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Egeria’s Diary and the First Crusade

In the first place, it is necessary to justify the topics that will be the key topics of the present research and to give the explanation of the choice of the material that will be the basis of the study. In the course of human history there have been a lot of historic personalities who made their valuable contribution to the development of history and human society on the whole. Beside their valuable activity a lot of them should be praised for the creation of historic documents that have existed for centuries saving historic experience and information that connects the past events with the present. Thus, the study of primary sources is the most promising method of historical analysis of the past because it provides the most authoritative information about the event from their immediate participants. Thus, the primary sources will be the ground of the present research. Speaking about “Egeria: The Diary of a Pilgrimage ”, this source is of great interest because it is a rich ground for investigation for a number of specialists: archeologists, linguists, church historians (Gingras, 1970, 1). As for the “Internet Medieval Sourcebook”, it is a reliable source of information about the First Crusade because of the authenticity of the sources presented. For instance, Ekkehard’s works are considered “remarkably painstaking and temperate” (Ekkehard, 1904, 316). In the course of the study, the sources will be compared and contrasted on the basis of their similarities and differences in relation to certain spheres of human life. The common point of intersection of the sources may be defined as the presentation of different historical events as human activity based on religious intention or pilgrimage.

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In order to create adequate ground for comparison of the sources, it is important to give some brief information on the historic personality of Egeria, to explain the phenomenon of Crusades, mainly the First Crusade and its importance, and to throw light on those personalities who have provided us with their view of the Crusade. Some scientists question the authorship of Egeria introducing such names as Galla Placidia and Flavia (Gingras, 1970, 3). However, the evidence of Egeria’s authorship is more convincing. Still, there are several theories that introduce the woman called Egeria, one of them suggests that she was “a woman related to men in high places” (Gingras, 1970, 2). Their existence prove the fact that this personality is shrouded in mystery and scientifically proven information about the real author is rather limited as suggested by the editor of “Egeria: The Diary of Pilgrimage” (Gingras, 1970, 1). General opinion is that the authoress of the Diary is “a pious woman from Spain who recorded a pilgrimage to Sinai and Palestine” (Mullin, 2008, 58). However, it may be concluded on the basis of the research conducted by the editor of “The Diary” that it was “very probably written in the first part of the fifth century” (Gingras, 1970, 1). Gingras supports the hypothesis by Valerius that “our author was a nun” and “she was writing to her fellow religious” as “sisters” are frequently mentioned in the text of the record (Gingras, 1970, 8).

The Crusades are valuable phenomena in history due to their complex grounds and intentions and because of great number of participants. Encyclopedia Britannica offers concise but explicit definition of the Crusades as “military expeditions, beginning in the late 11th century, that were organized by Western Christians in response to centuries of Muslim wars of expansion”. The same source states information of primary importance concerning the causes of the Crusades. Encyclopedia Britannica says that their objectives were “to check the spread of Islam, to take control of the Holy Land, to conquer pagan areas, and to recapture formerly Christian territories”. Thus, it may be seen than religious reasons were prevailing among the crusaders as well as Egeria was driven by religious motive. Still, Mullin mentions “mixed motives” behind the Crusades and says that the first Crusade is the most important of all seven campaigns that took place between 1096 and 1272 because it was the most successful one (Mullin, 2008, 102).

On presenting the basic information about the two “pilgrimages”, it is necessary to tackle the contexts of the creation of the literary sources and position of the authors towards the events described by them. As for Egeria, her record of religiously motivated travel to Sinai and Palestine is the first-hand information presented by the authoress herself as she is the main participant of the events described. As it was mentioned above, there were no chances that Egeira was a professional historian; scientists consider her a nun. However, George E. Gingras is a co-author of “The Diary” as he supplements the authentic record by Egeria by valuable information about the personality of the author and the conditions of creation of the book about pilgrimage. Besides, the editor provides detailed notes that make “The Diary” accessible to readers.

Among the Collected Readings on the First Crusade, the sources written by Ekkehard and Albert of Axis are chosen for the present research. As for Ekkehard of Aurach, this well-known German historian created his work on returning from the pilgrimage to Jerusalem he had undertaken in 1101. Consequently, the pilgrimage was the key factor that determined the changes he made in his history relating to the First Crusade. In contrast to the previous authors, Albert of Aix never visited the East and his history was based on the sources that already existed and the account of eyewitnesses (Albert of Aix, 1921, 80). However, the time of creation of his history did not have a very great gap with the time of the First Crusade and the testimonies of the eyewitnesses were reliable sources. Thus, the conditions under which the authors wrote their works are practically similar as all of them except Albert of Axis relied on the personal experience while creating the works. The only difference is the time gap of the events described because Egeria’s pilgrimage took place six centuries earlier than the First Crusade.

Since the present research is grounded on the analysis of the primary sources, the question of bias of the authors should be mentioned. Egeria was driven by religious faith in her journey; moreover, she almost evidently belonged to religious group for she was considered a nun. The Diary is presented in rather figurative language and it abounds in stylistic figures that prove that the source is created by a woman enchanted by the beauty of the Holy Land: “Surely here is something very wonderful, and without God’s grace I do not think that it would be possible” (Gingras, 1970, 51).

As for the bias of Albert of Aix and Ekkehard of Aura, the significant fact here is that both of them were contemporaries of the First Crusade and the bias of a contemporary may be also felt in their works. Besides, Ekkehard of Aura was a monk that had similarity with Egeria and her monasticism. Just as Egeria’s record abounds in appeals to God, Ekkehard also said: “I trust in the Lord” (Ekkehard, 1904, 316). However, the fact that this author was a well-known historian was also very significant since it gave his record exactness and accuracy typical of historians. His duty was to give an account of historical events and he did his best to stay unbiased though his monasticism was evident in the writing. As for Albert of Aix, it has been mentioned already that he was a historian too. Since his “Historia” was based on the words of eyewitnesses while he himself was not one of them, the task that was set by him is evident: he wanted to give an unbiased account of the event. Though it may be stated that he has coped with the task, his record had some emphatic shading, like in the following statement: “Horrible to say, mothers cut the throats of nursing children with knives and stabbed others” (Albert of Aix, 1921, 54).

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Now it is necessary to mention the main common feature of the sources under consideration since it is the driving force of the whole research. It may be defined in the following way: all the sources under analysis disclose the historical event (the First Crusade) and the journey of the nun (Egeria) as the action of people driven by religious motives. The only difference is in the number of people who participated in the events: Egeria travelled with only several companions, it may be proven by the fact that she was constantly using the pronoun “we” in the record, like “we proceeded onto the mountain” (Gingras, 1970, 51), while the Crusaders were very large in number, for instance, “Baldwin, with his five hundred knights” (Albert of Aix, 1921, 84), “one hundred thousand men were appointed to the immediate service of God” (Ekkehard, 1904, 316).

As for the main methods used by the authors of the works, there are two primary methods: they recorded real experience and relied on the existing literary sources. It is know that Egeria had planned her religious journey on the basis of the lands and events described in the Holy Bible. The text of “The Diary” is full of allusions to the Bible: “the place where the Glory of God descended, as it is written Scripture” (Gingras, 1970, 50), or “he was there for forty days and forty nights” (Gingras, 1970, 49-50), “where the Glory of the Lord descended on the day when a mountain smoked” (Gingras, 1970, 52). Still, the very title of the record, “The Diary of a Pilgrimage” reveals the main method used, the record of personal experience.

The similar method is also used by Ekkehard because his personal pilgrimage greatly influences the creation of his works. Just as Egeria traced the holy places from the Bible, Ekkehard’s pilgrimage followed the route of the crusaders. In case with Albert of Aix, his method differs from other authors’ methods because it lacks personal experience. Still, the historian makes use of the information of the eyewitnesses that is almost equivalent to personal experience, and his work is supported by written sources as well.

Evidently, all the analyzed sources present rich ground for the analysis of the ecclesiastical aspect. Egeria’s trip was a pilgrimage to Holy Places, such as Mount Sinai as it was the place “where Moses read to the people” (Rogerson, 2001, 8) and the Arabic name is translated as “the mountain of Moses” (Rogerson, 2001, 8). Egeria’s being a nun accounts for the presence of the aspect of monstricism in the work. The authoress mentions “monastic cells” (Gingras, 1970, 51) and hospitable monks very often. The book enables the reader to define the authoress’ positive attitude towards monastricism that may be proven by the quotation describing the priest: “He was an old man, beyond reproach, a monk from his youth, and, as they say here, an ascetic; in a word, he was a man worthy of being in this place” (Gingras, 1970, 52).

Ecclesiastical aspects may be observed in “Hierosolymita” and “World Chronicle” by Ekkehard. The important feature is that the historian was the monk himself, so as he stated he was “anxious to add certain details concerning these military undertakings, which are due to divine rather than human inspiration” (Ekkehard, 1904, 316). The pope who blessed the crusaders is mentioned by the author (Ekkehard, 1904, 316). Among the reasons for the Crusade he mentions “prophets”, “signs and revelations” (Ekkehard, 1904, 316) clearly expressing his opinion of the divine nature of the Crusade. The crusaders are compared with the monks who “sell all their property and possessions” in the name of holy pilgrimage (Ekkehard, 1904, 318). In his turn, Albert of Aix pays special attention to Peter the Hermit, a priest. In the extract that presents information about him, the emphasis is made on the importance of preaching as the driving force of the event: “set out, as a result of the preaching of Peter the Hermit” (Albert of Aix, 1921, 48), “inflamed by the preaching of Peter” (Albert of Aix, 1921, 52).

The aspect of the relation to the Jews also needs consideration as the two historians pay special attention to it. They described Emico and almost twelve thousand cross bearers who had killed the Jews “wherever they found them” (Ekkehard, 1921, 53). It is notable that Ekkehard justified these deeds by high devotion to Christian religion. In his turn, Albert of Aix states that the men were inspired by a judgment of the Lord or “by some error of mind” (Albert of Aix, 1921, 54). Besides, this author uttered a reasonable idea that those Jews who had been baptized had agreed to that out of fear instead of Love for Christ (Albert of Aix, 1921, 56).

As for the military aspect, it cannot be traced in “The Diary” because the woman’s journey was motivated by purely peaceful intentions. This is the significant difference between this pilgrimage and the Crusade because the latter was not motivated by faith only; it presupposed violence and conquest as well. However, the primary intention of Ekkehard was to add some information about “these military undertaking” that related to divine inspiration instead of human motivation (Ekkehard, 1904, 316). Thus, he does not present significant military information in contrast to the second author. Albert of Aix gives more detailed account of the Crusade mentioning, for instance, the battle between “the pilgrims” and Hungarians (Albert of Aix, 1921, 50). However, the author does not overload his narration with military details.

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The gender issue should also be analyzed as it is the point of contrast between the sources. In fact, Egeria’s pilgrimage was carried out by a woman who was the leader of the group. As for the crusaders, the majority of them were men that might be explained by their martial intentions. At the same time, Albert of Aix mentions that the groups of pilgrims were diverse in gender aspect, “all the common people” and women “joyfully entered this expedition” (Albert of Aix, 1921, 48). Thus, all the authors state that religious pilgrimage is a universal event, everyone may take part in it, and the only thing needed is divine inspiration.

Since the journey of Egeria was a pilgrimage, it had dominating religious motivation, which accounted for the absence of a concrete description of economic situation and issues in the lands she visited. More concrete details about economical state of society can be found in Historia. Albert of Aix, for instance, mentions frequent cases of robberies that are the signal of economic hardship (Albert of Aix, 1921, 48). He also mentions “an abundance of grain flocks of sheep, herds of cattle, a plentiful supply of wine, and infinite number of horses” in the citadel that may be considered relevant information about economic situation (Albert of Aix, 1921, 51).

Drawing a conclusion, it may be stated the analyzed texts have the common feature of primary importance: they present two visions of a pilgrimage though these pilgrimages are separated by six centuries. Egeria’s diary is the perfect source that can explain the motivation of pilgrims that may be used when considering the Crusade that was driven by religious motivation to a great extent. There are a lot of differences between the contrasted courses but they are determined by different motivations of the authors: while Egeria had purely religious motives, Ekkehard and Albert of Aix wanted to introduce historical event, though they were motivated by religion to a great extent as well. Thus, the main similarity of the events, the notion of pilgrimage, is the key factor of the present research.

Reference List

Albert of Aix. 1921. Historia Hierosolymita. August. C. Krey, The First Crusade: The Accounts of Eyewitnesses and Participants, Princeton: 48-86. Web.

Crusades. 2009. In Encyclopædia Britannica. Web.

Ekkehard of Aura. 1904. On the Opening of the First Crusade. James Harvey Robinson, ed., Readings in European History. Boston: Ginn and co.: 316-318. Web.

Ekkehard of Aura. On Folcmar and Gottschalk. Emico. 1921 August. C. Krey, The First Crusade: The Accounts of Eyewitnesses and Participants, Princeton: 53-54. Web.

Gingras, George E. 1970. Egeria: Diary of a Pilgrimage. New York: The Newman Press.

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Mullin, Robert B. 2008. A Short World History of Christianity. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press.

Rogerson, John. 2001. The Oxford Illustrated History of the Bible. New York: Oxford University Press.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, November 11). Egeria’s Diary and the First Crusade. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/egerias-diary-and-the-first-crusade/

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