Mediaeval Sources in Translation 57. 2018. viii, 228 pp.
ISBN 978-0-88844-307-6 • Paper • $25.00
Best known as a Medieval French romance writer, Benoît de Sainte-Maure was the author of the pioneering and widely copied Roman de Troie, composed, it is thought, around 1165. This consisted of a 30,000-verse reworking, in twelfth-century terms, of Latin narratives purporting to describe the siege of Troy, enlivened by what the poet refers to as “bons dits” (apposite amplifications). All that is known of him, apart from what can be deduced from his two works, is that he was a learned monk from the region of Tours in North-West France. His reputation as a poet must have reached the ears of Henry II who, sometime in the 1170s, commissioned him to compose a verse history of the English king’s Norman ancestors. Benoît thus found himself successor to the Norman historiographer Wace whose vernacular French Roman de Rou, named after Normandy’s founder Rollo, was abandoned in favour of Benoît’s Histoire des ducs de Normandie.