Edition, with English translation, introduction and commentary, of the Cosmographia attributed to Aethicus Ister
One of the most skilful forgeries of the Middle Ages, the Cosmography of Aethicus Ister has puzzled scholars for over 150 years, not least because of its challenging Latinity. Written at a western centre in the first part of the eighth century, the work purports to be a heavily censored epitome made by St. Jerome of a “cosmography” by an Istrian philosopher named Aethicus. This writer, who is otherwise unknown, describes a flat-earth universe resembling that of Cosmas Indicopleustes, then gives an eye-witness account of his travels to the “isles of the gentiles” in the North and East. There he encounters not only savage races, but also monsters, Amazons, and other figures of mythology. Alexander the Great also figures prominently by immuring the “unclean races,” who will escape to ravage the world at the coming of the Anti-Christ. Not all is fiction. The author’s observations on volcanoes, earthquakes, and tsunamis will interest the scientific reader. The last part deals in coded fashion with contemporary events in the eastern Mediterranean and the Balkans, and may provide a clue to the author’s origins. The present volume offers a new critical text, the first translation, and a detailed commentary covering every aspect of the work.
This book is concerned with the transmission and reception of Latin literary culture in the early Middle Ages, and with the production of Latin works in Ireland and in Irish centres on the Continent. In these articles, Professor Herren deals with several closely related themes: the introduction of Latin into Ireland and the study of Latin literary heritage; the language and metre of Hiberno-Latin writings; and questions of dating and authorship pertaining to a number of crucial texts, from Columbanus to John Scottus Eriugena.
includes: The Hisperica famina, vol. 2, vol. 2
Contributions to journals
The author examines in chronological order the main examples of Latin works generally claimed to be Menippean satires from Roman times (by Varro, Seneca, Petronius) to the Cosmography of Aethicus Ister, written just before the middle of the eighth century C.E. He argues that the satires composed from the end of the fifth century to the middle of the eighth (by Martianus Capella, Ennodius, Boethius, Fulgentius, Virgilius Maro Grammaticus, and ps. Jerome) constitute a separate branch of the tradition. These works cohere in their attachment to an encyclopedic, or generally didactic, intent, the use of fabula or allegory, and a commitment to the anagogic or ennobling function of literature, all the while maintaining many of the classical features of the genre - the prosimetrical form, dialogic structure, comedy, irony, and engagement with philosophy. The author also debates with modern critics such as Mikhail Bakhtin and Northrop Frye and their endeavour to establish a definition of Menippean that is valid for all periods. It is argued that Latin (both Roman and late late antique) examples alone preserve the original form derived from Menippus that requires the mixture of prose and poetry, i.e. the prosimetrum. The prosimetrum is not merely formal, but operates in service to the dialectic inherent in the genre. The author argues that with the sundering of form from mode (the topoi and literary techniques identified in the genre) that Menippean satire essentially died and had to be reinvented.
The essay opens with a brief discussion of Martianus Capella’s De nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii, and sets out some possible reasons for its popularity with medieval scholars. De nuptiis was known in Ireland by the seventh century, and John Scottus Eriugena might have read it there. In any case, he wrote two versions of a commentary on the work, the longer of which (P = Paris, BnF, MS lat. 12960) is considerably more interesting for its exegetical method. The allegoresis of secular texts had been largely neglected since Fulgentius (sixth century), and was only reprised in the diffuse commentary tradition on Martianus that preceded Eriugena’s study of that text. However, in the P commentary John appears to be working towards a sophisticated exegetical system that embodies what the author himself calls “the laws of allegory.” John employs the terms fabulose and physice (“in the mythical sense” and “in the physical sense”), which, as is argued, correspond to Neoplatonic psychological allegoresis and Stoic physical allegoresis respectively. Although the terms appear to be similar to those used by Augustine in the De civitate Dei (drawing on Varro), John uses them differently. The source of his terminology remains problematic, though one might speculate on the use of a Greek work.
Herren, Michael, “Celtic-Latin bibliography [Review of: Lapidge, Michael, and Richard Sharpe, A bibliography of Celtic-Latin literature, 400-1200, Royal Irish Academy Dictionary of Medieval Latin from Celtic Sources, Ancillary Publications 1, Dublin: Royal Irish Academy, 1985]”, Peritia 5 (1986): 422–427.
This article examines the evidence for Sedulius Scottus’ knowledge of the Greek language and evaluates it in comparison to that possessed by his contemporary, John Scottus. The following categories are assessed: (1) the use of Greek in Latin poetry; (2) skill as a scribe of the Greek Psalter and as glossator of the Sibylline Oracles preserved in Paris, Bibliotheque de l’Arsenal, 8407; (3) the glossing of Greek grammatical and rhetorical terms in his commentary on Priscian’s Institutiones grammaticae. The results of the investigation do not support the claim frequently made that Sedulius played a role in the interlinear translation of 9th-century Irish manuscripts of the Greek Gospels, the Psalter, and Epistles of Paul.
Herren, Michael W., “Cultures of grace: Eriugena and Irish Christianity”, in: Otten, Willemien, and Michael I. Allen (eds), Eriugena and Creation: proceedings of the Eleventh International Conference on Eriugenian Studies, held in honor of Edouard Jeauneau, Chicago, 9–12 November 2011, Turnhout: Brepols, 2014. 51–83.
Herren, Michael W., “The Cena Adamnani or seventh-century table talk”, in: Garrison, Mary, Arpad P. Orbán, and Marco Mostert (eds.), Spoken and written language: relations between Latin and the vernacular languages in the earlier Middle Ages, Utrecht Studies in Medieval Literacy 24, Turnhout: Brepols, 2013. 101–112.
What this chapter offers on the life and doings of Cicero is mostly skurril, but one example does verge upon the scurrilous. Early medieval writers and even later ones read many of the authors of Latin antiquity without having an inkling of their lifetime or careers. An example presented in the chapter is not only scurrilous but also shocking. It comes from a collection of Priscian glosses found in a Freising manuscript of the ninth century. The last example involves a more refined treatment of Cicero by an author who may be regarded as exemplifying the older notion of a scurra, namely, "a fashionable city idler." It refers to Virgil the Grammarian, a refined Irish gentleman of the 7th century, whose writings combine the serious treatment of grammar with parody, verbal wit, and much that is perplexing.
Herren, Michael W., “Literary and glossarial evidence for the study of classical mythology in Ireland A.D. 600–800”, in: Conrad-O’Briain, Helen, Anne-Marie D'Arcy, and John Scattergood (eds.), Text and gloss: studies in insular language and literature presented to Joseph Donovan Pheifer, Dublin: Four Courts Press, 1999. 49–67.
Herren, Michael W., “Irish biblical commentaries before 800”, in: Hamesse, Jaqueline [ed.], Roma, magistra mundi. Itineraria culturae medieualis: mélanges offerts au Père L. E. Boyle a l’occasion de son 75è anniversaire, Textes et Études du Moyen Âge 10, Louvain, Turnhout: La Neuve; Brepols, 1998. 391–407.
Herren, Michael, “John Scottus and the biblical manuscripts attributed to the circle of Sedulius Scottus”, in: Riel, Gerd van, Carlos Steel, and James J. McEvoy (eds), Johannes Scottus Eriugena. The Bible and hermeneutics. Proceedings of the Ninth International Colloquium of the Society for the Promotion of Eriugenian Studies held at Leuven and Louvain-la-Neuve, June 7–10, 1995, Ancient and Medieval Philosophy 1.20, Leuven: Leuven University Press, 1996. 303–320.
Herren, Michael W., “The commentary on Martianus attributed to John Scottus: its Hiberno-Latin background”, in: Allard, Guy H. [ed.], Jean Scot écrivain: actes du 4e Colloque international, Montréal, 28 août - 2 septembre 1983, Cahiers d'études médiévales. Cahiers spécial 1, Montréal: Bellarmin-Vrin, 1986. 265–286.
Herren, Michael W., “Sprachliche Eigentümlichkeiten in den hibernolateinischen Texten des 7. und 8. Jahrhunderts”, in: Löwe, Heinz [ed.], Die Iren und Europa im früheren Mittelalter, 2 vols, vol. 1, Veröffentlichungen des Europa-Zentrums Tübingen. Kulturwissenschaftliche Reihe, Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta, 1982. 425–433.
Michael W. Herren, “Selections from Epistola ad Acircium”, in: Michael W. Herren • Michael Lapidge, Aldhelm: the prose works (1979).