Post-classical history

Walter the Chancellor

The author of a Latin text known as the Bella Antiochena, which deals with the “Antiochene Wars,” that is, the campaigns fought against the Turks by the Franks of the principality of Antioch between 1115 and 1119.

Walter is known only through two references to himself made in his work; he is not recorded in any charter or witness list, although he was chancellor of Antioch between about 1114 and about 1122. Thus when he records that “the chancellor” was consulted by Roger, prince of Antioch, on the eve of the battle of the Ager Sanguinis (Field of Blood) in 1119, this is a reference to his own part in the events he narrates. That Walter was educated as a cleric is a safe assumption, which is borne out by his use of biblical and liturgical allusions, and also by his explicit intent to demonstrate the workings of divine will. His work comprises two books: the first recounts the Antiochenes’ triumphant campaign against Bursuq of Hamadan in 1115; the second their disastrous defeat at the hands of īlghāzī of Aleppo in 1119. Although Walter exploits the contrast between initial success and defeat in book 2, nothing in book 1 foreshadows the later reverses: it was apparently originally intended to stand alone as a record of a great victory.

As an eyewitness, Walter left an invaluable account. He probably accompanied Roger on the 1115 campaign and was almost certainly present when Roger was killed at the Ager Sanguinis. He was probably among those taken prisoner afterward: he says that his vivid description of the torments of the Christian captives derives from his own eyewitness experience.

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