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Late Antiquity & Dark Ages Sources

copyright 1997 by Historical Novelists Center

 

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Anonymous

Go To Project GutenbergThe Anglo-Saxon Chronicle ****
Several manuscripts of this survive, the first part being Biblical history, the useful part detailing English events up to 924. In that year, many copies were distributed. That at Canturbury was continued up to 1066, at Worcester to 1079, and up to 1154 in Peterborough. It was researched in or compiled out of older sources, like the Mercian Register, the Northumbrian Gesta, or the Battle of Brunanburh. Several translations are available. T2

Anonymous

The Russian Primary Chronicle ****
Compiled in Kiev in the early twelfth century (a time when Europeans suddenly became historically conscious, it seems), this covers the earliest known historical legends of Russia, including the coming of the Rus to power as the Viking brothers Riurik, Sineus and Truvor, in the section called "The Legend of the Calling of the Princes." S. H. Coss and O. P. Sherbowitz-Wetzor published a translation in 1953, Harvard Press. T3

Bede (AKA Beda, Baedo, the Venerable Bede)

Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum (A History of the English Church and People) ***
The almost-contemporaneous account of the English (Anglo-Saxon) invasion of Britain, and the conversion of the Saxon upper classes to Christianity. Bede's guesstimated lifespan is 673-735. This was composed about 731, and revised shortly thereafter. T2

Eginhard

The Life of Charlemagne *****!
As Eginhard was a member of the emperor's court, he was far too sparse in his writing. Far better he had done a complete memory dump, because there is no better or more reliable source on Charlemagne. T2

Galfrai ab Arthur (Geoffrey of Monmouth)

Historia de Gestis Regum Britannia (The History of the Kings of Britain) ***
Runs from legend to 688, the death of Cadwallader, king of Wessex. Source of most Arthurian legend, including a lot of detail he made up himself. About as reliable as Herodotos. Most accurate when most recent. Written about 1147, by a man estimated to have been born about 1100, and died about 1154. This is what people of the time were willing to believe about the past. T3

Georgius Florentius (St. Gregory of Tours)

Historia Francorum (The History of the Franks) ****
Born in an aristocratic senatorial family of Gaul, living approximately 538-594. The first book of the History covers from legendary days (Biblical style) through 397, the second the reign of Clovis, Book 3 to 548, 4 to 575. Books 5-10 are virtual memoirs, recorded from his own memory of events, 575-591. T2

Gildas

Go To Project Gutenbergde Excidio Britanniae (The Ruin of Britain) **
The Saxon invasion of Britain began in the fifth century. Gildas wrote sometime during the first half of the sixth, making events within recent memory or very new tradition. For early history, he's almost an eye-witness! As the title tells you, he was one of the British monks who was horrified at the pagan Germanic conquest. His opinions are way over the top and considerably distort history in order to foam at the mouth about the lowness of his own people. T2

Cornelius Tacitus, Publius (Tacitus)

Go To Project GutenbergGermania (The Germans) ***
Written about 98 CE, it may seem a bit early, but not much else discusses early Germanic culture, which gave rise to the Franks, Burgundians, Lombards, Goths, Visigoths, Vandals, Norse, Angles, Saxons, etc. See Websites below for a translation, or pick up a free TXT copy at Gutenberg. T2

The Monk of St. Gall

Karoli Gesta (Life of Charlemagne) **
While as a child this monkish chronicler heard many direct tales from the brother of Queen Hildigard, he is confused as to when which pope or Greek emperor was alive, and his biography is already getting clogged with folktales formerly told about other people, now tagged onto Charles. Interesting reading, but not to be swallowed whole. T3

Nennius

Go To Project GutenbergHistory of the Britons (Historia Brittonum) ***
Translated by J. A. Giles
Eighth century monk tells the legendary history of the Britons and the Saxon invasion. Light-weight but atmospheric, showing the beliefs of the educated, let alone the ignorant. Genealogies at the end are a great source of male names. T2

Procopius

Go To Project GutenbergSecret History ****
Translated by Richard Atwater in 1927
Procopius wrote the official, laudatory history of the reign of Justinian and Theodora, with all praise for the campaigns of Belisarius, etc. His "Secret History" rakes all the muck and dishes all the dirt, as if he could not stand to let us believe his official history. T2

Saxo Grammaticus

History of the Danes ****
originally 1208
Not as obsessed with church matters as some chroniclers, those these are still important. Covers from legend to 1202. Early kings fight giants to win their queens, and generally fun reading. T2

Snorri Sturlason

Go To Project GutenbergHeimskringla (The Chronicle of the Kings of Norway) ****

Fifteen sagas of rulers, from the 8th C through the 12th:
Research tier either T1 (get a feeling for the world of saga) or T2 (you're easily confused by unfamiliar cultures not matching what you expect).

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Websites

Official and Original Project Gutenberg Web Site and HomePage*****!

http://promo.net/pg/

"Fine Literature Digitally Republished. Since 1971 putting classic books into electronic form." You can download major classics for free, each as a single big text file. Burn your own reference CD-R.

The Internet Classics Archive: English Language Translations of Classical Texts Online *****!

http://webatomics.com/Classics/

MIT Classics department compiles the Perseus Project and other sources. Includes Hippocrates, Homer, Xenophon, and a lot of others. Each work (play, essay, epic) loads as a single page, making it easy to Search for specific words, and has a Download option. Very large works are available as one page or three, to cut time. Get the "unlimited time for $20" deal from a direct web service with a local access number for you, and you can consider this site part of your home library that doesn't have to be dusted. This is what we all hoped the Internet would be!

Internet Medieval Sourcebook *****!

http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/sbook.html

Halsall is collecting texts in translation, and also providing links to other sites like Berkeley, so as not to duplicate effort. This huge site links internally and externally to a list of period works, from the late Byzantine-early Christian age to the early Renaissance, and to ancient period sources, too. Wonderful source, attractive without glitz, many matrices of approach (e.g., by a topic like women's roles or by a period). Trying very hard to include areas besides the sphere of the Latin church, notably Byzantium and Islamic activities.

Online Medieval & Classical Library ****

http://sunsite.berkeley.edu/OMACL/

Exceedingly large index page takes a long time to load, so you can guess how many entries it has! This is one of those online libraries, with texts in translation, not just a linksite.

Priscus at Attila's Court ****

http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/jod/texts/priscus.html

Original document of the time, translated by J. B. Bury.


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