John of Salisbury (c. 1120–80) is a key figure of the twelfth-century renaissance. A student at the cosmopolitan schools of medieval Paris, an associate of Thomas Becket and an acute commentator on society and rulership, his works and letters give unique insights into the political culture of this period. This volume reassesses the influence of classical sources on John’s political writings, investigating how he accessed and used the ideas of his ancient predecessors. By looking at his quotations from and allusions to classical works, O’Daly shows that John not only borrowed the vocabulary of his classical forbears, but explicitly aligned himself with their philosophical positions. She illustrates John’s profound debt to Roman Stoicism, derived from the writings of Seneca and Cicero, and shows how he made Stoic theories on duties, virtuous rulership and moderation relevant to the medieval context. She also examines how John’s classical learning was filtered through patristic sources, arguing that this led to a unique synthesis between his political and theological views. The book places famous elements of John’s political theory - such as his model of the body-politic, his views on tyranny - in the context of the intellectual foment of the classical revival and the dramatic social changes afoot in Europe in the twelfth century. In so doing, it offers students and researchers of this period a novel investigation of how Stoicism comprises a ‘third way’ for medieval political philosophy, interacting with – and at times dominating – neo-Platonism and proto-Aristotelianism.
This chapter opens with an investigation of John’s impression of the material inheritance of ancient Rome. It examines how John would have accessed Roman writings, looking in particular at his means of access to sources in the library of Canterbury cathedral. It looks in depth at John’s use of the works of Cicero and Seneca, establishing the texts to which he had access at the point of composition of his major works. Finally, it introduces the role played by patristic writers in the transmission of classical texts to the Middle Ages, focusing particularly on the works of Augustine, Lactantius, Gregory and Ambrose.
This chapter opens with a treatment of two of the cardinal virtues - fortitude and justice - virtues which have particular relevance for the prince. It suggests that, just as the good prince is obliged to be virtuous, so the tyrant is defined by his lack of respect for the virtues and moderation. It investigates John’s account of tyranny in detail, looking at his grounds for validating tyrannicide. It situates John’s political theories in their context of production by looking his presentation of three contemporary political events - the reign of King Stephen, the activities of Frederick Barbarossa, and the exile and subsequent murder of Thomas Becket.
This chapter looks at a fundamental aspect of John’s recommendations for life in the political sphere, namely the role played by moderation - a moderation that is heavily influenced by Roman Stoic theory. It introduces the question of the appropriate goal for life in the polity, suggesting that John requires the ruler of the polity, but also all of its members, to live in accordance with virtue. It examines the presentation of the virtues in John’s work, looking in particular at prudence and temperance, with a particular focus on John’s critique of avarice and recommendation of frugal living.
This chapter takes an indepth look at John’s famous metaphor of the body politic. After comparing his model to those of his contemporaries, it notes that John takes the metaphor a step further by exploiting its physiology to suit his political theory. It looks in detail at John’s alleged letter from Plutarch to Trajan, examining the offices of the polity in turn. It looks first at internal, decision-making, offices of the body politic, then at it external, active, offices, before turning to the contested relationship between the prince and priesthood, its head and its soul.
This chapter brings the question of appropriate duties to the fore, looking at their implications for life in the polity. It introduces the concept of oikeiosis, illustrating how it was a fundamental aspect of the works of the Roman Stoics that ensured the performance of reciprocal duties throughout the polity. It argues that John’s account of political relationships was influenced by this concept, suggesting that he transformed aspects of it to suit a Christian model of ethics. It introduces the metaphor of the body politic, with particular reference to its Ciceronian roots, and argues that it demonstrates reciprocal political relationships in action.
This chapter discusses the significance of the term natura in John’s works and the notion of ‘living in accordance with nature’ - a guideline borrowed from the works of Cicero. It compares John’s views to those of his contemporaries, illustrating how he transformed the Ciceronian trope into one that had direct application in a Christian context. It examines the role played by reason in this transformation, and looks particularly at the example of intention to illustrate how the interior character of the individual was the principal factor in determining the worth of an act.
This chapter provides an introduction to the life and works of John of Salisbury, as well as an overview of existing scholarship on this key figure of the twelfth-century Renaissance. It presents the method of the study, namely to look at John of Salisbury’s writings in the context in which they were produced, as well as introducing the principal argument of the monograph - that John’s works were influenced by Roman Stoic writing to a degree that has thus far been underestimated. It concludes by investigating annotations appended to early examples of John’s Policraticus, suggesting they provide an insight into how the text was first read.