William, Nastagio, Federigo: ignorant men in love

Before the scientific advances of sexual selection field reports, men in love lived in ignorant self-abasement.  Many men still do.[1]  Empirical science alone cannot produce loving enlightenment.  To move beyond the dark ages of chivalric self-abasement, men must understand the stories of William, Nastagio, and Federigo.

William, said to be a bright, young man, desired his master’s wife.  She was beautiful:

She was exceeding beautiful.
the wild flowers blooming on the hill,
the lily flower, the rose of May —
she was more beautiful than they.

The narrator, undoubtedly like William, let her bodily beauty lead him to where a beautiful women’s beauty naturally leads men:

For when her hair was left untied,
it shone so bright that anyone
who saw would swear that it was spun
from purest gold.  Her forehead shone
like finely cut and polished stone,
her eyebrows brown and widely spread,
her eyes were laughing in her head,

{continuing down through nose, mouth, chin, throat}
her breast were round as little apples,
firm and small with little nipples,
there’s nothing more for me to say:
to lead men’s hearts and minds astray [2]

Men who aspire to be more than beasts understand and respect their own sexuality.  Appreciating a young, beautiful woman’s physical attractiveness doesn’t require a man to be subjugated by it.

William was both stupid and timid.  He stayed in his beloved’s household for seven years, pining away in love for her, never saying a word to her.  Finally he accosted her:

William looked long and longingly
upon her, then he said, “Hello.”

No, no, no.  “Lady, go make me a sandwich” would have been better.  Even worse, William then deployed a stock tactic of a love-struck adolescent:

“Lady, I beg of you, pay heed
to what I ask of you.  I need
your counsel.  Tell me what you’d say ….”
— “Of course I’ll give it.  Ask away.”
— “If clerk, or knight of high degree,
or someone from the bourgeoisie
should fall in love — or even a squire —

What would your opinion be
if he has loved her seven years
and kept it hidden and he fears
still to tell her anything —
what martyrdom he’s suffering —
and yet he still could tell his love
if only he were brave enough
and the occasion would appear
to open up his heart to her,
and what I really wish I knew
is what you think he ought to do
and whether he does right or wrong
to keep his love from her so long.”

She declared that the hypothetical lover should bravely tell his love.  She also said of the beloved:

She’d have to pity the poor man.
It would be very foolish of her
not to accept the love he’s offered
and one day wish to God she had. [3]

William moaned and sighed and then said, “Lady, behold the man.”[4] The lady asked if he were joking and then told him to shut up and get out.  The lady was false to her counsel.  She was true to human nature.  Women naturally don’t desire sexually pathetic men.

William nearly killing himself stirred the lady’s desire.  William announced a starvation strike for love:

Kill me and get it over with.
Listen, I asked for your love.
I beg a gift, and I will prove
my need for it.  I will not eat
until the day that you see fit. [5]

Since pathetically abasing himself didn’t work to stir the lady’s love, William resolved to abase himself even further.  He refused to eat until the lady acknowledged his love.  That’s not a rational response to the lesson of experience.  Only within the conventions of chivalric fiction is such a tactic ever successful.  So it was here.  The lady and his master implored William to eat.  Without acknowledgement of his love, William resolutely refused to eat, sweating and trembling, with every limb filled with pain, potentially facing death at the hand of his master for desiring his wife should she acknowledge his love.  His suffering and bravery stirred the lady’s sexual desire.

falcon with kill

The lady arranged to cuckold her husband with doublespeak.  She said that William was sick to death with desire for his master’s faucon.  The master readily granted his faucon to William to save his life.  Faucon is Old French for falcon.  Faucon can also be interpreted as “false cunt.”  The lady understood faucon to mean both falcon and false cunt.  Her husband gave his falcon to William, and she gave herself to William.  William instantly became well.  In representing herself as a false cunt, she made effective for William the counsel that she had betrayed.

Boccaccio, who was keenly concerned about men in love, seems to have responded to William of the Falcon with two adjacent stories in the Decameron.  In Decameron 5.8, Nastagio degli Onesti nearly squandered his fortune unsuccessfully seeking the love of a beautiful, young woman.  At times Nastagio was so filled with despair about his unrequited love that he wanted to commit suicide.  Lost in a pine forest, Nastagio had a Dantesque vision of a beautiful, young women, completely naked, running from two ferocious dogs and a knight.  Nastagio intervened to defend the woman.  The knight explained that both he and the woman were spirits undergoing God-ordained punishments:

I, who once loved her so dearly, was to pursue her as my mortal enemy rather than the woman I once loved.  And every time I catch up to her, I kill her with this same sword with which I slew myself {in love suicide}. Then I rip open her back, and as you are about to see for yourself, I tear from her body that cold, hard heart of hers, which neither love nor pity could ever penetrate, and together with the rest of her inner organs, I give it to these dogs to eat.  In a short space of time, as the justice and power of God ordain, she rises up as if she never died and begins her woeful flight all over again, with the dogs and me in pursuit. [6]

Nastagio, although full of pity and fear from the vision, realized that it could be useful to him.  He arranged to have the woman he loved see the vision.  Realizing the lady’s words to William in William of the Falcon, the lady in Boccaccio’s story understood:

She’d have to pity the poor man.
It would be very foolish of her
not to accept the love he’s offered
and one day wish to God she had. [7]

She thus agreed to marry Nastagio.  They lived happily ever after.  In William of the Falcon, the bravery of a man enduring extreme, self-imposed suffering stirred the lady to sexual desire.  In Boccaccio’s more humane story, the lady’s vision of her own future suffering from rejecting a man’s love stirred her to accept his love.

In the subsequent story in the Decameron, the man in love gives up his falcon but gets the false cunt.  Filomena, who narrates this story, declares that it “partly resembles the preceding one.”  Like Nastagio, Federigo was a rich young man profligately and futilely courting a beautiful woman.  Federigo was in love with Monna Giovanna, who was married to a rich man.  Federigo’s courtship left him with nothing but a falcon:

As Federigo continued to spend money well beyond his means, while acquiring nothing from his lady in return, he went through his entire fortune, as can easily happen, and wound up a poor man, left with nothing except a tiny little farm, the income from which was just enough for him to live very frugally, and a single falcon, which was among the finest in the world. … There he would go hunting with his falcon, whenever he could, and without asking assistance from anyone, he bore his poverty with patience. [8]

Monna Giovanna’s husband died.  While spending the summer at their country estate, her son became acquainted with Federigo and his falcon.  The boy happened to fall ill.  He told his mother that he would get better if she would get for him Federigo’s falcon.  Monna Giovanna had never paid any attention to Federigo’s love for her.  But now that she needed a falcon, she decided to visit him personally, invite herself to have dinner with him, and ask him for his falcon.

Federigo responded to Monna Giovanna’s visit with self-abasement and extravagance.  Surprised and delighted by her visit and her self-invitation to dinner, Federigo wanted to “honor the noble lady” with a worthy meal.  But he had nothing suitable, except for his falcon.  He cooked his falcon and served it as dinner for the lady.  That extravagant charity is as false to reason and nature as the rich lady’s surprise visit and self-invitation to dinner at her spurned lover’s poor home.  It’s as false to reason and nature as the son’s claim that getting Federigo’s falcon would cure his illness.

The story ends with intimations of falsity.  Having failed to acquire Federigo’s falcon other than as a piece of dead, cooked meat, Monna Giovanna returned “utterly despondent” to her son.  Her son then died.  That actually was in Monna Giovanna’s material interests, for when her rich husband died:

he left his entire estate to his son, who was still a growing boy, and since he also loved his wife very dearly, he made her his heir in the case that he son would die without lawful issue. [9]

Monna Giovanna wanted to remain a rich widow.  But her brothers pressured her to remarry.  Mona Giovanna recalled “Federigo’s great worth and his last act of generosity, that is his having killed such a splendid falcon in her honor.”  She might more realistically have recalled Federigo as a foolish, self-abasing man who had caused her utter despair.  Monna Giovanna and Federigo married.  Federigo reportedly lived happily ever after:

Federigo, finding himself not just married to the great lady he had loved so dearly, but a very rich man to boot {through his share in Monna Giovanna’s inherited wealth}, managed his fortune more prudently than he had before and lived with her happily to the end of his days. [10]

A profligate man doesn’t plausibly become prudent by marrying a rich widow.  Monna Giovanna treated Federigo selfishly and instrumentally.  Read against William of the Falcon, Monna Giovanna seems like the false cunt, and Federigo, the foolish, self-abasing man.  That doesn’t suggest a happy end for Federigo.

Everyone in the brigata “praised God for having given Federigo the reward he deserved.”[11]  In truth, Federigo undoubtedly received the reward he deserved.  To move beyond self-abasement, men must understand.

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[1] Societies have always required men to sacrifice their lives in group-structured men-on-men violence (war).  That discourse colonizes men’s personal lives.  Men come to believe that they must desperately fight for love, rather than be loved for who they are.

[2] William of the Falcon {Guilluame au Faucon}, fabliau, 1st half of the 13th century, from Old French trans. Duval (1982) p. 92 (inc. previous quote).  For alternate English translations, see the Fabliaux English Translation Index.

[3] Id. pp. 94-5 (previous three quotes).

[4] Cf. John 19:5. That parallel suggests that William feels he isn’t guilty of any offense.  He is guilty of fearing to give offense.

[5] Id. p. 97.

[6] Giovanni Boccaccio, Decameron, Day 5, Story 8 (story of Nastagio degli Onesti), from Italian trans. Rebhorn (2013) p. 448.  The story of Nastagio degli Onesti is the subject of four paintings that Sandro Botticelli produced in the 1480s.  Botticelli’s paintings focus on the woman.

[7] Guilluame au Faucon, trans Duval (1982) p. 95.

[8] Boccaccio, Decameron, Day 5, Story 9 (story of Federigo degli Alberighi), from Italian trans. Rebhorn (2013) p. 453.

[9] Id.

[10] Id. p. 458. The Bustan of Saadi (written in Persian in 1257) includes a story with some similar features.  The Sultan of Turkey decides to ask Hatim Tai, an Arab renowned for generosity, for his fabulous horse.  But before the messenger conveyed the Sultan of Turkey’s request, Hatim slaughtered his horse because it was all he had to provide a meal for the messenger.  Trans. Edwards (1911) Ch. II (Concerning Benevolence), “Story of Hatim Taei.”  The additional context of courtly love in the Decameron‘s story of Federigo degli Alberighi highlights the sexed structure of self-abasement in generosity.

[11] Introductory sentences to Decameron, Day 5, Story 10, trans. Rebhorn (2013) p. 459.


DuVal, John, trans. and Raymond Eichmann, text, notes, intro. 1982. Cuckolds, clerics, & countrymen: medieval French fabliaux. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press.

Edwards, A. Hart, trans. 1911. The Bustān of Sadi. London: J. Murray.

Rebhorn, Wayne A., trans. 2013. Giovanni Boccaccio. The Decameron. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.

strong reciprocity depends on communication

Humans frequently behave cooperatively.  Human cooperation is obvious to ordinary persons in everyday life.  In laboratory experiments, a large share of humans cooperate according to social norms if others cooperate likewise, even if not cooperating offers a higher, immediate objective reward.  Similarly, a large share of humans also punish others who do not cooperate according to social norms, even if punishing has immediate, objective net cost to the person who does the punishing.  These two patterns of behavior together are called strong reciprocity.[1]

Strong reciprocity is sensitive to subtle aspects of communication.  The social norms that are the reference points for strong reciprocity are products of social communication.[2]  In laboratory experiments, participants who engage in relevant pre-play verbal communication, who engage in oblique eye gaze, who tap each other lightly on the shoulder or arm, or who use a computer displaying eyespots, behave more cooperatively.[3]  Given the importance of human cooperation for humans’ ecological position relative to other animals, humans have likely undergone natural selection for effectively signaling cooperation.

Experimental work on strong reciprocity hasn’t adequately accounted for individual differences. Experiments have found that, among persons in common cultural circumstances, a sizable share of persons act according to strong reciprocity, and a sizeable share do not.[4]  Experiments have found that demographic characteristics, including sex, do not significantly differentiate between these two groups of persons.[5]  The existence of considerable individual differences in strong reciprocity within a culture isn’t well explained.

elephant herd

Experimental findings of the insignificance of demographics for strong reciprocity concern demographics of individual participants who understand themselves to be playing with anonymous others.  Such demographic information is not ecologically relevant.  Moreover, abstracting from the demographics of opponents or assuming that the demographics of opponents are irrelevant to participants is not consistent with testing the significance of participants’ demographics.[6]  Demographics, in particular sex, may in fact be highly relevant to propensity to engage in strong reciprocity.

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[1] For differing perspectives on strong reciprocity, see Bowles & Ginis (2011) and Guala (2012).

[2] On subtle aspects of social circumstances, see, e.g. Bardsley (2005) and Bardsley (2008).  The issues are not limited to whether persons who interact with participants understand the structure and purpose of the experiments. What participants understand themselves to be doing can depend on where the experiment takes place, differences in status between participants and non-participants with whom the participants interact, participants’ sense of the specific circumstances of interaction (e.g., via computer terminals in a relatively quiet and barren room), and other subtle aspects of participants’ full sense of their circumstances. Controlling vocal communication with participants is a weak control on communication with participants.

[3] See Valley et al. (2002), Kurzban (2001), and Haley & Fessler (2005).  Kurzban (2001) found effects of eye gaze and touch only for male subjects:

This finding is alarming in that it seems that males are ready to accept extremely scant evidence that they are in a meaningful group capable of cooperating. If indeed male psychology is well designed for cooperating because of adaptations for intergroup conflict, then the ease with which males form cooperative associations is also the ease with which males can form groups for the purpose of intergroup conflict {references omitted}.

Id. pp. 256-7.  The risk of males cooperating to address the demonization of males and the social disposal of males in intergroup conflict seems remote.

[4] The split is close to equal:

Taken together, the fraction of subjects showing strong positive reciprocity is rarely below 40 and sometimes 60 percent whereas the fraction of selfish subjects is also often between 40 and 60 percent.

Fehr, Fischbacher & Gächter (2002) p. 8.  This remarkable division has attracted relatively little attention in scholarship on cooperation.

[5] Henrich et al. (2001) p. 76. Using subjects from U.S. universities, Cox & Deck (2006) found in laboratory behavioral experiments that women’s behavior was more sensitive to the costs of generosity than was men’s. That result is consistent with more developed social intelligence in women.

[6] In experimental games testing cooperation among nonhuman animals, ensuring that animals sense that they are playing against another animal is in tension with preventing communication between the animals. Noë (2006), pp. 11-12, provides an insightful discussion of this problem. Because humans have a more developed capacity to make sense of human presence, this problem is less significant in experiments involving humans. Nonetheless, the issue of sense of presence in anonymous human cooperation experiments deserves further consideration.

[image] Elephant herd at Ambroseli National Park (Kenya), with Mount Kilimanjaro in the background.  Thanks to Amoghavarsha and Wikipedia.  Elephant herds consist of adult females and young of both sexes.  Male elephants are forcibly excluded from herds at puberty.


Bardsley, Nicholas. 2005. “Experimental Economics and the Artificiality of Alteration.” Journal of Economic Methodology. 12: 239-251.

Bardsley, Nicholas. 2008. “Dictator game giving: altruism or artefact?Experimental Economics. 11 (2): 122-133.

Bowles, Samuel, and Herbert Gintis. 2011. A cooperative species human reciprocity and its evolution. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.

Cox, James C. and Cary A. Deck. 2006. “When are Women More Generous than Men?Economic Inquiry. 44(4): 587-598.

Fehr, Ernst, Urs Fischbacher and Simon Gächter. 2002. “Strong reciprocity, Human Cooperation and the Enforcement of Social Norms.” Human Nature. 13: 1-25.

Guala, Francesco. 2012. “Reciprocity: Weak or strong? What punishment experiments do (and do not) demonstrate.”  With discussion and response. Behavioral and Brain Sciences. 35 (01): 1-15.

Haley, Kevin J. and Daniel M.T. Fessler. 2005. “Nobody’s watching? Subtle cues affect generosity in an anonymous economic game.” Evolution and Human Behavior. 26: 245-256.

Henrich, Joseph, Robert Boyd, Samuel Bowles, Colin Camerer, Ernst Fehr, Herbert Gintis and Richard McElreath. 2001. “In Search of Homo Economicus: Behavioral Experiments in 15 Small-Scale Societies.” American Economic Review. 91(2): 73-78.

Kurzban, Robert. 2001. “The Social Psychophysics of Cooperation: Nonverbal Communication in the Public Goods Game.”  Journal of Nonverbal Behavior. 25(4): 241-259.

Noë, Ronald. 2006. “Cooperation experiments: coordination through communication versus acting apart together.” Animal Behaviour. 71: 1-18.

Valley, Kathleen, Leigh Thompson, Robert Gibbons and Max H. Bazerman. 2002. “How Communication Improves Efficiency in Bargaining Games.” Games and Economic Behavior. 38: 127-155.

Jerome’s Adversus Jovinianum: method in madness about marriage

In 393, in his lengthy treatise Adversus Jovinianum, Jerome confuted Jovinian’s position on marriage for women.  Jovinian had declared that “virgin maidens, widows, and married women” have statuses of equal merit as Christians.[1]  Jerome fundamentally disagreed.  He strongly urged women not to marry and to remain virgins.[2]  Elite academic schools today have largely adopted a variant of Jerome’s position, with lesbianism replacing virginity.  Nonetheless, the brilliance of Jerome’s Adversus Jovinianum remains under-appreciated.

Jerome’s emphasis on urging women not to marry is a significant, largely ignored aspect of Adversus Jovinianum.  The literature of men’s sexed protests, which has existed since men learned to write, commonly urges men not to marry.  The Roman poet Juvenal urged his friend Postumous, and by extension men in general, not to marry.  Juvenal was well-known by the fourth century.[3]  The Roman Emperor Augustus passed specific laws to punish men unwilling to marry.  The prominence of literature and policies concerning men marrying contrasts with Jerome’s focus.  By focusing on urging women not to marry, Jerome pushed into virgin territory in elite Roman discourse.

Scholars have struggled to understand Jerome’s method in Adversus Jovinianum.  In a preliminary section of that work, Jerome declared:

we do not follow the {heretical} views of Marcion and Manichæus, and disparage marriage; nor, deceived by the error of Tatian, the leader of the Encratites, do we think all {sexual} intercourse impure … We are not ignorant of the words, “Marriage is honourable among all, and the bed undefiled.” … while we honour marriage, we prefer virginity, which is the offspring of marriage. [4]

Nonetheless, Jerome analogized marriage to excrement.[5]  Moreover, in a parody of the Pauline injunction, “it is better to marry than to burn {with lust},”  Jerome disingenuously praised Dido, the first Queen of Carthage, for preferring to burn rather than to marry.[6]  Jerome observed of Greco-Roman culture:

It is a proof of the little esteem in which they held marriage that among the scorpions, centaurs, crabs, fishes, and capricorn {the signs of the Zodiac}, they did not even thrust in a husband and wife. [7]

Jerome put forward transparently ridiculous reasoning:

“It is good,” he {Paul in 1 Corinthians 7:1} says, “for a man not to touch a woman.” If it is good not to touch a woman, it is bad to touch one: for there is no opposite to goodness but badness. [8]

Jerome was one of the most learned men of his time.  Nonetheless, a late-twentieth-century scholar complained:

Jerome proves himself again and again in Adversus Jovinianum incapable of sustained and systematic logical argumentation. … {in addition} He quite simply presents as historical fact a number of examples which he (or anyone conversant with Roman history) must have known were untrue. [9]

Jerome might produce another obscene gesture in response to such misunderstanding of what he was doing in Adversus Jovinianum.

bonobos mating

With Adversus Jovinianum, Jerome brilliant satirized Jovinian’s work supporting women marrying.  Jerome accused Jovinian of bombast, vile language, and not making sense.  Jerome reproduced and exaggerated those faults in Adversus Jovinian.  Jovinian wrote voluminously.  Adversus Jovinianum piled up a voluminous array of texts and examples from the Old and New Testaments and Greek and Roman literature.  At the same time, Jerome expressed concern about being tedious and claimed to be running quickly through his arguments and examples.[10]  In the context of women pressing him to authorize their second marriages, Jerome included a book he attributed to Aristotle successor Theophrastus.  Theophrastus declared that a wise man doesn’t marry.  Theophrastus described hardships of marriage from a male perspective.  Jerome’s ridiculous argument seems to be that out of Christian charity for men’s suffering in marriage, women shouldn’t seek to marry.[11]  In a letter defending Adversus Jovinianum against its many contemporary critics, Jerome wrote of one such critic:

he must condescend to send me his account of the matter, and to correct my indiscreet language, not by censure but by instruction. … if he refuses to write, and fancies that abuse is as effective as criticism, then, in spite of all the lands and seas and peoples which lie between us, he must hear at least the echo of my cry, “I do not condemn marriage,” “I do not condemn wedlock.” Indeed — and this I say to make my meaning quite clear to him — I should like every one to take a wife who, because they get frightened in the night, cannot manage to sleep alone. [12]

That men should marry if they are afraid of sleeping alone at night should not be interpreted in its clear literal meaning.  Jerome was a highly satirical writer.  To read Jerome well, readers must appreciate his sophisticated satire.

grasshoppers mating

Jerome was deeply dependent on women who patronized and supported him.  These women evidently appreciated Jerome’s thinking and writing in a way hardly conceivable today.  Readers today might best understand Jerome’s outrageous, pugnacious satire by imaginatively inhabiting his circle of women admirers — Paula, Marcella, Lea, Eustochium, Blesilla, Asella, and undoubtedly others.[13]

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[1] Jerome, Adversus Jovinianum, I.3, Jerome quoting Jovinian.  Jovinian explicitly specified all else equal: “if they are on par in other respects.” The Latin text is “virgines, viduas, et maritatas.”  All three words are specific to women.

[2] Augustine of Hippo, while agreeing that virginity was superior in Christian merit to marriage, declared that readiness for martydom had superior Christian merit relative to virginity.  Disposition to Christian martydom was less observable in the late fourth century than it was in earlier centuries.  Moreover, the problem of observability implied humility:

Since it is possible that a virgin may not be ready for martydom and that a married person may be, Augustine argued, no virgin could ever legitimately consider herself to be superior to a married person. … Augustine urged all Christians to meditate on the fact that they do not know the limits of their own virtues, nor do they know the hidden and, perhaps, superior virtues that other people may posses.

Hunter (2007) p. 280, citing Augustine, De sancta virginitate (Of Holy Virginity) 47.

[3] Jerome in his Epistle 50 (“To Dominio”) quoted Juvenal Satire I.15.  That epistle was written in 394 in response to criticism of Adversus Jovinianum.  On Jerome’s knowledge of Juvenal, Adkin (1994) and Adkin (2000).

[4] Id., from Latin trans. Freemantle (1892).  The quote is Hebrews 13:4.

[5] Id. I.7.

[6] 1 Corinthians 7:9, Adversus Jovinianum I.43.  In Virgil’s Aeneid, Dido intensely sought to marry Aeneas.  She committed suicide by sword and was immolated when Aeneas left her and Carthage.  Fraioli (1988), p. 178, observes that this quip apparently originated in Tertullian’s De exhortatione castitatis 13.3 and De Monogamia 17.2.

[7] Adversus Jovinianum I.41, trans. Freemantle (1892).

[8] Id. I.7.

[9] Hanna & Lawler (1997) pp. 18, 27.  On Jerome’s misuse of Greek and Roman history, Fraioli (1988) pp. 176-9.

[10] Adversus Jovinianum I.13 (“our author is so voluminous that we cannot linger over every detain”); I.6 (“I have perhaps explained his position at too great length, and become tedious to my reader”); I.21 (“my purpose is at full speed to touch lightly on each topic and to sketch the outline”); I.36 (“I shall briefly reply”); I.39 (“The day would not be long enough were I to attempt to relate all”), etc.  Trans. Freemantle (1892).

[11] Id. I.47.  Fraioli (1988), pp. 181-3, insightfully identifies this satire.  Theophrastus’ book is known as Liber aureolus de nuptiis (The Golden Book of Marriage).  No evidence exists of the book apart from Jerome’s inclusion of it.  Jerome apparently composed Liber aureolus de nuptiis and falsely claimed it to be translated from a Greek work of Theophrastus.  Hanna & Lawler (1997) pp. 8-9 and further discussion.

[12] Jerome, Epistle 50 (“To Domnio”) s. 5, trans. Freemantle (1892).  Adversus Jovinianum is filled with Jerome’s abuse of Jovinian.  Weisen (1964), p. 261, states:

Jerome was fully aware that malice and acid bitterness have no place in the Christian heart.  He would hardly have mentioned the odiousness of invidia so frequently had he not felt deeply uneasy about his own penchant for malevolence.

Another possibility is that Jerome regarded himself as a highly sophisticated rhetorician battling for Christian ascetic values while otherwise living those values.

[13] A study of Jerome’s satire observed:

The biography of Jerome reveals that he was able to evoke in women an enthusiasm and devotion which counterbalanced the hostility which men so frequently felt toward him.

Weisen (1964) pp. 117-8.  Jerome carried on a voluminous correspondence with women.  On Jerome’s circle of elite Roman women interested in ascetic living, Cain (2009) pp. 35-37, 68-78.

[images] Bonobos mating, thanks to Rob Bixby and Wikipedia; grasshoppers mating, thanks to Crisco 1492 and Wikipedia.


Adkin, Neil. 1994. “Juvenal and Jerome.” Classical Philology. 89 (1): 69-72.

Adkin, Neil. 2000. “Jerome, Seneca, Juvenal.” Revue Belge De Philologie Et D’histoire. 78 (1): 119-128.

Cain, Andrew. 2009. The Letters of Jerome: Asceticism, Biblical Exegesis, and the Construction of Christian Authority in Late Antiquity. Oxford Early Christian Studies. Oxford University Press.

Fraioli, Deborah A. 1988.  “The importance of satire in Jerome’s Adversus Jovinianum as an argument against the authenticity of the Historia calamitatum.”  Fälschungen im Mittelalter Hannover: Hahn, Bd. 5, pp. 167-200.

Freemantle, William Henry, trans. 1892.  The Principal Works of St. Jerome.  Philip Schaff, ed. Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 2nd Series, vol. 6. Oxford: Parker.

Hanna, Ralph and Traugott Lawler, eds. 1997. Jankyn’s book of wikked wyves. Vol. 1: The Primary Texts (with translations). Walter Map’s Dissuasio; Theophrastus’ De Nuptiis; selections from Jerome’s Adversus Jovinianum. University of Georgia Press: Athens.

Hunter, David G. 2007. Marriage, celibacy, and heresy in ancient Christianity: the Jovinianist controversy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Wiesen, David S. 1964. St. Jerome as a satirist: a study in Christian Latin thought and letters. Ithaca, N.Y: Cornell University Press.