Mercenary Knights and Princess Brides

Barbara Newman

  • The Medieval Invention of Travel by Shayne Aaron Legassie
    Chicago, 287 pp, £22.00, April, ISBN 978 0 226 44662 2

‘In the Middle Ages,’ Shayne Aaron Legassie writes, ‘travel was nasty, brutish and long.’ Before planes, railways or steamships, it was inseparable from its etymological twin, travail – both derived from the name of an ancient Roman instrument of torture. Peregrinus, the medieval term for a ‘pilgrim’ or ‘traveller’, in classical Latin meant an ‘exile’ or ‘alien’. Yet travel, for all its hardships, fascinated medieval readers: the most celebrated poems of the age are both travel narratives. Under the guidance of Virgil and Beatrice, Dante toured hell, purgatory and paradise, while Chaucer and his merry crew made the easier trek from London to Canterbury, led by a raucous innkeeper.

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