Jewish History © Springer Science+Business Media B.V.,
https://doi.org/10.1007/s10835-018-9288-2 part of Springer Nature 2018
Retelling the Crusaders’ Defeat in Hungary: Cultural Contact
between Jewish and Christian Chroniclers
Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel
Abstract This essay examines similarities between the Hebrew chronicle of Shlomo bar
Shimshon and the Latin chronicle of Albert of Aachen. Both sources describe the massacre
of Rhineland Jews during the First Crusade and the subsequent defeat of the Crusaders by the
Hungarians and the Bulgarians. On the basis of similarities in structure, content, and language
between these two accounts, I argue that Shlomo chose to integrate at least one Christian
source into his narrative. At the same time, I assert that it is unlikely that Shlomo’s Hebrew
account was translated directly from Albert’s Latin chronicle. I present evidence indicating
that the information conveyed in the Latin text reached the Jewish chronicler via vernacular
channels, either oral or written.
Keywords Shlomo bar Shimshon · Albert of Aachen · Chronicles · First Crusade · Hungary
One of the best-known episodes of persecution perpetrated against Jews in
the Middle Ages occurred in the summer of 1096 when groups of Crusaders
who were traveling to the East to take part in the First Crusade viciously at-
tacked Jews in several Rhineland towns.
Following the attacks, most of the
Crusaders continued to move southeastward through Hungary to Byzantine
Bulgaria and further toward Constantinople. The journey was an uphill battle:
the Crusaders found it difﬁcult to obtain supplies and control their own men
and thus repeatedly came in conﬂict with local Christian inhabitants. One
Crusader army, led by Peter the Hermit, suffered a great defeat at the hands
of the Bulgarians near Belgrade. Another group of Crusaders, led by Count
Emicho of Flonheim, was almost completely wiped out by the Hungarians
Only a few sources documenting these events have
survived, and most of these include very few details.
Much of the available
For some of the relevant historiography, see nn. 8–10 below.
Jay Rubenstein, Armies of Heaven: The First Crusade and the Quest for Apocalypse (New
York, 2011), 55–79.
See Guibert of Nogent, Dei gesta per Francos,inGuibert de Nogent, Dei gesta per Fran-
cos et cinq autres textes, ed. R. B. C. Huygens (Turnhout, 1996), 121–22; Cosmas of Prague,
Chronica Boemorum, Monumenta Germaniae Historica (MGH), Scriptores rerum Germani-
carum, Nova Series (SS rer. Germ. N.S.) 2:164 (1923; reprint, 1996); Ekkehard of Aura,