Robert de Clari

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Robert de Clari

(c. 1216)

A knight who participated in the Fourth Crusade.

La Conquête de Constantinople.

Old French.

Si comme li baron estoient laiens u palais, si vint illueques uns rois qui toute avoit le char noire, et avoit un crois en mi le front qui lui avoit esté faite d’un caut fer. Chis rois si sejornoit en une molt rike abeïe en le chité, ou Alexes, qui avoit esté empereres, avoit kemandé que il fust et en fust sires et demisiaus, tant comme il i vausist sejorner. Quant li emperere le vit venir, si se leva encontre lui et s’en fist molt grant feste. Si demanda li empereres as barons: “Savés vous ore,” fist il, “qui chist hons est? – Sire, nennil,” fisent li baron. “Par foi!” dist li empereres, “ch’est li rois de Nubie, qui est venus en pelerinage en cheste vile.” Et fist on parler latimiers a lui, et fist on lui demander ou se tere estoit, tant qu’il respondi as latimiers, en sen langage, que se tere estoit encore cent journees dela Iherusalem, et de la estoit il venus en Iherusalem en pelerinage; et si dist que, quant il mut de sen païs, qu’il mut bien soixante homes de se tere avec lui; et quant il vin ten Iherusalem n’en avoit il que deus vis. Et si dist qu’il voloit aler en pelerinage a Rome et de Rome a Saint Jake et puis revenir s’ent ariere en Iherusalem, s’il pooit tant vivre, et puis illueques morir. Et si dist que tot chil de se tere estoient crestien, et quant li enfes estoit nes et on le baptisoit, que on li faisoit une crois en me le front d’un caut fer ausi comme il avoit. Si esgarderent li baron chu roi a molt grant merveille.

(Afterwards it happened that the barons went one day for diversion to the palace to see Isaac and the emperor his son. And while the barons were there at the palace, a king came there whose skin was all black, and he had a cross in the middle of his forehead that had been made with a hot iron. This king was living in a very rich abbey in the city, in which the former emperor Alexius had commanded that he should be lodged and of which he was to be lord and owner as long as he wanted to stay there. When the emperor saw him coming, he rose to meet him and did great honour to him. And the emperor asked the barons: "Do you know," said he, "who this man is?" "Not at all, sire," said the barons. "In faith," said the emperor, "this is the king of Nubia, who has come on pilgrimage to this city." Then they had an interpreter talk to him and ask him where his land was, and he answered the interpreter in his own language that his land was a hundred days' journey still beyond Jerusalem, and he had come from there to Jerusalem on pilgrimage. And he said that when he set out from his land he had fully sixty of his countrymen with him, and when he came to Jerusalem there were only ten of them alive, and when he came from Jerusalem to Constantinople there were only two of them alive. And he said that he wanted to go on pilgrimage to Rome and from Rome to St. James, and then come back to Jerusalem, if he should live so long, and then die there. And he said that all the people of his land were Christians and that when a child was born and baptized they made a cross in the middle of his forehead with a hot iron, like the one he had. And the barons gazed at this king with great wonder.)

Selected Editions

Robert de Clari, La Conquête de Constantinople, ed P. Lauer, Paris; Champion, 1924.

E. H. McNeal, The Conquest of Constantinople of Robert of Clari, New York; Columbia University Press, 1936.

Robert de Clari, La Conquête de Constantinople, ed J. Dufournet, Paris; Champion, 2004.