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June 30 , 2007

The Gesta Tancredi of Ralph of Caen

A History of the Normans on the First Crusade


This is the first translation into English of Ralph of Caen's Gesta Tancredi. This text provides an exceptionally important narrative of the First Crusade and its immediate aftermath, covering the period 1096–1105, but is often neglected, due in no small part to the difficulties of its Latin. A native of the Norman city of Caen where he was a student of Arnulf, the future patriarch of Jerusalem, in 1107 Ralph joined Bohemond of Taranto's army as a military chaplain. After arriving in the East, Ralph took service with Bohemond's nephew Tancred, who ruled the principality of Antioch from 1108 to 1112.

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Although dedicated to Arnulf, the Gesta Tancredi focuses on the careers of Bohemond and, especially, of Tancred. It is one of the most important sources - indeed the most important Latin source - for the Norman campaigns in Cilicia (1097–1108), and for the early Norman rule of Antioch. The work as a whole has a striking Norman point of view and contains details found in no other source, providing a corrective to the strong northern focus of most of the other narrative sources for the First Crusade.

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