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Guido's Historia and Lydgate's Troy Book

In the European Middle Ages the destruction of Troy was seen as a pre‑Christian analogue to the Fall of Man. As such, it provided a non‑theological model for analyzing why bad things happen to rather decent men and women.

graphic of a paint Different versions of the Troy story focus blame on various causative factors, including the gods, demons, stars, fate, Fortune, and Amors, as well as human folly, more or less freely exercised. The Historia Destructionis Troiae, completed in 1287 by Guido de Columnis, is particularly interesting because of its complex, undigested mixture of fate and free will. Guido was a judge and poet associated with the Sicilian Court of Frederick II, a place where newly translated Greco‑Arab theories of scientific determinism coexisted with Christian free will. A man of his time, Guido struggled with the conflicts between the fates that destroy men and the free will which ought to be able to protect them, but he reached no satisfactory resolution.

John Lydgate translated Guido's text into an influential Middle English version, the Troy Book, so his work is relevant to the study of Guido's Historia.

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  • "The Book of Troy and the Genealogical Construction of History: The Case of Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia regum Britanniae." Francis Ingledew. Speculum, Vol. 69, No. 3 (Jul., 1994) , pp. 665-704. Accessible online through the JSTOR database at many libraries. (NVCC subscribes to JSTOR)
  • Dares and Dictys : An Introduction to the Study of Medieval Versions of the Story of Troy by N. E. Griffin (1907).
  • "Guido's Historia Destructionis Troiae: Free Will, Fate and Demons at Troy"  by Diane Thompson
  • Nolan, Maura ""Now Wo, Now Gladnesse": Ovidianism in the Fall of Princes" [Excerpt] ELH - Volume 71, Number 3, Fall 2004, pp. 531-558 [full text available online through  libraries that subscribe to Project Muse]
  • Poetics of the Past, Politics of the Present:: Chaucer, Gower and Old Books. Diss., Malte Urban. University of Wales, Aberystwyth, 2005. Loads very slowly and then scroll down to see the start of the text.




  • Fewer, Colin "John Lydgate's Troy Book and the Ideology of Prudence" The Chaucer Review - Volume 38, Number 3, 2004, pp. 229-245 [full text available online through libraries that subscribe to Project Muse]
  • TROY BOOK: INTRODUCTION; edited by Robert R. Edwards. Originally published in John Lydgate Troy Book: Selections. "Lydgate's poem is one of several translations of Guido's Historia into Middle English."




  • Art in Sicily
  • Judgment of Paris: a 16th century painting by Lucas Cranach the Elder (German, 1472-1553), based on Guido's Historia; some interesting background comments

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© Diane Thompson: 8/25/1998; updated: 8/6/2018