The Latin inscriptions provide a useful commentary of the illustrations of the Bayeux Tapestry.
The Latin inscriptions provide a useful commentary of the illustrations of the Bayeux Tapestry. Most of these are embroidered with dark blue (almost black) yarn.
The inscriptions are in the form of Latin capital letters and sometimes uncials. The Tapestry, unlike manuscripts, contains few abbreviations : SCI is used for sancti, EPS for episcopus etc..
Sentences almost always begin with the adverbs hic "here" or ubi "it is where", which link the text to the illustrations. The grammatical structure is generally correct and consistent with the rules of Classical Latin, with a few exceptions : prepositions "in" and "ex" are often replaced by "ad" and "de". But the main differences are proper nouns (names of characters and places), sometimes declined (cum Haroldo, Willelmus), and sometimes not declined (de Harold, Willelm, Turold, Conan). Names of places are generally invariable : ad Boscham, Hestinga, Belrem, Dol.
A French influence can be detected in certain words : parabolant ("ils parlent" - "they speak") and caballi ("les chevaux" - "horses"); a Saxon influence can be detected in others : ceastra ("Castle") and Bagias ("Bayeux"). This suggests a team composed of both English people and Normans.
The commentary is written simply, without stylistic effect, in order to be understood by a novice Latinist. The text facilitates the understanding of scenes and identification of characters. However the authors have left certain important scenes without text (scene 13) or have written with such simplicity, it reveals nothing (scene 28). The inscriptions thus leave the reader to interpret freely certain illustrations, in favour of the English or the Normans.
Pierre Bouet and François Neveux
International experts on the Bayeux Tapestry
Further reading :
The Bayeux Tapestry by Pierre Bouet and François Neveux
Hardback due out in October 2013, éditions Ouest France