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Albeit the world think[s Maxwell]... is dead,
Yet was his soul but flown beyond the Alps,
And, now the Guise is dead, is come from France
To view this land and frolic with his friends.
To some perhaps my name is odious,
But such as love me guard me from their tongues,
And let them know that I am...[Maxwell],
And weigh not men, and thereafter not men's words.
Admired am I of those that hate me most.
Though some speak openly against my books,
Yet will they read me thereby attain
To Peter's chair, when they cast me off,
Are poisoned by my climbing followers.
I count religion [not]... a childish toy...

Marlowe, C. (2003 [1590]) Christopher Marlowe: The Complete Plays, Penguin, London, p.248.

[abridged, amended: The Jew of Malta, prolouge.]


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Edited by Maxwell Latham, Tuesday, 20 Aug 2013, 12:32
Dear Country, Oh how dearly dear
Ought thy remembrance and perpetual band
Be to thy foster child, that from thy hand
Did common breath and nouriture receive?
How brutish is it not to understand
How much to her we owe that all us gave,
That gave unto us all whatever good we have.

- Spenser.

Bryant, A. (1955 [1955]) Makers of the Realm, William Clowes & sons, London, p.7.


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Pure Condensed Wisdom (Syrus)

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Edited by Maxwell Latham, Saturday, 10 Aug 2013, 22:04
Alienum est omne quicquid optando evenit.
Ab alio exspectes alteri quod feceris.
Animus vereri qui seit, tuto ingredi.
Auxilia humilia firma consensus facit.
Amor animi arbitrio sumitur, non ponitur.
Aut amat aut odit mulier: nihil est tertium.
Ad tristem partem strenua est suspicio.
Ames parentem si aequus est: si aliter, feras...

Aliena nobis, nostra plus aliis placent.
Amare iuveni fructus est, crimen seni...

Amicum an nomen habeas aperit calamitas...
Audendo virtus crescit, tardando timor.
Auxilium profligatis contumelia est...

Amico firmo nihil emi melius potest...
Avarus animus nullo satiatur lucro.
Amici mores noveris non oderis...

Duff, A.M., Duff, J.W. & Syrus, P. (1998 [1934 C.E./circa 45 B.C.E.]) ...Latin Poets..., Harvard University Press, Massachusetts, pp.14-21.

“What comes by wishing is never truly ours.
As you treat a neighbour, expect another to treat you.
Courage that can fear can take the road with safety.
United feeling makes strength out of humble help.
Love starts but is dropped at will.
Woman either loves or hates: there is no third way.
Love your parents, if they are just: if not, bear with them...

We fancy the lot of others; others fancy ours more.
Love is the youth’s enjoyment, the old person’s reproach...

Misfortune reveals whether you have a friend or only one in name...
Courage grows by daring, fear by delay.
Help wounds the pride of those whose cause is lost.

There’s nothing better in the market than a staunch friend...
No gain satisfies a greedy mind.
Study, but do not hate a friend’s character...”

Max. (quoting Pubilius Syrus, and some Seneca).

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The Old Familiar Faces

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I have had playmates, I have had companions,
In my days of childhood, in my joyful school-days,
All, are gone, the old familiar faces.

I have been laughing, I have been carousing,
Drinking late, sitting late, with my old bosom cronies,
All, are gone, the old familiar faces.

I loved a love once, fairest among women;
Closed are her doors on me, I must not see her-
All, are gone, the old familiar faces.

I have a friend, a kinder friend has no man;
Like an ingrate, I left my friend abruptly;
Left him, to muse on the old familiar faces.

Ghost-like, I paced around the haunts of my childhood.
Earth seemed like a desert I was bound to traverse,
Seeking to find the old familiar faces.

Friend of my bosom, thou more than a brother,
Why wert thou not born in my father’s dwelling?
So might we talk of the old familiar faces-

How some they have died, and some they have left me,
And some are taken from me; all are departed;
All, are gone, the old familiar faces.

- Charles Lamb (January, 1798).

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Edited by Maxwell Latham, Sunday, 4 Aug 2013, 02:57
The notorious Doctor Case. He has been described as “part quack, part astrologer and part peddler of drugs”. He seems to have been a psychologist as well for his speciality was a little box of pills on which was inscribed.

“Here’s fourteen pills for thirteen pence,
Enough for any man’s conscience.”

His motto was most appropriate, it was “The Case is Altered”.

Griffiths, I. (circa 1990) The Story of Lyme Regis, Lyme Regis Printing, Lyme Regis, p.19.


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Nowadays this caper would n’er work

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Edited by Maxwell Latham, Saturday, 27 Jul 2013, 15:32
Given the right references and enough self-confidence, it is possible to go far in the academic world. Marvin Hewitt had both, for he wrote the references himself. Though he had left school at seventeen without completing his studies, he posed as a Doctor of Philosophy in physics and lectured at several American universities for eight years.

Hewitt had an obsession for mathematics, but his family was not rich enough for him to go to University. On leaving school he worked in factories and goods yards for six years, before he saw an advertisement for a school teacher. He described himself as a post-graduate and taught for a term, but already he was more ambitious.

In 1945 he took a name from a University staff list and used it to become an ærodynamicist at an aircraft factory. But the name he chose was so well known that it was only a matter of time before he was found out.

Hewitt moved to Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science, where he taught physics as Julius Ashkin of Columbia University.

The following year he went to a State Teachers’ College in Minnesota, where he impressed the college president with his impeccable - but imaginative - references. Here, he made something of an academic name for himself. This was unfortunate, because the real Julius Ashkin wrote to him gently suggesting that the masquerade should end.

Hewitt was not a man to give up easily. He successively became George Hewitt, ‘formerly research director of the Radio Corporation of America’, Clifford Berry, Ph D, and Kenneth Yates, Ph D. Once again his obsession for taking other people’s names caught him out. Somebody discovered that the real Kenneth Yates was working for an oil company.

This time the newspapers picked up the story, and the publicity was so great that Marvin Hewitt had no alternative but to find work outside the universities.

Jacobson, M., Kaiser, S. & Rondle, C.J.M. et al. (1976 [1975]) Strange Stories Amazing Facts: Stories that are bizarre, unusual, odd, astonishing, incredible ... but true, Reader’s Digest, London, p.455.


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Twelfth Century Literature

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Edited by Maxwell Latham, Thursday, 18 Jul 2013, 22:20

The twelfth century lay in the centre of the ages of faith, and it is commonly assumed that the key to its understanding lies in theology.  Were not all men [and women] believers and all their achievements coloured by their faith?  Was not the Geist, the spirit of the age, particularly Christian and Catholic?  There is a sense in one must say yes to these questions; but not too easily.  Let us observe in passing that the succès fou of heresies, especially in southern France and Italy, was one of the striking facts of twelfth century history; and pass on to ask this question of the most notable witnesses we have of the range of human concern and human interest among ordinary folk of the period about 1200 [C.E.]:  the three large vernacular epics written in German about the turn of the century or shortly after, the Nibelungenlied, Wolfram’s Parzival and the Tristan of Gottfried von Strassburg.  Before Dante, they mark the summit of mediæval literature; so it is a little like asking the Elizabethan dramatists to tell us what ordinary folk thought in the sixteenth century.  Their authors were not men of a common mould; but they have this peculiar advantage, that they had the art and the will to show us a range of interests and ideas, in a vivid and perceptible form, which makes them – imaginatively and discreetly used – far better guides to the sentiment of their age than its formal theology... ... [...] ...

Gottfried’s Tristam ... is the far more sophisticated of the three.  Whatever its purpose, the effect it makes on a reader embarking on it with a fairly open mind is that [of] the view of courtly love...

Like most historical labels, the phrase is variously used, and can cause confusion. ... [...] ... Yet in spite of this confusion which contemporary attitudes... might throw at them, most students of history and fiction in the twelfth century saw clearly enough that they were different modes of expression... for a[n]... obvious reason, since the chief modes role of the most fashionable mode of literature was precisely to invert, to parody, to play tricks with ordinary human experience.  The chief model of the early twelfth century was the chanson de geste... a... chronicle; [wherein]... confusion was possible, and one quite often finds books which combine the roles not too uncomfortably... [...] ...

In its narrowest sense, strictest sense, [courtly love] ... describes a strict set of principles, first found in Europe in the Provençal lyric of the eleventh century.  The good Knight, who wishes to be recognised at court as a model of courtesy, declares himself the slave of a Lady who is commonly unattainable and always capricious; and he bases his conduct on her whims and the dictates of... God... [...] ...

The reader is made constantly aware of the conflict between Christian doctrine and Christian duty and practice, and the stated assumptions and events of the poem. He would be a rash man [or woman] who presumed to judge Gottfried’s own opinions.

We are thus presented with a range of opinion and interest wider than historians have commonly allowed. We cannot hope to know how this range was reflected in mankind at large. Yet we can assert with some confidence that there were plenty of folk to whom ‘religious’ concerns as ordinarily defined meant little, but that it was a world in which a range of theological interest spread from the schools to the manor house, in which theological interest was more widespread, and culture more theologically conditioned by far, than in our own. After all, it is the literature least likely to reveal theological concerns... ...

We cannot travel far towards the heart of our Renaissance without inspecting its schools, its theology, the hidden rivers from which scholasticism flowed.

Abelard... his... autobiography, the History of my Calamities, and the letters of his wife, the Abbess Heliose...

‘The mediæval background could... for a time be best forgotten’, wrote Hugh Sacker in his Introduction to Wolfram’s ‘Parzival’, ‘and attention concentrated on the individual work.’ (Gilson, 1955, p.28)  He was writing of the criticism of mediæval German literature: but the same could be said of Latin literature as well.  This may seem paradoxical... do not underestimate what we have learned of the rich background and world of assumptions of twelfth century literature of every kind from the intensive study of recent decades. [circa 1969]  But too exclusive a study of background, of Geistesgeschichte, of forms and models and traditions, can easily lead us to patronise, to attribute too much to [primary?] ‘sources’, to lose track of real originality.  It is the paradoxical consequence of Sacker’s method that he makes the Parzival a much more revealing document of its world by treating it as an individual work not as a literary type: revealing of the range of thought and interest, of the originality, and depth of reflection, possible to a humble Knight in that age.  These qualities in turn reflect a basic fact about the twelfth century, that it saw the growth of the world far more varied and sophisticated than its predecessor...

Thus... we can appreciate the creative urge of our Renaissance.  It is a constant difficulty that a historian must study sources, influences and traditions, that his [or her] task makes too ready to surrender to the notion of originality or genius something akin to obscurantism: it can preclude all further enquiry.  But he [or she] is not the slave of his [or her] materials or his [or her] techniques.  There is no greater heresy than that good literature or good art is the product of its sources or moulded entirely by tradition.  Traditional literature exists, indeed: some or many of the epics of the early twelfth century, the Chansons de Geste, were oral poems recited and adapted by minstrels, based on a long tradition; it would be absurd to look for originality in them as in the run of the mill theological commentaries of the next century.  Yet even here a cool look at the work in its own right can help profoundly to elucidate its purpose: even where a mediæval tradition dictated the form a modern tradition of criticism may serve to obscure substance.  We should read the literature of the twelfth century as its best minds read the works of the past: as fresh, new and living, as if they had not been read before.  For it is this which makes literature of the twelfth century worth our study and its culture our respect: like the humanists of the fifteenth century men took old books off the shelves of libraries, blew the dust off them and read them as if they were contemporary, just published.  Thus they read Lucan and Virgil, Cicero and Macrobius, Aristotle and Bœthius, Saint Augustine and Saint Paul, the Remedy of Love and the Rule of Saint Benedict – even the Bible itself.

The basic facts seem to be as follows. Abelard in his later years felt called on to comfort a friend in trouble; and the urge called out a deeper emotion in that Prince of egoists - the urge to self-expression, to self-analysis, to reveal his superiority even in sorrow. Your troubles are nothing to mine, he says in effect - so bluntly... He takes his friend on a tour of the schools in which he had studied... ardently: to Paris, to Laon, and back to Paris. Everywhere, he says, I rapidly surpassed my masters in disputation and so won their envy: the more my fame grew, the more men [and women] hated me. To make matters worse, after a while I fell head-over-heels in love with a charming girl of great intelligence, whose uncle and guardian eventually had me castrated in his rage. Then she and I both took to the monastic life: but I soon found the abbey of Saint-Denis dishearteningly lax and irregular. I tried to live the life of a hermit of the desert, but once students found me out I became, perforce, a teacher once again. And so the story goes on, of his quarrels with his communities, his successes, his arrogance and enemies it won him; of persecution by his fellow teachers - and the first condemnation of his books at Soissons in 1121 [C.E.] - and by his fellow monks. The story is told with extraordinary... lucidity; with a strange mingling of detachment and involved self-pity; not without irony, self-criticism and repentance; yet always harping on the wrong-headedness of his opponents. Understandably, it was kept to a restricted circle in his lifetime; but it fell into the hands of Heliose, now an abbess, once his wife and lover, and drew from her the first of a series of letters even more extraordinary than the book itself.

Abelard tells us that his father, Berengar, was a Breton Knight who had loved letters before he took to arms, and ended his life in a monastic community. His father first sent him to school; and Abelard quickly fell in love with learning, so that he left home and his inheritance and wandered from place to place in search of argument, ‘disputando’, ‘imitating the wandering scholars’ (the Peripatetics, who wandered as they talked, but were not wandering in Abelard’s sense...) of Aristotle’s school ‘wherever I heard that the study of the art (of disputation) flourished.’ A generation later another of the great egotists of the twelfth century, Gerard of Wales, the immortal archdeacon, described in his autobiography how the Norman marcher lord, his father, observed his sons building sandcastles - but Gerard traced cathedrals and great churches in the sand, and so his father called him ‘my Bishop’ and set him to letters.

Nothing is more striking in the history of the twelfth century schools than the rapid increase in the numbers of students who flocked to them. We are very ill informed where they came from. Gerald’s father was a Baron, his mother a Welsh Princess. In the Anglo-Norman world, with some striking exceptions, the high nobility seem to have held a prejudice against a clerical career for their sons - though [were] sometimes very generous in supporting other folk’s sons in the schools - and not many were to be found even of Gerald’s standing. In some parts of Europe the reverse was true, so that the local nobility, for example, round Cologne, had almost a monopoly of the stalls in the Cathedral chapter. Abelard’s family was a more characteristic source: his father was, as we should say of a later age, a member of the lesser gentry, well enough off to lend some support to sons who studied, capable in the long run of helping them to patronage if they needed it. Several of the characters... are known to have come from the gentry; others from the growing and flourishing burgess communities.

Of the large majority we know nothing; but we shall not be far astray in reckoning that most came from the middling strata in society, gentry, merchants, well-to-do artisans, free and prosperous peasantry. Many were poorer than this, if we may believe their songs and their letters: but poverty has been a constant theme among students as has decadence among their seniors since the first syllable of recorded time. All over western Christendom population was rising; and in a somewhat more settled society many younger sons had their living to seek. The opportunities were widening. For those who sought a life of war in the tradition of the feudal classes, the chance for employment as a mercenary was increasing; for those who liked war tinged with religious fanaticism, the Crusades had a special appeal; for those who enjoyed physical adventures but felt no call to slaughter, there was the life of a merchant or pilgrim; those who liked peace and calm were drawn to the older monastic communities; those who liked peace combined with something avant-garde in the religious life - who felt the common revulsion against growing wealth and higher material standards in the world at large - heard the call of the new orders, led by Cistercians; those who looked for adventures of mind as well as body could find them in the search for the best techniques, the most lively schools.

Abelard was not a younger son; nor can he be fitted into any social mould; and he himself was to become the greatest attraction of all among the teachers of his age. But it is clear from his own account that there were many like him already at the outset of his career; many on the move from place to place, from teacher to teacher, school to school. Formal organisation existed in embryo here and there, but the rise of universities, recognised centres of learning with special rights to issue degrees - schools to which students would flock irrespective of the reputation of individual teachers - was an event of the late twelfth and thirteenth centuries. The early twelfth century was the age par excellence of the wandering scholar, and masters who could teach the elements of learning were widely scattered. At an early age Abelard acquired a love of the special mental tool of the age and the man: dialectic, as we should say, logic. But he also acquired a considerable Latin culture and a Latin style of exceptional clarity and force. He did not trouble to tell us where he learned grammar and rhetoric, as the contemporary jargon described these fields of learning; and a similar obscurity surrounds the formation of the greatest master of rhetoric of the century, Abelard’s younger contemporary and antagonist, [the incongruous] Saint Bernard of Clairvaux. (The basis of learning was the seven liberal arts: the ‘trivium’, grammar, rhetoric and logic [dialectic], which were the essential foundations; and the ‘quadrivium’, geometry, arithmetic and music, which were studied... Beyond these lay the... studies... theology and canon law, ... medicine).
Even then, learning was in some measure dependant on libraries, traditions and organisation. The Church had the basic framework of an organisation in Cathedral schools, governed, under the Bishop, by Cathedral chancellors or ‘masters of the schools’ of a diocese. The main repositories of ancient learning were the libraries of cathedrals and monasteries - especially, in the centuries following the Carolingian Renaissance (the ninth to eleventh), in cathedrals. In the late tenth century the chief centre had been Rheims, where the most learnēd man of the age, the encyclopedic Gerbert, had taught first as master, later as Archbishop. Rhiems was revived, along with several centres further north, such as Liège, in the course of the eleventh century. A more substantial tradition of learning, and a fine library, [was] ... set up at Chartres early in the eleventh century by Bishop Fulbert, a restricted, difficult but correct Latin of the period, revealing a desperate struggle to maintain civilised standards of conduct and pastoral care in a barbarous age, and the warmth of friendship between the master and his pupils. In many parts of Europe by the end of the century - in Germany and Italy as well as in France - we find evidence of a new, freer, richer Latin literature and of larger groups of students gathering at the feet of master whose fame, by some means or other, could spread rapidly from land to land.

The learning of the Middle Ages had been encyclopedic: its aim was to accumulate the stores of ancient learning, the aim of education to gather materials to absorb, understand and enjoy the benefits of this learning. The horizons... appear to us desperately narrow: yet the scholars of the twelfth century had inherited from the late Roman world - that is, from the early Christian world - a notion of liberal education in its own way... wide... What lent a special excitement to the chase was the discovery not only that ancient authorities disagreed, but that there was a tool-chest of finely tempered tools for discerning where the discrepancies lay and for reconciling them. The new dialectic had reared its head in the strange type of logic developed by the most brilliant of the products of Chartres in the eleventh century, Berengar of Tours, who found the roots of logic in grammar and the meanings and declensions of words. This led him into eucharistic speculations which were in due course countered by Lanfranc, the Italian teacher who settled in the mid-eleventh century in the abbey of Bec in Normandy, and made a remote and poor house the centre of a flourishing school as Abelard was later to do at as he showed at the end of his life in another sphere where he made a deep mark, as William the Conqueror’s Archbishop of authorities always in mind. His pupil at Bec, and successor at Canterbury, Anselm of Aosta, was one of the world’s most brilliant philosophers. He believed himself entirely wrapped up in authorities, but in practice his mind was of such a temper that it pursued its own original way in blissful ignorance of its own originality. Thus he developed out of the tradition of Platonic ‘ideas’ a new, ethereal argument for God’s existence. The ‘idea’ of God is unique; and if we grant this, then we can show the Fool who says there is no God contradicts himself. (Southern, 1963, p.57; Brooke, 2000 [1968], pp.316-317). Late in life he took advantage of the release from his duties as Archbishop produced by a clash with King William... [the second], quietly and happily, in his greatest book, to blow away the cobwebs which surrounded the doctrine of Atonement.

In the mid and late twelfth century great compilations of authorities were made, and the dialectical tools considerably refined. In the process a vast number of traditional solutions were established, and the channels of intellectual advance became narrower. Thus the intellectual tradition in which Saint Thomas Aquinas was reared in the mid-thirteenth century was at once more sophisticated... than Abelard’s, but also less broad and open. Abelard’s natural instinct, like Anselm’s, was to follow the bent of his own mind, and he worked, like Anselm, in the brief interval during which the tools were being refined but the elaborate tradition of scholastic craftsmanship had not been formed.

Abelard reckoned the key movement in his own development to be his arrival at Paris, already a distinguished school, and one which he himself was to make the most famous in Europe. There he studied under a leading figure of the Paris establishment, William of Champeaux, first canon of Notre Dame and Archdeacon of Paris, later canon regular in the religious house in Paris most frequented by scholars, Saint-Victor. William propounded his own solution to the burning philosophical issue of the day - the issue of ‘universals’. The universal was the lineal successor to the Platonic ‘idea’, and in an intellectual world dominated by Plato - though, oddly enough, Plato studied almost entirely at second hand through his Roman pupils [Neo-Platonists?] - the reality of ‘ideas’ and of groups or classes of phenomena, or ‘universals’, was accepted orthodoxy. Voices were raised in criticism of this, and William attempted to lead his pupils to faith in his own solution. Abelard, helpful as ever, found a hole in his master’s case, and expected a grateful response to this revelation. He tried to teach his master, and so made the first of many powerful enemies.

Abelard was the most brilliant pupil of the Platonic teachers of the eleventh and early twelfth centuries; and it is therefore not all together surprising that his solution of this basic philosophical problem was akin to that of Plato’s most eminent pupil, Aristotle. In the course of time this became apparent, for the eager search for ancient learning led in the course of of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries to the recovery and intensive study of a great part of Aristotle’s works. Adventurous scholars like Adelard of Bath travelled in the fringes of the Latin, Greek and Moslem worlds and found many traces of Greek and Latin literature long forgotten - in particular the scientific works of Euclid and Aristotle. It was partly the scientific and philosophical bent of these explorers - but partly, ... a tangle of causes which has not been unravelled - which made Aristotle the centre of this new-found literature, not Homer or Æschylus or Euripidēs. These ancient works were discovered both in the Arab world, which had long absorbed far more of Greek culture than the west, and in the Greek world itself, in Byzantium and above all in Sicily, where Greek and Arab, Italian and Norman mingled in the new Kingdom of Roger the Great. The impulse to translate was stirred also by the meeting of Christian and Moslem in Spain, where they had long coexisted, and where relations were only occasionally fouled by crusading rancour and fanaticism.

Most of this effort lay in the future when Abelard’s mind was formed, and of far greater consequence to his outlook was the patient compilation of legal authorities characteristic of the of the last great master in Fulbert’s school of Chartres (Southern, 1965) of the eleventh century, Ivo, Bishop of Chartres (died 1116 [C.E.]). He and his disciples, faced with practical problems of pastoral care and administration, put together a large compilation of the authorities for canon law, the law of the Church, and then compressed it into a tidy and practical manual, the Panormia, which remained the most popular textbook of canon law for a generation or so. To both these works Ivo attached a preface, in which he pointed out that authorities could appear to conflict, and laid down certain principles by which their conflicts might be resolved. Their actual resolution he left to younger men and a more mature scholarship. The technique inspired Abelard to his famous teaching manual, the Sic et non, ... A preface outlines the principles; the book consists of a selection of conflicting texts. It was left to his pupils to resolve them, not because his aim was to teach; and this famous books, planned with dazzling simplicity to make his pupils think for themselves, enables us to gain some insight into the outrageous brilliance of his teaching, which made students flock to him from every corner of Christendom.

The Sic et non was text-book in the application of dialectic to theology.  Abelard’s first steps in this... were taken with Master Anselm of Laon, who had the highest reputation in the field, Abelard tells us, on account of his antiquity; and a ‘wonderful flow of words he had, but their sense was despicable and empty of all rational argument.  When he lit a fire, he filled his house with smoke; no illumination came.’  Thus characteristically Abelard introduces us to the next of his persecutors.  But Anselm and his circle are not so readily dismissed.  They were the fundamental accumulators of ancient learning in this field, and on their work, as much as on Abelard’s dialectic, the future of scholasticism was to rest.  The word theology for something approaching a systematic study was indeed coined by Abelard.  But the field of learning as then commonly defined was reckoned to consist fundamentally in the study of the ‘Sacred Page’, that is, of the Bible; selecting and arranging and putting into circulation something approaching standard corpus of exegetical learning, particularly the learning of the Fathers.  This came to be known as the... Glossa Ordinaria; it was copied a hundredfold and many times more, and became the basic stock-in-trade of every theological library.  One can see why Anselm of Laon did not inspire Abelard: his work in its content was wholly unoriginal; he and his colleagues and pupils were encyclopedists, not original thinkers.  But their work lasted and gave foundation for the far more elaborate commentaries of the next generation and the far more sophisticated commentaries of the end of the century.  The climax of twelfth century Biblical commentaries was the work of Stephen Langton, Professor at Paris, later Cardinal and Archbishop of Canterbury (1207-1028 [C.E.]); author also of the Golden Sequence, and perhaps in a measure too of Magna Carta.


The other fundamental text-book of theology of the century was the Liber Sententiarum, the Sentences of Peter the Lombard, completed at Paris about 1150 [C.E.}.  In the Sic et non Abelard had laid out the tools and the problems, advancing along lines indicated by Ivo of Chartres.  In Abelard’s later years his techniques and those of others of his day who enjoyed contemporary dialectic were carried back into the field of canon law by Master Gratian of Bologna, whose Decretum, also called the Concord of Discordant Canons, was first issued about 1140, and placed together, on a scale never attempted before, a collection of authorities even larger than Ivo’s, and a flowing argument which might have won admiration even from Abelard.  About the same time the young Italian scholar Peter the Lombard moved to Paris and there combined the learning and techniques of Bologna and Paris in the Sentences, which did for the problems of theology precisely what Gratian had done for canon law.  Gratian’s was the more original mind: for all the foundations laid by Ivo and others, it was he who started serious speculation on a number of legal issues, and created in a manner comparable to Adam Smith’s creation of economics...

Brooke, C. (1969) The Twelfth Century Renaissance, Thames & Hudson, London, pp.19-26, 28, 30, 34-35, 37-38, 40-42, 175, 200 & 203.


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The Twelfth Century Renaissance

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Edited by Maxwell Latham, Monday, 15 Jul 2013, 16:49
Who has been the most influential historian of the twelfth century? A very strong case could be made for Geoffrey of Monmouth, author of the History of the Kings of Britain, which was completed in or about 1138 [C.E.]. At a point in his narrative which may be placed approximately in the fourth century B.C.[E], Geoffrey tells us that the dynasty of King Lear finally came to an end, and ‘courage roused a young man named Dunuallo Molmutius’ to reunite the Kingdom of [Great] Britain under his sway. ‘This Prince set up the laws the Britons call the Molmutine laws, which are held in honour among the English till this day. In these, among other items described by Saint Gildas long years after, he laid down that the temples of the gods ... should have the privilege of sanctuary ... ; likewise the roads leading to the temples ... and the ploughs of the husbandmen... At last, after a reign of forty years spent in these and other acts of government, he died, and was buried in the city of Trinovantum near the Temple of Concord, which he himself built as a prop and stay to laws...’ Later Geoffrey describes how Molmutius’ work was continued by his son and successor Belinus, who built roads of stone and mortar the whole length of the island, and gave his roads special privileges. ‘But if anyone desires to know all that he laid down as to the roads, let him [or her] read the Molmutine laws, which Gildas the historian translated from British to Latin, and King Alfred [the Great] into English (Griscom, 1929, pp.273 & 282).

Geoffrey's book was written by a man with a shrewd eye for the remains of the past, especially of the Roman past, a wide knowledge of ancient and not so ancient literature, for an audience which lived and respected the past but knew little about it. It was written in the style of serious history, and serious history it claimed to be; and for the most part it was taken at face value. Yet this account of Molmutius and his son is... fiction, though every line is calculated to tickle the fancy of the conscente, for Geoffrey's history is a pastiche of reminiscences of the genuine past, carefully placed in a new historical context. He succeeded... beyond his dreams, for what appeared to be serious history, and was intended... to be read as serious history, was in-fact a substantial work of fiction. Every line in it reflects the interests of twelfth century Englishmen in the past, and their respect for the past; and every line reflects an age with a wholly new capacity for imaginative fiction.

A generation later a learnēd clerk called William Fitz-Stephen set to work to write a life of his master, Saint Thomas Becket, recently martyred. William and Thomas were both born in London, and for the greatest of... cities William showed a fanatical devotion akin to that which adorned the Italian cities of the fifteenth century with the masterpieces of art and architecture of the Italian Renaissance. ‘Plato sketched the shape of a republic in a discourse; Sallust described the situation of Africa in his History on account of the Carthaginian rebellion against the Romans ... and I shall now describe the site and Commonwealth of London on account of Saint Thomas.’

Fitz-Stephen wrote in all earnestness, yet it is abundantly clear that... he knew nothing at first hand of Plato's Republic, and (unlike many twelfth century historians) he had not read Sallust, or had forgotten his works if he had. His was a world in which one can meet genuine appreciation of the past, pagan and Christian, and real sympathy and insight into Classical Latin literature; but also an astonishing wealth of ignorance. It was a world in which men could enquire as to the origin of treasured institutions, and listen to Geoffrey expounding the laws of Molmutius, still well known and held in honour; could gulp as we all do when faced with our own ignorance, and say: ‘The laws of Molmutius: but yes, of course.’

Not everyone, however, was deceived, and Geoffrey, the parodist, was in his turn parodied by the satirist Walter Map; and the insight of men like Map evidently had into the methods of Geoffrey's fiction helps to explain the inspiration Geoffrey gave to creative writing later in the century. His greatest creation was King Arthur. ... Inspired an Italian sculptor and had children at the font named after him in several parts of Europe. ... Geoffrey... floated King Arthur on the cosmopolitan literary world of the twelfth century as a respectable figure for other courts than those of the ... [Celtic] princes to honour, and first traced the pattern by which legend could become the basis for creative fiction. A direct line leads from Geoffrey's bravado in attributing current knowledge of the Molmutine laws to Gildas and [King] Alfred [the Great] to the famous passage in Wolfram's Parzival in which the author takes to task the French Chrétien [Christian] of Troyes (his chief source) for getting the story wrong, and claims to have put it right with the help of Kyot of Provence, ‘who has offered us the true story’ from the Arabic. The interest of twelfth century naive and highly sophisticated; the same time is equally true of the courtly romances of the late twelfth and early thirteenth century. It is unlikely that Wolfram knew Geoffrey at first hand. But he absorbed an extraordinary amount of the culture of his world in his poverty-stricken knightly home in south Germany: echoes of the theological ideas of twelfth century schools, of the literary productions of the French courts, mingle in the rich fabric of his tales. ....

Was the civilisation of twelfth century Christendom derivative or creative? In measure was it the product of European experience, or of contact with the Arabic world of Wolfram's fancy? Was it dominated by Latin culture of the schools or the French culture of the court of the Angevins? In what measure did the different parts of Christendom contribute to it? ...

The phrase ‘the twelfth century Renaissance’ has no precise meaning. It carries overtones, and these are essential to understanding an exciting epoch in human history. We are still far from a full comprehension of the depths of the love of men of that age for the antique, or of the meaning of twelfth century humanism. But it is vain to search for a definition. Historians love to use labels of this kind; and in the hands of a master they can assume real meaning. Burckhardt gave real meaning - for a time - to the Renaissance of the fifteenth century; and a few historians have given real meaning even to ‘feudalism’. But most discussions of these terms lapse into arid semantics, and lose contact with the actual flow of human effort and events. Observers of such a dusty Armageddon have been tempted to doubt if the movement behind this label ever existed. Yet this can surely not be put in question: however difficult to define, however elusive its ‘essence’, what happened in Italy in the fifteenth century was one of the greatest movements of the human spirit; and so, surely enough, were the movements in education, in spiritual and cultural life, thought and art of the twelfth century. In an article on the English contribution to this Renaissance, R.W. Southern quietly and characteristically tidied the semantics into a cupboard by referring to the ‘sublime meaningless’ of the label. (1960, pp.201-216)

Following this lead, we may define the elements in the cultural life of the twelfth century to which it has become attached as developments in theology - in the methods of theological discussion, and systemisation of theological thought; in logic and grammar; in canon law; in religious organisation; in art and architecture; and in vernacular poetry. Here is a formidable syllabus... Every one of these elements... in our minds... to do... justice to the richness of the theme; and two other problems dictate our approach to it. The cultural movements of the twelfth century were cosmopolitan; for some of the elements the clear centre lay in France, but every part of Europe made its own contribution - even England, as it was the ... purpose of Professor Southern's article to show.

It was the eighteenth century which canonised the notion of the Renaissance, and we had never quite shaken off the influence of the terms then put in vogue. The middle age between the world of Greece and Rome and its effective reassertion in the Italian Renaissance [reniscita?] was the world of Gothic - of the triumph of barbarism and religion. In [the] course of time, especially in the nineteenth century, careful investigations began of the origins of the Renaissance, and in a world which had come to admire Gothic, and not revile it. From this sprang all manner of confusion, but also real illumination. Thus it is illuminating to see that many aspects of the Italian Renaissance presuppose earlier movements; that the achievement of the humanists was securely based on the work of Classical scholars of the ninth, eleventh and twelfth centuries; or again, that in the twelfth century itself the two most notably original artistic creations were Gothic architecture and vernacular poetry, and that some link might well exist between them. But if this leads us to anticipate what was characteristic of the Quattrocento in the Carolingian Renaissance of the eighth or ninth centuries, or in the Ottonian Renaissance of the tenth and eleventh or even in the Renaissance of the twelfth century, it can only lead to confusion; and it would be equally confusing to imagine Saint Francis in the company of Florentine humanists, or to isolate Gothic architecture and French and German vernacular literature as unique expressions of the ‘Gothic’ spirit. ... [...] ...

Humanism.... that... later Renaissance, ... its love of ancient literature and in its concern with human values... ...

In R.W. Southern's Making of the Middle Ages, ... the values... are painted as a silent revolution, which came like a thief in the night. ‘This silence in the great changes of history is something which meets us everywhere as we go through’ the centuries from the late tenth to the early thirteenth. Yet ‘the secret revolution of these centuries’ did not pass by unnoticed by contemporaries. By the second half of the twelfth century, the consciousness of new achievement was widespread, especially among those who practised the art of poetry. The form in which the new historical perspective expressed itself was a movement of “Chivalry and Learning” - all that we comprehend in the word “civilisation” - from Greece to Rome, and from Rome after a long interval to France, the ‘mainstay of western Christendom.’ [citation, pp.12-14] This put the problem of describing such a movement in a nutshell: in its depth like all such movements, silent and unobserved: it rejoiced in its own achievement. The twelfth century Renaissance is unthinkable without creative teachers, writers and artists which made its cultural achievement of lasting value and interest: and these too... do justice... ...

A few select... creative men and women to the world in which they were born with its extraordinary limitations and opportunities.

Brooke, C. (1969) The Twelfth Century Renaissance, Thames & Hudson, London, pp.9-11, 13-14, 18 & 200.

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The Art of Criticism

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Edited by Maxwell Latham, Thursday, 11 Jul 2013, 16:36
Without exercising your critical faculties you can get nowhere; and there are laws of criticism that you must learn.

Instinctively, however, you have been criticising all your life. You criticise the habits of your friends, you criticise your sister's dress and your brother's batting at the wicket, you criticise... politicians and most parsons, you are not silent about the shortcomings of your masters and mistresses; and all this is good. It would be even better if you criticised more people favourably and fewer adversely. Adverse criticism so frequently betrays ignorance or narrowness of mind.

Destructive criticism is only of value when it prepares the way for constructive criticism.

There is danger too, in criticism of becoming a prig. It is no use casting mud at best sellers just because all your intellectual friends revile them. There must be reason for their popularity. Most popular writers are poor because popular taste is vulgar and low, and whenever any writer or artist panders to the public demand for inanity or sensation he commits a crime for which he cannot ever be forgiven: he has bartered his soul for material gain. It is merely a waste of time to discuss him at all.

Your business is to train yourself in good taste, to sense beauty when you see it, to maintain a high standard of living, to worship beauty in others and to create it yourself. There can never be too much beauty: your taste will never be perfect.

To test the sound and true is the business of criticism whether in shoe-leather, cloth, motor engines or poetry.

First... recognise as Matthew Arnold recognised that the critical power is of lower rank than the creative, that the true function of a man is to create, but we cannot always be creating: "for the creation of a masterwork of literature two powers must concur, the power of the man and the power of the moment, and the man is not enough without the moment," whereas the objective of criticism is to make the best ideas prevail. "...these new ideas reach society, the touch of truth is the touch of life, and there is a stir and growth everywhere: out of this stir come the creative epochs of literature."

It is obvious, too, that a poet, for instance, must know life and the world before dealing with them in poetry: he must therefore criticise first. ... [...]

The exercise of criticism makes us remember that we have a mind and that the mind may be made the source of great pleasure.

The first rule that Arnold lays down is that criticism must be disinterested. Its business is simply to know the best that is known and thought and by making, in its turn, this known, to create a current of true and fresh ideas. All practical consequences and applications are outside the province of criticism: once they enter into it they cling to it and stifle it. ...

Disinterested criticism scarcely ever seems to exist: small coteries bolster up the aims of the individual members who belong to them: men who strike out on independent lines are treated with contempt, maliciously, wilfully misunderstood by critics on papers out of sympathy with their political aims. Arnold was right when he urged the faculty of disinterestedness as the first essential...

"In France", ... says [Sainte-Beuve], "the first consideration for us [French intellectual critics] is not whether we are amused and pleased by a work of art or mind, nor is it to learn whether we are touched by it. What we seek above all to learn is, is whether we were right in being amused with it, and in applauding it, and being moved by it." This is a manifestation of intellectual conscience - a thing that is almost unknown in England - it is a thing that is found only in those for whom intelligence is quick, open and sensitive.

We can pride ourselves on energy and honesty ... and genius being mainly an affair of energy... but genius working through energy demands complete freedom and is not amenable to conformed standards. ...

Because of the French... with their prescribed standards of criticism, the French... writers excel in form, method, precision, proportions and arrangement. ... [Philosophical debate with the French intellectual elite] ... leads to culture, clearness, correctness, propriety, and so creates a force of educated opinion... [...]

It is well to start with Sainte-Beuve's definition of a true classic.

"A true classic," he says, "is an author who has enriched the human mind, increased its treasure and caused it to advance a step; who has discovered some moral and not unequivocal truth, or revealed some passion in that heart where all seemed known and discovered; who has expressed his thought, observation, or intention, in no matter what form, only provided it be broad and great, refined and sensible, sane and beautiful in itself: who has spoken to all in his particular style, a style which is found to be also that of the whole world, a style new without neologism, new and old, easily contemporary with all time. Such a classic may for a moment have been revolutionary; it may have least seemed so, but it is not; it only lashed and subverted whatever prevented the restoration of the balance of order, and beauty."

"A classic should above all include conditions of uniformity, wisdom, moderation and reason, which dominate and contain all others."... [...]

He quotes many passages from Joubert to show the high standards that guide all true critics:

"In our written language there must be voice, soul, space, grand style, words which exist of themselves and carry their place with them."

"Writers who have influence are only men who express perfectly what others think, and who awaken in the mind ideas and feelings that were ready to spring into being. Literatures have their origin in the depths of men's minds."

Joubert regarded truth in style as an indespensible quality: he could not abide all that was bombastic, colossal and trifling. "Strength is not energy," he says, "some authors have more muscle than talent - where there is no delicacy, there is no literature."

He worshipped enthusiasm, by which he meant a sort of exalted peace, but distinguished it from explosion. Fine works in his opinion do not intoxicate, but enchant. ...

If you want to know what true criticism is, read Sainte-Beuve on Rabelias. Here you will see the true path where a critic... [writes] ...

... [...] ...

...Gargantua... "At every turn we recognise the enlightened physician, physiologist and philosopher ... the new character of ... education lies in the combination of play and study, in learning things by making use of them, in putting books and the things of life side by side, theory and practice, body and mind, gymnastics and music, as with the Greeks, without, however, modelling ourselves on the past, but having regard continually for the present and the future."...

Chesterfield... listen to him... "There is no surer sign in the world... Whatever is worth doing at all is worth doing well; and nothing can be done well without attention."

Such advise is worth taking to heart.

"Society is a country no-one has ever known by means of descriptions; each one of us must traverse it in person in order to be initiated into it." As Sainte-Beuve said: "It is better to read one man than ten books." That too, is worth remembering. No wonder that Sainte-Beuve said: "It is a book full of good things. Every page contains some happy observations worthy to be remembered."

Mais, S.P.B. (1938) An English Course..., Richards Press, London (4th ed.), pp.165-173.

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Mais: Essay Writing

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Edited by Maxwell Latham, Thursday, 11 Jul 2013, 02:08
...an English course without a word on... parsing, synecdoche...

...As Bacon says, "Some Bookes are to be Tasted, others to be Swallowed, and Some Few to be Chewed and Digested." Reading is as much a part of our... everyday life as eating, drinking and sleeping. We cannot exist without reading, anymore than we can exist without talking; We... learn that... contact with newspapers and magazines vitiates our taste, that to live on a diet of sensational novels destroys our capacity for thought, that indiscriminate reading is as much a vice as excessive drinking or over-feeding.

"I do not know that a well-informed man... is more worthy of regard than a well-fed one. The brain... is a nobler organ than the stomach, but on that very account is the less to be excused for indulging in repletion ... I believe, if the truth were known, men would be astonished at the small amount of learning with which a high degree of culture is compatible." (Rhoades)

...[W]e must indulge in [reading]... warily. "The first business of a learner in literature is to get [a] complete hold of some undeniable masterpiece and incorporate it, incarnate it." (“Q.”)

To saturate oneself with Hamlet, so that one becomes Hamlet in the reading of it, really to master the ninth book of Paradise Lost, "so as to rise to the height if its great argument and incorporate all its beauties in oneself," (Rhoades) to know Dr. Johnson more... than you will ever know your most intimate friend. ...

There are times when we are urgently desirous of inventing something, of giving expression to something which is ineffably precious to us, being, as it is, our real self, our individuality. In the bad old days we were regarded as priggish and egotistical if we ventured to express our own idiosyncrasies. But true delight in writing does not come from copying out... platitudes or extracts from articles in The Encyclopædia Brittanica: true delight springs from giving utterance to something which no one has given utterance to before...

[T]he formal composition of essays... with [a] neatly phrased introduction on what you are going to say, neatly paragraphed body of the essay divided into... [various sections] and lastly... [a] conclusion... a summing up and recapitulation of what you have said, adroitly rounded off...

Essay-writing is only one branch of writing... When you can be as entertaining as E.V. Lucas, Hilldare, Belloc, Charles Lamb and Addison you may concentrate on essays to the exclusion of all other forms of literary composition. Until then you would be well advised to... all forms of creative art, poetry, drama, short stories, novels, letters, parody, diaries, autobiography, biography... and so on. They are not harder; they are easier. ... Read Montaigne...

Show your friends your real self, how human in your weaknesses and sillinesses, how laughable in your foibles and follies, but how lovable in spite of your outward mask you are. To love any man you merely have to understand him. Even people whom you dislike on a first acquaintance frequently become firm friends when you know them better. Man always suspects what he does not understand...

...[T]hat enviable throng of people who live life to the full, the artists and creators, men and women who feel compelled to let loose the genius that is in them, rather than let it die of inanition and neglect. Men and women who strive to express most nobly and beautifully what they find most noble and beautiful in the world, some in colours, some in harmonies, some in song...

It isn't easy to say what you mean, but it is very much worth your while. The reading of great masterpieces will make you realise the value of clarity, sincerity, faithfulness... and all the other points that characterise good writing. By steeping yourself in the work of a skilful craftsman you will be preparing yourself to become a skilled workman, just as you play Rugger or Cricket much better after coming back from watching a match at Blackheath or Lords...

Mais, S.P.B. (1938) An English Course..., Richards Press, London, pp.9-12.

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New blog post

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Edited by Maxwell Latham, Monday, 8 Jul 2013, 17:12
Here, close beneath the eye of a man... is the hair-fine grass... olive in colour and cropped short by the sheep; among it a few dwarfish violets and the vivid yellow coins of rock-roses whose recumbent stems twine between the roots. The third flower in this miniature world is wild thyme, a spreading stain on the turf whose soft purple colour and warm aromatic smell seem to strike the senses as one. Feeding delicately on it the Chalk-hill-blue butterfly from time to time closes her wings to show the bright rings on their undersides. Looking out now between the elbows and downs show their smooth and perfect convexities, curves shaped by the even weathering of the underlying chalk, particle by particle, through millions of years. A little further down the hill-side the turf ends in arable little fones, a field of pale oats, very short and scattered with charlock and poppies. Speedwall and scarlet pimpernel creeping round the furrows are too small to be visible but can be guessed - their presence... perfectly appropriate. The next field is fallow, mottled like a kestrel's egg where the rusty brown topsoil is broken by white patches of chalk and flints. Still further down the slope, at the line where the springs break out from the hill-side... a beech clump... a track leading to the valley. Interlacing the whole... scene, running through the pallor and remoteness of the downland atmosphere, are the calls... of the... vertical stems of the mounting larks. ...

[T]he man is leaning against a pollard willow by some slow river. The deep grass of meadow, broad-bladed and lush, is quite unlike the fescue turf of the chalk; held in its green gloom the daisies have grown weak and lanky, while the buttercups strike up towards the sun and the stiff clumps of the marguerites overtop them all. Close at hand, where a drainage ditch from the meadow cuts the river bank, is a succulent mass of kingcups, a little broken and spattered with clay by the cows that go there to drink. Just beyond, above a skirt of cow-parsley and bramble, a tall, straggling hawthorn hedge encloses an oak wood... a crowded huddle of... trunks, many of them ragged... The chief feature of this... spinney is its rookery. The bulky nests, whose silhouettes are... a part of the winter and spring landscapes, are now hidden in foliage.

(This magnificent piece of descriptive writing goes on and on, and gets better each page. I picked this book up for a song).


Barker, E. Hawkes, C. & Hawkes, J. (1947) The Character of England, Clarendon Press, Oxford, pp.1-2.
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Madly in love with Marlowe (still)

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Edited by Maxwell Latham, Tuesday, 2 Jul 2013, 17:08
Young oxen newly yoked are beaten more,
Than oxen which have drawn the plough before... [...]
And rough jades' mouths with stubborn bits are torn.
But managed horses' heads are lightly borne.
Unwilling lovers, love doth more torment,
Than such as in their bondage feel content.
Lo! I confess, I am thy captive I,
And hold my conquered hands for thee to tie.
What need'st thou war? I sue to thee for grace:
With arms to conquer armless men is base.
Yoke Venus' Doves, put myrtle on thy hair... [...]
The people thee applauding, thou shalt stand,
Guiding the harmless pigeons with thy hand.
Young men and women shalt thou lead as thrall,
So will thy triumph seem magnifical;
I, lately caught, will have a new-made wound,
And captive-like be manacled and bound.
Good meaning, Shame, and such as seek Love's wrack
Shall follow thee, their hands tied at their back...

Marlowe's translation of Ovidius' Amorēs, Elegia II: Quod primo amore correptus..., ll.14-15, 18-23 & 25-32.

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Celtic culture in antiquity

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Edited by Maxwell Latham, Tuesday, 2 Jul 2013, 10:47
Having been for a long time now, fascinated by the history of the Celts since being a young boy, on a school history field trip to the magnificent Mai Dun hill-fort, in Dorsetta. It's been quite a while since I became moon-struck by the Celts, in light of their remaining jewellery, ancient artefacts exhumed and examined, their plaid, just generally the feral 'vibe' that Celtic tribes had. In biology (long before the advent of genetics) our Victorian throwback teacher (who, although strict, was an excellent teacher and had a warm heart, beneath her spiky and aloof classroom demeanour) said that the Celts typically had dark hair and brown eyes, whereas the Scandinavian peoples generally had blonde or reddish hair, and blue or grey-eyes. [Presumably because they spent more or less time in the light or dark, colouring their hair, skin and changing their eye colour to see better at night: in the case of blue or grey, and day: with brown. Depending of course on where they settled, north or south]. The Greeks and Romans (whom I have become infatuated with since 'digging beneath the surface' about three years ago) called them barbarians, from the word barberoi meaning 'person who does not speak Greek' (In Our Time: The Etruscans; if indeed I have spelt that correctly). J.J. Doucet claims the word has its origins in barbe (beard). Fellow Frenchman and historian D. Deman, as having studied etymology to depths profound, claims that French words have their roots in Greek more than Latin, seemingly. Whether barbarians are named so because they were bearded or because they didn't speak Greek, is however, of no avail.

“...The civilisation known as Minyan arose in Bœotia and in Peloponnesus. There was a noticeable lowering in standards... which linguistic considerations lead us to attribute to an invasion of the first branch of the Greek peoples, presumably the Ionians. These barbarians were incapable of appreciating the subtleties of Cretan products and, at least at first, contact between the island of Crete and the Greek mainland was almost entirely broken off. Little by little it was renewed in the nineteenth century B.C.E. through the intermediacy of Argolis, but towards 1,700 B.C.E. the arrival of a fresh wave of barbarians, the Achæans, drove both the newly settled and older populations southwards. One of the retreating bands took possession of Crete and utterly destroyed the first palaces. The disaster was... only temporary.” (Dunan/Bowle, 1981 [1964], p.68)

Barbarians called so because they do not speak Greek? Evidently the Hellenes rose out of barbarism, but it took over a thousand years for them to do so. Ah, the irony. Anyhow: here's the meat and potatoes, xerox style.

Celtæ: a name given to the tribe(s) that inhabited the country between Palus Mæotis and the ocean, according to some authors. ... This name, though anciently applied to the inhabitants of Gaul, as well as Germany and Spain, was more particularly given to the part of the Gauls, whose country, called Gallia Celtica, was situated between the rivers Sequana and Garumna, now known as la Seine and la Garonne. The Celtæ seemed to have recieved their name from Celtus, a son of Herculēs or Polyphemus. The promonotory which bore the name Celticum, is now called [Cape] Finisterre. (Lempriere, 1845 [1788], p.149)

Celt: name used by Classical writers to describe the tall, fair-haired, blue or grey-eyed peoples living north of the Alps and surviving today in Ireland, Wales, Cornwall, Brittany, and the Scottish Highlands. In England their civilisation was superseded to some extent by Roman and Anglo-Saxon culture. The Celts were responsible for the dissemination of the early Iron-age culture, out of which there developed in Ireland, a native art of singular beauty. (Hammerton, c.1935, p.243)

An Account of the interesting Folk who formed the Barbaric Background to Greek and Roman Civilisation.

by R.A.S. MacAlister ([Who was] Professor of Celtic Archæology, University College, Dublin).

The word 'Celtic' is one of the most difficult to define in the whole range of anthropological or historical literature. The word was used by ancient Greek and Latin writers as a label by which they denoted certain peoples of central and northern Europe. Whence they derived it is unknown; they may have learnt it from some of the folk whom they thus designated; but the word has no certain etymology in any of the existing Celtic languages. As used by the Classical writers in question, it cannot be maintained that it had any exact scientific connotation; at best it was a vague geographical term, conveniently standing for the barbarians (as they were considered) of a certain area of the Continent, but in no respect defining them racially or linguistically.

In modern literature the word is almost equally vague, except in the department of philology. The languages called 'Celtic' are distinguished from other members of the Indo-European family of languages by certain definite peculiarities.

[Then follows a brief excursion into the phonetic subtleties]. ... The languages thus distinguished fall into two classes, called Goidelic and Brythonic... [...] ...

Materials for the study of ancient forms of these languages exist in the early inscriptions of the Continental Celts (the only records of the Continental Celtic languages that have survived, except a few scattered proper names and other words preserved by Classical writers); the early inscriptions of Great Britain and Ireland, especially those in Ogham character; and the ancient literatures of Ireland and Wales. The Breton language of France is to be grouped with the Insular Celtic languages, not as with the the Continental, as it was the tongue of a colony from Britain, founded by the Celts driven out before the advancing Saxons.

If we turn from this clearly defined group of languages, and analyse the racial peculiarities of the people who spoke them, we find ourselves involved in utter confusion. Tall and fair people, short and dark people, pass before us, all of them with seemingly equal claims to be the true and original Celts. It is hardly an exaggeration to say that there are many different racial types among the Celtic speakers as there are among the inhabitants of the whole of Europe.

Julius Cæsar, for instance, tells us that the Celts, Belgæ and Aquitani differed in language, institutions and laws; while on the other hand he sees no difference between the Gauls and the Germans except in customs. On the other hand Strabo, writing at the end of the first century B.C.E., notes a difference between the Gauls and the Germans in physical character, the latter being taller and fairer, but a similarity in manners.

A number of inconsistencies of the same kind might be collected, tending to show that the ancient writers were but superficial observers, and that their classification of people as 'Celtic' was not rigorously scientific; but it was a mere label, and probably included scattered tribes here and there that were not Celtic in any real sense at all.

The Gauls who sacked Rome [around circa 390 B.C.E. (Marriott, c.1935, p.764)] are described as having been tall, with fair or red hair, and white bodies which were, "soft and easily fatigued, impetuous in attack, they soon wearied."

This description, once established, was vaguely taken as the stock description of all the European Celts. In reading it we must not forget that it was written by Italians, a people dark by the nature of their race and by the action of the sun; and that it referred to strangers of the cold North into the enervating heat of Italy, in which they naturally soon wearied. Those who, like Tacitus in the second century C.E., came into direct contact with the Celtic people observed that they were not racially homogenous. Tacitus distinguishes three types in Great Britain: the large-limbed, red-haired Caledonii, the ruddy faced, curly haired Silurēs, and the dwellers on the south coast of England, who resembled the Gauls.

The writers of Classical antiquity differ as widely on the moral as on the physical qualities of the Gauls, and they show about as much judgement as Jean Jacques Rousseau with his eulogy of [Voltaire as being] the 'noble savage' [precise translation: 'good old-fashioned savage' (Harrap)], or Artemus Ward with his 'Injuns is pizen, wherever found.'

Julius Cæsar and Livy describe them as being above all things religious; Cicero denies that they possess any feelings of piety and justice. Polybius says that they are perfidious [putrid]; Strabo says they have a simple and open nature, devoid of guile. Pausanias extols the strategic skill of their leader when they attacked Delphi; Strabo says that various Celts fought with courage but without military ruses.

Diodorus speaks of their being inordinately fond of gold; Athenæus asserts that some of them allowed no gold to enter their country. Some say that they were hospitable to strangers; Diodorus says that Heraclēs abolished among them the custom of sacrificing strangers. Cato declares that the Gauls of Gallia Cisalpina cultivated two arts with success - the art of war and the art of speaking. Polynius admits their skill in war, and also in agriculture, which Cato does not mention; but he denies that they possess any other art. [Evidently, from the unearthed fruits of archæology, many Celts had an artistic flare for creating metallic brooches, ornate shields and various other delicately wrought paraphernalia].

Diodorus tells us that the Gauls of Gallia Transalpina had an affectation for expressing themselves in enigmas, leaving it to the skill of the listener to divine their meaning; Strabo apparently did not succeed in this mental exercise, for he says that they were silly and senseless.

The word 'Celtic' as a racial term is devoid of scientific meaning; if it is to be used at all to denote communities of people, it must be employed in the strictly geographical sense given to it by ancient writers, or else as a convenient generic label for the Celtic speaking peoples.

This, however, is not a complete statement of the case. The parent language of the Celtic group must have developed in some single, probably isolated, community, which we may presume to have a certain racial uniformity. If we can find a place of origin, and determine the racial characteristics of its inhabitants in early times, then it is legitimate to regard characters as distinguishing the original Celtic people.

The French scholar D'Arbois de Jubainville has endeavoured to find such a place of origin, and he has fixed it in the region between the head-waters of the Rhine and those of the Danube. The reason for this?

Most countries that the names of rivers are usually the oldest topographical terms on the map. It often happens that river names are unintelligible, while the names of places past to which they flow - towns, villages, homesteads, rocks, mountains and so forth - are explicable with the help of languages still spoken, or known to have been spoken in the neighbourhood. The river names are the sole surviving instances of yet older, prehistoric languages.

D'Arbois argues that if the territory can be found in which the river names are predominantly Celtic, then that territory is the place where the Celtic languages were of origin, aboriginal. The region twixt the Rhine and the Danube satisfies these conditions. If this be granted, we must deduce that the short, stocky moderately dark complexioned, broad-headed Alpine man as the atypical Celt... [...]

At the time when the Celtic language was in the process of formation, Europe must have been occupied by a large number of small scattered communities, in the Neolithic stage, separated each from the others by belts of forest land, and speaking a babel of different tongues, very few of them belonging to the Indo-European familial branch. The ancestors of the Celtic-speakers must for a long time have lived in close connexion with the people who formed the Italian branch of tongues, of which Latin is the best known representative; for among the Indo-European families of languages, the Italian branch is that which comes most nearly into relationship with the Celtic family. After these had hived off, the Celts seemed to have begun a career of conquest through the regions of Europe north of the Alps, subduing one by one, the smaller aboriginal communities; forcing their language, religion, their culture upon them... [...]

The map of Europe is strewn all over with Celtic traces. Stray scraps of information may be gleaned from various Greek and Roman writers; but they are only fragments, and not above suspicion in the manner of trustworthiness.

The Greeks were fairly well acquainted with the Mediterranean coast, with which they had direct interplay; but their information about the geography of central and northern Europe was sometimes quite exiguous. Aristotle seems to have imagined that the Danube rises in the Pyranees; Strabo thought that the Caspian Sea opened into the North Sea. ...

Plato speaks of the Celts as being warlike, and their having a likeness for strong drink. Aristotle recommends as worthy of imitation, their practice of hardening the physique of children by clothing them lightly only during cold weather; but he is less sympathetic to their excesses of fearlessness, exemplified by the fact that they had no terror of earthquakes or tidal waves. Strabo quotes (but with characteristic incredulity) the statement of Euphorus to the effect that their youths were punished if they allowed themselves to become too fat to wear a certain girdle; from another authority, unnamed, he derives the information that they were so intrepid that if their houses were washed away by the sea, they rebuilt them on the same place.

But it is a writer from the end of the second century B.C.E., Poseidonius of Apamea, that we obtain our fullest information as to the social life of the Gauls. It is really quite regrettable that the book in which he described his travels is lost, along with the rest of his numerous writings; the fragments which survive - quotations embedded in the works of more fortunate but less deserving authors such as Athenæus, Strabo and Diodorus of Sicily - show us what a heavy loss this is. He was evidently a man of kindly and sympathetic nature, and a good observer.

Poseidonius of Apamea's travels included Gaul, and extended to Belerion, that is, to Cornwall. He notes the inhabitants of Great Britain dwelt in unpretentious houses, for the greater part made of reeds and wood. Their manner of life was simple and they knew nothing of the luxury borne of riches.

Speaking of Gaul, Poseidonius tells us how the rivers are frozen in winter, and how it was a custom to spread straw on the surface of the ice, to give travellers a sure foothold. The Gauls, he tells us further, made a drink from barley called ‘zythus’; they also flavoured water with honey, and used it to drink. There was an abundance of gold in their country, and they made massive ornate collars from it. In their temples and sacred enclosures were found large quantities of gold consecrated to the gods; but none were very avaricious, none of them dared to touch the stores for fear of their deities.

The Gauls were tall, and had white skins. They had blond hair, which they were in the habit of washing frequently in a decoration of lime, in order to make it lustrous. They brushed their hair up to the top of the head, and thence to the nape of the neck. Some shaved their beard [again, ironically] while others allowed it to grow to a moderate length. The nobles shaved the cheeks, but allowed the moustache to grow until it covered the mouth.

During meals they did not sit upon benches, but on hides of dogs or wolves, spread upon the ground; and the youngest children, boys and girls, acted as attendants. At the side were blazing fires upon which were cauldrons, and spits upon which were entire quarters of meat. The best part of the joint was offered to the chief men as an honour. Passing strangers were invited to partake in the banquets, and it was a point of etiquette not to ask their names or their business until the feast was over.

The food consisted of large quantities of meat and gravy, accompanied by a few loaves. The table manners of the Gauls were hardly up to today's standards, for it seems to have been the fashion for the diners to take a whole joint with both hands, and gnaw off mouthfuls, ‘after the manner of beasts.’ The party sat in a circle, he who was most distinguished by military prowess, lineage or wealth in the middle, and the other guests arranged on each side, in regular order of precedence. Behind each guest stood his armour bearer, with his large oblong shield. The attendant spearmen sat in a circle by themselves.

In wealthy companies the drink was Massilian wine; whilst the poorer folk drunk ‘corma’, a sort of beer brewed from wheat and sweetened with honey. They drank from a communal cup, carried around by an attendant boy, who began at the right-hand end and worked round to the left.

Frequently words would lead to quarrels, and these to duels à outrance. Before a battle one warrior would go in front of the lines, and would challenge the bravest of the enemy to a duel; and should any combatants accept the challenge, his side would sing the prowess of their ancestors and vaunt their own deeds; while heaping abuse and reviling upon the enemy. Slaughtered enemies were beheaded, and the heads were hung on the necks of horses; when carried home they were embalmed, and either preserved in caskets or nailed on the houses. The custom at first disgusted Poseidonius, though in time he became accustomed to it.

Marriott, J.A.R. (1935) Concise History of the World - Illustrated, P.R. Gawthorn, London, p.746.

Dunan, M., Bowle, J. et al. (1981 [1964]) Encyclopedia of Ancient and Medieval History, Larousse, London, p.68.

MacAlister, R.A.S., Hammerton, J.A. et al. (c.1935) Universal History of the World - Volume Three - the Hellenistic Age to the Roman Era, The Educational Book Company, London, pp.1507, 1509-1511 & 1513.

Lempriere, J. (1845 [1788]) Classical Dictionary, T. Allman, London, p.149.

Hammerton, J.A. et al. (c.1935) The Modern Encyclopedia [Brittanica], Amalgamated Press, London, p.243.


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Hélène Adeline

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Edited by Maxwell Latham, Thursday, 27 Jun 2013, 18:33
Euhemerus, Evemerus: an ancient historian of Messenia intimate with Cassander. He travelled over Greece and Arabia, and wrote an history of the gods, in which he proved that they had all been upon earth, as mere mortal men. Ennius translated it into Latin. It is now lost. (Lempriere, 1845 [1788], p.256)

Analysis of Myths: The Various Theories

“I shall indeed interpret all that I can, but I cannot interpret all that I should like.” - Grimm.

...Learnēd men have explained these myths as history disguised as metaphors, or as moral allegories... Euhemerus (circa 316 B.C.E.) was a pioneer of the former theory, and Sir Francis Bacon an exponent of the latter. Euhemerus' disciples discerned Zeus as an actual Cretan King; his war with the giants, an attempt to repress sedition. Danæ's shower of gold, the money with which her guards were bribed. Prometheus created a man out of clay, hyperbolically. Atlas, an astronomer, who was therefore spoken of as supporting the weight of the heavens...

The grain of truth it contained was brought to light...

Guerber, H.A. (1993 [1907]) Myths of Greece and Rome, Dover Publications, New York, pp.340-341. [abridged]

Lempriere, J. (1845 [1788]) Classical Dictionary, T. Allman, London, p.256.

Maximus Fleximus.
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Typhon the rebel.

Juno being vexed, say the poets, that Jupiter had begotten Pallas by himself without her, earnestly pressed all the other gods and goddesses, that she might also bring forth of herself alone without him; and having by violence and importunity obtained a grant thereof, she smote the earth, and forthwith sprang up Typhon, a huge and horrific monster.

This strange birth she committed to a serpent, as a foster-father to nourish it, who no sooner came to ripeness of years, but he provoked Jupiter to battle. In the conflict, the giant, getting the upper hand, carried Jupiter upon his shoulders, carried him to a remote and obscure country, and, cutting out the sinews of his hands and feet, took them away, leaving him miserably mangled and maimed.

But Mercury, recovering these appendages from Typhon by way of stealth, restored them to Jupiter. Being whole again by means of graft, Jupiter corroborated, assaults the monster afresh, and at the first, strikes him with a thunderbolt: from whose blood serpents are engendered. The monster feints and then flees, Jupiter casts the weight of mount Ætna, and the weight thereof crushes him.

The allegory of this fable seems to point at the variable fortune of princes, and the rebellious insurrection of traitors to the State. For princes may well be said to be married to their dominions, as Jupiter was to Juno; but it happens now and then, that being debauched by the long custom of imperialism, and leaning towards tyranny, they endeavour to draw all to themselves, by condemning common freedoms, and, the counsel of their nobles and senators, hatch draconian laws. That is, to dispose of things by their own fancy and absolute authority.

The people, repining at this, study how to create and set up a chief of their own choice. This project, by the secret instigation of the peers and nobles, doth for the most part take his at the beginning; by whose connivance the Commons, being set on edge, there follows a kind of murmuring or discontent in the State, shadowed by the infancy of Typhon, which being nursed by the natural pravity and vulgar malignity, unto princes as infestuous as serpents, is again repaired by renewed strength, and it finally breaks out into open rebellion.

It is because this brings infinite suffering upon the Prince and the people, is it represented by the monstrous deformity of Typhon. His hundred heads signify their internal division. His fiery mouths are their inflamed intents. His serpentine circles signify their pestilent malice in besieging. His iron hands: their merciless slaughters. His eagle's talons: their gluttonous greed. His plumēd body: their continual rumours, and fears...

Sometimes these rebellions grow so potent that princes are enforced - transported, as it were, by the rebels, and forsake the chief seats and cities of the Kingdom - to contract their authority, and, being deprivēd of the sinews of money and majesty, take themselves to some remote and obscure corner within their dominions.

But in the passing of time, if they bear their misfortunes with moderation, they may recover their strength by the virtue of Mercury; that is, they may, by becoming affable, and by reconciling the minds and wills of their subjects, with grave edicts and gracious speeches, excite an alacrity to grant help and subsidies whereby to strengthen their authority anew.

Nevertheless, having learned to be wise and wary, they will refrain to try the chances of fortune by way of war. Yet study how to suppress the reputation of the rebels by some famous action, which, if it fall out answerable to their expectation, the rebels, finding themselves weakened, and fearing for the success of their broken projects, betake themselves to some sleight and vain bravadoes, like the hissing of serpents, at length, take flight in despair. When they begin to break, it is safe and timely for kings to pursue and oppress them with force and the weight of the Kingdom, as heavy a wrath as Ætna.

Cassandra: Divination.

The poets fable that Apollo, being enamoured of Cassandra, was by her myriad shifting flights and cunning, still deluded in his desires; but yet fed on with hope until such time as she had drawn from him the gift of prophesying. Having attained that which from the beginning she sought after, she finally rejected his suit. Finding himself unable to revoke his gift, by any means, and yet inflamed with desire of revenge, highly disdaining to be the scorn of a crafty wench, annexed a penalty to his promise. To wit, that she should ever foretell the truth, but never be believed...

This fable seems to be an allegory signifying unprofitable liberty of untimely admonitions and counsels. For they that are so overwhelmed by their own sharpness and wit, they disdain to submit to the documents of Apollo, the god of harmony. Whereby to learn and observe the method and measure of affairs, the grace and gravity of discourse... in abjuring they avail nothing, have no advantage, and manage not matters; but rather do hasten the ruin of all those they do adhere...

Cato optime sentit, sed nocet interdum... et etcetera. (Cato saith “judgeth profoundly, but in the meantime damnifies...”)

Bacon, F. (1609 [1886]) De Sapentia Veterum Liber “Wisdom of the Ancients”, Cassell, London, pp.23-27. [abridged]

For all knowledge and wonder (which is the seed of all knowledge) is an impression of a pleasure in itself.”

Bacon, F. (1605) Advancement of Learning [Book 1, Chapter 1, paragraph 3]

Maximus Fleximus.

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