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.
anyone over the age of forty from speaking for the first ten minutes after the end of a paper. There were some painful silences. Given the high level of intellectual exchange and the concentration of like-minded scholars around the Institute at this time, one can see why the prospect of leaving London seemed so unappealing. Janet Nelson’s concern with how ideology, ritual and political thought might be
military culture of Rome was less important. 9 In the medieval period peace was intrinsically linked to Christianity. 10 St Augustine was the central authority on ideas of peace as expressed through his Civitas Dei , and his notion of peace strongly influenced medieval political thought and the image of the peacemaking king. 11 Christ was
differentiates him from many of his contemporaries, who used the classics only to add rhetorical flourishes to their works or as a source of illustrative anecdotes. John also employed these techniques, but went beyond them, engaging fully with the philosophical ideas the texts contained. His incorporation of key concepts from Stoicism places him at the apogee of the Roman Renaissance of the twelfth century, a revival that was, in part, crafted by his pen. John’s writings, however, must be seen within the context of their production; his political thought is best understood
, namely what I will term the ‘Roman Renaissance’ of the twelfth century. It offers a thorough contextualisation of John’s political thought, while, by extension, demonstrating the way in which Roman classical philosophy, particularly the works of Cicero and Seneca, shaped philosophical theorising in the Middle Ages. In so doing, it aims to demonstrate how John’s work epitomised many of the trends now seen as characteristic of the transformation of the twelfth-century educational environment. As an Englishman who travelled abroad to the schools of Paris, he was part of a
irrational – the hallmark of the tyrant – the body politic will be corrupted. Tyranny and irrationality are combatted by the emphasis John places on virtue and by his recommendations for moderate rulership, aspects of his political thought that shall be examined in the next two chapters. Notes 1 C. Walker Bynum, ‘Why All the Fuss about the Body? A Medievalist’s Perspective’, Critical Enquiry , 22 (1995), 1–31 (8). On John’s model see T. Struve, ‘The Importance of the Organism in the Political Theory
distinction between the books centres on their treatment of lordship. Lordship is at the centre of Abels’ discussions both of the social structures of Wessex and of Alfred’s political thought. 2 In contrast, lordship occupies a far more peripheral role in Nelson’s book. Does this different treatment of similar social structures simply reflect divergent historiographical traditions or is it more significant? In
in constant dialogue with Christian sources, but also interacted with each other. The fact that many of John’s readings of the classics were filtered through those of his patristic forebears has significant implications for the ways in which he read and used his texts, and, as we shall see, is highly influential on his hybrid approach to political thought. Notes 1 M. Camille, The Gothic Idol: Ideology and Image-Making in Medieval Art (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), p. 74
Papacy’, in Burns (ed.), Cambridge History of Medieval Political Thought , pp. 252–305 (pp. 288–9). For later interpretations of the ‘Gelasian sentence’ see pp. 289–300. 4 Gregory VII’s reformulation of the Gelasian sentence (1081) read: ‘that the priests of Christ are to be considered the fathers and masters of kings and princes and of all the faithful’; quoted in Robinson, ‘Church and Papacy’, p. 299. This version was incorporated into canon law and is referred to in Distinctio 96 of Gratian’s Decretum . 5 For
the way some less frequently encountered presences in ninth-century Western political thought: Xerxes, Leonidas, Alexander the Great. 49 In addition to Bede Sedulius deployed lessons drawn from the Scriptores Historiae Augustae , Orosius and the Historia Tripartita ascribed to Cassiodorus. 50 Structurally, the Liber ’s prosimetric form betrays Boethius’ influence, as does Sedulius’ use