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Short Notices 295 Robert of Clari, The Conquest of Constantinople (Medieval Academy Reprints for Teaching 36), trans. Edgar Holmes McNeal, Toronto/ Buffalo/London, University of Toronto Press, 1996; paper; pp. 150; R.R.P. US$13.95, £10.00. Robert of Clari's description of the events and personages of the Fourth Crusade, which resulted in the capture of Constantinople in 1203, is a welcome addition to the Medieval Academy of Reprints For Teaching series. McNeaTs translation, from a copy of the Chronicle c.1300 (the original manuscript has long since disappeared), was first pubUshed in 1936. Robert of Clari was 'a simple, obscure knight of Picardy' (p. 3). Unlike his contemporary, Geoffrey of VUlehardoum, Robert was not highly placed and had Uttle, if any, access to the deUberations of the councti of leaders. Nonetheless, his eyewitness account of the fall of Constantinople is valuable, for this Chronicle records, in engaging narrative, the observations and perceptions of an ordinary m a n embroUed in a great adventure. H e had followed his lord, Pierre of Amiens, on crusade against the infidel, yet ended by participating in the assault, capture and looting of a Christian city. Robert presents his memoir with aU the ease and enthusiasm of a raconteur, employing the 'devices of the prose tale' (p. 25) to dramatise the narrative. H e begins by defining his task: 'Here begins the history of those w h o conquered Constantinople . . . w h o they were and for what reason they went there' (p. 31), then proceeds to weave together his recollections into an account of the Crusade. His reconstruction of the events preceding, surrounding and following the faU of Constantinople clearly contains information gleaned secondhand from varied sources, which doubtless affects the veracity of his Chronicle. H e was neither wealthy nor a banneret and his position in the army was not one of influence. Nonetheless, his value as an eyewitness to the capture of the city is considerable. Unlike ViUehardouin, his contemporary chronicler, Robert had Uttle reason to be concerned with 'justifying the actions' (p. 21) of the Crusader leaders. In fact, he was downright critical of the high men, he rich men' (p. 100) w h o grabbed a lion's share of the booty after the city 296 Short Notices was captured. H e notes, with apparent relish, that the leaders were later to pay dearly for their betrayal of the 'common people' (p. 101) of the host. OveraU, the edition is well-structured. The Introduction provides concise, relevant detaUs of the author and the value of his Chronicle as a historical source. However, the single, rather simple, m a p used by McNeal is barely adequate. The effectiveness of this book would have been significantly enhanced by the addition of three maps: one showing the pertinent areas of the Mediterranean and Near East, another giving detaUs of the movements of both the Crusaders and the Venetian Fleet prior to the Conquest of Constantinople, and a third to provide details of the assaults upon the city walls. Graeme Cronin c/o Department of English The University of Western Australia ...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1832-8334
Print ISSN
0313-6221
Pages
pp. 295-296
Launched on MUSE
2013-04-03
Open Access
No
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