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Author Archives: Curt Emanuel

About Curt Emanuel

No formal history training. No Latin. Not a SCAdian. But I'm interested in Medieval History, particularly from the 4th through 9th centuries and I read about it - a lot. I think that makes me a geek.

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

 
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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.

 
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Posted by on May 16, 2015 in Conferences

 

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Thursday Kalamazoo Update

A very short post while I wait the 30 minutes until the book exhibit opens. Gorgeous day yesterday, contrasted with today’s rain (a gentle rain though and it isn’t snow). Attended one good, one very good and one somewhat “meh” session yesterday.

Blogger meet-up update. Present were, for various portions of it, ADM, Dr. Notorious,Jonathan Jarrett, Steve Muhlberger and half of Vaulting and Vellum (I still do not know which one is Vaulting and which is Vellum). Several bloggers who I know are here did not make it, unless they showed up after I left.

As for the books, so far I’ve bought 13. Then again, I’ve only visited 5 out of about 70 booths. I did pick publishers I tend to buy a lot from – Ashgate, Oxford, Cambridge, Boydell, and Scholar’s Choice. If I get Loome, Powell’s and David Brown taken care of this morning I’ll likely have most of the damage done. We’ll see if it adds up to less than 20. I’d say the odds are roughly even at the moment.

 
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Posted by on May 15, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Kalamazoo Eve

Thought I’d drop a quick note before I start running through my program book and finalizing which sessions I’m attending tomorrow.

Got away from home around 2:30 p.m. after I finished mowing my pasture. After a stop at a McDonald’s that didn’t realize they’re part of a fast food franchise I got here a little after 6. Saw Lisa Carnell and Marca of Medievalist in Transit and chatted a bit, plus gave Lisa my bottle of wine for the Blogger meet-up. Saw ADM very briefly as well a bit later.

I almost left my fan at home. I figured that with highs in the mid-70’s and low’s in the 40/50 range I wouldn’t need it but I threw it in at the last minute. Good thing. My room’s on the West side of Eldridge and with the sun shining in all day and the windows closed it had to be 90.

So I opened the window, turned the fan on and got the heck out of there. I sort of hung around the lobby for a few minutes, didn’t see anyone I knew so I decided to head to Bilbo’s. I looked around for a bit and still didn’t see anyone I knew (though I think I later saw Scott Nokes – his table was full anyway, if that’s who it was). So I sat down next to a guy at the bar and it was James McNelis. Now I’d never met James before but his name was sure familiar as he and Larry Swain run the Congress Facebook Group. James and I talked about a whole bunch of things before he left. Then I started chatting with some grad students but when they started doing what students are predisposed to do in a bar I got out of dodge. At one time alcohol was fun – now it’s a poison, at least more than the one beer I’d had.

I have decided to return to my old Congress standby where I introduce myself as “the least intelligent person here.” I’ve appointed myself the Colonel Klink of Kalamazoo.

I’ve also decided to finally come out with it and call medievalists crazy. See, they write these papers, THEN present from them. That’s just plain backwards. It is SO much easier to present first and write second.

Here’s how it’s supposed to work. A couple of weeks ago myself and a colleague from the University of Wyoming gave a webinar titled Enhancing Biosecurity at Fairs and Shows. There were maybe 40 or so on the live show though hopefully more will watch the recording. Anyway, after we were done we stayed on the line to debrief and one of the first comments from one of the organizers was, “That was great, you guys should put together an article on it.” Present first – that’s the easy part, THEN put a paper together.

The humanities have been doing things their way for a long time so I don’t suppose a note from Colonel Klink will get them to change things but this process sure seems easier to me. Guess that’s one of the reasons why I’m not a historian.

If you’re at Kalamazoo hopefully I’ll run into you over the next four days. The description still fits – fat guy wearing a baseball cap who describes himself as “the least intelligent person here.” That’s OK, I’m on vacation. And starting at 8 a.m. tomorrow, that means the book exhibit. I just hope I can control myself.

 
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Posted by on May 13, 2015 in Conferences

 

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Next Stop: Kalamazoo

I’ve been waiting to get excited about this year’s Congress. It finally happened this afternoon while I was mowing pasture. I have no idea why.

Yup, this is the source of my finally getting fired up for Kalamazoo. It's funny - I bought a new tractor last fall. All the bells and whistles, but I still like put-putting around on this one to mow.

Yup, this is the source of my finally getting fired up for Kalamazoo. It’s funny – I bought a new tractor last fall. All the bells and whistles, but I still like put-putting around on this one to mow.

The plan for tomorrow is as follows. My truck is all packed, with trash to haul to the landfill. Need to do that, run a few errands in town and I still have a few hours’ worth of grass to mow, about 6 acres or so. Once that’s done I’ll clean up and head north. I have no idea what time I’ll get in. And other than the blogger meet-up, I have zero social plans.

And this year’s book goal? No more than 20. I have a mortgage again.

Hopefully I’ll see some of you there.

 
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Posted by on May 12, 2015 in Conferences

 

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Slavery and Early Christianity

When I started reading about Medieval History, coming up on 20 years ago, I had buckets of misconceptions. If you’ve been reading this blog for long you’ll know that I’ve never been particularly shy about mentioning them. One of these had to do with the evolution of the institution of slavery as it pertains to the ancient and medieval west.

My thinking back then was that Christianity had a major impact on the reduction in the number of slaves in the medieval period when compared with the Roman Empire. My reasoning went something like this:

Most Pagan religious sects did not believe in the immortality of the soul. Even if they did, those religions were followed by elites who gave little thought to the spiritual well-being of the rest of the people, who made up about 95% of the population. There was no value placed on these individuals so it was easy for them to be seen as objects rather than people and to be enslaved. Christianity was different. No matter someone’s station, he or she possessed a soul that was capable of salvation. The soul of a slave was just as valuable to God as the soul of an Emperor. Christians did not view slaves as mere possessions or things but as people. As they viewed slaves as people, not owned things, Christians were less favorable to slavery and once they became the majority religious group in the Empire the institution began to decline.

Makes sense, right? Or maybe it doesn’t but it did to me. And as with so many aspects of history, I have come to believe that this opinion of mine was wrong. At the very least, it is not supported by the evidence. There appears to be no significant difference between how Christians and non-Christians viewed slavery as an institution, at least to the early fourth century. In fact, while there are some writings to the contrary, there doesn’t appear to be all that much of a difference between the opinions of Christians and non-Christians about slaves as individuals/objects/people.

Mosaic depicting Roman slaves from second century, AD Tunisia. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Mosaic depicting Roman slaves from second century, AD Tunisia. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

As a starting point I’ll offer a quick summary of how Romans appeared to view slaves and slavery. Slaves were objects. They were property. They were possessions. They had no rights. Whatever use a Roman chose to put a slave to, it was legal, though at times socially frowned upon. A male slave-owner could use a slave sexually as he pleased. A woman did not have quite this level of freedom but while it was vehemently frowned upon when discovered, it appears to have been legal, so long as the woman was not married. Slaves could be bought and sold without regard to family relations. Slaves could only marry with their owner’s permission and the children of such marriages (or from sex with their owner) were able to be sold at will. While there are some protections afforded slaves in Roman law, these are relatively minimal and seem to only occasionally have been enforced. 1

As an institution, slavery was viewed as a normal aspect of Human society. Of everything I’ve read, this may be what I found most striking. As opposed to, for example, the United States in the 19th century, there was no debate about the moral evil of slavery or whether people should be able to be treated as property. I’m saying there wasn’t a whisper. It was a conversation that did not exist. There was plenty of discussion on how slaves should be treated, some of which I’ll talk about, but there was a complete absence of any thought that slavery was inappropriate or something people and society should not engage in.

It’s true that Christian doctrine viewed slaves as individuals and believed they had souls capable of salvation. It’s true that many Christian authors wrote on the need to treat slaves well. However these same authors wrote that slaves should accept their station in life. There is, quite simply, little evidence that Christians, at least in any number, disapproved of the institution of slavery. From what I’ve read, if you remove the labels “Pagan” and “Christian” attached to various authors, there is little difference in what the majority of them wrote regarding slaves and slavery. Writings of the two often contain cautions against beating a slave because of one’s own anger and that owners would be better served by controlling their own passions rather than responding rashly however each group seems to recognize the inherent validity of slavery as an institution. As with Romans, Early Christians provide no evidence that they believed that slavery was wrong – or that they even considered this question.

I’m going to offer a couple of examples and my first is from a very early source. In Matthew 26:51-52 One of Jesus’ disciples pulls out his sword and cuts off the ear of a slave of Caiaphus, the High Priest. Jesus tells the disciple, “Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword shall perish by the sword.”

There is a key point here beyond the obvious lesson. Note that Jesus’ concern is not for someone whose ear has just been cut off. A miracle worker, he does not touch the slave’s ear and heal him, or express any consideration for him whatsoever. His concern is for the person with the sword, that his act of anger and violence will, in the end, injure him. The author of this gospel does not consider the slave’s pain and suffering. The sword-wielding disciple is not punished by Caiaphus, so far as we know – cutting off a slave’s ear seems to not matter much at all. The slave only exists as an object by which the lesson may be demonstrated.

The Didache says, “Do not, when embittered, give orders to your slave, male or female, for they hope in the same God; otherwise, they might lose the fear of God, who is the Master of both of you. He surely is not coming to call with an eye to rank and station in life, no. But you, slaves, be submissive to your masters as to God’s image in reverence and fear.” Here we have recognition that slaves may receive salvation however slavery as an institution is accepted as part of society. The primary concern is that the slavemaster not act out of passion, or displace God as an object of fear, not the suffering the slave might endure. 2

Ignatius writes to Polycarp cautioning against manumission as the hope of freedom may both cause false conversion and detract from slaves seeking after God. “. . . let them submit themselves the more, for the glory of God, that they may obtain from God a better liberty. Let them not wish to be set free [from slavery] at the public expense, that they be not found slaves to their own desires.” Slavery is a part of society, something Ignatius appears to have no interest in changing. 3

And while the previous quotes at least show that slaves are considered individuals who might receive salvation from God, there are plenty of examples of Christians considering slaves to be worthless objects, of no concern. In 310, the recently defeated Maximian hatched a plot to assassinate Constantine by killing him in his bed. Lactantius recounts that instead of the Emperor, they placed, “a worthless eunuch who was to die in the Emperor’s stead.” I can think of other ways to catch Maximian red-handed but in this case Lactantius sees nothing wrong in sacrificing a slave for this purpose. 4

And then there’s the apocryphal, The Acts of Andrew. I covered this in detail in a post a couple of years ago. In this story Maximilla, the wife of Aegeates, on being influenced by Andrew decides to live an ascetic life and withdraws from her marriage bed. She bribes her slave, Eucleia, to lie with her husband instead(somehow Aegeates fails to notice that she’s not his wife). When Eucleia starts bragging to the other slaves and word slips out, Aegeates tortures her and, once she’s told him everything, cuts off her hands, feet, tongue, and tosses the head and torso into the street where she dies a few days later. The author considers this to be a just reward for Eucleia’s betraying her mistress. He evidently didn’t have much concern for Eucleia as a person, or consider someone sleeping with a slave to be improper (if it was, Maximilla would have been directly responsible for it and, by association, Andrew). As this story remained popular into the early Medieval period, it doesn’t appear that folks in the fifth century worried much about it either. 5

So my original belief was wrong, at least through the early 4th century. At the very least it isn’t supported by the evidence, and I was looking for it. Despite how frequently I’m wrong and how open I am about it, believe me – I’d prefer to be correct. I suppose my theory isn’t dead as Christianity could have had an impact in later centuries but I can’t say that I recall evidence in support of it then either.

If I were to post about what really caused the decline of slavery during this period I would point to the loss of wealth. The giant rural villas and agricultural estates required a large, inexpensive labor force just as much as the farming of the Nile Delta in ancient Egypt and the large plantations of the pre-Civil War United States south did. With the loss of these large estates, there was no longer a need for slavery on this scale. Slavery didn’t decline because it was considered wrong but because it was no longer needed. 6

In essence this is an aspect of a larger issue. Christians didn’t come to dominate the Empire because they were different from traditional Romans but because they were similar to them. Christianity’s success and its conversion to a political institution didn’t occur because of some societal change requiring new leadership but because Christians were good Romans. Christianity’s impact on the later Empire is not one of change but of consistency. Christians didn’t want to destroy, or even change Rome any more than the Germanics did. But unlike the Germanics, these Christians were Roman and possessed the tools to ensure the continuity and continued prosperity of the Empire.

1 For example, Antoninus Pius decreed that slaveholders who killed a slave without cause could be liable for homicide however I am unaware of an instance where this was enforced.

2 The Didache, 4.10-11.

3 Ignatius’ Epistle to Polycarp, 4.3.

4 Lactantius, On the Deaths of the Persecutors, 30.3-5. My actual quote is from Jones (1978), p. 62. I prefer it to the one in Roberts and Donaldson (2004), p. 313.

5 There are a bunch of issues here I’m not going to explore. One is whether Paul the Apostle considered sex with a slave to be adultery (or if other early Christians did). Glancy (2006) covers this in some detail and says, “First, Paul instructed the (male) Thessalonian Christians to abstain from porneia or sexual immorality. Whether Paul understood porneia to encompass precisely the field of activities connoted by the modern concept of “fornication” is unclear and even unlikely.” And, “Paul’s advice could be Construed as instructions to the male Thessalonian Christians to find morally neutral outlets for their sexual urges. And in the first century, domestic slaves were considered to be morally neutral outlets for sexual urges – vessels, we might say.” p. 60.

6 There’s also the possibility that the Germanics who came to control what had been the Western Empire had a different view of slaves and slavery. I’m putting that thought on hold for now but will look for it when I get back to reading about them.

Glancy, Jennifer A., Slavery in Early Christianity. Minneapolis: Fortress Press (2006). ISBN: 978-0-8006-3789-7.

Jones, A.H.M., Constantine and the Conversion of Europe. Toronto: Medieval Academy of America (1978). ISBN: 978-0-8020-6369-1.

Joshel, Sandra R., Slavery in the Roman World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (2010). ISBN: 978-0-521-82774-4.

Roberts, Alexander & Donaldson, James, eds., Ante-Nicene Fathers Volume 7: Lactantius, Venantius, Asterius, Victorinus, Dionysius, Apostolic Teaching and Constitutions, 2 Clement, Early Liturgies. Peabody, MA, USA: Hendrickson Publishers (2004). ISBN: 1-56563-084-X.

Schneemelcher, Wilhelm and Wilson, R. McL., eds., New Testament Apocrypha Volume Two: Writings Related to the Apostles; Apocalypses and Related Subjects. Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press (2003). ISBN: 978-0-664-22722-7.

 

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Kalamazoo Registration is Up!

What’s more, after a two-year absence, I’m registered. For those interested, here’s Western Michigan University’s Congress page. The registration link is on the left menu bar.

For those wondering what this is about, each May a couple of thousand medievalists, along with a scattering of ignorami such as myself, attend the International Congress on Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo, Michigan. This year’s Congress will be held May 14-17. Click on the Sessions link on the left menu bar of their page to get an idea of the program. Plus there are all those books …

If you want an idea of what I think of it, you can take a look at my Kalamazoo page on this blog. There’s a lot there but this post from 2010 captures why I like it as well as any of them. There have been a few changes over the past few years (the free wine used to double as furniture polish, I’m certain of it, and now it’s fairly passable) but most of it’s reasonably accurate.

I’ve been to 8 or 9 of these since my first Congress in 2001(I think) and always enjoy myself. I had a hot streak from 2009-2012 where I made four in a row but missed the last two years. I’m looking forward to this year though I need to control my book-buying. Unfortunately, I’ve said that before.

 
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Posted by on February 3, 2015 in Conferences

 

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