Liudprand of Cremona – Late Carolingian “Othering” and a Disdain for Eros

I’ve been reading a lot of Carolingian sources, in translation of course. I’m close to finishing up on what I already have with only the Histories of Richer of Saint-Remi* left. I do have some suggestions for others to read which I’ll look for. Once I finish these I’ll begin going through secondary sources. I have a fair number but almost all were bought in 2012 or earlier so my book-buying will pick up. I took a temporary Carolingian break to prepare for about 10 days in Central Europe but am back to Richer.

I’ve had this urge to comment about various items mentioned in the sources. In particular the different opinions on the Judicial Duel are intriguing. And there is a lot on the overall legal system, surveys, the level of involvement of lay rulers in bishop and even Pope selection and the number of times bishops are mentioned as leading men into battle – or at least to it. But what I’ve read is such a small amount of what’s out there that I’m holding off until what I have to say will be more informed.

Instead I’m going to talk about a 10th century author who is probably the most colorful I’ve read this side of Ausonius (4th century Roman poet), Liudprand (or Liutprand) of Cremona.

Liudprand was Bishop of Cremona in Northern Italy and as such part of the Eastern Frankish/early Holy Roman Empire. He was born around 920 and died about 972. This was a period when there was a lot going on politically and Liudprand got caught up in some of it. His family was allied with King Hugh of Arles who happened to be involved in a long-running conflict with Berengar II. Well, eventually Berengar was able to defeat Hugh and become King. In Book V of Retribution Liudprand, without going into detail, relates that his interests took a hit from this. He managed to survive and once Otto I became King in 961 recovered much of his status and was appointed Bishop of Cremona, a position he held from 962 (961?) until his death.

The publication I have includes four documents. There is a favorable account of Emperor Otto I and a homily. But the two longest pieces are those written by a pissed off Liudprand. One of these is titled, Retribution or Antapodosis. The other is Embassy, which is a report to Otto I’s wife, Empress Adelheid, of a trip of his to Constantinople on behalf of Otto in 968 where he, Liudprand, was not well treated.

Both of these have other things going for them than what I’m about to talk about. In Retribution, Liudprand serves as something of a chronicler of events in and around the Eastern Frankish lands from 888-950. The Embassy has a lot of details of the court in Constantinople, even though much of it is portrayed negatively.

However I’m going to concentrate on Liudprand’s more enthusiastic “othering” of some individuals with a bit of a look at the sexual aspects (let’s go for views!). Or I think you could characterize this as their barbarization.

Othering has a long and storied tradition in classical and medieval literature. Among Carolingians, one of the more well-known examples comes from Theodulf of Orleans in his poem, Ad Carolum regem (To King Charles). This is dated to 796. Lines 81-234 are devoted to various individuals associated with the Carolingian Court. In most cases he is complimentary though there are some subtle digs, i.e., “Let Father Albinus (Alcuin) be seated to speak pious phrases, And eagerly attack the food with both hand and mouth,” a not-so-subtle accusation of gluttony.1

However some of Theodulf’s characters receive more pointed criticism. One of these is Wibod. In 2010 I attended a Kalamazoo Session where Paul Kershaw presented a paper on him. The translation Kershaw used helps make the point I’m going to finish with more pointedly so I’ll return to it but Theodulf describes Wibod as,

·      banging his thick head

·      possessed of a sidling and stuttering gait

·      having a swollen belly

·      resembling Vulcan (crippled God) in gait and
Jove in voice

He reserves even greater criticism for an Irishman, Cadac-Andreas, but I’ll leave this alone. In any case, Wibod is anything but the flower of the Carolingian Court and lacks the graces that might be expected of a civilized man deserving of inclusion in this select company.2

However I will refer to Kershaw’s translation for, “Perhaps the large membered hero, Wibod, will hear these verses.”

This was the period of the Carolingian Renaissance. The ancient classics were again treasured after having been scorned for a period of time – see Jerome of Antioch for what I think is the most pointed criticism. One of the characteristics appears to be a return to Plato’s theory of the tripartite soul. Plato was often thought by the Church to have been granted wisdom by God, but only so much wisdom as men of that time were ready for. In other words, what he wrote was correct but incomplete. This theory is earlier than this period and was proposed by Augustine but is not something I have run into in Merovingian sources.

The Theory of the Tripartite Soul is that the soul is immortal but divided into three parts:

    • The thymus, related to the spirit

    • The logos, related to reason

    • The eros, located in the stomach, related to desires and appetites

So we see Wibod described as both being “large-membered” and as having a swollen belly. According to Theodulf, in Wibod eros is dominant rather than reason (better) or spirit (best). Wibod’s actions are driven by his baser desires. He is not the ideal Carolingian.

Liutprand takes this literary tool and, while maybe not raising its level, uses it frequently. He describes the Byzantine Emperor Nicephorus Phocas as, “The King of the Greeks is long-haired, tunic-wearing, long-sleeved, hooded, lying, fraudulent, merciless, fox-like, haughty, falsely humble, cheap, greedy, eating garlic, onions, and leeks, drinking bathwater.” Er, OK. You go Liudprand.

He directly contrasts the Eastern Emperor with Otto I in the same passage, “by contrast the king of the Franks is nicely shorn, in attire that differs from women’s clothing, hat-wearing, truthful, guileless, quite merciful when appropriate, strict when necessary, always truly humble, never cheap, not a consumer of garlic, onions, and leeks so that he might thereby spare animals and accumulate money, having sold them instead of eating them.”3

With Retribution having been written as something of a tell-all it is unsurprising that this is where Liudprand’s anger really shines. Now for those who think this nothing but a rant, it is not. Sure, it presents an often biased view but it is also a good source for events of the period. The people Liudprand was writing for would have been knowledgeable enough to catch him in a complete fabrication. And while he certainly mentions sex a lot he is at least somewhat gender-neutral in his criticism. Female infidelity is certainly blasted however he is very critical of married men straying from their marriage beds and points to cases where this leads to their downfall.

My main point here is how sexual appetites were seen as a symptom of men’s (and women’s) lower and baser desires. During this period we see the de-sexualization of revered individuals. I’ll apologize for not providing a quote but some modern historians, particularly when discussing hagiography, mention three sexes; male, female, and Christian – or genderless. Basically these people have reached the point of holiness where their sex has become meaningless. Wibod is an example of the opposite of this.

One of the ways this was characterized in art and literature was by de-emphasizing individual sexual characteristics, both primary and secondary. Parts of the body that might be associated with sexuality are minimally represented or absent. The best contemporary (nearly) example of this I could find is from the Vivian Bible. This was an illustrated Bible given to Charles the Bald by Count Vivian of Tours in 846. There are illustrations in it of the Temptation of Eve. In it (top image) both she and Adam are shown nude and so de-sexualized that to my eye only by facial features can Eve be shown as female. Interestingly, in the same Bible, as Eve reaches her hand out to pick the apple from The Tree of Knowledge, already her breasts are larger, her hips more curved, and both hers and Adam’s bellies are larger (lower image). I can’t crawl inside the head of the illustrator but given what we know of idealized sexualization and the descriptions of lust (eros centered in the belly), the images are at least suggestive.

Temptation of EveTemptation of Eve, Vivian Bible

Into this comes Liudprand’s description of a Priest, Dominic. According to Liudprand, Dominic was having a relationship with Willa, the wife of Berengar (who had done Liudprand wrong). One night Dominic blundered in his pursuit of the Count’s wife and was captured. Willa, resorting to self-preservation, immediately accused him of impropriety (though not with her but other women of the court). Eventually, following a series of negative characterizations, Liudprand relates, “Thus the priestlet [Dominic], since he neighed at the servants of the mistress, was sent away with his manly attributes cut off; and the mistress was loved all the more by Berengar. Those, however, who made him a eunuch said that the mistress loved him for a good reason, as he proved to carry massive priapic weapons.4

Now obviously Dominic isn’t the only or even main target of this passage. Willa’s infidelity, both as a wife and to her lover, are on display. Most important is likely the characterization of Berengar as a simpleton so easily beguiled by his wife. However Dominic’s characterization also shows his enslavement to his desires as well as Willa being controlled by her sexual appetites.

There are numerous examples of Liudprand’s negative characterizations of individuals, particularly in Embassy. However this is a case where eros is clearly at the forefront and where someone’s enslavement to his or her lusts is highlighted.

*Remi should have an accent over the “e.” I tried using keyboard shortcuts for Microsoft diacritics and struck out. Working on it but I’m afraid they won’t be in this post. The backup – I am using it for bulleted lists since the html UL and LI tags aren’t working, is to type stuff up in Word and copy/paste. Friggin’ WordPress . . . But it’s free.

Liudprand of Cremona, Paolo Squatriti, trans., The Complete Works of Liutprand of Cremona. Washington: Catholic University of America Press (2007). ISBN: 978-0813215068.

Theodore M. Andersson, trans., Theodulf of Orléans: The Verse. Andersson, trans. Tempe: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies (2014). ISBN: 978-0866985017.

Richer of Saint-Remi, Justin Lake, trans., Histories, Volume I. Cambridge: Harvard University Press (Dumbarton Oaks) (2011). ISBN: 978-0674060036.

Richer of Saint-Remi, Justin Lake, trans., Histories, Volume II. Cambridge: Harvard University Press (Dumbarton Oaks) (2011). ISBN: 978-0674061590.

1 Theodulf, Ad Carolum regem, 191-192

2 Theodulf, Ad Carolum regem, 205-212

3 Liudprand, Embassy, 40

4 Liudprand, Retribution V.32

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Posted by on January 19, 2023 in Society and Social Structure


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Coming Attractions

Coming Attractions

I’m tossing a teaser out to alert people that this blog is about to come back to life. I have a draft post of Liutprand of Cremona in the works. I’m not sure how much historical value will be in it – I’ll have some quotes and he wrote in the 10th century so there’s that. But he was pissed off and some of what he has to say is pretty salty. Howard Stern could take notes for his broadcasts. Or maybe I just want to put something salacious up as my post on whether Origen really chose to separate himself from his testicles or not has consistently generated the most hits for this blog ever since I put it up.

However the real content will follow. On December 20-31 I took a boat cruise up the Danube which included stops in Budapest, Bratislava, Vienna, Linz, Krems for *Gottweig Abbey, Passau, and finished with three days in Prague. Many of the excursions available included historical content and much of it was medieval. Central Europe is not exactly my region – not far off though, Eastern Carolingian – and much of it is High Middle Ages or later. But I took something like 1200 pictures. I have no idea how many posts will come from this but it will be several.

As a teaser, we were in Linz, Austria on December 26. This happens to be St. Stephen’s Day, a National Holiday, and nothing was open. Once the walking tour of the old part of the city was finished I asked the tour guide if he knew how to get to a certain place I’d read about.

This is St. Martin’s Church or Martinskirche. Based on what I have read – which is not all that much and far less than I will have when I post – it first shows up in sources in 799. I have no idea how much remains from the original construction however what I did like is that it is probably about the size of the original 8th century Carolingian church. There are other churches that date from that period but when you get there you have a giant cathedral which has been added to and you need to look closely to find what remains from earlier. This likely represents something more closely linked to its origins, at least when it comes to dimensions.

For those with knowledge of German, here’s the sign – I have not run it through Google Translate yet.

Not sure how quickly these are coming but they will be. It was a fun trip and I want to share.

*I need to find my list of keyboard shortcuts – there’s a missing umlaut and I’d hate to be accused of being an umlaut-hater.


Posted by on January 4, 2023 in Travel, Uncategorized


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Carolingian Musings and Travel Plans

I am currently reading through primary source material – in translation of course – on the Carolingians. Right now I’m in the middle of the 9th century in the post-Louis the Pious period where his sons and nephews were tussling over who would control what. It’s an interesting period which generated a lot of literature and sources. But it will be some time before I’ll feel comfortable enough with my knowledge level to be able to offer anything more than areas I find interesting. There are several areas that intrigue me and which I expect I’ll explore in more depth.

One is the relative balance of power between the Church and secular leadership. This waxes and wanes but it is interesting to me how, even when it appears the Church is relatively weak, it can exert quite a bit of influence. However there is this document, the Constitutio Romano, signed in 824, which asserts that a new Pope may only be ordained upon approval by the Frankish Emperor. For a period, the Church followed this, until they began ordaining Popes who may not have been favored by the Emperor (by this time Emperor was a loosely used title but recognized for this purpose). Just past the mid-9th century, which is what I’m reading on now, this became less respected. The same document guarantees that the Carolingians will not interfere with Church affairs or the governance of lands held by the Church. Again, this aspect was followed or not followed to varying degrees.

There were also various bishops – Hincmar of Rheims may be the most prominent though there is also Wala – who were caught in the middle of a conflict between the secular rulers and the Church and often sided with the ruler over the pope, at least to some extent. At times rulers almost seemed to ignore the Church and at times they were willing to travel to Rome for Papal support.

I’m also wondering how the Lothar II/Theutberga/Waldrada divorce case may have influenced the evolution of marriage into an official Church sacrament. It was the 12th century before what by then was starting to become accepted practice received official mention at Church Councils. Did the Lothar II Divorce situation, which sure generated a lot of 9th century “press” have much, or anything to do with this? I’m sure there are books specifically on this aspect of history but I sort of like approaching things from a less comprehensive POV before reading a synthesis.

And then there’s the whole issue of secular power. The aspect of rule where landed followers of a King or Emperor must provide their support in order for that ruler to be able to exert his authority. The sources simply list some names without going into the nitty-gritty but it’s clear that something would cause a count to throw his lot in with someone other than who a treaty or agreement said he should. Is there causal consistency with this? Or is the number of reasons as high as the number of people taking this action? Obviously the latter is not true but is there justification for any sort of model or “ism.”

Bernard of Septimania needs a bio. Maybe there’s enough on him in secondary sources to make this extraneous. But I’d like to know if he was really the source of all that is evil in the world bewitched by an adulterous, betraying seductress (Paschasius Radbertus), or was he a person who was basically honest, wasn’t shacking up with the Emperor’s wife (Hincmar of Rheims) and had bad luck – or lacked competence – when trying to assert his rights?

And there will be a lot on Carolingian administration, tax collection, judicial processes, etc. that I’m sure I will be very interested in. For example, I’ve read Michael McCormick’s Charlemagne’s Survey of the Holy Land. Charlemagne wanted to provide assistance for the Church in and around Rome. But he wasn’t about to write a blank check. So about 808 he sent some people to Rome to do a survey of all buildings and properties including an assessment of their condition. This survey was later updated by Louis the Pious. This says a great deal about how the Carolingians were able to do land and building surveys and the importance to them of being able to tabulate, account and quantify various aspects of society.

Travel Plans

One of my goals now that I’m retired is to take one BAT – Big-Ass Trip – per year. Some of these will be to see a natural feature or area I haven’t visited. But many will have at least a chunk of the focus on history, particularly Medieval.

Pre-retirement I had put together something of a wish list that went like this:

  1. France
  2. England
  3. Spain
  4. Germany, Switzerland, Low Countries
  5. Eastern Europe, Poland, Ukraine

I have others on my list such as Australia and New Zealand and the West Coast of South America but there’s not a lot that’s Medieval there.

When I traveled internationally for work it was great to present at a conference or work a day or two on a project. However what I particularly enjoyed was my time in Mexico and Central America where I spent a week or two living with the people I was working with in rural areas. It seemed to take about three days before my rudimentary language skills had improved to where we could really communicate and I could learn about their culture. Simple items like how they spent time after dark inside the family compound, the sorts of stories they tell, and their showing me various sites and locations important to them while telling the stories behind them were the most valuable parts of the experience for me. Their worldview is just so different from that of myself and most Americans, at least when it comes to farming – it is wonderful to be able to absorb and appreciate some of that.

So I have decided I want my vacations to follow this model. My plan is that for each of the above I’ll spend a month or so in the area and not necessarily traveling from place to place every day. I would like to have a base of operations or residence where I stay for some time. During the day I will drive or take the bus or train to nearby – somewhat anyway – points of interest. During the evenings I’ll look for local cafes, pubs, etc., where I can go and just chat with people.

Once I retired and thought things over I decided I would reverse the order of my top two items and visit England first. The reason is pretty simple. If I’m going to spend a month in another country it is better to do so first where I (mostly) understand the language. I can get by in French and Spanish and if this goes well I hope to be better than that when I travel. However being able to, say, read a road sign or visitor instructions for a landmark or a museum could be helpful. Not to mention asking for help from someone when I get confused.

Trip 1 – England

So I’ve started planning for my first trip to England during the summer of 2023. Other than the arrival and departure dates, everything else is open for change as I have booked my flights but nothing else. So here is the tentative plan:

  • June 14 – Arrive at Heathrow
  • June 15-19 – London
  • June 19/20 – Train to Dover, tour castle and area – for London and Dover I’ll have someone with me and we’ll mix in some “touristy” things but much of London tourism is rooted in history
  • June 20 – Train to London, drop friend off at Heathrow for 6/21 flight
  • June 21 – Train to Worcester, pick up rental car
  • June 21 – 29 – In Worcester, day-trips
  • June 30 – Travel and check-in day for Leeds – the single most frequent recommendation I’ve gotten is to stay in York rather than Leeds – the Shambles sounds just fascinating – but I plan to attend the International Medieval Congress July 3-6 so this seems to make sense though again, nothing is locked in.
  • June 30 – July 11 – Leeds, IMC July 3-6
  • July 12-16 – Scotland, very quick southern tour including Edinburgh and Glasgow
  • July 17 – Return rental car, fly home through Heathrow

Each of my longer “staycation” spots will involve sleeping in one location, likely an airbnb or other similar-type option. I’ll then either drive or take public transportation to locations I want to visit. I debated Cambridge over Worcester for the first leg and until I actually book lodging it’s an option. But I really want to see Wales. All those fortifications built, particularly by Edward I, Offa’s Dyke, etc. Worcester seems a bit closer to the area. Though I may discover an, “if you’ve seen one castle you’ve seen ’em all” situation but I suspect not. And I hope I can find a nearby low-key pub or other gathering place both there and in Leeds where I can spend my evenings among people open to having conversations with a Colonial. ;) And maybe a local cafe with the same idea rather than making my own breakfast.

I have no intention of making this a Travelogue but once I return I’m sure I’ll have a great deal to report. And more pictures than I’ll be able to comprehend. I won’t be able to see everything. No time whatsoever in Ireland. No Cornwall and only the most cursory visit to Scotland. And I will not be visiting during the Premier League season so I won’t be able to attend a match. I hope someone will ask me to Tea which evidently is not a drink but an event.

If you happen to read this blog and would like to get together for a beer or a bite to eat (or Tea), or to visit a site of interest, please let me know. I’ll have some “must-see” sites but I will also have a fair amount of flexibility. I am reasonably ambulatory and feel capable of walking/hiking areas listed as moderate in the United States.

If this sort of experience works for me as I hope, then spending a month or so in France during 2024 is likely. The main difference is I expect I will reverse the order and save Paris for last when my language and social skills are more developed. I’m less worried about this for London where I am able to apologize for being uncouth in several different ways.

I apologize for the lack of medieval content with this post. I’m not at a point where I feel able to comment intelligently on the Carolingians. I will get there – I have had the urge to post a time or two but have held off. I know once I begin reading modern secondary sources I will become more competent, or believe I am anyway. There is interesting stuff going on. I’m sure I’ll want to talk about it.

As the trip draws closer I suspect that at some point I’ll mention sites I’m interested in visiting. I will be in Eastern Europe; Hungary, Austria and the Czech Republic, for about 10 days this December and some of that time will hopefully be spent with people who have traveled to (or are from) England. My plan is to get serious with planning this trip after the first of the year.

McCormick, Michael, Charlemagne’s Survey of the Holy Land: Wealth, Personnel, and Buildings of a Mediterranean Church between Antiquity and the Middle Ages. Washington: Dumbarton Oaks (2011). ISBN: 978-0884023630.


Posted by on October 17, 2022 in Conferences, Not Really Medieval


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I’m Back! Er, Maybe? This is a Request for Carolingian Assistance

So I’ve been pretty much absent since early 2015 and would certainly blame nobody for having removed me from his or her reading list. I think a brief explanation is in order for this.

I began a new position in 2014, one which involved administrative duties. I wasn’t too far along doing this when I realized I would have to drop something. Unfortunately, blogging ended up being the choice. I was still reading about Medieval History and finished up my Early Christianity effort earlier this year. But even my reading pace slowed.

Why might things be changing? I am retiring at the end of this year. I don’t know for sure if I’ll resume blogging. I know my reading has increased tremendously just since I announced this. It looks as if I’ll read more books than I have since 2013. And I feel a tickle – not an overwhelming urge but a tickle. Right now I’m reading Theodulf of Orleans’ poems and have just finished his Ad Carolum Regum. A lot of Theodulf is monstrously overwritten and just a slog but not this one where he discusses the Carolingian Court of Charlemagne and names names. In particular he spends some time on Wibod, whoever he is (did I attend a Kalamazoo paper covering this?). This is more good-natured but Wibod is heavy and evidently lacking in social graces. Then there’s “The Irishman” or “The Irish midget.” Theodulf is not in his Happy Place when it comes to this guy. Anyway, I could see myself coming across Carolingian material and wanting to post.

Request for Assistance

When I finished Early Christianity I had two choices; Anglo-Saxon or Carolingian. Now there’s a little overlap – Alcuin anyone? But I wanted a direction and decided to go to the continent.

So I’ve read a few things on the Carolingians. Several sources and probably a dozen or so secondary books, 15 or so years ago. When I started on this I gave a little thought to how I wanted to go about it. I have a few unread secondary sources – is 19 “a few?” – but the most recent was published in 2012. I am very out of date. I decided I wasn’t going to begin by reading these older books and I didn’t want to dive in by buying a lot of expensive books before I knew what I wanted to do.

So I decided I was going to try to get my greedy fingers on every Carolingian English source translation I could find. Once I get through reading those I’ll start digging through my lists for more interpretive books – in addition to reading I keep getting catalogues and book lists from publishers.

So my request is this: I’ll list all of the Carolingian sources I have. If you are aware of a significant source that I am missing, please mention this in the comments. Some of what I’ll list are collections and I won’t be listing every source contained within these.

What I have:

Paul Dutton, ed., Carolingian Civilization: A Reader. Peterborough: Broadview Press (1993). ISBN: 978-155111-0035. I listed this first because for anyone wanting to get started, it’s a great first step. I had read it 20 years ago and I re-read it so I could jot down any sources I wanted fuller versions of.

Dhuoda, Carol Neel, trans., Handbook for William: A Carolingian Woman’s Counsel for Her Son. Washington: Catholic University of America Press (1999). ISBN: 978-081320-9388.

Einhard, Notker the Stammerer, Lewis Thorpe, trans., Two Lives of Charlemagne. New York: Penguin Books (1969). ISBN: 978-014044-2137.

Janet Nelson, trans., The Annals of St-Bertin: Ninth-Century Histories. Manchester: Manchester University Press (1991). ISBN: 978-0719034268.

MacLean, trans., History and Politics in Late Carolingian and Ottonian Europe: The Chronicle of Regino of Prum and Adalbert of Magdeburg. Manchester: Manchester University Press (2009). ISBN: 978-0719071355.

Constance Brittain Bouchard, ed., The Cartulary of Montier-en-Der, 666-1129. Toronto: University of Toronto Press (2004). ISBN: 978-0802088079.

Hincmar of Rheims, Rachel Stone and Charles West, trans., The Divorce of King Lothar and Queen Theutberga: Hincmar of Rheims’s De Divortio. Manchester: Manchester University Press (2016). ISBN: 978-0-7190-82962-2.

Timothy Reuter, trans., The Annals of Fulda: Ninth-Century Histories. Manchester: Manchester University Press (1992). ISBN: 978-0719034589.

Thomas F. X. Noble, trans. Charlemagne and Louis the Pious: Lives by Einhard, Notker, Ermoldus, Thegan, and the Astronomer. University Park: Pennsylvania University Press (2009). ISBN: 978-0271035734.

Paul Dutton, ed., Charlemagne’s Courtier: The Complete Einhard. North York: Higher Education University of Toronto Press (2008). ISBN: 978-1442601123.

Bernhard Walter Scholz, trans., Carolingian Chronicles: Royal Frankish Annals and Nithard’s Histories. The University of Michigan Press (1972). ISBN: 978-0472061860.

Galbert of Bruges, James Bruce Ross, trans., The Murder of Charles the Good. Toronto: University of Toronto Press (1982). ISBN: 978-0802064790.

Richer of Saint-Remi, Justin Lake, trans., Histories, Volume I. Cambridge: Harvard University Press (Dumbarton Oaks) (2011). ISBN: 978-0674060036.

Richer of Saint-Remi, Justin Lake, trans., Histories, Volume II. Cambridge: Harvard University Press (Dumbarton Oaks) (2011). ISBN: 978-0674061590.

McCormick, Michael, Charlemagne’s Survey of the Holy Land: Wealth, Personnel, and Buildings of a Mediterranean Church between Antiquity and the Middle Ages. Washington: Dumbarton Oaks (2011). ISBN: 978-0884023630. (the vast majority of this is interpretation, I doubt I read it as a source).

Theodore M. Andersson, trans., Theodulf of Orléans: The Verse. Andersson, trans. Tempe: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies (2014). ISBN: 978-0866985017.

Hillgarth, ed., Christianity and Paganism, 350-750: The Conversion of Western Europe. University of Pennsylvania Press. 1985. ISBN: 978-0812212136.

H. R. Loyn and John Percival, eds., The Reign of Charlemagne. London: Edward Arnold Ltd (1975). ISBN: 9780-713158144.

Scottus Sedulius, Edward Gerard Doyls, trans., Sedulius Scottus: On Christian Rulers and The Poems. Binghampton: Center for Medieval and Early Renaissance Studies (1983). ISBN: 978-0866980241.

Dales, ed., A Mind Intent on God: The Spiritual Writings of Alcuin of York – An Introduction. Hymns Ancient & Modern. 1984. ISBN: 978-1853115707.

David Herlihy, ed., The History of Feudalism. Humanities Press (1998). ISBN: 978-1573922814. Hasn’t arrived but is ordered.

Liudprand of Cremona, Paolo Squatriti, trans., The Complete Works of Liutprand of Cremona. Washington” Catholic University of America Press (2007). ISBN: 978-0813215068.

Abbo of Fleury, A. M. Peden, ed., Abbo of Fleury and Ramsey: Commentary on the Calculus of Victorius of Aquitaine. Oxford: Oxford University Press (2003). ISBN: 978-0197262603. Carolingian? Ottonian? Useful? Bought it at Kalamazoo in 2011 – who knows why. I’m not responsible when the book-buying urge comes over me.

Glyn Burgess, trans., The Song of Roland. New York: Penguin Books (1990). ISBN: 978-0140445329. Not sure if this should be Carolingian or 12th century but I’m listing it here.


The following are what I have on my wishlist but for one reason or other I don’t have them – book unavailable or, as in the case of Godman and Allott, for some reason the book sells for an exorbitant price in the US. For a couple I wonder if the covers were made using some of that Avar treasure late 9th century authors seemed so excited about.

Alcuin, Allott, trans. Alcuin of York, c. A.D. 732 to 804: His life and letters. William Sessions Ltd (1974). ISBN: 978-0900657214. I really want to get my grubby little fingers on this, it has a good chunk of his letters.

Godman, Peter, The Poetry of the Carolingian Renaissance. University of Oklahoma Press (1985). ISBN: 978-0715617694. Currently out of print. Where I have found it, it’s very high-priced.

Throop, trans. Hrabanus Maurus: De Universo Volume One. Medieval MS (2009). ASIN: B005D2XHWS.

Throop, trans. Hrabanus Maurus: De Universo Volume Two. Medieval MS (2009). ASIN: B005D2XHTQ. These are available but each volume is over $60 and supposedly largely mirrors Isidore of Seville’s Etymologies, which I have. So I haven’t bought them. Yet.

Lupes of Ferrières, Regenos, trans., The Letters of Lupus of Ferrières. Springer (2012). ISBN: 978-9401195003. Only available in Kindle. I don’t Kindle. Or Tweet. Or Tik (Tok?).

Monro, ed., Selections From The Laws Of Charles The Great. Kessinger Publishing (2010). ISBN: 978-1161492422. This is a grand total of 38 pages; I suspect I have most of the important documents elsewhere already.

Barlow, trans. Iberian Fathers, Volume 1: Writings of Martin of Braga, Paschasius of Dumium, and Leander of Seville. Catholic University of America Press (1969). ISBN: 978-0813200620. Not sure why I don’t own this already. Available and relatively inexpensive.

Bachrach, trans. ‘Annals’ of Flodoard of Reims, 919-966. University of Toronto Press, Higher Education Division (2004). ISBN: 978-1442600010. Short – high price: page ratio. But will probably buy it eventually.

Dass, trans., Viking Attacks on Paris: The Bella Parisiacae Urbis of Abbo of Saint-germain-des-pres. Peeters Publishers (2007). ISBN: 978-9042919167. Another low page count book. Will likely buy some day.

Here’s another reason I may not blog. WordPress has gone to this idiotic block editor format. I have a site for work I put together in early 2020. I fought with it for about a week before begging to be able to use Classic editor. Work has a premium account so we could activate that – I ain’t paying for a premium account to blog. I tried to switch each of the above lists to a bulleted list format. No go. Supposedly you can switch with the free version but I haven’t been able to figure it out.

I appreciate any help you can give.


Posted by on November 26, 2021 in Uncategorized


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Medieval History Geek on Hiatus

I think it’s time for me to finally admit the obvious and state that this blog is officially dormant for the time being. I still check it regularly and reply to comments as they come in. I am still reading Medieval History. I continue to be fascinated with it and am still on the evolution of Christianity though I am just past the transition from it being something of a philosophical branch to its being concerned with what I would call “right belief” – at this time I’m going through Chalcedon and the Origen controversy.

The reason? In 2014 my job changed. It was a promotion but I am now head of an office. I did not know at the time that the piece of my life I’d sacrifice would be blogging but it is.

I know I’m a bit slow but still I apologize for waiting four years to put this up. I have quite a few draft posts I started and then just never had the time to finish. I kept hoping I’d figure out how to free the time up to spend 4-6 hours a week putting quality stuff together. It hasn’t happened.

I still have hopes of becoming an active blogger again but now think it will have to wait until I retire which will be a few years off. However since this site is still getting regular hits I want to put this announcement up.

I will continue to check the site regularly and reply to comments. And I am still reading – this Medieval History stuff is great!


Posted by on March 15, 2020 in Uncategorized



Kalamazoo Registration is up!

The online registration for the International Congress on Medieval Studies is up. This year’s Congress will be May 12-15 Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan. And at this time I have no idea if I’ll be attending.

Registration Link

Congress Program Link

If you’d like to read what I’ve had to say about it, take a look at my Kalamazoo page. Unfortunately, I don’t have anything from last year posted. One more example of my recent failure as a blogger.


Posted by on February 5, 2016 in Uncategorized


A Quick, Sad Note

Just a quick post to note the unfortunate passing of LSU Medievalist Lisi Oliver. She was killed on June 7 when she was struck by a vehicle while walking her broken-down bicycle along the side of a road.

A while back I made a couple of posts summarizing some of what I found interesting from her book, The Body Legal in Barbarian Law. I also attended a Kalamazoo session she gave a paper (excellent – entertaining and witty) for on Saturday, May 16. After the session was over, I spoke with her and mentioned that her book was an absolute gold mine for someone writing a Medieval blog intended for general audiences. I gave her the address and was hoping she’d have the chance to read those posts and offer a comment or two.

Sad news.

Oliver, Lisi, The Body Legal in Barbarian Law. Toronto: University of Toronto Press (2011). ISBN: 978-0-8020-9706-4.


Posted by on June 21, 2015 in Uncategorized



When a Blog Goes Insane

OK, there’s something strange going on. Today, and the day ain’t done, I have 674 page views on my blog. Of those, 552 are to my post on whether Origen castrated himself. Heck, even the 122 non-distesticulation hits would be a pretty decent day. I have only averaged 100/day for a couple of months since I started it up. The even stranger things is the vast majority of visitors came to the site once, to that page, and from all over the country. I’ve had times where an ISP locked onto the blog with quite a few hits and there was a period a couple of years back where the Russian Federation seemed to take an interest which I have never figured out.

When I first saw the stats for today I wondered if someone had hacked my account with a free car offer or Cirque du Soleil tickets or something. Nope, it’s Origen’s self-surgery or, IMO, lack thereof.

This post has been a favorite since I put it up, supplanting my A World Lit Only by Fire review as the most viewed post. And there have been some rather disturbing search terms which have accompanied it such as, “How do I castrate myself?” or “Self-castration methods.” But whatever’s going on today is something else.

I’m happy for the traffic but it can’t be real – my best previous day was somewhere in the low 300’s. If this has happened to someone before and you have an idea of what caused it, I’d appreciate some insight.

I logged on to work more on, maybe even finish my first session report from Kalamazoo but this has distracted me. Maybe by the end of the week. Or maybe 700 hits/day is a new normal – maybe I should do the ad placement thing after all?

Or not.

Edit: Found it. My blog is on Esquire!. Or a link to it anyway, next to the last paragraph. And I thought it was cool when I started being listed as a source by Wikipedia. Of course the main article has nothing to do with medieval history, unless Bob Schieffer is really old.


Posted by on June 1, 2015 in Blogology



Kalamazoo 2015 Saturday Update and Wrap-up

Well, Saturday was another warm one but absent the rain for the most part. I went to the first two sets of sessions and took the third one off for a nap. This wasn’t so much to make it through the rest of the day but so I could drive home today(more on that later). Once I got up and cleaned up I hit the mead tasting, grabbed my two display copies of books, and headed to the Pseudo Session.

I don’t review the Pseudo Session – I mean, you have to be there, right? I believe this may be the best session I’ve ever been to for overall quality of “papers.” I’d rate two as outstanding – worth being on my list of all-time greats. The other two were very good though you did have to really follow along for one of them as it was a textual analysis. Besides, learning more about the Vikings, IKEA, Petrarch, King John and Anselm is always useful. I should note that after however long he’s had the job – he was doing this at my first Kalamazoo in 2000 or 2001 (I forget) – Richard Ring is stepping down as the organizer of the Pseudo Society Sessions. He’s put a lot of work into this for a lot of years and the program always delivers. There are some folks taking over but we’ll all be sad to see him go (though I really think he needs to give a paper next year).

I did make it to the dance but didn’t hang around long, really for two main reasons. First I was bored and didn’t work very hard at not being bored – you get out of things what you put into them and I didn’t put much into it. Second, my back was bothering me. As you age, you’d think you’d want to be sedentary and sit around. For me it’s the opposite. If I sit much over multiple days my back tells me it doesn’t appreciate it and by Saturday night I’d sat a LOT. I don’t know if dancing would have helped or hurt things and didn’t want to chance it so I headed back to the dorm and went to sleep.

Which brings me to why I’m posting at about 10 a.m. Sunday. What! you may ask – does Kalamazoo not last through Sunday? Do they not have sessions? It does and they do. I was planning to attend an 8:30 but not a 10:30 session as I didn’t see one which really interested me and that would get me on the road sooner. Well, I woke up this morning – wide awake with my brain not giving any hint that sleep might return any time soon. This was at 4 a.m. So after thinking on it a bit I decided that I might as well put wheels on the road which I did and I got home right about when the first sessions would have been starting, around 8:30.

I don’t have a long wrap-up. I enjoyed it as always. I appreciated having the chance to talk to several medievalists, particularly Guy Halsall and Cullen Chandler, more extensively than in the past. As always, I like interacting with grad students. I really appreciate their enthusiasm and it always fires me up too, a little. There are worthwhile things going on and a lot of good, young people involved in doing them. I enjoy this when it’s in agriculture and I enjoy it here too. Plus while everyone is a discoverer in life, quite often I find myself more on a par with grad students when it comes to where they are on the voyage, at least when it comes to history. I’m afraid in my field I must come across as an old fogy.

I’m a bit surprised how many people recognize this blog, which also means I’m feeling guilty for not posting more often over the past year or so. The sessions were good but it surprised me that it took me a couple to really get in the flow of following arguments. I don’t recall that from the past few times I’ve attended so evidently a gap of one year between hearing papers isn’t enough to atrophy my brain but three years is. We’ll see how that works when I get to session summaries. Medievalists construct arguments differently from what I’m accustomed to plus it’s largely textual where I’m used to charts, graphs and numbers. I know in general I think a bit differently from historians, at least when it comes to looking at evidence and this was another reminder.

And finally, we should talk books. I ended up with 21. That visit to Powell’s sent me above my goal of 20. I was right on target until, while making a last scan, I spotted a translation of, On Anatomical Procedures by Galen for $10. My shopping was very different this year. I only visited about 8 booths, those where I have historically bought a lot in the past. It helped me to keep from getting tripped up though I had to work very hard to stay out of Brepols. Love their stuff but I don’t need to be buying high end monographs right now. If you’re interested in seeing the damage, you can check out my LibraryThing account for books tagged, “ICMS 2015.” Hopefully the link works.

I’m glad I had the chance to meet and talk with some of you. For those I didn’t see, maybe next year. Something could always come up but as of now there’s nothing on the horizon which should keep me away in 2016.

I’ll close with an image which you’re welcome to take a look at any time you start to miss Kalamazoo.Bilbos


Posted by on May 17, 2015 in Books, Conferences


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Kalamazoo Friday Update – Social Time and Not Farming Naked

It’s Saturday morning and I’m waiting for it to become late enough to head to breakfast. This year I’ve generally been sleeping well, but not long. I’ve awoken each morning around 4:30 a.m. The downside of this is that in pretty much every session I’ve been to, there’s been some point where I had to fight to keep from nodding off. I’ve not snoozed my way through much, but there have been struggles and I suspect there will be again today.

Yesterday started out with light rain but that stopped early and by midday the sun was out and it warmed up. I spent the entire day in Schneider and went to three very good sessions, including my first Anglo-Saxon one in some time. I also got some work done during the break which was necessary. The intern I’ll have starting at work next week will now have a job description.

I did the solitary dinner at Bilbo’s thing, then went to the Early Medieval Europe Reception in Bernhard where I ran into Cullen Chandler, Chris Armstrong, Guy Halsall, Julie Hoffman (briefly) and several grad students, some of whom recognized this blog (one said it’s an inspiration which was very pleasant to hear).

This was evidently my evening to be a party animal as I rejoined several of these same people back in Valley III for more libations. I’m not absolutely certain but I believe these were hosted by Brill and the University of Pennsylvania Press. Brill might argue as I own only one of their books but I have enough of Penn’s that I don’t think they’ll mind me having a drink or two on them.

I very much enjoyed getting a chance to talk to some of these folks. The evening was also interesting in that I was able to discuss some aspects of my real job with several people, particularly a cover crops project I’m just getting started. Remember – don’t farm naked! Anyway, for a few minutes here and there, I actually wasn’t the least intelligent person at this conference.

Today will of course mean more sessions, Pseudo Society, possibly the dance for the first time since my first Congress 15 years ago, and I still haven’t gone through Powell’s at the book exhibit. Current book count stands at 14. I’ve been very good.


Posted by on May 16, 2015 in Conferences


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