To e-Laborate homepage   Login   Huygens Instituut
English > Carolingian scholarship and Martianus Capella >


Show printer-friendly view Print View          
In Carolingian Europe a cultural revival took place that was inspired and promoted by its leaders. Charlemagne and his successors (especially Louis the Pious and Charles the Bald) actively promoted education and the pursuit of knowledge at their courts, and the royal palace was a place where monarch and masters engaged in conversations on a range of theological subjects. Secular subjects were treated in a similar manner.
One of the texts that was read with enthusiasm by ninth-century scholars is Martianus Capella's De nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii, a late-ancient encyclopaedia of the seven liberal arts, introduced in the mythological frame-work of the marriage between Philology (learning) and Mercury (eloquence). A large and unidentified corpus of glosses, dated roughly to around 830, testifies to its popularity in the ninth century. A wide range of secular subjects - mythology, the movement of the heavens, numerical speculation, the ancient tradition on each of the seven liberal arts - is treated in this text. The manuscript tradition of text and glosses strongly suggests that it was one of the texts that received this much attention because of the flowering of intellectual culture at the Carolingian court. The main manuscripts were probably written and kept in the large monastic libraries which were under royal protection. Furthermore, the content of the oldest gloss tradition suggests that it was not the work of a single author, but rather a collective work of a group of authors, who discussed the text amongst themselves and debated over the best interpretation of certain passages, or the best reading of certain enigmatic phrases. The glosses frequently adopt a researching tone, pointing outwards towards other texts on related subjects, rather than adopting a master's voice, teaching the text to a group of students. The teaching voice only creeps in, I suggested, with the cumulative commentary attributed to Remigius of Auxerre, written several decades later around the turn of the ninth century.

The aim of this project has been to produce a complete edition of the commentary, by involving several specialists who each took care of a part of it. The commentary to books I and II, the books in which the narrative of the marriage is told, have been edited by Dr. S. O'Sullivan (Queen's University Belfast, Ireland). The glosses added to book III, Grammatica by myself, with the help of Drs. Iris Savelkouls and Prof.dr. A.P. Orbán (emeritus from the University of Utrecht, NL). For the glosses of Book IV, Dialectica, Dr. M. Garrison (University of York, UK) and I worked together on a first transcription, and Drs. Thomas Brouwer (University of Leiden, NL), corrected and emended our work. Book V, Rhetorica, is the collective work of Dr. M. Garrison (University of York, UK), myself and Aleksander Sroczynski (research master student at the University of Utrecht). The commentaries on the quadrivial books were in the capable hands of Prof.dr. N. Lozovsky (independent scholar, currently at the University of California, Berkeley, Office for History of Science and Technology, USA), Geometria; Prof.dr. B.S. Eastwood (emeritus from the University of Kentucky, USA), Astronomia; and me, Mathematica and Harmonia (Musica). In the case of Mathematica Prof.dr. J.-Y. Guillaumin (Université de Franche-Comté, FR) has acted as corrector and supervisor.

Moreover, the commentary tradition has been used to address several larger issues of ninth-century intellectual life: the questions of its author(s); its intended audience; its intellectual context; the spread of sets of glosses throughout the Carolingian realms, etc. These overarching questions have lead to a series of publications, and most importantly to a volume: Carolingian Scholarship and Martianus Capella: Ninth-Century Commentary Traditions on 'De nuptiis' in Context, eds. Mariken Teeuwen and Sinead O'Sullivan, Cultural Encounters in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages (CELAMA) 12 (Turnhout: Brepols, in the press).

Last modified: 14-04-2011 15:49