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Jesse W. Izzo, Lecturer and Visiting Scholar in the Abbasi Program at Stanford

Thu March 2nd 2023, 12:00 - 1:15pm

The Comets of 1264 and 1299: A Comparative Look at the Near Eastern Sources

Abstract: Although many comets were seen and recorded across Eurasia in the second half of the thirteenth century, only two were noted in contemporary Near Eastern sources: The Great Comet of 1264 and the Comet of 1299. The Great Comet of 1264 is described by three contemporary authors working in the Near East. These are: the Templar of Tyre (b.1254 CE), a Frank living in the Latin Kingdoms of Jerusalem and Cyprus; Grigor Aknertz’i, an Armenian of the Cilician Kingdom (1250-1335 CE); and al-Yunini (1242-1326 CE), a Damascus-born historian in the Mamluk period. The Templar of Tyre also notes a comet in 1299. This comet is recorded in Persian by Rashid al-Din (1247-1318 CE), who was working under the Illkhanid Mongols. It is also mentioned in the not-quite-contemporary Arabic chronicle of al-‘Ayni (1361-1451? CE), who was working under the Mamluks. This talk will consider how these celestial events are described, framed, and interpreted in the highly tumultuous political and historiographical context in which they were recorded—i.e. the Near East in the late-thirteenth/early-fourteenth century, a time and place of extraordinary flux for Franks, Armenians, Mamluks, and Mongols.

Bio: Jesse Izzo is a medievalist whose research and teaching explore the connected histories of Western Europe, the Near East, and Inner Asia from late antiquity to the age of the Crusades. His current book project, Franks and Mamluks: Diplomacy, Politics, and War in Medieval Syria, is a study of relations between the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem and the Mamluk Sultanate of Egypt in the thirteenth century. He has published articles in The Haskins Society Journal and Crusades, while his work has been supported by the Fulbright program, the Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) program, Dumbarton Oaks, and the Hill Manuscript Museum and Library. Izzo has been a Lecturer and Visiting Scholar in the Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies at Stanford since Fall 2019, having taught previously in the history departments at the University of Miami (FL) and Quinnipiac University (CT). Prior to that he was a Visiting Fellow with the Standing Committee on Medieval Studies at Harvard. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota (2016), an M.Phil from Cambridge University (2005), and a B.A. from Yale University (2004).