medieval tale: Flamenca loves Archimbaut’s imprisoned husband Guillem

In her jealous wickedness, Queen Archimbaut locked her husband Guillem in a tower in Bourbon. She allowed him out of that prison only a half hour every evening to watch the plague news and worship service. Alone with only his two close men servant-friends, Guillem could merely eat and drink and talk and lament all day long. He thus endured a miserable marriage. God, however, had not completely forsaken Guillem:

This grace he has from God above:
he has no children, nor does he love.
For, had he loved and lacked the one
whom he had set his love upon,
even worse would have been his plight.
He would have never known Love’s delight,
had Love’s own generosity
not shown that to him secretly.
So Love taught him to play its game
when the right time and season came,
yet long he thought he was all but dead.

{ Mais d’aisol fes Dieus honor gran,
Car non amet ni hac enfan,
Car s’il ames e non agues
Ab que s’amor paisser pogues ,
Ieu cug ben que pieitz l’en estera.
Ja negun tems il non amera
Si Amors, per son jausimen,
Noil o mostres privadamen,
Mais il l’ensenet de son joc
Quan conoc la sazon nil luec;
Mais lonc tems plais es tenc per morta. }

As a good Christian, Guillem ardently yearned for God’s promise to resurrect the flesh.

medieval lady like Flamenca

In far-away Burgundy, nature fashioned and nurtured a strong, independent woman named Flamenca. She was a princess and a warrior:

A nobler woman you’d never find
nor one to good deeds more inclined,
in sense and looks a paragon.
If Absalom and Solomon
were joined to form one single hero,
compared to her they made but zero.
If you could make one man of these
worthies: Hector, Paris, Ulysses,
their wit, valor, and beauty would stand
as nothing versus this noble woman.

{ Car non fo mais si bella res
Ni a cui tan plagues totz bens.
Tan fon savis e belz e pros
Ques Absalon e Salamos
Sil dui fossan us solamenz,
Encontra lui foran nïenz.
Paris, Hector et Ulixes,
Qui totz tres en un ajostes,
Quant a lui non foran presat
Per sen, per valor, per beutat,
Car tan fon bella sa faissos }

Because of gender bias in the literary canon, few students learn about Flamenca. Men students especially need their male gaze re-educated. Flamenca was not only strong and independent, but also extremely good-looking:

One is pressed hard to express
how great was this woman’s comeliness,
yet I will try as best I can
to say a little about this woman.
Blond, fresh, and wavy was her hair.
Her brow was smooth, white, broad, fair.
Her eyebrows, dark and firmly traced,
were arched and very widely spaced.
Her eyes were merry, large, and gleaming,
her nose well-formed and of good seeming
and of good length and firm and fine,
straight as a cross-bow’s shaft line.
Her face was full and fresh and gay:
indeed no fresh-blown rose in May
ever so radiantly shone
as did her bright complexion.
So well did crimson blend with white
no man e’er saw a fairer sight.
Likewise the ears upon her head
were large, firm, well-shaped, and red.
Her mouth was handsome and delicate,
apt for love’s words to formulate,
her teeth, of perfect symmetry,
were whiter than white ivory.
Her chin was firm, and becoming her, fit
better for being cleft a bit.
Her neck so straight and strong and broad
that not a bone or sinew showed.
Her shoulders too were broad; those
of the man Atlas did no more strength disclose.
Her muscles round, sturdy her brawn,
her arms of good dimension.
Her hands were hard and big and strong,
her fingers smooth-jointed and long.
She had slim hips, a chest of good stout size
and lovely, too, were her thighs
and haunches, firm and well-filled out
with solid flesh, and straight and stout.
Her knees were smooth, her legs were straight,
well-formed and slim and delicate;
her feet graceful, high-arched and thin —
indeed, no woman could outdo her.

{ C’om es al dire sofraitos.
Pero un petit ne dirai
De sa faiso si con sabrai.
Lo pel ac blon, cresp et undat;
Lo fron ac blanc, aut, plan e lat,
Los cilz ac niers et arzonatz,
Loncs et espes, larc devisatz.
Oils ac grosses, vars e risenz,
Le nas fon belz et avinenz,
Loncs e dreitz e ben alinatz,
A lei d’un bel arbreir formatz;
La cara plena e colrada:
Rosa de mai jorn qu’es nada
Non es tam bella ni tan clara
Quo fon li colors de sa cara,
Lai on si tain, mesclada ab blanc:
Plus bella colors non fon anc.
Ben foron faitas sas aureillas,
Grandas e duras e vermeillas.
Li bocca bella e ginnosa
Et en tot quan dis amorosa;
Las dens esteron per garan
Plus blancas que d’un orifan.
Le mentos fon ben faissonatz,
Per mieils estar un pauc forcatz.
Lo col ac dreg e gran e gros,
Que non i par nervis ni os.
Amples fo mout per las espallas
E ac las aisi fortz con Atlas,
Muscles redons e fortz brasons,
E brazes tals con volc razons.
Las mans ac grans e fortz e duras,
Los detz loncs e planas junturas,
Pieitz hac espes e sotils flancs.
De las ancas non fon ges rancs
Ans las ac grossas e cairadas,
Coissas redundas e dins ladas,
Los genoils plans, las cambas sanas,
Longas e dreitas e ben planas.
Pes ac voutis, caus e nerveinz,
Anc per home non fon ateinz.}

Just because a woman is a warrior and beautiful, one shouldn’t assume that she’s unlearned, that she’s coasting to worldly success through her strength and looks. Flamenca was as highly educated as any medieval man, and she had a wide range of learned skills:

This woman, of such rare elegance,
was reared in Paris, in Ile-de-France.
The seven arts she learned so fair
that she could find a job anywhere
to teach uni students, had she chosen to.
Better than any cleric man, she know
how to sing fine in church and read.
Dominick her teacher found no need
for slowing with her fencing: so adept
was she that none could intercept
her blade, or guard against her thrust.
So fair a woman, so brave, so just
was never seen, nor one so true
and noble-hearted through and through.
This woman was a good seven feet tall.
If you placed a candle on the wall,
two feet above her head, why she
with quick foot touched it easily.

{ D’aital faison, d’aital semblanza
Fo noiris a Paris e Franza.
Lai apres tan de las .VII. artz
Que pogra ben en totas partz
Tener escolas, sis volgues.
Legir e cantar, sil plagues,
En gliesa saup mieilz d’autre clergue.
Sos maistre ac nom Domergue;
Cel l’ensenet tan d’escrimir
Que nulz hom nos poc si cobrir
Ques el nol fier en descubert.
Tam bell, tam pros ni tan apert,
Non vi hom anc, al mieu semblan,
Ni que fos aisi de bon gran.
.VII. pes ac d’ aut, et atteis ben
Dos pes ab lo pe sobre se
Quan hom li mes en la paret
Una candela o un muquet. }

Flamenca was from a noble family and had rich friends. Her brothers were the Count of Blois and Count Raoul of Nevers. The King of France gave her 1000 pounds, and her uncle, a duke, another 1700. Her cousin, the King of England, gave her a 1000 marks sterling. The Holy Roman Emperor gave her another 1000. Despite her great privilege as a beautiful, rich young woman, Flamenca wasn’t complacent with women’s privilege. At seventeen, Flamenca was selected as the first woman lieutenant in the French Foreign Legion.

Men didn’t feel intimidated by Flamenca, nor were women jealous of her. All spoke highly of her, even in her absence, and all loved her. They understood that as a woman Flamenca was worthiest of all the worthies:

Her worth could not be overstated,
for the truth would far surpass the tale.
Writing a whole year I would fail
to tell what she did in one day.
Most pleased and fortunate were they,
men meeting her, who with this woman
in their eyes, could speak of love’s plan.

{ Ges hom de lui nom poc gabar,
Car li vertatz sobraval dih.
En un an non agran escrig
So que fasia en un jorn.
En gran deleit, en gran sojorn
Eron las domnas que parlavon
Ab lui d’amor, quan lo miravon. }

Like the best of Hollywood female heroes today, Flamenca loved fencing tournaments, scholarly study, literary contests, fights of mixed martial arts, and beauty pageants. She also excelled in singing competitions:

Chansons and lays, and descorts too,
and every kind of poetry
she knew better than any minstrel. She
knew them so perfectly and well,
that she outdid the learned Daniel.

{ Chansons e lais, descortz e vers,
Serventes et autres cantars
Sabia plus que nuls joglars,
Neis Daniel que saup ganren
Nos pogr’ ab lui penre per ren. }

While highly competitive with men, Flamenca was also very generous to them:

Innkeepers praised her to the sky,
for, though they charged her far too high,
she always added to the sum,
and so, whenever they see her come,
they make their lodgings fair and trim:
there’s many a man who lives off her.

Laymen and clerks she loved. She fed
them not on mere water and bread
as in the hospital it’s done,
but offered each companion
clothing, fair armor, goodly steeds
all well-equipped to suit their needs.

{ Sei hoste tut de lui si lauson:
Tant nol sobrecomtan ni bauson
Mais non lur don al departir;
E per zo, quan l’ auson venir,
Lur hostal paron e garnisson;
Mout home ab lui si formisson.

Et amet clergue e gen laiga.
Ges nom promes sol pan et aiga,
Aisi con fan a l’ospital,
Als compainos de son ostal.
Ans esteron em bels arnes,
En rix cavals ab bos conres,
E pogron far gran mession }

Heloise of the Paraclete wasn’t as learned as Flamenca, nor was Empress Theodora as eminent. Among wonderful women, Flamenca was the most wonderful of all.

Despite all her gifts, Flamenca hadn’t experienced a man’s ardent, vigorous, overwhelming love. She imagined what that would be like, but she didn’t know:

Love was indeed to her unknown
by any testing of her own,
though what it was, of course, she knew,
having read all the authors who
had written of it with skill and tact
to tell how it is that lovers act.
She knew she could not follow, in truth,
the path of life common to joyful youth
if love’s ways she did not soon learn,
so she made up her mind to turn
her heart to some love that would bring
her honor and no sorrowing.

{ Ancar d’amor no s’entremes
Per so que lo ver en saupes.
Per dir saup ben que fon amors,
Cant legit ac totz los auctors
Que d’amor parlon e si feinon,
Consi amador si capteinon.
Car ben conoc que longamen
Nom poc estar segon Joven
Ques el d’amor non s’entrameta.
Per so pessa que son cor meta
En tal amor don bens li venga
E que a mal hom non l’o tenga. }

Flamenca drew up a checklist of characteristics that she wanted in a man so that he would enhance her honor in love. But even in medieval Europe, elite women faced a shortage of men who satisfied their list of requirements for love. Could Flamenca love a bartender? Is she to love some nobody secretary serving in some lowly post in the local church? That doesn’t happen even in ridiculous fictional romances.

Flamenca meditated on how to find a man suitable for her to love. She had heard that Queen Archimbaut was imprisoning her husband Guillem in a tower. Flamenca considered Guillem:

Truly, women said, he was the best,
the most courtly and the loveliest.
In grace no man was above him,
so she made up her heart to love him,
if only some way she could find
to speak to him. While thus her mind
was occupied, Love drew close by
in sprightliness and gaiety.
Love promised her beyond all doubt
that such attempt would bring about
much joy and satisfaction.

{ Cel que la cuj’ aver devesa,
Et au dir per vera novella
Quel miellers es e li plus bella
El plus cortesa qu’el mon sia.
En cor li venc que l’amaria
S’om pogues ab ella parlar.
Mentre qu’estai en cest pensar,
Amors ben pres de lui s’acointa
E fes si mout gaia e cointa.
Fort li promet et assegura
Qu’il li dara tal aventura
Que mout sera valent e bona. }

Flamenca immediately resolved to travel to Bourbon and love Guillem. She would set him free.

Arriving in Bourbon, Flamenca took lodging in an inn close to the tower in which Guillem was imprisoned. Eating dinner at that inn, she hungered to love Guillem:

Flamenca is near that tower she sought
wherein he dwells on whom is set
her heart, but a long time is yet
to pass before the prisoner
knows this. He had caught, unknown to him,
her heart that is happy to be able
to see from where she sits at table
the tower of him for whom she burns.
The more she eats, the more she yearns
to be where he is: this desire
can never be satisfied entire.
All women desiring to know love like this
are deeper than a bottomless abyss.

{ Que pres es de Guillem li tors
On es le cors qu’en son cor ha.
Mais de lonc tems non o sabra
Cil qu’es enclausa, et enclau
Lo cor de cel que mout s’esgau
Quan pot vezer ni remirar,
De lai on s’assis al manjar,
La tor on es so que tant ama,
On plus manja e plus afama
De venir lai on sos cors es.
Ja cel non er sadols ni ples,
Car plus ques abis non a fons,
Aiso sap totz homs desirons }

Flamenca chose a bedroom with windows offering a view of Guillem’s tower. An oriole was singing in a nearby grove. Flamenca didn’t close her eyes all night. She spoke to Love:

I have done everything you told
me to, abandoned my household,
and I have made the journey here,
a pilgrim and a foreigner,
unknown to any man. Here I
the whole day long suffer and sigh,
racked by desire, with all its pain.
It’s true that illness now I feign
but this feigned illness will be real
before long, if the distress I feel
keeps torturing me. Yet it’s no woe,
but charms me more than aught I know.

{ Qu’ieu ai fah vostre mandament.
Partitz soi de tota ma gent
E vengutz sai en est païs
Aisi con estrainz pellegris,
Que negus hom no m’i conois.
Tot jorn sospire es angois
Per un desir que mi destrein.
Vers es que malautes mi fein,
Mais a longas nom calra feiner
Si ‘n aissim deu gaire destreiner
Le mals quem sent, que mals non es,
Ans mi plas mais que nulla res. }

It was already fully day. Flamenca got up from bed, crossed herself, and prayed to nine or ten saints who had been courtly knights. Before she got dressed, she opened both windows, looked upon the tower that held Guillem, and lamented. She spoke aloud to the tower. She begged it to encompass her, unseen by Guillem’s wife Archimbaut. Then she fainted, with heart weak. But one of her squires caught her before she fell. He laid her back on the bed:

Never was a woman so vanquished
in such a short time by Love’s might.
The squire is overcome with fright
to find no pulse-beat. As was apt,
her spirit by love had been rapt
away into the tower where
Guillem lay, quite unaware
that someone dearly loved his charms.
Flamenca now holds him in her arms.
Softly she pleads with him and presses,
and oh so tenderly caresses
him such that he could never know.
Had he known who had held him so
in dreams without let or restraint,
and had his wife fell into a faint
so deep that she’d never get well,
there is no one who could say or tell
what ecstasy and what elation
would have come from such anticipation.

{ Anc non vist home tan cochat
En tan pauc d’ora per amor.
Le donzelletz hac gran paor
Quant noil troba ni pols ni vena.
Fin’ Amors l’esperit l’en mena
Lai en la tor on si jasia
Flamenca, que pas non sabia
Qu’om fos per leis enamoratz.
Guillems la ten entre sos bratz,
Gen la blandis e la merceja
E tan suavet la maneja
Que ges sentir non o podia.
S’ela saupes qui la tenia
Tan douzamen en visio,
El gelos fos en pasmaso
Tal don jamais non revengues,
Non es homs que dire pogues
Lo deleig ni la benanansa
Ques dera per bon’ esperansa. }

Nearly a day later, Flamenca awoke:

Now that Love had done its will
with Flamenca’s mind, it made its way
back to her, dawning like the day.
Before her eyes were open quite,
her face and brow were smiling bright.
This was the dawn. When opened wide
her eyes, then it was full noontide,
and bright and radiant was the sun.
So too, Flamenca’s features shone
with radiance which she had got
from being in some charming spot,
for she returned more fair and gay
than she was before she swooned away.

{ Quant Amors ac fag som plazer
De l’esperit, ab lui s’en torna
Dreg a Guillem, el cors n’ajorna,
Quar tot avans quels oils ubris
Tota la cara el fronz li ris.
So fon alba, e quant ubri
Sos oilz, adoncas s’esclarsi
Le soleilz que fon ja levatz.
Guillems es bels e ben colratz,
Ben fai parer aia estat
En luec don si ten a pagat,
Car plus alegres ne tornet
E plus bels que non lai anet. }

Flamenca had come to Bourbon to love Guillem. She had never conversed with him, she had never seen him, but she loved him. She ardently wanted him.

Flamenca dressed elegantly for that evening’s plague news and worship service. She wore a fancy blouse and women’s power pants. She considered a squirrel-fur cloak with grey trim, but decided instead on a black woolen coat. Shoes were particularly important to Flamenca. She had many different pairs in different styles and colors. For this evening service, she chose not clogs or boots, but beautifully shaped felt slippers:

She wore no cheap shoes on her feet,
but slippers fancy and costly; they
were made to fit her at Douai.

{ E non ae sabbata ni caussa,
Mais us bels estivals biais
Que foron fag ins a Doais. }

As she dressed she sighed:

What sin to hold him prisoned thus!
Fair creature, sweet and courteous,
union of all things good and fine,
let me not lose this life of mine
until my eyes have gazed at you!

{ A gran peccat la tenon presa;
Ai! bella res, dous’ e cortesa,
Franca, de totz bos aips complida,
Non voillas qu’ieu perda ma vida
Tro de mos oils vos aia vista! }

With a silver needle, Flamenca sewed fancy sleeves unto her cloak . Then she, with the inn-keeper and the rest of the townspeople, went to the evening service. She was thinking only of Guillem.

To lessen the risk that the evening plague news and worship service contributed to the spread of the plague, town officials set up in the church’s vestibule a screening station. Persons entering the church were required to place their index figure briefly on the parchment page of a bible opened to Psalm 51:7. If the index figure left a mark of dampness, the person was judged to have fever and not admitted to the service. Between each person’s test, the page was wiped with a rag for cleanliness. Nicholas, a fourteen-year-old boy deputized as the town’s plague tester, administered the tests with all the diligence of youth.

Despite her love fever, Flamenca passed through the plague test and stepped up to a seat in the choir. Through a hole in the wall behind her she could see outside. Though another hole to her right she could spy into a private compartment. Eagerly peeping to her rear, she watched everyone go into the church. At the third bell she finally saw Queen Archimbaut bringing Guillem:

At last she came, the Adversary,
so ill-disposed and arbitrary.
So foul and crude did she appear,
she lacked only a hunting-spear
to seem a scarecrow, such as those
that peasants make of tattered clothes
when in the mountains they pursue
a boar. Beside her one could view
lovely Guillem where he stood.
He kept as distant as he could
from his wife, who was his grief.

{ Adoncs venc le fers aversiers
Per digastendonz totz derriers.
Egaiatz fon e mal aceutz;
Anc non fon mens mas sol l’espeutz
Que non sembles tal espaventa
Con vila fan ab vestimenta
Contra senglar en la montaina.
Josta lui fo, e sa compaina,
Tal con fo, li bella Flamenca.
Et al meinz que poc s’aprobenca
De so marit, que dol li fa. }

Archimbaut had forced Guillem to wear a cloth mask to prevent spread of plague, so she said. Guillem found this veil to be hot and uncomfortable. Love spoke to Flamenca:

Don’t gaze too obviously. You
should not let anyone perceive
your looking. I’ll teach you to deceive
that jealous, ill-bred, stupid boor;
too bad her mother ever bore
her. And for that veil I’ll make her pay!

{ Pero ges tan no l’arodilles
Que nuls homs s’en posca percebre.
Ben t’enseinarai a decebre
Lo malastruc, fol, envejos
A cui fora mieilz si non fos,
E de la bendat venjarai. }

To Flamenca’s delight, Archimbaut brought Guillem into church and seated him in the private compartment just to her right.

The plague news and worship service began. The priestess-presenter in front told of sickness and gruesome deaths. She serially displayed drawings and paintings, horrible to see, of dead children, women wailing, and men laboring to dig new graves. Healthy adults and frail elderly were dying too, she said, and women were suffering the most. The cantor lead everyone in singing:

O Governor, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.

Then a nurse went around sprinkling everyone with sanitizer. Flamenca’s eyes never left the peephole to her right. Through it she gazed upon Guillem as much as she could:

The nurse his sanitizer sent
about and upon Guillem’s head
as best as he could. Guillem had spread
his tresses radiant and fine
exactly at the parting line
to receive the sanitizer aright.
His skin was delicate and white
and soft. His hair glowed brilliantly
because the sun most graciously
just at that moment cast upon
it a quick ray so that it shone.
When Flamenca this first sign observed
of that rich wealth which Love reserved
for her, her heart laughed and rejoiced.
“Signum salutis,” loud she voiced.
Her voice was clear and fresh: her song
flowed smooth and sweet, and all the throng
was filled with pleasure and delight.

{ Le cappellas ab l’isop plou
Lo sal espars per miei lo cap
A Flameoca lo miels que sap,
Et ill a fag un obertura
Dreit per mei la pelpartidura
Per zo que meilz lo pogues penre.
Lo cuer ac blanc e prim e tenre
El cris fon bell’ e respleodens.
Le soleils fes mout qu’avinens,
Car tot dreit sus, per mei aqui,
Ab un de sos rais la feri.
Quan Guillems vi la bell’ ensena
Del ric tesaur qu’Amors l’ensenna,
Le cors li ri totz e l’agensa,
E signum salutis comensa.
Le sieus cantars plac mout a totz,
Car mout avia clara voz
E cantet ben e volontiers. }

Flamenca summoned the plague tester Nicholas, who also served as service usher. She demanded to inspect his plague test bible, to ensure its cleanliness. Nicholas dutifully brought it to her. You ought to test with a Psalm, she told him. He said he did and showed her the page for Psalm 51:7. This page that Guillem had touched Flamenca kissed a thousand times:

The whole world, thus she thinks, is hers.
Success in every enterprise
she’d have. Could she divide her eyes
so that with one eye she could look
through the hole, with the other view the book,
pure happiness she would have felt.
Upon this thought so long she dwelt,
feeding her joy, that not one word
reached her until at last she heard
the presenter say, “That’s the way it is.”

{ Vejaire l’es tot lo mon aia
E mai res noil posca fallir;
E si pogues los ueils partir
Si quel pertus gares l’us oilz
E l’autre gares sai los foils
Ben l’estera, e ben l’estet.
En cel pensat tan demoret,
E tan si pac de cel consir
Que non saup mot tro ausi dir
“Ite missa est” al preveire. }

Archimbaut quickly led Guillem from the church so that he couldn’t talk with others. She again locked him alone with his two men servant-friends in the tower until the next evening plague news and worship service.

The sight of Guillem pushed Flamenca’s fever for him to new heights. One night she prayed to Love:

“Love, Love,” she cried repeatedly,
“Unless you promptly rescue me,
the time for rescue will be gone.
My heart is in that tower yon:
Now place my body therein too,
otherwise I am lost to you.”

{ E dis soen : “Amors, Amors!
S’em breu nom faitz vostre socors
“Nom poires a longas socorre.
Mon cor ai lai en cella torre,
E sil cors vos non lai metes
Sapias que perdut m’aves. }

Just as men love to do for women, Love came to help Flamenca. Love gave her a good sleep and brought to her Guillem in a dream. She knelt before him and declared:

Your true and all-surpassing worth
shines and glows throughout the earth,
your virtue and your graciousness,
your fineness and your loveliness,
your fair wit and your courtesy,
your comfort, your good company,
all the good things rare and true
that I’ve heard have drawn me here to you,
just to be yours, if you consent.
Give me but this encouragement:
deign to accept me as your own,
I’ll ask but this, and this alone.
This would be wealth beyond compare.
And if so soon my heart I bare,
I pray you, do not take it ill.
Love so intense my heart does fill
that I for mercy must beseech
you. And yet could I but have speech
with you, or see you often, it’s true,
I would not say these things to you.
Your precious presence and the sight
of you would satisfy me quite.
Therefore I strive hard to advance
my cause, now while I have the chance.
Who knows when I’ll see you again,
save in my heart? So I speak plain,
drawing from my timidity
courage to speak thus openly.
Knowing your fine discretion,
I conquer hesitation
and all my longings I declare.

{ Aias, donna, sius plas, de me.
Vostra lausor fin’e veraja
Que luz per tot mon e raja,
Vostre pres e vostra valors,
Vostri beutatz, vostri ricors,
Vostre sens, vostra cortesia,
Vostre solaz, vostri paria
E totz bens c’om de vos au dir
M’an fag a vos aici venir
Per esser vostre, s’a vos plaz.
E si vos aitan mi donaz
Que per vostre penrem deines
Ja non voil que plus mi donaz
Car pro aurai si eu sui vostre.
E car si tost mon cor vos monstre,
Nous o tengas, sius plas, a mal,
Car destreitz sui d’amor coral
Quem fai ades merce clamar.
Mas s’ieu pogues ab vos parlar,
O sius pogues veser soen,
D’aisso non dissera nïent,
Car del veser o del solatz
Mi tengra per pagatz assatz.
E per so dei mais enansar
En una ves de vos pregar
Car non sai coraus mi veirai
Se de cor no. Et aisom fai
Parlar aisi ardidamen,
Quar de paor prenc ardimen.
E quar sai en vos conoissensa
S’enardis aisi ma temensa
Qu’ieus diga ben ma volontat. }

How many men have ever heard a woman speak to them like that? Did Flamenca really say that in her dream? Wouldn’t Guillem be stunned by these words from a woman unknown to him?

When Flamenca thus had made her prayer,
Guillem answered: “Who are you, my Lady,
who speak to me with such words?
And think me not discourteous
to ask. No woman ever spoke to me thus.
I have never heard anyone
who told of love as you have done.”

{ Quan Guillems hac assas pregat
Ella respon: “Sener, qui es
Vos que aitan gen m’enqueres?
E nous enug sius o deman,
Car hanc mais hom non mi dis tan,
Ni tan ni re mais non ausi
Qu’om mi parles d’amor aisi.” }

Flamenca knelt before Guillem and promised to serve him. She told him that without him she would die. She begged him for advice.

With much hesitation, Guillem reluctantly advised Flamenca. He said that, at the entrance to the evening plague news and worship service, the plague tester and the subject could alternately exchange words without being overheard. Guillem declared that he used the baths next to the inn. He said that if a woman had a tunnel dug into the baths, she could visit him there unseen. Then Guillem said exactly what Flamenca wanted to hear, and he did all that Flamenca desired:

“I give my heart to you. I make
petition to Love for your sole sake,
and so that you may well believe
me, in my arms I now receive
you. I shall kiss you, my sweet dear.
Your worth is so bright and clear,
you are so courtly and good,
that surely any man should
be glad to honor and fulfill
your wish, and follow where you will.”
Then he kissed her and embraced her,
and every joy he made her taste
by word and deed and appearance.

{ Car de bon cor a vos m’autrei
E per vos ad Amor soplei.
E per so que mielz m’en cresaz
Faitz vos aici antre mos bras
E baisar vos ai, bels amics,
Car vos est tam pros e tan rics
E tan cortes e tan valens
Que tota donna en totz sens
Vos deu onrar et acullir
E segre per vostre desir.”
Adonc lo baiza e l’abrassa,
E non es jois qu’ela noil fassa
Per diz, per faitz e per semblans. }

Flamenca wanted to remain sleeping forever. Late in the morning, savoring her dream of Guillem, she finally arose.


*  *  *  *  *

Read more:


The above story is based on the thirteenth-century Old Occitan Romance of Flamenca. For a freely available English prose translation, Prescott (1933). The quotes in Old Occitan above are from the Flamenca text in Hubert & Porter (1962). The English translations are based on id., but include my significant, small changes. The translations aren’t a faithful representation of the Old Occitan Flamenca, but are strongly and consistently related to it.

The Latin phrase signum salutis means “sign of salvation.” That phrase begins a medieval hymn celebrating the cross. In medieval France, this hymn was sung on the first Saturday after Easter. Blodgett (1995) p. 432, n. 127.

The Latin phrase ite missa est concludes the medieval Mass. Literally translated with respect to its historical etymology, that phrase means, “Go forth, the dismissal is made.” In medieval Europe, missa was understood to the refer to the Mass itself. The phrase ite missa est thus meant an ontological declaration: “Go forth, the Mass is.” Ite missa est was understood in this way in late-twentieth-century U.S. Catholic seminaries and among Catholic priests. A more colloquial translation of the contemporary meaning of missa est is “That’s the way it is.” Those are well-known concluding words of the famous television news achorperson Walter Cronkite.

The Flamenca verses quoted above are (cited by the verse numbers of the Old Occitan text of Hubert & Porter (1962)): vv. 1406-16 (This grace he has from God above…), 1570-79 (A nobler woman you’d never find…), 1581-1621 (One is pressed hard to express…), 1622-39 (This woman, of such rare elegance…), 1679-86 (Her worth could not be overstated…), 1707-11 ( Chansons and lays, and descorts too…), 1712-17, 1740-6 (Innkeepers praised her to the sky…), 1762-70 (Love was indeed to her unknown…), 1777-88 (Truly, women said, he was the best…), 1944-56 (Flamenca is near that tower she sought…), 2041-52 (I have done everything you told…), 2144-62 (Never was a woman so vanquished…), 2170-82 (So now that Love had done its will…), 2200-2 (She wore no cheap shoes on her feet…), 2207-11 (What sin to hold him prisoned thus…), 2441-51 (At last she came, the Adversary…), 2462-67 (Don’t gaze too obviously…), 2484-2501 (The nurse his sanitizer sent…), 2600-9 (The whole world, thus she thinks, is hers…), 2689-94 (“Love, Love,” she cried repeatedly…), 2809-39 (Your true and all-surpassing worth…), 2840-46 (When Flamenca thus had made her prayer…), 2949-61 (I give my heart to you…).

[images] Portrait of a medieval lady, imagined to be Flamenca. Oil painting by Jacopo Zucchi. Made in 1570s. Preserved in the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica (Rome, Italy). Via Web Gallery of Art and Wikimedia Commons.


Blodgett, Edward D., trans. 1995. The Romance of Flamenca. New York: Garland.

Hubert, Merton Jerome, trans. and Marion E. Porter, ed. 1962. The Romance of Flamenca. A Provençal poem of the thirteenth century. Princeton University Press: Princeton.

McGuire, Michael and Olga Scrivner. ND: Not Dated. “The Flamenca Project: Le Roman de Flamenca (The Romance of Flamenca).” Online presentation of the Old Occitan text of Meyer (1901) and the English translation of Blodgett (1995).

Prescott, H. F. M. 1933. Flamenca. Translated from the thirteenth-century Provençal. Here attributed to Bernardet the Troubadour. London: Constable & Co.

discrimination against transwomen: Iphis & Ianthe, Leucippus & Daphne

Modern societies ideologically deny manifestly oppressive gynocentrism and castration culture. In these circumstances, about 75% more men than women transition across the gender binary.[1] Men becoming transwomen isn’t sufficient to eliminate the horrid gender protrusion of four times more men than women committing suicide. Moreover, even after men become transwomen, they continue to endure historically entrenched, systemic gender discrimination. That gender discrimination is exemplified in the starkly contrasting ancient myths of Iphis & Ianthe and Leucippus & Daphne.

Authorities throughout history have tended to highlight examples of women transitioning to men while marginalizing examples of men transitioning to women. So it was about two thousand years ago for the Roman naturalist-scholar Pliny the Elder. Ignoring transwomen, Pliny described only transmen:

The transformation of women into men is no fictitious story. We find in the Annals that in the consulship of Publius Licinius Crassus and Gaius Cassius Longinus a girl in her parents’ custody at Casinum became a boy. At the order of the forecasters he was deported to a deserted island. Licinius Mucianus recorded that he personally saw at Argos a man named Arescon who had received as a baby girl the name of Arescusa. She married a man, then grew a beard, developed masculine attributes, and subsequently had a wife. Licinius Mucinius also saw at Smyrna a boy who had experienced this same change. I myself saw in Africa a person who had turned into a man on her marriage day. This person was Lucius Constitius, a citizen of Thysdritum.

{ Ex feminis mutari in mares non est fabulosum. invenimus in annalibus P. Licinio Crasso C. Cassio Longino coss. Casini puerum factum ex virgine sub parentibus, iussuque harispicum deportatum in insulam desertam. Licinius Mucianus prodidit visum a se Argis Arescontem, cui nomen Arescusae fuisset, nupsisse etiam, mox barbam et virilitatem provenisse uxoremque duxisse; eiusdem sortis et Zmyrnae puerum a se visum. ipse in Africa vidi mutatum in marem nuptiarum die L. Constitium civem Thysdritanum. }[2]

Women are the socially privileged sex. Human society in general, not just the special bigotry of trans-exclusive radical feminists, discriminates against transwomen and works to marginalize them. The privileged need exclusivity to protect their privilege.

Metamorphoses: two women embracing

Metamorphoses, an influential work that Ovid wrote about two thousand years ago, tells of Iphis and Ianthe. They lived near the important Cretan city Phaestus, not far from the royal Cretan city Cnossus. Iphis’s parents were Telethusa and her husband Ligdus. A humbly born, poor man who probably worked long hours as a maker of clay pots, Ligdus was a morally good man: “his life was one of honesty and blamelessness {vita fidesque inculpata fuit}.” Just as for many men through the ages, a woman’s pregnancy created pressing issues for him:

When the time was near for his wife to give birth,
he whispered in her ear these words of counsel:
“I pray for two things: that your delivery
have the least possible pain, and that you give birth
to a baby boy. Girls are a much greater burden,
and fortune denies us the resources to support one.
I hate to say it, but if you have a girl —
Heaven forgive me! — she will have to be killed.”
He said this, and their checks flowed with tears

{ gravidae qui coniugis aures
vocibus his monuit, cum iam prope partus adesset:
“quae voveam, duo sunt: minimo ut relevere dolore,
utque marem parias. onerosior altera sors est,
et vires fortuna negat. quod abominor, ergo
edita forte tuo fuerit si femina partu —
invitus mando; pietas, ignosce! — necetur.”
dixerat, et lacrimis vultum lavere profusis }[3]

Fathers love their children, girls and boys alike. Yet under gynocentrism, fathers are required to provision girls much more extensively than boys. Hence if poverty necessitates a terrible life choice, girls are more likely to be sacrificed than boys. In wealthy societies, the situation tends to be reversed: men and boys are left to die on sinking ships, in violence, and in wars.

At midnight, Telethusa saw, or thought she saw, Inachus, the first King of Argos, looking and acting like Isis, an Egyptian goddess. The goddess instructed Telethusa not to worry, ignore what her husband said, and keep any child she birthed. Telethusa soon birthed a baby girl. She and her nurse pretended that the girl was a boy. Perhaps at Telethusa’s request, Ligdus named the child Iphis. She thought that name ideal because it wasn’t gender-specific.[4] With Ligdus forced to spend long hours at work, he had little time to enjoy caring for his child Iphis. He never learned that Iphis was actually a girl.

Ligdus believed in gender equality. Defying the instrumental valuation of males, he appreciated that Iphis had an extraordinarily beautiful face. Despite fathers’ subordinate role in arranging marriages, Ligdus took the initiative to arrange an equal marriage for Iphis with Ianthe:

For all the women of Phaestus thought
Ianthe was the city’s most beautiful girl. The two
were matched in age and equally lovely.
They had gone to school together, and love
touched their innocent hearts with equal longing,
but not equal hope. Ianthe looked forward
to her wedding day, believing that Iphis,
whom she thought was a man, would be her man.
But Iphis loved someone she never hoped to have.

{ Inter Phaestiadas quae laudatissima formae
dote fuit virgo, Dictaeo nata Teleste.
par aetas, par forma fuit, primasque magistris
accepere artes, elementa aetatis, ab isdem.
hinc amor ambarum tetigit rude pectus, et aequum
vulnus utrique dedit, sed erat fiducia dispar:
coniugium pactaeque exspectat tempora taedae,
quamque virum putat esse, virum fore credit Ianthe;
Iphis amat, qua posse frui desperat, et auget
hoc ipsum flammas, ardetque in virgine virgo }[5]

Iphis didn’t understand gender. She actually had a good basis for hope. If gynocentric society can in any way act to get women or girls what they want, it will.[6]

Telethusa worried about Ianthe’s love for Iphis. Seizing control of the wedding arrangements, she repeatedly had the wedding postponed. Then she brought Iphis to pray and make vows to Inachus, transformed into the Egyptian goddess Isis. Telethusa and Iphis prayed to the goddess for pity. They shed tears. Their actions were effective:

The goddess seemed to move, did move, her altar.
The temple doors shook, and the horns of the goddess
shone like the moon as the bronze sistrum rattled.
Not yet carefree, but gladdened by this omen,
Telethusa left the temple, followed by Iphis,
whose stride was longer than before. Her complexion
was now more tan than white, her features more chiseled,
her hair now shorter and unadorned. There was more strength
in that frame than a girl would have, and in fact you were
no longer a girl, but a boy. Go make offerings
at the temple, rejoice and be glad! The two of them
made offerings together, and in the temple
set up a votive plaque with this inscription:

{ visa dea est movisse suas et moverat aras,
et templi tremuere fores, imitataque lunam
cornua fulserunt, crepuitque sonabile sistrum.
non secura quidem, fausto tamen omine laeta
mater abit templo. sequitur comes Iphis euntem,
quam solita est, maiore gradu, nec candor in ore
permanet, et vires augentur, et acrior ipse est
vultus, et incomptis brevior mensura capillis,
plusque vigoris adest, habuit quam femina. nam quae
femina nuper eras, puer es! date munera templis,
nec timida gaudete fide! dant munera templis,
addunt et titulum: titulus breve carmen habebat:
dona puer solvit quae femina voverat iphis. }[7]

The transman Iphis then married Ianthe. Iphis’s transformation from girl to boy was a path to equal love. The story of Iphis and Ianthe contains no shadow of discrimination, exclusion, or othering of transmen.

The ending for the transwoman Leucippus is much different in the myth of Leucippus and Daphne. Daphne was a gender-nonconforming girl:

She would not go down to the city at all, nor would she mix with the other girls. Gathering together a pack of dogs, she would go hunting in the Laconian countryside and sometimes strayed further into other Peloponnese mountains. For this reason she was very dear to Artemis, who taught her to shoot accurately.

{ αὕτη τὸ μὲν ἅπαν εἰς πόλιν οὐ κατῄει, οὐδ᾿ ἀνεμίσγετο ταῖς λοιπαῖς παρθένοις· παρασκευασαμένη δὲ πολλοὺς κύνας ἐθήρευεν καὶ ἐν τῇ Λακωνικῇ καὶ ἔστιν ὅτε ἐπιφοιτῶσα εἰς τὰ λοιπὰ τῆς Πελοποννήσου ὄρη· δι᾿ ἣν αἰτίαν μάλα καταθύμιος ἦν Ἀρτέμιδι καὶ αὐτὴν εὔστοχα βάλλειν ἐποίει. }[8]

Perhaps himself uncomfortable within the constraining gender binary, Leucippus fell in love with Daphne. Men have long carried the unjust gender burden of having to be active in soliciting love relations. So it was for Leucippus:

Despairing of making any other sort of attempt to win Daphne’s love, Leucippus put on female garments and in the guise of a girl went hunting with Daphne. Somehow or other he came to please her. She would never let go of him, embracing and clinging to him at all times.

{ εἰς ἐπιθυμίαν ἦλθε καὶ τὸ μὲν ἄλλως πως αὐτῆς πειρᾶσθαι ἀπέγνω· ἀμφιεσάμενος δὲ γυναικείαις ἀμπεχόναις καὶ ὁμοιωθεὶς κόρῃ συνεθήρα αὐτῇ. ἔτυχε δέ πως αὐτῇ κατὰ νοῦν γενόμενος, οὐ μεθίει τε αὐτὸν ἀμφιπεσοῦσά τε καὶ ἐξηρτημένη πᾶσαν ὥραν. }

This transgender love story with a charming beginning ends horribly:

But Apollo himself was in love with the girl, and he was possessed with rage and jealousy when he saw Leucippus associating with her. So Apollo put it into Daphne’s mind to go bathing in a stream along with the other women. When they got there they all stripped their clothes. Seeing Leucippus’s reluctance to do likewise, they tore the clothes from his back. Then, his treachery and duplicity laid bare, they all cast their javelins at him.

{ Ἀπόλλων δὲ καὶ αὐτὸς τῆς παιδὸς πόθῳ καιόμενος ὀργῇ τε καὶ φθόνῳ εἴχετο τοῦ Λευκίππου συνόντος καὶ ἐπὶ νοῦν αὐτῇ βάλλει σὺν ταῖς λοιπαῖς παρθένοις ἐπὶ κρήνην ἐλθούσαις λούεσθαι. ἔνθα δή, ὡς ἀφικόμεναι ἀπεδιδύσκοντο καὶ ἑώρων τὸν Λεύκιππον μὴ βουλόμενον, περιέρρηξαν αὐτόν· μαθοῦσαι δὲ τὴν ἀπάτην καὶ ὡς ἐπεβούλευεν αὐταῖς, πᾶσαι μεθίεσαν εἰς αὐτὸν τὰς αἰχμάς. }[9]

Describing Leucippus’s gender transition as “treachery and duplicity” is ungenerous or worse. Tearing off Leucippus’s clothes is a form of sexual assault. Why did these women sexually assault the transwoman Leucippus? Why did Daphne apparently do nothing while the person she loved was assaulted? Those unanswered questions point to these women’s intense hostility towards transwomen and suggest the social acceptability of such hatred. More importantly, the relative literary invisibility of man-to-woman gender transitions underscores deeply rooted systemic gender discrimination against transwomen.

In the ancient Mediterranean world, male-to-female gender transition was closely associated with the brutal inhumanity of castration culture. For example, the first-century Roman Emperor Nero was a gender-fluid person who ostentatiously rejected the gender binary:

He prostituted his own modesty such that, after defiling every part of his body, he at last devised a newer game. Covered with the skin of a wild animal, he was let loose from a cage. He then attacked the genitals of men and women bound to stakes. When he had thus sated his savage lust, he was finished off by his freedman Doryphorus. Nero was married to Doryphorus just as he himself had married Sporus. Nero even imitated the cries and lamentations of a young woman forcefully being sexually penetrated.

{ Suam quidem pudicitiam usque adeo prostituit, ut contaminatis paene omnibus membris novissime quasi genus lusus excogitaret, quo ferae pelle contectus emitteretur e cavea virorumque ac feminarum ad stipitem deligatorum inguina invaderet et, cum affatim desaevisset, conficeretur a Doryphoro liberto; cui etiam, sicut ipsi Sporus, ita ipse denupsit, voces quoque et heiulatus vim patientium virginum imitatus. }[10]

Few today would object to such sexual behavior among consenting adults or to non-hetero-normative marriages. But Sporus was a boy that Nero had castrated:

Nero castrated the boy Sporus and attempted to transform him to a woman’s nature. He married Sporus in solemn nuptials with a dowry and a bridal veil. Nero took him to his house attended by famous officials and had Sporus as his wife. The witty jest that someone made is still current: it would have been better for the human world if Nero’s father Domitius had married such a wife.

{ Puerum Sporum exsectis testibus etiam in muliebrem naturam transfigurare conatus cum dote et flammeo per sollemnia nuptiarum celeberrimo officio deductum ad se pro uxore habuit; exstatque cuiusdam non inscitus iocus bene agi potuisse cum rebus humanis, si Domitius pater talem habuisset uxorem. }

Castrating a boy without his fully informed, completely understanding consent is evil. Sporus apparently suffered a terrible injustice like that of Earinus, the beloved boy of the Roman Emperor Domitian. Yet Roman officials accompanied and validated this evil behavior. Some Romans even responded by jesting about transwomen’s inability to procreate. Given the circumstances of Sporus’s gender transition, how could humans be so morally obtuse and heartlessly cruel?

Pretentious ideological inanity enables the outrageous injustices of gynocentrism and castration culture. Men and women warmly accept transmen. No one today attempts to exclude transmen from any groups, spaces, or activities. Transwomen, in contrast, have faced marginalization, hatred, and discrimination through all of human history right up to the present day. Transwomen represent a gender gap in gynocentrism’s fragile ideological superstructure. Through that gender gap fundamental contradictions of gynocentrism and its female supremacist interests are transformed into understanding in newly developing minds.

*  *  *  *  *

Read more:


[1] The most statistically sophisticated national estimate to date indicates that for the U.S. in 2014:

Transgender individuals made up 0.53% (95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.46, 0.61) of the population, with a larger proportion of individuals identifying as male-to-female (0.28% of the population; 95% CI = 0.23, 0.33) than female-to-male (0.16%; 95% CI = 0.12, 0.21) or gender nonconforming (0.08%; 95% CI = 0.06, 0.13).

From Crissman et al. (2017). The ratio 0.28 / 0.16 is 1.75. Various studies of various populations, many with unknown statistical bases, have male-to-female / female-to-male transgender ratios above 2. Meier & Labuski (2013) pp. 298-9 (Table 16.1).

[2] Pliny the Elder, Natural History 7.36-7, Latin text from Rackham (1942) p. 531, my English translation, benefiting from that of id. The consulship over the Roman Republic of Publius Licinius Crassus and Gaius Cassius Longinus was in 171 BGC.

Pliny rarely engages in autopsy. Thysdritum (Thysdrus) was a Roman colony near present-day El Djem, Tunisia. On female-to-male transgender examples as understood by medical authorities in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, Beecher (2005).

[3] Ovid, Metamorphoses 9.673-80, Latin text from Alpheios (with minor changes to editorial presentation), English translation (modified slightly) from Lombardo (2010). Subsequent quotes from Ovid’s Metamorphoses are similarly sourced, unless otherwise specified. The quoted phrase vita fidesque / inculpata fuit is from Metamorphoses 9.672-3, with my English translation.

For vires fortuna negat in 9.677, Lombardo translated: “it is their {girls’} misfortune to be weak.” Reading vires as “resources” with an indirect object “us” seems to me better in context. On different interpretations of this phrase, Wheeler (1997) pp. 196-7.

For his account of Iphis and Ianthe, Ovid drew upon the myth of Leucippus {Λεύκιππος}, probably from Nicander of Colophon’s Metamorphoses (Heteroeumena). Nicander’s Metamorphoses has not survived. Antonius Liberalis’s Metamorphoses 17 provides a summary of Nicander’s story. For English translation, Celorai (1992).

In Ovid’s poetry, etymology often signifies. In Nicander’s version as represented by Antonius Liberalis, Leucippus, who corresponds to Iphis, has as parents Galatea and Lamprus. The names Galatea (“white as milk”), Lamprus (“shining”), and Leucippus (“white horse”) suggest brilliance and whiteness. Moreover, Lamprus was from a family with high social status. His father was Pandion, a prestigious name shared with an ancient Athenian king. Lamprus, however, was poor. Ligdus, in contrast, was both low-born and poor. The name Ligdus was very unusual at Ovid’s time. Ligdus lived on the island of Crete. The common Latin word for clay is creta. The Greek word λíγδος is “the standard word for the clay mold used by the potter.” Wheeler (1997) p. 193. The etymology of Ligdus apparently indicates that he had the humble status of potter. These transformations in names and characteristics have general significance for the retold myth:

Ovid thus appears to be “correcting” the source by making his a tale of humble piety rewarded rather than nobility recognized.

Id. p. 192. A pun with the Greek word for white marble, λνγδóς, perhaps provides a simultaneous link to the etymologies of the names in Ovid’s source. Id. p. 193.

In telling about Leucippus, Antonius Liberalis recounted the existence of other transgender persons: Tiresias, Caenis / Caeneus the Lapith, Hypermestra, and the Cretan Siproites. Tiresias changed from man to woman and then from woman back to man. Tiresias thus understood relative sexual pleasure by gender. Poseidon, who loved the girl Caenis, granted her wish to be transformed into a boy. She thus became Caeneus. Unlike Danaus’s daughter Hypermestra, who refused to slaughter her husband, another Hypermestra changed from woman into a man or other animals to defraud repeatedly men who married her. Siproites {Σιπροιτεσ}, also called Sypretes {Συπρετεσ}, was a hunter from Crete. He was transformed from man into woman because he gazed upon Artemis bathing in the woods. Nothing more is known of Siproites. Celoria (1992) p. 83, n. 204.

[4] Irrespective of who formally specifies the baby’s name, mothers have always had enormous influence on baby names. Mothers, after all, can choose to not use a particular baby name and can substitute another name (a “nickname”) instead. Ovid doesn’t make clear whether Iphis was Telethusa’s father’s name, or Ligdus’s father’s name. It could have been either. Ovid tells of Telethusa’s ironic delight in the name Iphis:

The mother rejoiced in this name,
for it had non-specific gender; she wouldn’t be in any way deceiving her husband.

{gavisa est nomine mater,
quod commune foret, nec quemquam falleret illo. }

Metamorphoses 9.709-10, my English translation.

Men engage in gender-specific, relatively strenuous sexual labor without receiving any monetary compensation. Men’s physical strength is also exploited in the social institutions of physical labor. Iphis’s name indicates this gender inequality:

Iphis is derived from the Greek ἶφι (“by force”), the instrumental of ἴς, a form found in Homer and in his epic imitators. Given the prevalence of bilingual etymologizing in the Metamorphoses, it is probable that Ovid’s learned audience would equate Iphis with the Latin vis, which is the same in meaning, gender, and declination as ἴς.

Wheeler (1997) p. 194. Underscoring the historical bias toward violence against men, “Romans often etymologize vir with reference to vis.” Id. p. 195. Moreover, vires, understood as male sexual potency, is associated with the socially constructed brutalization of men’s sexuality.

[5] Ovid, Metamorphoses 9.716-25. Ovid emphasizes Iphis and Ianthe’s equal passion for each other: “no less hotly the other young woman / burned in love {nec lenius altera virgo / aestuat}.” Id. 9.764-5, my English translation.

In Nicander, as summarized by Antonius Liberalis, Leucippus has no love interest. But he / she is also very beautiful: “As the girl grew up {presenting herself as a boy}, she became unutterably beautiful.” Celoria (1992) p. 17. Nicander’s myth thus turns on the impossibility of a boy being as “unutterably beautiful” as a girl. That socially constructed problem reflects the social instrumentalization of men.

[6] Ovid’s story of Iphis and Ianthe includes characteristic indications of gynocentrism: the husband is burdened with providing material resources for the family, female children require more resources, what the husband says is ignored, the husband is marginalized in the life of his children, a husband must be wary of being cuckolded, men must struggle for sexual access to women, and the controlling deity is female. Cf. Pintabone (2002) p. 262.

[7] Ovid, Metamorphoses 9.782-94. Ovid’s telling of the myth of Iphis and Ianthe concludes with nuptial joy:

After the sun’s rays had revealed the world’s broadness,
when Venus, Juno, and Hymen convened the marriage fires,
the boy Iphis was encompassed by his Ianthe.

{ postera lux radiis latum patefecerat orbem,
cum Venus et Iuno sociosque Hymenaeus ad ignes
conveniunt, potiturque sua puer Iphis Ianthe. }

Metamorphoses 9.795-7, my English translation.

In Nicander, as summarized by Antonius Liberalis, the myth of Leucippus ends with the establishment of a festival and a pre-marriage ritual:

Leto took pity on Galatea because of her unremitting and distressed prayers and changed Leucippus’s sex into that of a boy. In memory of this change the citizens of Phaestus still sacrifice to Leto the Engenderer because she had sprouted a penis and testicles on the girl. They gave her festival the name Ecdysia because the girl had stripped off her female dress. It is now a custom before marriages to lie down beside the statue of Leucippus.

Translation from ancient Greek from Celoria (1992) p. 17, with my minor changes. For “Leto the Engenderer” the ancient Greek text is “Λητώ Φυτία {Leto Phytia}.” Phytia {Φυτία} means in ancient Greek “causer of sprouting.” In this context, Phytia refers to the emergence of male genitals on Leucippus. Celoria translated the phrase as “Leto the Grafter.” The festival Ecdysia {ὲκδύσια} is etymologically rooted in the Greek “to undress {ἑκδύω}.” Celoria noted that Antonius Liberalis’s text doesn’t explicitly specify whether brides or grooms lie down beside the statue of Leucippus. The text specifies the female dress as a “peplos {πέπλος}.”

[8] Parthenius of Nicaea, Sufferings in Love {Ἐρωτικὰ Παθήματα} 15.1 (About Daphne {Περὶ Δάφνης}), ancient Greek text and English translation (modified slightly to be more easily readable) from Lightfoot (2009). Subsequent quotes from the myth of Daphne and Leucippus are similarly sourced. Here’s the Greek text of Hercher (1858).

Parthenius here provides the earliest surviving account of the myth of Daphne. The manchette for this story states, “The story is told by Diodorus of Elaea in his elegies and in the fifteenth book of Phylarchus {Ἡ ἱστορία παρὰ Διοδώρῳ τῷ Ἐλαΐτῃ ἐν ἐλεγείαις καὶ Φυλάρχῳ ἐν ιε΄}.” Lightfoot (2009). Diodorus of Elaea is “almost entirely unknown”; Phylarchus flourished in the third century BGC. Lightfoot (1999) p. 471, n. 209.

Leucippus’s love for Daphne is largely missing in the literary history of the myth of Daphne. Pausanias is the only other ancient author to mention it. Pausanias, Description of Greece 8.20.2-4; Lightfoot (1999) p. 471. On other ancient stories, not referring to Daphne, in which Leucippus / Leucippi / Leucippae / Leucippe undergoes a gender transformation, id. pp. 474-5.

[9] After the women cast their javelins at Leucippus, Parthenius’s text cryptically states:

The gods willed it that he disappeared.

{ καὶ ὁ μὲν δὴ κατὰ θεῶν βούλησιν ἀφανὴς γίνεται}

Pausanias provides more detail:

seeing that Leucippus was not a woman, they killed him with their javelins and daggers.

{ ἰδοῦσαι δὲ οὐ παρθένον τοῖς τε ἀκοντίοις αὐτὸν καὶ ἐγχειριδίοις τύπτουσαι διέφθειραν. }

Description of Greece 8.20.4 (concerning Arcadia), Greek text and English translation (changed insubstantially) from Jones (1933). The young women apparently saw that Leucippus had male genitals. They then assumed that he was a man and sought to kill him. Some transmen endure similar risk.

[10] Suetonius, Lives of the Caesars 6 (Nero) 29, Latin text from Rolfe (1913) via Bill Thayer’s LacusCurtius, my English translation, benefiting from that of id. The subsequent quote is similarly sourced. Rolfe’s translation specifies a maiden being “deflowered.” The verb “deflower” reflects historical disparagement of men’s heterosexual activity of reproductive type. Particularly in the context of gender-bigoted representations of rape, disparaging terms such as “deflower” should be avoided.

Nero’s spouse Doryphorus seems to refer to a man elsewhere called Pythagoras:

Nero himself, polluted by every licit and illicit lust, had left no abomination to make himself more perverted. Nonetheless, a few days later he basely became the wife of one from that marriage-dirtying swarm — the groom’s name was Pythagorus — in solemn wedding rites. With the bridal veil placed over the emperor’s face, then were sent forth witnesses, dowry, the marital bed, and wedding torches. All that nightime covers for a woman was open to view at length.

{ Ipse per licita atque inlicita foedatus nihil flagitii reliquerat, quo corruptior ageret, nisi paucos post dies uni ex illo contamina-torum grege (nomen Pythagorae fuit) in modum sollemnium coniugiorum denupsisset. Inditum imperatori flammeum, missi auspices, dos et genialis torus et faces nuptiales, cuncta denique spectata, quae etiam in femina nox operit. }

Tacitus, Annals 15.37, Latin text from Jackson (1937), my English translation, benefiting from that of id.

Doryphorus is a Latin transliteration of the Greek Δορυφόρος, meaning literally “spear bearer.” Doryphorus / Pythagoras sexually “finishing off” the savage Nero evokes gladiator hunts of wild animals (venatio).

Nero associated himself with hermaphroditic animals:

Nero always used to show off harnessed to his chariot hermaphrodite mares that he had found in the Trier district in Gaul — as if the emperor of the world sitting in a portentous carriage was a thing to be plainly seen.

{ ostentabat certe hermaphroditas subiunctas carpento suo equas, in Treverico Galliae agro repertas — ceu plane visenda res esset principem terrarum insidere portentis. }

Pliny the Elder, Natural History 11.262, Latin text from Rackham (1940), my English translation, benefiting from that of id.

[image] Two women lying together, with the woman below apparently resisting. From photo of Augustes Rodin’s plaster sculpture entitled “The Metamorphosis of Ovid.” Rodin made this sculpture about 1886. Preserved as accession # A.117-1937 in the Victoria and Albert Museum (London, UK). Source image thanks to va_va-val and Wikimedia Commons.


Beecher, Donald. 2005. “Concerning Sex Changes: The Cultural Significance of a Renaissance Medical Polemic.” The Sixteenth Century Journal. 36 (4): 991-1016.

Celoria, Francis, trans. 1992. The Metamorphoses of Antoninus Liberalis: a translation with commentary. London: Routledge.

Crissman, Halley P., Mitchell B. Berger, Louis F. Graham, and Vanessa K. Dalton. 2017. “Transgender Demographics: A Household Probability Sample of US Adults, 2014.” American Journal of Public Health. 107 (2): 213-215.

Jackson, John, 1937. Tacitus. Annals. Books 13-16. Loeb Classical Library 322. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Jones, W. H. S., trans. 1933. Pausanias. Description of Greece, Volume III: Books 6-8.21 (Elis 2, Achaia, Arcadia). Loeb Classical Library 272. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Lightfoot, J. L. 1999. Parthenius of Nicaea: The poetical fragments and the  Ἐρωτικὰ Παθήματα. Oxford: Clarendon Press. (review by Christopher Francese)

Lightfoot, J. L. 2009. Hellenistic Collection: Philitas, Alexander of Aetolia, Hermesianax, Euphorion, Parthenius. Loeb Classical Library, 508. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press. (reviews by Giambattista D’Alessio, by Claudio De Stefani, and by Iiro Laukola)

Lombardo, Stanley, trans. 2010. Ovid. Metamorphoses. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing.

Meier, Stacey Colton and Labuski, Christine M. 2013. “The Demographics of the Transgender Population.” Pp. 289-327 in A. K. Baumle, ed. International Handbooks of Population: Vol. 5. International Handbook on the Demography of Sexuality. Springer Science + Business Media.

Pintabone, Diane T. 2002. “Ovid’s Iphis and Ianthe: When Girls Won’t Be Girls.” Ch. 8 (pp. 256-285) in Rabinowitz, Nancy Sorkin & Lisa Auanger, eds. Among Women: From the Homosocial to the Homoerotic in the Ancient World. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.

Rackham, H., ed. and trans. 1940-2. Pliny the Elder. Natural History. Volume II: Books 3-7 (Loeb Classical Library 352); Volume III: Books 8-11 (Loeb Classical Library 353). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Rolfe, J. C., ed. and trans. 1913. Suetonius. Lives of the Caesars. Volume II: Claudius. Nero. Galba, Otho, and Vitellius. Vespasian. Titus, Domitian. Loeb Classical Library 38. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1914.

Wheeler, Stephen M. 1997. “Changing Names: The Miracle of Iphis in Ovid Metamorphoses 9.” Phoenix. 51 (2): 190-202.

Bernart de Ventadorn & medieval Latin lyric on season for love

As the season changes from winter to summer, the earth pushes forth new life. This reality of nature has prompted lyric poets throughout the ages to associate springtime with love. Medieval cleric-scholars, however, learned dialectical reasoning — the practice of looking at propositions in different ways and arguing from different positions. Even the seasons and love can be considered from different perspectives. Apparently drawing upon the intellectual traditions of medieval dialectic and Latin lyric, the man trobairitz (troubadour) Bernart de Ventadorn personally interpreted spring in contradictory ways.

troubadour Guilhem de Montanhagol playing the lute

Poets sometimes felt themselves to be in harmony with spring. Writing in southern France early in the thirteenth century, the man trobairitz Guilhem de Montanhagol sang:

Now in harmonious spring,
when I see beautiful colors
of flowers in orchards and meadows,
and I hear little birds that sing
sweetly on every side,
I want in harmonies to make
a song composed so it will please
all those who are in love
and most of all my lady,
who gives me skill in song.

{ Ar ab lo coinde pascor,
Qan vei de bella color
Flors per vergiers e per pratz,
E aug chantar daus totz latz
Los auzeletz per doussor,
Vueilh far ab coindia
Chanso tal qe sia
Plazens als enamoratz,
E a midons majormen
Qe-m don’en trobar engenh. }[1]

As men commonly do, Guilhem de Montanhagol credited a woman for his skill. He also explicitly associated the harmony of spring with the harmony of his song. In medieval Europe, nature was commonly figured as a woman. Whether with his specific beloved woman, or with the earthly season of spring, Guilhem understood himself to be in tune with nature. So too was Bernart de Ventadorn when the woman he loved also loved him:

When woods and thickets put forth leaves,
and flowers and greenery appear
throughout gardens and meadows,
and birds, who have been sulking,
are gay beneath the foliage,
then I too sing and rejoice
and re-blossom and become green again
and put forth leaves following my nature.

{ Lancan folhon bosc e jarric,
e·lh flors pareis e·lh verdura
pels vergers e pels pratz,
e·lh auzel, c’an estat enic,
son gai desotz los folhatz,
autresi·m chant e m’esbaudei
e reflorisc e reverdei
e folh segon ma natura. }[2]

Bernart’s leaves figure the written pages of his love songs. In spring, the leaves of Bernart’s love-songs sprout as naturally as the leaves of trees.

A medieval Latin lyric from no later than about the year 1200 described spring as inspiring men to love. The lyric’s opening stanza and refrain emphasize change:

Winter solstice, hail, ice,
snow, stiffness from winter
recede; together the beauty
and grace of summer returns.
The southern zone’s
rage is made mild.
The wind is turned to a breeze,
the ocean’s squall is made calm,
the ship is ruled by the sailor
more relaxedly.

Serene is the air,
the breeze more healthful;
the seas abide,
the water becomes purer;
he who does not love now
is harder than iron.

{ Bruma, grando, glacies,
nix, rigor hiemalis
cedunt; redit species
et decor estiualis;
mitigatur rabies
plage meridialis.
Ventus in auram vertitur,
maris procella sternitur,
navis a nauta regitur

Serenus est aer,
aura salubrior;
marina resident,
fit unda purior;
qui modo non amet
est ferro durior. }[3]

Through the prophet Ezekiel, the Lord declared that he would remove from his people their hard hearts of stone and give them soft hearts of flesh. A man harder than iron is even more unnatural than a man with a heart of stone. He is incapable of love. Yet the love of this Latin lyric isn’t the insane love of Gallus. This love is serene and pure.

Bernart de Ventadorn imagined that he could transform a woman’s heart. The woman that he loved had a beautiful body, but she had a hard heart:

Her cruel heart, hard and bitter,
will be well-served by me,
until it’s softened completely
from fine words and compassion,
for I have learned in my reading
that constantly falling drops of water
striking a small spot
may pierce hard stone.

If one looks closely and sees
her eyes and throat, forehead and face,
he sees beauty so perfectly shaped
that nothing can be added or taken away.
Her slender body, straight and graceful,
is finely clothed, comely and gay.
No one can praise her so finely
as nature knew how to create her.

{ Tan er gen servitz per me
sos fers cors, durs et iratz,
tro del tot si’adoussatz
ab bels dihz et ab merce.
qu’eu ai be trobat legen
que gota d’aiga que chai
fer en un loc tan soven
tro chava la peira dura.

Qui be remira ni ve
olhs e gola, fron e faz,
aissi son finas beutatz
que mais ni menhs no i cove,
cors lonc, dreih e covinen,
gen afliban, conhd’ e gai.
om no·l pot lauzar tan gen
com la saup formar Natura. }[4]

In De rerum natura, Lucretius described a little woman, who wasn’t beautiful, gaining a man’s affection through her works and ways acting like drops of water falling on stone.[5] Acting like drops of water is far from love like epic war. It’s a long, slow, tedious process for changing a person.

Men are commonly required to change themselves to be worthy of women. In contrast to the essential, unchanging character of a man harder than iron, Bernart pointed to what men want and how they act in relation to others:

When I see flowers, green grass, and leaves,
and hear the song of birds through the woods,
my joy, blended with others in my heart,
is doubled and reborn and flourishes and blossoms.
And it doesn’t seem to me that a man is worthy
if he doesn’t want to have love and joy now,
when all that lives is happy and rejoices.

{ Can vei la flor, l’erba vert e la folha
et au lo chan dels auzels pel boschatge,
ab l’autre joi qu’eu ai en mo coratge
dobla mos jois e nais e creis e brolha.
e no m’es vis c’om re poscha valer
s’eras no vol amor et joi aver,
pus tot can es s’alegr’ e s’esbaudeya. }[6]

Worthiness isn’t an essential characteristic like the hardness of stone or iron. Worthiness is a social valuation that depends on a person’s acts. Men historically have been taught that they should strive to be manly / virtuous according to gynocentric ideology. Men strive to be worthy under the men-abasing standards of courtly love, or they reject those standards and accept being socially judged as unworthy of love.

Nature doesn’t heed human claims about worthiness. The natural world’s continuing existence requires fecundity:

Visible earthly
abundance laughs.
Its appearance returns
to material things.
The warmth of spring’s west wind
is alluring to the procreated.
The morning dew is scattered,
the earth is released into birth,
pregnancy proceeds
more timely.

Serene is the air,
the breeze more healthful;
the seas abide,
the water becomes purer;
he who does not love now
is harder than iron.

{ Ridet superficies
terrene facultatis;
sua redit species
rebus materiatis;
Zephiri temperies
blanditur procreatis.
Ros matutinus spargitur,
in partum terra soluitur,
pregnacio progreditur

Serenus est aer,
aura salubrior;
marina resident,
fit unda purior;
qui modo non amet
est ferro durior. }

Humans are material things. Those not made of iron aren’t inert. Men have some choice in love that affects their relations to spring:

When the green leaf unfolds
and the branch’s white flower blossoms,
with the sweet song of a bird
my heart goes rejoicing.
When one sees the trees flower
and hears the nightingale sing,
then he ought to rejoice well,
he who knew how to choose good love.
And I have chosen a woman
for whom I am bright and gay.

{ Can la verz folha s’espan
e par flors blanch’ el ramel,
per lo douz chan del auzel
se vai mos cors alegran.
lancan ve·ls arbres florir
et au·l rossinhol chantar,
adonc deu·s ben alegrar
qui bon’ amor saup chauzir.
mas eu n’ai una chauzida
per qu’eu sui coindes e gais. }[7]

A man’s particular choice of woman to love might turn out badly for him and negate the joy of spring:

The gentle season of spring
with its fresh greenery
brings us leaves and flowers
of diverse colors.
For that reason all lovers
are gay and singing
except for me, who laments and weeps,
for joy has not delighted me.

{ Lo gens tems de pascor
ab la frescha verdor
nos adui folh’ e flor
de diversa color,
per que tuih amador
son gai e chantador
mas eu, que planh e plor,
cui jois non a sabor. }[8]

Bernart even imagined spring as a good time for him to sing and die:

My delight is to sing in this month
when I see flowers and leaves appear,
and hear in the groves the sweet song
of the nightingale in morning and evening.
Then it’s fitting that I have consolation
in the one true joy that’s my heart’s hope,
for I know that in love I will surely die.

{ Bel m’es qu’eu chan en aquel mes
can flor e folha vei parer,
et au lo chan doutz pel defes
del rossinhol matin e ser.
adoncs s’escha qu’eu aya jauzimen
d’un joi verai eu que mos cors s’aten,
car eu sai be que per amor morrai. }[9]

Men have long been systemically sexually disadvantaged. Men’s deaths should matter. A kind-hearted woman can save a man from dying.

The fecundity of nature depends on men’s manhood put into action through men’s fully human spirit. Change depends in part on men:

The flat plain of
the field erupts,
a natural progression,
not artificial.
Manhood is material,
yet the actor is spiritual.
To divine art is left
that from a thornbush a flower is born,
from a flower is produced a fruit
even sweeter.

Serene is the air,
the breeze more healthful;
the seas abide,
the water becomes purer;
he who does not love now
is harder than iron.

{ Eminet planicies
camporum coequalis,
naturalis series,
non artificialis,
virtus est materies,
artifex spiritalis.
Arti divine linquitur
quod flos de spina nascitur,
de flore fructus proditur

Serenus est aer,
aura salubrior;
marina resident,
fit unda purior;
qui modo non amet
est ferro durior. }

Bernart described his love as not depending on the season:

I have never considered the season,
nor when flowers appear, nor when they vanish,
nor when grass sprouts at the fountain’s edge,
but whenever came to me
a rich joy of love,
for me that was such a beautiful start
that I believe those moments reign.

{ Anc no gardei sazo ni mes
ni can flors par ni can s’escon
ni l’erba nais delonc la fon,
mas en cal c’oras m’avengues
d’amor us rics esjauzimens,
tan me fo bels comensamens
qu’eu cre c’aquel tems senhorei. }[10]

Bernart was willing to sing at the coming of winter:

When across the plain I can see
leaves fall from the trees,
just before the cold spreads
and the gentle season disappears,
I like that my song be heard,
for I haven’t sung for more than two years,
and it’s right that I make amends.

{ Lancan vei per mei la landa
dels arbres chazer la folha,
ans que·lh frejura s’espanda
ni·l gens termini s’esconda,
m’es bel que si’ auzitz mos chans,
qu’estat n’aurai mais de dos ans,
e cove que·n fass’ esmenda. }[11]

He even imagined that his joy was able to change the season for him:

My heart is so full of joy,
that all seems to me changed.
White, red, and yellow flowers —
that’s the frost to me.
With the wind and the rain
my fortune grows
so that my fame increase and rises
and my songs improve.
I have a heart so full of love
and joy and sweetness
that ice seems to me like flowers
and snow like greenery.

I can go without clothing,
naked beneath my shirt,
since fine love protects me
from the freezing north wind.

{ Tant ai mo cor ple de joya,
tot me desnatura.
Flor blancha, vermelh’e groya
me par la frejura,
c’ab lo ven et ab la ploya
me creis l’aventura,
per que mos pretz mont’ e poya
e mos chans melhura.
Tan ai al cor d’amor,
de joi e de doussor,
per que·l gels me sembla flor
e la neus verdura.

Anar posc ses vestidura,
nutz en ma chamiza,
car fin’ amors m’asegura
de la freja biza. }[12]

Yet Bernart also experienced love apart from time very differently:

Time comes and goes and returns
by days, by months, by years,
and I, alas, know not what to say,
for my longing is always one,
it is always one and never changes.
For I want and have wanted one woman,
from whom I’ve never had joy.

{ Lo tems vai e ven e vire
per jorns, per mes e per ans,
et eu, las ! no·n sai que dire,
c’ades es us mos talans.
ades es us e no·s muda,
c’una·n volh e·n ai volguda,
don anc non aic jauzimen. }[13]

Love implies difficulties, especially for men. Whether in season or out of season, men reason and worry about love.

Like Bernart de Ventadorn, the medieval Latin lyric connects seasons and the passing of time to the poet’s personal love circumstances. Medieval Latin poetry forthrightly declared men’s natural appreciation for lovely young women’s bodies. A lovely young women — Juliet or another —  is like the sun to men. In trobairitz song, a man typically loves a woman of higher status than he. That oppressive cultural convention of men-abasing courtly love appears in this Latin lyric of spring’s coming:

Green again the fir becomes,
and I become green again.
The mid-day sun burns,
but from this I don’t heat up.
A young woman’s likeness
creates the sun that warms me.
Anxious love troubles me,
a regal young woman touches me,
me!, who have not known such things.
Alas, I suffer.

Serene is the air,
the breeze more healthful;
the seas abide,
the water becomes purer;
he who does not love now
is harder than iron.

{ Revirescit abies
et ego reviresco;
estuat meridies,
set non ob hoc calesco;
virginis effigies
fert solem quo tepesco.
Me Venus angit anxia;
me virgo tangit regia,
me qui non novi talia:
heu pacior.

Serenus est aer,
aura salubrior;
marina resident,
fit unda purior;
qui modo non amet
est ferro durior. }[14]

If the regal young woman literally touched the man without his consent, today that would be regarded as sexual harassment, if she were he and he were she. Yet this lyric from the more liberal and tolerant medieval period turns on the man not having previously encountered a hot woman. For many men, encountering a hot woman doesn’t occur as regularly as spring. A young man’s first experience of this nature can bewilder. Men actually are not dogs.

Temporal patterns of nature and social constructions of gynocentric society have long shaped love relations between women and men. Bernart de Ventadorn and other men trobairitz who sung in southern France in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries drew upon sophisticated medieval Latin thought and love lyric. Love is a natural, regular action like the spring in the eternal cosmos. Yet as medieval thinkers understood, for persons in all the specificity of their particular incarnations, love is complicated and full of contradictions.

*  *  *  *  *

Read more:


[1] Guilhem de Montanhagol, “Now in harmonious spring {Ar ab lo coinde pascor}” st. 1, Old Occitan text from Corpus des Troubadours, English translation from Paden & Paden (2007) p. 201. From Toulouse in southern France, Guilhem de Montanhagol flourished from 1233 to 1268. He was a precursor to the “sweet new style {dolce stil nuovo}” that influenced Dante and the expression of gyno-idolatry.

[2] Bernart de Ventadorn, “When woods and thickets put forth leaves {Lancan folhon bosc e jarric}” st. 1, Old Occitan text from Corpus des Troubadours, English translation adapted from Nichols (1965) p. 108 (song 24). English translation of the whole poem by James H. Donalson. Here’s a recording of the Troubadour Art Ensemble performing this song.

Bernart de Ventadorn was active from about 1150 to 1180 in southern France. He thus followed in the prior troubadour tradition of Guillaume IX, Cercamon, Jaufré Rudel, and Marcabru. Despite voluminous conjectures, little is securely known about Bernart’s life. He probably was associated with the court of Ventadour. That’s in the Limousin dialect district. Bernart’s patron Lord Eble headed an important troubadour school. Nichols (1965) pp. 14-5.

[3] Incipit “Winter solstice, hail, ice {Bruma, grando, glacies}, st. 1a and refrain, Latin text from Moser (2004) p. 228, my English translation, benefiting from that of id. pp. 228-9. Subsequent quotes from this poem cover the whole poem sequentially and are similarly sourced.

“Bruma, grando, glacies” survives only in the Bekynton Anthology (Oxford, Bodleian Library, Add. A 44 (S.C. 301510)), written in the first quarter of the thirteenth century. Rigg cites the poem as Bekynton no. 46, xiii. Rigg (1992) p. 146. The Bekynton Anthology is an “anthology par excellence” of Anglo-Latin works. Rigg dates the compilation of the Bekynton Anthology to c. 1200. Id. p. 152. Individual poems may have been composed significantly earlier. Moser cites “Bruma, grando, glacies” as Wilmart 48; it’s “one of four erotic lyrics clustered together on the last two folios of the booklet (fols. 70-71).” Moser (2004) p. 227.

Peter Abelard’s Yes and No {Sic et non} exemplifies medieval questioning with contrasting perspectives. Sic et non presents 158 leading questions, with patristic quotes supporting alternate answers of yes or no. Students apparently were to take up and debate those questions. Peter Abelard, the husband of Heloise of the Paraclete, wrote Sic et non about 1125.

“Bruma, grando, glacies” is “almost a commentary on the idea of the Natureingang {nature opening}.” This poem is “a beautifully constructed, compressed little sequence with a relatively long refrain, moving from image to image and idea to idea in careful order.” Moser (2004) p. 227.

Transforming a heart of stone into a heart of flesh is a recurring metaphor in the bible. Ezekiel 36:216, Ezekiel 11:19, Jeremiah 31:33, Hebrews 8:10, 2 Corinthians 5:17.

[4] Bernart de Ventadorn, “Conort, now I know for sure {Conortz, era sai eu be}” st. 5-6, Old Occitan text from Corpus des Troubadours, English translation adapted from Nichols (1965) p. 85 (song 16). English translation of the whole poem by James H. Donalson.

[5] Dripping water is an ancient metaphor. See, e.g. Proverbs 19:13, 27:15-6. Ovid’s books were well-known to troubadours. Scholars have speculated that Bernart’s reading of the dripping water piercing a stone is from Ovid, Epistulae Ex Ponto 4.10.5. The context in Ovid, however, is permission to return from political exile, not gaining personal love from a beloved. The context in Lucretius appropriately relates to gaining personal love. De rerum natura, however, isn’t otherwise attested in twelfth-century France.

[6] Bernart de Ventadorn, “When I see flowers, green grass, and leaves {Can vei la flor, l’erba vert e la folha}” st. 1, Old Occitan text from Corpus des Troubadours, English translation adapted from Nichols (1965) p. 164 (song 42). English translation of the whole poem by James H. Donalson.

Bernart in this song seems to be repenting an earlier affair with another woman. Scholars have declared that courtly lyric suspends time and doesn’t allow for desire to be fulfulled:

As has often been suggested, the perpetual tension of desire in the courtly lyric is a fundamental structuring principal of the poetic form itself, which would presumably collapse were that desire to be satisfied. Troubadour poetry is founded upon the suspension of time just as it is founded on the suspension of desire. As in Bernart de Ventadorn, the time comes and goes, moving around the yearning lover as a stream moves around rocks, never involving him in it.

Moreau (2009) pp. 43-4. Those claims are exaggerated. Bernart dialectically analyzes his love’s relationship to time as well as fulfilled desire. On fulfilled desire in a song of Bernart, see “Now give me your advice, my Lords {Era·m cosselhatz, senhor}” discussed in note [3] in my post on women and men debating sex in medieval French lyric. Medieval courtly Latin lyric describes a woman saving a man from lovesickness and the joy of medieval sex more generally.

[7] Bernart de Ventadorn, “When the green leaf unfolds {Can la verz folha s’espan}” st. 1, Old Occitan text from Corpus des Troubadours, English translation adapted adapted from Nichols (1965) p. 152 (song 38). English translation of the whole poem by James H. Donalson and by A. S. Kline.

[8] Bernart de Ventadorn, “The gentle season of spring {Lo gens tems de pascor}” st. 1, Old Occitan text from Corpus des Troubadours, English translation adapted from Nichols (1965) p. 123 (song 28). English translation of the whole poem by James H. Donalson.

Guillaume IX similarly lamented his choice of love after a joyful spring opening:

With the sweet beauty of the new season
the woods leaf out, and the birds sing,
each one in its language
to the measure of a new song;
then it is well for a man to enjoy
what he most desires.

{ Ab la dolchor del temps novel
foillo li bosc, e li aucel
chanton, chascus en lor lati
segon lo vers del novel chan;
adonc esta ben qu’om s’aisi
d’acho don hom a plus talan. }

“With the sweet beauty of the new season {Ab la dolchor del temps novel}” st. 1, Old Occitan text from Moreau (2009) p. 44, English translation from Paden & Paden (2007) p. 25 (song 5). Here are translations by Leonard Cottrell, James H. Donalson, A. S. Kline, and Alan M. Rosiene.

In the first stanza of “Ab la dolchor del temps novel,” the Old Occitan word latin refers vernacular Romance languages. With respect to Latin literature, Cottrell observed of Guillaume IX, Duke of Aquitaine: “The Duke stole tunes of Latin songs used at the Abby of St. Martial in nearby Limoges and set to them his own rhyming vernacular words.”

[9] Bernart de Ventadorn, “My delight is to sing in this month {Bel m’es qu’eu chan en aquel mes}” st. 1, Old Occitan text from Corpus des Troubadours, English translation adapted from Nichols (1965) p. 69 (song 10). English translation of the whole poem by James H. Donalson.

[10] Bernart de Ventadorn, “I have never considered the season {Anc no gardei sazo ni mes}” st. 1, Old Occitan text from Corpus des Troubadours, English translation adapted from Nichols (1965) p. 55 (song 5). English translation of the whole poem by James H. Donalson.

[11] Bernart de Ventadorn, “When across the plain I can see {Lancan vei per mei la landa}” st. 1, Old Occitan text from Corpus des Troubadours, English translation adapted from Nichols (1965) p. 115 (song 26). English translation of the whole poem by James H. Donalson.

[12] Bernart de Ventadorn, “My heart is so full of joy {Tant ai mo cor ple de joya}” st. 1, 2.1-4, Old Occitan text from Corpus des Troubadours, English translation adapted from Nichols (1965) p. 171 (song 44). English translation of the whole poem by James H. Donalson and by A. S. Kline.

The troubadour Raimbaut d’Aurenga described a similar subjective change of season in “Now the flowers gleam in reverse {Ar resplan la flors enversa},” full English translations available by A. S. Kline, trobar, and Paden & Paden (2007) pp. 64-5 (song 23).

[13] Bernart de Ventadorn, “Time comes and goes and returns {Lo tems vai e ven e vire}” st. 1, 2.1-4, Old Occitan text from Corpus des Troubadours, English translation adapted from Nichols (1965) p. 130 (song 30). English translation of the whole poem by James H. Donalson and by A. S. Kline.

Discussing time in Bernart de Ventadorn’s songs, Stainton declared:

In the phenomenon of spring the lover can find whatever correlative he requires: joy, pain, or both simultaneously.

Stainton (1977) p. 204. Bernart’s approach seems to me more intellectually serious than finding whatever he sought. He seems to have deliberately considered the seasons and love in the medieval dialectical tradition.

Troubadours are commonly imagined to be itinerant minstrels. Bernart de Ventadorn, in contrast, was a highly sophisticated, learned poet:

there are many aspects of Bernart’s poetry which give the impression that Bernart is an intellectual rather than a lyric poet. The feeling of intellectual density does not come merely from the finesse with which Bernart succeeds in using rhetorical devices …. It springs even more from the substitution of poetry for nature as the metaphorical identification for love in Bernart’s poems.

Nichols (1965) Introduction, p. 24.

[14] For Juliet as the sun, Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet 2.2.3. In translating the last two verses of the final stanza of “Bruma, grando, glacies,” I’m grateful for help from an expert in Latin philology and love.

[images] (1) Guilhem de Montanhagol playing the lute. Illuminated initial from Collection of songs of the troubadours, containing their lives {Recueil des poésies des troubadours, contenant leurs vies}. Painted in the thirteenth century. On folio 124r of manuscript Bibliothèque Nationale de France (BnF) MS. 854. (2) Video of performance of Bernart de Ventadorn’s song “Lancan vei per mei la landa” by Grupo Vocal Nuba (Miguel Ángel Jaraba, Milena Fuentes, Xurxo Ordóñez, Bill Cooley). From album Aliénor: Música en la corte de Leonor de Aquitania {Music at the Court of Eleanor of Aquitaine}, released 2014. (3) Video of performance of Bernart de Ventadorn’s song “Tant ai mo cor ple de joya” (first stanza) by Zefiro Torna on Tears Of Joy: English Lute Songs and Secular Music, released 2011.


Moreau, John. 2009. “The Perversion of Time: Jealousy and Lyric in The Romance of Flamenca.” The Modern Language Review. 104 (1): 41-54.

Moser, Thomas C. 2004. A Cosmos of Desire: the medieval Latin erotic lyric in English manuscripts. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Nichols, Stephen G. 1965. The Songs of Bernart de Ventadorn: complete texts, translations, notes, and glossary. Studies in the Romance Languages and Literatures, no. 39. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

Paden, William D., and Frances Freeman Paden, trans. 2007. Troubadour Poems from the South of France. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer.

Rigg, A. G. 1992. A History of Anglo-Latin Literature, 1066-1422. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Stainton, Albert. 1977. “The Time Motif in the Poetry of Bernart de Ventadorn.” Neuphilologische Mitteilungen. 78 (3): 202-214.

Marc Angelucci: modern martyr like ancient Saint Vincent

Marc Angelucci, martyr

A voice that witnesses to the truth cannot be extinguished.

{ vox veritatis testis extingui nequit }

Marc Angelucci, a civil-rights attorney who worked selflessly for decades to overcome gender injustices against men, was murdered on July 11, 2020. Among much other important work, this Angelucci worked for years to get sexist selective service overturned in court. He was victorious through a U.S. District Court ruling that declared sexist selective service to be unconstitutional. The media, Congress, and dominant elites have largely ignored Angelucci’s victory for gender equality. The U.S. Selective Service System itself continues to require only men to register to have their bodies drafted for death in war.

Marc Angelucci was a hero quite unlike the hypocrites, posers, popularity-seekers, speech-policers, and panderers the U.S. has nurtured over the past decades. Consider, for comparison, the career of Niel L. Golightly. By worldly standards, Marc Angelucci had a much less successful career than has Niel Golightly. Angelucci was murdered as a relatively low-profile civil rights attorney uncovering local-government corruption, addressing family court travesties, and helping men falsely accused of rape. These are very unfashionable concerns. Niel Golightly, in contrast, ascended to the top of corporate public relations. About six months ago, he was hired as the lead spokesperson and Senior Vice President of Communications at the Boeing Company.

In 1987, Niel Golightly sought to provide better for the common defense and exclude women from the mortal dangers that men face in combat. He was then a fighter pilot and lieutenant in the U.S. Navy. Golightly wrote an article questioning including women in combat. Combat forces are a small share of overall military personnel. Non-sexist selective service registration is operationally reasonable even if only men are subject to death in combat. In his article, Golightly supported only men being subject to death in combat:

Before we impose combat duty on women, we should understand that successful warfare depends less on manual or mental skills than on an amalgam of intangible human qualities including cohesion, morale, efficiency, esprit, and aggressiveness. We should ask ourselves not only whether women can physically and mentally perform basic combat functions — shooting a rifle, operating a mis­sile system, loading bombs on a carrier deck — but, as well, whether women and men can adapt emotionally to the socially radical step of fighting side-by-side. The debate must acknowledge some of the basic realities of armed service.

The young Niel Golightly failed to recognize basic realities of gynocentrism. In the U.S., a majority of voters are women, 70% of consumer spending is controlled by women, women predominate among elementary-school teachers and news journalists, and women are more active than men in social networking on social media. When women want an opportunity that only men have, women easily get it. When women don’t want a burden that only men have, only courageous heroes like Marc Angelucci speak up for gender justice. So it is with women in combat and sexist selective service registration.

From a 29-year-old fighter pilot questioning women in combat, but not sexist selective service, Golightly as a 62-year-old corporate executive came to understand women’s power. On July 2, 2020, Golightly resigned from his position as Boeing’s lead spokesperson. A Boeing Company press release explained:

Niel’s decision to resign stems from an employee complaint that brought to the Company’s attention an article he wrote in 1987 while serving in the military, about whether women should serve in combat.

Boeing does not agree with the views expressed in the article, and it does not reflect Niel’s views today. “My article was a 29-year-old Cold War navy pilot’s misguided contribution to a debate that was live at the time. My argument was embarrassingly wrong and offensive. The dialogue that followed its publication 33 years ago quickly opened my eyes, indelibly changed my mind, and shaped the principles of fairness, inclusion, respect and diversity that have guided my professional life since. The article is not a reflection of who I am; but nonetheless I have decided that in the interest of the company I will step down,” said Golightly.

This cowardly, foolish decision wasn’t a rash one:

“Niel and I discussed at length the article and its implications for his role as the Company’s lead spokesman,” said David Calhoun, President and CEO. “I greatly respect Niel for stepping down in the interest of the company. I thank him for his contributions to the Boeing Company, which have been substantial even in a short time. Our Executive Council and I thank him and wish him all the best in his future endeavors.”

Mr. Calhoun added, “I want to emphasize our Company’s unrelenting commitment to diversity and inclusion in all its dimensions, and to ensuring that all of our employees have an equal opportunity to contribute and excel.”

Principles of fairness, inclusion, respect, and diversity are now claimed to require the resignation a person who 33 years ago wrote against having women in combat, but didn’t write against sexist selective service. Principles of fairness, inclusion, respect, and diversity actually meant to Marc Angelucci what those words are rightly understood to mean. Often those words now merely provide cover for bigotry, exclusion, viciousness, and ideological purification. Such deceptive practices lead to airplanes crashing.

We now live in a nasty, brutish world very different from what Marc Angelucci sought. The modern martyr Marc Angelucci belongs in the tradition of the ancient martyr Saint Vincent of Saragossa. In the third century, Vincent became a deacon in a nascent Christian church in Spain. Fearing the growth of Christianity, the Roman Emperor Diocletian sought to force all to worship the dominant, traditional Roman gods. Vincent refused. He had a different understanding of the truth about god. Dacian, Emperor Diocletian’s governor for Spain, threatened Vincent:

“Dare you, unhappy man,” says he,
“to violate with coarse words
this law of gods and emperors,
a law both sacred and civic
that humankind must obey?
Does not pressing danger rouse
you in your passionate youth?
This is an order you must accept.
Either with incense and vegetation
you now supplicate this altar,
or you pay with bloody death.”

{ “audesne, non felix,” ait,
“ius hoc deorum et principum
violare verbis asperis,
ius et sacratum et publicum,
cui cedit humanum genus?
nec te iuventae fervidae
instans periclum permovet,
hoc namque decretum cape:
aut ara ture et caespite
precanda iam nunc est tibi,
aut mors luenda est sanguine.” }

Having the high and mighty threaten him didn’t intimidate Vincent:

Do it thus, with whatever powers,
whatever authority you have,
I openly resist, go ahead!
Hear what our voice is:
Christ and the Father are God,
we are his servants and witnesses.
Tear out, if you can, our faith!
Torture, imprisonment, iron claws,
flaming plates hissing,
even the ultimate punishment itself,
death, are merely play to Christians.
Oh, how vain and inane is
the brutish decree of Caesar!
You order that I worship divinities
carved by a worker’s hand
or refined by hollow bellows,
divinities lacking in voice and step,
immobile, blind, mute.
For these divinities, you raise costly,
gleaming shrines of marble;
for these, mooing cattle you
strike in the throat and sacrifice.

Your gods are also demons!

{ age ergo, quidquid virium,
quidquid potestatis tibi est,
palam reluctor, exere!
vox nostra quae sit, accipe:
est Christus et Pater Deus:
servi huius et testes sumus;
extorque, si potes, fidem!
tormenta, carcer, ungulae
stridensque flammis lammina,
atque ipsa poenarum ultima
mors Christianis ludus est.
o vestra inanis vanitas
scitumque brutum Caesaris!
condigna vestris sensibus
coli iubetis numina
excisa fabrili manu,
cavis recocta et follibus,
quae voce, quae gressu carent,
inmota, caeca, elinguia.
his sumptuosa splendido
delubra crescunt marmore,
his colla mugientium
percussa taurorum cadunt.

divique et idem daemones. }

A bright, energetic person fearlessly speaking the truth enrages the principalities, powers, and rulers of gynocentrism in this world — the preservers of wickedness in high places. Just so, Vincent’s defiant statement infuriated Caesar’s governor of Spain. The governor shouted:

Stuff his mouth,
the immoral one will speak no more.
His speaking voice will be imprisoned.
Quick, give him to the executioners,
those underworld conductors of the accused.
They feed on cut flesh.
Now the government’s law will be done;
the slanderer will feel it.
He will not, free of punishment,
amuse himself in destroying our gods.

{ os obtrudite,
ne plura iactet inprobus.
vocem loquentis claudite
raptimque lictores date,
illos reorum Plutones
pastos resectis carnibus.
iam faxo ius praetorium
conviciator sentiat,
inpune ne nostris sibi
dis destruendis luserit. }

Christians understand death not as imprisonment in the underworld, but for the deserving liberation to spend eternity with God. Christians were famous for fearlessness in the ancient Roman Empire.

The Spanish governor put Vincent to worse punishment than the quick gunshot killing that Marc Angelucci suffered. First the executioners held Vincent’s arms behind his back and slammed him up and down until they had broken all his limbs. Then they tore the flesh off his ribs so that his throbbing heart and lungs were exposed. His executioners tore at him so much that they tired and had to rest. Watching, the governor exclaimed:

He rejoices, smiles, challenges
the torturer to sharper torture!
You practice techniques of power
for the deaths of all criminals
that in this contest make no progress.
Pain’s very art is being conquered.

{ gaudet, renidet, provocat
tortore tortus acrior!
nil illa vis exercita
tot noxiorum mortibus
agone in isto proficit,
ars et dolorum vincitur. }

Vincent challenged the governor to take up the torturing himself and be even more brutish. Vincent proclaimed a certain invincibility:

You error, blood-thirsty one, if from me
you think you are exacting punishment
when you kill by tearing apart
limbs subject to death.
Another exists, is within me,
whom no one is able to violate.
That one is free, quiet, whole,
exempt from mournful pains.
This, which you labor to destroy
with such furious power,
is only a vessel made from clay,
inescapably destined to be broken.
Yet why not strive now
to cut and flog that
which stands within, which
tramples on your madness, tyrant?
This, this you must attack, this you must destroy,
this that is invincible, insurmountable,
that is subject to no storms,
but rests under God alone.

{ erras, cruente, si meam
te rere poenam sumere
cum membra morti obnoxia
dilancinata interficis.
est alter, est intrinsecus,
violare quem nullus potest,
liber, quietus, integer,
exsors dolorum tristium.
hoc, quod laboras perdere
tantis furoris viribus,
vas est solutum ac fictile,
quocumque frangendum modo.
quin immo nunc enitere
illum secare ac plectere
qui perstat intus, qui tuam
calcat, tyranne, insaniam.
hunc, hunc lacesse, hunc discute,
invictum, inexsuperabilem,
nullis procellis subditum,
solique subiectum Deo. }

The governor in response ordered that punishment recommence more harshly. He demanded that Vincent provide all his writings so that those books could be burned. Vincent refused, declaring:

You, malignant one, threaten
our spiritual writings with fire;
you yourself will more justly burn with this,
for the swords of Heaven
are vindicators of our volumes,
burning by thunderbolt the tongue
that is your broker of such venom.
See the glowing ashes that indicate
Gomorrah’s crimes;
Sodom’s cold ashes also provide
a witness of everlasting death.
This is your example, serpent.
Soon sulfurous soot
and coal mixed with pitch
will envelop you in the deepest Hell.

{ quem tu, maligne, mysticis
minitaris ignem litteris,
flagrabis ipse hoc iustius.
romphaea nam caelestium
vindex erit voluminum
tanti veneni interpretem
linguam perurens fulmine.
vides favillas indices
Gomorreorum criminum.
Sodomita nec latet cinis,
testis perennis funeris.
exemplar hoc, serpens, tuum est,
fuligo quem mox sulphuris
bitumen et mixtum pice
imo inplicabunt Tartaro. }

These words shocked Vincent’s persecutor. He turned pale, then red. His eyes rolled frantically, he gnashed his teeth and foamed at the mouth. He then ordered that Vincent be pressed into a burning, spiked bed by a heavy iron plate.

Vincent was wholly invincible. With eyes on Heaven, he endured the brutal torture. Then, with his legs stretched in stocks, he was thrust into a pitch-black dungeon. There he was laid on broken pots having jagged corners and sharp points. But God smashed the stocks binding Vincent’s legs, bathed the dungeon in bright light, and clothed the broken pots with tender flowers. An angel invited Vincent to join in the companionship of celestial angels:

Arise, illustrious martyr,
arise, secure in your self,
arise, our companion,
and join our kind union.
Now to the end you have fulfilled
your duties under menacing punishment.
With your noble departing in death,
every suffering you have traversed.
Oh most invincible soldier,
bravest of the brave,
now for you the savage, bitter
torments themselves tremble at their conqueror.
The God Christ, who watched this,
compensates you with eternal life.
He with generous right hand crowns
you associate of his cross and his mother.
Lay aside this frail vessel,
a fabric of earthen framework
that dissolves and dissipates,
and come in freedom to the sky.

{ exsurge, martyr inclyte,
exsurge securus tui,
exsurge et almis coetibus
noster sodalis addere.
decursa iam satis tibi
poenae minacis munia,
pulchroque mortis exitu
omnis peracta est passio.
o miles invictissime,
fortissimorum fortior,
iam te ipsa saeva et aspera
tormenta victorem tremunt.
spectator haec Christus Deus
conpensat aevo intermino,
propriaeque collegam crucis
larga coronat dextera.
pone hoc caducum vasculum
conpage textum terrea,
quod dissipatum solvitur,
et liber in caelum veni. }

Vincent and the angel began to sing together. The light shining in the dungeon broke through the closed doors. The dungeon keeper noticed the light. He peeked inside and was astonished to see flowers and Vincent walking freely and singing.

News of the strange happenings in Vincent’s dungeon reached the governor. He was furious. He ordered that Vincent be taken from the dungeon and placed outside for further punishment. A throng of faithful persons from the town gathered around him. They built for him a soft bed. They tended his wounds. When Vincent rested his head on that soft bed, his soul went straight to God in Heaven. He died not under torture, but supported with the generous love of good people.

Marc Angelucci delighted in court victories over the reigning authorities of gynocentric injustice. More than a decade ago, he worried that he would die in a plane crash and that his promising appeal of blatant discrimination against men by domestic violence shelters would vanish. He wrote argument notes so that another attorney could argue the case if he himself died in a plane crash. Angelucci probably never imagined that one day he would be murdered.

Marc Angelucci believed that men deserve rights and justice, just like any other human beings. Today, vicious tribes destroying civilized life smear men’s rights and justice for men as if they were demonic ideas. “Angelucci” literally means angel of light. Marc Angelucci is an angel of light. May Angelucci continue to inspire men and women in righteous progress toward gender justice for all.

Now you shine brightly, sharing
in the exalted robe of the angels.
As an indomitable witness,
you washed your robe in streams of blood,
when the minister of idols,
encircled with dismal laws,
would with iron and chains force
you to worship the gods of the tribes.

{ nunc angelorum particeps
conlucis insigni stola,
quam testis indomabilis
rivis cruoris laveras,
cum te satelles idoli
praecinctus atris legibus
litare divis gentium
ferro et catenis cogeret. }

*  *  *  *  *

Read more:


Marc Angelucci served for many years as Vice-President and Board Member of the National Coalition for Men (NCFM), a leading men’s human rights organization. Here’s NCFM’s eulogy for Marc. Angelucci appeared in The Red Pill, Cassie Jaye’s wonderful documentary about the men’s rights movement. Here’s Cassie Jaye’s eulogy for Marc. A Voice for Men, a pioneering website advocating for men, has hosted a video memorial in which Marc Angelucci’s friends and colleagues struggle to accept the reality of Marc having been murdered. Alex Baker, who has worked extensively with Marc, wrote a brave eulogy for his friend. While I never met or talked with Marc Angelucci, for about two decades I have known and admired his work.

Marc Angelucci’s pioneering victory against anti-men sex discrimination in services for domestic violence victims is Woods v. Horton, 167 Cal.App.4th 658 (2008). Marc mentioned his concern about dying in a plane crash before he could argue this appeal in his presentation to the International Conference on Men’s Issues 2019 (see time 17:43 in the above video). Anti-men sex discrimination, gender profiling, and gender stereotyping sadly continue in the historically anti-men gender-bigoted field of domestic violence issue advocacy and services. Even after his landmark court victory, Angelucci continued to struggle for gender justice in addressing domestic violence.

The Washington Examiner reported on Niel Golightly’s resignation from the Boeing Company. That news report has links to its sources. It provided me with the link to the Boeing Company press release of July 2, 2020, which is quoted above. It also provided me with the link to Golightly (1987), which is also quoted above. News organizations that don’t include in their articles links to their sources apparently want to keep you ignorant so that they can more easily manipulate you. Such news sources deserve to be ignored.

The subsequent issue (February, 1988) of the journal containing Golightly (1987) printed comments about Golightly’s article. None of the comments mentioned sexist selective service registration. Lieutenant Lori Melling, U. S. Navy, A-7 Pilot, stated:

It is difficult to believe that Proceedings would publish an article so reminiscent of the arguments used against integrating blacks into the ranks.

I can assure Golightly that there is no need to create “mil spec” tampons. As a female A-7 pilot who has transited the Pacific to Hawaii and frequently spends lengthy periods in the cockpit on long-range strikes, I can assure anyone who is concerned that normal female aviators (we have nine) do not have a problem in such an environment.

I have never been treated “with patronizing tolerance, as the unit’s mascot,” whether I was the only woman in my squadron or one of many. Our squadron shares the strong bond of camaraderie that comes from long hours away from home and from the challenging and difficult experiences we have been through together as pilot and wingman or pilot and electronic warfare officer. As long as commanders do not tolerate sexual fraternization, the presence of women does not degrade a unit’s morale.

In theory, the military services could maintain a database of all service members’ DNA and require any woman who becomes pregnant to have DNA paternity testing to detect and punish illicit sexual fraternization. For many reasons, such sex policing is unimaginable in the U.S. military today. In practice, fairly policing “sexual fraternization” isn’t easy.

On July 3, the day after Boeing announced that Niel Golightly had resigned as its lead spokesperson, Lori Gattuso, née Melling, posted a comment under Golightly (1987). She strongly supporting effective freedom of thought and expression:

It is truly a shame that Mr. Golightly was forced to resign over this article. I was a (female) Navy A-7 pilot at the time and went on to fly F/A-18’s. I disagreed with the article and even wrote a rebuttal, but he made some excellent points and he had the right to be heard; in fact he still has the right to his opinion, or at least he should have the right to his opinion. To lose his job over an article he wrote 33 years ago is a sign that our country is becoming a totalitarian state. I hope that Mr. Golightly keeps his honor and does not snivel for social approval during what must be a difficult time for him. Time to stop mentally castrating our fighters.

Castration culture is real. I think Marc Angelucci would be delighted with Lori Gattuso’s sense of fairness, justice, and respect for men.

Saint Vincent was born in Saragossa and become deacon in the Christian church at Saragossa under Bishop Valerius of Saragossa. Bishop Valerius had a speech defect. He thus had in his place Vincent preach throughout the diocese of Saragossa. The life and death of Saint Vincent is celebrated with a feast day in the Christian liturgical calendar. Here are some hymns used for Saint Vincent’s feast day. More on Vincent as celebrated in the Christian liturgy.

The above quotes concerning Vincent are from Prudentius, Book about the Crowns {Liber Peristephanon} 5, The Passion of Saint Vincent the Martyr {Passio Sancti Vincenti Martyris}. Prudentius, a highly educated former Roman official probably born in Spain, wrote Liber Peristephanon about the year 400 GC. Prudentius’s account of the martyrdom of Vincent is its earliest surviving written testimony. It probably wasn’t, however, the first one written. Prudentius displays Vincent’s skill in speaking. More generally, Prudentius uses Latin words in sophisticated ways and is intensely concerned with the effects of words. On Prudentius’s concern for speech, Nicholas (2017).

Prudentius also describes Saint Vincent in Liber Peristephanon 4, A Hymn in Honor of the Eighteen Holy Martyrs of Saragossa {Hymnus in Honorem Sanctorum Decem et Octo Martyrum Caesaraugustanorum}, vv. 77-108. The eighteen holy martyrs of Saragossa apparently were martyred under an earlier persecution of Christians. Vincent is thought to have been martyred in 304 GC under Emperor Diocletian.

The first quote above (vox veritatis testis extingui nequit) is from Prudentius, Liber Peristephanon 10, The Declarations of Saint Romanus the Martyr against the Pagans {Sancti Romani Martyris contra Gentiles Dicta}, v. 9. Witness and martyr are linguistically closed related:

Romanus is described as a witness of the truth. Testis is the Latin translation of the word martyr which in Greek means ‘witness’ (μάρτυς).  …

martyr: (Gr. μάρτυς) originally meaning (judicial) witness, it eventually came to mean the supporter of God who (suffers and finally) dies to confess Christian faith. The latter connotation was developed and fluctuated during the second century.

Tsartsidis (2016) pp. 104, 139.

Prudentius vigorously criticized what he regarded as false gods and idolatry. He ridiculed traditional Roman religion:

You pray to Venus, then earnestly pray also to an ape;
The sacred snake of Aesculapius is acceptable to you,
yet a crocodile, an ibis, and a dog are objectionable?
Set up devout little altars for leeks,
venerate the bitter onion or pungent garlic!
Are your smoke-grimed house-spirits pleased with incense
yet consecrated vegetables are rejected?
So why are fireplaces believed to have greater majesty
than that born in a cultivated garden?
If there’s divinity in fireplaces, there’s also divinity in leeks.

{ Venerem precaris, conprecare et simiam.
placet sacratus aspis Aesculapii,
crocodillus, ibis et canis cur displicent?
adpone porris religiosas arulas,
venerare acerbum caepe, mordax allium.
Fuliginosi ture placantur lares
et respuuntur consecrata holuscula?
aut unde maior esse maiestas focis
quam nata in hortis sarculatis creditur?
si numen ollis, numen et porris inest. }

Liber Peristephanon 10.256-65. The crocodile, ibis, and dog are animials sacred in ancient Egyptian religion. Romans traditionally had household gods associated with a home’s hearth. On this passage, Tsartsidis (2016) pp. 182-6. Idolatry was a central concern of Lucretius, the great Roman debunker of dominant delusions, in his De rerum natura.

The quoted Latin texts of Prudentius are from Thomson (1949) vol. 2, with my English translation, benefiting from that of id. Specific citations (by chapter.verse in Thomson’s edition of Peristephanon): 10.9 (A voice that witnesses to the truth…), 5.42-52 (Dare you, unhappy man…), 5.54-75, 92 (Do it thus, with whatever powers…), 5.95-104 (Stuff his mouth…), 5.131-6 (He rejoices, smiles…), 5.153-72 (You error, blood-thirsty one…), 5.186-200 (You, malignant one…), 5.285-304 (Arise, illustrious martyr…), 5.9-16 (Now you shine brightly…).

[images] (1) Photo of Marc Angelucci, used in accordance with fair-use rights under U.S. copyright law. This low-resolution image is important for showing the character of the deceased in this non-commercial tribute to his life. (2) YouTube video of Marc Angelucci giving his presentation “Sue the Bastards” at the International Conference on Men’s Issues 2019, held in Chicago, presentation on August 17, 2019. Video thanks to An Ear for Men / A Voice For Men.


Golightly, Lieutenant Niel L., USN. 1987. “No Right to Fight.” Proceedings of the U.S. Naval Institute. Vol. 113/12/1,018 (December 1987).

Nicholas, Lucy. 2017. “Pagans and Christians: A battle over the power of speech in the poems of Prudentius.” Online.

Thomson, Henry John, ed. and trans. 1949. Prudentius. Loeb Classical Library 387, 398. Vol. 1, Vol. 2. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.

Tsartsidis, Thomas. 2016. Commentary on Prudentius’ Hymn to Romanus 1-650 (Peristephanon 10). PhD in Classics. The University of Edinburgh.