Hospitaller Piety And Crusader Propaganda: Guillaume Caoursin’s Description Of The Ottoman Siege Of Rhodes, 1480, by Theresa M. Vann and Donald J. Kagay
For a long while I have seen this book available from the De Re Militari to read and review, probably like many of their reviewers, and I pondered whether to request it. To be sure, I do not often read books about the Crusades but it something that from time to time has piqued my interest , and I pondered whether it would be worthwhile to read a book about the piety of the Hospitaller order, and after running through books from De Re Militari at a somewhat alarming clip I figured it would be worthwhile to take a book off their hands that had been waiting a long time for a review. For personal reasons I tend to be rather sensitive about things being left unwanted for long periods of time, and as the Crusades are a subject of personal interest I thought it would be worthwhile to give the book a chance to be read and to enjoy what it had to offer, and to give it a fair and detailed review as is my fashion.
When I received the book I found it to be somewhat different than I had expected it to be. For one, it was not about the Crusades, but rather it consisted of translations of materials written about the successful defense of Rhodes by Christian forces against the power of the Ottoman Empire. This was considerably of more interest to me–although reading more than 300 pages of late medieval accounts about a somewhat obscure 1480 siege is not something that everyone would enjoy, I am fond of the prosography of the Middle Ages and reading military accounts and anti-Muslim propaganda is something I have quite an interest in. Given the contemporary feeling in many areas about being under siege by violent Islamic forces, this book is not only of interest to me as an obscure antiquarian but also has some clear contemporary resonance, whether or not the scholars involved in this project make use of it as text or whether it remains as subtext and context to those reading it. Judging from a brief look at the table of contents, this book consists of eight chapters, the first one giving information about the relationship between the Hospitallers and Rhodes, the second one looking at the threat of the Ottomans to Rhodes from 1453 to 1480, the third looking at the beginnings of the Descriptio, the primary text here, and the last five chapters giving translations of various Christian texts about the siege of 1480 from such forgotten medieval writers as Guillaume Caoursin, Pierre d’Aubusson, John Kay, Ademar Dupuis, and Jacobo Curte, before a healthy series of selected magisterial bulls and a bibliography and index. This may be one of the more obscure books I read, but it certainly looks like a good one although a much different one than expected.
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