Alfonso X’s 13th-century song on the dean of Cádiz & his books

On the thirteenth-century Iberian peninsula, Christian, Hebrew, and Islamic cultures interacted closely. Islamic culture, drawing upon a half millennium of extraordinary development, arguably was the most advanced. Alfonso X, King of Castile, León and Galicia, a king who came to be called “the Learned {el Sabio},” sponsored extensive translations from Arabic and Hebrew into Castilian and Latin. These translations included Kalilah wa Dimnah and Sendibar, magical works such as Lapidario and Picatrix, the composite Universal History {General Estoria}, The Book of Games {Libro de los Juegos}, and many other texts. Alfonso himself directed and helped to write Songs of Holy Mary {Cantigas de Santa Maria}, a collection of 420 songs in praise of Mary, the mother of Jesus.[1] Benefiting from the relatively liberal and tolerant intellectual circumstances of medieval Europe, Alfonso X also wrote “songs of scorn and ridicule {cantigas d’escarnho e mal dizer}” that probably would have gotten his public standing canceled if he were any Western man politician today. King Alfonso X the Learned has been rightly called an “emperor of culture” and a “marvel of the world {stupor mundi},” not just for the thirteenth century, but for all time.[2]

King Alfonso X, the Learned

Alfonso X’s medieval songs of scorn and ridicule include songs both sexually themed and poetically sophisticated. Like U.S. President Lyndon Baines Johnson, King Alfonso X attended to the characteristics of a man’s johnson:

Johan Rodriguiz went to take Balteira’s
measure for her to receive his stud,
and he said: “If you want to do well,
you have to get an exact measure,
neither more nor less in any way.”

And he said: “This is the right stud,
and in addition I don’t give it only to you,
and I have to bring it in straight and fully.
It has to be of such right length
to fit between the stairs’ legs.

To great Moniz I’ve already given another great one,
and she received its measure without displeasure,
and Mari’ Airas was another who did the same,
and Alvela, who strolls in Portugal,
and they have already taken it in the mountains.

And he said: “This is the measure of Spain,
not that of Lombardy or Germany,
and, although it’s thick, don’t be troubled.
A small battering ram has no value.
That I know well, being well-endowed.”

{ Joan Rodriguiz foi esmar a Balteira
sa midida per que colha sa madeira;
e disse: “Se [a] ben queredes fazer,
de tal midida a devedes a colher
e non meor, per nulha maneira.”

E disse: “Esta é a madeira certeira,
e, demais, non na dei eu a vós si[n]lheira;
e, pois que s’en compasso á de meter,
atan longa deve toda [a] seer
per antr’as pernas da [e]scaleira.

A Maior Moniz dei ja outra tamanha,
e foi-a ela colher logo sen sanha;
e Mari’Airas feze-o logo outro tal,
e Alvela, que andou en Portugal;
e ja i as colheron na montanha.”.

E diss’: “Esta é a midida d’Espanha,
ca non de Lombardia nen d’Alamanha,
e, porque é grossa, non vos seja mal,
ca delgada pera gata ren non val:
desto mui máis sei eu ca boudanha.” }[3]

This song conflates home construction with heterosexual intercourse. Balteira (Maria Pérez Balteira) was a famous Galician woman sex-worker from a relatively wealthy family. She served men soldiers in their camps as they traveled on Crusade to engage in brutal violence against men in the Holy Land.[4] Johan Rodriguiz, a proud Spaniard, apparently worked for many women with his internationally impressive equipment. Unlike Balteira, Rodriguiz almost surely wasn’t paid money for his sex work. Alfonso X’s song drew upon a medieval Hebrew tradition of earthy biblical puns, including “to sacrifice the battering-ram,” where the Hebrew word ‘ayil means both “ram” and “battering-ram.”[5]

medieval peasants warming their genitals

Displaying his cosmopolitan learning, Alfonso X depicted a Moorish knight within the deeply entrenched literary tradition of brutalizing men’s sexuality. The Moorish knight engaged in one-on-one combat with the Spanish lady Domingas Eanes:

Domingas Eanes had her fight
with a Moorish knight and was badly wounded.
She, however, was so ardent in battle
that after she had to be conquered for certain.
In truth, she conquered a good horseman.
But he was so agile with his lance
that she had to endure some hurts.

The blow that she received was in a hole
in her chain-mail, which was displaced.
I regret it, because at this thrust,
although she also took others (I value God),
she conquered. But then the horseman,
because of his weapons and his skillfulness,
ensured that she would be forever marked with change.

This Moor carried along with his rod
its two companions throughout the battle.
He is also known for never failing
to strike a great blow with his spear.
And he tumbled her onto her back
and gave her such a blow from above
that now the wound will never be closed.

Doctors experienced with it say
that such a wound can never be closed,
even with all the wool that this land has,
nor with oil can it be soothed.
Because the wound doesn’t go straight in,
but spirals like a screwing,
it becomes established as a passageway.

{ Dominga Eanes ouve sa baralha
con ũu genet’e foi mal ferida,
empero foi ela i tan ardida
que ouve depois a vencer sen falha,
e, de pran, venceu bõo cavaleiro;
mais empero era-x’el tan braceiro
que ouv’end’ela de ficar colpada.

O colbe colheu-[a] per ũa malha
da loriga, que era desmentida;
e pesa-m’ende porque essa ida,
de prez que ouve máis, se Deus me valha,
venceu ela; mais [pel]o cavaleiro,
per sas armas e per com’er’arteiro,
ja sempre end’ela seera sinalada.

E aquel mouro trouxe con o veite
dous companhões en toda esta guerra,
e demais á preço que nunca erra
de dar gran colpe con seu tragazeite;
e foi-[a] achar come costa juso,
e deu-lhi por én tal colpe de suso
que ja a chaga nunca vai çarrada.

E dizen meges que usan tal preit’e
que atal chaga ja máis nunca serra
se con quanta lãa á en esta terra
a escaentassen, nen con no azeite,
porque a chaga non vai contra juso,
mais vai en redor come perafuso,
e por én muit’á que é fistolada. }[6]

Culturally advanced for his time, Alfonso X depicted Domingas Eanes as developing strong, independent sexuality after her first sexual experience. The double sense of the song evokes the classical understanding of chivalry. The song’s intercultural intercourse represents centuries of ordinary experience on the Iberian Peninsula. At the same time, with ambivalence in describing who conquers whom, Alfonso X hints at both medieval gynocentrism and the medieval Christian ideal of conjugal partnership.

Perhaps the most brilliant of King Alfonso the Learned’s songs concerns a learned man and bookish study. This song praises learned lust:

I noticed a man carrying books
from Vejer that he got from Cádiz’s dean,
and when I asked to take a look,
he said, “Sir, with the two books you see
and others the dean has just like these,
he’s able to fuck as much as he pleases.

And that’s not all I will tell you:
although in the Law he often doesn’t read,
from what I know of the dean of Cádiz,
his books enable him to get
them all excited until they seem
like eagles, cranes or crows in heat.

When it comes to the art of fucking,
his books have all one needs to know,
and he does absolutely nothing
but read them day and night, and so
in the art of fucking he’s very wise
and fucks every Moorish dame he desires.

These are things that he can do
with his books like no one else:
he leaves them open while he screws,
and should some woman be possessed,
he fucks her with such skill and flair
the demon doesn’t have a prayer.

With his books this clever dean
can even cure St. Marcoul’s fire.
If a woman has this disease,
by his fucking he can charm her
until the fire begins to seem
merely snow or frost or sleet.”

{ Ao daian de Calez eu achei
livros que lhi levavan da Beger,
e o que os tragia preguntei
por eles, e respondeu-m’el: “Senher,
con estes livros que vós veedes (dous)
e con os outros que el ten dos sous
fod’el per eles quanto foder quer.

E ainda vos end’eu máis direi:
macar na lei muitas [vezes non quer]
leer, por quant’eu sa fazenda sei,
con os livros que ten non á molher
a que non faça que semelhen grous
os corvos, e as aguias babous,
per força de foder, se x’el quiser,

ca non á máis, na arte do foder,
do que, [e]nos livros que el ten, jaz;
e el á tal sabor de os leer
que nunca noite nen dia al faz;
e sabe d’arte do foder tan ben
que con nos seus livros d’artes, que ten,
fod’el as mouras cada que lhi praz.

E máis vos contarei de seu saber
que con nos livros que el[e] ten faz:
manda-os ante sí todos trager
e, pois que fode per eles assaz,
se molher acha que o demo ten,
assi a fode per arte e per sén
que saca dela o demo malvaz.

E, con tod’esto, ainda faz al
con o[s] livros que ten, per bõa fe:
se acha molher que aja [o] mal
deste fogo que de San Marçal é,
assi [a] vai per foder encantar
que, fodendo, lhi faz ben semelhar
que é geada ou nev’e non al.” }[7]

While Alfonso X might rightly be faulted for his song brutalizing men’s sexuality, in this song he at least recognizes benefits that men’s sexuality provides to women. Medieval authorities understood that husbands’ sexual obligation to their wives is vitally important. This song describes men’s sexuality as being capable of exercising demons from women. Moreover, men’s sexuality can heal St. Marcoul’s fire, a skin infection that produces a painful and dangerous red rash.[8] Why do benighted authorities today with acute gender discrimination persecute men’s sexuality and deprive men of any reproductive rights whatsoever?

Scholars have pondered the identity of Cádiz’s learned dean. Cádiz is a Spanish port city close to the strait of Gibraltar. Alfonso X retook Cádiz from Moorish control in 1262. In 1264, Cádiz’s dean, a senior church official ranking just below a bishop, was Rui Dias. He was one of the royal officials who carried out the redistribution of houses and lands (repartimiento) after Alfonso X retook the city Jerez from the Moors in the province of Cádiz in 1264. In 1267, Alfonso X dealt with fiscal problems in the church administration of Cádiz.[8] That may have motivated Alfonso to ridicule Rui Dias as learnedly devoted to illicit sexual activity.

Christian church officials were less devoted to bookish study than were Hebrew or Muslim scholarly officials. The word for dean, daian, could be interpreted as a transliteration of the Hebrew word dayán. A dayán was a scholar-judge of a rabbinical tribunal. A rabbinical scholar-judge devoted to studying erotic texts and having sex with Moorish women would be a figure of ridicule among Christian royal officials.[10] Such a song would convey a Christian sense of cultural superiority despite having less scholarly learning.

The dean of Cádiz might refer to an Islamic scholar-judge. Arabic texts were by far the leading source of erotically explicit works.[9] Compared to a Christian or a Jew, a Muslim is more likely to have a collection of Arabic erotic books. Moreover, the poem refers in a matter-of-fact way to the dean of Cádiz having casual sex with Moorish women. The Christian church official or a rabbinical scholar-judge having casual sex with Moorish women in thirteenth-century Andalusia would be regarded as outrageous and wildly implausible. An Islamic scholar-judge having causal sex with Moorish women is much closer to the realm of actual possibility.

Moreover, Cádiz is close to the Arabic term for a judge of an Islamic court, a qadi {قاضي}. Under Moorish rule from 711 to 1262, Cádiz was called Qādis. The “dean of Cádiz” may have been a humorous reference to a senior judge among the qadis.[11] The song declares “his books have all one needs to know” and “these are things that he can do / with his books like no one else.” Alfonso X satirizing the learning of an Islamic scholar could be interpreted as defensive humor relatively to Islamic / Arabic superiority in learning implicitly acknowledged in Alfonso’s extensive translation program.

None of these possible identifications of the dean of Cádiz addresses an interpretive problem in verse 2. That verse uses the word beger / berger, thought to be a toponym for Vejer de la Frontera in the province of Cádiz. Vejer, however, was repopulated with civilians only in 1288. Prior to that time, it was a Castilian castle outpost subject to frequent raids from Moors.[12] Alfonso X died in 1284. Many Arabic erotic books wouldn’t plausibly be found in Vejer prior to 1284.

A better reading of beger / berger could contribute to identifying the dean of Cádiz. In one of the most influential medieval works of men’s sexed protest, the brilliant, twelfth-century author Walter Map wrote:

Canius of Cádiz, a poet of a light and jovial wit, enjoyed the loves of many women. The grave and uxorious Livy of Carthage scolded him with these words: “You cannot share in our love of learning because you share yourself with many women.”

{ Canius a Gadibus, poeta facundie leuis et iocunde, reprehensus est a Liuio Peno, graui et uxorato historico, quod multarum gauderet amoribus, his uerbis: “Nostram philosophiam participare non poteris, dum a tot participaris” }[13]

With complex poetic rhetoric, Canius of Cádiz in response brought together love of women and love of learning:

The alterations of night and day make them happier, but a perpetual shadow is like Hell. So the first lilies of the spring’s sun delight with various temperatures if they enjoy winds both from the Southeast and from the Southwest. But a single blast of air from the South makes them fall over. Hence Mars broke the cords and reclines at the Heavenly banquet, while from that banquet the uxorious Vulcan is restrained by his long rope. Many threads bind more lightly than one chain. Love of learning is to me pleasure, but to you solace.

{ Vices noctium dies reddunt leciores, sed tenebrarum perpetuitas instar inferni est. Sic lilia primeua uerni solis deliciata teporibus uarietate tum Euronothi tum Zephiri leticia effusiore lasciuiunt, quibus uno spiritu fulmineus Libs occasum facit. Hinc Mars ruptis resticulis in mensa celesti recumbit conuiua superum, a qua uxorius Mulciber suo fune longe religatur. Sic leuius ligant multa fila quam una cathena, suntque michi a philosophia delicie, tibi solacia. }[14]

The perpetual shadow and the single blast of air from the South seem to figure a wife. The man who loves many women enjoys the freedom and variety of a Heavenly banquet. He gets from studying books similar pleasure. The married man suffers like the uxorious Vulcan and turns to learning for solace, like Cicero or some Christians studying the Bible. The dean of Cádiz similarly reconciled love of many women with love of learning.

Canius of Cádiz employed pastoral themes in bringing together love of women and love of learning. In the ancient Roman world, Cádiz was a well-known city called Gades. Canius of Cádiz apparently refers to Canius Rufus of Gades. He was an eminent Latin poet who flourished in the first century. Nothing has survived of his poetry, but he was described as always smiling.[15] Perhaps he wrote pastoral poetry similar to that of the man trobairitz Gavaudan. In Alfonso’s song, beger / berger might be read as a Galician-Portuguese analog to the Middle / Old French word berger / bergier, meaning “shepherd.” The dean of Cádiz might thus be reading books of the shepherd, alluding with a slant pun to Canius of Cádiz. The dean of Cádiz is a worthy follower of the smiling classical poet Canius of Gades.

Alfonso X the Learned deserves his name and his fame. With freedom of expression scarcely imaginable today, he drew upon the rich heritage of Hebrew, Arabic, and Latin literature to depict the fullness of life in thirteenth-century Iberia. That fullness of life should still be possible in lands of the free today.

I’ll never again be cheered
by the chirping
and delicate songs of birds
nor by love or great riches
nor by weapons (whose perils,
I confess,
have come to make me tremble),
but only by a seaworthy vessel
to carry me with all good speed
away from this land’s demon
heart, full of scorpions,
as my heart knows, being sore
from all their stinging poison.

{ Non me posso pagar tanto
do canto
das aves nen de seu son,
nen d’amor nen da misson
nen d’armas (ca ei espanto
por quanto
mui perigo[o]sas son),
come d’un bõo galeon
que mi alongue muit’aginha
deste demo da campinha
u os alacrães son,
ca dentro no coraçon
senti deles a espinha. }[16]

*  *  *  *  *

Read more:


[1] Here’s an overview of translation under Alfonso X. Patrick (2015) provides detailed analysis of three works of translation: Kalilah wa Dimnah (Calila e Dimna), Sendebar, and Libro de los doze sabios {Book of the twelve wise men}. Attrell & Porrecam (2019) provides a scholarly edition and translation of Picatrix. On the Cantigas de Santa Maria, Ferreira (2016). In addition to the General Estoria, Alfonso also supervised the production of the influential History of Spain {Estoria de España}. On the close relation between these two histories, both written in Old Spanish, Fernández-Ordóñez (1999).

Alfonso’s General Estoria praised Ovid:

The pagan authors were all very wise and spoke about great things … and above all other authors, Ovid in his larger book.

{ Los auctores delos gentiles fueron muy sabios omnes e fablaron de grandes cosas … et sobre todos los otros auctores, Ouidio en el su Libro major }

Cited in Hexter (2002) p. 424 (translation modified slightly). Ovid’s larger book was his Metamorphoses. The General Estoria incorporated in translation eleven of the epistles from Ovid’s Heroides. Puerto Benito (2008).

The Cantigas de Santa Maria indicate Alfonso X’s ardent Christian piety:

Alfonso X, king of Castile and León, sings mightily of the pure love he feels for Mary, a love far exceeding the love possible with earth-bound ladies.

Snow (1990) p. 132. Alfonso chided other troubadours for not praising Mary, the mother of Jesus:

Tell me, oh troubadours:
the Lady of ladies,
why do you not praise Her?

If you know well your art,
she is through whom you have God:
why do you not praise Her?

{ Dized’, ai trobadores,
a Sennor das sennores,
porqué a non loades?

Se vos trobar sabedes,
a por que Deus avedes,
porqué a non loades? }

Alfonso X, Cantigas de Santa Maria 260, Galician-Portuguese text and English translation from Ferreira (2016) p. 325. Complete text of this cantiga; musical performance, without the poetry.

[2] Burns (1990a), Burns (1990b). Alfonso X’s epithet “el sabio” is often translated as “the Wise,” but Alfonso wasn’t wise as a political leader. Burns (1990b) p. 3.

[3] Alfonso X {Afonso X}, Galician-Portuguese text of Universo Cantigas 479 (B 481, V 64) (see also Cantigas Medievais Galego-Portuguesas), English translation benefiting from those of Lazar (1989) p. 269, Keller (1967) pp. 104-5, and the Galician paraphrase and glossary of Universo Cantigas. In parenthesis is the number of the cantiga in the song-book {cancioneiro} manuscripts B (Cancioneiro da Biblioteca Nacional) and V (Cancioneiro da Vaticana).

[4] Maria Pérez Balteira was a famous soldadeira. A soldadeira literally means a woman of soldiers’ camps. A soldadeira, like the singing slave-girls of the Islamic world, was often skilled in singing and dancing as well as in providing soldiers with sex in exchange for money or material goods. For more on Balteira, Alvar Ezquerra (1985) and Corral (2015). Balteira is regarded as so imporant that the Equality Commission {Comisión de Igualdade} of the Galician Cultural Council {Consello da Cultura Galega} recently published the texts of all songs referring to Balteira. Iconos (2014) celebrates Balteira for having strong, independent sexuality like that of Messalina and Empress Theodora.

[5] Lazar (1989) p. 269. Other such phrases were “to open a window in the ark” (to have sex with a virgin woman) and “there is good taste in the sciatic nerve” (the sciatic nerve, which is prohibited for consumption by Jewish law, was a euphemism for the penis). Id.

Afonso Lopes de Baião’s cantiga beginning, “Em Arouca ũa casa faria,” also uses construction as a metaphor for heterosexual intercourse. In this song, new wood apparently refers to a young nun warmly receptive to sex with the poetic voice:

Oh, dear friends, by Saint Mary,
if only I got new wood,
I now would build a house
and cover it and uncover it,
and turn it around if necessary,
and if the abbess would give me
new wood, I would do that with her.

{ E, meus amigos, par Santa Maria,
se madeira nova podess’haver,
log’esta casa iria fazer
e cobri-la e descobri-la ia,
e revolvê-la, se fosse mester;
e se mi a mi a abadessa der
madeira nova, esto lhi faria. }

“Em Arouca ũa casa faria,” stanza 3, Galician-Portuguese text (B 1471, V 1081) from Cantigas Medievais Galego-Portuguesas, English translation benefiting from that of Lazar (1989) p. 271 and Arias (2017) p. 91 (which provides an English paraphrase of the whole song). The first verse refers to a monastery at Arouca, Portugual. That apparently was the place where the sexual construction would occur.

[6] Alfonso X {Afonso X}, Galician-Portuguese text of Universo Cantigas 493 (B 495, V 78) (see also Cantigas Medievais Galego-Portuguesas), English translation benefiting from those of England (2017) p. 269 and Arias (2017) p. 108, and the Galician paraphrase and glossary of Universo Cantigas. The Galician-Portuguese text is substantially identical to the reading of Ferreiro (2010), except for v. 23. In that verse, Ferreiro follows V (Cancioneiro da Vaticana), while Universo Cantigas follows B (Cancioneiro da Biblioteca Nacional).

Some scholars assert that Domingas Eanes’s wound is literally venereal disease. E.g. Lazar (1989) p. 270, and the note to v. 28 in Cantigas Medievais Galego-Portuguesas. In its allegorical erotic context, the “wound” seems to me to represent both some tearing of Domingas Eanes’s hymen and her subsequent eagerness to have heterosexual intercourse. Medieval literature of men’s sexed protest frequently addressed men’s suffering under women’s high sexual demands. With respect to Iberian literature of men’s sexed protest, Morán (2018) pp. 387-90.

Martial metaphors are regrettably common in describing heterosexual intercourse. Another song uses competitive crossbow sport shooting as a metaphor for sex with Maria Pérez Balteira. She’s described as a cunning competitor who knows a lot and extracts semen and money from men — she cleaned out the undergarment bag of a man who shot with her. See Pero Garcia de Ambroa, “The crossbowmen of this frontier {Os beesteiros daquesta fronteira}” (manuscript B 1574).

Intercultural sexual intercourse interacted with intercultural commercial intercourse. In one song, the Christian prostitute Maior Garcia has sex with a Jew and a Muslim. See João Baveca, “I saw today an enraged squire {Um escudeiro vi hoj’arrufado}” (manuscripts B 1454, V 1064). Lirica Medievale Romanza offers the song with Italian translation.

[7] Alfonso X {Afonso X}, Galician-Portuguese text of Universo Cantigas 491 (B 493, V 76) (see also Cantigas Medievais Galego-Portuguesas), English translation from Zenith (1995) pp. 105, 107 (with changes discussed subsequently). Other English translations are Keller (1967) p. 107 and Arias (2017) p. 108, and the Galician paraphrase and glossary of Universo Cantigas.

Verse 9 hasn’t been transmitted well. Zenith has the reading “macar no leito muitas [el ouver],” and translates “a number of women in his bed.” Zenith (1995) pp. 104-5. Arias has “macar na Lei muitas [vezes no quer]” and translates “although he many times does not want to read the Law (Bible), as far as I know”. Arias (2017) pp. 102-3. Keller has “ca tam mal e muyt’a fee leer” and translates “for by my faith, he, through the books”. Keller (1967) pp. 107-8. I provide an English translation of v. 9 for the text of Universo Cantigas.

[8] St. Marcoul’s fire {fogo que de San Marçal} is also known as St. Anthony’s fire (which Zenith uses in his translation), St. Francis’s fire, and the “holy fire {ignis sacer}.” These terms probably refer to skin infections now medically known as ergotism and erysipelas. These highly communicable skin infections were a type of plague in medieval Europe. They killed thousands of persons in France in the twelfth century. Zenith (1995) p. 254 (note to song 49, “Ao daian de Calez eu achei”) and Morros (1995).

[8] D’Agostino (2012), Sodré (2013). The twelfth-century Catalan man trobairitz Guilhem de Berguedan vigorously satirized a fornicating priest:

The young woman,
panting and moaning,
who is reclining under cleric Roger,
is all in motion
and so much at ease
feeling her cunt’s sweetness
that with her urine
she makes a potion,
and her cunt is without rest or truce.
In this city of Poitiers
she broke her back screwing.

{ La mesquina
Flaira e grina,
Que maistre Rogier enclina,
Tan festina
E s’aisina
Tro sent la douçor conina;
De s’orina
Fai mezina,
E’l con non cessa ni fina,
Qu’en la ciutat peitavina
Se rompèt fotent l’esquina. }

Guilhem de Berguedan, “A deceiver {Un trichaire}” (PC 210,22), vv. 23-33 (stanza 3), Old Occitan text from Corpus des Troubadours (see also Rialto), English translation from Lazar (1989) p. 264 (modified slightly to follow the Old Occitan more closely).

This cleric Roger reportedly did a remarkable amount of sexual work in a week:

A Christian woman
under the cover
he screwed forty times a week.

{ Crestïana
Fot sotz vana
Quaranta vetz la setmana. }

“Un trichaire” vv. 48-50, sourced as above. That record of sexual work, while impressive, is less than twice the one-day record of Charlemagne’s peer Oliver.

Alfonso X almost surely knew Guilhem de Berguedan’s “Un trichaire.” In his song “O genete,” Universo Cantigas 489 (B 491, V 74), Alfonso chided his knights for fleeing from Moorish knights. Alfonso apparently wrote “O genete” as a contrafactum to “Un trichaire.”

[9] The eminent, influential ninth-century Arabic scholar al-Jahiz referred to the sexual school of the great woman scholar Al-Alfiya. She apparently wrote the Arabic text Of the penis and the vulva {Alfiyya wa-shalfiyya}. That text probably drew upon Indian literature (such as the Kamasutra) and Persian learning. Late in the eleventh century, Constantine the African brought to Salerno, Italy, many Arabic medical manuscripts. These included texts on love and sex. They may well have included a version of Alfiyya wa-shalfiyya. Drawing upon such Arabic texts, Constantine the African wrote in Latin the Book of Sexual Intercourse {Liber de coitu}. Al-Alfiya and Liber de coitu seem to have influenced the fifteenth-century Catalan work Mirror of Fucking {Speculum al foderi}. Compared to these works, ibn Hazm’s early eleventh-century Arabic poem Ring of the Dove {طوق الحمامة / Ṭawq al-Ḥamāmah} is much less sexually explicit.

[10] D’Agostino (2012), pp. 290-1, insightfully put forward this reading.

[11] Qādis apparently was an Arabic transliteration of Gades, the Roman name for Cádiz.

[12] For identification of beger as a toponym for Vejer de la Frontera, Ferreiro (2014) pp. 181-5. In v. 2, V (Cancioneiro da Vaticana) has beger, while B (Cancioneiro da Biblioteca Nacional) has berger. Universo Cantigas reads in B the r in berger as being canceled with a vertical line. See Note 1 here. Cantigas Medievais Galego-Portuguesas reads from B simply berger and puts that forward as the better text. On Vejer de la Frontera being a castle outpost repopulated (with Spanish civilians) only in 1288, O’Callaghan (2011) pp. 6, 51, 56.

[13] Walter Map {Gualterus Map}, On Courtiers’ Trifles {De nugis curialium} 4.3, Latin text from James, Brooke & Mynors (1983) p. 300, my English translation, benefiting from that of id. No Livy of Carthage is known to exist, nor is this conversation elsewhere documented. Livy of Carthage apparently is a textual corruption arising from “Peno” (of Carthage) being read for “Aponi” (Bagni d’Albano near Padua) in Martial, Epigrams 1.61.3-9. Id. p. 301, n. 4.

The Roman historian Titus Livius (Livy) could fairly be regarded as a grave and uxorious man. See, e.g. Livy’s account of the Bacchanalia Affair of 186 BGC in Livy’s History 39.8-19. Nonetheless, this conversation between Livy and Canius of Gades almost surely is Map’s creative fiction. Subsequent quotes from this conversation are similarly sourced from De nugis curialium 4.3.

In Walter Map’s account of the conversation of Livy and Canius of Gades, Livy continues:

Tityus cannot love Juno when many vultures tear his liver into many pieces.

{ non enim eo iecore Iunonem amat Ticius quod multi uultures in multa diuellunt. }

After being killed, Tityus (Tityos) was stretched out and bound to the ground in the underworld. Two vultures continually tore at his liver. Homer, Odyssey 11.576. In the ancient Mediterranean world, the liver was thought to be the source of passions. Juno, the Roman goddess of marriage, was extremely jealous of her husband Jove’s strong, independent sexuality. Walter Map seems to be suggesting that a man must have undivided passion to be worthy of marriage.

Criminal justice systems have long been highly biased towards penal punishment of men. Leto’s children Artemis and/or Apollo reportedly killed Tityos for attempting to rape Leto. Some ancient sources identify Tityos’s mother Elara as Leto. Moreover, ancient sources also indicate that Juno, a very powerful goddess, commanded Tityos to rape Leto because Juno was angry that Leto had sex with Jove, Juno’s husband. Here’s a review of ancient sources concerning Tityus. What actually happened in this myth matters less for real social justice than recognizing that women play a significant role in inciting men to violence, violence mainly directed at other men.

[14] Libs is glossed as auster {south wind} in the manuscript. James, Brooke & Mynors (1983) p. 300, note v. In Map’s Latin text, Vulcan is called Mulciber {the softener}. That epithet adds irony to Vulcan’s hard marital conditions.

Canius of Gades began his response to Livy with these words of wisdom:

If ever I fall, I get up more cautiously. If for a moment I sink, I resume breathing more happily.

{ Si quando labor, resurgo caucior; si paululum opprimor, alacrius resumo aerem. }

Enjoying the loves of many women is dangerous for men. Men pursuing such a life course must be resilient.

[15] Ancient Roman literature includes references to Gades {Cádiz} and Canius of Gades. Listing eminent literary figures, Martial declares: “merry Gades rejoices in her Canius {gaudent iocosae Canio suo Gades}.” Martial, Epigrams 1.61.9. This Canius is called Canius Rufus {Canius the Red-Head}. He spent time in Tarentum in Rome’s Campus Martius. He seems to have been a learned man of leasure. What is he doing in Rome? “He’s laughing {ridet}.” Martial, Epigrams 3.20. Canius may have playfully conversed in Rome with Emperor Caligula (reigned 37 to 41 GC). Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy {De consolatione philosophiae} 1.95-9. On the dancing girls of Gades and pleasures in Gades, Fear (1991).

[16] Alfonso X {Afonso X}, Galician-Portuguese text of Universo Cantigas 478 (B 480, V 63) (see also Cantigas Medievais Galego-Portuguesas) stanza 1, English translation from Zenith (1995) p. 93. Here’s a recorded performance of this song. On interpretations of it, Hart (1999).

[images] (1) Portrait of Alfonso X the Learned. From an illuminated manuscript of The Book of Games {Libro de los juegos} translated from Arabic in 1283. Via Wikimedia Commons. (2) Peasant life in February. At the bottom left of the composition, peasants sit by a fire and warm their genitals, while in the upper right, a man in tight underwear chops down a tree in the cold. The composition apparently associates generation with the sun’s fire and anticipates seasonal warming. Painted about 1415 by Paul Limbourg. Detail from folio 2v of Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry, Musée Condé (Chantilly, France), MS 65. Via Wikimedia Commons. (3) Video recording of song “Maria Balteira” from A Quenlla’s album Na Boca Unha Cantiga, vol. II (1998). Via YouTube.


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