The classical tradition in the Carolingian Renaissance: Ninth-century encounters with Suetonius

  • Matthew Innes

Abstract

This essay looks at the use made of Suetonius’Lives of the Caesars by Einhard in his biography of Charlemagne, written in the early ninth century. Einhard leans upon Suetonius in devising a biographical structure and in the moral qualities which inform his characterisation. He also makes direct citations from Suetonius in describing Charlemagne’s physical appearance. Scholars have previously believed that Einhard’s relationship to Suetonius escaped the notice of contemporaries, and was first appreciated in the Renaissance. But the evidence for Carolingian interest in Suetonius’ work, thoroughly reassessed here, shows that a small circle of Einhard’s peers were moved by their interest in theLife of Charles to read Suetonius. Moreover, a study of reactions to Einhard’s work demonstrates that Carolingian intellectuals were aware of Einhard’s debt to the classics in developing a ‘new biography’. This adds to our understanding of Carolingian classicism, suggesting that the Carolingian renaissance saw an active involvement with, and debate upon, the classical tradition.

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References

  1. 1.
    I make no attempt to give a full bibliography on the Carolingian renaissance: we are well served by two important recent surveys, both with exhaustive bibliographies of their own, inThe New Cambridge Medieval History II:700–900, ed. R. McKitterick (Cambridge, 1995) andCarolingian Culture: Emulation and Innovation, ed.eadem R. McKitterick (Cambridge, 1993). The two most important monographs, underpinning my introductory remarks, are L. Nees,A Tainted Mantle. Hercules and the classical tradition at the Carolingian court (Philadelphia, 1991), and D. Ganz,Corbie in the Carolingian renaissance, Beihefte der Francia 20 (Sigmaringen, 1990). And, for rebirth, see the still stimulating, if over-schematic, W. Ullmann,The Carolingian renaissance and the idea of kingship (London, 1969).Google Scholar
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    Rand, “On the history” (as n. 28),--omE. K. Rand, “On the history of theDe Vita Caesarum of Suetonius in the early middle ages,”Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 37 (1926), pp. 25–34 argues on textual grounds that Lupus did use the Tours manuscript. As this manuscript remained at St-Martin’s at Tours throughout the middle ages it would be astounding if Lupus, for whom Tours was a favourite hunting ground for the classics, never saw it. Unlike other Tours manuscripts, however, it has no annotations in Lupus’s hands. Clearly more work is needed on the Tours manuscript, especially as it contains marginalia some of which Ihm dated to the ninth century: see Ihm, “Beiträge” (as n. 28), zur Textgeschichte des Sueton,”Hermes. ZZeitschrift für classische Philologie 36 (1901), pp. 356–63. See also Traube, “Palaeographische Anzeigen III” (as n. 28), “Palaeographische Anzeigen III,”Neues Archiv der Gesellschaft für ältere deutsche Geschichtskunde 27 (1901), p. 267. As both Traube and Ihm believed that the origins of the medieval Suetonius tradition lay with Lupus and Fulda, they never felt it necessary to delineate the exact relationship between the Tours manuscript and the mainstream of the tradition. But if there is no direct textual link between the Tours copy and Heiric, the Tours manuscript cannot be a direct result of Lupus’s interest in Suetonius (compare n. 25 above). I adopt an historical rather than an editorial viewpoint: I am concerned with manuscripts and citations as evidence for Carolingian interest in the test rather than as evidence for the textual transmission.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    It is worth noting that in 847 Lupus wrote to Marcward, explaining how Ratleig, Einhard’s sometime notary and successor as abbot of Seligenstadt, was copying for Lupus part of a book, which he would give to Lupus if Marcward sent Seligenstadt some painted panels. Lupus begs Marcward to hurry in meeting his part of the deal, and to send Ratleig’s book to Lupus (Levillain [as n. 12],Loup de Ferrières. Correspondence, (Paris, 1929), no, 65, I:238–242). The complex three-way exchange resembles that envisaged in 844 with Fulda. What was the book which Lupus so urgently required? Seligenstadt as Einhard’s foundation presumably inherited his famous library which Lupus had been anxious to use already in the 830s. Seligenstadt is not usually seen as playing a role in the transmission of any book he sought, must be Suetonius. Indeed, given the lack of any direct evidence for a Fulda orgin for Lupus’s Suetonius exemplar, this is distinctly possible. The partial nature of Ratleig’s copy would then explain the fact that Heiric’s did not include excerpts from all twelve lives. The most plausible alternative explanation for the book request in 847 would be that Lupus was seeking an Einhardian work such as theTranslatio, or the famous (and lost) pamphlet which had urged reform on Louis the Pious in 828.Google Scholar
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    See J. Fleckenstein,Die Hofkapelle der deutschen Könige I.Grundlegung. Die karolingische Hofkapelle, Schriften der MGH 16,1 (Hannover, 1959), pp. 81–3: the key figures are Fridugis, abbot of St-Martin’s, who had been a member of Charlemagne’s court circle and served as chancellor from 819–832, and themagister Hirminmaris, who was close enough to Einhard to draw up the charter which gave Einhard’s church at Michelstadt to the royal abbey of Lorsch (seeCodex Laureshamensis, ed. K. Glöckner, 3 vols. [Darmstadt, 1929–1936] vol. I no. 20). On Tours’ links to the court in terms of text transmission see Bischoff, “Das benediktinische Mönchtum” (as n. 18), und die Überlieferung der klassischen literatur,Studien und Mitteilungen zur Geschichte der Benediktiner. Ordens und seiner Zweige 92 1981, pp. 173–4.Google Scholar
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    For (ultimately inconclusive) discussion of Einhard’s exemplar based upon the textual borrowings in theVK, see M. Ihm, “Die sogenante ‘Villa Iouis’ des Tiberius auf Capri und andere Suetoniana,”Hermes 36 (1901), 287–304 at 298–9.Google Scholar
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    Compare, however, the case of Aulus Gellius, copied at Fulda from Einhard’s exemplar: Bischoff, “Das benediktinische Mönchtum und die Überlieferung der klassischen Literatur,” (as n. 18),, 181, also noting the presence of a catalogue of Einhard’s library at Fulda. On the other hand Vitruvius’s work on architecture was revived by the mature Einhard from a Fulda manuscript: see Traube, “Palaeographische Anzeigen III” (as n. 28),Neues Archiv der Gesellschaft für ältere deutsche Geschichtskunde, p. 266 (cf. L. Callebat, “La tradition vitruvienne au Moyen Âge et à la Renaissance. Eléments d’interprétation,”International Journal of the Classical Tradition 1,2 [Fall 1994], 3–14).Google Scholar
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    Annales regni Francorum s.a.811, edited by F. Kurze, MGH Scriptores rerum Germanicarum 6 (Hannover and Leipzig, 1895) p. 135, and Suetonius, ed. Ihm, p. 181. Rand, “On the history” (as n. 28), On the history of theDe Vita Caesarum of Suetonius in the early middle ages,”Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 37 (1926), pp. 40–47, drew attention to the lighthouse passage whilst arguing that Charlemagne modelled his behaviour on Suetonius’ Augustus (his arguments in general do not inspire confidence). See also K. J. Leyser, “Theophanu Divina Gratia Imperatrix Augusta. Western and Eastern Emperorship in the later tenth century,” in his (posthumous) collected essays, ed. T. Reuter,Communication and Power in Medieval Europe I.The Carolingian and Ottonian centuries (London, 1994), pp. 143–164 at pp. 150–1 with n. 34. Note that the anonymous author ofKarolus Magnus et Leo Papa twice refers to Charlemagne as “the lighthouse of Europe”: lines 12 & 169, ed. Dümmler (as n. 16), MGH Poetae latini aevi Karolini I (Hannover, 1881), pp. 366, 370. On Charlemagne and Suetonius compare also P. Wormald, “Lex Scripta andVerbum Regis. Legislation and Germanic kingship, from Euric to Cnut,” in:Early Medieval Kingship, ed. P. H. Sawyer and I. Wood (Leeds, 1977), pp. 105–138 at p. 128.Google Scholar
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    H. Hemgesberg, “Gab es zu Karls des Großen Grabtitulus eine Vorlage?” in:Arbor amoena comis. 25 Jahre Mittellateinisches Seminar zu Bonn, ed. E. Könsgen (Stuttgart, 1990), pp. 75–80 (a reference I owe to Prof. W. Haase): Hemgesberg argues convincingly that inscription evidence which had previously been thought to show the currency ofconditorium in Merovingian funerary inscriptions actually post-dates, and thus draws upon, Charlemagne’s inscription. For the inscription,VK c. 31, pp. 35–6; it is also transmitted independently of Einhard in two manuscripts (see H. Beumann, “Grab und Thron Karls des Großen zu Aachen,” in:Karl der Große IV.Das Nachleben, ed. H. Beumann & P. E. Schramm [Düsseldorf, 1967], pp. 9–38 at p. 13 n. 33). The only other Carolingian use ofconditorium which I can find is in a description of the grave of King Pippin at St-Denis, in a letter from Louis the Pious to Abbot Hilduin (MGH Epistolarum 5 [as n. 24] (Berlin, 1899), pp. 325–6 [no. 19] at p. 326): as Beumann, p. 30, argues, this draws upon Charlemagne’stitulus. Thus, as Hemgesberg (p. 75) suggests, Suetonius (“Augustus” 18 [ed. Ihm, p.56] and “Caligula” 52 [ed. Ihm, p. 194]) is the probable source for the word (the Carolingians were interested in Alexander, whose tomb is referred to in both passages). There are, however, possible, if less likely, alternative sources: Sidonius Apollinaris,Epistolae 5.17.4 (ed. W. B. Anderson,Sidonius. Poems and letters, 2 vols. [Cambridge, 1965], II∶228), might have been known to Charlemagne, as the earliest manuscript was copied at the court of Louis the Pious (see R. McKitterick,The Carolingians and the Written Word [Cambridge, 1989], p. 154); or the younger Pliny,Epistolae, 6.10.5 (ed. M. Schuster [Leipzig, 1952], p. 179), which was known at Charlemagne’s court (see L. D. Reynolds inTexts and Transmission [as n. 18] in:Texts and Transmission. A survey of the Latin classics, ed. L. D. Reynolds (Oxford, 1983), pp. 316–22, esp. pp. 321–2, and note Einhard’s quotation in his letters, MGH Epistolarum 5 [as n. 24] (Berlin, 1899), pp. 10, no. 3), but is unlikely to be the source asconditorium is included in a quoted funerary inscription which has no influence on Charlemagne’stitulus. Nor should we totally exclude the possibility of a (lost) inscription source, given Charlemagne’s interest in Romanspolia.Google Scholar
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    Gregory of Tours,Historiae V. 44, eds. B. Krusch and W. Levison, MGH Scriptores rerum Merovingicarum 1 (Hannover, 1951), p. 254 and P. Riché,Education and Culture in the Barbarian West, translated by J. J. Contreni (Columbia, 1976), pp. 224–5 (translation of Riché,Education et culture dans l’Occident barbare, VIe-VIIe siècles [Paris 1962], pp. 269–70). I do not cite here the huge bibliography on the possible significance of Chilperic’s new letters for the historian of the relation between written and spoken late Latin, and its evolution into proto-Romance.Google Scholar
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    D. Geuenich, “Die volkssprachige Überlieferung der Karolingerzeit aus der Sicht des Historikers,”Deutsches Archiv für Erforschung des Mittelalters 39 (1983), 104–130 at 124–5, who views theVK’s account of Charlemagne’sKulturpolitik in this light.Google Scholar
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    H. F. Haefele,Notker der Stammler, Taten Kaiser Karls des Grossen, MGH Scriptores rerum Germanicarum n. s. 12 (Berlin, 1962). I make no attempt to give a full Notker bibliography: the key article for my treatment here is D. Ganz, “Humour as history in Notker’sGesta Karoli Magni,” in:Monks, Friars and Nuns in Medieval Society, ed. E. B. King (Sewanee, 1988), pp. 171–183.Google Scholar
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    Thegan c. 19, pp. 594–5 in Pertz’s edition (as n. 44), MGH Scriptores 2.Studien zu den Gesta Hludovici imperatoris des Trierer Chorbischofs Thegan.Google Scholar
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    On John’s use of the classics see the penetrating comments of R. M. Thomson, “John of Salisbury and William of Malmesbury: currents in twelfth-century humanism,” in:The World of John of Salisbury, ed. M. Wilks, Studies in Church History, Subsidia 3 (Oxford, 1984), pp. 117–26. R. W. Hunt, “The Deposit of Latin Classics in the Twelfth-Century Renaissance,” in:Classical Influence on European Culture A.D. 500–1500, ed. R. R. Bolgar (Cambridge, 1971), pp. 51–5 demonstrated his reliance on Heiric, but see now J. Martin, “John of Salisbury as classical scholar,” in:The world of John of Salisbury, pp. 179–201 at pp. 184–5, confirming John’s general reliance on Heiric but showing that he also had access to the full text of Suetonius.Google Scholar
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Copyright information

© Springer 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matthew Innes
    • 1
  1. 1.PeterhouseCambridge UniversityCambridgeUK

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