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Knowledge of Arabic in the Crusader States in the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries

Knowledge of Arabic in the Crusader States in the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries

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 Journal of Medieval History
, Vol. 25, No. 3, pp. 203–213, 19991999 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
©
PII: S0304-4181(98)00022-0
Printed in The Netherlands.0304-4181/99 $ – see front matter
1
0.00
Knowledge of Arabic in the Crusader States in the twelfth andthirteenth centuries
Hussein M. Attiya
 Department of History and Archaeology
,
University of United Arab Emirates
,
P
.
O
.
Box
17771,
Al
-
 Ain
,
United Arab Emirates
Abstract
The Latins settled in the East in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries had no alternative but toopen channels of communication with the Muslims, whatever might have been their originalmotivation for crusading. The need to negotiate treaties, to conduct mercantile transactions, and toadminister territories containing a largely Arabic-speaking population demanded that at least someof them learned Arabic. This article argues that knowledge of Arabic among the Franks was moreextensive than some historians have thought, even though the evidence that this knowledge wasused for deeper cultural interchange remains slight.
©
1999 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rightsreserved.
Some scholars have concluded that Syria was of less importance as a vehicle of 
1
Islamic influence on the intellectual activity of medieval Europe than Spain and Sicily.This point of view, supported by the lack of evidence in Syria of translation into Latin of Arabic scientific and literary works, was not challenged until 1941. At this time,Professor J.L. La Monte tried to demonstrate the significance of the crusader states inmedieval history and urged orientalists to investigate the extent of Islamic influence on
2
the culture of the Franks who settled in the East. However, orientalists may have beendeterred by the same lack of evidence as there has been no response to his appeal. Iintend to adopt a different approach, which is to examine how far the Franks, duringtheir settlement in the East, understood and learned Arabic.Many historians considered the crusades to be merely military expeditions sent outfrom Europe to recapture the Holy Places from the infidels, and, indeed, at Clermont in1095 Pope Urban II urged his audience to take the road ‘to the Holy Sepulchre, rescue
3
that land from a dreadful race and rule over it yourselves’. The implication of thisstatement is that, for the Franks who came to the East as crusaders, the hostilities would
HUSSEIN M. ATTIYA is Associate Professor of Medieval History at the University of Tanta, Egypt.
1
For example, P.K. Hitti,
History of the Arabs
(London, 1963), 662.
2
J.L. La Monte, ‘The Significance of the Crusaders’ States in Medieval History’
Byzantion
, 15 (1940–1),300–1.
3
Robert the Monk,
Historia Hierosolymitana
,
in:
Recueil des historiens des croisades
.
Historiens Occidentaux
,
vol. 3 (Paris, 1844), 728.203
 
204 Hussein M. Attiya
allow them no opportunity to recognise any aspects of Islamic civilisation. Those Frankswho accompanied Godfrey of Bouillon on the First Crusade, or who were led by Richardthe Lionheart on the Third Crusade, must have been affected by their leaders’ feelingsand political attitudes towards the Muslims, enemies they had met only on thebattlefield. Is it likely that they would be influenced by Islamic civilisation? ThoseFranks who were engaged in killing as many of the enemy as possible were described byboth Raymond of Aguilers and Ambroise. The former could see marvellous works in theslaughter of Muslims in Jerusalem in 1099 and, in his opinion, as his companions rodeup to the knees and bridles of their horses in the blood of Muslims it was poetic justice
4
that the Temple of Solomon ‘should receive the blood of the pagans’. The latter revelsin the description of the massacre of the Muslim hostages by King Richard at Acre andrefers to the Saracens as pagan dogs. ‘The race God’s interdict hath cursed, may He the
5
curse maintain.’Nevertheless, for the Franks who settled in Syria and the Holy Land, everything wasdifferent. They established a
modus vivendi
within a generation of the First Crusadeitself. The Frankish settlers soon found the Saracens were not bad neighbours and easierto trade with than to fight. James of Vitry might denounce the Syrian Franks for being atpeace with the enemies of Raymond of Aguilers and Ambroise, but William of Tyrecriticised his king, Amalric, for waging war on these self-same enemies and for failingto recognise the economic significance of their countries to the Latin states. AfterAmalric’s third expedition against Egypt, the archbishop thought that, because of boundless greed and unnecessary bloodshed, the treasures of Egypt were no longer at the
6
disposal of the Franks and Egyptian trade no longer plied freely across the seas. TheFranks were indeed obliged to meet their neighbours in a variety of circumstances;outside times of war and hostilities they had peaceful and perhaps even cordial relationswith them. The Franks of Syria had to deal with Muslims of the inland cities and thoseMuslims subjected to their rule. There must have been a means of communication withMuslims both inside and outside the Latin states in order to make truces and to fulfilcommercial transactions. Arabic was that means. Franks intermingled with Muslims.
7
They traded with them; they even exchanged hunting animals and falcons. They must
4
Raymond of Aguilers,
Liber 
,
ed J.H. and L.L. Hill (Paris, 1969), 150–1. Tr. J.H. and L.L. Hill (Philadelphia,1968), 127–8.
5
´Ambroise,
L
’ 
 Estoire de la Guerre Sainte
,
ed. G. Paris, Collection de Documents inedits sur l’Histoire deFrance (Paris. 1897), 147; trs.
The Crusade of Richard the Lion Heart 
, trans. M.J. Humbert and J.L. LaMonte (New York, 1942), 218, 228.
6
James of Vitry,
The History of Jerusalem
,
trs. A. Stewart, Palestine Pilgrims Text Society, vol. 9 (London,1896), 64–5; William of Tyre,
Chronicon
,
ed. R.B.C. Huygens, 2 vols, Corpus Christianorum, continuatiomediaevalis 63–63A (Turnhout, 1986), 924–5 (henceforth WT).
7
In 1151 Mujir ed-Din Abaq, atabeg of Damascus, allowed some of Baldwin III’s soldiers to visit the bazaarswithin the walls of the city to buy what they needed, Ibn al-Qalanisi,
History of Damascus
,
ed. S. Zakkar(Damascus, 1983), 487. The same permission was granted to the Franks by al-Saleh Ismail of Damascus in1240, Maqrisi,
Kitab al
-
Suluk ii Maarifat Duwal al
-
 Mulauk 
,
ed. M.M. Ziada, vol. 1 (Cairo, 1934), ii, 304. In1140 Anar, atabeg of Damascus, visited King Fulk at Acre and received gifts which included a dog and afalcon, Usama Ihn Munquidh,
Kitab al
-
 I 
’ 
tibar 
(Princeton, 1930), 252–3.
 
Knowledge of Arabic in the Crusader States in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries 205
have been influenced by them. But even so, scholars have come to the conclusion that
8
Islamic influence on the culture of the Franks was negligible.Professor H.E. Mayer believes that the Franks co-existed with the Muslims but thatthere was no symbiosis; the number of those from the upper ranks of society who
9
bothered to learn Arabic was tiny. In this respect we can presume otherwise.William of Tyre, the most illustrious and erudite historian of the Latin East, learned Arabic. He tellsus in the prologue of his
Historia
that his substantial source of information for hissecond work 
Historia orientalium principum
was the book of the Arab historian Said ibn
10
Batrick (Eutychius). Here, William’s modern editor R.B.C. Huygens has expresseddoubts as to the extent of William’s knowledge of Arabic, noting that William’s
11
renderings of Arabic names are either elementary and easily come by, or erroneous.That may be true of his account of the First Crusade which is based mainly on thenarratives of contemporary historians who seem to have mistranscribed these names. Itseems that the Franks did not become acquainted with the Arabic names of persons and
12
places before the first two decades of the twelfth century. The names of Kerboga,Toghtekin, Ilghazi, and Saladin, the Muslim leaders best known to the Franks, are worthexamining here. The leaders of the First Crusade, as well as the majority of the Latinchroniclers, including William of Tyre, knew the atabeg of Mosul who came to rescue
13
Antioch as Corboram, Corboran, Corbagath, or Corbagat. Toghtekin, the atabeg of Damascus (1104–1128), was known to the Franks as Dodechinus, Tuldequinus, or
14
Doldequinus. They knew Ilghazi, the Ortoqid prince of Aleppo (1118–1123), as Algazi
15
(Armigazi Algazus) or Gazi. William of Tyre and his continuators, and thethirteenth-century Dominican,William of Tripoli, knew Saladin as Saladinus, Salehadin,
16
Salahadin, Salahedyn. The form of each of the first three names makes theirpronunciation different from the Arabic (Korbogha Toghtekin Ilghazi). Here,
17
William of Tyre, basing his
Historia
down to 1127 on the works of these eyewitnesses,
8
H.E. Mayer,
The Crusades
,
tr J. Gillingham, 2nd ed. (Oxford, 1988), 189; B.Z. Kedar, ‘The SubjectedMuslims of the Frankish Levant’, in:
Muslims under Latin Rule
(1100 
1300) 
(Princeton, 1992), 174.
9
Mayer, ‘Latins, Muslims and Greeks in the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem,’
History
, 63 (1978), 175.
10
Said ibn Batrick was born in Egypt in 879 and became a famous physician. He was for many years Greek Patriarch of Alexandria. His
History of the Arabs
covers the period from the time of the Prophet to 937. SeeWT, 100.
11
Huygens, ‘Editing William of Tyre’,
Sacris Erudiri
, 27 (1984), 468.
12
See below, p. 213.
13
Gesta Francorum et aliorum Hierosolimitanorum
,
ed. and tr. R. Hill (London, 1962), 49, 56; Raymond of Aguilers, 259; ‘Epistula II Anselmi de Ribodimonte ad Manassem archiepiscopum Remorum’, in:
DieKreuzzugsbriefe aus den Jahren
1088 
1100,
ed. H. Hagenmeyer (Innsbruck, 1901), 159;
Chanson
’ 
 Antioche en Provenc¸al
,
tr. P. Meyer, in:
Archives de l
’ 
Orient latin
,
vol. 2, ii (Paris, 1884), 481, 483–4;Fulcher of Chartres, 345, 347; WT, 289, 307, 311, 313, 316, 320, 323, 331, 336.
14
Walter the Chancellor,
Bella Antiochena
,
ed. H. Hagenmeyer (Innsbruck, 1896), 102, 106–7; Fulcher of Chartres, 446–7; WT, 525, 530, 532, 552, 556, 566, 595–7.
15
Walter the Chancellor, 66, 79, 92, 94, 99, 101, 107–8; Fulcher of Chartres, 443; WT, 556, 559, 560ff.
16
´ 
WT, 93, 99;
Chronique d 
’ 
 Ernoul et de Bernard le Tresorier 
,
ed. L. de Mas Latrie (Paris, 1871), 40–1;
LaContinuation de Guillaume de Tyr 
(1184 
1197),
ed. M.R. Morgan (Paris, 1982), 36–7; William of Tripoli,
Tractatus de statu Saracenorum
,
in:
Kulturgeschichte der Kreuzzuge
,
ed. H. Prutz (Berlin, 1883), 583.
17
See P.W. Edbury and J.G. Rowe,
William of Tyre
.
Historian of the Latin East 
(Cambridge, 1980), 46.

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