Histoire ancienne jusqu’à César

Distinguished as one of the first French vernacular prose histories (as opposed to a chronicle, such as that of Geoffrey de Villehardouin) the thirteenth-century Histoire, commissioned by Roger, chatelain of Lille, was composed in northern France, but it achieved a broad popularity and circulated throughout Europe and the Latin Kingdoms of Outremer, continuing to be copied especially in Italy and Acre. The encyclopedic text compiles mytho-historical stories of classical antiquity, until the age of Julius Cesar, and simplifies these stories into moral exempla. Often bound together with the Faits des Romains, a text which provides similar stories of the period after Cesar, the Histoire serves as the source for ancient history into the fifteenth century, so that Christine de Pizan relies on it in the Book of the City of Ladies.

Representative Manuscripts

Paris, Bibliotheque Nationale, fr. 168 (Bologna, 14th century, illuminated by Stefano di Alberto Azzi)

Paris, Bibliotheque Nationale, fr. 1386(Southern Italy)

Paris, Bibliotheque Nationale, fr. 9685 (Genoa)

Chantilly, Musée Condé, MS 726 (Bologna, 13th century)


Marijke de Visser-van Terwisga, ed., Histoire Ancienne jusqu’à César (Estoires Rogier) (Orléans: Paradigme, 1995). This is an edition of the first French redaction, based on the Paris and Vienna manuscripts.

Secondary Literature

Paloma Gracia, “Hacia el Modelo de la General Estoria: París, la Translatio Imperii et Studii, y la Histoire Ancienne jusqu’à César,” Zeitschrift für Romanische Philologie 122:1 (2006), 17-27.

Marc-René Jung, La Légende de Troie en France au Moyen Âge: Analyse des Versions Françaises et Bibliographie Raisonnée des Manuscrits (Tübingen: Francke, 1996).

Maria Laura Palermi, “Histoire ancienne jusqu’à César: forme e percorsi del testo,” in Storia, geografia, tradizioni manoscritte, Critica del testo 7, no. 1 (Rome: Viella, 2004), 213-256.

Gabriella Ronchi, “I Volgarizzamenti Italiani dell’Histoire Ancienne, la Sezione Tebana,” in Studi su Volgarizzamenti Italiani Due-Trecenteschi, eds. Paolo Rinoldi and Gabriella Ronchi (Roma: Viella, 2005), 99-165.

Summary by Michael Diaz de la Portilla