Lienor overcame injustice with false accusation of rape in medieval romance

Jean Renart’s early thirteenth-century Romance of the Rose or of Guillaume de Dole {Roman de la Rose ou de Guillaume de Dole} shows justice done with deception. This innovative medieval romance assumes basic understanding about rape. Rape of women, but not rape of men, has long been a matter of grave concern in the administration of justice. False accusations of rape against men have also long been a serious public concern, except in recent decades. Emperor Conrad’s capricious love for Lienor meets Lienor’s deceptive path to justice in Roman de la Rose ou de Guillaume de Dole. Amid many interlaced lyrical songs, that’s the astonishing romance of this medieval romance.

Despite his lords’ concern that he produce a legitimate heir, Emperor Conrad of Germany as a young man wasn’t interested in marriage. He preferred to enjoy springtime parties in the woods with many beautiful women. Out in the woods on such occasions, Emperor Conrad would send away boring men to hunt wild animals. Then he would summon his truly chivalrous knights with a battle cry for pleasure: “Here, knights, to the ladies {Ca, chevaliers, as dames}!” The luxuriously dressed, pleasure-seeking women and men of Conrad’s court would enjoy lavish food and drink, laughter, singing, and sex. As one woman sang:

Down there, beneath the bough,
that’s where he who loves should go.
The fountain wells up clear, oh!
That’s where he should go, who has a fair love.

{ La jus, desoz la raime,
einsi doit aler qui aime,
clere i sourt la fontaine, ya!
Einsi doit aler qui bele amie a. }[1]

Not surprisingly, young women found Emperor Conrad attractive:

A young woman tied to his robe
with her own hands a beautiful tie
from the laces of her white under-dress
(may the fair hand that put it on him
be a 100 times blessed!)
and replaced his belt
with her own little white one.
May she keep his belt well, the noble, gentle girl!

{ Une pucele li atache
de ses mains une bele atache
des laz de sa blanche chemise
(la bele main dont el l’a mise
ait or .C. foiz bone aventure!)
et si li change sa ceinture
a une corroiete blanche;
or la gart bien, la preuz, la franche }

Of course, from a medieval Christian perspective, women and men are most blessed in marital love that produces children. That unnamed young woman had neither marriage or children with Emperor Conrad.

knights and ladies trysting in woods

Emperor Conrad became deeply enamored of Lienor merely from hearing her name. Conrad’s minstrel Jouglet told him of a very beautiful woman and a valiant knight who loved her, and then of another woman just as beautiful and her noble brother. Jouglet said that the second beautiful woman was named Lienor.[2] Conrad was enthralled:

Love struck a spark
with this beautiful name very near to his heart.
From then on, I assure you, were made one
all other women next to this one.
“Blessed be the one who made this name
and the parish priest who christened her!
I would make him the archbishop of Reims
if I were the king of France.”

{ Amors l’a cuit d’une estencele
de cel biau non mout pres del cuer;
or li seront, sachiez, d’un fuer
totes les autres por cesti.
“Beneoiz soit qui cest non basti
et li prestres qui fu parrins!
Il fust arcevesqes de Rains,
se je fusse sires de France.” }

Conrad asked to hear more about Lienor. Jouglet told him all that he knew. Conrad then exclaimed:

Ah! God, how blessed that she was ever born,
and that more so for whom she will love!

{ Ha! Dex, com buer fu onques nee,
et cil plus cui ele amera! }

Jouglet suggested that Conrad was in love with Lienor. Conrad, laughing, responded:

You idiot,
what now of such faulty thought!
Do you truly believe that I’m thinking
less of the brother than of the sister?
Neither my kingdom nor my honor
allows for her to be my beloved.
But since that could never
come to be, at least I can think about it.
She has made pass pleasantly for us
this day, after all.

{… Gars provez,
com ez ore de mal apens!
Or cuides tu, voir, que ge pens
mains au frere q’a la seror?
En mon roiaume n’en m’onor
n’afferroit pas q’el fust m’amie.
Mes por ce qu’el n’i porroit mie
avenir, i voel ge penser.
Or nos a fet soëf passer
la jornee, soe merci. }

Conrad’s defensiveness and invocation of gender equality barely obscured the truth. He was already in love with Lienor, or at least with her name.

Conrad promptly summoned to his court Lienor’s brother, Guillaume de Dole. In lengthy conversations with Guillaume, Conrad came to admire him greatly. Guillaume was a courageous, highly skilled, and generous knight. Guillaume’s good character inspired Conrad to love Guillaume’s sister Lienor even more ardently. Before he had ever met her, Conrad wished to marry her. He told Guillaume:

Now you should know that I would like to make her,
if it pleases God, my beloved and my wife,
and she will be queen and lady
over all other women in the empire.

{Or sachiez que g’en voudrai fere,
se Deu plest, m’amie et ma feme
et qu’ele iert et roïne et dame
de totes celes de l’empire. }

At first Guillaume thought that Conrad was jesting. Lienor was an orphan, and not from a royal family, nor from a family possessing vast lands. Conrad, however, insisted that he wished to marry Lienor.

Conrad’s seneschal, the chief justice of his realm, plotted to tarnish Lienor’s reputation. The seneschal perhaps understood that Lienor as queen would rank above not only all other women in the empire, but also all other men. He secretly traveled to see Lienor and her mother. Lienor’s mother wouldn’t allow her to see any man without her brother Guillaume present. However, by pretending to be devoted to Guillaume and by giving the mother expensive gifts, the seneschal learned much about Lienor. He even learned that that she had a crimson-rose birthmark on her tender, white thigh.

Back at the emperor’s court, Conrad told his seneschal that he planned to marry. Like other lords of the realm, the seneschal had long urged the emperor to make a strategically favorable marriage. The emperor said that he planned to marry a virtuous, wise, and beautiful virgin. She was Lienor, the sister of Guillaume. The seneschal responded that the princes and lords of the realm would never permit Conrad to marry Lienor. Stunned, Conrad pressed for an explanation. The seneschal declared that he had taken her virginity. He described the crimson rose on her thigh as proof that he had enjoyed her body. The emperor was appalled. Marrying Lienor was now impossible for him.

News that the emperor’s marriage to Lienor was canceled because she was debauched stunned the emperor’s court. Guillaume was utterly distraught and became deathly ill. When one of Guillaume’s nephews learned of the deception, he declared that Lienor must be killed. The nephew quickly rode away weeping. He was going to Dole to murder Lienor. That gender structure of honor killing, while sentimentally appealing, isn’t dominant. Despite the usual anti-men bigotry, men and women are victims of honor-based killings at about the same frequency.

When Guillaume’s nephew arrived at Lienor’s home, a page ran out to greet him. But the nephew ignored the page, drew his sword, and strode toward the house. At the threshold, he yelled:

Where is the slut, the harlot,
who would have been lady and empress,
if not for her own lechery?

{ Ou est la jaiaus, la mautriz,
qui fust dame et empereriz,
se sa ribaudie ne fust? }

Fortunately, as he was charging into the house:

Just then he tripped over a piece of wood
and went sprawling, sword and all.
A servant, who had spitted
a goose between two ducks,
who was neither a weakling nor a coward,
rushed at him and held his arms.
Now the boy had no power to do
any great harm, except with words.
Another man leaped on him and gripped him,
and the two held him tightly.

{ Il s’est abuissiez a un fust
si qu’il chaï o tot s’espee.
Un serjans, qui ot espaee
une jante entre .II. mallars,
qui n’iert ne foibles ne coars,
li vient erroment, si l’embrace.
Or n’a il pooir que il face
trop grant mal, se n’est de parole.
Uns autres li saut, si l’acole,
si le tienent amdui mout cort. }

Men commonly put their lives at risk to save women’s lives. That’s the case even for men much less privileged than women, even for men who are essentially women’s servants. So it was for Lienor’s servant-men.

When she realized what the seneschal had done, Lienor’s mother fainted. Lienor, both a virgin and a strong, independent woman, confidently comforted her mother about the seneschal’s false claim:

Beautiful mother, before the end of April,
which is already very near,
I will have totally exposed
his villainy and his deception.
I will make him recant all
that he has made the king believe.

{ Bele mere, ainz la fin d’avril,
qui ja est mout pres de l’issue,
avrai ge tote aconseüe
sa vilonie et sa mençonge.
Tot li ferai tenir a songe
quanqu’il a fet le roi cuidier. }

Lienor immediately traveled to Mainz. That was where her and the emperor’s marriage was to have been celebrated.

After she had settled in Mainz, Lienor summoned a clever page to act as a go-between. She gave him a brooch, a fancy cloth belt, and an alms-purse containing a fine emerald ring. She instructed the page to give those items to the seneschal as love gifts from the Châtelaine of Dijon. Apparently well-connected to court gossip, Lienor knew that the seneschal had long courted the Châtelaine. She, however, had never consented to give him a pledge of her love. The page was to tell the seneschal that the Châtelaine had softened toward him and was offering him these gifts. But if he ever wanted to see her again, he must tie them on his bare skin beneath his shirt.

After the page has completed his mission, Lienor went to the great assembly of nobles in Mainz to make her case for justice. When she entered the hall, all were stunned at the beauty of this unknown lady. She fell at the emperor’s feet and cried out for mercy. The emperor promised to give her justice. He also promised to do whatever she asked him to do. Beautiful young women easily rule the world.[3]

Lienor declared to the emperor and the assembled nobles that she had been victimized. She described her victimization:

It was a day some time ago
that this man here, your seneschal
(here she pointed him out to the emperor)
came to a place, by chance,
where I was doing my sewing.
He did me great harm and outrage,
for he took my virginity.
And after that great foulness,
he also took my belt
and my alms-purse and my brooch.
I demand here from the seneschal,
for taking my honor and my virginity
and my treasures, compensation.

{ Il fu uns jors, qui passez est,
que cil la, vostres seneschaus
(lors le mostre as emperiaus),
vint en un lieu, par aventure,
ou ge fesoie ma cousture.
Si me fist mout let et outrage,
qu’il me toli mon pucelage.
Et aprés cele grant ledure,
si m’a tolue ma ceinture
et m’aumosniere et mon fermal.
Ice demant au seneschal:
et m’onor et mon pucelage
et de mes joiaus le domage. }

Lienor thus falsely accused the seneschal of raping and robbing her. The seneschal quickly responded that he had never seen her before and that he hadn’t taken her virginity or her treasure. Since justice in medieval Europe respected due process, the emperor didn’t simply listen and believe the woman. Moreover, the emperor didn’t listen and believe his seneschal regarding an unknown woman. If Lienor had revealed her identity at this point, all would understand that the seneschal had repudiated his claim to have taken her virginity. She then could have recanted her accusation. However, the seneschal similarly could have recanted his denial of having ever seen her before.

The emperor considered how to resolve this she-said / he-said case. Lienor then described the belt and purse that he allegedly had taken from her. She declared that the seneschal had them tied to his body under his shirt. She asked the emperor to look under the seneschal’s shirt. Since the emperor had promised to do whatever Lienor requested, he had a knight pull up the seneschal’s shirt. Underneath was the belt and purse, exactly as Lienor had described them.

The evidence seemed to condemn the seneschal to death. That would be the penalty for raping Lienor. The lords, who knew the seneschal well, pleaded for mercy. The seneschal lamented that he wasn’t given an opportunity to speak against this new evidence. He desperately pleaded to the lords:

I could make swear
a 100 knights, if the emperor wished,
that this evil and this misfortune
have come upon me through enchantment.
For I don’t know for certain
that the belt was hers,
but, by God and by our childhood,
by my worth and by my love,
let him at least do me such honor
for all that I declare here —
that I never saw her before in all my life,
never caused her shame or outrage,
never violated by force her virginity —
that he let me swear by an ordeal
as a reward for my service.
And without more delay, if in that I
fail, have me hanged!

{ Je li feroie ja jurer,
s’il voloit, a .C. chevaliers
que ciz maus et ciz enconbriers
m’est venuz par enchantement.
Car ge ne sai certainement
s’ele fu soe, la ceinture;
mes, por Deu et por norreture,
por ma deserte et por m’amor,
me face encore tant d’onor
que, de ce que je mis en ni
que onques mes jor ne la vi
ne ne quis honte ne outrage
ne ne forçai son pucelage,
qu’il m’en let purgier par juïse
en guerredon de mon servise;
et se g’en ce, sanz plus atendre,
enchiece, si me face pendre! }

The lords conveyed the seneschal’s request to be tried by ordeal. The emperor felt pity for the seneschal, who had for many years served him well. Yet he wasn’t willing to allow the seneschal a trial by ordeal unless the unknown beautiful woman who had charged him with rape agreed. Lienor graciously agreed. The seneschal was thus thrown into a pool of water. He sunk to the bottom. That validated his claim that he had never before seen Lienor.

seneschal in water ordeal to test guilt

Events had turned out just as the smart, guileful Lienor had planned. She went before the emperor and now complained that the seneschal had falsely tarnished her reputation by claiming that he had seen the rose on her thigh and enjoyed her virginity. She claimed the honor and queenship that had been intended for her. Thus she revealed that she was Lienor. That she had made a false accusation of rape was understood as merely a tactic for securing justice. The emperor leaped up and embraced her. He kissed her a hundred times, not even asking for her affirmative consent before each and every kiss. All the nobles now approved Conrad marrying Lienor. With Lienor wearing an exquisite wedding dress depicting the matter of Troy, she and Conrad were promptly married.[4]

Emperor Conrad and Lienor marry

Conrad planned to put the seneschal to death for falsely besmirching Lienor’s reputation. Lienor, however, intervened to grant him a reprieve. Instead of being directly killed, the seneschal was sent into the terrible violence against men of Christians battling with Muslims for control of the Holy Land.[5]

Making a false accusation of rape isn’t an ideal way for a woman to vindicate her integrity. Justice by whatever means necessary contradicts due process, a fundamental ideal of justice. As the mass incarceration of men makes clear, justice systems can produce unjust effects. In Roman de la Rose ou de Guillaume de Dole, unjustified love triumphs through a perverse process of justice. That’s more than a romance. Beyond meninist insistence on taking false accusations of rape seriously, women appreciating men’s love for them is the most important means for securing justice for all.[6]

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Read more:


[1] Jean Renart, The Romance of the Rose or of Guillaume de Dole {Le roman de la Rose ou de Guillaume de Dole} vv. 295-9, Old French text from Lecoy (1962), English translation (modified slightly) from Psaki (1995). Psaki also provides an Old French text, but Lecoy’s is more accessible to the non-specialist. For an alternate English translation, Durling & Terry (1993). The previous short quote (Here, knights, to the ladies) is from v. 223.

Le roman de la Rose ou de Guillaume de Dole dates to 1212-1225. It has survived in only one manuscript: Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Reginensi latini, 1725, folios 68va-98va. That manuscript was written roughly about 1300. Psaki (1995) pp. xii, xxviii.

Le roman de la Rose ou de Guillaume de Dole is notable for including forty-six love-lyric insertions within its verse narrative. The lyric insertion at vv. 295-9 is by an unknown singer. Other lyric insertions are by known singers, including Gace Brulé, Châtelain de Couci, Jaufré Rudel, Renart de Beaujeu, and Bernart de Ventadorn. Guillaume de Machaut’s fourteenth-century Voir Dit includes lyric insertions more intimately interwoven with the surrounding verse.

Subsequent quotes from Le roman de la Rose ou de Guillaume de Dole are similarly sourced. The subsequent quotes above are from vv. 247-54 (A young woman tied to his robe…), 793-800 (Love struck a spark…), 817-8 (Ah! God, how blessed…), 829-38 (You idiot…), 3016-9 (Now you should know…), 3016-9 (Where is the slut…), 3924-33 (Just then he tripped…), 4026-31 (Beautiful mother…), 4778-90 (It was a day some time ago…), 4908-24 (I could make swear…).

[2] As many scholar have observed, Jouglet’s doubling of the beautiful woman has parallels with Jean Renart’s Lay of the Reflection {Lai de l’Ombre}. The motif “love from afar {amour de loin}” is associated with the man trobairitz Jaufré Rudel. An excerpt from one of Rudel’s songs about amour de loin, “When the days are long in May {Lanquan li jorn son lonc e may},” is included in Le roman de la Rose ou de Guillaume de Dole, vv. 1301-7.

Lienor is pronounced with three syllables. Hence that name has also been written Lïenor and Liénor.

[3] Second only to beautiful, young women in social dominance are mothers. With striking honesty, a scholar writing late in the nineteenth century commented about Le roman de la Rose ou de Guillaume de Dole:

Of all the beauties of the poem, doubtless none is so unique, so naive, so characteristic, so charming, as the affectionate deference shown by Guillaume for his mother.

Todd (1886) p. 157.

[4] No jaded, passionless lover, Conrad enjoyed intensely his wedding night with Lienor:

I haven’t yet told you
what pleasure the king had that night.
If any man can have delight
in holding his beloved in his arms
in a beautiful bed all night long,
then one can know well that Conrad had that.
When Tristan most loved Isolde,
and he could best take pleasure
in holding and kissing her,
and all the rest that went with it,
and when Lanval and another 20
lovers like these could do the same,
still you may know in truth,
that one could not compare
their pleasure lightly to his.

{ Je ne vos ai mie conté
quel siecle li rois ot la nuit.
Se nus hom puet avoir deduit
a tenir s’amie embraciee
en biau lit, la nuit anuitiee,
donc pot on bien savoir qu’il l’eut.
Quant Tristrans ama plus Yseut
et il s’en pot miex aaisier
et d’acoler et de baisier
et dou sorplus qu’il i covint,
et Lanvax, et autretex .XX.
amant com cil orent esté,
ce sachiez vos de verité,
ne peüst on aparellier
lor siecle a cestui de legier. }

Le roman de la Rose ou de Guillaume de Dol, vv. 5501-15. Lienor almost surely enjoyed their wedding night even more than Conrad did.

The day after her wedding night, lords came to beg Lienor to grant mercy to the seneschal. Jean Renart then lightly mocked historically pervasive brutalization of men’s sexuality:

She was very beautifully
dressed, adorned and braided,
and didn’t have much injuring,
thank God, from what the emperor
had given to her the previous night.

{ Mout estoit en bele meniere
vestue, acesmee et trecie,
que ne l’avoit pas si blecie
la nuit, Deu merci, l’emperere
que de ce dont la proiere ere }

Id. vv. 5559-66.

[5] Psaki commented:

The Roman of the Rose is eminently suited to analysis using a feminist approach. Issues of gender and representation are vividly engaged, for example, in the figure of Lïenor, fixedly absent throughout most of the tale, whose appropriation and misrepresentation by the seneschal raises disquieting questions about the representation of her by Jouglet, Conrad, Guillaume, and most particularly by the author himself.

Psaki (1995) p. xv. Psaki declares that this tale lacks:

a “really feminist” ending, an ending in which Lïenor deposes Conrad and rules the Empire herself or dispenses with him altogether to open a orphrey-shop with her mother in Mainz.

Id. p. xvi. In a truly feminist ending, Lienor might also castrate her brother Guillaume, burn down Mainz, and found a new city in Amazonia for her orphrey-shop with her mother. Lienor would of course have her servant-men transport to her orphrey-shop the two large chests filled with all her fine clothes and jewels that had been packed for her wedding to the emperor. See Le roman de la Rose ou de Guillaume de Dole vv. 4066-71.

[6] Lacy favored interpreting the tale as being about creating fictions:

Both Jean and his characters are involved in literary creation and elaboration, and he invites us to participate in that same enterprise, to share actively in his creation. If we view the work as a poem about poetry, or a romance about romance, if we see it not as a mimetic replication of reality, but simply as a text containing various subtexts consciously created or re-created by characters who are themselves similar creations, then we must judge it more favorably. As roman d’aventures or roman courtois, it may well be something of a failure; as pure fiction or as a drama of language, it is a notable, even remarkable achievement.

Lacy (1981) p. 787. In his chapter entitled “Women and Love,” Baldwin favored a conventional, crude, totalizing fiction:

In medieval society, gender relations were asymmetric; patriarchy was ingrained and misogyny was prevalent. … Misogyny is not limited to a few overt expressions, but pervades all medieval literature in more subtle and indirect ways, which feminist critics have sought to expose. Nor is misogyny limited merely to negative evaluations of women. The praise of female attributes or the introduction of forceful female characters may also have served to manipulate, co-opt, marginalize, or otherwise entice women to conform to asymmetrical gender positions with a male-dominated society. Since these covert and subversive techniques are difficult to uncover, I shall simply take it for granted that both my authors and their society were patriarchal and misogynistic.

Baldwin (2000) pp. 123, 125. Baldwin thus excluded men from loving in his chapter entitled “Women and Love.” By popular academic diktat, negative evaluations of men, or massive slaughter of men, don’t count as misandry. Given such ideological context, de Looze in interpreting Le roman de la Rose ou de Guillaume de Dole not surprisingly suggested that all men are self-centered fantasists:

Inherent in the seneschal’s failure to recognize the woman with whom he claims to have had carnal knowledge is perhaps the suggestion that the erotic experience for the male is more one of fantasy projection than communication and coming to know his psychic other.

de Looze (1991) p. 603. Medieval literature of men’s sex protest provides much better insight into gender and love between women and men.

[images] (1) Knights and ladies trysting in the woods. Wood engraving by Louis Bouquet from Mary (1921) p. 5. (2) The seneschal undergoes the water ordeal to test his innocence. Wood engraving by Louis Bouquet from id. p. 100. (3) Emperor Conrad and Lienor marry. Similarly from id. p. 107.


Baldwin, John W. 2000. Aristocratic Life in Medieval France: the romances of Jean Renart and Gerbert de Montreuil, 1190-1230. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press.

de Looze, Laurence. 1991. “The Gender of Fiction: Womanly Poetics in Jean Renart’s Guillaume de Dole.” The French Review. 64 (4): 596-606.

Durling, Nancy Vine and Patricia Terry, trans. 1993. Jean Renart. The Romance of the Rose or Guillaume de Dole. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Lacy, Norris J. 1981. ‘“Amer par oïr dire”: Guillaume de Dole and the Drama of Language.’ The French Review. 54 (6): 779-787.

Lecoy, Félix. ed. 1962. Jean Renart. Roman de la Rose ou de Guillaume de Dole. Paris: Champion. Publié en ligne par l’ENS de Lyon dans la Base de français médiéval, dernière révision le 30-12-2010.

Mary, André, trans. (French). 1921. Jean Renart. La Pucelle à la Rose: roman d’amour & de chevalerie de l’an 1200. Paris: Éditions de la Banderole.

Psaki, Regina, ed. and trans. 1995. The Romance of the Rose or of Guillaume de Dole (Roman de la Rose ou de Guillaume de Dole). New York: Garland Publishing.

Todd, Henry Alfred. 1886. “Guillaume de Dole: An Unpublished Old French Romance.” Transactions and Proceedings of the Modern Language Association of America. 2: 107-157.

Aeneid against Rhome & Trojan women burning ships to found Rome

The Aeneid, Virgil’s Latin epic of Trojan survivors establishing a new kingdom in central Italy, has been central to Rome’s imaginative foundation for more than two thousand years. The Aeneid draws thematically and stylistically on Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. Widely known and revered in Virgil’s Mediterranean world, those Homeric epics say nothing about Rome’s founding. However, non-Homeric Greek epic apparently told of the woman Rhome leading other Trojan women in burning Trojan ships. These women’s ship-burning caused the founding of a city named after Rhome. In the context of that epic account of Rome’s founding, the Aeneid poignantly depicts an escape from men’s impotence in relation to women’s power.

The Greek epic tradition is now understood to have been rich in archaic myth concerning the Trojan War. In addition to the Iliad and Odyssey, another set of archaic Greek epics, called the Epic Cycle, has survived in fragments. In contrast to the arduous, death-bringing, and highly constraining “heroic” gender role imposed on men in Homeric epic, the Epic Cycle poems “relish romantic intrigue and provocative, even perverse details.”[1] Treachery among intimates and friends is unthinkable in Homeric epic. In contrast, the Epic Cycle, like ancient Greek literature generally, abounds in perverse betrayals.

Trojan women starting to burn ships in Aeneid

The Epic Cycle poem Telegony tells the story of Telegonus, the son of Circe and Odysseus. That story is important for the founding of Rome because Circle’s isle of Aeaea is in the west across from Tyrrhenia in Ausonia. By the end of the sixth century BGC, Aeaea was localized at Monte Circe, about 100 kilometers southeast of Rome.[2] According to the Telegony, Telegonus unknowingly killed his father at Ithaca. That terrible event led to a happy ending:

When he learned whom he had killed, Telegonus on Minerva’s orders returned to his home on the island of Aeaea along with Telemachus and Penelope. They returned Odysseus’s dead body to Circe. There they buried him. Again on Minerva’s orders, Telegonus married Penelope and Telemachus married Circe.

{ Quem postquam cognovit qui esset, iussu Minervae cum Telemacho et Penelope in patriam reduxerunt, in insulam Aeaeam; ad Circen Ulixem mortuum deportaverunt. Ibique sepulturae tradiderunt. Eiusdem Minervae monitu Telegonus Penelopen, Telemachus Circen duxerunt uxores. }[3]

Other surviving evidence indicates that Circe made Penelope, Telemachus, and Telegonus immortal. Humans being made immortal is a well-recognized transformation in ancient Greek myth. Moreover, women marrying their deceased husbands’ sons from relationships with other women isn’t bizarre within all of ancient Greek myth. Nor would it be extraordinary for Odysseus, unhappy with his burdensome obligations under Penelope in their Ithacan household, to have recalled and sought a carefree, never-ending life with Circe. She, after all, required from men nothing more than for them to be like pigs.[4]

The Epic Cycle probably included a story of the woman anti-hero Rhome leading other Trojan women in burning Trojan ships to found Rome in the company of Odysseus and Aeneas. Dionysius of Halicarnassus, a Greek historian writing in Rome a few years after the Aeneid began circulating, reported:

The man who compiled the Priestesses at Argos and the events during the tenure of each of them says that Aeneas went with Odysseus from the land of the Molossians to Italy. He founded the city Rome and named it after Rhome, one of the Trojan women. This woman, he says, urged the other Trojan women on and, together with them, set the ships on fire, since she was tired of wandering around. Damastes of Sigeum and some other people also agree with him.

{ ὁ δὲ τὰς Ἱερείας τὰς ἐν Ἄργει καὶ τὰ καθ’ ἑκάστην πραχθέντα συναγαγὼν Αἰνείαν φησὶν ἐκ Μολοττῶν εἰς Ἰταλίαν ἐλθόντα μετ’ Ὀδυσσέως οἰκιστὴν γενέσθαι τῆς πόλεως, ὀνομάσαι δ’ αὐτὴν ἀπὸ μιᾶς τῶν Ἰλιάδων Ῥώμης· ταύτην δὲ λέγει ταῖς ἄλλαις Τρωάσι παρακελευσαμένην κοινῇ μετ’ αὐτῶν ἐμπρῆσαι τὰ σκάφη βαρυνομένην τῇ πλάνῃ· ὁμολογεῖ δ᾿ αὐτῷ καὶ Δαμάστης ὁ Σιγειεὺς καὶ ἄλλοι τινές. }[5]

The man who compiled Priestesses at Argos was Hellanicus of Lesbos. He was a prolific and influential fifth-century Greek historian. Not narrowly a historian in the modern sense, Hellanicus also wrote about the Hesperides.[6] They were daughters of the Titan god Atlas and nymphs associated with lands west of Greece. Odysseus betraying his Greek family and friends to travel with Aeneas to Italy, perhaps also taking the Palladium, perhaps to be with Circe at Aeaea, is the sort of romantic treachery at home in the Epic Cycle. So too is Trojan women betraying their leading Trojan men and burning Trojan ships. The story ending happily with Rome being named after the ship-burning Trojan woman ringleader Rhome echoes the spirit of the Telegony’s ending. Dionysius apparently preserved a genuine fragment from Hellanicus. That fragment plausibly provides myth from the Epic Cycle or other non-Homeric archaic Greek epic tradition concerning Rome’s founding.[7]

Aristotle the philosopher is attributed a more rational report about women burning ships to found Rome. Immediately following Hellanicus’s account of Rome’s founding, Dionysius provided an account that he attributed to Aristotle the philosopher:

Aristotle the philosopher recounts that some of the Achaeans returning home from Troy, as they were sailing around Malea, were suddenly taken by a violent storm. For a long time they wandered around many places of the sea, carried around by the winds. Eventually they arrived at that place in the land of the Opici which is called Latinium and is situated near the Tyrrhenian Sea. Happy to see land, they pulled their ships ashore at that location and spent the winter season there, preparing to sail at the beginning of spring. But when their ships were set on fire at night, not knowing how they could set sail, they were forced against their will to settle their abode in the place where they had disembarked. This happened to them because of female prisoners, whom they happened to be carrying along from Troy. These women had burnt down the ships out of fear for the Achaeans’ return home, believing that they would be carried into slavery.

{ Ἀριστοτέλης δὲ ὁ φιλόσοφος Ἀχαιῶν τινας ἱστορεῖ τῶν ἀπὸ Τροίας ἀνακομισαμένων περιπλέοντας Μαλέαν, ἔπειτα χειμῶνι βιαίῳ καταληφθέντας τέως μὲν ὑπὸ τῶν πνευμάτων φερομένους πολλαχῇ τοῦ πελάγους πλανᾶσθαι, τελευτῶντας δ’ ἐλθεῖν εἰς τὸν τόπον τοῦτον τῆς Ὀπικῆς, ὃς καλεῖται Λατίνιον ἐπὶ τῷ Τυρρηνικῷ πελάγει κείμενος. ἀσμένους δὲ τὴν γῆν ἰδόντας ἀνελκῦσαί τε τὰς ναῦς αὐτόθι καὶ διατρῖψαι τὴν χειμερινὴν ὥραν παρασκευαζομένους ἔαρος ἀρχομένου πλεῖν· ἐμπρησθεισῶν δὲ αὐτοῖς ὑπὸ νύκτα τῶν νεῶν οὐκ ἔχοντας ὅπως ποιήσονται τὴν ἄπαρσιν, ἀβουλήτῳ ἀνάγκῃ τοὺς βίους, ἐν ᾧ κατήχθησαν χωρίῳ, ἱδρύσασθαι. συμβῆναι δὲ αὐτοῖς τοῦτο διὰ γυναῖκας αἰχμαλώτους, ἃς ἔτυχον ἄγοντες ἐξ Ἰλίου· ταύτας δὲ κατακαῦσαι τὰ πλοῖα φοβουμένας τὴν οἴκαδε τῶν Ἀχαιῶν ἄπαρσιν, ὡς εἰς δουλείαν ἀφιξομένας. }

Having Trojan women burn their Greek captors’ ships doesn’t imply treachery toward one’s own people. Moreover, eliminating the woman anti-hero Rhome and naming of Rhome after her provides a less outrageous history. Compared to the account he attributed to the myth-historian Hellanicus, Dionysius reported from Aristotle the philosopher a more reasonable version of Rome’s founding.

An earlier epitome of Aristotle suggests more amorous intrigue in Rome’s founding. Heraclides Lembus, a second-century BGC Egyptian scholar and civil servant, wrote an epitome of Aristotle’s Constitutions. That work describes the history and formal political structure of 158 city-states. Many centuries later, authors report that Heraclides, describing the founding of Rome, mentioned the Trojan woman Rhome. She was “a certain young woman of marriageable age {virgo quidam tempestiuus}.” Moreover, she was “high-born {nobilis},” or even “very high-born {nobilissima}.”[8] Given her characteristics, the men with her most likely found her sexually attractive.

Men’s love for women figures in an alternative account of women burning ships to found Rome. About 100 GC in central Greece, the Greek essayist Plutarch explained:

Why do women kiss their relatives on the mouth? … Is it for the reason which Aristotle the philosopher has recounted? For that well-known deed, which is said to have taken place in many locations, was dared, it seems, by the Trojan women in Italy as well. When, after disembarking, the men had gone off, the women set the ships on fire, since they wanted to bring an end to their wanderings at sea by any means necessary. Fearing the men, they greeted their relatives and other members of the household by kissing and embracing whoever encountered them. And when the men had put an end to their anger and had been reconciled, the women continued to use this way of greeting them.

{ διὰ τί τοὺς συγγενεῖς τῷ στόματι φιλοῦσιν αἱ γυναῖκες; … δι’ ἣν Ἀριστοτέλης ὁ φιλόσοφος αἰτίαν ἱστόρηκε; τὸ γὰρ πολυθρύλλητον ἐκεῖνο καὶ πολλαχοῦ γενέσθαι λεγόμενον, ὡς ἔοικεν, ἐτολμήθη ταῖς Τρῳάσι καὶ περὶ τὴν Ἰταλίαν. τῶν γὰρ ἀνδρῶν, ὡς προσέπλευσαν, ἀποβάντων ἐνέπρησαν τὰ πλοῖα, πάντως ἀπαλλαγῆναι τῆς πλάνης δεόμεναι καὶ τῆς θαλάττης· φοβηθεῖσαι δὲ τοὺς ἄνδρας ἠσπάζοντο τῶν συγγενῶν καὶ οἰκείων μετὰ τοῦ καταφιλεῖν καὶ περιπλέκεσθαι τοὺς προστυγχάνοντας. παυσαμένων δὲ τῆς ὀργῆς καὶ διαλλαγέντων ἐχρῶντο καὶ τὸ λοιπὸν ταύτῃ τῇ φιλοφροσύνῃ πρὸς αὐτούς. }[9]

Plutarch’s account acknowledges the obvious interpersonal reality that men would be furious at the women burning their ships. But men love to have women kiss and embrace them. In contrast to modern myths, women never have been like men’s property. In fact, women actively kissing and embracing men can be powerful enough to overcome men’s anger at women’s destructive acts.

The Aeneid’s account of Trojan women burning Trojan ships is best interpreted in its historical context. When Virgil wrote the Aeneid, stories of the Trojan woman anti-hero Rhome leading other women in burning ships to found Rome were well-known. In the Aeneid, Aeneas directed the Trojan ships to land in Sicily to ride out a storm. There the Trojan men held funeral games to honor Aeneas’s deceased father Anchises. The funeral games included Trojan boys staging mock battles on horseback. That taught the boys their gender role as participants and victims of violence against men. The Trojan women engaged in gender-typical behavior starkly different from the boys joyfully training to kill or be killed:

Far separated on the lonely seashore, the Trojan women
wept for the lost Anchises, all looking out upon
the deep sea and weeping. “Ah, for the weary too many shoals,
and yet more of the sea to survive!” — so one voice for all the women.
For a city they pray, disgusted with enduring oceans of hardship.

{ At procul in sola secretae Troades acta
amissum Anchisen flebant, cunctaeque profundum
pontum adspectabant flentes. “Heu tot vada fessis
et tantum superesse maris!” vox omnibus una.
Urbem orant; taedet pelagi perferre laborem. }[10]

While weeping for the dead Anchises, the women mourned their own difficult lives. Unlike men, women typically have a strong sense of self-concern. That sense of self-concern, both in the Epic Cycle and in the Aeneid, helps to explain women’s willingness to burn ships.

The Aeneid underscores women’s obliviousness to men’s gender burdens. Like many women today, the goddess Juno, the cosmos’s queen consort and regnant in action, nursed anger about “her ancient grievance not yet sated {necdum antiquum saturata dolorem}.” She sent the messenger-goddess Iris to incite further trouble for the Trojans. Taking the form of the aged Trojan woman Beroë, she called for female solidarity in self-pity:

“O we wretched women,” she said, “whom Greek hands in the war
didn’t drag to death beneath our fatherland’s walls! O unhappy
people, what ruin does Fortune reserve for you?
The seventh summer has turned since Troy’s destruction,
with all the oceans and lands traversed, so many inhospitable stones
and stars we’ve endured, while through the great sea
we chase fleeing Italy and roll about on the waves.
Here are the borders of our brother Eryx and also our host Acestes.
Who forbids casting up walls here and giving citizens a city?”

{ “O miserae, quas non manus” inquit “Achaïca bello
traxerit ad letum patriae sub moenibus! O gens
infelix, cui te exitio Fortuna reservat?
Septuma post Troiae exscidium iam vertitur aestas,
cum freta, cum terras omnes, tot inhospita saxa
sideraque emensae ferimur, dum per mare magnum
Italiam sequimur fugientem, et volvimur undis.
Hic Erycis fines fraterni, atque hospes Acestes:
quis prohibet muros iacere et dare civibus urbem?” }

In referring to citizens, Beroë invoked foremost the women themselves to whom she appealed. Yet those who die in war’s fighting or in the sacking of a city are much more likely to be men than women.[11] Moreover, in the ancient world as in most countries today, heavy, dangerous manual labor such as constructing city walls is assigned primarily to men. However, compared to men, women have always been more potent in complaining.

In the Aeneid, Juno’s envoy disguised as Beroë incited the Trojan women to burn their own ships on the Sicilian shore so that the Trojans couldn’t voyage further. After her complaining speech, Beroë seized a piece of burning wood from Neptune’s altar and threw it at the Trojan ships. The Trojan women initially were bewildered. Then the eldest Trojan woman declared that the figure of Beroë wasn’t actually Beroë, but a woman with “signs of divine beauty {divini signa decoris}.” The other Trojan women wavered:

At first the Trojan mothers with spiteful eyes
looked upon the ships doubtfully, torn between wretched love
for the present land and the kingdom to which fate called them.
When the goddess Iris rose through the sky on her twin wings,
cutting a huge rainbow in her flight under the clouds,
then, truly astonished by the marvels and made furious,
they scream and seize fire from the inner hearths.
Some plunder the altars — garlands and boughs and burning wood
they hurl together. Loosed from his reins, the fire god Vulcan rages
through the ships’ rowing benches and oars and painted pine sterns.

{ At matres primo ancipites oculisque malignis
ambiguae spectare rates miserum inter amorem
praesentis terrae fatisque vocantia regna,
cum dea se paribus per caelum sustulit alis,
ingentemque fuga secuit sub nubibus arcum.
Tum vero attonitae monstris actaeque furore
conclamant, rapiuntque focis penetralibus ignem;
pars spoliant aras, frondem ac virgulta facesque
coniciunt. Furit immissis Volcanus habenis
transtra per et remos et pictas abiete puppes. }

The Trojan men were laboring on those benches and at those oars to bring themselves and their women to Rome, the city founded in alternate myth by Remus (literally, “oar”) and his twin brother Romulus.[12] But without even speaking to their men and considering their men’s views, the Trojan women in a fury burned their own ships. If their ships were destroyed, the Trojans couldn’t depart from Sicily to continue on to found Rome.

The Aeneid’s account of what happened is much different from the romantic, non-Homeric epic account of the woman anti-hero Rhome leading Trojan woman in burning Trojan ships to found Rome. In the Aeneid, the leaderless Trojan women burst into incoherent rage after being incited by the goddess Iris, disguised as the old woman Beroë. The Trojan women’s actions didn’t lead to the founding of Rome. The Trojan women’s actions merely threatened to strand the Trojans in Sicily. Sicily was already the kingdom of the Trojan exile Acestes.

For readers of the Aenead, Trojans settling in Sicily would be a bad alternative to them founding Rome. Acestes was an honored figure, but also regarded as wild and primitive. He was the legendary founder of the Sicilian city that came to be known as Segesta. About 307 BGC, the Greek despot Agathocles of Syracuse, returning from war with Carthage, was welcomed into Segesta. Agathocles betrayed Segesta, killed all its men, and took its women and children as captives. Roman readers of the Aeneid would have known that terrible history.

In Sicily, honoring Anchises with funeral games near his tomb, the Trojan men saw black smoke rising from their burning ships. Aeneas’s son Ascanius, leading other boys in a mock-battle formation, turned his horse and raced to the burning ships moored at the Trojan camp. The women at the camp were in chaos and doing nothing about their burning ships. The boy Ascanius shouted out:

“What new madness is this? What now, what is your point?” he cries,
“Oh, wretched women citizens! Not the enemy or a hostile Greek
camp, but your own hope you burn. How could you, I am your
own Ascanius!” Before his feet he threw down his worthless helmet,
which in play he had put on to rouse the semblance of battle.

{ “Quis furor iste novus? Quo nunc, quo tenditis?” inquit,
“heu, miserae cives! Non hostem inimicaque castra
Argivum, vestras spes uritis. En, ego vester
Ascanius!” Galeam ante pedes proiecit inanem,
qua ludo indutus belli simulacra ciebat }

Men’s willingness to fight and die is worthless against their own women’s treachery. Although only a boy, Ascanius understood the despair of Trojan men. That despair is much different from naming Rome in honor of the woman Rhome for leading Trojan women in burning Trojan ships.

Trojan men see disaster of Trojan women burning Trojan ships

The Trojan men labored to put out the flames consuming the ships while the Trojan women scattered and hid like frightened rabbits. The men’s efforts, however, weren’t sufficient to save them. As so many men have done throughout history, the Trojan leader Aeneas dramatically offered his chest in battle for his people:

Then pious Aeneas tears his robe from his shoulders,
for help he calls to the gods and imploringly extends his palms:
“All-mighty father Jove, if you not yet despise every one
of the Trojan men, if your ancient piety still respects
men’s labors, may our fleet evade the flames,
father, as you now snatch from ruin the tenuous Trojan story.
Or you send what remains of us to death with your destroying lightening,
if I so deserve, and here overthrow us with your strong right hand.”

{ Tum pius Aeneas umeris abscindere vestem,
auxilioque vocare deos, et tendere palmas:
“Iuppiter omnipotens, si nondum exosus ad unum
Troianos, si quid pietas antiqua labores
respicit humanos, da flammam evadere classi
nunc, Pater, et tenues Teucrum res eripe leto.
Vel tu, quod superest infesto fulmine morti,
si mereor, demitte, tuaque hic obrue dextra.” }

With a father’s loving care for his family, Jove created a wild black storm of life-giving rain. That rainstorm drenched the ships and extinguished the flames. Although damaged, all the Trojan ships except four were saved from ruin.

The Trojan women’s treachery and the resulting damage to the ships traumatized Aeneas. Full of anguish, he considered yielding to the women’s preference and settling in Sicily. That’s the non-Homeric Greek epic pattern, with Sicily substituted for Rome. However, the learned old man Nautes offered Aeneas consolation and advice contrary to traditional Greek epic. Nautes advised Aeneas to continue his voyage, but leave behind in Sicily the complaining women as well as the old, the feeble, the timid, and anyone else who chooses to remain.

Like many men, Aeneas was reluctant to leave behind even whiny, treacherous women. Then Aeneas saw glide down from the sky his father Anchises’s spirit. Anchises greeted his dear son. Then he advised him to follow the untraditional advice of the old man Nautes. As fathers tend to do, Anchises offered his son much other advice as well. Then Anchises disappeared into the air like a wisp of smoke. With the support of those two respected old men, Aeneas finally gained the strength to defy archaic Greek tradition and leave the behind the complaining, ship-burning Trojan women.[13]

When time for separation came, those who wanted to remain changed their minds to no effect. The Trojans feasted together for nine days. Then the day came for some to depart:

From along the curving shore came forth unusual weeping.
They delayed, embracing one another for a day and a night.
Now the very mothers, the very men, to whom earlier
the sea’s face seemed harsh and its name intolerable,
wished to go and endure all the toils of voyaging.
Good Aeneas comforts them with friendly words
and tearfully commends them to his kinsman Acestes.

{ Exoritur procurva ingens per litora fletus;
complexi inter se noctemque diemque morantur.
Ipsae iam matres, ipsi, quibus aspera quondam
visa maris facies et non tolerabile nomen,
ire volunt, omnemque fugae perferre laborem.
Quos bonus Aeneas dictis solatur amicis,
et consanguineo lacrimans commendat Acestae. }

Not a yes-dearing man like Vulcan in relation to Venus, Aeneas remained firm about the established plan. With the eight salvageable ships repaired, he didn’t welcome all to join the further voyage in only the remaining two-thirds of their ships. Leaving the rest behind, the eager Trojan men and women sped away to found Rome.[14]

The Aeneid’s treatment of the ship-burning women is a radical departure from Greek epic tradition. The archaic Greek epic myth of Rome being named after Rhome, the ringleader of ship-burning Trojan woman, represents men accommodating women’s destructive acts. That myth includes the comforting conclusion that women’s destructive acts work for social good. Virgil rejected such childish delusions. In the Aeneid, he narrated Juno’s implacable hate and Allecto’s war-inciting evil. He depicted Dido’s suicidal sense of sexual entitlement and Juturna’s naive, narrow-minded actions on behalf of Juno’s hate.

Because so many men are terrified of challenging the gynocentric order, Virgil’s bracing lessons about women have been largely lost or marginalized in the literary reception of the Aeneid. In now-marginalized medieval literature, Marcolf provided vital wisdom about women’s power to the gyno-idolatrous King Solomon.[15] Marcolf better understood the Aeneid than have modern readers. Men must escape from their denial, complacency, and impotence in relation to women’s power, as Aeneas did, if humane civilization is to endure.

ships burning after attack at Pearl Harbor

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[1] Manolova (2011) p. 102. Similarly, Griffin (1977). Griffin observed:

most un-Homeric of all is the treacherous murder of an ally for selfish reasons. … Treachery and revenge on one’s friends are alike excluded by the noble ethos of the Iliad.

Id. p. 46. Unlike Homeric epic, the Epic Cycle included such actions. After reviewing some “outlandish bits” in the Epic Cycle, Konstan concluded:

I am inclined to believe that the Cyclic epics were more permissive than the Homeric poems in respect to comic dissonances within the context of heroic narrative, though always in a controlled and self­-conscious way. If I may offer an analogy with another genre, we may perhaps see a roughly comparable (by no means identical) contrast between the comedies of Plautus, with their broad, occasionally slapstick humor, and the more restrained style of Terence, who was more faithful, on the whole, to the relatively demure tone of Menander. To the extent that one may judge from the meager fragments of Roman comedy, Plautus represented the dominant fashion and Terence was the exception. Homer too seems to have been the exception in the genre of archaic Greek epic, and the prevailing taste might rather have approved the more extravagant compositions of his rivals.

Konstan (2015) p. 321. The relationship between Homeric epic and the Epic Cycle more generally is a contentious subject. For overviews, Burgess (2015) and Nagy (2015). On the Trojan cycle specifically, Burgess (2016).

[2] Burgess (2017b) p. 142. A Roman colony “with the significant name Circeii” was founded at Monte Circeo by the end of the sixth century BGC. Id.

[3] Gaius Julius Hyginus, Fables {Fabulae} 127 (Telegonus), Latin text and English translation (modified slightly) from Tsagalis (2015) p. 706. Hyginus wrote about the time of Virgil. This is the fragment denoted F 5 (a). Eustathius of Thessalonica, a twelfth-century Greek scholar and Archbishop of Thessalonica, attests to this fragment in his commentary on Odyssey 16.118. So too does Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca, Epitome 7.37, from the first or second century GC. Id. p. 705.

The Telegony {Τηλεγόνεια}, attributed to Eugammon of Cyrene, is dated to early sixth century BGC (no later than 570 BGC). Tsagalis (2015) pp. 692-5. For a plot summary based on surviving fragments, id. pp. 678-9. On the literary context of Odysseus death, Burgess (2014), Burgess (2017b), and Arft (2017).

[4] In Odyssey 23.247-84, “resourceful {πολύμητις}” Odysseus tells Penelope that he will have to spend a few years traveling around with his shapely oar until he receives a sign to plant it in the earth far from the sea. That parallels Odysseus’s tale to the Phaeacians of Tiresias’s prophecy to him. Odyssey 11.119-37. With deep philological expertise and keen imaginative sense, an eminent classicist has suggested that with this tale Odysseus received or invented an excuse to have again some extramarital affairs in exotic places. Rather than merely enduring a husband’s ordinary household burdens, Odysseus with that tale might also enjoy again the leisurely position of being Circe’s kept man near Rome. On wanderings of Odysseus outside of the Odyssey, Burgess (2017a).

The Telegony as a whole shows concern about blurring the categories of mortals and immortals. Tomasso (2020). For Odysseus, the choice between Penelope and Circe, like that between Penelope and Nausicaa, wasn’t simple. Epic singers likely exploited these complexities in competing with each other. Id.

[5] Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Roman Antiquities {Ῥωμαϊκὴ Ἀρχαιολογία} 1.72.2, Greek text and English translation (modified slightly) from Verhasselt (2019) p. 679. The subsequent quote concerning the account in Aristotle’s Political Constitutions {Πολιτεῖαι} is similarly from Roman Antiquities 1.72.3-4.

[6] Here’s more information about Hellanicus of Lesbos {Ἑλλάνικος ὁ Λέσβιος} and ancient reference to Hellanicus. In addition to writing about the Hesperides {Ἑσπερίδες}, Hellanicus wrote a mythography of Troy, the Troica {Τρωικά}. Parthenius of Nicaea in his Sufferings in Love {Ἐρωτικὰ Παθήματα} 34 attributes the story of Corythus to the second book of Hellanicus’s Troica. Inconsistency among Hellanicus’s accounts of Aeneas’s exile doesn’t indicate the unreliability of Hellanicus or that the Hellanicus fragment concerning Rhome leading ship-burning Trojan women is spurious. Cf. Horsfall (1987) pp. 12-5. Archaic Greek epic didn’t consist of a unitary myth.

[7] Scholars have contested the authenticity and relevance of the Hellanicus fragment concerning Rome’s founding. Galinsky interpreted it to reflect a broad literary and historical tradition:

Before Hellanicus brought Aeneas to Rome, which is only a reflection in literature of the tradition of Aeneas in Etruscan art and the Etruscan influence on Rome, a Greek version had been current according to which some captive Trojan women, led by Rhome, burnt the ships of their Greek masters and thus forced them to stay in Latium and to found Rome. Hellanicus temporarily tried to reconcile the Trojan and the Aeneas tradition with somewhat awkward results: the Trojan Rhome burns the ships, and Trojan Aeneas has no choice but to found Rome. In the greater part of the fifth century, however, the Aeneas legend was eclipsed by the Trojan legend centering on Rhome. So far as it appears from the extant sources, Aeneas was not related to Rhome or connected with her in any way by Greek historians until the third century B.C., which merely reflects the revival of the Aeneas legend by the Romans at that time.

Galinsky (1969) p. 105. Gruen, in contrast, regarded the Hellanicus fragment as making an extraordinary claim, and he judged it as spurious:

How likely is it that Hellanicus took any notice of Rome, an insignificant little town in the fifth century? It strains credulity to image that any Greek writer at that time would consider it worthwhile to speculate on the origins of Rome. … If the fragment properly belongs to Hellanicus, it stands quite isolated; no clear evidence of Hellenic speculation on the origins of Rome exists for perhaps another century. Better to suppose that Dionysius erred in ascribing this text to Hellanicus, or that another writer composed a treatise with this title, or that a later scholar interpolated the material. … A more plausible setting would seem to be the later fourth century when tales of Aeneas and Latium, of Odysseus’ western ventures, and of arsonist Trojan women were circulating in the school of Aristotle and elsewhere.

Gruen (1992) pp. 17-8. For similar skepticism, Horsfall (1987) pp. 15-6.

The Iliac Tablets {Tabulae Iliacae} from late in the first-century BGC or early first century GC refer to the Epic Cycle. On the Capitoline Iliac tablet {tabula Iliaca Capitolina} (tablet 1A), a central scene shows the destruction of Troy and Aeneas carrying his father and leading his son away. Inscriptions under that scene refer both to Homeric Epic and the Epic Cycle:

Ilioupersis by Stesichorus. Troikos. Iliad by Homer. Aethiopis by Arctinus of Miletus. Little Iliad as told by Lesches of Pyrrha.

{ Ἰλίου πέρσις κατὰ Στησίχορον. Τρωικός/ Ἰλιὰς κατὰ Ὅμηρον Αἰθιοπὶς κατὰ Ἀρκτῖνον τὸν Μιλήσιον. Ἰλιὰς ἡ μικρὰ λεγομένη κατὰ Λέσχην Πυρραῖον. }

Squire (2014) p. 158 (including drawing of tablet). An inscription under a depiction of Aeneas boarding a ship declares, “Aeneas with his family setting off to the West {Αἰνήας σὺν τοῖς ἰδίοις ἀπαί[ρ]ων εἰς τὴν Ἑσπερίαν}.” Id. 160. The Iliac Tablets clearly show appreciation for the Epic Cycle, Homeric Epic, and the lyric poetry of Stesichorus. Earlier scholarship tended to discount the significance of the Epic Cycle and Stesichorus in the Tabulae Iliacae. See, e.g. the title of Horsfall (1987) and the analysis of the earlier scholarship in Squire (2011) pp. 106-8. The diverse possibilities of interpreting the depictions and inscriptions of the Tabulae Iliacae apparently are fundamental aspects of their art and use. Squire (2011), Squire (2014).

The long scholarly debate on Rome’s founding hasn’t specifically considered the Trojan women burning ships. On some arbitrary basis of counting, between twenty-five and thirty “different Greek versions of the origins of Rome” have survived. Erskine (2001) p. 151. Within that mythic diversity, the historical trajectory and significance of the myth of Aeneas founding Rome remains contentious. Horsfall (2001). Odysseus was more prominent than Aeneas in earlier surviving evidence of Greek myth concerning Rome’s founding. Erskine (2001) pp. 19-21. The past two decades of scholarly work on the Epic Cycle has increased general understanding of the diversity and importance of non-Homeric archaic Greek epic. That scholarly development should encourage study and analysis of ship-burning Trojan women in Rome’s founding.

Rhome leading ship-burning Trojan women to found Rome is a plausible element of non-Homeric archaic Greek epic. Specific citations in the Aeneid to the meager surviving fragments of the Epic Cycle haven’t been detected. Yet the Aeneid includes themes and events included in the Epic Cycle, but not in Homeric epic, in contexts where reference to the Epic Cycle is plausible. Gärtner (2015).

Even if not part of the Epic Cycle, Rhome leading Trojan women burning ships to found Rome surely was significant context for Virgil’s account of Trojan women burning Trojan ships in the Aeneid. The story of the Trojan ship-burning women was well known by the third century BCE. The Aeneid’s specific literary presentation of Trojan woman burning ships makes best sense in relation to the well-establish literary tradition of women burning ships causing the founding of Rome.

[8] Describing Rhome {Ῥώμη} as of marriageable age, Festus, Summary of the Deeds and Accomplishments of the Roman People {Breviarium Rerum Gestarum Populi} 7 (fourth century GC). Describing Rhome as a high-born woman, Servius auctus (Servius Danielis), Commentary on Virgil’s Aeneid 1.273 (roughly 400 GC).  Describing Rhome as a very high-born woman, Gaius Julius Solinus, Polyhistor 1.2 (third century GC). For the relevant full quotes and complete citations, Verhasselt (2019) p. 675.

[9] Plutarch, Moralia, Roman Questions {Αἴτια Ῥωμαϊκά / Quaestiones Romanae} 265B–D, Greek text and English translation (modified slightly) from Verhasselt (2019) pp. 677-8.

[10] Virgil, Aeneid 5.613-7, Latin text of Greenough (1900) and my English translation, benefiting from those of Fagles (2006), Kline (2002), and Fairclough & Gould (1999). Subsequent quotes above are from the Aeneid, Book 5, and are similarly sourced. They are vv. 608 (her ancient grievance not yet sated), 623-31 (O we wretched women…), 647 (signs of divine beauty), 654-63 (At first the Trojan mothers…), 670-4 (What new madness…), 685-92 (Then pious Aeneas tears his robe…), 765-71 (From along the curving shore…)

[11] Modern scholars have been largely oblivious to horrendous violence against men in ancient epic. Willful perversion of reality with respect to violence against men has been extraordinary in the past half century. Consider:

The matres {mothers} whether Iliades {Trojan women} or Latinae {Latin women}, are the real victims of epic heroism. They are the persons without a voice in the epic decisions; yet they pay the terrible costs of war.

Zarker (1978) p. 22 (I’ve added the parenthetical translation of Latin terms). Zarker thus anticipated Hillary Clinton’s influential claim in 1998, “Women have always been the primary victims of war.” See note [5] in my post on Marcabru and medieval conscription.

Obtuseness about men’s deeply entrenched status as expendable persons, especially in war, seems to be learned. Consider a woman scholar criticizing Virgil and two earlier women scholars of Virgil:

In Glazewski’s and Swallow’s texts, as in Vergil’s, the women are unquestionably expendable. For the voices of these female critics, the identification with the male subject position is so complete that it even precipitates some degree of misreading (for Glazewski on sacrifice, for Swallow on the women’s contentment) as well as the construction of “practical” reasons for Aeneas’ action which are not articulated in the text (such as “danger” and a kind of corporate “re-organization”).

Nugent (1992) p. 277. A leading man scholar of Virgil prudently praised Nugent’s perspective on women in the Aeneid: “The role of women in the poem has been well discussed, from different perspectives than mine.” Putnam (2001) p. 167, n. 13, citing Nugent (1999). Nugent (1999) concerns not Juno nor Allecto nor Juturna, but Dido. While Dido in the Aeneid has generated sympathetic readers for nearly two millennia, Dido has not been well-discussed, not by Nugent, nor by men scholars other than in recent meninist work.

[12] In a locally sourced myth of Rome’s founding, Romulus and Remus are twin sons of the Vestal virgin Rhea Silvia and the god Mars. Fearing a threat to his rule, King Amulius ordered the twins to be killed. They were instead abandoned on the bank of the river Tiber. With the aid of the river-god Tibernius, Romulus and Remus were saved. A she-wolf suckled them in a cave called the Lupercal. Romulus grew up to kill Remus in a dispute about the location of the new city they had decided to build. Romulus built the new city and called it Rome. On that myth of Rome’s founding, Bremmer (1987) and Rodriguez-Mayorgas (2010). The Aeneas and Romulus / Remus myths of Rome’s founding were combined over time.

[13] In considering the ship-burning Trojan women, Nugent impressively deployed the poor-dearism that sustains the gynocentric order, as well as the sentimental clichés now at the heart of unquestionable, all-encompassing academic orthodoxy:

The Trojan women are constructed here as the quintessential Other. In this way the text emphasizes that the Trojan society is divided within itself and, finally, that the masculine segment is appropriately ascendent over the feminine. … Now, in the conclusion of Book V, Aeneas and his men will be similarly successful in abandoning the collective women, with their inappropriate attention to mundane issues such as fatigue, the passage of time, and the registering of pain and loss. Vergil’s text successfully separates off and then rejects the women’s concerns, thereby establishing both division within the society and the subordination of the women to the men as of the weak and worthless to the strong and able.

Nugent (1992) pp. 267, 275. That interpretation completely ignores the mythic context of ship-burning Trojan women in Virgil’s time and the extraordinary silencing of men’s public voices today, e.g. concerning abortion and reproductive choice.

[14] Some Trojan women continued with Aeneas and other Trojan men to Italy to found Troy. See Aeneid 9.217 (Euryalus’s mother) and 11.35 (Trojan women mourning the death of Pallas). As the Aeneid indicates, women who don’t destructively assert their power tend not to attract attention under gynocentrism. Cf. Nugent (1992) pp. 271-2.

[15] Solomon and Marcolf, 2.11-18. For Latin text with English translation, Ziolkowski (2008). Solomon and Marcolf is thought to have been written about 1200 in central Europe.

[images] (1) Trojan women setting fire to Trojan ships on the Sicilian shore. Excerpt (color-enhanced) of painting by Claude Lorrain, painted c. 1643. Preserved as accession # 55.119 in The Metropolitan Museum (New York, USA). Credit: Fletcher Fund, 1955. (2) Aeneas sees Trojan women, incited by the goddess Iris, running on the shore after having set fire to the Trojan ships. Excerpt of copper engraving published in Lang, Eimmart & Buggel (1688) plate 20. Thanks to Dickinson College Commentaries. (3) U.S. ships burning in the Pearl Harbor Attack on 7 December 1941. Excerpt from photo of USS West Virginia (BB-48) afire forward, immediately after the Japanese air attack. USS Tennessee (BB-43) is on the sunken battleship’s opposite side. Excerpt from official U.S. Navy photograph, catalog # NH 97398, from the collections of the U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command.


Arft, Justin. 2017. “Agnoēsis and the Death of Odysseus in the Odyssey and Telegony.” Pp. 158-79 in Burgess, Ready & Tsagalis (2017).

Bremmer, Jan M.. 1987. “Romulus, Remus and the Foundation of Rome.” Ch. 3 (pp. 25-48) in Bremmer & Horsfall (1987).

Bremmer, Jan N., and Nicholas M. Horsfall. 1987. Roman Myth and Mythography. London: Institute of Classical Studies.

Burgess, Jonathan S. 2014. “The Death of Odysseus in the Odyssey and the Telegony.” Philologia Antiqua. An International Journal of Classics. 7: 111-122.

Burgess, Jonathan S. 2015. “Coming adrift: The limits of reconstruction of the cyclic poems.” Ch. 1 (pp. 91-118) in Fantuzzi & Tsagalis (2015).

Burgess, Jonathan S. 2016. “Origins and Reception of the Trojan Cycle.” Pp. 13-30 in Federico Gallo and Mario Cantilena, eds. Omero: Quaestiones Disputatae. Ambrosiana Graecolatina, 5. Milano (Italy): Bulzoni editore.

Burgess, Jonathan S. 2017a. “The Apologos of Odysseus: Tradition and conspiracy theories.” Pp. 95-120 in Tsagalis, Christos, and Andreas Markantonatos, eds. The Winnowing Oar – New Perspectives in Homeric Studies. Studies in Honor of Antonios Rengakos. Berlin: De Gruyter.

Burgess, Jonathan S. 2017b. “The Corpse of Odysseus.” Pp. 136-57 in Burgess, Ready & Tsagalis (2017).

Burgess, Jonathan S., Jonathan Ready, and Christos Tsagalis, eds. 2017. Yearbook of Ancient Greek Epic. Volume 3. Leiden: Brill.

Erskine, Andrew. 2001. Troy between Greece and Rome. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Fagles, Robert, trans. 2006. Virgil. The Aeneid. New York: Viking.

Fairclough, H. Rushton, revised by G. P. Goold. 1999. Virgil. Eclogues. Georgics. Aeneid: Books 1-6. Loeb Classical Library 63. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Fantuzzi, Marco, and Christos Tsagalis, eds. 2015. The Greek Epic Cycle and Its Ancient Reception: A Companion. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. (review by Lyndsay Coo)

Galinsky, G. Karl. 1969. Aeneas, Sicily, and Rome. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.

Gärtner, Ursula. 2015. “Virgil and the Epic Cycle.” Ch. 28 (pp. 934-74) in Fantuzzi & Tsagalis (2015).

Griffin, Jasper. 1977. “The Epic Cycle and the Uniqueness of Homer.” The Journal of Hellenic Studies. 97: 39-53.

Gruen, Erich S. 1992. Culture and National Identity in Republican Rome. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press.

Horsfall, Nicholas M. 1987. “The Aeneas Legend from Homer to Virgil.” Ch. 2 (pp. 12-24) in Bremmer & Horsfall (1987).

Horsfall, Nicholas M. 2001. “Book Review: Troy between Greece and Rome. Local tradition and imperial power. By Andrew Erskine.” Hermathena. 171: 95-99.

Kline, A. S, trans. 2002. Virgil. The Aeneid. Poetry in Translation, freely available online.

Konstan, David. 2015. “Wit and irony in the Epic Cycle.” Ch. 9 (pp. 303-327) in Fantuzzi & Tsagalis (2015).

Lang, Georg Jacob, Georg Christoph Eimmart, and Johann Leonhard Buggel. 1688. Peplus virtutum romanarum in Aenea Virgiliano ejusque rebus fortiter gestis: ad majorem antiquitatis et rerum lucem, communi juventutis sacratae bono, aere renitens {A tapestry of Roman virtues as seen in Vergil’s Aeneas and his brave deeds, rendered in sparkling engravings, as illustrations of the remarkable deeds of antiquity, for the common benefit of noble youth}. Norimbergae: Sumptibus J.L. Buggelii.

Manolova, Tzveta. 2011. “Outside the Homeric Lens: The Epic Cycle and the Trojan War Tradition.” Hirundo (McGill Journal of Classical Studies). 9: 97-107. (alternate source)

Nagy, Gregory. 2015. “Oral Traditions, Written Texts, and Questions of Authorship.” Ch. 2 (pp. 119-151) in Fantuzzi & Tsagalis (2015).

Nugent, S. Georgia. 1992. “Vergil’s ‘voice of the women’ in Aeneid V.” Arethusa. 25 (2): 255-292.

Nugent, S. Georgia. 1999. “The Women of the Aeneid: Vanishing Bodies, Lingering Voices.” Pp. 251–270 in Perkell, Christine G. 1999. Reading Vergil’s Aeneid: an interpretive guide. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.

Putnam, Michael C. J. 2001. “The Ambiguity of Art in Virgil’s Aeneid.” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society. 145 (2): 162-183.

Rodriguez-Mayorgas, Ana. 2010. “Romulus, Aeneas and the Cultural Memory of the Roman Republic.” Athenaeum. 98 (1): 89-110.

Squire, Michael. 2011. The Iliad in a Nutshell: visualizing epic on the Tabulae Iliacae. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Squire, Michael. 2014. “Figuring Rome’s Foundation on the Iliac Tablets.” Ch. 6 (pp. 151-189) in Naoíse Mac Sweeney, ed. Foundation Myths in Ancient Societies: Dialogues and Discourses. Philadelphia, PA: De Gruyter.

Tomasso, Vincent. 2020. “The immortality theme in the Odyssey and the Telegony.” Classical Journal. 116 (2): 129-151.

Tsagalis, Christos. 2015. “Telegony.” Ch. 21 (pp. 690-731) in Fantuzzi & Tsagalis (2015).

Verhasselt, Gertjan. 2019. “Heraclides’ Epitome of Aristotle’s Constitutions and Barbarian Customs: Two Neglected Fragments.” The Classical Quarterly. 69 (2): 672-683.

Zarker, John W. 1978. “Vergil’s Trojan and Italian Matres.” Vergilius. 24: 15-24.

Ziolkowski, Jan M. 2008. Solomon and Marcolf. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University.

lai Conseil elevated Latin rhetoric of De nuntio sagaci into French

The Old French lai Advice {Conseil}, probably written in the second decade of the thirteen century, emphasizes in its meta-comments that it’s a translation into French. That probably isn’t literally true. That claim instead functions as sophisticated rhetoric. With learned speech like that in medieval Latin schools, Conseil elevated the learned, exploitative speech of the twelfth-century Latin seduction epic About the Shrewd Envoy {De nuntio sagaci} to provide more courtly love instruction in French.

Introductory and concluding meta-comments in Conseil play across French and implicitly Latin. The first verses of Conseil self-confidently declare:

Anyone who wishes to listen to fine words
in French can learn a great deal from them,
providing they are willing to retain them.

{ Cil qui velt a biaus dis entendre
De romanz molt i puet aprendre,
Por qu’il les veille retenir. }[1]

Listening, learning, and retention were central concerns of students studying in Latin in medieval schools. In Conseil, the schooling is explicitly in French. Concluding meta-comments further explain:

A knight who did not want
this adventure to be at its end
has put this lai into French for us
in order to teach true lovers.
He has done this as best as he could,
translating it word for word.

{ Uns chevaliers qui ne volt mie
Que l’aventure fust fenie,
Nos a cest lai mis en romanz
Por ensaignier veraiz amanz.
Le plus bel que il sot l’a fet,
L’un mot aprés l’autre retret }[2]

Perhaps alluding to low-status Jews translating Hebrew scripture into Greek, the classical Roman author Horace complained about what he regarded as poor translators: “you take care to render word for word as a faithful translator {verbo verbum curabis reddere fidus interpres}.”[3] While Christian reverence for sacred scripture supported the ideal of word for word translation, such translation isn’t sensible in most contexts. Word for word translation is an impossible origin for Conseil, a long secular poem of rhymed octosyllabic couplets in French. Conseil’s audience surely knew that it wasn’t literally translated word for word into French. They, however, would have relished the conceit of teaching true lovers in French. Conseil presents French as more courtly than Latin for schooling in love.

Socrates thinking

Conseil’s rhetorically sophisticated schooling in French has particular merit as a response to the closely related early twelfth-century Latin poem De nuntio sagaci. Both poems concern heterosexual seduction and love. Both are structured mainly as dialogue between a woman and a rhetorically sophisticated man. However, De nuntio sagaci includes vicious acts and apparently ends in a fist-fight between the woman and the man. Conseil includes men’s self-abasement to women and cuckolding a husband. Within gynocentric society, such behavior carries little moral opprobrium. Moreover, the woman and man in Conseil rejoice in their love for a long time. They also happily marry after the woman’s husband dies. The love advice of Conseil leads to a much happier ending than does the love shrewdness of De nuntio sagaci.

De nuntio sagaci is patently outrageous. A shrewd envoy helps a young man who has already been extraordinarily successful in love. That young man boasts:

My pleasing appearance actually drew all to love.
Behold, Love, a mob of your girls follows me:
Daphnis and Europa, Deianira with Phyllis, and
the fleeing Io stops fleeing. Juno and Pallas Athena desire me.
Ready with arrows, lustful Diana follows me —
she threatens death if she doesn’t conquer love through me.
Even Venus herself insists on joining herself with me in a union.
Helen doesn’t care for Paris when she sees me so great-looking.
Consider how Proserpina is carried away upon the Stygian waves.
She doesn’t wish to be saved, unless she joins herself to me in love.
I conquered all of them and made them, Love, your subjects.

{ Nam mea forma placens ad amorem traxerat omnes.
Ecce puellarum sequitur me turba tuarum:
Daphnis et Europa, cum Philide Deianira;
Profuga cessat Io, me vult cum Pallade Iuno,
Telis succincta sequitur lasciva Diana
Promittens mortem, per me nisi vincat amorem,
Instat et ipsa Venus sibi mecum iungere foedus,
Nec curat Paridem, quia me videt Helena talem.
Respice quod Stigiis Proserpina fertur in undis
Nec vult salva fore, nisi me sibi iungat amore.
Has omnes vici subiectas et tibi feci. }[4]

Despite his love affairs with all these classical beauties, the young man is inflamed with love when he sees an extremely beautiful young woman:

I once saw a young woman more splendid than a star.
She was noble and distinguished such as has never been in our time.
Her body was graceful, her flesh whiter than milk,
her face shining and wonderfully cultivated in every way.
Her eyebrows were black and her eyes were full of light.
You would regard her mouth as having the kisses that you desire,
and when she laughed, her teeth then appeared milky white.
Long blond hair hovers along her ivory neck.
Dressed in gold, she was more beautiful than gold itself.
The beauty of her hand exceeded that of an elegant gem.
Why should I say more? She was very cultivated in every way.
She walked softly, in all ways she carried herself sufficiently aptly.

{ Splendidior stella fuerat michi visa puella,
Nobilis et talis, non hoc in tempore qualis:
Corpus ei gracile, sua candidior caro lacte,
Purpureus vultus, mirabilis undique cultus,
Nigra supercilia fuerant sibi, lumina clara.
Oscula quae cuperes, os eius habere putares.
Et cum ridebat, tunc dentes lactis habebat.
Caesaries flava volitat per eburnea colla;
Auro vestita fuit auro pulchrior ipsa,
Pulchra manus superat quod gemma decoris habebat.
Quid referam multa? Multum fuit undique culta.
Molliter incessit, apte satis omnia gessit. }

The young man pleads with Athena, Venus, and Juno — the three goddesses of the classical beauty contest — that he longs for this woman’s love. Then he takes action himself. He sends to the young woman a shrewd envoy “offering all my goods and me myself, if pleasing, and my gifts {mandans quaeque bona, me, si placet, et mea dona}.”[5] As always, men feel that they have to pay for women’s love even while offering themselves as a gift in love to women.

The man’s love envoy and the young woman engage in rhetorically sophisticated banter. The envoy presents the young man as the medieval ideal of a man for a woman to love:

He who sent me here lives without any sin.
He lives, he blooms with a young body, he has strength for everything,
and his beautiful face is sufficient for him to be a young woman.
Noble and humble, prudent and very faithful,
he is rich, generous, truthful, and careful in everything.
What more can I say? This young man seeks you as a lover.
He seeks, he desires to have you. Thus he ordered me to tell you.

{ Hue me qui misit, omni sine crimine vivit,
Vivit, ad omne valet, iuvenili corpore floret,
Et facie pulchra posset satis esse puella,
Nobilis ac humilis, prudens multumque fidelis,
Est dives, largus, verax et ad omnia cautus.
Ultra quid dicam? Puer hic te quaerit amicam,
Quaerit, habere cupit; sic me tibi dicere iussit. }[6]

The woman pretends to be uncertain about what the young man seeks to do in love with her. The envoy urges the young woman to stay calm and at least be willing to talk with the young man. If she judges him worthy, she might give him her pledge of love. She in turn accuses the envoy of being sophisticated, and she feigns simplicity:

Ah, too cunning one, all your replies to me are careful.
Tell me now: where he is who gives his gifts to a young woman?
Let me at least see him so that afterwards I can speak his praises.
What? Did I say “let me see him”? If I said so, it’s repented forever.

{ Ah, nimis astute, michi reddis singula caute!
Dic ubi nunc ille qui dat sua dona puelle;
Fac saltem videam quod laudem postea dicam.
Quid? dixi ‘videam’? Si dixi, paenitet, unquam. }

While the young woman earlier recognized that the young man desired to have her in bed, she pretends not to understand “the deed {factum}” that he seeks to do. In fact, “the deed {factum}” is a Latin term for sexual intercourse.[7] The envoy describes his proposition as offering the woman benefit:

Listen to what I say: I desire for you to live in good health,
and if you believe me, you will see what happens to please you.

Take me as your teacher. Come, put aside your fear.
You are ignorant of him who offers himself as your lover.
If you knew him well, you would touch him as if he were a lamb.
He doesn’t know what love is. He’s modest when a women touches him.

{ Audi quid dicam: cupio te vivere sanam,
Et michi si credis, fit quod placuisse videbis.
Me cape ductorem; venias, postpone timorem.
Ignoras ilium qui se promittit amicum;
Si bene cognosses, velut agnum tangere posses.
Quid sit amor, nescit. Pudor est ubi femina tangit. }

This mendacious envoy / love-teacher prevails. He convinces the young woman to visit the young man who ardently desires her.

The young woman’s meeting with the young man goes badly. He kisses her sweetly at the door. She then wants to talk with him at length. But the young man takes the young woman into a bedroom. The envoy leaves, and the young man rapes her. Like women raping men, men raping women is a terrible crime.[8] The woman mainly blames the envoy for her being raped:

That perjurer willingly made a thousand promises
and wickedly deceived me. If I live, it won’t go well for him.
Where has that lying dog fled, that worthless lecher?
If he were here, I would quickly kill him.

{ Sponte fides mille periurus fecerat ille.
Me male decepit; si vixero, non bene fecit.
Quo fugit ille canis mendax, lecator inanis?
Si presens esset, a me cito mortuus esset. }

Murder as punishment for perjury, like social-media lynching, is uncivilized social justice and morally wrong. When the envoy returns, the young woman openly declares his deception to be unjust:

I was wickedly deceived, received into the young man’s custody,
and wickedly handled. Your deception called me to this.
Was I deaf in that I didn’t understand your words?
I acted sufficiently wary. Why wasn’t I myself then afraid?
If you had forewarned me, crafty Odysseus would have spoken through me.
You surely are the worst. I testify to this openly before all.
You have no fidelity. In no way was this just,
for a vile servant never loves a just deed.

{ Sum male decepta puero custode recepta,
Et male tractata, te deceptore vocata.
Numquid eram surda, quod non sensi tua verba?
Cauta satis fueram; Cur tunc non ipsa timebam?
Si praedixisses, pro me recitasset Ulixes.
Pessimus es certe, cunctis hec testor aperte.
Nulla fides tecum; non hoc etiam foret aequum.
Nam servus nequam numquam rem diligit aequam. }

The shrewd envoy responds with more duplicitous words to the distraught woman. It’s time for you to marry. Everyone does such things. This young man is noble and wise, a favorite of other women for good reason. The envoy concludes:

The custom is ancient that a male lover should seek a female lover.
Who wouldn’t commend that a beautiful man love a beautiful woman?

{ Mos est antiquus, ut amicam quaerat amicus.
Quis non laudabit, si pulchram pulcher amabit?” }

The envoy’s despicable reasoning supports gender inequality. Men historically being burdened with soliciting amorous relationships doesn’t justify that custom in the present or future. Why shouldn’t a beautiful woman love a beautiful man? Love should be women’s work as well as men’s work.

The young woman foolishly accepts the envoy’s teaching. She listens and believes, and thus declares:

You speak truth. What’s the benefit of a big complaint?
So I’ll tell you the matter: this young man seeks me as his lover.
Not all women who do such things will thus be ruined.
Many are saved who are proven to have sinned more.
I’m not the only one who would be called cursed.
Jupiter and Juno are joined in one bed,
Mars wed Venus, and Vulcan also loved her.
Who can speak against it? Nothing is evil, all is lawful.
I don’t care if bitter words are spoken to me.
I’m happy to have tried what I often wanted — those very things.
Now that young men himself, whether he wishes or not, will keep me.
If he agrees, I’ll keep him; if not, I myself will still keep him.
It’s destiny that I should arise and embrace his neck in my arms.

{ Tu dicis vera. Quid prodest magna querela?
Ut res est dicam: puer hic me quaerit amicam.
Talia qui faciunt non omnes inde peribunt;
Multi salvantur, qui plus peccasse probantur.
Non ego sum sola quae sit maledicta vocanda.
Iupiter et Iuno lecto sociantur in uno,
Mars duxit Venerem, Vulcanus amavit eandem.
Quis dicit contra? Nusquam scelus, omnia iusta.
Non curo verba michi si dicuntur acerba;
Saepe quod optavi feliciter ipsa probavi.
Nunc velit aut nolit, sibi me puer ipse tenebit.
Si placet, hunc teneo, si non, tamen ipsa tenebo.
Fas est ut surgam, sibi collo brachia iungam. }

The young woman then gets up and, without seeking prior affirmative consent, embraces the young man and kisses him. She then praises the envoy:

If I were queen, I would order that he have honor,
and rightly so order, for I don’t know anyone alive so great.
He is well-raised, very crafty, and clever in everything.
He is noble, capable, and stands worthy of my reward.

{ Si regina forem, facerem quod haberet honorem,
Et merito facerem, quia nescio vivere talem.
Est bene nutritus, bene cautus, ad omne peritus.
Nobilis est, aptus, nostro stat munere dignus. }

The young woman’s praise for the envoy’s learned sophistication can’t be taken seriously. It’s learned folly.

In fact, with more false words the envoy later betrays the young women to her parents. A strong, combative young woman, she in turn begs her parents to torture him. She also strikes the envoy with her fist and so starts a physical fight with him. For all the clever rhetoric of De nuntio sagaci, it ends in a public brawl between the love envoy and the young woman he sought to entice.

Socrates tears Alcibiades from woman's bed

Conseil transformed the rhetoric of De nuntio sagaci to be more consistent with Christian moral teaching. The beloved woman in Conseil, rather than being young and at least innocent-acting, is a “wealthy and powerful lady {une dame riche et poissanz}.” At a Christmas Eve feast, she sees a knight sitting alone. He is a courtly knight, properly subservient to women:

She called him immediately.
The knight jumped to his feet
when the lady had called him,
then came and sat beside her.

{ Ele l’apele maintenant.
Li chevaliers em piez sailli,
Si vint seoir delez li
Quant la dame l’ot apelé. }

The lady is pondering a transformed version of the judgment of Paris. Three knights love her. She asks the knight she had summoned which of those three he thinks to be most deserving of her love. That’s an apparently selfish question for a lady to pose to a lonely knight. However, her question might have been merely a pretext for engaging him in talk about love.

The knight, now engaged as the lady’s advisor, doesn’t tell that wealthy, powerful lady to check her female privilege. He instead prepares to provide informed advice for her. He asks about the characteristics of the three knights who love her. She explains that the first knight is rich, bold, and brave, but badly educated and a dull wooer. The second knight is rich and handsome, but lacking in valor in violence against men. He is also a braggart. The third knight is neither rich nor handsome, but he is courtly and learned. He woos her with lais, letters, and romances. The knight-advisor condemns the characteristics of the first two knights. He praises the third knight as having been “well-educated {bien apris}.” Nonetheless, the knight-advisor urges the lady to make her own choice:

I make no judgment for you.
But just as you desire,
choose a lover, because that is right.

For certainly, he commits great folly
who thinks that he is wise in all matters.

{ Je ne vos faz nul jugement,
Mes trestout a vostre talent
Fetes ami, que ce est drois.

Car certes, grant folie embrace
Cil qui de tout cuide estre sages. }

Perhaps the knight-advisor is actually the third knight who loves the lady. He wouldn’t want to make a prideful choice of himself. In any case, he takes a humble position. Humility was a central Christian value in medieval Europe.

The lady then makes a rhetorically sophisticated request for her knight-advisor to teach her about love. She politely requests of him:

But now teach me how to love,
and how I can keep it secret,
if you please, correctly and properly,
because I wish above all things
to follow your advice in all,
and we have much good leisure
to make love bear fruit.

{ Mes or m’aprenez a amer,
Et comment je me puis celer,
S’il vos plet, si bel et si bien,
Car je me voil sor toute rien
Du tout a vo conseil tenir
Et nos avons molt bon loisir
De fruitoier envers amors }

This married lady also modestly explains that she is fearful of the pain that she hears that one suffers from love. The knight-advisor in response condemns those who deride love:

From good love no harm comes,
but rather it comes from false and disloyal wretches
who wish to deride love
and are constantly more prepared to lie
than a sparrowhawk is to fly.
About these people I cannot tell you a tale
with a good beginning or a good end,
for they all are always on the route
of bringing into the world suffering.

{ De bone amor ne vient nus maus,
Mes des felons, faus desloiaus
Qui amors veulent escharnir
Et tot jors sont prest de mentir
Plus qu’esprevier n’est de voler.
De ceus ne vos sa[i] ge conter
Bon commencier ne bone fin,
Qu’il sont tot adés au chemin
Du siecle mener a dolor. }

In De nuntio sagaci, the envoy begs for love that lasts for only a day. In medieval Europe, De nuntio sagaci probably would be interpreted as deriding love, or at least making it ridiculous.

With learned rhetoric, Conseil praises courtly love leading to erotic intimacy. The knight-advisor declares that such courtly love provides more joy and pleasure than the most extensive landholdings:

No joy can be compared
to the heart that maintains courtly love.
My lady, I will be severely reprimanded
by slanderers when they hear this,
but I am not afraid of those who understand,
those who know what beloved means,
thus I call upon them as supporters,
for all of them to be my witnesses
that love conquers all and always will,
as long as the world lasts.

{ Nule joie ne s’apartient
Au cuer qui fine amor maintient.
Dame, assez me reprenderont
Li mesdisant, quant il l’orront,
Mes les entendanz ne dout mie,
Ceus qui sevent qu’espiaut amie,
Ainz les en trai bien a garant,
Que tuit m’en seront tesmoingnant
Qu’amors vaint tot et vaintera,
Tant con li siecles durera. }

The influential Roman love poet Gallus, as recorded by Virgil, declared: “Love conquers all {omnia vincit Amor}.”[9] Jesus, love incarnate in Christian understanding, promises to be with his disciples as long as the world lasts. The knight-advisor in Conseil conflates these two eminent teachers.

Not like a child, the knight-advisor treats Christian teaching with rationalizing sophistication. The Hebrew Bible depicts Adam and Even uniting in one flesh as powers like one another. The Gospels depict women and men as equally sinners in need of a doctor and equally beloved children of God. But in accordance with courtly gynocentrism and perhaps in part responding to medieval literature of men’s sexed protest, the knight-advisor privileges women:

The woman must be the bridge
for the whole world’s joy
since all good things abound in her.
We should not speak badly of her,
but we all have need of a doctor
to cure us of the ill that holds us,
that is the willingness that comes over us
to say outrageous and wicked things.

I say to you that I don’t know of anything,
surely, other than good in women.

{ La fame doit estre li pons
De toute la joie du monde,
Quar toz li biens nos en abonde.
Nos n’en devrions pas mesdire,
Mes tuit avons mestier de mire
Por garir du mal qui nos tient,
C’est de volenté qui nos vient
De dire outrage et felonnie.

Je vos di que je ne sai point,
Certes, en fames se bien non. }

That’s a tendentious re-interpretation of Christian understanding of Jesus born of Mary and of love for neighbor. According to the knight-advisor, a young woman who rejected all lovers endured hellish suffering as an old woman. In addition, after describing a woman pleasuring her body in a lovely garden with her arms around her beloved man, the knight-advisor declares:

You should do what pleases you
with your lover, when you have him,
if you find sufficient sense in him.
just like the others do
who have wise and courtly lovers.
All the men and women who likewise
do, my lady, pray for mercy
from Jesus, our creator,
when by old age or by sickness
they must leave this world.
Their misdeeds make them repent
entirely from such a good heart
that Jesus Christ generously
pardons them of all their sins,
Jesus who is worthy and just
and provides us well with an example.

{ Qu’a vo plesir en fetes fere
A vostre ami, quant vos l’avrez,
Se tant de sens en lui trovez,
Ausi comme les autres font
Qui sages et cortois les ont.
Cil et celes qui tout ainsi
Font, dame, si prient merci
Jhesu, le nostre creator,
Quant par viellece ou par langor
Les covient du siecle partir.
Lor mesfez les fet repentir
De si bon cuer entierement
Que Jhesu Criz generaument
Lor pardonne toz lor pechiez,
Qui est dignes et droituriers,
Et bien nos mostre la semblance }

That’s similar to medieval clerics rationalizing their desire for women against a requirement of clerical celibacy. The knight-advisor’s rhetorical rationalizations, however, are in French, not Latin.

The lady is deeply impressed with her knight-advisor’s fine words. His learned rhetoric, expressed in French, prompts love:

She saw that he was so wise and courtly
and well-spoken and well-learned
that she fixed her heart completely
on loving him without any regrets.
She was kind and noble.
For some time she had heard it said
that he knew how to speak eloquently about love.
Now she wished to reveal to him
the great wish and desire
that she had to give him her love.

{ Tant le voit et sage et cortois
Et bien parlant et bien apris
Qu’ele a du tout son cuer mis
En lui amer sanz repentance.
Ele estoit debonere et franche.
S’ot bien pieç’a oï parler
Qu’il savoit biau d’amors conter.
Or se velt a lui descouvrir
Le grant talent et le desir
Qu’ele a de lui s’amor donner. }

She awards him her belt made of silk and silver. She tells him to make a present of it as he desires. She says that whomever receives her belt will have her love. Her knight-advisor takes it from around her waist. He doesn’t forego the opportunity he feels:

He was wise and clever,
worthy, courtly, and perceptive.

{ Il estoit sages et adroiz,
Preuz, cortois et aparcevans. }

He wraps her belt around himself and, “happy and delighted and joyful {biaus et liez et joianz},” declares that he will be her lover. Since her husband is wealthy, the lady is able to give this impecunious knight many horses and much sports equipment. He thus gains a beautiful women’s love and freedom from having to work to earn money. For a man, the only woman better than a beautiful, learned, and warmly receptive woman is one that is also wealthy, or at least has high income from her work.

Medieval Latin, rather than Old French, is typically associated with the most sophisticated rhetoric for teaching and learning. Within its broad freedom of expression, medieval Latin instructed men on how to avoid sexual harassment, described frankly men’s sexual desires, and protested against gender injustices and gynocentrism in society at large. Chaucer’s Nun’s Priest’s Tale tells of how the cock Chauntecleer was nearly devoured for lack of Latin learning. In medieval Europe, Ovid was regarded as the great teacher of love. Ovid, of course, wrote in Latin.

Jean Renart’s early thirteenth century Romance of the Rose or of Guillaume de Dole {Le roman de la Rose ou de Guillaume de Dole} indicates rivalry between Old French and Latin. The lovely young heroine Lienor, arriving for her vindication before the Emperor and assembled nobles in Mainz, speaks to her knights “in French, without Latin {en romanz sanz Latin}.”[10] That’s apparently meant to characterize her as plain-speaking and without guile. In the introductory verses of this romance, Jean Renart explicitly refers to writing in French:

The one who put this tale into French
and had beautiful lyrics written in it
for remembrance of those songs
wants his praise and renown
to go to Rheims in Champagne
and for the fair Milon de Nanteuil,
one of the nobles of the realm, to learn of it.

{ Cil qui mist cest [con]teen roma[n]s
ouil a fet noter biaus cha[n]s
por ramenbrance des cha[n]cons
veut q[ue] ses pris et se renons
voist en rainciens en cha[m]paigne
et q[ue] libiaus miles lapregne
De nantuel uns des preus del regne }

Jean Renart boasted of his romance:

You may be very sure that
this surpasses the others by far,
No one will ever tire of hearing it.

{ce sachiez de fi et devoir
bien a cist les autres passez
Ianuls niert deloir lassez }

His romance tells “of arms and of love {darmes et damors.}” It seems to be audaciously challenging Virgil’s revered Aeneid. That Latin epic begins, “Of arms and the man I sing {Arma virumque cano}.” Jean Renart tells of love that goes beyond only men.

Challenging men-dominated medieval Latin learning in a similar way, the Old French lai Conseil engages in highly sophisticated rhetoric concerning love. Conseil replaces the learned, exploitative speech of De nuntio sagaci with learned, rhetorical play between a wealthy, powerful woman and an impecunious, socially isolated knight.[11] The wealthy woman and the impecunious knight realize a worldly form of courtly love more mutually beneficial than just a self-abasing man serving an idealized beloved woman. That’s certainly a lesson, taught in Old French, that would be more appealing to medieval women and men than the debacle of De nuntio sagaci.

*  *  *  *  *

Read more:


[1] Conseil, vv. 1-3, Old French text (MS S, also called MS C; BnF nouv. acq. fr. 1104) from Brook (2016), English translation (modified) from Burgess & Brook (2016) p. 257. All Conseil verse numbers in this post refer to MS S, unless otherwise noted.

Conseil is written in rhymed octosyllabic couplets. The Old French word romanz can mean either the French language or a long, narrative poem in rhymed octosyllabic couplets. Grigoriu, Peersman & Rider (2013) p. 51, n. 1. Both in v. 2 and v. 859, “French” seems to be the most sensible meaning of romanz.

Conseil survives in five manuscripts. For a list of the manuscripts and brief description of each, Grigoriu, Peersman & Rider (2013) pp. 7-8. Id. uses MS A (BnF fr. 837, formerly 7218) as the base text for its critical edition. That’s also the text translated into English. Some verse numbers in MS A differ slightly from those in MS S.

Conseil is generally thought to have been written in the first decades of the thirteenth century. Id. p. 9. Beston (2013) dates it to the second decade of the thirteenth century. Maddox (2005) argues that Conseil is a rewriting of Marie de France’s Le Chaitivel. At least one leading scholar of lais finds Maddox’s argument unconvincing.

Subsequent quotes from Conseil are sourced as above. They are vv. 857-62 (A knight who did not want…), 18 (wealthy and powerful lady), 30-3 (She called him…), 212 (well-educated), 185-7, 190-1 (I make no judgment for you…), 221-7 (But now teach me…), 231-9 (From good love no harm comes…), 661-70 (No joy can be compared…), 306-13, 348-9 (The woman must be the bridge…), 526-41 (You should do what pleases you…), 750-9 (She saw that he was so wise and courtly…), 770-1 (He was wise and clever…), 787 (happy and delighted and joyful).

[2] With respect to v. 862, L’un mot aprés l’autre retret, Grigoriu, Peersman & Rider (2013), p. 133, translates the same verse in MS A (v. 854) as “Adding one word after the other.” That’s a less accurate translation that apparently misinterprets retret.

[3] Horace, Art of Poetry {Ars Poetica} vv. 133-4, Latin text from Rushton Fairclough (1926), my English translation. Horace was a highly regarded and widely quoted author in medieval Europe.

[4] About the Shrewd Envoy {De nuntio sagaci}, vv. 15-25, Latin text from Rossetti (1980) via Hexter, Pfuntner & Haynes (2020), my English translation, benefiting from that of id. In medieval Latin orthography, -ti- before a vowel is commonly written as -ci-. Hence in medieval Latin, De nuntio sagaci is written as De nuncio sagaci.

Incorrectly attributed to Ovid in medieval Europe, De nuntio sagaci is also called The Young Women’s Ovid {Ovidius puellarum}. For other editions, Lieberz (1980), Alton (1931), and Jahnke (1891) pp. 69-87. On medieval European Ovidian love poetry, Kretschmer (2013). De nuntio sagaci has complications in its textual transmision. It may not have survived in its entirety.

In De nuntio sagaci v. 16, Daphnis, a male name, was a Sicilian shepherd in Greco-Roman myth. Daphnis might be a mistake for Daphne, a woman whom the god Apollo loved. Hexter, Pfuntner & Haynes (2020) p. 463, note. Europa was a Phoenician princess that the god Zeus seduced. Io was turned into a cow as a result of Zeus seducing her. Juno, Athena, and Venus were goddess in the beauty contest that Paris judged. The Roman goddess Diana (who absorbed much of the Greek mythology of Artemis) was a fiercely chaste huntress. Given the general ridiculousness of the man’s claims in vv. 15-25, having the first named person be the male Sicilian shepherd Daphnis might be intended to contribute to the over-all effect.

De nuntio sagaci is cited in the Tegernsee love-letters and Letters of Two Lovers {Epistolae duorum amantium}. Dronke (1979) p. 229, n. 26, and Newman (2016) p. 254. Based on its used of leonine rhyme, Dronke dates De nuntio sagaci to c. 1080, prior to Pamphilus (c. 1100). Dronke (1979) p. 230. Newman is less certain. Newman (2016) p. 334, n. 135. Lieberz (1980) regards De nuntio sagaci as having been written in the twelfth century.

Subsequent quotes from De nuntio sagaci are similarly sourced. They are vv. 37-48 (I once saw a young woman…), 55 (offering all my goods…), 90-6 (He who sent me here…), 114-7 (Ah, too cunning one…), 139-40, 144-7 (Listen to what I say…), 198-201 (That perjurer willingly…), 224-31 (I was wickedly deceived…), 255-6 (The custom is ancient…), 257-69 (You speak truth…), 279-82 (If I were queen…).

[5] For medieval instruction on how a man is to employ a love envoy (go-between), see About Love {De amore} vv. 4-71, available in Hexter, Pfuntner & Haynes (2020) pp. 350-3. De amore is an extract from the twelfth-century poem Courtly living: Manners and life {Facetus: Moribus et vita} / Facetus of Aurigena.

[6] The love envoy’s name is revealed in v. 383 (of 386) to be Davus. That’s a typical name for a crafty servant or comic slave in Plautus, Terence, Horace, and Persius. Hexter, Pfuntner & Haynes (2020) p. 464, note.

[7] Medieval European love thought distinguished five stages of love: “seeing {visus},” “talking {colloquium},” “touching {contactus},” “kissing {basia},” and sexual intercourse, called “the deed {factum / actum}.” Hexter, Pfuntner & Haynes (2020) pp. 463-4, notes.

[8] After the envoy left and the young woman found herself alone with the young man, she fearfully exclaimed (v. 191), “This young man seeks to love me {Puer hic me quaerit amare}.” Hexter, Pfuntner & Haynes (2020), p. 121, wrongly translates this as, “The boy wants to rape me here.” Cf. v. 258, which repeats exactly the same text. Specifying rape among fictional characters in an outrageous medieval Latin poem is much less important than combating ignorance and indifference about women raping men today.

[9] Virgil, Eclogues 10.69. Gallus influentially associated love and war. On Jesus being with his disciples to the end of the age, Matthew 28:20.

[10] Jean Renart, Romance of the Rose or of Guillaume de Dole {Le roman de la Rose ou de Guillaume de Dole} v. 4195, Old French text and English translation (modified slightly) from Psaki (1995). The subsequent three quotes are similarly from vv. 1-7 (The one who put this tale into French…), 16-8 (You may be very sure that…), and 24 (of arms and of love). With respect to v. 1, Psaki noted:

“en romans” can mean “in French” (as in “en romans sans latin” [4195]), in which case Jean Renart refers to translating it out of a “conte” in another language; it can also mean “into a romance,” in which case refers to expanding it from a shorter narrative.

Psaki (1995) p. 262, note to v. 1.

[11] On the rhetorical and psychological sophistication of Conseil, Brook (2000) and Beston (2012).

[images] (1) Socrates thinking. Statue of Socrates at the Academy of Athens. By Leonidas Drosis, made in the ninteenth century. Source image thanks to C messier and Wikimedia Commons. (2) Socrates tears Alcibiades from a woman’s bed. Painting (excerpt) by Jean-Baptiste Regnault. Painted c. 1791. Preserved as accession # RF 1976-9 in the Louvre Museum, Paris. Via the Louvre website and Wikimedia Commons.


Alton, E. H. 1931. “De nuntio sagaci.” Hermathena 21 (46): 61-79.

Beston John. 2012. “The Psychological Art of the Lai du conseil.” French Studies Bulletin. 33 (123): 26-28.

Beston, John. 2013. “A Second Flowering of the Old French Lais.” Journal of Language, Literature and Culture. 60 (2): 67-77.

Brook, Leslie C. 2000. “Omnia vincit rhetorica: the Lai du conseil.” Studi Francesi. 44: 69-76.

Brook, Leslie C. 2016. “The Lai du Conseil in MS S (Paris, BNF, nouv. acq. fr. 1104).” Le Cygne. 3: 53-76.

Burgess, Glyn S., and Leslie C. Brook, trans. 2016. Twenty-Four Lays from the French Middle Ages. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press.

Dronke, Peter. 1979. “A Note on Pamphilus.” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes. 42: 225-230.

Grigoriu, Brînduşa Elena, Catharina Peersman, and Jeff Rider, eds. and trans. 2013. Le lai du Conseil. Liverpool Online Series, 18. Liverpool, UK: University of Liverpool, Department of Cultures, Languages and Area Studies (French). (review by Kathy M. Krause)

Hexter, Ralph J., Laura Pfuntner, and Justin Haynes, ed. and trans. 2020. Appendix Ovidiana: Latin poems ascribed to Ovid in the Middle Ages. Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library, 62. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Jahnke, Richard, ed. 1891. Comoediae horatianae tres. Lipsiae: In aedibus B.G. Teubneri.

Kretschmer, Marek Thue. 2013. “The love elegy in medieval Latin literature (pseudo-Ovidiana and Ovidian imitations).” Ch. 17 (pp. 271-289) in Thorsen, Thea S., ed. The Cambridge Companion to Latin Love Elegy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Lieberz, Gregor, ed. and trans. (German). 1980. Ovidius puellarum: vel, De nuncio sagaci: anonymi carmen mediaevale quod inscribitur. Frankfurt am Main: P. Lang.

Maddox, Donald. 2005. “Rewriting Marie de France: The Anonymous Lai du conseil.” Speculum. 80 (2): 399-436.

Newman, Barbara. 2016. Making Love in the Twelfth Century: Letters of two lovers in context. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Psaki, Regina, ed. and trans. 1995. The Romance of the Rose or of Guillaume de Dole (Roman de la Rose ou de Guillaume de Dole). New York: Garland Publishing.

Rossetti, Gabriella, ed. and trans. (Italian). 1980. “De nuntio sagaci.” Pp. 11-128 in Ferrucio Bertini, ed. Commedie Latine del XII e XIII Secolo. Vol. 2. Pubblicazioni dell’Istituto di Filologia Classica e Medioevale, 61. Genova, Italy: Istituto di Filologia Classica e Medioevale.

Rushton Fairclough, Henry, ed. and trans. 1926. Horace. Satires. Epistles. The Art of Poetry. Loeb Classical Library 194. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

rustic & elite: appreciating men’s unity in diversity

As the brilliant twelfth-century poem About Three Young Women {De tribus puellis} indicates, medieval Latin literature appreciated men as distinctively male human beings. The most learned and perceptive men in medieval Europe didn’t believe that women are necessary to civilize and ennoble men. Yet overcoming prejudice against men’s gender-distinctiveness has never been easy. Composed between the fourth and the ninth centuries, the poem About a Rustic {De rustico} superficially suggests a rustic man’s inferiority to an elite, urbane man. In De rustico, the urbane man wildly and crudely demeans and dehumanizes the rustic man using masculine stereotypes from Verses for Pan {Versus Panos}. The twelfth-century dialogue About Clerics and a Rustic {De clericis et rustico} presents a self-centered rustic as shrewder than elite clerics and equally cultured. Today, young men who reject men’s burdensome gender responsibilities are disparaged as being afflicted with the “Peter Pan syndrome” and “failure to launch.” With their unity in diversity, all men are as fully worthy of love as the rustic men in De rustico and De clericis et rustico.

shepherds Meliboeus and Tityrus from Virgil's Eclogues

In the first four verses of De rustico, a learned, land-owning urban man describes how he spends time at his country estate. Represented in classical hexameter verse, the man acts like a classical Roman aristocrat:

Staying in rural lands, what will I do? So asked, I’ve answered briefly.
In the morning I pray to God above, see the servants and afterwards the fields.
Then I read, invoke Phoebus, and challenge the Muse.
I eat breakfast, I drink, I sing, I play, I wash, I eat dinner, I sleep.

{ Rure morans quid agam, respondi pauca, rogatus.
Mane Deum exoro, famulos post arvaque viso.
Inde lego Phoebumque cio Musamque lacesso.
Prandeo, poto, cano, ludo, lavo, ceno, quiesco. }[1]

This man doesn’t work. He doesn’t strive to please a woman. He’s a man of privilege. Most men don’t have his privilege. This man should have compassion for less privileged men and should seek to help them.

The early medieval poem About Rural Living {De habitatione ruris} includes the verses of De rustico, with slight differences, along with additional verses. In De habitatione ruris, the urbane man more extensively describes his activities at his rural estate:

Staying in rural lands, what will I do? So asked, I answer briefly.
In the morning I pray to gods, check upon the servants and afterwards the fields.
I partition and point out appropriate work to my servants.
Then I read, invoke Phoebus, and challenge the Muse.
After this I rub my body with oil, and with soft wrestling
I pleasingly grapple. Rejoicing in spirit and free from debt,
I eat breakfast, I drink, I sing, I play, I wash, I eat dinner, I sleep.
Until the small lamp consumes its measure of oil,
these lamplight works are composed to the nocturnal Greek Muses.

{ Rure morans, quid agam, respondeo pauca, rogatus.
Mane deos oro, famulos, post arva, reviso
Partitusque meis iustos indico labores.
Deinde lego Phoebumque cio Musamque lacesso.
Hinc oleo corpus fingo mollique palaestra
stringo libens. Animo gaudens et fenore liber,
prandeo, poto, cano, ludo, lavo, ceno, quiesco.
Dum parvus lychnus modicum consumit olivi,
haec dat nocturnis elucubrata Camenis. }[2]

As indicated by his prayers to “gods {dei},” the urbane man of De habitatione ruris is pagan. Moreover, in the context of classical Roman culture, “and with soft wrestling I pleasingly grapple {mollique palaestra stringo libens}” probably alludes to the man having sex with a young man.

Whether based on a common source or De habitatione ruris, De rustico apparently sought to Christianize the representation of the urbane man. In De rustico, the urbane man prays to a unitary, heavenly “god {deus}.” Moreover, early Christian authorities taught that sex was licit for Christians only between a woman and man within life-long marriage. De rustico dropped verses concerning same-sex sexual wrestling and those concerning worldly matters of assigning work to servants and worrying about financial debts. De rustico also dropped two verses about laboriously composing poetry by candlelight to “Greek Muses {Camenae}.” Phoebus Apollo was a Greco-Roman god associated with harmony, reason, and order in artistic creation. In the context of the man engaging in artistic activity, references to Phoebus and a singular Muse apparently were acceptable to the superficially Christian composer of De rustico.

After describing his activities at his rural estate in the first four verses of De rustico, the urbane man of leisure then suddenly, crudely, and non-Christianly disparages the rustic man. The urbane man figures the rustic as the half-goat, half-man Greco-Roman god Pan:

You rustic, you woods-wandering, goat-footed, horned, two-limbed,
dog-training, rubbish-born, agile, tailed, wanton,
bristly, untamed, wild, uncivilized, unfeeling,
half-goat, shaggy, keen-sniffing, falsifying, two-bodied,
forest-dwelling, fickle, leaping, dissolute, lying,
slippery, bragging, blowhard, strident, breathless,
audacious, big-brutish, fierce, hide-clad, uncultured, unspeaking,
rude, hairy, double-parted, black, very bushy, deceiving rustic!

{ Rustice, lustrivage, capripes, cornute, bimembris,
canifer, ridigena, pernix, caudite, petulce,
saetiger, indocilis, agrestis, barbare, dure,
semicaper, pilose, sagax, periure, biformis,
silvicola, instabilis, saltator, perdite, mendax,
lubrice, ventisonax, inflator, stridule, anhele,
audax, brute, ferox, pellite, incondite, mute,
hirte, hirsute, biceps, niger, hispidissime, fallax! }[3]

Men as a gender have much more body hair than women. By disparaging the rustic as “bristly {saetiger},” “shaggy {pilosus},” “hairy {hirsutus},” and “very bushy {hispidissimus},” the urbane man attacks the rustic’s manliness. In the ancient world, both goats and dogs were regarded as excessively lustful. Men have long been dehumanized as dogs. Because of his strong, independent sexuality, the rustic is described as “half-goat {semicaper},” “dog-training {canifer},” “wanton {petulcus},” and “dissolute {perditus}.”[4] Women historically have been associated with civilization within the master gynocentric myth of women “civilizing” men. The rustic accordingly is described as “untamed {indocilis}, “wild {agrestis},” and “uncivilized {barbarus}.” The rustic man is moreover described as “black {niger}.” Like urban elites insisting on their moral superiority according to the dogma of the New York Men-Hating Times, men as a group are morally suspect. Black men are all men deprived of their lives under gynocentric oppression.

god Pan playing flute at Pompeii

Thematically similar to De rustico, the twelfth-century dialogue De clericis et rustico represents unity among men across superficial differences between clerical men and rustic men. In the very first word of this dialogue, a cleric calls to another cleric and a rustic man, “Consocii {Companions}!”[5] That’s an address to equals. The cleric proposes that the three go together on a sacred pilgrimage. Pilgrimages to Christian holy places typically united diverse persons in adoring and petitioning Mary, the Mother of God and mother to all Christians.

The two clerics and the rustic had among them no money and no food other than the rustic’s “sacrificial honey-cake {libum}.” After sending the rustic ahead to beg for lodging, one of clerics points out that the rustic’s honey-cake is enough for two persons, but too little for three. The other cleric responds:

This voracious rustic could consume it all in one
bite. Thus there wouldn’t be any portion for us.

{ Rusticus ille vorax totum consumeret uno
Morsu; sic nobis portio nulla foret. }

The cleric created this self-centered hypothetical to justify his own greed. The second cleric responds with rhetorical sophistication:

The rustic is a classical shepherd of great simplicity.
He is unknowing of deception and can be caused to fall by deception.
In him is excessive gluttony and minimal deceitfulness.
If therefore you wish to cheat his gluttony, devise deception.

{ Rusticus est Corydon et magne simplicitatis,
Inscius ille doli fallibilisque dolo.
Est in eo nimium gule minimumque dolorum:
Si vis ergo gulam fallere, finge dolos. }

The other cleric characterizes the rustic as a shepherd, which is also an ecclesiastical figure for a bishop. The specific reference is to Corydon, a goat-herding shepherd who loved a boy in Virgil’s Eclogues.[6] In addition, the cleric charged the rustic with gluttony. That’s a sin in medieval Christian understanding. Endorsing this call for self-interested deception, the other cleric responds, “How well said {Quam bene dixisti}!” The clerics thus agree to trick the rustic and appropriate his honey-cake.

One of the clerics proposes an other-worldly contest to determine who gets to eat the honey-cake. Jesus miraculous magnified a few loaves of bread to feed thousands of persons.[7] In the cleric’s contest, false marvels seen in a dream will determine who gets the one loaf:

Therefore let’s hold to this agreement: to whomever sleep will give
to see the most marvelous dreams, will be seen as the winner.

{ Hoc igitur pacto stemus: cui sompnia sompnus
Plura videre dabit mira, videntis erit. }

The rustic agrees to this contest. But he says to himself with marvelous sophistication:

I don’t know what biting concerns torture my mind.
I don’t know what particular suspicion pulls at me.
Since there are city-dwellers, there are always deceitful ones in the city.
I suspect that my companions aren’t without deceptions.
First they ordered me to go in front, afterwards called me back,
finally they made an agreement with me.
Whatever it is, I infer deceptions and fear deceitful ones.
Such as I think, they have been the cause of this nasty agreement.
One who is wary will not be cheated, and one who grabs
first rarely grieves. For me to grab therefore is good.
In fact, it’s more prudent to appease the fury of one’s belly
and remove hunger than to keep faith.
And better that one arranges to taste honey-cake secretly
and to make this deception than to be deprived by deception.
Whatever will happen by dream afterwards, it’s
expedient that I would do, such that the same may not be done to me.

{ Nescio quid mentem curis mordacibus angit
Nescio quid quadam suspicione trahit:
Cum sint urbani, cum semper in urbe dolosi,
Suspicor in sociis non nichil esse doli.
Primo iusserunt precedere, post revocarant,
Extremo pactum constituere michi.
Quicquid id est, coniecto dolos timeoque dolosos;
Utque reor, pacti causa fuere mali.
Qui premunitur non fallitur et capientem
Primo piget raro: me capere ergo bonum est.
Tutius est etenim ventris sedare furorem
Et removere famem quam retinere fidem.
Et magis expediet libum libasse latendo
Hun<c>que dedisse dolum quam caruisse dolo.
Quidquid de sompno post hoc evenerit, istud
Expedit ut faciam, ne michi fiat idem. }

Like the fox in the mid-twelfth-century Latin beast epic Ysengrimus, this rustic tendentiously combines folk wisdom with ingenious arguments and learned rhetoric. Jesus teaches Christians, “whatever you wish that persons would do to you, you yourself should do to them {quaecumque vultis ut faciant vobis homines et vos facite}.” No more moral than the deceptive clerics, the rustic reasons to moral guidance opposite that of Jesus.[8]

The following morning, the companions report their dreams. One cleric reports cosmological marvels described in terms of Macrobius’s fifth-century commentary on Cicero’s Dream of Scipio {Somnium Scipionis}. The second cleric describes men being tortured in the infernal world probably according to a passage from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, with the husband-killing Danaides omitted in accordance with gyno-idolatry.[9] Each cleric concludes his dream review by breathlessly saying:

So that I should speak briefly, I wasn’t going to return here.

{ Ut breviter dicam, non rediturus eram. }

The rustic speaks much more briefly. He declares that he has acted in way that preempts the dream contest:

I saw all that you saw, and the honey-cake. Since neither of you was going to return,
I made my individual eating what was before universal to us.

{ Hec vidi, et libum, quia neuter erat rediturus,
Feci individuum quod fuit ante genus. }[10]

The clerics’ learning enables them to populate their dreams with marvels. The rustic’s learned logic prompts him to consume the honey-cake all to himself. Of course, the honey-cake was originally his property. De clericis et rustico plays with clerical learning. It indicates that clerical learning in practice doesn’t differentiate clerics from rustics.[11] Clerics and rustic men have unity in their diversity.

Men’s unity in diversity isn’t truly understood today. When the police kill a black man, the media flames protest that the police have killed a black person. That police kill vastly more men than women is ignored. Criminal justice reformers often mendaciously deny that anti-men sex discrimination contributes to the vastly gender-disproportionate incarceration of men in what’s called, without any sense of outrage, penal systems. The urbane man crudely disparaging the rustic in De rustico and the highly cultured rustic conniving to overcome the two trickery clerics in De clericis et rustico shows that medieval thinkers appreciated men’s unity in diversity. If we are to overcome the ignorance, bigotry, and superstition of our childish age, we too must become educated enough to understand men’s unity in diversity.

*  *  *  *  *

Read more:


[1] About a Rustic {De rustico}, vv. 1-4, Latin text from Hexter, Pfuntner & Haynes (2020) p. 370, my English translation, benefiting from that of id. p. 371. Kölblinger (1973) provides the base Latin text, which Hexter, Pfuntner & Haynes (2020) then edited in accordance with two fifteenth-century manuscripts that attributed the poem to Ovid. The poem was also attributed to Horace in two other fifteenth-century manuscripts. De rustico apparently originated roughly about 800 GC. Id p. 436.

[2] About Rural Living {De habitatione ruris}, Anthologia Latina, Carmina Codicis Salmasiani 26, Latin text from Riese (1894) p. 98, my English translation. The manuscript assigns the poem to the first-century Roman poet Martial, but Martial probable didn’t write it. De habitatione ruris apparently was written in the fourth century GC. Mastrandrea (1997) pp. 91-4.

The wonderful antediluvian, bibliomaniac, and curmudgeon Michael Gilleland at Laudator Temporis Acti provides the Latin text of Shackleton Bailey (1982) for De habitatione ruris, with Gilleland’s English translation. “Shackleton Bailey’s treatment of R. 26 is a disgrace.” Reeve (1985) p. 176. The most important issue seems to be that Shackleton Bailey put agis in v. 1 in place of Riese’s agam, and in  v. 9, dat<a> in place of Riese’s dat. Out of respect for vigorous criticism among philologists, I’ve preferred Riese’s Latin text (R. 26) for this poem.

De habitatione ruris has Horatian echoes. Mastrandrea (1997) pp. 88-9. Hrabanus Maurus’s “To Emperor Hludowicus {Ad Hludowicum Imperatorem}” and Sedulius Scottus’s “I read and write {Aut lego vel scribo}…” may have drawn upon De habitatione ruris. Id. pp. 96-8. The latter poets might rightly be regarded as having assimilated, enriched, and surpassed De habitatione ruris and other classical models.

[3] De rustico vv. 5-12, source as above. These verses are nearly identical to the poem Verses for Pan {Versus Panos}, dating from the fifth to the eighth century. In some manuscripts Versus Panos is entitled “Against a rustic {In rusticum}.” Versus Panos survives mainly in manuscripts written in the fifteenth century. Michael Gilleland at Laudator Temporis Acti provides a critical edition of Versus Panos, with useful notes and an English translation.

Versus panos is also recorded in the ninth-century manuscript Paris, BnF lat. 8094. There it’s entitled Ovid Naso in the Art of Loving speaks of the shepherd Pan {Ovidius Naso in Amatoria arte de Pan pastore dicit}. Hexter, Pfuntner & Haynes (2020) pp. 427-8. The Latin text of Versus Panos from BnF lat. 8094, with English translation, is available in id. pp. 30-1.

Scholars regard satire of rustics as having developed in Europe between the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Applauso (2012) p. 607. Both De rusticos and Versus Panos predate that purported origin by centuries.

A disparaging Latin declension of “rustic man {rusticus}” found in thirteenth and fourteenth century European manuscripts uses more abstract terms of disparagement. For example, consider the plural declension given for “rustic man {rusticus}”: nominative, “these accursed ones {hi maledicti}”; genitive, “of these gloomy ones {horum tristium}”; dative, “to these liars {his mendacibus}”; accusative, “these wicked one {hos nequissimos}”; vocative, “O evil ones {o pessimi}”; ablative, “by these infidels {ab his infidelibus}.” Freedman (1999) p. 134, Applauso (2012) p. 611. This declension suggests clerical incomprehension of a barely known other.

For almost all persons in medieval Europe, bathing was infrequent and changes of clothes weren’t ready available. Peasants, however, were characterized as being particularly foul-smelling:

Down there, in a hostel
there was a donkey.
From behind he made a sound
as loud as thunder.
From that evil wind
was born the stinky peasant.

{ Là zoxo, in uno hostero,
sì era un somero;
de dré sì’ fé un sono
sì grande come un tono:
de quel malvaxio vento
nascè el vilan puzolento. }

Matazone da Caligano, Satire of the Peasant {Satira del villano} / Nativity of Rustics {Nativitas rusticorum} vv. 83-8, medieval Italian text and English translation (modified slightly) from Applauso (2012) p. 625. Nativitas rusticorum has survived in only one manuscript, Biblioteca Ambrosiana (Milan, Italy) C. 218 inf. Matazone probably wrote this 284-verse poem in the thirteenth or fourteenth century. Matazone, which means “motley fool,” apparently was a jester. Nothing more is known about him. Id. pp. 634, 608. For addition medieval literary representations of stinking peasants, Freedman (1999) Ch. 6.

[4] Medieval men authors, who were elite men, typically characterized peasants as having “feeble sexual appetite”:

Nor were peasant men regarded as possessing any particular sexual energy or aggressiveness. It was a literary commonplace that rustic men are unfit for love, not merely because they lacked the necessary refinement but because they were too materialistic. Their concerns were land, work, money, all rendering them unable to experience the yearning that afflicts the brave and well-born.

Freedman (1999) pp. 159, 158. That characterization probably reflects elite men’s self-image more than peasant men’s actual behavior. Because men are typically less hypergamous than women, elite medieval men were more interested in having sexual affairs with peasant women than elite medieval women were with peasant men. On peasant women’s sexuality according to elite men, id. Ch. 7. Of course, men’s tiresome gender responsibility to provide money to women and children tends to dull men’s sexual activity across all social classes.

[5] About Clerics and a Rustic {De clericis et rustico}. v. 1, Latin text of Cadoni (1980) via Tilliette (2019) pp. 11-2, my English translation, benefiting from the French translation of id. and the English translation of Crawford (1977) pp. 371-4. Subsequent quotes from De clericis et rustico are similarly sourced.

De clericis et rustico has survived in two manuscripts written about 1200: Vatican Library, Reginensis 344, and Hunterian Museum (Glasgow, UK), Manuscript 511 (alias V.8.14). On these two manuscripts, Tilliette (2019) pp. 5-6.

De clericis et rustico has attracted little scholarly attention. Scholars who have noticed it have tended to interpret it superficially as literature. For example:

De Clericus et Rustico is simply an old joke with a pleasant and surprising punch line. Its argument is merely that the crude common sense of the Rustic is more practical than the subtle cleverness of the two Clerics.

Crawford (1977) p. 301. Bisanti (1992) emphasizes historical-sociological correlates of cleric-rustic literary conflict. Another learned literary scholar called De clericis et rustico merely “a version of the dupers duped.” Kendrick (2005) para. 9. Tilliette (2019), in contrast, rightly appreciates the literary sophistication of the poem.

[6] In Virgil, Eclogues 2, the shepherd Corydon expresses his unrequited love for the boy Alexis. De clericis et rustico v. 68 more directly refers to monks’ pederastic love affairs.

[7] See Jesus feeding at least 5,000 persons with five loaves and two fishes in Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:31-44, Luke 9:12-17, and John 6:1-14. See also Jesus feeding at least 4,000 persons with seven loaves and a few small fish in Matthew 15:32-39 and Mark 8:1-9.

[8] Cf. Matthew 7:12 (quoted in the Vulgate translation of the Greek original). Tilliette (2019), p. 8, identifies this allusion.

[9] On the content of the clerics’ dreams, Tilliette (2019) pp. 7-8, 10, 12 n. 37. For the first cleric, the dream might be sourced in Martianus Capella’s On the Marriage of Philology and Mercury {De nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii} rather than in Somnium Scipionis. That source difference isn’t substantially significant. Id. p. 7, n. 25. With respect to the second cleric, Tilliette seems to favor as the dream source Aeneid 6 (Aeneas visits the underworld of the dead). The eminent twelfth-century author Bernardus Silvestris wrote a commentary on Aeneid 6. But Tilliette also refers to Ovid, Metamorphoses 4.457-61. Id. p. 12, n. 37. That passage from Metamorphoses seems to me the more plausible source for the second cleric’s dream.

[10] Tilliette commented:

The last response, a brilliant coda if there ever was one, reveals the true face of the peasant. He is a cleric, too, and of the most sophisticated type. The terms he uses to state that he has appropriated (individuum feci) what was the common good (quod fuit … genus) refer to a very particular register of discourse, that of formal logic. More precisely, those terms refer to the question of generics and of the individual, of the tension between them or the movement from one to another. That is the great matter of medieval philosophy of language and mind — what is sometimes called the “quarrel of universals.”

{ La dernière réplique, coda brillante s’il en fut, révèle le vrai visage du paysan. C’est un clerc lui aussi, et de l’espèce la plus raffinée. Les termes qu’il emploie pour déclarer qu’il s’est approprié (individuum feci) ce qui était le bien commun (quod fuit… genus) renvoient à un registre de discours bien particulier, celui de la logique formelle. Plus précisément même, la question du genre et de l’individu, de la tension entre eux ou du passage de l’un à l’autre est la grande affaire de la philosophie médiévale du langage et de l’esprit, ce que l’on appelle parfois la « querelle des universaux ». }

Tilliette (2019) pp. 9-10. Medieval study of this matter arose from Boetheus’s study of logic, particularly his commentary on the third-century philosopher Porphyry’s Introduction {Isagoge}. Gilbert of Poitiers {Gilbertus Porretanus} and his twelfth-century school at Poitiers considered this matter extensively. Id. p. 10, n. 31. On that clerical school, Valente (2017).

[11] Tilliette discusses the rustic’s clerical learning and perceptively interprets De clericis et rustico in terms of a comic contest between Peter Abelard’s new twelfth-century school of logical reasoning and the earlier medieval school of Chartreuse Platonism. Like Matazone da Caligano’s Nativity of Rustics {Nativitas rusticorum}, De clericis et rustico balances between disparaging and celebrating the rustic. On Nativitas rusticorum, Applauso (2012). Men’s unity in diversity more generally represents the literary strategy of these two texts as well as De rustico.

[images] (1) The shepherds Tityrus and Meliboeus in Virgil’s Eclogues 1. Excerpt (color-enhanced) from illumination on folio 1r of the Vergilius Romanus (Vatican City, Biblioteca Apostolica, Cod. Vat. lat. 3867). That illuminated manuscript, created about 450 GC, contains works of Virgil. (2) The god Pan playing flute in a Pompeiian urban scene. Excerpt (color-enhanced) from a first-century fresco at Pompeii in the House of Jason. Preserved in the National Archaeological Museum (Naples, Italy). Via Wikimedia Commons.


Applauso, Nicolino. 2012. “Peasant Authors and Peasant Haters: Matazone da Caligano and the Ambiguity of the Satira del villano in High and Late Medieval Italy.” Ch. 18 (pp. 607-638) in Classen, Albrecht, and Christopher R. Clason, eds. Rural Space in the Middle Ages and Early Modern Age: the spatial turn in premodern studies. Berlin: De Gruyter.

Bisanti, Armando. 1992. “Mimo Giullaresco e Satira del Villano nel De clericis et rustico.” Anglo-Norman Studies. 15: 59-76.

Cadoni, Enzo. 1980. “De clericis et rustico.” Pp. 370-6 in Commedie latine del XII e XIII secolo. Vol. 2. Genova: Istituto di Filologia Classica e Medievale.

Crawford, James Martin. 1977. The Secular Latin Comedies of Twelfth Century France. Ph. D. Thesis. Indiana University, USA.

Freedman, Paul H. 1999. Images of the Medieval Peasant. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Hexter, Ralph J., Laura Pfuntner, and Justin Haynes, ed. and trans. 2020. Appendix Ovidiana: Latin poems ascribed to Ovid in the Middle Ages. Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library, 62. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Kendrick, Laura. 2005. “‘In bourde and in pleye’: Mankind and the problem of comic derision in medieval English religious plays.” Etudes Anglaises. 58 (3): 261-275.

Kölblinger, Gerald. 1973. “Versus Panos und De rustico.Mittellateinisches Jahrbuch. 8: 7-27.

Mastrandrea, Paolo. 1997. “[Martialis] De habitatione ruris (Anth. 36 R.): Modelli Classici ed Emulazioni Medievali.” Sandalion. 20: 87-98.

Reeve, M. D. 1985. “Book Review: Anthologia Latina 1.1. Edited by D. R. Shackleton Bailey.” Phoenix. 39 (2): 174-180.

Riese, Alexander, ed. 1894. Anthologia Latina sive Poesis Latinae Supplementum. Vol. 1. Lipsiae: Bibliotheca scriptorum Graecorum et Romanorum Teubneriana.

Shackleton Bailey, David R., ed. 1982. Anthologia Latina sive Poesis Latinae Supplementum. Pars. 1. Carmina in codicibus scripta. Fasc. 1. Libri Salmasiani aliorumque carmina. Stutgardiae: In aedibus Teubneri.

Tilliette, Jean-Yves. 2019. “La revanche d’Abélard? Note sur le ‘conte à rire’ De clericis et rustico.” Pp. 650-667 in Sébastien Douchet, Marie-Pascale Halary, Sylvie Lefèvre, Patrick Moran, and Jean-René Valette, eds. De la pensée de l’histoire au jeu littéraire: études médiévales en l’honneur de Dominique Boutet. Nouvelle Bibliothèque du Moyen Âge, 127. Paris: Honoré Champion. (cited according to page numbers in online edition)

Valente, Luisa. 2017. “Théologie, ontologie et sémantique au xiie siècle : Gilbert de Poitiers et l’École Porrétaine.” École Pratique Des Hautes Études. Section Des Sciences Religieuses. 124: 283-290.

Juno’s hate sent Allecto to inflame Amata, Turnus, and bitches

In the Aeneid that Virgil wrote more than two thousand years ago, the ruling goddess of the cosmos Juno bitterly resented that Venus was judged more beautiful than she. Juno was furious at her husband Jove for seeking joyful, loving affairs with other women and with that boy Ganymede. She burned at the injustice of Aeneas abandoning Dido who ardently desired Aeneas’s love. With the hate not called hate under gynocentric dictate, Juno hated men, especially Trojan men. She summoned the infernal harridan Allecto, more megera than Megaera, to inflame Amata, Turnus, and bitches. Working from the Latins’ queen down to female dogs, Juno thus incited massive violence against men in ancient Italy.

Juno sends Allecto to incite war

Riding through the sky on a golden throne much more regal and luxurious than a broomstick, Juno looked down and saw the Trojan refugees happily building homes in Italy. Aeneas and his fellow Trojans had endured the horrendous violence against men of the Trojan War and fled from the Greeks’ capture of Troy. Their happy, peaceful new start in Italy enraged Juno:

Ah, the race I loathe, and Trojan destiny contrary to our
destiny! Why didn’t they perish on Troy’s plains?
Captured, why didn’t they suffer captivity? Why didn’t burning
Troy consume these men? Between battle lines, between flames,
they find a way. I believe my powers at last
lie exhausted, or I desist, my hate sated.

Yet I, Jove’s mighty spouse, have left nothing undared
that I could, unhappy me. I have turned myself in every way,
and I am conquered by Aeneas. If what are my powers are not
great enough, I should hardly delay in imploring anywhere what is:
if I cannot bend the gods above, I will incite Hell!

{ Heu stirpem invisam et fatis contraria nostris
fata Phrygum! Num Sigeis occumbere campis,
num capti potuere capi, num incensa cremavit
Troia viros? Medias acies mediosque per ignis
invenere viam. At, credo, mea numina tandem
fessa iacent odiis aut exsaturata quievi.

Ast ego magna Iovis coniunx, nil linquere inausum
quae potui infelix, quae memet in omnia verti,
vincor ab Aenea. Quod si mea numina non sunt
magna satis, dubitem haud equidem implorare quod usquam est:
flectere si nequeo superos, Acheronta movebo. }

Hate can never be sated. Juno swooped down into the underworld to summon the infernal grief-bringing harridan Allecto. Pluto, Allecto’s father, hated her. Even her sisters, Furies themselves, hated Allecto. Yet Juno incited her with a plea for solidarity among women, irrespective of moral worth:

Grant me for myself, virgin born of night, this labor,
this work, so that our honor and fame isn’t weakened, yielded
from its place, nor Aeneas’s people able to bring Latinus around
with marriages and occupy Italy to its bounds.
You can rouse to fighting brothers living in unity
and overturn homes with hate. You bring under one roof the lash
and the funeral torch. You have a thousand names,
and a thousand evil arts. Shake your fertile breast,
shatter the peace pact, sow causes of war:
let those men want, demand, and grab their weapons.

{ Hunc mihi da proprium, virgo sata Nocte, laborem,
hanc operam, ne noster honos infractave cedat
fama loco, neu conubiis ambire Latinum
Aeneadae possint Italosve obsidere finis.
Tu potes unanimos armare in proelia fratres
atque odiis versare domos, tu verbera tectis
funereasque inferre faces, tibi nomina mille,
mille nocendi artes. Fecundum concute pectus,
disice compositam pacem, sere crimina belli:
arma velit poscatque simul rapiatque inventus. }

Women are complicit in violence against men. Like the insane Dido, Juno conjured terrible violence against men. With a thousand condemning names and a thousand evil arts, she undermined men’s loving tradition of thousands of kisses from Catullus to Secundus.

Latinus promotes peace with Trojans via gift of horses

Bloated with Gorgon venom, Allecto in service to Juno rushed up from Hell to make mad and miserable Queen Amata. Her husband King Latinus sought to ensure peace between the Latins and the Trojans by giving the Trojans horses and by having their daughter Lavinia marry the Trojan King Aeneas. Queen Amata thought that the foreigner Aeneas lacked heterosexual ardor. She preferred that Lavinia marry a local man, the unquestionably masculine man Turnus. Subverting Queen Amata’s high valuation of masculine heterosexuality, Allecto thrust an evil snake down Amata’s dress. It slid between her smooth breasts, breathed fire into her heart, and poisoned her mind. Amata began to complain and criticize her husband’s judgment:

Is it to exiled Trojans Lavinia is to be wed,
O her father? Have you no pity on your daughter and yourself?
Nor pity for her mother, when with the first north-wind the perfidious
traveler will cast off to the deep, abducting our virgin as booty?
Or was it not so when the Phrygian shepherd Paris entered Lacedaemon
and hauled off Leda’s Helen to Trojan towns?
What of your sacred pledge? What of your old care for your people
and your right hand so often pledged to your blood-kin Turnus?

{ Exsulibusne datur ducenda Lavinia Teucris,
O genitor, nec te miseret gnataeque tuique ?
Nec matris miseret, quam primo aquilone relinquet
perfidus alta petens abducta virgine praedo?
An non sic Phrygius penetrat Lacedaemona pastor
Ledaeamque Helenam Troianas vexit ad urbes ?
Quid tua sancta fides, quid cura antiqua tuorum
et consanguineo totiens data dextera Turno? }

Not a weak, yes-dearing husband like Vulcan, Latinus refused to acquiesce to his wife’s manipulation of him. With Allecto’s poison taking effect, Queen Amata didn’t respect Latinus for being a strong, independent husband. She spun with insane visions of ghastly horrors as if she were a spinning top that children lashed into motion.

Disregarding her husband’s joint custody of their virgin daughter, Queen Amata abducted Lavinia and took her deep into mountainous woods. The raving Amata pretended to be possessed by Bacchus, the god of wine and pleasure. She sought to devote their virgin daughter to that god. Following Amata’s mad example, other mothers in a wild frenzy similarly deserted their homes:

They desert their homes and bare their necks and hair to the winds.
Some fill the air with quivering wails while
dressed in fawn-skins and carrying spears wrapped with vines.
Herself among them, the fervid Amata holds up a flaming pine-brand
and sings a wedding song for her daughter and Turnus.
Rolling her blood-shot eyes, fiercely and suddenly
she cries out: “O, mothers of Latinum, hear me, wherever you are.
If in your pious hearts remains thankfulness for Amata,
if care for a mother’s rights causes you to bite,
loosen the ties of your hair and take up orgies with me!”

{ deseruere domos, ventis dant colla comasque,
ast aliae tremulis ululatibus aethera complent,
pampineasque gerunt incinctae pellibus hastas;
ipsa inter medias flagrantem fervida pinum
sustinet ac natae Turnique canit hymenaeos,
sanguineam torquens aciem, torvumque repente
clamat: “Io matres, audite, ubi quaeque, Latinae:
Siqua piis animis manet infelicis Amatae
gratia, si iuris materni cura remordet,
solvite crinalis vittas, capite orgia mecum.” }

In ancient Rome, mothers could pretend to be possessed by Bacchus to engage in orgies in the woods. That’s like a woman’s bible study in some Unitarian Universalist churches today. King Latinus, like many men today, could do little else but be racked with grief for his lost daughter, his Hellishly poisoned wife, and mad women’s rule of the realm.

The infernal harridan Allecto then turned to disturb the sleeping king Turnus. She disguised herself as the wrinkled, white-haired Calybe, decrepit priestess of Juno’s temple in Turnus’s city. Calybe conveyed to Turnus Juno’s divine decree ordering him into violence against men:

This message to you, lying calmly in the night,
Saturn’s all-powerful daughter Juno herself commanded me to declare publicly:
go into action! Arm your men and move them from the gates
into the battlefield joyfully prepared. Trojan leaders along our lovely river
are sitting — burn them and their painted ships!
The great power of the heavens decrees so. Let King Latinus himself,
unless he agrees to give you your bride and thus obey his word,
feel and at last experience Turnus in arms.

{ Haec adeo tibi me, placida cum nocte iaceres,
ipsa palam fari omnipotens Saturnia iussit.
Quare age et armari pubem portisque moveri
laetus in arma para, et Phrygios qui flumine pulchro
consedere duces pictasque exure carinas.
Caelestum vis magna iubet. Rex ipse Latinus,
ni dare coniugium et dicto parere fatetur,
sentiat et tandem Turnum experiatur in armis. }

Turnus already knew that the Trojan ships had anchored in the river. He didn’t believe that Juno was filled with men-hating hate. He dismissed Calybe’s alarming message as merely the ravings of an old woman. Not remembering that Lysistrata had declared war to be women’s work, Turnus foolishly declared war to be men’s work.

Dropping her disguise, Allecto attacked Turnus. She shoved him back flat onto his bed, pulled twin snakes from her hair, and cracked her whip. Rolling her fiery eyes, she uttered fervid words:

“Look back on me: I come from the seat of the dreaded sisters.
War and death I bear in my hand.”
Having so prophesied, she hurled a torch at the young man and impaled
its wooden shards, smoking with dark light, into his chest.

{ Respice ad haec: adsum dirarum ab sede sororum,
bella manu letumque gero.”
Sic effata facem iuveni coniecit et atro
lumine fumantis fixit sub pectore taedas. }

With sweat drenching Turnus’s body, this nightmare shatters his sleep. He jumps up, shouts for armor, and lusts to thrust his sword. Under Allecto’s infernal spell, he calls his captains to arms and spurs his loyal, admiring men to the terrible work of violence against men.

Allecto then sped to inflame other men. Seeing Aeneas’s son Iulus hunting along the river with female hounds, she smears their noses with a male deer’s scent. That was the scent of an amazingly beautiful stag with large, protruding masculine antlers. As a fawn, he had lost his single mother, perhaps though an attack by a female bear or female boar (a feral pig). Tyrrhus’s father-headed family of shepherds adopted the orphan fawn. Tyrrhus’s unnamed sons tenderly nurtured him. Tyrrhus’s daughter Silvia trained the young male deer to obey her commands. The stag is tame to the touch, comes to Tyrrhus’s table for dinner, and sleeps in Tyrrhus’s house.

Iulus’s frenzied bitches tore after this fine stag as he was restfully cooling himself on a grassy riverbank. Iulus fired an arrow at the fleeing male animal. The arrow whirled into the stag’s loins and pierced his genitals. Like men living under castration culture today, the stag went home with a bloody wound:

The wounded creature fled back to his familiar home,
crawled groaning into his stall and, blood-stained,
like one imploring filled the whole house with his complaints.

{ Saucius at quadrupes nota intra tecta refugit
successitque gemens stabulis questuque cruentus
atque imploranti similis tectum omne replebat. }

At least this stag made his feelings heard. Unable to save a beloved male animal from castration as the Byzantine wife did, Tyrrhus’s daughter Silvia summoned rustic men to vengeance. Savage Allecto further incited violence against men by sounding the shepherds’ general call to arms. Trojans heard the commotion and streamed out of their camp to defend Iulus. Many men died in the resulting brawl. Even worse, the Italians and Trojans now prepared for all-out war.

Allecto inciting wounding of stag causes men's deaths

King Latinus couldn’t control men soaking up the lethal influence of the goddess Juno’s hate, the vicious plots of her infernal harridan Allecto, and raving mad Queen Amata and all her women supporters. Just as the magnificent stag fled from the vicious bitches, Latinus could only retreat into his palace. The mob demanded that King Latinus declare war in the customary way by opening the Gates of War. Latinus firmly opposed war. They could deprive him of his power and authority as king, but he had enough personal integrity to refuse to validate the mob’s cries for massive violence against men. Juno swooped down and opened the Gates of War herself.

In our age of ignorance, bigotry, and intolerance, learning about what Juno and Allecto did in the Aeneid is scarcely permitted. The Aeneid suggests that men kill each other because they lack the courage to withstand women’s incitements to violence against men. That’s now an unsafe thought that must be suppressed. Virgil was a misogynist, and his Aeneid should be burnt, or as least removed from schools and libraries. Women are wonderful, men are evil, and gender is socially constructed. Understood? Gynocentric society is a myth, and anyone who says gynocentric society exists is an enemy of our society. Understood? Learn the creed that all must now recite. Post that creed on your front lawn for extra social credit. Don’t hear this whisper, just a soft murmur — remember Juno, remember Allecto.

*  *  *  *  *

Read more:


The above account of Juno and Allecto inciting war between the Italians and the Trojans largely follows the Aeneid, Book 7, vv. 286-622. The quotes are with Latin text of Greenough (1900) and my English translations, benefiting from those of Fagles (2006), Kline (2002), and Fairclough & Gould (1999). Francese & Reedy (2016) (which now covers Book 7) and the Vergil Project provide freely available online help with reading the Aeneid in its original Latin. The specific verses cited above are Aeneid, Book 7, vv. 293-98, 308-12 (Ah, the race I loathe…), 331-40 (Grant me for myself…), 359-66 (Is it to exiled Trojans…), 394-403 (They desert their homes…), 427-34 (This message to you…), 454-7 (Look back on me…), 500-2 (The wounded creature fled…).

While the Fury Allecto was known in earlier Greek literature, Virgil apparently was the first author to refer to Allecto by name in Latin literature. Virgil compelling depicted Allecto as a horrible person:

Her father Pluto himself hates her. Her Hellish sisters
also hate the monster. She twists herself into many faces,
her figure is so savage, and her hair sprouts many black snakes.

{ Odit et ipse pater Pluton, odere sorores
Tartareae monstrum: tot sese vertit in ora,
tam saevae facies, tot pullulat atra colubris. }

Aeneid 7.327-9. Allecto {Ἀληκτώ} literally means “implacable or unceasing anger.” “For Vergil’s first readers, Allecto was a gruesome innovation.” Fantham (2009) p. 137. “The fury is like a virus that replicates itself in her victim, often in multiple copies …. Thus Allecto, called up by Juno in Aeneid 7, finally leaves the upper world when she had created versions of herself in Amata, Turnus and the Italian shepherds.” Hardie (1993) p. 41, cited by Fantham (2009) p. 139.

Readers have tended to sympathize with Queen Dido, who warmly received the Trojans in Carthage in Book 1 of the Aeneid. In Book 7, Juno and Allecto clearly are hostile to the Trojans who have gone on to land in Italy. Yet Juno and Allecto’s actions in inciting massive violence against men in Italy has attracted relatively little attention in the past two thousand years. Allecto appears only three times in a magisterial review of the first fifteen hundred years of the Virgilian tradition. Ziolkowski & Putnam (2008).

A textual detail indicates telling gender trouble in the reception of the Aeneid. In Aeneid 7.479, Allecto comes upon Iulus hunting with “hounds {canes}.” That substantive can be either masculine or feminine. The grammatical context doesn’t indicate the hounds’ sex, but the broad semantic context is strongly gendered. The hounds are chasing an “adult male deer {cervus}” with large antlers. That magnificent stag is a gentle intimate of Tyrrhus’s daughter Silvia. In Aeneid 7.493, the feminine plural adjective “rabid {rabidae},” echoing the noun “rage {rabies}” from Aeneid 7.479, makes clear that the hounds are female. Virgil has created a profoundly recalcitrant gendering: rabid bitches are chasing a magnificent, gentle stag. The text plays out as if Virgil meant to delay the full force of his transgressive gender representation.

The treatise On Hunting (Cynegeticus) {Κυνηγετικός}, which Xenophon of Athens wrote roughly about 400 BGC, describes using hounds {κύνες} for hunting. While Κυνηγετικός is mainly concerned with hunting hares, section 9 addresses hunting deer, including fawns. Xenophon explicitly refers to using both female and male dogs. Κυνηγετικός 7.6. In ancient Greek, “bitch {κῠ́ων}” was also used as a derogatory term for a woman. Men historically have been disparaged as being like dogs. Virgil surely deliberately chose to gender female the hounds that Allecto incited to chase a magnificent, gentle stag.

Under the gynocentrism that also shaped the reception of Virgil’s Dido, scholars and translators have largely ignored Virgil’s gendering of the rabid bitches. They are represented merely as hounds / dogs in all English translations of the Aeneid that I have seen, including John Dryden (1697), Christopher Pitt (1740), J. M. King (1847), J. W. Mackail (1885), Christopher Pearse Cranch (1886), E. Fairfax Taylor (1907), Theodore C. Williams (1910), H. Rushton Fairclough (1916), Rolfe Humphries (1951), Patric Dickinson (1961), Fairclough & Gould (1999), Kline (2001), and Fagles (2006). Even within Cullick’s recent scholarly study of the female demonic, Cullick’s own translation of the Latin obliterated the gendering of the hounds. Cullick (2016) pp. 228-9. This literary history underscores the importance of recognizing Virgil’s radical critique of gynocentrism in his nearly unseen, gendered representation of rabid bitches chasing a magnificent, gentle stag.

Scholars have disparaged Virgil’s story of the stag being hunted, suffering an arrow wound to its genitals, and returning home wailing in pain. Badly misreading the Aeneid, Macrobius without good reason assumed that Virgil regarded this incident as “excessively light and childish {leve nimisque puerile}.” Macrobius, Saturnalia 5.17.2, Latin text from Kaster (2011) p. 406, my English translation. Nonetheless, the story apparently was attractive enough in antiquity to be illustrated in both the Vergilius Vaticanus and the Vergilius Romanus. Modern scholars have disparaged this story and given it relatively little serious attention. Griffin (1986) pp. 170-2.

The most thorough treatment of Virgil story of the stag is Putnam (1998). Putnam is a leading Virgilian scholar with enormous knowledge of Virgil works. In many articles, he magisterially analyzes Virgil’s writings in detail. Nonetheless, Putnam (1998) doesn’t mention the gender of the hounds. Moreover, that article associates the hounds with masculinity with its five references to hounds each having Iulus as possessive, e.g. “Iulus and his hounds” (three times). Changing that phrase to “Iulus and his bitches” would significantly disrupt the gender complacency of Putnam’s article.

Gynocentrism has distorted readings of the Aeneid. For example, Putnam imagined:

the stag has been separated from its mother (Virgil uses the phrase matris ab ubere raptum, “torn from its mother’s udder”) by men, father Tyrrhus (Tyrrhus pater) and his sons. There is no mother within this new world, only a sister, Silvia, who tames the savage and humanizes the feral. (Virgil co-opts the language of elegy to transform the stag metaphorically into a human lover.)

Putnam (2001) p. 168, footnotes omitted. Cf. Putnam (1998) p. 110. That’s a telling imaginative construction. Blaming men, in particular Tyrrhus and his sons, for tearing the stag as a fawn from its mother doesn’t exist in the Aeneid. In textual reality, the unnamed sons of Tyrrhus nurtured the fawn. Cf. Aeneid 7.484-6. The emotional charge from imagining men tearing a child from its mother contributes to deeply entrenched, profoundly unjust and damaging gender discrimination against men in child custody decisions.

Virgil in Aeneid 7 makes several plausible allusions to Catullus. Juno uses Catullus’s joyous “brothers of one spirit {fratres uanimi}” (Catullus 9) in instructing Allecto to overturn homes with hate. On that and other intextualities between the Aeneid and Catullus, Joseph (2009). Aeneid 7.427-8 seems to me to cite similarly in contrast a thousand kisses and more in Catullus 5.

In the violence against men prevalent throughout history, men’s genitals have often been targeted. Iulus’s arrow struck the stag “through his belly …. through his genitals {perque uterum … perque ilia}.” Aeneid 7.499. For rare recognition of this wound as a genital wound, Putnam (1998) p. 112, which cites relevant use of ilia in Catullus 11.20, 63.5, and 80.8. The genital wounding of the stag, in the context of castration culture well-established from Hesiod, underscores the inaptness of associating the stag with Dido. Cf. Putnam (1998) pp. 111-2.

Latinus in the Aeneid has been interpreted as a weak king. Cowan (2015). King Latinus “now old, ruled through the tranquility of long-lasting peace {iam senior longa placidas in pace regebat}.” Aeneid 7.47. Latinus deserves much credit for those many years of peace. But Latinus was no stronger than King Solomon facing a women’s rebellion in Solomon and Marcolf. Latinus was no stronger than all-powerful Islamic caliphs in relation to their slave-girls. A literary scholar indicated that Latinus was “lacking in self-assertion.” Sanders (1921) p. 20. She didn’t understand men’s difficulties with self-assertion in relation to women. Latinus was no more lacking in pragmatic political knowledge than was Aristotle. Modern readers have under-estimated Latinus’s personal strength, relative to most other men, in opposing women inciting violence against men. Horsfall (2000) p. 41.

Scholars have failed to appreciate the Aeneid’s profound critic of violence against men and anti-men gender oppression. Sophisticated analysis of the Aeneid tells of patriarchal power, patriarchal sovereignty, patriarchal rule, patriarchal ordering, incumbent “patriarch,” patriarchal role, patriarchal policy, patriarchal power, pseudo-patriarchal Aeneas, and patriarchal magnanimity. Those are phrases merely from Putnam (2001). In an earlier article, Putnam dared to suggest that men contribute to civilization:

Virgil may be suggesting here that fatherhood (except in the twisted version of Camilla where paternity is in fact a form of maternity bordering on animality) and maybe even the male world in general by definition shares in the artistry of civilization-making.

Putnam (1998) p. 132. Such a bold, problematic statement is scarcely permissible under the totalitarian gynocentrism that now dominates academia. Not surprisingly, Putnam subsequently changed his view:

in the epic’s culminating moment, emotionality, with specific resonances of both Juno and Venus, wins the day as irrationality, which Virgil so regularly associates with his female characters, for one last time gains victory over any counterbalancing thrusts the poem may contain toward the ordered, measured uses of power for which Latinus and his scepter briefly stand. No Vulcanic shield results from Aeneas’ passionate reaction, only a happenstance that helps the reader realize that Rome, in her pursuit of acculturation for her empire, may abandon the restraints with which patriarchal magnanimity encloses her and become as beholden to nature as those she attempts to subject to her sway. And it is with nature and her double propensity to nurture or to annihilate that Virgil steadfastly associates his female characters throughout his extraordinary poem.

Putnam (2001) p. 183. The phrase “patriarchal magnanimity” seems to appropriate and transform phrases of men’s sex protest, e.g. “beautiful evil {καλὸν κακόν)” and “sweet poison {dulce venenum}.” Men commonly have been dehumanized as lacking emotion. That occurs despite well-known men literary figures, including Jupiter as lover, Achilles as warrior, Vulcan as yes-dearing husband, Matheolus as tormented husband, and Nitin Nohria committing Harvard Business School to making women students feel loved. More importantly, this analysis centers Virgil’s female characters as both nature and nurture. That encompasses everything human. That’s gynocentrism. Virgil forcefully critiqued the mad, men-debasing love of Gallus and epic violence against men. Nonetheless, even sophisticated readers have failed to understand Virgil’s gender intent:

Had Turnus been snatched away, that is, had Aeneas practised the paternal, civilizing role, practised the clementia his father suggests to him in the Underworld and spared his humbled antagonist, we would have quite a different epic, with Silvia and all she stands for in triumph at the end. But this was not Virgil’s intent.

Putnam (1998) p. 133, footnote omitted. This vision of “Silvia and all she stands for in triumph at the end” is pastoral-romantic gynocentrism completely inconsistent with Virgil’s depiction of Juno and Allecto. Latinus himself ruled over many years of peace. Latinus and all he stands for wasn’t triumphant at the end because women intent on destruction easily led men into massive violence against men. Virgil surely intended to show that in his Aeneid.

[images] (1) Juno sends Allecto to incite war between the Trojans and the Latins. Painted enamel on copper by Master of the Aeneid, made c. 1530-35 in France. Preserved as accession # 45.60.6 in The Metropolitian Museum of Art (New York, USA). Credit: Fletcher Fund, 1945. (2) Latinus promotes peace with Trojans via gift of horses. Cf. Aeneid 7.274-9. Excerpt (color enhanced) from folio 63r of the Vergilius Vaticanus (Vatican City, Biblioteca Apostolica, Cod. Vat. lat. 3225), which is texts of Virgil in an illuminated manuscript made about 400 GC. (3) Hunting, Iulus wounds with an arrow-shot a magnificent stag. That’s after Allecto gives Iulus’s bitches the stag’s scent and they flush him from his resting place. Excerpt (color-enhanced) from folio 163r of Vergilius Romanus (Vatican City, Biblioteca Apostolica, Cod. Vat. lat. 3867), which is texts of Vergil in an illuminated manuscript created about 450 GC. (4) Illustration of Virgil’s story of the stag. Violence against men and men’s deaths result from Allecto giving bitches the scent of a stag and Iulus wounding the stag. Excerpt (color-enhanced) from folio 66v of the Vergilius Vaticanus (Vatican City, Biblioteca Apostolica, Cod. Vat. lat. 3225). On the Vergilius Vaticanus (Vatican Vergil), Wright (1993) and Sloane (2006). On the Vergilius Romanus (Roman Vergil), Wright (2001). Claude Lorrain’s painting Landscape with Ascanius shooting the Stag of Sylvia (painted 1681-2) transforms this violent incident into a majestic landscape.


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