, in the work which we have before our hands we have put many tales of Kings’ character, and life, and demeanor of the body, whether worthy of praise or subject to being known, just as the series of events that happened seemed to demand; and future generations, in re-reading the affairs of these men will perhaps take it with impatience, and start to ignite their temper against the chronicler beyond what is deserved; or they will report he is hated or a liar and either of these traits (The Lord lives.) do we flee as such an unhealthy affair. Though it is not permitted now to be in doubt about the rest; that which we boldly bring forth to an unequal labor, and which our speech approaches insufficient to the worthiness of matters. There is something which we still lack. For even untutored in paintings, and not yet admitted to the hidden secrets of art, the yellowish colors are spread out first customarily, customary to design the first pages upon which a more judicious hand will be; the method is to supplement its beauty finished with more noble colors. However, at the first, we have lain the foundation with the greatest labor; a foundation by which a wiser builder, the rule of truth having been observed — truth, which we have in no way forsaken — with a noble method will be able to make a more comfortable couch to rest on. So therefore, amidst so many plots of dangerous acts and a decision in doubt, it had been of the whole to be at rest, and a silence was to be observed, and leisure time was publically professed by the pen; but the most insistent love of country was at hand, his homeland for which a man is placed even (if the article of necessity drive it out) clinging to weigh his life in the balance. He stands, I say, even by the authority which outshines; he powerfully perceives these things which have happened for nearly a hundred years, buried in silence — that we not be allowed to be able to feel the inconvenience of oblivion; but things written with a pen in dutiful diligence of position, let them be retained for the memory of the future. Therefore we have been conspicuous, and gave hands to him, whose labor of ours we are not able to deny with sufficient honesty; we are not extremely intent on what posterity will think of us; and why our anemic speech deserves being here amidst such fine material. We have been fairly visible, would that it were as practical as free; that it was as commendable as devotedly: we have been taken in by pleasure of the native soil more than our force repaying us with the work undertaken; we trust not in the creative faculty of genius, but in the heat of sanctified love and sincerity of charitable devotion. Additionally, the order of the Lord, King Almaric (whose holy spirit flowered at rest), who is clear to recollection, his imperative to remembrance famed in the Lord must not be easily dismissed; nor complex seriousness,which in particular compelled us to this very thing, at his behest, while he himself ministered unto the Arabic copies, that there be another History from the time of Muhammad the seducer all the way up to this, which is our year 1184 since the Lord’s Incarnation in the flesh, running after five hundred and seventy years I have written: that its author is quite like the venerable man Seth, son of Patricius, Patriarch of Alexandria. Actually in this, having no outstanding Greek or Arabic writing, learned solely in the traditions, except for the few things which we ourselves saw with faith conspicuous, we have set in order the series of our narrative, taking the beginning from the departure of the strong men, and princes beloved to God — chiefs who left their western kingdoms at God’s calling and claimed the land of promise and nearly all of Syria in hand, unto* themselves: and from there on up to the reign of Lord Baldwin IV, who in the succession of Kings, calculated from the Lord, Duke Godfrey, who first gained power, held the seventh place; we have drawn history across eighty-four years with careful diligence. And so that it not be possible that any insight be missing from a zealous reader as pertains to the rather satisfying state of status in the Easterners’ vicinity, we have taken up in few and concise words at what time and to what extent the holy city had suffered the yoke of slavery; which was the agreement between the enduring believers and the faithless at this very time, and which had become an opportunity so that after so long a period of slavery, the chiefs of the western Kingdoms — roused to liberate them — took upon themselves so great a burden of pilgrimage. But if someone should regard our occupations by whose complexity we are particularly exhausted; then regarding the noble mother-city, cared for by God, of the Tyrians, which we preside over not because of a merited selection, but by the Lord’s sole patience; as well concerning the business of the Lord, King in whose sacred palace we perform worthily as official; and about other needs which come off as greater than what is accustomed: it will be more prone toward the obligatory indulgence should one, by chance, happen upon the present labor by which he would be rather justifiably upset. Because an inward movement of the mind occupied with a great many things, being very weak, is in the habit of coming up for each point needing to be discussed with excess of devotion, and when divided up, is impossible to expend such great care on the individual points — so great it is, the whole inhabiting its own place, uniform in nature, accustomed to fit together the unique and individual studies of zeal. That is when it also rather easily deserves favor. Moreover, we have divided our volume into twenty-three books and marked out each of them with fixed titles, so that for a reader some bit of history will more easily be seen as needed, it happens that: in our having a purpose, with Life as companion, — things which the vicissitude of future events offers then to our own times — holding our intention to add to these things those which we have sent on; and to increase the number of books, in proportion to the amount of material happening. Furthermore, we have it for certain, and this opinion deceives us not, that we bring forth the present work as a witness to our ignorance. And we who are able to lie hidden in silence, we proffer our fault in writing, while the duty — we are embraced by the office of charity; nevertheless we would rather be found away from that charity which inspires, than lack those things it structures. For without that love of God, that is charity, many people enter into marriage, are found worthy of the King’s table; however, he who is found without it amongst his companions deserves to hear: “How do you enter on this without having a marriage garment?” That this not happen to us, let he who alone is able avert it — the pitying and mericful Lord, — do so. Yet, knowing this, “Because grandiloquence is no habit of lacking sin.”, and that the tongue of a miserable man is well lubricated — who easily deserves punishment, we summon, Brother, and exhort our reader in the Lord, so that when he finds the just location of grounds for criticism, — charity’s love of God brought to the fore — that he use it freely, and that he obtain for himself the reward of eternal life from our correction: let him receive it, being mindful of us in his prayers at the Lord’s Kingdom; as we have been somewhat remiss in the present work, let him not charge us unto the tomb, rather let the Savior of the world — whose judgment seat we serve as lowly and worthless slaves in his home — grant indulgence mercifully out of freely bestowed good will and living piety as we fear to excess guilt’s accusation; — we deserve to be afraid.

*or “for”


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