Medieval Literature

Turold: The Song of Roland

SimonMarmionWikipedia-Grandes_chroniques_RolandThe Song of Roland (French: Chanson de Roland) is an old French epic poem, probably written in the late eleventh or early twelfth century. Traditionally attributed to a poet named Turoldus or Turold, it is the most famous example of the chanson de geste genre and the earliest surviving major work of French literature.

Its subject is very loosely inspired by the death of the Frankish commander Roland at the historical battle of Roncevaux in 778, during Charlemagne's campaign against Islamic Spain. Although the actual battle was fought against the Basques, it was romanticised in the song into a tale of Muslim perfidy and Christian revenge.

The milieu of the Carolingian court and heroes such as Roland and his companion Oliver would form the core of the Matter of France, a distinct corpus of medieval poetic material contrasted with that based on classical myth, understood as the Matter of Rome, and the Arthurian legends of the Matter of Britain.

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Free online texts

English translations

Gutenberg: The Song of Roland, translated by C.K. Scott-Moncrieff. HTML, EPUB, MOBI and TXT formats.
Gutenberg: La Chanson de Roland, translated by Léonce Rabillon. HTML, EPUB, MOBI and TXT formats.
Gutenberg: The Harvard Classics, Volume 49, Epic and Saga - The Song of Roland/The Destruction of Dá Derga's Hostel. HTML, EPUB, MOBI and TXT formats.
Internet Archive: The Song of Roland, translated by C.K. Scott-Moncrieff, with an introduction by G.K. Chesterton. EPUB, MOBI, PDF and TXT formats.
Internet Archive: The Song of Roland, translated by Richard Bacon. EPUB, MOBI, PDF and TXT formats.
University of Adelaide: The Song of Roland, translated by C.K. Scott-Moncrieff. HTML, EPUB, and MOBI formats.
Wikisource: The Song of Roland, translated by C.K. Scott-Moncrieff (incomplete). HTML and other formats.

French texts
Wikisource: La Chanson de Roland. Multiple texts. HTML and other formats.

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The Nibelungenlied

Nibelungenlied_manuscript-kThe Nibelungenlied (German: Das Nibelungenlied) or Song of the Nibelungs is a middle high German epic poem whose anonymous author may have written in the early 13th century. It draws on much older oral traditions which are paralleled in Scandinavian literature, and which dimly reflects events from the 5th and 6th century.

The first half of the poem is centred on the hero Siegfried,  his wooing of the the princess Kriemhild at the court of the Burgundians, and his eventual murder. The second part takes place at the court of King Etzel, the historical Attila the Hun, where Kriemhild takes her revenge against Siegfried's killers.

The Nibelungenlied at Amazon

Free online texts

English translations
Gutenberg: The Nibelungenlied, translated by Daniel Bussier Shumway. HTML, EPUB, MOBI and TXT formats.
Gutenberg: The Lay of the Nibelung Men, translated by Arthur S. Way. HTML, EPUB, MOBI and TXT formats.
Gutenberg: The Nibelungenlied, translated by G.H. Needler. HTML, EPUB, MOBI and TXT formats.
Internet Archive: The Lay of the Nibelings, translated by Alice Horton, with an essay by Thomas Carlyle.  PDF, MOBI, EPUB and TCT formats.
University of Adelaide: The Nibelungenlied, translated by Daniel Bussier Shumway. HTML, EPUB, and MOBI  formats.
Wikisource: Nibelungenlied, translated by Daniel Bussier Shumway (incomplete). HTML and other formats.

German texts
Bibliotheca Augustana: Das Nibelungenlied. Multiple texts. HTML format.
Gutenberg: Das Nibelungenlied. HTML, EPUB, MOBI and TXT formats.

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Wolfram von Eschenbach: Parzival

Hermann_Hendrich_ParsifalParzival by Wolfram Von Eschenbach is a Middle High German Romance completed in the early thirteenth century. Reworking material from Chrétien de Troyes earlier Perceval, Von Eschenbach recounts Parzival's adventures at the court of King Arthur, and his pursuit of the Holy Grail, inspired by his love for Queen Condwiramurs.

Parzival was an important influence on Richard Wagner, inspiring not only his opera Parsifal, but also Lohengrin, whose title character first appears in Von Eschenbach.

Parzival at Amazon

Free online texts

English translations
Gutenberg: Parzival - a Knightly Epic - Vol 1 | Vol 2, translated by Jessie L. Weston. HTML, EPUB, MOBI and TXT formats.
University of Adelaide: Parzival - a Knightly Epic, translated by Jessie L. Weston. HTML, EPUB and MOBI formats.

German texts
Bibliotheca Augustana: Parzival. HTML format.
University of Heidelberg: Parzival. Digitised manuscript from the Bibliotheca Palatina.

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Chrétien de Troyes: Yvain, the Knight of the Lion

Yvain-dragonYvain, the Knight of the Lion (French: Yvain ou le Chevalier au Lion) is an Old French romance, composed by Chrétien de Troyes in the late twelfth century. Widely considered the greatest of his Arthurian romances, it is the only one based on a historical figure, Owain mab Urien, son of the ruler of the sixth century Welsh kingdom of Rheged. How much de Troyes drew from earlier Celtic traditions is a matter of some controversy.

De Troyes' tale begins with Owain's struggle to avenge his brother Calogrenant, against the mysterious knight, Esclados the Red. After defeating Esclados, he marries his widow Laudine, but is persuaded to return to adventuring by Gawain. Laudine extracts a promise that he will return in a year. Owain is unable to keep this pledge, and his efforts to win back Laudine, with the help of her maid Lunette, drive the latter part of the narrative.

Yvain has been interpreted as an attempt to reconcile the virtues of love and chivalry. Its early popularity is attested by the existence of several medieval adaptations into other languages.

Yvain, the Knight of the Lion at Amazon
Free online texts

English translations
Gutenberg: Four Arthurian Romances - Erec et Enide, Cliges, Yvain, Lancelot, translated by W.W. Comfort.
Poetry in Translation: Yvain, translated by A.S. Klein (2018). HTML, EPUB, MOBI, PDF and WORD formats.
Wikisource: Yvain, the Knight of the Lion, translated by W.W. Comfort. HTML and other formats.

French texts
Internet Archive: Yvain (der Löwenritter), edited by Wendelin Foerster (1902). Romanische Bibliothek edition. Old French text with German commentary. TXT, EPUB, MOBI, PDF and other formats.
Wikisource: Yvain ou le Chevalier au Lion. HTML and other formats.

Other Resources
Librivox: Yvain, or the Knight with the Lion. Public domain audiobook.
Myths and Legends PodcastYvainglory - You're so Yvain - The Lion Knight Rises. Three episodes on the romance with transcripts and audio narrated by Jason Weiser.
University of Rochester: The Legend of Yvain, by Dongdong Han (2010).
Wikipedia: Chrétien de Troyes - Yvain, the Knight of the Lion

Further reading

The Book of Taliesin - A possible early source for poetry about Owain.
Geoffrey of Monmouth: History of the Kings of Britain.
Wace: Roman De Brut.
The Mabinogion - Owain features in the relatively late Dream of Rhonabwy.
Jocelyn of Furness: Life of St Mungo -a work contemporary with de Troyes containing similar traditions about Owain.
Owain, the Knight of the Fountain - a medieval Welsh romance whose relationship to de Troyes' version is much debated.
De Troyes: Lancelot, The Knight of the Cart - an Arthurian romance written at the same time as Yvain.
De Troyes: Percival - his final unfinished Arthurian romance.
Hartmann von Aue: Iwein - A medieval German adaptation.
Yvain and Gawain - A Middle English version of the poem.
Ívens Saga - An Old Norwegian version
Herr Ivan - Old Swedish version.
Bloom's Western Canon: Yvain is listed.


Chaucer: The Canterbury Tales

Chaucer_ellesmereThe Canterbury Tales is a collection of 24 stories by Geoffrey Chaucer written between 1387 and 1400. The frame story of a pilgrimage from London to Canterbury allows Chaucer to depict a cross-section of late feudal society through the pen-portraits of the travellers in the General Prologue. 

The Tales may be incomplete, and although 30 pilgrims are introduced, only 24 tell a tale in the course of the narrative. Among the most famous is that of the Wife of Bath, whose implications for medieval views on women has long been debated.

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Free online texts

Gutenberg: The Canterbury Tales, edited by Walter Skeat. HTML, EPUB, Kindle and TXT formats.

Internet Archive:  The Canterbury Tales, edited by Walter Skeat (1893). Oxford World's Classics edition. EPUB, MOBI, TXT and PDF formats.

Internet Archive: The Canterbury Tales, edited and modernised by Arthur Burrell (1909). Everyman's Library edition. HTML, EPUB, Kindle and TXT formats.

Internet Archive: The Canterbury Tales, Coradella Collegiate Bookshelf Editions (2004). HTML, EPUB, Kindle and TXT formats.

University of Adelaide: The Canterbury Tales, edited by Walter Skeat. | The Canterbury Tales, edited and modernised by Arthur Burrell. HTML, EPUB, TXT and Kindle formats.

Wikisource: The Canterbury Tales. HTML and other formats.

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Michael Psellos: Chronographia

Michael_PsellosThe Chronographia (Greek: Χρονογραφία) by Michael Psellos is a history of the Byzantine Empire in the century from 976 CE by Michael Psellos, who was himself an active courtier and political advisor during the latter part of this period. His chief interest is in the character of individual rulers, which he considers in fourteen biographies of individual emperors and empresses, from Basil II 'The Bulgar-Slayer' to Michael VII Doukas.

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Free online texts

English translations

Documenta Catholica Omnia: Chronographia, translated by E.R.A. Sewter (1953). PDF format.

Fordham University Medieval History Sourcebook: Chronographia, translated by E.R.A. Sewter (1953). HTML format.

Greek texts

Internet Archive: The History of Psellus, edited by Constantine Sathas (1899). PDF, EPUB, DJVU, Kindle and other formats.

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Anna Comnena: The Alexiad

Alexios_I_KomnenosThe Alexiad (Greek: Ἀλεξιάς) by Anna Comnena, is a history of the Byzantine Empire during the reign of her father Alexios I Comnenus from 1048-1118. Written in around 1148, it is significant as an important source for the period leading up to the First Crusade, and as one of the earliest historical works by by a woman.

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Free online texts
English Translations

Fordham University Medieval Sourcebook: The Alexiad, translated by Elizabeth A. Dawes (1928). HTML format.

Wikisource: The Alexiad, translated by Elizabeth A. Dawes. HTML and other formats.

York University: The Alexiad, translated by Elizabeth A. Dawes. PDF format.

Greek texts

Greek Wikisource: Αλεξιάς. HTML and other formats.

Internet Archive: Anna Comnena Vol I (edited by Schopen). | Vol II (edited by Reifferscheid). Corpus Scriptorum Historiae Byzantinae.

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Al-Ghazali: The Incoherence of the Philosophers

By السيف ذو الوشاح - CC BY-SA 4.0 Wikimedia CommonsThe Incoherence of the Philosophers (Arabic: تهافت الفلاسفة Tahāfut al-Falāsifah) by Al-Ghazali (1056-1111) is one of the major works of Arabic and Islamic philosophy. In 20 chapters, it critiques the ideas of Avicenna, Al-Ghazali's leading precursor in the Greek-influenced tradition of falsafa. Al-Ghazali has sometimes been blamed for the decline of Muslim science, partly because of a scepticism about causality that has been compared to that of David Hume. Nevertheless, his influence proved decisive for the synthesis of philosophy and Muslim theology, and anticipated later critiques of Aristotelian science.

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Free online texts

Ghazali.org: Incoherence of the Philosophers, translated by Sabi Ahmad Kamali. PDF format.

Internet Archive: Incoherence of the Philosophers, translated by Sabi Ahmad Kamali. Multiple formats.

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Gregory of Tours: History of the Franks

Saint_Grégoire_Sacramentaire_de_Marmoutier_à_l'usage_d'AutunThe Ten Books of Histories (Latin: Decem Libri Historiarum), more commonly known as The History of the Franks (Latin: Historia Francorum) are the major work of St Gregory of Tours (538-594 CE).

The first major historian of post-Roman Western Europe, Gregory relates the Christianization of Gaul and the rule of Merovingian Frankish kings down to his own time. He is less concerned with the interests of the Frankish Kingdom as such than with those of the church, and some modern historians have therefore seen the History of the Franks title, which was not Gregory's own, as something of a misnomer.

The History of the Franks at Amazon: United States | Canada | United Kingdom | France | Germany | Spain | Italy

Free online texts

Internet Archive: History of the Franks, translated by Ernest Brehaut (1916). Multiple formats.

Internet History Sourcebook: History of the Franks, Books I-X, abridged translation by Ernest Brehaut (1916). HTML format.

Latin Library: Libri Historiarum. Latin text. HTML format.

Wikisource: Historiarum Francorum libri X. Latin text. HTML and other formats.

Other Resources

Wikimedia Commons: Division of Gaul  511 CE, map of Gaul at the death of King Clovis.

Wikipedia: Gregory of Tours

YouTube: Clovis and The Franks. YaleCourses. The Early Middle Ages, 284--1000 (HIST 210), with Paul Freedman.

The Great Conversation: Further reading at Tom's Learning Notes

Virgil: The Aeneid

Sallust: The War with Catiline - one of the classical works known to have been read by Gregory.

Martianus Capella

Orosius: Seven Books of History Against the Pagans.

Latin Resources: Online materials for learning Latin.


Aquinas: Summa Theologica

St Thomas Aquinas by Carlo Crivelli (1476). Wikimedia CommonsThe Summa Theologica or Summa Theologiae by Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) is one of the best known philosophical works of the Middle Ages. Intended as a comprehensive guide to theology for beginning students, the first part of the work deals with God, nature and man, the second part with law and morality, while the third, unfinished part deals with Christ and the sacraments, seen as the route of humanity's return to God, thus giving the whole a cyclical structure.

Summa Theologica at Amazon: United States | Canada | United Kingdom | France | Germany | Spain | Italy

Free online texts

Christian Classics Ethereal Library: Summa Theologica, translated by Fathers of the English Dominican Province (1947). Multiple formats.

Corpus Thomisticum: Summa Theologiae - Latin text. HTML format.

Google Play: STh lt - App containing the text of the Summa from the Corpus Thomisticum Project.

Gutenberg: Summa Theologica - Part I-I | Part I-II | Part II-II | Part III. English translation, multiple formats.

Internet Archive: Summa Theologica, Latin text (1894). Multiple formats.

Intratext: Summa Theologica, English translation. HTML format.

New Advent: The Summa Theologiæ of St. Thomas Aquinas, translated by Fathers of the English Dominican Province (1920). HTML format.

Sacred Texts: Summa Theologica, translated by the Fathers of the English Dominican Province (1947). HTML format.

SummaTheologica.info: Summa Theologica, English translation with onsite Google search. HTML and PDF formats.

University of Notre Dame: Summa Theologica, ongoing translation by Alfred J. Freddoso. PDF format.

Wikisource: Latin text and English translation, by the Fathers of the English Dominican Province. HTML and other formats.

Other Resources

BBC Radio 4 In Our Time: St Thomas Aquinas. Melvyn Bragg with Martin Palmer, John Haldane and Annabel Brett.

History Of Philosophy Without Any Gaps: 243 The Ox Heard Round the World - Thomas Aquinas | 244 Everybody Needs Some Body: Aquinas on Soul and Knowledge | 248 - Scott MacDonald on Aquinas, podcast by Peter Adamson.

Internet Encyclopedia  of Philosophy: Thomas Aquinas.

Librivox: Summa Theologica, public domain audiobook.

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Saint Thomas Aquinas.

Wikipedia: Summa Theologica.

Further reading at Tom's Learning Notes

Plato

Aristotle, referred to by Aquinas as 'The Philosopher': Metaphysics, Ethics.

Cicero

St Paul 'the Apostle'

Dionysius the Areopagite

Augustine 'the Theologian'

Boethius

Ulpian 'the Jurist'

Eriugena

Avicenna

Averroes 'the Commentator'

Al-Ghazali

Anselm 

Abelard

Hugo of St Victor

Peter the Lombard: The Sentences.

Dante: The Divine Comedy - has been described as 'the Summa in verse'.

Latin Resources: Online materials for learning Latin.