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  • Writer's pictureAdrian J. Boas

On the Bitter Side of Honey

Bishop of Antioch Honey

I have never had much luck with lotteries. The only time in my childhood when I recall winning a prize, was at a show in the Royal Exhibition Building in Melbourne. I must have been about seven or eight at the time. The show was related to an exhibition of honey manufacture. I did not like honey, so I am not really sure why I was there. But there I was, with my younger brother and my mother. My brother, by the way, loved honey. When we were seated, he and I for some reason exchanged places. At some stage in the show (the only part of it that I recall) the person on the stage told us that if we looked under our seats we would find a numbered ticket. He then read out numbers that were to receive a prize, and, sure enough, one of them was mine. For the first time in my life, I had won something... and what was it? Well, of course - a jar of honey.

This little tale from my distant past brings to mind another person who was no doubt, even more disappointed than I would later be to receive a gift of honey. In 1153, the Latin patriarch of Antioch, Aimery of Limoges, by refusing to support the marriage plans of Raynald of Châtillon (the man whose activities almost led to an early demise of the kingdom of Jerusalem at the Battle of Hattin in 1187), had made the mistake of getting on the wrong side of perhaps the least reputable character of the crusader period. And to add fuel to the fire, in 1156 Aimery refused to provide Raynald with financial support when the latter decided to attack Cyprus. Raynald reacted by having Aimery seized and beaten until he was bloody. Then he had him stripped naked, covered in honey, and left exposed on the rooftop of the citadel in the burning sun, to be attacked by insects. In the end, Aimery conceded to Raynald's demands and funded his Cypriot expedition. Then the humiliated patriarch took refuge in Jerusalem until the ruler of Aleppo imprisoned Raynald in 1160.

Aimery remained in office until his death in c. 1196, nine years after his tormentor was beheaded by Saladin in the sultan's tent below the Horns of Hattin. The sources don't actually say that Aimery had henceforth lost his taste for the sweet nectar of the gods, but I would quite understand him if he had.

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