Selected images of military interest from
Histoire ancienne jusqu'à César
St. Jean d'Acre, Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem, c.1286

British Library Add MS 15268



Text links to larger images:
f. 16r: King Ninus on a throne holding an orb
f. 71r: Ninus enthroned
f. 101v: The Scythian women attacking a castle
f. 104v: Battle between Hercules and Antaeus
f. 105v upper register: Jason and the Argonauts
f. 122r: The Amazons captured in Troy
f. 136v: Theseus attacking Crete from the sea
f. 179v: Nebuchadnezar and Holofernes
f. 217r: Battle between Alexander and Porus
f. 226r: King Pyrrus' army with elephants

The Histoire ancienne jusqu'à César is a universal chronicle covering the period from Creation to the rise of Julius Caesar. It was compiled early in the 13th century. This manuscript, with the alternative title Li Livre des Ansienes Estoires, contains the first redaction of the text, sections I-X. This is one of three comparatively early copies made in the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem, probably in the scriptorium of St-Jean-d'Acre, before the fall of Acre in 1291.

Date: Late 13th century
Title: Histoire ancienne jusqu'à César
Language: French
Physical Description:
     Materials: Parchment.
     Dimensions: 370 x 250 mm (text space: 260 x 165 mm).
     Foliation: ff. 314 (+ 2 unfoliated paper flyleaves at the beginning and 2 at the end).
     Layout: 2 columns of 41 lines.
     Script: Gothic.
Ownership: Origin: The Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem (Acre). Provenance: Made before the fall of Acre in 1291, perhaps for Henry II de Lusignan as a gift for his coronation in 1286 (see Buchthal, Miniature Painting (1957)). Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex (b. 1801, d. 1843), his armorial bookplate on the inside upper binding; his sale, part II: Evans, 31 July 1844, lot 215; bought by the British Museum for £30.
British Library Add MS 15268



745A-L Histoire Universelle, Kingdom of Jerusalem, c.1286
(British Library, Ms. Add. 15268, London, England)

A - Scythian women besiege their enemies, f.101v; B - Club of Joseph's brother, f.48r; C - Mace of Goliath [Hercules], f.104; D-E - Soldiers of Nimrod, f.16r; F-G - Frontispiece, f.1v; H - Bow of Amazon, f.123r; I - Soldiers of Nimrod, f.71r; J - Trojan or Greek warrior, f.105v; K - Athenian in sea battle, f.136v; L - Soldier of Alexander, f.208r.

Another manuscript from the school of Acre shows an interesting mixture of Western European, Byzantine and Islamic influences in both the style of painting and the military equipment it illustrates. The siege by Scythian women and their men folk (A) portrays the latter as heavy cavalry with round or flat-topped great helms, swords, and normal kite-shaped shields. The women, plus one man, are shown as sappers or infantry with an axe and three pickaxes. The defenders have bows, crossbows, an axe, and assorted rocks. They wear mail hauberks with or without mittens and have brimmed chapel-de-fer war-hats or close-fitting round helmets, both made of two pieces joined along the crown. One defender also has what looks like a stiffened or scale-covered collar of a type seen elsewhere in the manuscript (E and J). Such collars were to become a feature in late 13th and 14th century Byzantine and Balkan art. They may also represent Byzantine influence in this manuscript. Two forms of club (B) or mace (C) are portrayed, the latter perhaps having a knobbed iron head. The followers of Nimrod (D, E and I) also seem to indicate strong Byzantine influence. Two guardsmen (D and E) even have splinted upper-arm protections, in one case apparently fastened to a coat-of-plates (D) which has rivets on the chest. In a second case they are fastened to a second mail jerkin (E). Another figure (D) also has an archaic splinted skirt and a long-sleeved mail hauberk with mittens under his perhaps fanciful coat-of-plates. His mail coif is likely to have been separate, while the second guard (E) has a coif and a collar which is not of mail. Both men wear mail chausses and carry small round shields. Their brimmed helmets are similar but not identical in construction. The second guard carries a sword which is barely tapering, blunt-tipped, and somewhat archaic. Many of these features are shown, in a simpler form, being worn by others of Nimrod's soldiers (I). A simple mail coif and brimless helmets of two-piece construction, some with a raised comb, are also seen. A Greek or Trojan (J) is in a similar mould, with a perhaps scale-covered or splinted collar. Such collars are unlikely to have been totally fanciful as similar systems would appear in early 14th century Europe. An Athenian warrior (K) has a strange mixture of influences in his armour. His upper-arm protections are a Byzantine convention but his long-sleeved mail hauberk, small shield, acutely tapering sword and either flat-topped helmet or coif worn over a squared arming cap, are all typically Western European. A small degree of Islamic influence may be seen in the archer who uses a thumb-draw (F), in a recurved bow (H), and in the …



See also Bible of St. John of Acre, Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem, 1250-1254AD, Paris, Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal, Ms-5211 réserve
Crusader, Islamic & Byzantine Arms & Armour in Histoire ancienne jusqu'à César, Acre, Kingdom of Jerusalem, 1260-70AD, Dijon - BM ms. 0562
The 'Roger Histories', or Ancient history until Caesar (Histoire ancienne jusqu'à César), Saint-Jean-d'Acre, Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem, c.1287
Other 13th Century Illustrations of Costume and Soldiers