Frederick II’s Arabic Crusader Inscription and other medieval news

Posted: November 20, 2011 in medieval history, Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

Saw this news item from my friends at, and oh boy this is exciting!!  We’re all familiar (or should be) with Emperor Frederick II’s reputation as a multi-lingual man of affairs (though Heng’s description of him as a “Mozarabic emperor” is verrrry…hyperbolic, let’s say).   As a person and a ruler, he elicited wildly varying reactions during his own time, and these have continued to our own times.  Ibn Al-Jawzi thought him a shallow, clever materialist, and physically not a very imposing specimen–“had he been a slave, he would not have been worth two hundred dihram.”  Certainly not his grandfather’s martial image, that’s for sure.  The defining modern study of Frederick, Kantorowicz’s massive volume, portrayed him as an urbane visionary centuries ahead of his time–the “great man” whose dreams were frustrated by fate and malevolent forces.  David Abulafia’s revisionist biography tries so hard to portray Frederick as typical of his times that you start to wonder how he caused such a stir at all–in other words, if he was that typical of a medieval ruler, how did all that trouble with the Papacy, the Italian cities, and even his own German kingdom come about?   The best  biography to date is Wolfgang Sturner’s brilliant 2-volume study, Friedrich II, but unfortunately for many of you (including my students) it’s only in German, so until I translate it you’ll have to wait.

Ah, the exciting news item!  Yes, well, scholars have deciphered an Arabic inscription that is apparently one of the proclamations affixed in the walls of Jaffa after the emperor strengthened the city’s fortifications.  This is a unique find, and can tell us much about language, identity, and imperial thought in the 1230s Levant.  Ok, well, I thought it was exciting…

A couple of other news items worth reading:  Kathryn Warner continues her excellent coverage of Edward II, this time with a great post on the execution of Arundel in November, 1326.    And Mark Ormrod published an overview of Edward III’s family strategy, which sounds vaguely like Victoria’s strategy of placing her offspring in strategic marriages…or wait, perhaps more like Henry II’s abortive policy of the 1170s and 80s.  Well, anyway, Ormrod should know, after writing nearly 400,000 words on Edward III. I ran into him at the National Archives this past July, and he told me that the greatest challenge of all was being consistent over such a length of pages, making sure he wasn’t contradicting himself 200 pages down the road.

Oh, and if you’re looking for the Lewis Island chess men, don’t go to the British Museum–they’re on loan in The Cloisters in NYC till the end of April.

If I don’t post again before Thursday, have a great holiday everyone!

  1. Kath says:

    Oh wow – I’m excited too! Thanks for the heads up on this inscription, Dan!

  2. Sorry for the late comment, Daniel – somehow I thought I’d left one a few days ago, and have just noticed that actually I didn’t. 🙂 Just wanted to say thank you for linking to my Edward II blog and for your very kind remarks about it, which are much appreciated!

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