William of Tyre

: "This article is about the Archbishop/historian from the 1100s. For the Cyprus-based historian who wrote in the 1300s, see Templar of Tyre."Infobox Person
name = William of Tyre

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caption =William of Tyre writing his history, from a 13th century Old French translation, Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, MS 2631, f.1r
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birth_date = 1130
birth_place = Jerusalem
death_date = death date|1185|09|29
death_place = Tyre
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known_for = Medieval Chronicler
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occupation = Bishop
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William of Tyre (c. 1130 – 1185) was archbishop of Tyre and a chronicler of the Crusades and the Middle Ages.

Early life

William of Tyre was born in Jerusalem around 1130, one of the second generation of children born to the children of the original European Crusaders in the new Kingdom of Jerusalem. His parents were probably French or Italian in origin, possibly Normans from Sicily. He had a brother named Ralph who was probably a merchant in the kingdom, and the family was certainly non-noble. As a child he was educated in Jerusalem, especially in Latin but also perhaps in Greek and Arabic, and it is possible that one of his fellow pupils was the future king Baldwin III. He entered the church at an early age, and around 1146 went to Europe to continue his studies. He studied liberal arts and theology in Paris and Orleans 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. He also studied the classics with Hilary of Orleans, and 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", Hugolinus de Porta Ravennate, Bulgarus, Martinus Gosia, and Jacob de Boraigne.

Religious and political life in Jerusalem

After his return to the Holy Land in 1165 he became canon of the cathedral at Acre, and in 1167 was appointed archdeacon of the cathedral of Tyre by King Amalric I. In 1168 he was sent on a diplomatic mission for Amalric to the Byzantine emperor Manuel I Comnenus, to finalize the treaty made between the two rulers for a joint campaign against Egypt. In 1169 he visited Rome to answer accusations made against him by Frederick de la Roche, the archbishop of Tyre; the charge is unknown but was perhaps related to William's rather large income as archdeacon, which he presumably gained through his friendship with the king.

On his return from Rome in 1170 he became the tutor of Amalric's son and heir, Baldwin IV. It was William who discovered that Baldwin suffered from leprosy, although the diagnosis only became certain as the boy neared puberty. Around this time William began writing his history of the kingdom, under the patronage of Amalric. Unfortunately Amalric died prematurely in 1174, and Baldwin IV succeeded as king. Raymond III of Tripoli, regent for the young king, named William chancellor of Jerusalem, as well as archdeacon of Nazareth. On June 6, 1175, William became archbishop of Tyre, gaining control over the most important matters of both Church and State. In 1177 he performed the funeral services for William of Montferrat, Baldwin IV's brother-in-law, when the Patriarch of Jerusalem was too sick to attend.

In 1179, William was one of the delegates from Outremer who attended the Third Council of the Lateran; among the others was Heraclius, archbishop of Caesarea, Joscius, bishop of Acre and William's future successor in Tyre, the bishops of Sebastea, Bethlehem and Tripoli, and the abbot of Mount Sion. However, they were not of sufficient weight to persuade the Pope of the need for a new crusade. William was recruited by Pope Alexander III to engage in diplomatic matters with Emperor Manuel, and then returned home in 1180. He clearly considered himself the obvious choice for the patriarchate when the ailing patriarch finally died, but in his absence the royal court had become bitterly divided into two factions.

By Easter 1180, the King and his mother Agnes of Courtenay foiled an attempt by Raymond III of Tripoli and Bohemond III of Antioch to marry the King's widowed sister Sibylla to Baldwin of Ibelin, a noble of their party. Sibylla was instead married off to a Poitevin newcomer, Guy of Lusignan, whose older brother Amalric of Lusignan was already an established figure at court. This seems to have hardened the factional lines within the court.

When the Patriarch died on October 6, 1180, the contest for his successor was between William and Heraclius of Caesarea. They were fairly evenly matched in background and education, although William had played a larger political role as the King's tutor and chancellor. It seems that, following the precedent of the 1157 patriarchal election, the King delegated the decision to his mother Agnes, now wife of Reginald of Sidon. She chose Heraclius, since William was closer to Raymond of Tripoli, then in disfavour. As Bernard Hamilton has noted, there is no reason to credit the rumours that Heraclius was Agnes's lover as more than a reflection of the grudges held by the defeated party.

William remained archbishop of Tyre and chancellor of the kingdom, and the King and Raymond were reconciled. Heraclius possibly excommunicated William in 1184, but this may have been an invention of the 13th century writer who first claimed it. In any case his importance had ceased by the accession of Baldwin V in 1185, by which time he was probably in failing health. The date of William's death was later recorded as September 29, but the year is unknown; there was a new chancellor in May of 1185 and a new archbishop of Tyre by October of 1186, so 1185 seems to be the most reasonable date.


William himself reports that he wrote an account of the Lateran Council which he attended, as well as a "Historia" or "Gesta orientalium principum" dealing with the history of the Holy Land from time of Muhammad until 1184. However, neither of these works have survived.

His great work is a chronicle of twenty-three unfinished books. The work begins with the conquest of Syria by Umar, but most of it deals with the advent of the First Crusade and the subsequent political history of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. Although he used older works, including chronicles of the First Crusade such as Fulcher of Chartres and other, unnamed sources, the work is also valuable as a primary source itself. It was widely translated and circulated throughout Europe after William's death. James of Vitry and Matthew Paris had copies of it and used it in their own chronicles. A translation into Old French was particularly well-circulated and had many anonymous additions made to it in the 13th century, including the so-called chronicle of Ernoul; one Renaissance author translated the Old French version back into Latin, unaware that a Latin original already existed. A Middle English translation of the Old French version was made by William Caxton in the 15th century.

It is unknown what title William himself gave it, but the most usual title given to it in recent history is "Historia rerum in partibus transmarinis gestarum". This was translated as "History of Deeds Done Beyond the Sea" in the standard English edition by E. A. Babcock and A. C. Krey, published in 1943. The Latin original was published in various places including the "Patrologia Latina" and the "Recueil des historiens des croisades", but the now standard Latin critical edition was published as "Willelmi Tyrensis Archiepiscopi Chronicon" in the "Corpus Christianorum" in 1986, edited by R. B. C. Huygens.


*William of Tyre, "A History of Deeds Done Beyond the Sea", trans. E.A. Babcock and A.C. Krey. Columbia University Press, 1943
*"Willemi Tyrensis Archiepiscopi Chronicon", ed. R. B. C. Huygens. Turnholt, 1986.
*R. B. C. Huygens, "Guillaume de Tyr étudiant," "Latomus" 21 (1962): 811-829.
*Bernard Hamilton, "The Leper King and his Heirs", Cambridge University Press, 2000.
*Peter W. Edbury and John G. Rowe, "William of Tyre: Historian of the Latin East". Cambridge University Press, 1988.

External links

* [http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/tyre-cde.html Excerpts from the "Historia"]
* [http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/tyre-damascus.html Fiasco at Damascus 1148]
* [http://colet.lib.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/navigate?/projects/artflb/databases/efts/PLD/IMAGE1/.5452 Latin version] from the Patrologia Latina
* [http://thelatinlibrary.com/williamtyre.html Latin version] from The Latin Library
* [http://www.crusades-encyclopedia.com/latinsourcewilliamoftyre.html Latin version] from Crusades-Encyclopedia.com
* [http://www.intratext.com/X/LAT0901.HTM Latin version with concordance] from Intertext.com
* [http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/GuillaumeTyr1.html Old French translation and continuation] from Internet Medieval Sourcebook

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