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.
military culture of Rome was less
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 politicalthought 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 politicalthought is best understood
, namely what I will term the ‘Roman Renaissance’ of the twelfth century. It offers a thorough contextualisation of John’s politicalthought, 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 politicalthought that shall be examined in the next two chapters.
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
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 politicalthought.
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 PoliticalThought , 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 .
society. However, for pre-modern political systems a further index of success was the degree to which they allowed their citizenry to lead as virtuous a life as possible. In a pre-modern political system the questions ‘what ought I do?’ and ‘what is the virtuous thing to do?’ theoretically have identical answers, making the exercise of the virtues intrinsic to political action. This impetus to align normative and virtuous codes can be seen in action in what can be termed the ethical components of John’s politicalthought. This chapter will look, first, at John
ground within the
walter de lacy
wider context of western European politicalthought or action, but it was
a watershed in English politics.20 The young King Henry III had been
commended into the safekeeping of his father’s most trusted magnates
and the legate, and they had immediately taken steps to limit his rule and
deprive him of the form of kingship that his grandfather, uncle and father
Winning the war: 1216–17
The royalist barons of the regency council may have wielded considerable
power in their redefinition of English kingship that autumn
.), Politics, Gender, and Genre: The PoliticalThought of Christine de Pizan (Boulder: Westview, 1992), pp. 33–52.
88 Forhan, ‘Polycracy, Obligation and Revolt’, pp. 34–5. On how the emphasis on social reciprocity in body metaphors facilitated the legitimation of social inequality see S. Rigby, ‘Justifying Inequality: Peasants in Medieval Ideology’, in M. Kowaleski, J. Langdon and P. R. Schofield (eds), Peasants and Lords in the Medieval English Economy: Essays in Honour of Bruce M. S. Campbell (Turnhout: Brepols, 2015), pp. 173–97 (pp. 184–9).