This volume brings together nine Latin texts, composed between the ninth and thirteenth centuries, that narrate the life of Muhammad. Taken together, these nine texts represent an interesting selection of the various Latin portrayals of Muhammad in the Middle Ages. The English translations are accurate, clear, and eminently readable. These translations make these texts, and the strange medieval European portrayal of the prophet of Islam, available to non-Latinist students and scholars and will be valuable for use in the classroom.
Christianity and Islam have each always accorded great importance to one central figure on which their theology pivots. As tensions between the two religions heightened, Christian polemics turned to composing vitriolic accounts of Muhammad’s life, in order to appeal to an audience that—especially in the Middle Ages with its rich hagiographical practice—was highly receptive to biographical storytelling. In tracing how the depictions of Muhammad evolved in the medieval West, this handsome volume brings into focus how the gradual manifestation of
The poems of the sixth-century poet Venantius Honorius Clementianus Fortunatus sometimes seem to have flown under the radar of the late antique and early medieval studies. Certain poems are well known while the context from which they come, and the collection as a whole, is rarely considered. A full English translation of the poet’s work has been a scholarly desideratum for a while. Michael Robert’s splendid translation is the first to render all eleven books of Fortunatus’ verse into English
The volume under review is a welcome addition to the literature in English on the medieval “empire” of Trebizond. The editor, Scott Kennedy, chose to combine two very different sorts of texts: the late fourteenth-century chronicle of the imperial secretary Michael Panaretos, “a drab but reliable narrative” in the words of A. A. Vasiliev, and the consciously literary, fifteenth-century encomium of Trebizond by the future cardinal Bessarion but written at a time when he was still only a Basilian monk. Kennedy’s
What do you get by crossing social satire with a sweeping epic quest? If you’re Johannes de Hauvilla—12th-century intellectual, scholar, and teacher at an important cathedral school in France—the answer is Architrenius, an allegorical epic poem about a young man’s quest to find Nature, take her to task for society’s sins, and petition her to repair mankind’s weakness and his own. Newly published in the Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library series, Architrenius (Harvard University Press, 2019) appears in a fresh translation by Winthrop Wetherbee,
Digging into the Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library: Spotlight on “Saints of Ninth- and Tenth-Century Greece”
Who is the strongest Avenger? The question is interesting not so much because of its answer—no Endgame spoilers here!—but because of the discussion it prompts about the strengths and weaknesses inherent in different kinds of heroism and power. If today’s pop culture explores such questions under the guise of space aliens or tech-loving billionaires, the science-fiction veneer is a futuristic packaging for much older debates on the nature of virtue and leadership. Perhaps the question that would have occupied medieval readers of