The Catholic Historical Review 89.3 (2003) 545-546
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The Latin Chronicle of the Kings of Castile. Translated with an introduction and notes by Joseph F. O'Callaghan. [Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies, Volume 236.] (Tempe: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Arizona State University. 2002. Pp. xlii, 150. $24.00.)
This annotated translation of a little-known chronicle of the thirteenth century was produced by Professor O'Callaghan to provide undergraduate students, effectively unable to read Latin, with a roughly contemporary account of [End Page 545] the reigns of Kings Alfonso VIII (1158-1214) and Fernando III (1217-1252) of Castile. To supplement the account itself, he has provided no less than three political maps of Iberia and three genealogical tables of major actors of the times. He has also supplied fourteen pages of his own introduction to the political history of Castile in the central Middle Ages, and to the manuscript tradition, the authorship, and the date of the chronicle.
Though cautious, after his fashion, O'Callaghan largely agrees with prior scholarship that the author of this anonymous chronicle was Juan, chancellor of Castile from 1217, then bishop of Osma (1231-1240), and finally bishop of Burgos (1240-1246), and that he may well have begun to compose his account at the behest of King Alfonso VIII himself. Juan's chronicle ends with Fernando III's capture of Córdoba from the Muslims in 1236, though the point is made that the account of this latter (pp. 132-144 in this printing) may have been a continuation provided by another author.
This chronicle survives in but a single, late fifteenth-century manuscript of the Royal Academy of Madrid and in a single copy of that manuscript made in the late eighteenth century and now in the British Library. It has been given a critical edition only very recently by Luis Charlo Brea (ed.), Chronica Latina Regum Castellae (pp. 8-118) in Corpus Christianorum: Continuatio Medie-valis, Vol. 73 (Turnholt, 1997). Brea, a classical philologist, also did a Spanish translation of the chronicle in 1984, and O'Callaghan's textual commentary largely follows the former's lead.
The text of the chronicle, in the translation here under discussion, runs to 144 pages. Treatment of the reigns of Alfonso VIII and Fernando III takes up some eighty-eight percent of the total. It is preceded by a two-page sketch of the origins of the county of Castile (two pages); another of the reign of Alfonso VI, 1065-1109 (four pages); one of the reign of Queen Urraca, 1109-1126 (four pages); and yet one more of the reign of Alfonso VII, 1126-1157 (five pages). This background to the bishop's main story will hardly be useful to the average student audience, even manfully annotated as it is with the translator's footnotes, but its inclusion is necessary to the integrity of the chronicle as composed.
More to the students' tastes, one supposes, will be the concentration on the reigns of two of the more important kings of Castile in a period when that realm was achieving a position of hegemony in the Iberian peninsula. Beyond the excitement inherent in that process itself, its narration apparently suggested to Bishop Juan the inclusion of an unusual diversity of materials. These include brief but fascinating accounts of the rise of the Almohad Empire in North Africa, of the Albigensian Crusade in southern France, of the Third, Fourth, and Fifth Crusades in the Levant, and even of the struggles of the contemporary papacy with the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick IV.