Search This Blog

Friday, 26 August 2011

The letters of Cassiodorus to Clovis, King of the Franks, late 5th early 6th Century

Gesta Theodorici - Flavius Magnus Aurelius Cassiodorus (c 485 - c 580)

Letters of Cassiodorus

Addressed as Luduin by Theoderic via his secretary Cassiodorus , these letters to Clovis (Chlodovechus) would certainly confound etymologists who would be at a loss to explain why the Romans put an ‘n’ at the end of his name instead of a ‘c’. It’s certainly a puzzle. 

The letters appear to have been written in the early 6th century when Clovis defeated the Alamanni in around 505 or was a later battle against the Alamanni and when Clovis was intent on attacking Alaric the Goth in around 514.

The first letter concerns Clovis' request for a harper and is written to Boetius. The other letters are directed at Clovis himself. The letters in which Clovis is mention are these. (But I am only presenting three.)

  1. Theodoric marches his troops against (508),
  2. A harper sent to, chosen by Boethius, (below)
  3. Congratulated on victory over Alamanni, (below)
  4. Letter dissuading from war with Alaric II; (below)
  5. Called 'regius juvenis' by Theodoric,
  6. His overthrow of the Alamannic kingdom. 
All the letters can be found here. By Thomas Hodgkin.

'The King of the Franks [Clovis] has asked us to send him a harper. We felt that in you lay our best chance of complying with his request, because you, being such a lover of music yourself, will be able to introduce us to the right man.'
Theoderic Quarter Siliqua 80000847
Coin of Theoderic
Reflections on the nature of music. She is the Queen of the senses; when she comes forth from her secret abiding place all other thoughts are cast out. Her curative influence on the soul. The five tones: the Dorian influencing to modesty and purity; the Phrygian to fierce combat; the Aeolian to tranquillity and slumber; the Ionian (Jastius), which sharpens the intellect of the dull and kindles the desire of heavenly things; the Lydian, which soothes the soul oppressed with too many cares. We distinguish the highest, middle, and lowest in each tone, obtaining thus in all fifteen tones of artificial music. The diapason is collected from all, and unites all their virtues.
Classical instances of music:
The human voice as an instrument of music. Oratory and Poesy as branches of the art. The power of song: Ulysses and the Sirens. David the author of the Psalter, who by his melody three (?) times drove away the evil spirit from Saul. The lyre is called 'chorda,' because it so easily moves the hearts (corda) of men. As the diadem dazzles by the variegated lustre of its gems, so the lyre with its divers sounds.
The lyre, the loom of the Muses. Mercury, the inventor of the lyre, is said to have derived the idea of it from the harmony of the spheres. This astral music, apprehended by reason alone, is said to form one of the delights of heaven. 'If philosophers had placed that enjoyment not in sweet sounds but in the contemplation of the Creator, they would have spoken fitly; for there is truly joy without end, eternity abiding for ever without weariness, and
the mere contemplation of the Divinity produces such happiness that nothing can surpass it. This Being furnishes the true immortality; this heaps delight upon delight; and as outside of Him no creature can exist,so without Him changeless happiness cannot be 'We have indulged ourselves in a pleasant digression, because it is always agreeable to talk of learning with the learned; but be sure to get us that Citharoedus, who will go forth like another Orpheus.

Clovis abbaye
Clovis has stirred up the nation of the Franks, 'prisca aetate residem,' to new and successful encounters. 'It is a memorable triumph that the impetuous Alaman should be struck with such terror as even to beg for his life. Let it suffice that that King with all the pride of his race should have fallen: let it suffice that an innumerable people should have been doomed either to the sword or to slavery.'

'The affinities of kings ought to keep their subjects from the plague of war. We are grieved to hear of the paltry causes which are giving rise to rumours of war between you and our son Alaric, rumours which gladden the hearts of the enemies of both of you. Let me say with all frankness, but with all affection, just what I think: "It is the act of a passionate man to get his troops ready for action at the first embassy which he sends." Instead of that refer the matter to our arbitration. It would be a delight to me to choose men capable of mediating between you. What would you yourselves think of me if I could hear unmoved of your murderous intentions towards one another? Away with this conflict, in which one of you will probably be utterly destroyed. Throw away the sword which you wield for my humiliation. By what right do I thus threaten you? By the right of a father and a friend. He who shall despise this advice of ours will have to reckon us and our friends as his adversaries. 'I send two ambassadors to you, as I have to my son Alaric, and hope that they may be able so to arrange matters that no alien malignity may sow the seeds of dissension between you, and that your nations, which under your fathers have long enjoyed the blessings of peace, may not now be laid waste by sudden collision. You ought to believe him who, as you know, has rejoiced in your prosperity. No true friend is he who launches his associates, unwarned, into the headlong dangers of war.'

In a subsequent letter, not addressed to Clovis, Clovis is called a 'regius juvenis' by Theoderic. Some have puzzled at this but the term according to the Medieval Online Latin database is as follows: 

II. Subst.: jŭvĕnis , is, comm., one who is in the flower of his or her age (mostly of persons older than adolescents and younger than seniores, i. e. between twenty and forty years), a young person, a young man, a young woman. 

This confirms then that Clovis was probably still under the age of 40 to be still called Juvenis by Theoderic at this time.

No comments:

Post a Comment