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Isidore of Seville and the Evolution of Kingship in Visigothic Spain

Isidore of Seville and the Evolution of Kingship in Visigothic Spain

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Isidore f Seville and the Evolution f Kingship in Visigothic pain
Jace T. Crouch
After their conversion to Catholicism n 589, the Visigothic ings f Spain began ncreasingly o rely n the support f the Spanish hurch. he monarchs themselves eeded n ally gainst he turbulent nd rebellious othic nobility. The Spanish bishops, or heir art, were willing o collaborate ith Visigothic monarchs n a level hat had no parallel n western urope. 3 he church ventu- ally onstituted uch n important lement f he political nfrastructure hat Visi- gothic pain became virtual yarchy. he efforts f these panish bishops lti- mately ransformed he heoretical asis of the Visigothic ingship rom hat f a
*For the early volution of Germanic kingship see E. A. Thompson, The Visigoths n the Time of Ulfila Oxford: Oxford University ress, 1966); E. A. Thompson, Romans nd Barbarians: he Decline of the Western mpire Madison: University f Wisconsin Press, 1982), 38-57. See also: R. W. Carlyle, A History f Medieval Political Thought n the West, 4th ed. (New York: Barnes & Noble, 1950), vol. 1; W. Ullmann, The Carolingian Renaissance nd the dea of Kingship London: Methuen, 1969); W. Ull- mann, A History f Political hought n the Middle Ages Baltimore: Penguin, 1970). On the Visigothic realm, see E. A. Thompson, The Goths n Spain (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1969). For a recent and comprehensive bibliography, ee A. Ferreiro, The Visigoths n Gaul and Spain: A Bibliography Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1988). See also Roger Collins, Early Medieval Spain: Unity n Diversity, 00-1000 (New York: Macmillan, 1983), 1-145; H. J. Diesner, Isidor von Sevilla und das West- gotische panien Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1977); Jacques Fontaine, Culture t spiritualité n Espagne du IVe au Vile siècle London: Variorum, 1986); J. N. Hillgarth, Visigothic pain, Byzantium, nd the nsh (London: Variorum, 1985); P. D. King, Law and Society n the Visigothic ingdom Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1972); A. Ziegler, Church nd State n Visigothic pain (Washington, D. C: Catholic University f America Press, 1930). 3Roger Collins, Early Medieval Europe, 00-1000 (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1991), 146. On the emergence f a church-state yarchy n early medieval Europe, see Ullmann, The Carolin- gian Renaissance nd the dea of Kingship, 1-111. This is not a modern concept that scholars mpose on the early Middle Ages; Isidore of Seville describes what is effectively dyarchy hen he writes: often the heavenly kingdom s advanced through he earthly kingdom, uch as when those within the Church Iwho] behave contrary o the faith nd discipline of the Church are subdued by the strength f princes, and the punishment which the Church in its humility s not permitted o exercise s then imposed on the obstinacy of the proud by the power of princes, Sententiae .51.5, ed. Garcia Loaisae; Patrologia Latina Cursus Completus 3.557-738 (Paris: J. P. Migne, 1862), hereafter ited as PL vol. no., col. no. Unless otherwise noted, all translations f Isidore are my own.
10 Mediterranean tudies Volume our Germanic ar eader nto Christianized Davidic kingship here he monarchy worked losely with he ecclesiastical ierarchy o create nd preserve n earthly society n which he ure f ouls was facilitated. ne of he principal articipants in this process f hurch-state malgamation as Bishop sidore f Seville. Isidore d. 636) served s bishop f Seville during he years 599-636 and was recognized y Visigothic ings nd churchmen like s the greatest ntellectual and spiritual uthority f his day. Isidore was one of the prime movers f the above-mentioned ntellectual nd political evelopments n Visigothic pain. He served catalytic unction n the realm, onfirming rior panish olitico-religious developments hrough is theological nd historical ritings, dvising he Visi- gothic ings s to the proper ole f Christian overeign, nd through is eader- ship of the Fourth ouncil of Toledo 633) attempting o strengthen he nstitu- tion of monarchy n Hispania both by addressing he specific olitical eeds of Visigothic ings hemselves nd by stablishing n official deology f kingship hat was fully n accord with his own and the church's) eliefs. ltimately sidore's activities ransformed nto he xplicit nd official olitical ogma f he Visigothic kingdom many deas bout he nature f kingship hat had previously xisted nly in nchoate orm, f t all. The present tudy ttempts o demonstrate ot nly what Isidore was trying o accomplish n the political ealm, ut also how sidore was influential n some f he political vents f he arly eventh entury. Most studies n Isidore of Seville tend to concentrate n the ntellectual, philosophical, r theological spects f sidore's ife nd writings ather han on any ttempt sidore might ave made o put his deas nto practice. cholars ave often uggested hat sidore manifested is political nd/or ocial heories hrough activism f one sort r another, ut nly ecently ave cholars egun o delve nto just how nd why sidore might ave nvolved imself n politics nd propaganda;8
The best recent study s Jacques Fontaine, Isidore de Seville et la culture lassique dans l'Espagne wisigothique, d ed., 3 vols. (Paris: Études Augustiniennes, 1983). Recent bibliographies nclude J. N. Hillgarth, The Position of Isidorian Studies: A Critical Review of the literature, 1936-1975, Studi Medievalu er. 3, 24, no. 2 (1983): 817-905, and Ferreiro, sidore, 27-409. Modern scholarship on Isidore of Seville is voluminous. The lumen Hispaniae has been the sub- ject of eleven books and over five hundred articles ince 1 936 alone. Fontaine's sidore emains the most important recent study of Isidore, and the appearance of its first dition in 1959 sparked a veritable renaissance of Isidorian studies. Fontaine has concentrated especially on Isidore's cultivation nd pro- motion of the seven liberal arts in Spain, arguing onvincingly hat Spain experienced a renaissance si- dorienne hroughout he seventh century. J. N. Hillgarth, n the collection Visigothic pain, Byzantium, and the rish, has demonstrated that one result of this Isidorian renaissance was the transmission of both classical and patristic earning to Ireland (via the Breton monasteries f Galicia), whence the writ- ings of Isidore became the foundation of the Northumbrian Renaissance. For his comments on Visig- othic historiography, ee below. The new critical, nternational dition of the Etymologiae s slowly being published, book by book, as each fascicle s completed. Citations in Ferreiro, sidore. 27-409. 7Carlyle, History f Medieval Political Thought :221 f.; Sr. Patrick Mullins, TKe Spiritual ife ccord- ing to Saint Isidore of Seville Wash., D. C: Catholic Univ. of America Press, 1940), 173-78; Ziegler, Church nd State, 95-99. Recent articles by Fontaine, Hillgarth, and Reydellet, ited below, have begun to consider the Isidorean renaissance n a political as well as an intellectual ontext J. du Quincy Adams' The Political
Jace . Crouch: sidore f Seville nd the Evolution f Kingship 1 1 nor have hey xamined n this ontext ny pecific olitical vent n which sidore may have been a major participant. Despite this tendency o deal with sidore almost xclusively s a scholarly leric, t can be argued hat sidore was actively involved n the political vents f the Visigothic ealm hroughout uch f his adult ife. My approach s threefold: irst, o demonstrate hat sidore's writings evince irm olitical onvictions, articularly egarding he nature f kingship nd the duties f Christian uler; secondly, o consider sidore's elationship o sev- eral Visigothic ings; nd finally, o examine he politico-religious vents f the Fourth Council of Toledo 633), wherein he Spanish bishops, ed by sidore, resolved anonically o involve hemselves ctively n the political ffairs f the kingdom, nd wherein he panish hurch stablished he acral ature f kingship in Hispania. Isidore's olitical deas re most learly xpressed n passages f the Sententiae (a short ork oncerned ith Christian morality), he Etymologiae an encyclopedia of acred nd secular earning), nd n the eventy-fifth anon f he Fourth oun- cil of Toledo which ronounces pon the nstitution f kingship nd its sacral nature).11 sidore's Historia othorum s also valuable, roviding hort limpses f his attitudes owards everal Gothic kings. Useful oo are the few urviving et- ters f the period, which nclude sidore's orrespondence nd the etters f si- dore's friend nd student, raulio of Saragossa.14 umismatic vidence s also useful t certain oints, ince he changing ature f the Visigothic ingship ad an impact n Gothic oins.
Grammar of sidore of Seville considers possible implications f Isidore's use of the word populus in a political context, but ultimately oncludes that Isidore's use of populus is too amorphous to have consistently dentifiable olitical content Arts Libéraux t Philosophie u Moyen Age Montréal: Université de Montréal. 1969). 763-75 Thompson, Goths n Spain, 170-79, devotes considerable attention to the Fourth Council of Toledo, and mentions that sidore was highly nfluential t this great council, but he does not examine how Isidore might have been important, r why we think that he influenced the canons of the council. 10Unless otherwise noted, Isidore's works re cited in the edition of Faustino Arevalo, PL 81-83. Although portions of the new international dition of the Etymologiae ave been published, Isidore's remarks n kingship re in book 9, which has not yet ppeared. Similarly, sidore's remarks n kingship in the Sententiae ppear in book 3, for which there s no new edition. nSententiae, d., Garcia Loaisae, PL 83.557-738; Etymologiae, d., Faustino Arevalo, PL 82.74- 728; Concilium Toletanum uartum, PL 84.363-390. 12Mommsen's ritical dition of the Latin text s available n Monumenta Germaniae Histórica, ue· torum Antiquissimorum, omus XI: Chronicorum Minorum aec. IV, V, Ví, Vil. Volumen Π (Berlin: Wei- dman, 1894), 241-303. An English translation s available in History f the Kings of the Goths, Vandals, and SuevL 2d rev. ed.. trans. Guido Donini & Gordon B. Ford, r. Leiden: E. I. Brill, 1970). l3PL 83.893-914. Latin text and English translation in The Letters f Isidore of Seville, 2d ed., trans. Gordon B. Ford, Jr. Amsterdam: Hakkert, 1970). This edition has not gone without criticism. 14Braulio's orrespondence with Isidore is collected in Claude Barlow, Braulio of Saragossa, ructo- sus of Braga, vol. 2 of Iberian Fathers, athers of the Church, vols. 62-63 (Washington, D. C: Catholic University f America Press, 1969), 15-26. 15George C. Miles, The Coinage of the Visigoths f Spain, Leovigild o Achila Π (New York: American Numismatic Society, 1952); Philip Grierson, Visigothic Metrology, Numismatic hronicle, th ser., 13 (1953): 74-87. A recent tudy hat makes excellent se of Visigothic oins is J. N. Hillgarth, Coins and Chronicles: ropaganda n Sixth-Century pain and the Byzantine ackground, istona 15 (1966): 483-50.

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