Vol. 4, Chapter XIV (Cont’d) – Cassiodorus

II. Latin Authors


I. Magnus Aurelius Cassiodorus Senator: Opera omnia, in Migne, “Patrol. Lat.” Tom. LXIX. col. 421-lxx. Reprint of ed. of the Benedictine Jean Garet, Rouen, 1679, 2 vols. 2d ed., Venice, 1729. The Chronicon was edited from MSS. by Theodor Mommsen, Leipzig, 1861, separately published from Abhandlungen der königlichsächsischen Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften. Historische Klasse. Bd. III. The Liber de rhetorica, a part of his Institutiones, was edited by C. Halm, Leipzig, 1863.

II. Vita, by Jean Garet, in Migne, LXIX., col. 437-484, and De vita monastica dissertatio by the same, col. 483-498. Denis de Sainte-Marthe: Vie de Cassiodore. Paris, 1694. Olleris: Cassiodore conservateur des livres de l’antiquité latine. Paris, 1841. A. Thorbecke: Cassiodorus Senator. Heidelberg, 1867. A. Franz: Magnus Aurelius Cassiodorius Senator. Breslau, 1872. Ignazio Ciampi: I. Cassiodori nel V. e nel VI. secolo. Imola, 1876. Cf. Du Pin, V. 43-44. Ceillier, XI. 207-254. Teuffel, 1098-1104. A. Ebert, I. 473-490.

Magnus Aurelius Cassiodorus Senator, whose services to classical literature can not be over-estimated, was descended from an old Roman family, famous for its efficiency in state affairs. He was born about 477, at Scyllacium in Bruttium, the present Squillace in Calabria, the extreme southwest division of Italy. His father, whose name was Cassiodorus also, was pretorian prefect to Theodoric, and senator. The son, in recognition of his extraordinary abilities, was made quaestor when about twenty years of age, and continued in the service of Theodoric, as private secretary and indeed prime minister, being also with him on terms of friendship, until the latter’s death, Aug. 30, 526. He directed the administration of Amalasontha, the daughter of Theodoric, during the minority of her son Athalaric, and witnessed her downfall (535), but retained his position near the throne under Theodatus and Vitiges. He was also consul and three times pretorian prefect. He labored earnestly to reconcile the Romans to their conquerors.

But about 540 he withdrew from the cares and dangers of office, and found in the seclusion of his charming paternal domains in Bruttium abundant scope for his activities in the pursuit of knowledge and the preservation of learning. He voluntarily closed one chapter of his life, one, too, full of honor and fame, and opened another which, little as he expected it, was destined to be of world-wide importance. Cassiodorus the statesman became Cassiodorus the monk, and unwittingly exchanged the service of the Goths for the service of humanity. The place of his retirement was the monastery of Viviers (Monasterium Vivariense), at the foot of Mt. Moseius, in southwestern Italy, which he had himself founded and richly endowed. Upon the mountain he built another monastery (Castellense) in which the less accomplished monks seem to have lived, while the society of Viviers was highly cultivated and devoted to literature. Those monks who could do it were employed in copying and correcting classical and Christian MSS., while the others bound books, prepared medicine and cultivated the garden. He moved his own large library to the monastery and increased it at great expense. Thus Viviers in that sadly confused and degenerate time became an asylum of culture and a fountain of learning. The example he set was happily followed by other monasteries, particularly by the Benedictine, and copying of MSS. was added to the list of monastic duties. By this means the literature of the old classical world has come down to us. And since the initiation of the movement was given by Cassiodorus he deserves to be honored as the link between the old thought and the new. His life thus usefully spent was unusually prolonged. The year of his death is uncertain, but it was between 570 and 580.

The Works of Cassiodorus are quite numerous. They are characterized by great erudition, ingenuity and labor, but disfigured by an incorrect and artificial style. Some were written while a statesman, more while a monk.

1. The most important is the Miscellany, in twelve books, a collection of about four hundred rescripts and edicts issued by Cassiodorus in the King’s name while Quaestor and Magister officiorum, and in his own name while Pretorian prefect. He gives also in the sixth and seventh books a collection of formulas for the different offices, an idea which found imitation in the Middle Age. From the Miscellany a true insight into the state of Italy in the period can be obtained. One noticeable feature of these rescripts is the amount of animation and variety which Cassiodorus manages to give their naturally stiff and formal contents. This he does by ingeniously changing the style to suit the occasion and often by interweaving a disquisition upon some relevant theme. The work was prepared at the request of friends and as a guide to his successors, and published between 534 and 538.

2. His Ecclesiastical History, called Tripartita, is a compilation. His own part in it is confined to a revision of the Latin condensation of Sozomen, Socrates and Theodoret, made by Epiphanius Scholasticus. It was designed by Cassiodorus to supply the omissions of Rufinus’ translation of Eusebius, and was indeed with Rufinus the monastic text-book on church history in the Middle Age. But it is by no means a model work, being obscure, inaccurate and confused.

3. The Chronicle, the earliest of his productions, dating from 519, is a consular list drawn from different sources, with occasional notes of historical events. Prefaced to the list proper, which goes from Junius Brutus to Theodoric, is a very defective list of Assyrian (!), Latin and Roman Kings.

4. The Computation of Easter, written in 562.

5. Origin and History of the Goths, originally in twelve books, but now extant only in the excerpt of Jordanis. In it Cassiodorus reveals his great desire to cultivate friendship between the Goths and the Romans. It dates from about 534.

6. Exposition of the Psalter. This is by far the longest, as it was in the Middle Age the most influential, of his works. It was prepared in Viviers, and was begun before but finished after the Institutes (see below). Its chief source is Augustin. The exposition is thorough in its way. Its peculiarities are in its mystic use of numbers, and its drafts upon profane science, particularly rhetoric.

7. Institutions of Sacred and Secular Letters, from 644, in two books, which are commonly regarded as independent works. The first book is a sort of theological encyclopaedia, intended by Cassiodorus primarily for his own monks. It therefore refers to different authors which were to be found in their library. It is in thirty-three chapters — a division pointing to the thirty-three years of our Lord’s life — which treat successively of the books of the Bible, what authors to read upon them, the arrangement of the books, church history and its chief writers, and the scheme he had devised for usefully employing the monks in copying MSS., or, if not sufficiently educated, in manual labor of various kinds. In the second book he treats in an elementary way of the seven liberal arts (grammar, rhetoric, dialectics, arithmetic, music, geometry, and astronomy).

8. On Orthography, a work of his ninety-third year, and a mere collection of extracts from the pertinent literature in his library.

9. The Soul, written at the request of friends shortly after the publication of his Miscellany. It is rather the product of learning than of thought. It treats of the soul, its nature, capacities and final destiny.

10. Notes upon some verses in the Epistles, Acts of the Apostles, and Apocalypse This was a product of his monastic period, strangely forgotten in the Middle Age. It was unknown to Garet, but found at Verona and published by Maffei in 1702. Besides these a Commentarium de oratione et de octo partibus orationis is attributed to him and so published. But its authorship is doubtful.


154. St. Gregory of Tours

I. St. Georgius Florentius Gregorius: Opera omnia, in Migne, Tom. LXXI. (reprint of Ruinart’s ed. Paris, 1699). The best critical edition of Gregory’s great work, Historiae Francorum libri decem, is by W. Arndt and Br. Krusch. Hannover, 1884 (Gregorii Turonensis opera pars I. in “Scriptorum rerum Merovingicarum,” T. I., pars I. in the great “Monumenta Germaniae historica” series), and of his other works that by H. L. Bordier, Libri miraculorum aliaque opera minora, or with the French title, Les livres des miracles et autres opuscules de Georges Florent Grégoire, evêque de Tours. Paris, 1857- 64, 4 vols., of which the first three have the Latin text and a French translation on opposite pages, and the last, containing the De cursu stellarum and the doubtful works, the Latin only. There are several translations of the Historia Francorum into French (e.g., by Guizot. Paris, 1823, new ed. 1861, 2 vols.; by H. L. Bordier, 1859-61, 2 vols. ), and into German (e.g., by Giesebrecht, Berlin, 1851, 2 vols., 2d ed., 1878, as part of Pertz, “Geschichtsschreiber der deutschen Vorzeit”). The De cursu stellarum was discovered and first edited by F. Hasse, Breslau, 1853.

II. The Lives of Gregory, by Odo of Cluny (d. 943, valuable, ) Migne, l.c., and by Joannes Egidius (Jean Gilles of Tours, 16th cent., of small account) are given by Bordier, l.c. IV. 212-237. Modern biographies and sketches of Gregory are: C. J. Kries: De Gregorii Turonensis Episcopi vita et scriptis. Breslau, 1839. J. W. Loebell: Gregor von Tours. Leipzig, 1839, 2d ed. 1869. Gabriel Monod: Grégorie de Tours, in Tome III.” Bibliothèque de l’École des hautes études.” Paris, 1872 (pp. 21-146). Cf. Du Pin, V. 63. Ceillier, XI, 365-399. Hist. Lit. de la France, III. 372-397. Teuffel, pp. 1109-10. Wattenbach, I. 70 sqq. Ebert, I. 539-51. L. von Ranke: Weltgeschichte, 4ter Theil, 2te Abtheilung (Leipzig, 1883), pp. 328-368, mainly a discussion of the relation of Gregory’s Historia to Fredegar’s Historia Epitomata and to the Gesta regum Francorum. He maintains that they are independent. Cf. W. Arndt’s preface (30pp.) to edition mentioned above.

Georgius Florentius, or as he called himself on his consecration Gregorius, after his mother’s grand-father, the sainted bishop of Langres, was born in Arverna (now Clermont), the principal city of Auvergne, Nov. 30., 538. His family was of senatorial rank on both sides, and its position and influence are attested by the number of bishops that belonged to it. His father (Florentius) apparently died early, and his mother (Armentaria) removed to Burgundy, her native country, but his uncle Gallus, bishop of Auvergne, who died in 554, and Avitus the successor of Gallus, cared for his education. He entered the church in discharge of a vow made at the shrine of St. Illidius, the patron saint of Arverna, during a severe and supposed fatal illness. In 563 he was ordained deacon by Avitus, and served in some ecclesiastical capacity at the court of Sigebert king of Austrasia, until in 573, at the unanimous request of the clergy and people of that city, the king appointed him bishop of Tours. Although loath to take so prominent and responsible a position, he at last consented, was consecrated by Egidius, archbishop of Rheims, and welcomed by Fortunatus in an official, which yet had more real feeling in it than such productions usually have, and was a true prophecy of Gregory’s career.

Tours was the religious centre of Gaul. The shrine of St. Martin was the most famous in the land and so frequented by pilgrims that it was the source of an immense revenue. In Alcuin’s day (eighth century) the monastery of Tours owned 20,000 serfs, and was the richest in the kingdom. Tours was also important as the frontier city of Austrasia, particularly liable to attack. The influences which secured the position to Gregory were probably personal. Several facts operated to bring it about. First, that all but five of the bishops of Tours had been members of his family (Euphronius whom he succeeded was his mother’s cousin), and further, that he was in Tours on a pilgrimage to the shrine of St. Martin to recover his health about the time of Euphronius’ death, and by his life there secured the love of the people. Add to this his travels, his austerities, his predominant love for religion, and his election is explained. Gregory found the position no sinecure. War broke out between Sigebert and the savage Chilperic, and Tours was taken by the latter in 575. Confusion and anarchy prevailed. Churches were destroyed, ecclesiastics killed. Might made right, and the weak went to the wall. But in that dark and tempestuous time Gregory of Tours shines like a beacon light. The persecuted found in him a refuge; the perplexed a guide; the wicked king a determined opponent. Vigilant, sleepless, untiring in his care for Tours he averted an attempt to tax it unjustly; he maintained the sanctuary rights of St. Martin against all avengers; and he put an end to partisan strifes. His influence was exerted in the neighboring country. Such was his well earned repute for holiness founded upon innumerable services that the lying accusation of Leudastes at the council of Braine (580) excited popular indignation and was refuted by his solemn declaration of innocence.

In 584 Chilperic died. Tours then fell to Guntram, king of Orleans, until in 587 it was restored to Childebert, the son of Sigebert. The last nine years of Gregory’s life were comparatively quiet. He enjoyed the favor of Guntram and Childebert, did much to beautify the city of Tours, built many churches, and particularly the church of St. Martin (590). But at length the time of his release came, and on Nov. 17, 594, he went to his reward. His saintship was immediately recognized by the people he had served, and the Latin Church formally beatified and canonized him. His day in the calendar is November l7.

The Works of Gregory were all produced while bishop. Their number attests his diligence, but their style proves the correctness of his own judgment that he was not able to write good Latin. Only one is of real importance, but that is simply inestimable, as it is the only abundant source for French history of the fifth and sixth centuries. It is the Ecclesiastical History of the Franks, in ten books, begun in 576, and not finished until 592. By reason of it Gregory has been styled the Herodotus of France. It was his object to tell the history of his own times for the benefit of posterity, although he was aware of his own unfitness for the task. But like the chroniclers of the period he must needs begin with Adam, and it is not till the close of the first book that the history of Gaul properly begins. The last five books tell the story of the events in Gregory’s own life-time, and have therefore most value. Gregory is not a model historian, but when speaking of facts within his experience he is reliable in his statements, and impartial in his narrative, although partial in his judgments.

Gregory gives at the close of his Ecclesiastical History a catalogue of his writings, all of which have been preserved, with the exception of the commentary on the Psalms, of which only the preface and the titles of the chapters are now extant. The complete list is as follows: The Miracles of St. Martin, in four books, begun in 574, finished 594; the miracles were recorded by direction of Gregory’s mother, who appeared to him in a vision; The Passion of St. Julian the Martyr, written between 582 and 586; The Martyr’s Glory, written about 586; The Confessor’s Glory, about 588; The Lives of the Fathers, written at different times and finished in 594. The last is the most interesting and important of these hagiographical works, which do not call for further mention. The Course of the Stars, or as Gregory calls it, The Ecclsiastical Circuit, is a liturgical work, giving the proper offices at the appearance of the most important stars.


155. St. Isidore of Seville

I. St. Isidorus Hispalensis Opera omnia, in Migne, Tom. LXXXI.-LXXXIV. (reprint of F. Arevalo’s ed. Rome, 1797-1803, 7 vols., with the addition of the Collectio canonum ascribed to Isidore). Migne’s Tom. LXXXV. and LXXXVI. contain the Liturgia Mozarabica secundum regulam beati Isidori. Editions of separate works: De libris iii. sententiarum. Königsburg, 1826, 1827, 2 parts. De nativitate Domini, passione et resurrectione, regno atque judicio, ed. A. Holtzmann, Carlsruhe, 1836. De natura rerum liber, ed. G. Becker, Berlin, 1857.

II. Besides the Prolegomena of Arevalo, which fill all Tom. LXXXI., see Vita S. Isidori, LXXXII., col. 19-56. P. B. Gams: Kirchengeschichte von Spanien. Regensburg, 1862-1879, 5 parts. (II. 2, 102 sqq). J.C.E. Bourret: L’école chrétienne de Seville sous la monarchie des Visigoths. Paris, 1855. C. F. Montalembert: Les moines d’ occident. Paris, 1860-67, 5 vols. (II. 200-218), Eng. trans. Monks of the West. Boston, 1872, 2 vols. (I. 421-424). Hugo Hertzberg: Die Historien und die Chroniken des Isidorus von Sevilla, 1ste, Th. Die Historien. Göttingen, 1874. “Die Chroniken” appeared in Forschungen zur deutchen Geschichte, 1875, XIV. 289-362. Chevalier: Répertoire des sources historiques du moyen âge. Paris, 1877, sqq. II. 112, sqq. Du Pin, VI. 1-5; Ceillier, XI. 710-728; CLARKE, II. 364-372; Bähr, IV. I. pp. 270-286; Teuffel, pp. 1131-1134; Ebert, I. 555-568.

Isidore of Seville, saint and doctor of the Latin Church, was born about 560 either at Carthagena or Seville. He was the youngest child of an honored Roman family of the orthodox Christian faith. His father’s name was Severianus. His eldest brother, Leander, the well-known friend of Gregory the Great, and the successful upholder of the Catholic faith against Arianism, was archbishop of Seville, the most prominent see in Spain, from about 579 to 600; another brother, Fulgentius, was bishop of Astigi (Ecija) in that diocese, where his sister, Florentina, was a nun. Isidore is called Senior to distinguish him from Isidore of Pax Julia, now Beja (Isidorus Pacensis), and Junior to distinguish him from Isidore of Cordova. His parents died apparently while he was quite young. At all events he was educated by his brother Leander. In the year 600 he succeeded his brother in the archiepiscopate of Seville. In this position he became the great leader of the Spanish Church, and is known to have presided at two, councils, the second council of Seville, opened November 13, 619, and the fourth council of Toledo, opened December 5, 633. The first of these was of local interest, but the other was much more important. It was the largest ever held in Spain, being attended by all the six metropolitans, fifty-six bishops and seven bishops’ deputies. It has political significance because it was called by King Sisenand, who had just deposed Suintila, the former king. Sisenand was received by the council with great respect. He threw himself before the bishops and with tears asked their prayers. He then exhorted them to do their duty in correcting abuses. Of the seventy-five canons passed by the council several are of curious interest. Thus it was forbidden to plunge the recipient of baptism more than once under the water, because the Arians did it three times to indicate that the Trinity was divided (c. 6). It was not right to reject all the hymns written by Hilary and Ambrose and employ only Scriptural language in public worship (c. 13). If a clergyman is ever made a judge by the king he must exact an oath from the king that no blood is to be shed in his court (c. 31). By order of King Sisenand the clergy were freed from all state taxes and services (c. 47). Once a monk always a monk, although one was made so by his parents (c. 49)  While compulsory conversion of the Jews was forbidden, yet no Jew converted by force was allowed to return to Judaism (c. 57). Very strenuous laws were passed relative to both the baptized and the unbaptized Jews (c. 58-66). The king was upheld in his government and the deposed king and his family perpetually excluded from power. When Isidore’s position is considered it is a probable conjecture that these canons express his opinions and convictions upon the different matters.

Warned by disease of death’s approach, Isidore began the distribution of his property. For the last six months of his life he dispensed alms from morn till night. His end was highly edifying. Accompanied by his assembled bishops he had himself carried to the church of St. Vincent the Martyr, and there, having publicly confessed his sins, prayed God for forgiveness. He then asked the pardon and prayers of those present, gave away the last thing he owned, received the Holy Communion, and was carried to his cell, in which he died four days later, Thursday, April 4, 636. He was immediately enrolled among the popular saints and in the 15th council of Toledo (688) is styled “excellent doctor,” and by Benedict XIV. (April 25, 1722) made a Doctor of the Church.

Isidore of Seville was the greatest scholar of his day. He was well read in Latin, Greek and Hebrew, in profane as well as in sacred and patristic literature. He was also a vigorous and dignified prelate, admired for his wondrous eloquence and beloved for his private virtues. He did much for education, especially of the clergy, and established at Seville a highly successful school, in which he himself taught. But his universal fame rests upon his literary works, which embrace every branch of knowledge then cultivated, and which though almost entirely compilations can not be too highly praised for their ability and usefulness. He performed the inestimable service of perpetuating learning, both sacred and secular. It is a striking testimony to his greatness that works have been attributed to him with which he had nothing to do, as the revision of the Mozarabic Liturgy and of Spanish ecclesiastical, and secular laws, and especially the famous Pseudo-Isidorian decretals.

His Works may be divided loosely into six classes. We have two lists of them, one by his friend and colleague Braulio, bishop of Saragossa, and the other by his pupil, Ildefonsus of Toledo. No strict division of these works is possible, because as will be seen several of them belong in parts to different classes.

I. Biblical. This class embraces, 1. Scripture Allegorics, allegorical explanations, each in a single sentence, of 129 names and passages in the Old Testament, and of 211 in the New Testament; a curious and, in its way, valuable treatise, compiled from the older commentaries. 2. Lives and Deaths of Biblical Saints. Very brief biographies of sixty-four Old Testament and twenty-one New Testament worthies. 3. Introductions in the Old and New Testaments, a very general introduction to the entire Bible, followed by brief accounts of the several books, including Esdras and Maccabees. The four Gospels, the epistles, of Paul, Peter and John are treated together in respective sections. Acts comes between Jude and Revelation. It was compiled from different authors. 4. Scripture Numbers (1-16, 18-20, 24, 30, 40, 46, 50, 60), mystically interpreted. Thus under one, the church is one, the Mediator is one. Under two, there are two Testaments, two Seraphim, two Cherubim. 5. Questions on the Old and New Testaments, a Biblical catechism of forty-one questions and answers. Some are very trivial. 6. Expositions of Holy Mysteries, or Questions on the Old Testament, a paraphrase of Genesis, and notes upon Joshua, Judges, the four books of Kings, Ezra and Maccabees. The work is compiled from Origen, Victorinus, Ambrose, Jerome, Augustin, Fulgentius, Cassianus and Gregory the Great. A summary of each chapter of the books mentioned is given. The exposition is allegorical.

II. Dogmatic. 1. The Catholic Faith defended against the Jews. A treatise in two books, dedicated to his sister Florentina, the nun. In the first book he marshals the Scripture prophecies and statements relative to Christ, and shows how they have been verified. In the second book in like manner he treats of the call of the Gentiles, the unbelief of the Jews and their consequent rejection, the destruction of Jerusalem, the abolition of the ceremonial law, and closes with a brief statement of Christian doctrine. The work was doubtless an honest attempt to win the Jews over to Christianity, and Spain in the 7th century was full of Jews. Whatever may have been its success as an apology, it was very popular in the Middle Age among Christians, and was translated into several languages. 2. Three books of Sentences, compiled from Augustin and Gregory the Great’s Moralia. This work is a compend of theology, and is Isidore’s most important production in this class. Its influence has been incalculable. Innumerable copies were made of it during the Middle Age, and it led to the preparation of similar works, e.g., Peter Lombard’s Sentences. 3. Synonyms, in two books; the first is a dialogue between sinful and despairing Man and Reason (or the Logos), who consoles him, rescues him from despair, shows him that sin is the cause of his misery, and sets him on the heavenly way. The second is a discourse by Reason upon vices and their opposite virtues.

4. The Order of Creation. It treats of the Trinity, the creation, the devil and demons, paradise, fallen man, purgatory, and the future life.

III. Ecclesiastic and monastic. 1. The Ecclesiastical Offices, i.e., the old Spanish liturgy. It is dedicated to his brother Fulgentius, and is in two books, for the most part original. The first is called “the origin of the offices,” and treats of choirs, psalms, hymns and other topics in ecclesiastical archaeology. Under the head “sacrifice” Isidore expresses his view of the Lord’s Supper, which is substantially that “Body and Blood” denote the consecrated elements, but not that these are identical with the Body and Blood of our Lord. The second book, “the origin of the ministry,” treats of the different clerical grades; also of monks, penitents, virgins, widows, the married, catechumens, the rule of faith, baptism, chrism, laying on of hands and confirmation. 2. A Monastic Rule. It was designed for Spanish monasteries, drawn from old sources, and resembles the Benedictine, with which, however, it is not identical. It throws much light upon the contemporary Spanish monasticism, as it discusses the situation of the monastery, the choice of the abbot, the monks, their duties, meals, festivals, fasts, dress, punishment, sickness and death. It recalls the somewhat similar Institutes of Cassiodorus already mentioned.

IV. Educational and philosophical. 1. Twenty books of Etymologies. This is his greatest work, and considering its date truly an astonishing work. Caspar Barth’s list of the one hundred and fifty-four authors quoted in it shows Isidore’s wide reading. Along with many Christian writers are the following classic authors: Aesop, Anacreon, Apuleius, Aristotle, Boëthius, Caesar, Cato, Catullus, Celsus, Cicero, Demosthenes, Ennius, Herodotus, Hesiod, Homer, Horace, Juvenal, Livy, Lucan, Lucretius, Martial, Ovid, Persius, Pindar, Plato, Plautus, Pliny, Quintilian, Sallust, Suetonius, Terence, Varro, Virgil. It is a concise encyclopedia of universal learning, embracing the seven liberal arts (grammar, rhetoric, dialectics, arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy), and medicine, law, chronology, angelology, mineralogy, architecture, agriculture and many other topics. Although much of his information is erroneous, and the tenth book, that of Etymology proper, is full of absurdities, the work as a whole is worthy of high praise. It was authoritative throughout Europe for centuries and repeatedly copied and printed. Rabanus Maurus drew largely upon it for his De Universo. 2. The Differences, or the proper signification of terms, in two books. The first treats of the differences of words. It is a dictionary of synonyms and of words which sound somewhat alike, arranged alphabetically. The second book treats of the differences of things, and is a dictionary of theology, brief yet comprehensive. 3. On the Nature of Things, in forty-eight chapters, dedicated to King Sisebut (612-620), who had given him the subject. It is a sort of natural philosophy, treating of the divisions of time, the heavens and the earth and the waters under the earth. It also has illustrative diagrams. Like Isidore’s other works it is a skilful compilation from patristic and profane authors, and was extremely popular in the Middle Age.

V. Historical. 1. A Chronicle, containing the principal events in the world from the creation to 616. It is divided into six periods or ages, corresponding to the six days of creation, a division plainly borrowed from Augustin. Its sources are Julius Africanus, Eusebius, Jerome, and Victor of Tunnena. 2. History of the Goths, Vandals and Suevi, brought down to 61. A work which, like Gregory of Tours’ History of the Franks, is the only source for certain periods. It has been remarked that Isidore, like Cassiodorus, in spite of his Roman origin, had a high regard for the Goths. 3. Famous Men a continuation of Gennadius’ appendix to Jerome’s work with the same title. It sketches forty-six authors, beginning with Bishop Hosius of Cordova, and extending to the beginning of the seventh century.

VI. Miscellaneous. Under this head come thirteen brief Letters and minor works of doubtful genuineness. There are also numerous spurious works which bear his name, among which are hymns.


156. The Venerable Bede (Baeda)

I. Venerabilis Baeda: Opera omnia, in Migne, Tom. XC.-XCV., substantially a reprint of Dr. J. A. Giles’ edition. London, 1843-1844, 12 vols. His Ecclesiastical History (Historica ecclesiastica) has been often edited, e.g. by John Smith, Cambridge, 1722; Joseph Stevenson, London, 1838, and in the Monumenta historica Britannica I. 1848; George H. Moberley, Oxford, 1869; Alfred Holder, Freiburg im Breisgau, 1882. Books III.-V. 24 were separately ed. by John E. B. Mayor and John R. Lumby, Cambridge, 1878. The best known English translation of the History is Dr. Giles’ in his edition, and since 1844 in Bohn’s Antiquarian Library. His scientific writings are contained in Thomas Wright: Popular Treatises on Science written during the Middle Ages. London, 1841. Marshall translated his Explanation of the Apocalypse, London, 1878. For further bibliographical information regarding the editions of Bede’s History, see Giles’ ed. ii. 5-8.

II. Biographies are contained in the above-mentioned editions. Hist. V. 24, and the letter on his death by Cuthbert (Giles’ trans. in Bohn, pp. xviii.-xxi.) are the best original sources. The old Vitae given in the complete editions are almost worthless. Modern works are Henrik Gehle: Disputatio historico-theologica de Bedae venerabilis presbyteri Anglo-Saxonis vita et scriptis. Leyden, 1838. Carl Schoell: De ecclesiasticae Britonum Scotorumque historiae fontibus. Berlin, 1851. Karl Werner: Beda der Ehrwürdige und seine Zeit. Wien, 1875. 2d ed. (unchanged), 1881. Geo. F. Browne: The Venerable Bede. London, 1879. Cf. Du Pin, VI. 89-91. Cave, II. 241-245. Ceillier, XII. 1-19. Clarke, II. 426-429. Bähr, IV. 175-178, 292-298. Ebert, I. 595-611.

The Venerable Bede (properly Baeda) is never spoken of without affectionate interest, and yet so uneventful was his useful life that very little can be said about him personally. He was born in 673, probably in the village of Jarrow, on the south bank of the Tyne, Northumbria, near the Scottish border. At the age of seven, being probably an orphan, he was placed in the monastery of St. Peter, at Wearmouth, on the north bank of the Wear, which had been founded by Benedict Biscop in 674. In 682 he was transferred to the newly-founded sister monastery of St. Paul, five miles off, at Jarrow. He is not known ever to have gone away from it farther than to the sister monastery and to visit friends in contiguous places, such as York. The stories of his visit to Rome and professorship at Cambridge scarcely deserve mention. His first teacher was Benedict Biscop, a nobleman who at twenty-five became a monk and freely put his property and his learning at the public service. Biscop traveled five times to Rome and each time returned, like Ethelbert and Alcuin subsequently, laden with rich literary spoils and also with pictures and relics. Thus the library at Wearmouth became the largest and best appointed in England at the time. It was Biscop’s enterprise and liberality which rendered it possible that Bede’s natural taste for learning should receive such careful culture. So amid the wealth of books he acquired Latin, Greek and Hebrew, and laid up a rich store of multifarious knowledge. Such was his character and attainments that at nineteen, six years before the then canonical age, he was ordained deacon, and at thirty a priest. He thus describes his mode of life: “All the remaining time of my life [i.e., after leaving Wearmouth] I spent in that monastery [of Jarrow], wholly applying myself to the study of Scripture, and amidst observance of regular discipline and the daily care of singing in the church. I always took delight in learning, teaching and writing.” He declined to be abbot because the office, as he said, demands close attention, and therefore cares come which impede the pursuit of learning. As it was, the “pursuit of learning” took up only a portion of his time, for the necessary duties of a monk were many, and such a man as Bede would be frequently required to preach. It appears that he published nothing before he was thirty years old, for he says himself: “From which time [i.e., of his taking priest’s orders] till the fifty-ninth year of my age, I have made it my business, for the use of me and mine, to compile out of the works of the venerable Fathers, and to interpret and explain according to their meaning these following pieces.” Then follows his list of his works. The result of such study and writing was that Bede became the most learned man of his time, and also the greatest of its authors. Yet he was also one of the humblest and simplest of men.

He died on Wednesday, May 26, 735, of a complaint accompanied with asthma, from which he had long suffered. The circumstances of his death are related by his pupil Cuthbert. During Lent of the year 735 Bede carried on the translation of the Gospel of John and “some collections out of the Book of Notes” of Archbishop Isidore of Seville. The day before he died he spent in dictating his translations, saying now and then, “Go on quickly, I know not how long I shall hold out, and whether my Maker will not soon take me away.” He progressed so far with his rendering of John’s Gospel that at the third hour on Wednesday morning only one chapter remained to be done. On being told this he said, “Take your pen, and make ready, and write fast.” The scribe did so, but at the ninth hour Bede said to Cuthbert, “I have some little articles of value in my chest, such as pepper, napkins and incense: run quickly, and bring the priests of our monastery to me, that I may distribute among them the gifts which God has bestowed on me. The rich in this world are bent on giving gold and silver and other precious things. But I, in charity, will joyfully give my brothers what God has given unto me.” He spoke to every one of them, admonishing and entreating them that they would carefully say masses and prayers for him, which they readily promised; but they all mourned and wept, especially because he said, “they should no more see his face in this world.” They rejoiced for that he said, “It is time that I return to Him who formed me out of nothing: I have lived long; my merciful Judge well foresaw my life for me; the time of my dissolution draws nigh; for I desire to die and to be with Christ.” Having said much more, he passed the day joyfully till the evening, and the boy [i.e., his scribe] said, “Dear master, there is yet one sentence not written.” He answered, “Write quickly.” Soon after the boy said, “It is ended.” He replied, “It is well, you have said the truth. It is ended. Receive my head into your hands, for it is a great satisfaction to me to sit facing my holy place, where I was wont to pray, that I may also sitting call upon my Father.” And thus on the pavement of his little cell, singing, “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost,” when he had named the Holy Ghost, he breathed his last, and so departed to the heavenly kingdom.”

Bede’s body was buried in the church at Jarrow, but between 1021 and 1042 it was stolen and removed to Durham by Elfred, a priest of its cathedral, who put it in the same chest with the body of St. Cuthbert. In 1104 the bodies were separated, and in 1154 the relics of Bede were placed in a shrine of gold and silver, adorned with jewels. This shrine was destroyed by an ignorant mob in Henry VIII’s time (1541), and only a monkish inscription remains to chronicle the fact that Bede was ever buried there.

The epithet, “Venerable,” now so commonly applied to Bede, is used by him to denote a holy man who had not been canonized, and had no more reference to age than the same name applied to-day to an archdeacon in the Church of England. By his contemporaries he was called either Presbyter or Dominus. He is first called the Venerable in the middle of the tenth century.

Bede’s Writings are very numerous, and attest the width and profundity of his learning, and also the independence and soundness of his judgment. “Having centred in himself and his writings nearly all the knowledge of his day, he was enabled before his death, by promoting the foundation of the school of York, to kindle the flame of learning in the West at the moment that it seemed both in Ireland and in France to be expiring. The school of York transmitted to Alcuin the learning of Bede, and opened the way for culture on the continent, when England under the terrors of the Danes was relapsing into barbarism.” His fame, if we may judge from the demand for his works immediately after his death, extended wherever the English missionaries or negotiators found their way.”

Bede himself, perhaps in imitation of Gregory of Tours, gives a list of his works at the conclusion of his History. There are few data to tell when any one of them was composed. The probable dates are given in the following general account and enumeration of his genuine writings. Very many other, writings have been attributed to him.

I. Educational treatises. (a) On orthography (about 700). The words are divided alphabetically. (b) On prosody (702). (c) On the Biblical figures and tropes. (d) On the nature of things (702), a treatise upon natural philosophy. (e) On the times (702). (f) On the order of times (702). (g) On the computation of time (726). (h) On the celebration of Easter. (i) On thunder.

II. Expository works. These are compilations from the Fathers, which originally were carefully assigned by marginal notes to their proper source, but the notes have been obliterated in the course of frequent copying. He wrote either on the whole or a part of the Pentateuch, Samuel, Kings, Ezra, Nehemiah, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Canticles, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, the Twelve Minor Prophets, Tobit, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Catholic Epistles and the Apocalypse. His comments are of course made upon the Latin Bible, but his scholarship comes out in the frequent correction and emendation of the Latin text by reference to the original. The most frequent subject of remark is the want of an article in the Latin, which gave rise to frequent ambiguity. Throughout he shows himself a careful textual student.

III. Homilies. These are mostly doctrinal and objective. The fact that they were delivered to a monastic audience explains their infrequent allusion to current events or to daily life. They are calm and careful expositions of passages of Scripture rather than compact or stirring sermons.

IV. Poetry. Most of the poetry attributed to him is spurious. But a few pieces are genuine, such as the hymn in his History upon Virginity, in honor of Etheldrida, the virgin wife of King Egfrid; the metrical version of the life of Saint Cuthbert and of the Passion of Justin Martyr, and some other pieces. The Book of Hymns, of which he speaks in his own list of his writings, is apparently lost.

V. Epistles. These are sixteen in number. The second, addressed to the Archbishop Egbert of York, is the most interesting. It dates from 734, and gives a word-picture of the time which shows how bad it was. Even the archbishop himself comes in for faithful rebuke. Bede had already made him one visit and expected to make him another, but being prevented wrote to him what he desired to tell him by word of mouth. The chief topics of the letter are the avarice of the bishops and the disorders of the religious houses. After dwelling upon these and kindred topics at considerable length, Bede concludes by saying that if he had treated drunkenness, gluttony, luxury and other contagious diseases of the body politic his letter would have been immoderately long. The third letter, addressed to the abbot of Plegwin, is upon the Six Ages of the World. Most of the remainder are dedicatory.

VI. Hagiographies. (a) Lives of the five holy abbots of Wearmouth and Jarrow, Benedict, Ceolfrid, Easterwine, Sigfrid and Huetberct. The work is divided into two books, of which the first relates to Benedict. (b) The prose version of the Life of St. Cuthbert of Lindisfarne. The poetical version already spoken of, is earlier in time and different in character in as much as it dwells more upon Cuthbert’s miracles. The prose version has for its principal source an older life of Cuthbert still extant, and relates many facts along with evident fictions. Great pains were bestowed upon it and it was even submitted for criticism, prior to publication, to the monks of Lindisfarne. (c) The life of Felix of Nola, Confessor, a prose version of the life already written by Paulinus of Nola. (d) Martyrology. It is drawn from old Roman sources, and shows at once the learning and the simplicity of its author.

VII. Ecclesiastical History of England. This is Bede’s great work. Begun at the request of King Ceolwulf, it was his occupation for many years, and was only finished a short time before his death. It consists of five books and tells in a simple, clear style the history of England from the earliest times down to 731. The first twenty-two chapters of the first book are compiled from Orosius and Gildas, but from the mission of Augustin in the 23d chapter (a.d. 596) it rests upon original investigation. Bede took great pains to ensure accuracy, and he gives the names of all persons who were helpful to him. The History is thus the chief and in many respects the only source for the church history of England down to the eighth century. In it as in his other books Bede relates a great many strange things; but he is careful to give his authorities for each statement. It is quite evident, however, that he believed in these “miracles,” many of which are susceptible of rational explanation. It is from this modest, simple, conscientious History that multitudes have learned to love the Venerable Bede.


157. Paul the Deacon

I. Paulus Winfridus Diaconus: Opera omnia in Migne, Tom. XCV., col. 413-1710. Editions of Paul’s separate works: Historia Langobardorum in: Monumenta Germanicae historica. Scriptores rerum langobardorum et italicarum. Saec. VI.-IX. edd. L. Bethmann et G. Waitz, Hannover, 1878, pp. 45-187. Historia romano in: Monum. Germ. Hist. auctor. antiquissimor. Tom. II. ed. H. Droysen, Berlin, 1879. Gesta episcoporum Mettensium in: Mon. Germ. Hist. Script. Tom. II. ed. Pertz, pp. 260-270. Homiliae in: Martène et Durand, Veterum scriptorum collectio, Paris, 1733, Tom. IX. Carmina (both his and Peter’s) in: Poetae latini aevi Carolini, ed. E. Dümmler, Berlin, 1880, I. 1. pp 27-86. Translations: Die Langobardengeschichte, übertsetzt Von Karl von Spruner, Hamburg, 1838; Paulus Diaconus und die übrigen Geschichtschreiber der Langobarden, übersetzt von Otto Abel, Berlin, 1849.

II. Felix Dahn: Paulus Diaconus. I. Abtheilung, Leipzig, 1876. Each of the above mentioned editions contains an elaborate introduction in which the life and works of Paul are discussed, e.g. Waitz ed. Hist. pp. 12-45. For further investigations see Bethmann: Paulus Diaconus’ Leben und Schriften, and Die Geschichtschreibung der Langobarden, both in Pertz’s “Archiv der Gesellsch. für aeltere deutsche Geschichtskunde.” Bd. X. Hannover, 1851; Bauch: Ueber die historia romana des Paulus Diaconus, eine Quellenuntersuchung, Göttingen, 1873; R. Jacobi: Die Quellen der Langobardengeschichte des Paulus Diaconus, Halle, 1877; and Mommsen: Die Quellen der Langobardengeschichte des Paulus Diaconus in: Neues Archiv der Gesellsch. für ältere Geschichtskunde, Bd. V. pp. 51 sqq. Du Pin, VI. 115-116. Ceillier, XII. l141-148. Ebert, II. 36-56.

Paul the Deacon (Paulus Diaconus), the historian of the Lombards, was the son of Warnefrid and Theudelinda. Hence he is frequently called Paul Warnefrid. He was descended from a noble Lombard family and was born in Forum Julii (Friuli, Northern Italy), probably between 720 and 725. His education was completed at the court of King Liutprand in Pavia. His attainments included a knowledge of Greek, rare in that age. Under the influence of Ratchis, Liutprand’s successor (744-749), he entered the church and became a deacon. King Desiderius (756-774) made him his chancellor, and entrusted to his instruction his daughter Adelperga, the wife of Arichis, duke of Benevento. In 774 the Lombard kingdom fell, and Paul after residing for a time at the duke’s court entered the Benedictine monastery of Monte Cassino. There he contentedly lived until fraternal love led him to leave his beloved abode. In 776 his brother, Arichis, having probably participated in Hruodgaud’s rebellion, was taken prisoner by Charlemagne, carried into France, and the family estates were confiscated. This brought the entire family to beggary.

Paul sought Charlemagne; in a touching little poem of twenty-eight lines, probably written in Gaul in 782, he set the pitiful case before him and implored the great king’s clemency.

He did not plead in vain. He would then at once have returned to Monte Cassino, but Charlemagne, always anxious to retain in his immediate service learned and brilliant men, did not allow him to go. He was employed as court poet, teacher of Greek, and scribe, and thus exerted great influence. His heart was, however, in his monastery, and in 787 he is found there. The remainder of his life was busily employed in literary labors. He died, April 13, probably in the year 800, with an unfinished work, the history of the Lombards, upon his hands.

Paul was a Christian scholar, gentle, loving, and beloved; ever learning and disseminating learning. Although not a great man, he was a most useful one, and his homilies and histories of the Lombards are deservedly held in high esteem.

His Works embrace histories, homilies, letters, and poems.

I. Histories. (1) Chief in importance is the History of the Lombards. It is divided into six books, and carries the history of the Lombards from their rise in Scandinavia down to the death of Liutprand in 744. It was evidently Paul’s intention to continue and revise the work, for it has no preface or proper conclusion; moreover, it has manifest slips in writing, which would have been corrected by a final reading. It is therefore likely that he died before its completion. It is not a model of historical composition, being discursive, indefinite as to chronology, largely a compilation from known and unknown sources, full of legendary and irrelevant matter. Nevertheless it is on the whole well arranged and exhibits a love of truth, independence and impartiality. Though a patriot, Paul was not a partisan. He can see some good even in his hereditary foes. The popularity of the History in the Middle Age is attested by the appearance of more than fifteen editions of it and of ten continuations.

(2) Some scholars consider the History of the Lombards the continuation of Paul’s Roman History, which he compiled (c. 770) for Adelperga from Eutropius (Breviarum historiae Romanae); Jerome, Orosius (Historia adversus Paganos), Aurelius Victor (De Caesaribus historia), Jordanis (De breviatione chronicorum), Prosper (Chronicon), Bede and others. The Historia is in sixteen books, of which the first ten are mere excerpts of Eutropius, with insertions from other sources. The last six carry the history from Valens, where Eutropius ends, down to Justinian. The plan of these latter books is the same as that of the former: some author is excerpted, and in the excerpts are inserted extracts from other writers. The History is worthless to us, but in the Middle Age it was extremely popular. To the sixteen books of Paul’s were added eight from the Church History of Anastasius Bibliothecarius, and the whole called Historia Miscella, and to it Landulph Sagax wrote an appendix, which brings the work down to 813.

Besides these histories several other briefer works in the same line have come down to us.

(3) Life of St. Gregory the Great, a compilation from Bede’s Church History of England, and Gregory’s own works.

(4) A short History of the bishopric of Metz. It was written about 784, at the request of Angilram, bishop of Metz. It is in good part only a list of names. In order to please Charlemagne, Paul inserted irrelevantly a section upon that monarch’s ancestry.

II. Homilies. A collection made by request of Charlemagne, and which for ten centuries was in use in the Roman Church. It is in three series. 1. Homilies upon festivals, two hundred and two in number, all from the Fathers. 2. Homilies upon saints’ days, ninety-six in number. 3. Homilies, five in number. Many of the second series and all of the last appear to be original.

III. Letters, four in number, two to Charlemagne, one each to Adalhard, abbot of Corbie, in France, and to the abbot Theudemar.

IV. Poems, including epitaphs. From the first stanza of De Sancto Joanne Baptista, Guido of Arezzo took the names of the musical notes.