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174 Reviews The History ofthe Tyrants ofSicily by Hugo Falcandus 1154-69, trans. Graham A. Loud and Thomas Wiedemann (Manchester Medieval Sources Series), Manchester and N e w York, Manchester University Press, 1998; paper; pp. xvii, 286; 2 maps, 5 tables; R R P AUS$49.95; ISBN 0719054354. [Available in Australia from Eleanor Brasch Enterprises, P O Box 586, Artarmon, N S W 2064.] 'It is my intention in the present work to write down a story whose fright would be enough, indeed more than enough, either to make it completely unbelievable or at any rate to cast suspicion upon its reliability, were it not that in Sicily there is nothing amazing about the performance ofdeeds of such extreme wickedness that they should rather be lamented by the bellowing of writers of tragedies than narrated in accordance with historical truth.' So begins 'Hugo Falcandus" wonderfully vivid, wonderfully prejudiced account of the kingdom of Sicily between the death of its founding king Roger II in 1154 and the earthquake which struck the area in 1169. Loud and Wiedemann offer this annotated translation as a source for students seeking English-language primary material concerning the 'Norman' kingdom of Sicily. The work succeeds in this, and in more as well. The History of the Tyrants of Sicily, composed at an unknown date by an unknown man incorrectly named 'Hugo Falcandus', is our main source for Sicily during the period 1154-69. For this reason, possessing an English translation ofthe narrative history will do wonders for research in this area, both at undergraduate level and beyond. But more than this, the History is also an important example of the twelfth-century's intense interest in classical literature. It will therefore be useful reading for anyone interested in the types of texts read and produced during the 'twelfth-century renaissance'. For example, 'Hugo Falcandus' seems to have thought of himself as a latter day Sallust. W h e n he criticises his villains King William I 'The Bad' (1154-66) and William's chief minister Maio ofBari 'Hugo' repeatedly favours classical models of complaint. One of his most popular allegations is that of sexual depravity. This is a particularly useful criticism for 'Hugo' to levy since, as Sallust and others had written, sexual licence was a sure giveaway of the tyrant. And if 'Hugo' was convinced of one thing it was that Sicily was ruled by tyrants. The History is broken into two parts. First, it describes the reign of William the Bad from 1154 until the suppression of the rebellion on the mainland in 1162. The second part omits the final three years of William's reign - Reviews 175 presumably there were insufficient examples of tragedy, depravity and scandal to catch 'Hugo"s attention during these years! The second part begins with William's death in 1166 and the machinations which ensued in the quest to find a successor. Given that Maio of Bari was murdered in 1160, in thefirsthalf of the History, the second half needs a new villain. This is found in Stephen of Perche, the French cousin of the Queen Mother, w h o is summoned to Sicily to become the new chief minister. Anti-French feeling runs high and an uprising leads to Stephen's expulsion in 1168. Although it seems that the History ends abruptly, and that 'Hugo' intended to return to it later, there is in fact a certain logic in the endpoint as it now stands. The last major anecdote refers to the earthquake which hit Sicily in 1169. This is referred to as a portent and then, in thefinalparagraph, w e read that Stephen of Perche has died in the Holy Land. Thus, one more of 'Hugo"s villains has hit the dust. 'Hugo"s determination to explain history in terms of good guys and bad guys is common in narrative histories of this sort, although the degree to which this theme is applied is certainly unusual. Indeed, Loud and Wiedemann feel compelled to warn their readers that the History is a 'treacherous and often misleading source' due to its many instances of bias and vituperative abuse (p. 15). On the other hand, whereas this...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1832-8334
Print ISSN
0313-6221
Pages
pp. 174-176
Launched on MUSE
2013-04-03
Open Access
No
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