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Title: An encyclopedist of the dark ages: Isidore of Seville
Author: Brehaut, Ernest
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "An encyclopedist of the dark ages: Isidore of Seville" ***


  * Italics are denoted by underscores as in _italics_.

  * Small caps are represented in upper case as in SMALL CAPS.

  * Obvious printer errors have been silently corrected.

  * Original spelling was kept, but variant spellings were made
    consistent when a predominant usage was found, except the
    variants “encyclopedia”, “encyclopaedia”, “encyclopædia”, and
    their derivatives, which are preserved as printed.

  * Footnotes have been numbered in a single series. Each footnote
    is placed at the end of the paragraph which includes its anchor.

  * Illustrations have been slightly moved so that they do not
    break up paragraphs while remaining close to the text they

  * Other emendations made:
    p.  14: “Yerra” → “Terra”
    p. 141: placement of anchor for note [267] conjectured. None
    p. 210: “25.” → “9.” and
            “of the stock of Cham, who stock of Sem” → “of the stock
            of Sem”, both after checking the Latin original.
    p. 233: Added “[ON UNIVERSE AND EARTH]” as a general title to
            “Books XIII and XIV” chapter, both in this page and in
            the Table of Contents.
    p. 243: placement of anchor for note [347] conjectured. None
    p. 264: Added “[ISIDORE’S USE OF THE WORD _TERRA_]” as a title
            to Appendix I, taken from the Table of Contents.



  _In saeculorum fine doctissimus_
    (_Ex concilio Toletano viii, cap. 2_)






The writer of the following pages undertook, at the suggestion of
Professor James Harvey Robinson, to translate passages from Isidore’s
_Etymologies_ which should serve to illustrate the intellectual
condition of the dark ages. It soon became evident that a brief
introduction to the more important subjects treated by Isidore would
be necessary, in order to give the reader an idea of the development
of these subjects at the time at which he wrote. Finally it seemed
worth while to sum up in a general introduction the results of this
examination of the _Etymologies_ and of the collateral study of
Isidore’s other writings which it involved.

For many reasons the task of translating from the _Etymologies_ has
been a difficult one. There is no modern critical edition of the
work to afford a reasonable certainty as to the text; the Latin,
while far superior to the degenerate language of Gregory of Tours, is
nevertheless corrupt; the treatment is often brief to the point of
obscurity; the terminology of ancient science employed by Isidore is
often used without a due appreciation of its meaning. However, the
greatest difficulty in translating has arisen from the fact that the
work is chiefly a long succession of word derivations which usually
defy any attempt to render them into English.

In spite of these difficulties the study has been one of great
interest. Isidore was, as Montalambert calls him, _le dernier savant
du monde ancien_, as well as the first Christian encyclopaedist. His
writings, therefore, while of no importance in themselves, become
important as a phenomenon in the history of European thought. His
resort to ancient science instead of to philosophy or to poetry is
suggestive, as is also the wide variety of his ‘sciences’ and the
attenuated condition in which they appear. Of especial interest is
Isidore’s state of mind, which in many ways is the reverse of that of
the modern thinker.

It is perhaps worth while to remark that the writer has had in mind
throughout the general aspects of the intellectual development of
Isidore’s time: he has not attempted to comment on the technical
details—whether accurately given by Isidore or not—of the many
‘sciences’ that appear in the _Etymologies_. The student of the
history of music, for example, or of medicine as a technical subject,
will of course go to the sources.

The writer is under the greatest obligation to Professors James
Harvey Robinson and James Thomson Shotwell for assistance and advice,
as well as for the illuminating interpretation of the medieval period
given in their lectures. He is also indebted to Mr. Henry O. Taylor
and Professors William A. Dunning and Munroe Smith for reading
portions of the manuscript.

  E. B.





  1. Importance of Isidore                                          15
       a. Place in history of thought                               15
       b. Influence                                                 17

  2. Historical setting                                             18
       a. The Roman culture in Spain                                18
       b. Assimilation of the barbarians                            18
       c. Predominance of the church                                19

  3. Life                                                           20
       a. Family                                                    20
       b. Leander                                                   20
       c. Early years and education                                 21
       d. Facts of his life                                         22

  4. Impression made by Isidore on his contemporaries               23
       Braulio’s account                                            23

  5. Works                                                          24
      a. Braulio’s list                                             24
      b. Works especially important as giving Isidore’s
           intellectual outlook                                     25
           (1) _Differentiae_                                       26
                 Stress on words                                    26
           (2) _De Natura Rerum_                                    27
                 View of the physical universe                      27
                 General organization of subject-matter             28
           (3) _Liber Numerorum_                                    29
                 Mysticism of number                                29
           (4) _Allegoriae_                                         29
           (5) _Sententiae_                                         29
           (6) _De Ordine Creaturarum_                              30
      c. His main work—the _Etymologies_                            30
           (1) Description                                          30
           (2) Contents                                             31
           (3) Antiquarian character                                32
           (4) Leading principle of treatment—word derivation       33
           (5) Inconsistency of thought                             34
           (6) Circumstances of production                          34


  1. Dependance on the past                                         35

  2. Ignorance of Greek                                             35

  3. Relation to Latin writers                                      37
       a. The function of the Christian writers                     37
       b. The development of the pagan thought                      37
            (1) The encyclopædias                                   38
                  (a) Characteristics                               38
                        Decay of thought                            38
                        Epitomizing tendency                        39
                        Literary scholarship                        39
                        Scientific scholarship                      40
                  (b) Method of production                          40
                  (c) Acceptability of encyclopædias to the
                        church fathers                              41
                  (d) Debt of Isidore to them                       41
            (2) The encyclopædias of education                      43

  4. The personal element contributed by Isidore                    44

  5. Sources used by Isidore                                        45
       a. Confusion of the tradition                                45
       b. Investigations and their results                          45


  1. Introductory considerations                                    48
       a. The difficulties in ascertaining the world-view           48
            (1) Inconsistencies                                     48
            (2) Unexplained preconceptions                          48
       b. Conditions favoring the construction of a world-view      49

  2. The physical universe                                          50
       a. Form of the universe                                      50
            Question of the sphericity of the earth                 50
            Greek cosmology versus Christian cosmology              54
       b. Size of the universe                                      54
       c. Constitution of matter                                    55
            The four elements                                       55
              Properties                                            55
              Cosmological bearing                                  57
              Bearing on the physical constitution of man           59
              Use of the theory in medicine                         59
              Phenomena of meteorology explained by the theory      60
              Seasons                                               61
       d. Parallelism of man and the universe                       62

  3. The solidarity of the universe                                 63
       a. Strangeness of Isidore’s thinking                         63
       b. The conception of solidarity                              64
       c. Number                                                    64
       d. Allegory                                                  65

  4. The supernatural world                                         67
       a. Contrast between mediæval and modern views                68
       b. Method of apprehending the supernatural world             68
       c. Relative importance of natural and supernatural           68
            (1) In nature                                           68
            (2) In man                                              69
            (3) Asceticism                                          70
       d. Inhabitants of supernatural world                         70
            (1) Theology                                            70
            (2) Angelology                                          70
            (3) Demonology                                          72

  5. View of secular learning                                       73
       a. Philosophy                                                73
           (1) Conception of philosophy                             73
           (2) Attitude toward pagan philosophy                     74
       b. Poetry                                                    74
       c. Science                                                   75
           (1) Attitude toward pagan science                        75
           (2) Condition of pagan science                           76
           (3) Low place accorded to science                        76
           (4) Science harmonized with religious ideas              77
           (5) Perversity of pagan scientists                       78

  6. View of the past                                               79
       a. Pagan past as a whole dropped                             79
       b. Idea of the past dominated by Biblical tradition          79
       c. Importance of Hebrew history                              80


  1. Problem of Christian education                                 81

  2. Cassiodorus’ solution                                          82
       a. Theology                                                  83
       b. The seven liberal arts                                    83

  3. The educational situation in Spain                             84

  4. Isidore’s solution                                             85
       a. Attitude toward the secular subject-matter                85
       b. Comprehensive educational scheme                          86
            (1) First eight books of the Etymologies                86
            (2) The higher and the lower education                  87

  5. Bearing of Isidore’s educational scheme on the development
       of the universities                                          88


           Introduction                                             89
           Analysis                                                 92
           Extracts                                                 95

      1. ON RHETORIC (chs. 1–21)
           Introduction                                            105
           Analysis                                                107
           Extracts                                                111
      2. ON LOGIC (chs. 22–30)
           Introduction                                            113
           Analysis                                                115
           Extracts                                                115

      1. ON ARITHMETIC (chs. 1–9)
           Introduction                                            123
           Extracts (chs. 1–9)                                     125
      2. ON GEOMETRY (chs. 10–14)
           Introduction                                            131
           Translation (chs. 10–14)                                132
      3. ON MUSIC (chs. 15–23)
           Introduction                                            134
           Extracts (chs. 15–23)                                   136
      4. ON ASTRONOMY (chs. 24–71)
           Introduction                                            140
           Extracts (chs. 24–71)                                   142

           Introduction                                            155
           Extracts                                                158

      1. ON LAWS (chs. 1–25)
           Introduction                                            164
           Extracts (chs. 1–25)                                    166
      2. ON TIMES (chs. 28–39)
           Introduction                                            173
           Extracts (chs. 28–39)                                   175

           Introduction                                            183
           Analysis                                                184
           Extracts—Book VI. On the Books and Services of the
             Church                                                185
           Extracts—Book VII. On God, the Angels and the
             faithful                                              192
           Extracts—Book VIII. On the Church and the different
             sects                                                 196

           Introduction                                            207
           Analysis                                                208
           Extracts                                                208

           Extracts                                                214

           Analysis                                                215
           Extracts                                                215

           Introduction                                            222
           Analysis                                                223
           Extracts                                                223

           Introduction                                            233
           Analysis                                                233
           Extracts—Book XIII. On the Universe and its parts       234
           Extracts—Book XIV. On the Earth and its parts           243

           Analysis                                                248
           Extracts                                                249

           Analysis                                                252
           Extracts                                                253

           Analysis                                                258
           Analysis                                                258
           Extracts                                                259

           Analysis                                                261

        THE FIELDS
           Analysis                                                263

           Isidore’s Use of the Word _Terra_                       264

           Subdivisions of Philosophy                              267

  BIBLIOGRAPHY                                                     270





The development of European thought as we know it from the dawn
of history down to the Dark Ages is marked by the successive
secularization and de-secularization of knowledge.[1] From the
beginning Greek secular science can be seen painfully disengaging
itself from superstition. For some centuries it succeeded in
maintaining its separate existence and made wonderful advances;
then it was obliged to give way before a new and stronger set of
superstitions which may be roughly called Oriental. In the following
centuries all those branches of thought which had separated
themselves from superstition again returned completely to its cover;
knowledge was completely de-secularized, the final influence in
this process being the victory of Neoplatonized Christianity.[2]
The sciences disappeared as living realities, their names and a few
lifeless and scattered fragments being all that remained. They did
not reappear as realities until the medieval period ended.

  [1] _Cf._ S. Reinach, _Orpheus_, p. 36.

  [2] Neoplatonism, the last phase in the decline of ancient
  philosophy, profoundly influenced the Christian philosophy of
  patristic and medieval times, for which it prepared the way. The
  “first principle” of this philosophy was “the supra-rational,
  that which lies beyond reason and beyond reality.” It was from
  this source that Christian mysticism and contempt for empirical
  knowledge were largely drawn. It has been said that Catholic
  Christianity “conquered Neoplatonism after it had assimilated
  nearly everything that it possessed.” Its influence was far
  greater in the eastern than in the western empire. See Harnack,
  _History of Dogma_, vol. i, App. 3, for a brief account of
  Neoplatonism. See also _Encycl. Brit._, 11th edition, Art.

This process of de-secularization was marked by two leading
characteristics; on the one hand, by the loss of that contact with
physical reality through systematic observation which alone had given
life to Greek natural science, and on the other, by a concentration
of attention upon what were believed to be the superior realities
of the spiritual world. The consideration of these latter became so
intense, so detailed and systematic, that there was little energy
left among thinking men for anything else.

At the point where this de-secularizing process was complete, at
the opening of the seventh century, lived the Spanish bishop and
scholar, Isidore of Seville. His many writings, and especially his
great encyclopedia, the _Etymologies_, are among the most important
sources for the history of intellectual culture in the early middle
ages, since in them are gathered together and summed up all such dead
remnants of secular learning as had not been absolutely rejected by
the superstition of his own and earlier ages; they furnish, so to
speak, a cross-section of the debris of scientific thought at the
point where it is most artificial and unreal.

The résumé that Isidore offers is strikingly complete. In this
respect he surpasses all the writers of his own and immediately
preceding periods, his scope being much more general than that of
his nearest contemporaries, Boethius and Cassiodorus. He goes back
here to the tradition of the encyclopedists of the Roman world,
Varro, Verrius Flaccus, Pliny, and Suetonius, by the last of whom he
is believed to have been especially influenced. Few writers of any
period cover the intellectual interests of their time so completely.
To understand Isidore’s mental world is nearly to reach the limits of
the knowledge of his time.[3]

  [3] Nihil enim Isidorus intentatum reliquit: facultates omnes
  attigit, scientias humanas divinasque pertractavit, scriptores
  veteres profanos et sacros evolvit, atque in suum usum
  descripsit; nec contentus etymologico suo opere scientiarum
  encyclopaediam comprehendere, multa singillatim in sacrarum
  litterarum interpretatione disseruit, multa in omni alio
  theologiae genere, multa in philosophicis atque astronomicis
  argumentis, multa in re litteraria, chronologica et historica.
  Arevalo, _Prolegomena in Editionem S. Isidori Hispalensis_, cap.
  1, 3.

The influence which he exerted upon the following centuries was
very great. His organization of the field of secular science,
although it amounted to no more than the laying out of a corpse,
was that chiefly accepted throughout the early medieval period. The
innumerable references to him by later writers,[4] the many remaining
manuscripts,[5] and the successive editions of his works[6] after the
invention of printing, indicate the great rôle he played.[7] From the
modern point of view the real benefit he conferred upon succeeding
centuries was that in his encyclopaedic writings he presented to
the intelligent the fact that there had been and might be such
a thing as secular science; while the blunders in which he was
continually involved, and the shallowness of his thinking, offered
a perpetual challenge to the critical power of all who read him.
There was contained in his writings also, as we shall see, the embryo
of something positive and progressive, namely, the organization of
educational subjects that was to appear definitely in the medieval
university and dominate education almost to the present day.

  [4] Arevalo in his _Prolegomena_, cap. 33, collects passages
  containing “laudes Isidori” from medieval writers, including
  Fredegarius, Alcuin, William of Malmesbury, Vincent of Beauvais,
  and others. Isidore is cited by Petrarch in a way which shows
  that he was much read in his time. Petrarch is giving authorities
  for his theory of poetry, and after mentioning Varro and
  Suetonius, he says: “Then I can add a third name, which will
  probably be better known to you, Isidore.” _Cf._ Robinson and
  Rolfe, _Petrarch_, p. 263.

  [5] Ac portenti quidem simile est, quot mihi antiquissimi Isidori
  Codices in Urbis (Rome) bibliothecis sed maxime in Vaticana
  occurrerint. Arevalo, _Prolegomena_, cap. 1, 7. Manuscripts of
  Isidore’s works are numerous also in Spain and France.

  [6] The editions of Isidore’s complete works are as follows:
  (1) that of de la Bigne published at Paris in 1580; (2) that of
  Grial, Madrid, 1599; (3) that of du Breul, Paris, 1601; that
  of Arevalus, Rome, 1796. Arevalus, in the _Prolegomena_ to his
  edition, enumerates ten editions of the _Etymologies_ between
  1477 and 1577. Others of Isidore’s works appeared also in
  frequent separate editions.

  [7] See Cañal, _San Isidoro_, ch. 7.

For a fuller understanding of Isidore’s historical setting some
attention must be given to the country in which he lived. Spanish
culture in the early middle ages seems to have been relatively
superior. It is well known that the country had been thoroughly
Romanized. How complete the process had been may be judged from
the list of men of Spanish birth who had won distinction in the
wider world of the empire; it includes the two Senecas, Lucan,
Quintilian, Martial, Hyginus, Pomponius Mela, Columella, Orosius,
and the two emperors, Trajan and Hadrian. In fact Spain had lost its
individuality and had become an integral part of the Roman world,
little inferior in its culture even to Italy itself; and the close
of Roman rule found the people of Spain speaking the Latin language,
reading the Latin literature, and habituated to Roman institutions
and modes of thought.

Moreover the continuity of this ancient culture had been perhaps less
rudely disturbed in Spain than elsewhere by the shock of the barbaric
invasions. Here its geographical situation stood the country in good
stead; the barbarian frontier was far away and the chances were that
barbarians destined by fortune to enter Spain would first spend much
time in aimless wandering within the empire, with consequent loss of
numbers and some lessening of savagery. Such, at least, was the case
with the Visigoths, who alone of the barbarians proved a permanent
factor in the country’s development. They were first admitted to
the empire in 376, and must have passed largely into the second
generation before they began to penetrate into Spain, while the
real conquest by them did not begin until much later. “At the time
of their appearance as a governing aristocracy in Spain” they “had
become by long contact with the Romans to all intents and purposes a
civilized people.”[8] They were thus in a position to coalesce with
the Romanized natives, and that this was largely brought to pass is
shown by the conversion of the Arian Goths to orthodoxy, the removal
of the ban of intermarriage between the two races, the use of Latin
in all official documents, and finally by the establishment of a
common law for both peoples. The “sixty-one correct hexameters” of
the Visigothic king Sisebutus (612–620),[9] compared, for instance,
with the absolutely hopeless attempts of Charlemagne two centuries
later to learn the art of tracing letters,[10] show plainly that
Spanish culture had not sunk to the level of that of other parts of
the western empire.[11]

  [8] Martin A. S. Hume, _The Spanish People_, p. 45.

  [9] See Teuffel and Schwabe, _History of Roman Literature_, vol.
  ii, sec. 495, 1, and _Poetae Latini Minores_, 5, 357.

  [10] See Einhard, _Vita Caroli Magni_ in _Monumenta Germaniae
  Historica, Scriptores_ (Pertz ed.), vol. ii, p. 456.

  [11] Another factor in the history of Spain at this time that may
  have had a slight influence on the culture of the country was
  the reoccupation of the southeastern part of the country by the
  Eastern Empire, which lasted from Justinian’s time down to 628.
  The region so held included even Seville for some years.

In this cultural struggle which had taken place between the native
population and their Visigothic rulers the contest between orthodox
Christianity and Arianism had been of prime importance, and its
settlement of the utmost significance. Since the Spaniards upheld
the orthodox faith and the Visigoths were Arians, the victory of
orthodoxy was a victory of the native element over the newcomers. By
this victory, therefore, a position of predominance unusual for the
time was given to the Spanish church organization, and the bishops,
the leaders of the church in the struggle, became the most powerful
men in the nation. Their power was further strengthened by the
weakening of the secular power when the Visigothic royal line became
extinct and it proved impossible to secure a successor to it from
among the families of the turbulent nobility. From the conversion of
the Visigoths in 587 to the invasion of the Saracens, Spain was a
country dominated by bishops.[12]

  [12] For the history of Spain under the Visigoths, see Lavisse
  et Rambaud, _Histoire Générale_, vol. i, chap. 3 (by M. A.
  Berthelot), and Altamira, _Historia de España_, vol. i, c. 1.

Of Isidore’s life surprisingly little is known, considering the bulk
and importance of his writings and his later fame.[13] All that
can be ascertained of his family is that it belonged originally
to Cartagena, that it was of the orthodox religion, and that the
names of its members are Roman.[14] It is extremely probable that
it belonged to the Hispano-Roman element of the population. That
Isidore and his two brothers were bishops may be taken to show that
of whatever origin the family was, it was one of power and influence.

  [13] In the _Acta Sanctorum, Aprilis 1_ (April 4) is the life of
  Isidore supposed to have been written by Lucas Tudensis (13th
  century). Arevalo also gives a life by Rodericus Cerratensis
  (also 13th century). These ‘lives’ are full of fables and cannot
  be trusted as sole authorities for any detail of Isidore’s career.

  [14] Severianus, Leander, Fulgentius, Florentina.

A word may be said of his elder brother, Leander, who was a man of
perhaps greater force than Isidore himself. Born at Cartagena, he
became a monk, and later, bishop of Seville. He was the chief leader
of the orthodox party in its struggle against “the Arian insanity”,
and in the heat of the conflict was obliged to absent himself from
Spain for a time. He visited Constantinople and there became the
friend of Gregory the Great.[15] Returning to Spain, we find him,
under king Reccared in 587, presiding over the council of Toledo, at
which the Visigothic kingdom turned formally from Arianism. Leander
was a man of action rather than a writer, but according to Isidore
he engaged in controversy with the heretical party, “overwhelming
the Arian impiety with a vehement pen and revealing its wickedness”.
He wrote also a little book, which we still have, “On the training
of nuns and contempt for the world”,[16] and contributed music and
prayers to the church service. There seems to be no doubt that
Leander was the foremost churchman of his time in Spain. The prestige
of his name must have made it easier for his successor, Isidore, to
devote himself to the intellectual rather than to the administrative
leadership of the church.[17]

  [15] Gregory’s _Moralia_ is dedicated to Leander.

  [16] _Sancti Leandri Hispalensis Episcopi Regula sive de
  institutione virginum et contemptu mundi_, in Migne, _Patr.
  Lat._, vol. 72, col. 866–898.

  [17] Isidori _De Viris Illustribus Liber_, cap. 41.

As to Isidore’s early years our only authentic information is that
his parents died while he was still young, and left him in the care
of Leander. It is very probable, however, that he looked forward from
the beginning to the clerical life which his brothers had chosen and
that he therefore went through the educational routine as laid down
for churchmen, which was practically the only formal education of the
time. The best proof of this lies in the fact that Isidore wrote
text-books of the liberal arts—a task that would have been well-nigh
impossible to one who had not been drilled in them in his youth.[18]

  [18] In one of Isidore’s letters, addressed to Duke Claudius
  (Claudio duci), he says: “_Memento communis nostri doctoris
  Leandri_.” This seems to point to formal instruction given by
  Leander, and possibly to the existence of a school at Seville.
  Migne, _P. L._ 83, col. 905.

Isidore succeeded his brother Leander in the bishopric of Seville
probably in the year 600.[19] His few remaining letters, written in
the stilted religious phraseology of the day, give the impression
that he was much consulted on ecclesiastical and political matters,
and that he held a position of primacy among the Spanish bishops;
but on the whole they contain remarkably little that is of personal
interest. From the records of the councils we learn that he presided
at the second council of Seville in 619, and probably also at the
fourth of Toledo in 633.[20] According to a contemporary account
written by a cleric named Redemptus, he died in April of 636. No
other details of importance are known about his life. His career must
have been a placid and uneventful one, and evidently much of his time
was spent on his voluminous writings, which were the means by which
he won his great ascendancy over the minds of his contemporaries.[21]

  [19] Isidore, in his life of Leander (_De Viris Illustribus_,
  cap. 41), says: “(Leander) fluorit sub Reccaredo (d. 601) ...
  cujus etiam tempore vitae terminum clausit.” Ildephonsus, in his
  life of Isidore (d. 636), says of him, “Annis fere quadraginta
  tenens pontificatus honorem” (Migne, _P. L._ 82, col. 68).
  Gregory the Great has a letter to Leander and one to Reccared
  belonging to the year 598–599 (Migne, _P. L._ 77, col. 1050–1056).

  [20] Gams, _Kirchengeschichte von Spanien_ ii, 2, pp. 89, 101.

  [21] Contemporary sources for Isidore’s life are: the passage
  in the _regula_ of his brother Leander (Migne, _P. L._ 72, col.
  892); the correspondence of Isidore (Migne, _P. L._, 83, col.
  893); Braulio’s _Introduction_ to Isidore’s works (Migne, _P. L._
  82, col. 65); the life of Isidore given by Ildephonsus, bishop
  of Toledo (d. 667) in his continuation of Isidore’s _De Viris
  Illustribus_; and the letter of the clerk Redemptus, describing
  Isidore’s death (Migne, _P. L._ 82, col. 68).

Perhaps the most reliable account of the impression which
Isidore made on the men of his own time is given in the somewhat
ponderous _Introduction_ to his works furnished by his friend and
correspondent, Braulio, bishop of Saragossa:[22]

  [22] Sancti Braulionis, Caesaraugust. episcopi _Praenotatio
  librorum Isidori_, Migne, _P. L._ 82, col. 65.

    Isidore, a man of great distinction, bishop of the church
    of Seville, successor and brother of bishop Leander,
    flourished from the time of Emperor Maurice and King
    Reccared. In him antiquity reasserted itself—or rather, our
    time laid in him a picture of the wisdom of antiquity: a
    man practiced in every form of speech, he adapted himself
    in the quality of his words to the ignorant and the
    learned, and was distinguished for unequalled eloquence
    when there was fit opportunity.[23] Furthermore, the
    intelligent reader will be able to understand easily from
    his diversified studies and the works he has completed,
    how great was his wisdom.... God raised him up in recent
    times after the many reverses of Spain (I suppose to revive
    the works of the ancients that we might not always grow
    duller from boorish rusticity), and set him as a sort of
    support. And with good right do we apply to him the famous
    words of the philosopher:[24] “While we were strangers in
    our own city, and were, so to speak, sojourners who had
    lost our way, your books brought us home, as it were, so
    that we could at last recognize who and where we were.
    You have discussed the antiquity of our fatherland, the
    orderly arrangement of chronology, the laws of sacrifices
    and of priests, the discipline of the home and the state,
    the situation of regions and places, the names, kinds,
    functions and causes of all things human and divine.”

  [23] The reference in this passage is undoubtedly to the
  difference between the colloquial Latin and that of the scholar.
  The same consideration may perhaps explain the decidedly peculiar
  comment of Ildephonsus on Isidore as a public speaker: “Nam
  tantae jucunditatis affluentem copiam in eloquendo promeruit, ut
  ubertas admiranda dicendi ex eo in stuporem verteret audientes,
  ex quo audita bis, qui audisset non nisi repetita saepius
  commendaret.” Migne, _P. L._ 82, col. 68.

  [24] This passage is found in Cicero, _Academica Posteriora_ 1,
  3, and is addressed to Varro.

From this characterization, as well as from the very brief life by
another contemporary, Bishop Ildephonsus of Toledo, it is evident
that Isidore impressed his own age chiefly as a writer and man of
learning. Both Braulio and Ildephonsus give lists of his works. That
of the former, who was Isidore’s pupil and correspondent, is the
fuller, and may be regarded as the more reliable. With its running
comment on the content of each title, it is as follows:

    I have noted the following among those works [of
    Isidore] that have come to my knowledge. He wrote
    the _Differentiae_, in two books, in which he subtly
    distinguished in meaning what was confused in usage; the
    _Proœmia_, in one book, in which he stated briefly what
    each book of the Holy Scriptures contains; the _De Ortu
    et Obitu Patrum_, in one book, in which he describes with
    sententious brevity the deeds of the Fathers, their worth
    as well, and their death and burial; the _Officia_, in
    two books, addressed to his brother Fulgentius, bishop of
    Astigi, in which he described in his own words, following
    the authority of the Fathers, why each and every thing is
    done in the church of God; the _Synonyma_, in two books, in
    which Reason appears and comforts the Soul, and arouses in
    it the hope of obtaining pardon; the _De Natura Rerum_, in
    one book, addressed to King Sisebut, in which he cleared
    up certain obscurities about the elements by studying
    the works of the church Fathers as well as those of the
    philosophers; the _De Numeris_, in one book, in which he
    touched on the science of arithmetic, on account of the
    numbers found in the Scriptures; the _De Nominibus Legis
    et Evangeliorum_, in one book, in which he revealed what
    the names of persons [in the Bible] signify mystically;
    the _De Haeresibus_, in one book, in which, following the
    example of the Fathers, he collected scattered items with
    what brevity he could; the _Sententiae_, in three books,
    which he adorned with passages from the _Moralia_ of Pope
    Gregory; the _Chronica_, in one book, from the beginning
    of the world to his own time, put together with great
    brevity; the _Contra Judaeos_, in two books, written at
    the request of his sister Florentina, a nun, in which he
    proved by evidences from the Law and the Prophets all that
    the Catholic faith maintains; the _De Viris Illustribus_,
    in one book, to which we are appending this list; one book
    containing a rule for monks, which he tempered in a most
    seemly way to the usage of his country and the spirits of
    the weak; the _De Origine Gothorum et Regno Suevorum et
    etiam Vandalorum Historia_, in one book; the _Quaestiones_,
    in two books, in which the reader recognizes much material
    from the old treatments; and the _Etymologiae_, a vast
    work which he left unfinished, and which I have divided
    into twenty books, since he wrote it at my request. And
    whoever meditatively reads this work, which is in every
    way profitable for wisdom, will not be ignorant of human
    and divine matters. There is an exceeding elegance in his
    treatment of the different arts in this work in which he
    has gathered well-nigh everything that ought to be known.
    There are also many slight works, and inscriptions in the
    church of God, done by him with great grace.[25]

  [25] Braulio’s list mentions a _Liber de Haeresibus_ which
  does not appear in Arevalo’s edition, and fails to mention the
  _Liber de Ordine Creaturarum_ and the _Epistolae_, which are
  included. Ildephonsus’s list is still less complete, leaving out
  the _Proœmia_, _Allegoriae_, _Numeri_, _Officia_, _Regula_, _De
  Ordine Creaturarum_, _Chronicon_, _De Viris Illustribus_, and the

For the present purpose, which is to ascertain something of the
intellectual outlook of the dark ages, the _Etymologiae_ is, of
course, of prime importance, since it contains in condensed
form nearly everything that Isidore has written elsewhere. A
passing attention, however, should be given to some of his other
works, especially those of the more secular sort, in which his
characteristic ideas are frequently developed with greater fullness
than in the _Etymologies_ itself. These include in particular the
_Differentiae_, the _De Natura Rerum_, the _Liber Numerorum_, the
_Allegoriae_, the _Sententiae_, and the _De Ordine Creaturarum_.

The _Differentiae_ is in two books, the first of which treats of
differences of words, and the second, of differences of things. The
plan of the first book is alphabetical; words are ranged in pairs and
distinguished from each other. Usually these words are synonyms, and
directions are given for their proper use; as, _populus_ and _plebs_,
_recens_ and _novus_, _religio_ and _fides_; but frequently words
of similar sound are distinguished; as, _vis_ and _bis_, _hora_ and
_ora_, _hos_ and _os_, _marem_ and _mare_. From these latter valuable
hints on the Latin pronunciation of the time may be obtained.

The second book, _On Differences of Things_, treats in a brief way
of such distinctions as those between _deus_ and _dominus_; between
the nativity of Christ and of man; between angels, demons, and men;
angelic and human wickedness; _animus_ and _anima_; the grace of God
and the will of man; the life of action and that of contemplation.

The introductory remarks of the _Differentiae_ are worth translating,
since they reveal one of the most marked characteristics of Isidore’s
thinking, the stress that he laid on words. They are as follows:

    Many of the ancients sought to define the differences of
    words, making some subtle distinction between word and
    word. But the heathen poets disregarded the proper meanings
    of words under the compulsion of metre. And so, beginning
    with them, it became the custom for writers to use words
    without proper discrimination. But although words seem
    alike, still they are distinguished from one another by
    having each an origin of its own.[26] Cato was the first
    of the Latins to write on this subject,[27] after whose
    example I have in part written myself of a very few, and
    have in part taken them from the books of the writers.[28]

  [26] Quadam propria origine.

  [27] Cato did not himself write on synonyms. But Isidore probably
  got this idea from the fact that synonyms were excerpted from his
  writings by later grammarians. See Teuffel, _History of Roman
  Literature_, 121, 6.

  [28] Migne, _P. L._ 83, col. 9.

The _De Natura Rerum_[29] is a work of great importance for an
understanding of Isidore’s view of the physical universe. The
preface is of especial interest as giving some hints of his methods
of literary work and of his attitude toward pagan writers. It is
addressed to Sisebutus, who was king of the Visigoths from 612 to
620.[30] It runs as follows:

  [29] There is a critical edition of _De Natura Rerum_ by G.
  Becker, Berlin, 1857.

  [30] Isidore describes this ruler in his _History of the Goths_
  as _scientia literarum magna ex parte imbutus_. See Migne, _P. L._
  83, col. 1073.

    Although, as I know, you excel in talent and eloquence and
    in the varied accomplishments of literature (_vario flore
    literarum_), you are still anxious for greater attainment,
    and you ask me to explain to you something of the nature
    and causes of things. I, on my part, have run over the
    works of earlier writers, and am not slow to satisfy your
    interest and desire, describing in part the system of the
    days and months; the goals of the year, as well, and the
    changes of the seasons; the nature also of the elements;
    the courses of the sun and moon, and the significance of
    certain stars;[31] the signs of the weather, too, and of
    the winds; and besides, the situation of the earth, and the
    alternate tides of the sea. And setting forth all things
    as they are written by the ancients, and especially in the
    works of catholic writers, we have described them briefly.
    For to know the nature of these things is not the wisdom of
    superstition, if only they are considered with sound and
    sober learning. Nay, if they were in every way far removed
    from the search for the truth, that wise king would by no
    means have said: “Ipse mihi dedit horum quae sunt scientiam
    veram ut sciam dispositionem coeli et virtutes elementorum,
    conversionum mutationes, et divisiones temporum, annorum
    cursus et stellarum dispositiones.”

  [31] “The higher meaning.” Compare _De Natura Rerum_, chapter
  26, 4: “Per hunc Arcturum, id est, Septentrionem, Ecclesiam
  septenaria virtute fulgentem intelligimus.”

    Wherefore, beginning with the day, whose creation appears first
    in the order of visible things, let us expound those remaining
    matters as to which we know that certain men of the heathen and
    of the church have opinions, setting down in some cases both
    their thoughts and words, in order that the authority of the
    very words may carry belief.

The general organization of the matter treated by Isidore in the _De
Natura Rerum_ is worth noticing. The preface quoted above indicates
that the order of treatment is to follow the order of creation.
The first topic, therefore, suggested by the creation of light,
we should expect to be the phenomenon of light. Instead of this
it is the day, in the calendar sense, that is described, with the
natural sequel of the week, month, and year as collections of days.
This section really constitutes a brief account of the elements of
chronology. Next created are the heavens; so we have next astronomy,
presented in a condensed form, to which are appended a few chapters
on meteorological matters, such as thunder, clouds, the rainbow,
wind, and finally pestilence, which comes in appropriately here as
being “a corruption of the air”. The topic next in order, following
the first chapter of Genesis, is the sea; and after that, the dry
land. It should be noted that this view of the physical universe
according to the order of its creation, corresponds roughly to the
analysis of matter into the four elements, fire, air, water, earth.
As will be shown later, such correspondences are an important factor
in the intellectual outlook of the time. This was the kind of mental
connection with which people were familiar.[32]

  [32] See p. 64.

The _Liber Numerorum_ contains nothing arithmetical in the modern
sense of the word, in spite of Braulio’s statement that in it
Isidore “touched on the science of arithmetic”.[33] Its fuller title
is “The book of the numbers which occur in the Holy Scriptures”,
and the body of the book is taken up with the mystic significance
of each number from one to twenty, omitting seventeen, and also
of twenty-four, thirty, forty, forty-six, fifty, and sixty. The
method of treatment indicates an advanced mysticism of numbers. The
book is not so much an attempt to show the significance of numbers
occurring in particular connections, as it is a generalized guide
to their mystical interpretation, laying down rules to govern the
interpretation of each number, no matter where it occurs. It should
be remarked that this was really “the science of number” of the dark
ages, and that Braulio’s use of the term “arithmetic” as applying to
it was in accordance with the best usage of the time.[34]

  [33] See p. 24.

  [34] See p. 126.

The _Allegoriae_ is of a character similar to the _Liber Numerorum_.
It contains in brief form the principal allegories which were read
into the books of the Old and the New Testaments, and is evidently
meant to constitute a sort of reference book for Scriptural allegory.
It possesses little interest.

One of the most important of the writings of Isidore is the
_Sententiae_, in three books. It is a systematic treatise on
Christian doctrine and morals,[35] and is culled chiefly from the
_Moralia_ of Gregory the Great. As might be guessed from its source,
it is not a work of an enlightened character. However, while it is
largely taken up with the technicalities of Christian thinking, it is
frequently valuable as affording fuller and more specific statements
on some matters of interest than are found elsewhere in Isidore’s
works. Isidore and Gregory were in substantial agreement in their
attitude toward life, but there are indications that in some respects
Isidore was not quite as thorough-going as his model.[36]

  [35] “La Suma Teológica del Siglo VII.” Menéndez y Pelayo,
  _Estudios de Crítica Literaria_, vol. 1, p. 149.

  [36] If Isidore had been as thorough-going as Gregory in
  depreciating the secular he certainly would not have written the
  _Etymologies_. His strongest anti-secular spirit is shown in the
  chapter (13) _de libris gentilium_ of the _Sententiae_ where,
  following Gregory, he denounces “all secular learning.” It is
  pretty plain, however, that he is here following his model rather
  than working out his own position, and in the last section of the
  chapter he modifies what he has said by admitting that grammar
  may “avail for life if only it is applied to better uses.”

Among Christian scholars from the beginning there had been a
desire to bring the traditional ideas of pagan cosmography into
subordination to the Christian scheme. This impulse was strongly,
though blindly, felt by Isidore, and it led to his several attempts
at a comprehensive account of the universe. Perhaps the most
interesting of these is the _De Ordine Creaturarum_, which differs
from the others by including the spiritual as well as the material
universe. The difference did not make for rationality, and in this
short work Isidore is seen at his scientific worst. As in the _De
Natura Rerum_, the dominating factors in the description of the
physical universe are the first chapter of Genesis and the theory of
the four elements.

That one of Isidore’s books which is of by far the greatest
importance for an understanding of the secular thought of the day, is
the _Etymologies_. This is a sort of dictionary or encyclopedia of
all knowledge.[37] As Braulio puts it, it contained “about all that
ought to be known”, and it may be taken as representing the widest
possible scope of secular knowledge that an orthodox Spaniard of the
dark ages could allow himself. Indeed, so hospitable an attitude
toward profane learning as Isidore displayed was unparalleled in his
own period, and was never surpassed throughout the middle ages.

  [37] It is not of great length—three hundred and twenty-eight
  quarto pages in the reprint of Arevalo’s edition in Migne,
  _Patrologiae Latinae_, with about one-fifth of each page occupied
  by footnotes.

The encyclopedic character of the _Etymologies_ may best be realized
by a general view of its contents. The titles of the twenty books
into which it is divided are as follows:

Etymologiarum Libri XX.

   1. de grammatica.
   2. de rhetorica et dialectica.
   3. de quattuor disciplinis mathematicis.
   4. de medicina.
   5. de legibus et temporibus.
   6. de libris et officiis ecclesiasticis.
   7. de Deo, angelis, et fidelium ordinibus.
   8. de ecclesia et sectis diversis.
   9. de linguis, gentibus, regnis, militia, civibus, affinitatibus.
  10. vocum certarum alphabetum.
  11. de homine et portentis.
  12. de animalibus.
  13. de mundo et partibus.
  14. de terra et partibus.
  15. de aedificiis et agris.
  16. de lapidibus et metallis.
  17. de rebus rusticis.
  18. de bello et ludis.
  19. de navibus, aedificiis et vestibus.
  20. de penu et instrumentis domesticis et rusticis.

To the modern reader, familiar with the names of only the modern
sciences, this series of titles, which includes an almost complete
list of the ancient sciences, may not be very illuminating. For
this reason it is perhaps allowable to translate them, where it
is possible to do so, into their modern equivalents. Thus we have
grammar (Bk. 1), rhetoric and logic (Bk. 2), arithmetic, geometry,
music, astronomy (Bk. 3), medicine (Bk. 4), law and chronology
(Bk. 5), theology (Bks. 6–8), human anatomy and physiology (Bk.
11), zoölogy (Bk. 12), cosmography and physical geography (Bks.
13–14), architecture and surveying (Bk. 15 and part of Bk. 19),
mineralogy (Bk. 16), agriculture (Bk. 17), military science (Bk.
18). This partial enumeration of the subjects treated in Isidore’s
_Etymologies_ forms an imposing array, and serves to explain
something of the importance of the work in the history of thought.

The secret of this inclusiveness lay, however, not in an expanded,
but in a contracted interest. Although Isidore is not surpassed in
comprehensiveness by any one of the line of Roman encyclopedists
who preceded him, in the quality of his thought and the extent of
his information he is inferior to them all. Secular knowledge had
suffered so much from attrition and decay that it could now be
summarized in its entirety by one man.

In spite of this it is very clear that if Isidore had treated these
topics with any degree of reference to the actual realities of his
own time, he would have left us a work of inestimable value. But he
did not do so; he drew, not upon life, but upon books for his ideas;
there was no first-hand observation. Moreover, the books which he
consulted were, as a rule, centuries old.[38] He tells us practically
nothing concerning his own period, in which so many important changes
were taking place. For example, there are repeated and detailed
references to the founding and early history of Rome, but no direct
allusion to the political and social changes brought about by the
disintegration of the Roman Empire; trifles attributed to a period
thirteen centuries earlier seemed to interest him more than the
mighty developments of his own epoch. Again, although he writes upon
law, he does not appear to have heard of the Justinian code issued
a century before;[39] and in his chronology he fails to mention the
proposal for a new era in chronology made also a century before his
time by Dionysius the Less.[40]

  [38] See p. 46.

  [39] See p. 165.

  [40] See p. 175.

Throughout the _Etymologies_ there is a leading principle which
guides Isidore in his handling of the different subjects, namely,
his attitude toward words. His idea was that the road to knowledge
was by way of words, and further, that they were to be elucidated by
reference to their origin rather than to the things they stood for.
This, in itself, gave an antiquarian cast to his work. His confidence
in words really amounted to a belief, strong though perhaps somewhat
inarticulate, that words were transcendental entities. All he had to
do, he believed, was to clear away the misconceptions about their
meaning, and set it forth in its true original sense; then, of their
own accord, they would attach themselves to the general scheme of
truth. The task of first importance, therefore, in treating any
subject, was to seize upon the leading terms and trace them back
to the meanings which they had in the beginning, before they had
been contaminated by the false usage of the poets and other heathen
writers; thus the truth would be found. It was inevitable that, with
such a preconception, Isidore’s method in the _Etymologies_ should be
to treat each subject by the method of defining the terms belonging
to it.

It is plain, then, that Isidore used the dictionary method in the
_Etymologies_ not as a matter of convenience, but on philosophic
grounds. His unthinking confidence in words was, however,
ill-rewarded. It merely furnished a plan of treatment which evaded
consecutive thought, and made it possible for his work to be a mass
of contradictions, as it really is in very many points. Indeed, the
task of combining in one work the ill-digested ideas of the school of
Christian thought of his day and conflicting ideas borrowed from the
pagans would not have been possible except to a writer who did not
reason on his material, but was satisfied, as was Isidore, to give
the derivation and meaning of his terms in the blind trust that a
harmonious whole was thus constituted.

We have some information in regard to the production of the
_Etymologies_.[41] It was a work undertaken at the request of
Braulio, bishop of Saragossa, and it occupied the last years of
Isidore’s life. Parts of it, however—presumably those that could be
used as text-books—were in circulation before his death. Braulio
is our authority for the statement that the work as a whole was
left unfinished, and that he himself divided it into twenty books,
Isidore having made no division except that by subjects. As the brief
preface, addressed to Braulio, informs us, the work was the product
of long-continued reading, and contained verbatim extracts from
previous writers, as well as Isidore’s own comments.

  [41] The circumstances under which the _Etymologies_ was written
  are referred to in Braulio’s _Introduction_ and in the life of
  Isidore by Ildephonsus (both in Migne, _P. L._ 82, col. 65–68);
  in the correspondence between Braulio and Isidore (Migne, _P. L._
  83, col. 910–914); and in the preface of the _Etymologies_.



It has been shown that by a combination of circumstances,
geographical, political, and religious, Spain in Isidore’s day was
more fortunately situated than the remainder of western Europe.
Conditions there were ripe for an expansion of intellectual interest
beyond the narrow bounds to which the growth of religious prejudice
and the uncertainties of life had reduced it. In this expansion, in
which it was Isidore’s part to lead, it was inevitable that the chief
element should be an attempt to re-appropriate what had been lost
in the preceding centuries, and to adapt it in some measure to the
changed conditions of life and thought which had arisen.

Isidore’s relation to previous culture must, therefore, be examined.
It appears certain, although perhaps it cannot be proved, that he was
completely cut off from that world of thought, both Christian and
pagan, which was expressed in the Greek language. The tradition of
wide linguistic learning which was attached to him after his death
and has not been questioned until recent times, has really nothing
to rest upon.[42] Isidore himself does not claim a knowledge of
Greek, and he seems to have relied on translations for whatever his
works contain that is of Greek origin.[43] He nowhere quotes a Greek
sentence, and since the _Etymologies_ and others of his works are
practically made up of quotations, it seems strange that he did not
do so if he had resorted at all to Greek authors. The detached Greek
words, and the Greek phrases that occur rarely in his works, are
practically all given as derivations of Latin words; and when it is
remembered that such detached words and phrases had been extremely
common in Latin literature for centuries, it becomes plain that their
use by Isidore does not necessarily indicate that he had a reading
knowledge of Greek. His case is similar to that of many intelligent
persons of the present day who are able to trace words to Latin and
Greek roots without being able to read these languages.[44]

  [42] The oft-repeated expression, _Latinis, Graecis et Hebraicis
  litteris instructus_, found in the _Vita Sancti Isidori_,
  deserves no attention. There is no historical basis for the
  assertion that Isidore knew Greek or Hebrew. In view of the
  time, it would be more reasonable to demand proof that he did
  know them rather than that he did not. As to his knowledge of
  Greek, see Dressel, _De Isidori Originum Fontibus_ in _Rivista di
  Filologia_, vol. iii (1874–75), p. 216. The legend of Isidore’s
  wide linguistic learning persists, however, even in the 11th
  edition of the _Encyclopedia Britannica_. See Art. “Encyclopedia.”

  [43] _Cf._ _Etym._, 2, 2, 1; 2, 25, 1 and 9; 3, 2. See pp. 111, 120,

  [44] The point has been made that Isidore shows his ignorance
  of the Greek language by the mistakes he made in the use of
  Greek words in his derivations. A few examples selected almost
  at random may be useful in this connection, although it must be
  remembered that the possibility of corruption in the text is
  always great.

  (a) 3, 22, 6. “Chordas autem dictas a corde.”
  (b) 3, 22, 8. “Lyra dicta ἀπὸ τὸ λυρεῖν a varietate vocum.”
  (c) 12, 1, 35. “Camur enim Graecum verbum curvum significat.”

  Why Isidore in (a) does not give the natural derivation from
  χορδή is not clear unless his knowledge of Greek was very
  slight. λυρεῖν, in (b), is a form that is not found in Greek.
  In (c) _camur_ is not a Greek word written in Roman letters, as
  Isidore apparently thought. See Harper’s _Latin Dictionary_.
  Compare also the form in which Aristotle’s περὶ ἑρμηνείας is
  cited: _de perihermeniis_, _praefatio perihermeniarum_, _in libro
  perihermeniarum_ (2, 27). Isidore’s Greek has given his editors
  much trouble. See Migne, _Patr. Lat._ 81, 328, for comment upon
  it by Vulcanius, who edited the _Etymologies_ in 1577.

What aspects, then, of the Latin literary tradition, which alone
has to be taken into account, are of importance as giving an
understanding of Isidore and his works?

To him, no doubt, the literary past seemed to be filled chiefly
with the succession of Christian writers from Tertullian to
Gregory the Great. These, starting out with a religion to which a
primitive cosmology was tenaciously attached, were really engaged
in amalgamating with it the less hostile items of the Graeco-Roman
intellectual inheritance. Men like Augustine were occupied in
de-secularizing the knowledge of their times; that is, in reshaping
it so that it should fill a subordinate place in the religious scheme
and so support that scheme, or at least not be in opposition to it.
Orosius’ feat of reshaping history so that it was subservient to
religion, is a good example of what was going on in every field.
Such secular knowledge as was allowed to exist was brought into
more or less close relation to the religious ideas that dominated
thinkers, and whatever could not be thus reshaped tended to be
rejected and forgotten. The nearest approach to an exception to this
is found in the subjects that had formed the educational curriculum
of the Greeks and Romans. These offered robust opposition to
de-secularization; and though they were attenuated to almost nothing,
they succeeded in maintaining their separate existence. This process
of de-secularization was about complete by the time of Cassiodorus;
in him we have an intellectual outlook that recognizes, outside of
the religious scheme, only the seven liberal arts.[45]

  [45] See p. 83.

On the other hand, there was the pagan literary tradition, which
owed all the value that it possessed to contact with Greek culture.
Except in the field of legal social relations, the Romans made no
original contribution to civilization. They had no proper curiosity
concerning the universe, and so could do no thinking of vital
importance concerning it. Anything approaching scientific thought in
the modern sense was absolutely unknown to them. Therefore, while
most of their writers were prosaic and secular in their habit of
mind and free from mystical leanings, the intellectual possession of
the Romans was not of the close-knit rational character which would
have enabled them to resist successfully the avalanche of Oriental
superstition which descended on the Western world in the centuries
after the conquest of the East.[46] Secular thought in the Roman
civilization was thus doomed to undergo a process of decay.

  [46] For a brief account of Oriental influences in Roman
  religion, see Dill, _Roman Society in the Last Century of the
  Western Empire_ (London, 1898), ch. 4.

The branch of pagan Latin literature which throws most light on
the character of Isidore’s _Etymologies_ is the succession of
encyclopedias which constituted so conspicuous a feature of literary
history under the Empire. The chief writers in this field, in order
of time, were Varro, Verrius Flaccus, the elder Pliny, Suetonius,
Pompeius Festus, and Nonius Marcellus. While the motives and causes
that impelled them to their task were doubtless many and intricate,
consideration of a few paramount influences by which they were
affected will explain much of the character of their work, and
will indicate the origin of the main peculiarities of Isidore’s

In the first place, it is in these encyclopaedias, which profess to
cover the fields of literary scholarship and natural science, that
the intellectual decline most clearly reveals itself. They may be
regarded on the one hand as representing the successive stages in the
decay of the intellectual inheritance, and in them we may trace the
way in which the array of ordered knowledge was steadily losing in
both content and quality. Viewed, on the other hand, as a totality,
and considered with reference to the impulses that led to their
production, they are again symptomatic of degeneration; they stand
as the most thorough-going example of the epitomizing tendency which
permeated Roman thought and which evidenced its decline. Written as
they were by the intellectual leaders of their day, they represent
a curious reversal of the modern situation, since where the leaders
in the modern expansion of thought have devoted themselves to
specialized inquiry, those of the Roman empire gave their attention
to compiling and arranging the whole body of knowledge rather than to
extending it at any point. The conditions of their time drove them to
_generalize_ rather than to specialize.

These encyclopedias are pervaded by a tone of literary scholarship.
It was a peculiarity of Latin literature that philology was almost
as old as poetry. The Roman poetry was a mere reflection of the
Greek, the poets invariably knowing Greek and either translating
from it or following Greek models. Poetry so produced was inevitably
artificial and in need of elucidation. These conditions favored the
rapid growth of criticism; grammar, word derivation, philology,
antiquarian history were favorite studies from early times, engaging
the attention even of leading Romans. There was even a sort of
literary science; for example, Varro’s geography, which was meant to
include the geographical allusions of the poets. A mass of scholarly
lore was thus accumulated and this soon became unwieldy. It was the
function of Varro and Verrius Flaccus especially to reduce this mass
to order and to bring it into such shape that it could be referred
to readily. To effect the latter object Verrius Flaccus introduced
the method of alphabetical arrangement, using this for the first
time in his great work _De Verborum Significatu_. These two writers
gave, then, in their encyclopedic works a survey of the apparatus for
literary criticism, including a sort of literary science, and the
whole succession of encyclopedic writers was greatly influenced by
the example which they set.

In the works of Pliny and Suetonius, who followed Varro and Verrius
Flaccus, natural science is brought into the foreground. The change,
however, was but slight. The natural science of the Romans was
anything but scientific; neither experiment, systematic observation,
nor research had ever been practiced among them. Their science was
an affair of books and was of an authoritative character. Even
the poets were looked upon as possessing scientific knowledge and
were seriously quoted to maintain scientific theses. There was no
real distinction between the natural and philological sciences of
the time, and therefore the encyclopedia of literary criticism was
closely allied with that of natural science.

As illustrating the character of the encyclopedias it is worth while
to notice more fully the method by which they were produced. As
has been suggested, Roman scholars and scientists under the Empire
were little more than note-takers. Pliny the Elder is the typical
example of this tendency; a student of extraordinary diligence, his
study consisted in reading, making extracts, and compiling them.
Such was the origin of his _Natural History_. He left to his nephew,
in addition, the legacy of “one hundred and sixty common-place
books, written on both sides of the scroll and in very small
hand-writing”.[47] The full effect of the tendency thus illustrated
cannot be perceived, however, if we think merely of the process
as it was carried on by Pliny, for he consulted chiefly original
works; when, later, extracts began to be made from works that
were themselves compiled from extracts, when epitomes began to be
epitomized, a state of confusion and feebleness of thought inevitably
ensued. This is the condition which is exemplified in the two latest
of the Roman encyclopedists, Pompeius Festus and Nonius Marcellus,
and the tradition is continued in Isidore.

  [47] Younger Pliny, _Epistles_, 3, 5.

The body of knowledge gathered together under all these influences
possessed little of a positive nature. It was informed by no general
ideas of a striking character and it entirely lacked the element
of reasoned proof. Since its science was a science of authority,
it was easy for the Christian writers to modify it by substituting
the authority of the Scriptures for that of pagan writers. In fact,
the encyclopedias furnished to the church fathers secular knowledge
in a particularly convenient and unobjectionable form. Augustine,
especially, made great use of Varro. It can be seen that this
literary form was better adapted than any other to pass with unbroken
continuity from ancient into medieval literature.

It is then to the succession of Roman encyclopedists that we
must go to explain the method, spirit, and content of Isidore’s
_Etymologies_. A comparison of the organization of the material
and of the sub-titles of Isidore’s work with those of the Roman
writers,[48] so far as they are known, shows the extent of his
indebtedness. The literary and philological flavor, the stress on
word history and derivation, the pseudo-science based on authority,
the conspicuous tendency to confusion and feebleness of thought, the
habit of heedless copying that we find in an aggravated form in the
_Etymologies_, all these are inherited characteristics that betray
the origin of the work.

  [48] An outline of the contents of leading encyclopædic works, so
  far as known, is here given for purposes of comparison with the
  contents of the _Etymologies_.

  Marcus Terentius Varro, 116–28 B.C.
    _Antiquitatum Rerum Humanarum et Divinarum Libri XLI._
      _Rerum Humanarum Libri XXV._
        Bk. 1. Introduction.
          2–7. de hominibus.
         8–13. de locis (8, Rome; 11, Italy; 12, remaining Europe;
               13, Asia and Africa).
        14–19. de temporibus (14, introduction; 15, de saeculis; 16, de
               lustris; 17, de annis; 18, de mensibus; 19, de diebus).
        20–25. de rebus.

      _Rerum Divinarum Libri XVI._
        Bk. 26. Introduction.
         27–29. de hominibus.
         30–32. de locis.
         33–35. de temporibus.
         36–38. de rebus.
         38–41. de diis.

  This encyclopedia stands for the interests of the scholarly
  antiquarian rather than for those of the man interested in
  natural science. The work itself is lost, but the nature of its
  contents is fairly well known, thanks to St. Augustine. For
  further information regarding Varro’s encyclopedic works, see
  Boissier, _Étude sur la vie et les ouvrages de M. Varron_, Paris,
  1861; and _Geschichte der Römischen Literatur_, Martin Schanz,
  München, 1909, Erster Teil, Zweite Hälfte, 187, 188.

  Verrius Flaccus (flourished under Augustus).
    _De Verborum Significatu._

  The work itself has been lost, as also the greater part of the
  abbreviation of it to twenty books made by Pompeius Festus before
  200 A.D. Festus’s abridgement was further abridged by Paulus
  Diaconus in Charlemagne’s time. It is regarded as certain that
  material in Isidore’s _Etymologies_ came directly or indirectly
  from the _De Verborum Significatu_. Nettleship, _Lectures and
  Essays_, Oxford, 1885.

  Pliny the Elder (23–79 A.D.).
    _Naturalis Historiae Libri XXXVII._
      Bk. 1. Contents and lists of sources.
          2. Description of the universe.
        3–6. Geography.
          7. Man.
          8. Animals.
          9. Fishes.
         10. Birds.
         11. Insects.
      12–27. Trees, shrubs, plants, including medicinal botany.
      27–32. Medicinal zoölogy.
      32–37. Metals, colors, stones, and gems, especially from the
             artist’s point of view.

  Dressel, _De Isidori Originum Fontibus_, pp. 243–247, in _Rivista
  di filologia_, 1874–75, gives an incomplete list of Isidore’s
  borrowings from Pliny. He points out Isidore’s carelessness in
  borrowing in one case where he shows that what Pliny tells us of
  the _echineis_, Isidore hastily assigns to the _mullus_. _Cf._
  Isidore 12, 6, 25, with Pliny, 32; 8, 9, 70, 138–39.

  Suetonius Tranquillus (last of first century and first half of second).

  This work is lost. It was an encyclopedia in at least ten books,
  of which the titles of some books and fragments have been
  recovered, a large portion of them from the _Etymologies_ and
  _De Natura Rerum_. Among the subjects were _leges_, _mores_,
  _tempora_, _mundus_, _animantium naturae_. Isidore quotes
  Suetonius twice. See A. Reifferscheid, _C. Suetoni Tranquilli
  Reliquiae_, Leipzig, 1860, pp. 155 _et seq._, and Schanz,
  _Geschichte der Römischen Literatur_, Dritter Teil, pp. 47–66.

  Nonius Marcellus (early fourth century).
    _Compendiosa Doctrina ad Filium._
      Bks. 1–12. Grammatical in character, including one book, (5)
                 _De Differentia Similium Significationum_.
             13. de genere navigiorum.
             14. de genere vestimentorum.
             15. de genere vasorum vel poculorum.
             16. de genere calciamentorum.
             17. de coloribus vestimentorum.
             18. de genere ciborum vel potorum.
             19. de genere armorum.
             20. de propinquitatum vocabulis.

  This work is, in part, in dictionary form (Bks. 1–6). There is
  much resemblance between passages in Nonius Marcellus and in the
  _Etymologies_, which Nettleship believes to be due to the use of
  a common source. Nettleship, “Nonius Marcellus,” in _Lectures and
  Essays_. Lindsay, _Nonius Marcellus_, Oxford, 1901.

But though the example which was furnished by the Roman
encyclopedists was by far the strongest literary factor which
influenced Isidore in the composition of the _Etymologies_, it was
not the only one of importance. A minor type of encyclopedia, that
of education, occurs in Latin literature. The first example of it is
furnished by Varro in his _Disciplinarum Libri IX_;[49] this work
had, however, disappeared before Isidore’s time. Varro found no
successor until the fourth century, when Martianus Capella wrote his
account of the seven liberal arts,[50] giving thus a comprehensive
treatment of the subject-matter of education. He was followed in
the sixth century by Cassiodorus, whose _De Artibus et Disciplinis
Liberalium Litterarum_ Isidore certainly had before him when he
wrote the account of the seven liberal arts which occupies the first
three books of the _Etymologies_. Isidore’s work therefore appears
to be a fusion of the minor encyclopedia of education and the major
encyclopedia of all knowledge.

  [49] _Disciplinarum Libri IX._ Bk. 1. Grammar. Bk. 2. Dialectic.
  Bk. 3. Rhetoric. Bk. 4. Geometry. Bk. 5. Arithmetic. Bk. 6.
  Astrology. Bk. 7. Music. Bk. 8. Medicine. Bk. 9. Architecture.
  (Conjectural list of disciplines given by Ritschl, _Opusc._ 3, p.

  [50] Martianus Capella, _De Nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii_.

We are now in a position to form a clearer judgment of the
personal element which Isidore contributed to the composition of
the _Etymologies_. It is worth while in the first place to point
out that the essentials of the work are derived from the pagan,
not the Christian, side of the Latin tradition. This in itself
showed a commendable initiative, considering that it was the age of
Gregory the Great. It was Isidore’s function to adjust the secular
learning thus obtained to a new and lower level of thought and to
the Christian philosophy of the time. The way in which this was
accomplished constitutes the only original element in the treatment
of the subject-matter. The adjustment was secured partly by an
amalgamation of the pseudo-science of the church fathers with that
found in the encyclopedic writings, and by the inclusion of the three
books which deal with religious matters, but chiefly by the new
spirit in which secular knowledge was conceived. The works of Pliny
and Suetonius were surveys of what was known; that of Isidore was a
survey of “what ought to be known”. For his age secular knowledge was
valuable, not for itself, but for edification. In theory, at least,
it was Isidore’s notion that such knowledge might “avail for life if
applied to the better uses”.

The question of the actual sources used by Isidore in the
_Etymologies_ and in his other works of a secular nature is a
difficult one. The literary tradition of the period preceding
his, which was mainly a time of compiling and epitomizing, is so
complicated and confused that the student cannot be certain, when
he finds the exact wording of a writer in the work of another who
preceded him, that the former has borrowed from the latter. Both may
have borrowed from another source or even from two different sources
identical as respects the passage in question.[51] In the task of
ascertaining Isidore’s sources the difficulties already enumerated
are increased by the loss of important works upon which it is pretty
certain that he drew,[52] and also by his habit of quoting the
sources quoted by his authorities as if they were his own.[53]

  [51] See p. 91.

  [52] _E.g._ Suetonius, _Prata_.

  [53] See pp. 106, 114.

However, although there has been no thorough-going investigation of
this question, much has been accomplished by students interested in
sections of the _Etymologies_, such, for example, as those on music
and law. Classical scholars also have investigated his sources in a
more general way, but their efforts have been not so much directed
to the elucidation of Isidore himself as inspired by the hope of
recovering some fragments of the classical authors. The varying
conclusions reached show that no great certainty has been attained,
but it is possible to give a tentative list of sources which will
indicate roughly the nature of the influences which contributed to
form Isidore’s ideas.[54] It seems probable that his working library
contained works of the following authors: Lactantius, Tertullian,
Jerome, Ambrose, Augustine, Orosius, Cassiodorus, Suetonius, Pliny,
Solinus, Hyginus, Sallust, Hegesippus, the abridger of Vitruvius,
Servius, the scholia on Lucan, and Justinus.

  [54] Dressel, _De Isidori Originum Fontibus_, in _Rivista di
  filologia_, 1874–75, discusses Isidore’s method of using his
  sources, and gives a list of writers and works to which he
  traces passages in Isidore, giving usually a list of the latter.
  The writers include Sallust, Justinus, Hegesippus, Orosius,
  Pliny, Solinus, the abridger of Vitruvius, Lucretius, Hyginus,
  Cassiodorus, Servius, the scholia on Lucan.

  Nettleship, _Lectures and Essays_, Oxford, 1885, devotes
  attention chiefly to the encyclopedic tradition, treating of
  Verrius Flaccus, the _Glosses_ of Placidus, the _Noctes Atticae_
  of Gellius, Nonius Marcellus, and Servius. He treats of Isidore
  only by the way, and lays stress on his debt to Suetonius,
  _Prata_, and Verrius Flaccus, _De Verborum Significatu_. See pp.
  330–336, and for opinion of Latin encyclopedic tradition, pp.

  Reifferscheid, _Suetoni Reliquiae_, recovers several passages of
  Suetonius from Isidore.

  C. Schmidt, _Quaestiones de musicis scriptoribus Romanis imprimis
  de Cassiodoro et Isidoro_, traces Isidore’s _De Musica_ to an
  unknown Christian writer.

  G. Becker, editor of _De Natura Rerum_, Berlin, 1857, discusses
  the sources of that work especially, tracing it to Suetonius,
  Solinus, and Hyginus on the one hand, and Ambrose, Clement,
  Augustine, on the other.

  H. Hertzberg, _Die Chroniken des Isidors, Forsch. zur deutschen
  Geschichte_, 15, 280 _et seq._, discusses the sources of
  Isidore’s _Chronica_, which he traces to Jerome’s translation of
  Eusebius with later continuations. The same writer also treats of
  the sources of _The History of the Goths_ (Gött. 1874).

  H. Usener, _Anecdoton Holderi_ (Bonn, 1877), p. 65, asserts that
  Isidore did not use Cassiodorus’ encyclopedia of the liberal

  M. Conrat, _Geschichte der Quellen und Literatur des Römischen
  Rechts im früheren Mittelalter_ (Leipzig, 1891) treats of the
  sources of Isidore’s _Leges_, pp. 151 _et seq._; as also Voigt,
  _Jus Naturale_, 1, 576 _et seq._, and Dirksen, _Hinterlassene
  Schriften_, 1, 185 _et seq._

  Arno Schenk, _De Isidori Hispalensis de natura rerum libelli
  fontibus_, Jena, 1909, finds that Isidore wrote the _De Natura
  Rerum_ and the _Etymologiae_ from his collection of excerpts
  which is drawn from Ambrose, Clement, Augustine, Jerome, the
  scholiast on Germanicus, Hyginus, Servius, the scholia on Lucan,
  Solinus, Suetonius, and a number of the Roman poets. This
  dissertation is largely meant to show that Reifferscheid in
  his work, _Suetoni Reliquiae_, had gone too far in attributing
  passages found in Isidore to Suetonius.

  M. Klussman, _Excerpta Tertullianea in Isidori Hispalensis
  Etymologiis_, Hamburg, 1892, gives a list of nearly seventy
  passages borrowed by Isidore from Tertullian, at the same time
  pointing out that credit for the passages is nowhere assigned to
  the latter.



Is it possible to ascertain from the writings of Isidore what was the
general view of the universe and the attitude toward life held in the
sixth and seventh centuries?

On first thought it seems doubtful. As has been indicated, his works,
and especially the _Etymologies_, form a mosaic of borrowings, whose
ultimate origin is to be traced to unnumbered writings in both Greek
and Latin, and in both Christian and pagan literatures. We find side
by side in Isidore the ideas of Aristotle, Nicomachus, Porphyry,
Varro, Cicero, Suetonius, Moses, St. Paul, Origen, and Augustine,
to mention only a few; and these ideas, although as a rule they
have undergone degeneration, are sometimes in the original words
or a close rendering of them. If viewed closely they are a mass of
confusion and incoherence. This is natural; such eclectism as had
existed for centuries in the Roman, pagan and Christian, systems
of thought is not compatible with consistency. Incoherence in the
intellectual possession was inevitable; equally inevitable was an
increasing indifference to incoherence and even inability to perceive
it. The words of a writer of such a period must therefore not be
pressed too hard. Too close an investigation would land the inquirer
in hopeless confusion.

Furthermore, even in writers far more consecutive in their thinking
than Isidore, there are often fundamental preconceptions which are
naively taken for granted, and which, although unstated, serve as
points around which to mass ideas. If the reader does not happen to
approach the subject with the same preconceptions, a misapprehension
is likely to result. It is the business of the critic to grasp
these preconceptions and place the reader on the same plane of
understanding, as it were, so that he can follow the meaning as
it lay in the mind of the writer. Sometimes this undertaking is
possible, but in the case of a writer like Isidore, whose ideas are
often hazy and whose work is a conglomerate of ten centuries, it may
easily be impossible.[55]

  [55] For example, Isidore evidently had a theory as to the
  origin and value of language, but he does not state it anywhere,
  although innumerable times he approaches the subject in an
  oblique sort of way. See p. 99. Again, he never tells us whether
  he believed the earth to be flat or spherical; he uses at one
  time language that belongs to the spherical earth, and at
  another, language that can have sense only if he believed the
  earth to be flat. Here we have not only no definite statement
  of the conception—although it must have existed in his mind,
  considering the frequency of his writings on the physical
  universe—but we have in addition the puzzle of deciding which set
  of expressions used in this connection was meaningless to him.
  See pp. 50–54 and Appendix.

However, it must be remembered that such an absence of an acute
self-consciousness as is indicated in the condition just described,
is exactly the thing that enables men to perform feats of an
astonishing character in constructing a world-philosophy, if
perchance they have a taste in that direction. Their minds, not
being irritated or roused by any perception of inconsistency, rest
happy in the conviction that all is explained, and remain oblivious
of that sense of mystery which forms the background of modern
scientific thought. As tested from this point of view the medieval
period afforded the conditions for a complacent and authoritative
world-philosophy, such as in fact it did possess.

The difficulties in ascertaining the world view held by Isidore are,
then, considerable; but, since he was the leading representative of
the intellect of the dark ages, and the only important writer on
secular subjects in two centuries of western European history, the
attempt to ascertain it seems worth while. In making this attempt,
however, it is necessary to keep these difficulties of interpretation
in mind; the danger is that we shall lay too much stress on the minor
inconsistencies which he probably was not aware of, and so fail to
see that large general consistency which, because of his lack of
critical sensitiveness, he was able to believe that he found.

Isidore’s physical universe[56] in its form is geocentric, and is
bounded by a revolving sphere which he believed to be made of fire,
and in which the stars are fixed. The question of the number of
spheres he treats in an inconsistent way, sometimes speaking of seven
concentric inner spheres, and sometimes of only one.[57] The relative
size of sun, earth, and moon is accurately given—though, it appears,
not without misgiving[58]—and also the cause of eclipses of both the
sun and the moon.

  [56] For Isidore’s physical universe in general, see _Etym._ 3,
  24–71; 13, 4–6; _De Natura Rerum_, 9–27. See pp. 142–154, 234,

  [57] Isidore seems to have kept an open mind on the question
  of the number of the spheres. He says: _de numero eorum_
  [_coelorum_] _nihil sibi praesumat humana temeritas_. _D. N. R._,
  13, 1.

  [58] See 2, 24, 2 (p. 116).

The subject of greatest interest in this connection is, of course,
the question whether or not Isidore believed in the sphericity of the
earth. It is maintained by some authorities that this notion was not
lost at any time during the middle ages. Isidore certainly believed
that the heavens constituted a sphere or spheres, and that the sun
and moon revolved in circles around the earth. He states the theory
of the zones correctly in two passages,[59] applying it, however,
not to the spherical earth but to the sphere of the heavens. On the
other hand, he frequently gives expression to notions belonging to a
primitive cosmology.[60] The suspicion is aroused, therefore, that
when he was stating astronomical ideas, he was usually simply copying
what perhaps he did not understand. A passage that seems to settle
the matter is found in _De Natura Rerum_. It shows that the fact that
he could state such a theory as that of the zones correctly, is no
proof that he understood its application to the earth. A translation
of the passage follows:

  [59] 3, 44; 13, 6. See p. 146.

  [60] See Appendix I.

    In describing the universe the philosophers mention five
    circles, which the Greeks call παράλληλοι that is, zones,
    into which the circle of lands is divided.... Now let us
    imagine them after the manner of our right hand, so that
    the thumb may be called the Arctic circle, uninhabitable
    because of cold; the second, the summer circle, temperate,
    inhabitable; the middle (finger), the equinoctial
    (_Isemerinus_) circle, torrid, uninhabitable; the fourth,
    the winter circle, temperate, inhabitable; the fifth, the
    Antarctic circle, frigid, uninhabitable. The first of these
    is the northern, the second, the solstitial, the third,
    the equinoctial, the fourth, the winter circle, the fifth,
    the southern.... The following figure shows the divisions
    of these circles. (Fig. 1.) Now, the equinoctial circle is
    uninhabitable because the sun, speeding through the midst
    of the heaven, creates an excessive heat in these places,
    so that, on account of the parched earth, crops do not grow
    there, nor are men permitted to dwell there, because of
    the great heat. But, on the other hand, the northern and
    southern circles, _being adjacent to each other_, are not
    inhabited, for the reason that they are situated far from
    the sun’s course, and are rendered waste by the great rigor
    of the climate and the icy blasts of the winds. But the
    circle of the summer solstice which is situated _in the
    east, between the northern circle and the circle of heat_,
    and the circle which is placed _in the west, between the
    circle of the heat and the southern circle_, are temperate
    for the reason that they derive cold from one circle, heat
    from the other. Of which Virgil [says]:

    “Between these and the middle [zone] two are granted to
    wretched mortals by the gift of the gods.”

    Now, they who are next to the torrid circle are the
    Ethiopians, who are burnt by excessive heat.[61]

  [61] De Quinque Circulis.

  “In definitione autem mundi circulos aiunt philosophi quinque,
  quos Graeci παραλλήλους—id est, zonas—vocant, in quibus dividitur
  orbis terrae.... Sed fingamus eas in modum dextrae nostrae, ut
  pollex sit circulus ἀρτικός, frigore inhabitabilis; secundus
  circulus θερινὸς, temperatus habitabilis; medius circulus
  ἰσημερινὸς, torridus inhabitabilis; quartus circulus χειμερινὸς,
  temperatus habitabilis; quintus circulus ἀνταρτικὸς, frigidus
  inhabitabilis. Horum primus septentrionalis est, secundas
  solstitialis, tertius aequinoctialis, quartus hiemalis, quintus

  “Quorum circulorum divisiones talis distinguit figura (Fig. I).

  3. “Sed ideo aequinoctialis circulus inhabitabilis est, quia
  sol per medium coelum currens nimium his locis facit fervorem,
  ita ut nec fruges ibi nascantur propter exustam terram, nec
  homines propter nimium ardorem habitare permittantur. At contra
  _septentrionalis et australis circuli sibi conjuncti_ idcirco non
  habitantur, quia a cursu solis longe positi sunt, nimioque caeli
  rigore ventorumque gelidis flatibus contabescunt.

  4. “Solstitialis vero circulus, qui _in Oriente inter
  septentrionalem et aestivum_ est collocatus, vel iste qui
  _in Occidente inter aestivum et australem_ est positus, ideo
  temperati sunt eo quod ex uno circulo rigorem, ex altero calorem
  habeant. De quibus Virgilius:

    “Has inter mediamque duae mortalibus aegris
    Munere concessae divum.

  “Sed qui proximi sunt aestivo circulo, ipsi sunt Aethiopes nimio
  calore perusti.” _De Natura Rerum_, ch. x.

[Illustration: FIG. 1]

The explanation of the passage and of the figure which illustrates it
seems to be that Isidore accepted the terminology of the spherical
earth from Hyginus[62] without taking the time to understand it—if
indeed he had the ability to do so—and applied it without compunction
to the flat earth. He evidently thought that _zona_ and _circulus_
were interchangeable terms,[63] and his “circles” did not run around
the circumference of a spherical earth, but lay flat on a flat earth,
where they filled with sufficient completeness the _orbis terrae_
or circle of the land.[64] The adjustment of the two conflicting
theories was extremely crude, since it involved placing the arctic
and antarctic circles side by side, and the two temperate circles one
in the east and one in the west.

  [62] The two passages in which Isidore states the theory of
  the zones correctly are from Hyginus, _Poeticon Astronomicon_
  (_Mythographi Latini_, ed. Muncker, Amsterdam, 1691). _Cf._ p.

  [63] For a similar confusion of _sphaera_ and _circulus_ see
  Appendix I.

  [64] That this was Isidore’s conception of the land surface is
  evident from many passages (_e.g._, see p. 244) and is made
  certain from his map (p. 5). This map is found in an old edition
  of the _Etymologies_ (_Libri Etymologiarum ... et de Summo Bono
  Libri III_, Venetiis, 1483) in the library of Union Theological

By such a blunder as this may be measured the stagnation of the
secular thought of the time. Of Greek science only remnants were in
existence, and these were regarded with indifference. Writers like
Isidore might use them, but they did not hesitate to mangle and
distort them. Moreover they were given only second place even in the
science of the day; the first place was held by the notions of the
natural world expressed in the Scriptures. Each one of these, no
matter how primitive or how figurative, had to be taken seriously
into account and given its proper weight in building up the general
scheme. In this intellectual activity Isidore is more at home than
when he is handling the ideas of the pagans, as may be perceived
from his discussion of the shape of the firmament: “As to its shape,
whether it covers the earth from above like a plate, or like an
egg-shell shuts the whole creation in on every side, thinkers take
opposite views. For the mention the Psalmist makes of this when
he says: _Extendas coelum sicut pellem_,[65] does not conflict
with either opinion, since when his own skin covers any animal, it
envelopes equally every part all around, and when it is removed from
the flesh and stretched out, there is no doubt that it can form a
chamber either rectangular or curved.”[66]

  [65] _Cf. Psalms_, 104, 2.

  [66] _De Ordine Creaturarum Liber_, 4, 1–2.

The vastness of the physical universe is an idea not presented in
Isidore’s writings. It was for his mind really a small universe, and
one limited sharply by definite boundaries both in time and space.
It had begun at the creation, its matter being constituted at that
time out of nothing, and it was to have an end as sharply marked. It
extended from the earth to the sphere of the heavens which revolved
about the earth, and what was beyond scarcely appears even as a
question. It was a universe in which high winds might, and sometimes
did, dislodge particles from the fiery heavens;[67] and in which the
sun approached so close to some of the inhabitants of the earth as to
scorch them.[68] In truth, Isidore’s universe was reduced to rather
stifling proportions.

  [67] 3, 71, 3.

  [68] _De Natura Rerum_, ch. 10.

A fundamental part of Isidore’s world-philosophy was his view of the
constitution of matter. This is closely bound up with his conception
of the form of the universe, and it is also the most important of his
ideas in the field of natural science.

He believed in the existence of the four elements, earth, air, fire,
and water,[69] and that they were the visible manifestations of one
underlying matter.[70] They were not mutually exclusive but “all
elements existed in all”, and it was possible for one element to be
transmuted into another. Their properties were not invariable, but
as a rule fire is spoken of as hot and dry; air, hot and wet; water,
wet and cold; earth, cold and dry. It will be observed that each
successive pair of elements had a common quality: thus fire and air
shared the quality of ‘hot’; air and water, that of ‘wet’; water
and earth, that of ‘cold’; earth and fire, that of ‘dry’. It was
by the aid of these common qualities, which served as means, that
the elements could be more easily thought of as passing into each

  [69] For a clear account of the theory of the four elements
  in medieval thought see _Les Quatre Elements_, J. Leminne in
  _Mémoires couronées par l’Académie Royale de Belgique_, v. 65,
  Bruxelles, 1903.

  [70] _Etym._, 13, 3. _Cf. D. N. R._, 11.

  [71] The theory of atoms is also stated by Isidore. See p. 235.
  It is not used, however, and is not fully stated. The part played
  in the theory by atoms of different sizes is not mentioned, and
  although “the void” is mentioned, its importance is not brought

It should be remarked that the general idea is the same as that of
modern chemistry in so far as it assumes that there are elements and
attributes properties to them. The difference is that the modern
chemist insists that the properties shall be fixed for each element,
while Isidore has no consciousness of such a necessity. For instance,
in a chapter of _De Natura Rerum_ he attributes two separate sets
of properties to the four elements, without realizing at all the
confusion of such a procedure. Again, from the point of view of the
best ancient conception of the four elements, Isidore is equally at
fault. For Aristotle the names given to them had been merely labels.
He perceived in the natural world two significant sets of opposing
qualities, namely, hot and cold, wet and dry. These sets of opposing
qualities interpenetrated one another: the result was four possible
combinations, namely, hot and dry, hot and wet, cold and wet, cold
and dry. His elements designated merely these combinations and were
nothing more than conventional names for them. Isidore, however, took
the names of the elements in a literal sense.[72] The label itself
had become important, while what stood behind it and gave it its
value was regarded as almost meaningless. What has happened here is
typical of the whole development of ancient thought down to Isidore’s

  [72] See Art. “Chemistry,” _Encyclopedia Britannica_, 11th

Of Aristotle’s conception of a fifth element, the _quinta essentia_,
or ether, superior to the others and permeating them, Isidore shows
merely a trace. He says in one passage that “ether is the place
where the stars are, and it signifies that fire which is separated on
high from all the universe”.[73] He offers also another definition in
which he confuses three of the elements of Aristotle: “Ether is the
upper, fiery air”.[74]

  [73] _Etym._, 13, 5, 1.

  [74] _Diff._, 1, 82.

The theory of the four elements, as has been already indicated, has
a cosmological bearing. In the universe at large the elements were
thought of as tending to arrange themselves in strata according to
weight. Isidore says it is proved “that earth is the heaviest of all
things created; and therefore, they say, it holds the lowest place in
the creation, because by nature nothing but itself can support it.
And we perceive that water is heavier than air in proportion as it is
lighter than earth.... Fire, too, is apprehended to be in its nature
above air, which is easily proved even in the case of fire that burns
in earthy substance, since as soon as it is kindled, it directs its
flame toward the upper spaces which are above the air, where there is
an abundance of it, and where it has its place.”[75]

  [75] _De Ordine Creat. Liber_, 4, 5–6. _Cf. D. N. R._, 11. The
  problem of “the waters above the firmament,” which occupied the
  minds of the church fathers so much, and which is at variance
  with the cosmological side of the theory of the four elements,
  Isidore seems inclined to settle by regarding it as a miracle.
  _Cf. D. N. R._, 14.

Thus the physical universe consists of the four kinds of matter,
stratified according to the principle of weight. The notion was
one in frequent use,[76] and it was brought into relation with
animate existence by assigning to each of the four strata a peculiar
population. Thus the fiery heavens were occupied by angels; the air,
by birds and demons; the water, by fishes; the earth, by man and
other animals.[77]

  [76] In the _De Natura Rerum_ and the _De Ordine Creaturarum_, as
  well as in Books XIII-XIV of the _Etymologies_, Isidore follows
  the order of the four elements in describing the universe. His
  fidelity to this order, as well as the variations of emphasis and
  of minor treatment which he introduced into it, are of interest.
  These may be exhibited in parallel form as follows:

                _Etymologies_          _De Natura          _De Ordine
             _Books xiii and xiv_         Rerum_           Creaturarum_

               xiii, chaps. 4–6        chaps. 9–27            4–6

  Fire       Astronomy             Astronomy, fuller   Astronomy, briefer,
    (the                                                 with an account of
    heavens)                                             the angels, the
                                                         inhabitants of the
                                                         element of fire

                  xiii, 7–12             28–39                7–8

  Air        The atmosphere and    The same, fuller    The same, briefer,
               meteorological                            with an account of
               phenomena                                 demons, the
                                                         inhabitants of
                                                         the air

                  xiii, 12–22            40–44                 9

  Water      A description of      The same in very    The same, briefer,
               water with a          much abbreviated    without the
               geography             form                geography
               of the water
               surface of the

                   xiv, 1–9              45–48               10–15

  Earth      A description of the  The same in very    The same, briefer than
               dry land with a       much abbreviated    in _De Natura Rerum_,
               geography of the      form                with an account
               land surface of                           of men as the
               the earth                                 inhabitants of this
                                                         element, their
                                                         nature and future

  This table indicates the great stress Isidore laid upon the
  cosmological side of the theory of the four elements, as well
  as his tendency to use his large general ideas in relating the
  individual branches of knowledge. Here astronomy, meteorology,
  and geography are thus grouped together, and angelology is put
  into relation with astronomy and demonology with meteorology.

  [77] _Etym._, 13, 3, 3, and 8, 11, 17.

The theory of the four elements was fertile in every branch of the
natural science of medieval times. Isidore uses it, for example, to
explain the physical constitution of man:

    Man’s body is divided among the four elements. For he has
    in him something of fire, of air, of water, and of earth.
    There is the quality of earth in the flesh, of moisture
    in the blood, of air in the breath, of fire in the vital
    heat. Moreover, the four-fold division of the human body
    indicates the four elements. For the head is related to the
    heavens, and in it are two eyes, as it were the luminaries
    of the sun and moon. The breast is akin to the air, because
    the breathings are emitted from it as the breath of the
    winds from the air. The belly is likened to the sea,
    because of the collection of all the humors, the gathering
    of the waters as it were. The feet, finally, are compared
    to the earth, because they are dry like the earth. Further,
    the mind is placed in the citadel of the head like God
    in the heavens, to look upon and govern all from a high

  [78] _Diff._, 2, 17, 48.

In another passage Isidore tells us that fire has its seat in the
liver, and that “it flies thence up to the head as if to the heavens
of our body. From this fire the rays of the eyes flash, and from the
middle of it, as from a center, narrow passages lead not only to the
eyes but to the other senses”.[79]

  [79] _Diff._, 2, 17, 67.

Naturally the four elements play a great part in medicine. They are
related to the four humors, blood, yellow bile, black bile, and
phlegm. “Each humor imitates its element; blood, air;[80] yellow
bile, fire; black bile, earth; phlegm, water. Health depends on the
proper blending of these humors.”[81] It appears to have been the
belief of the time that the humors possessed each the same qualities
as the corresponding element. Medical reasoning might confine itself
to the four humors or it might go back of them to the four elements,
as in the explanation of vertigo, where the diagnosis indicates,
apparently, the transmutation of one element into another. Isidore
says: “The _arteriae_ [air passages] and veins produce a windiness in
man’s head from a resolving of moisture, and make a whirling in his
eyes whence it is called vertigo”.[82]

  [80] Here blood and the element, air, are related; the passage
  quoted in the preceding paragraph shows a similar relation
  between blood and the element water. Such inconsistencies are
  extremely common.

  [81] _Etym._, 4. 5.

  [82] _Etym._, 4, 7, 4.

That notions of such a loose, semi-philosophical nature should
survive while the solid empirical content of medical science faded
away, is characteristic of the decline of thought which culminated
in the dark ages. The science of medicine had cut itself loose from
concrete things, and attached itself almost exclusively to the vague
philosophical conceptions from which even the best Greek thinkers had
not been able to free it.

The phenomena of meteorology, also, were explained largely by the
four elements. The upper air was believed to be akin to the fire
above it, and was therefore calm and cloudless; while the lower air
was supposed to be cloudy and disturbed by storms because of its
proximity to water, the next element below it in the series.[83]
Further, the belief in the possibility of the transmutation of
elements was of use here. Air, for example, might be transmuted
into water, or water into air.[84] As Isidore puts it: “[air]
being contracted, makes clouds; being thickened, rain; when the
clouds freeze, snow; when thick clouds freeze in a more disordered
way, hail; being spread abroad, it causes fine weather, for it is
well-known that thick air is a cloud, and a rarified and spread-out
cloud is air.”[85]

  [83] _Etym._, 13, 7, 1.

  [84] _Etym._, 13, 3.

  [85] _Etym._, 13, 7. Almost side by side with this explanation of
  rain is another which says that rains “arise from an exhalation
  from land and sea, which being carried aloft falls in drops on
  the lands, being acted upon by the sun’s heat, or condensed by
  strong winds,” 13, 10, 2. Lightning is explained as caused by the
  collision of clouds (13, 9, 1); thunder, by their bursting (13,
  8); the rainbow, by the sun shining into a hollow cloud (13, 10,

[Illustration: FIG. 2]

The most remote fields are invaded by the four elements. It is
by reference to them that the seasons are explained. Here use is
made rather of their properties than of the elements themselves.
“The spring is composed of moisture and heat; the summer, of fire
and dryness; the autumn, of dryness and cold; the winter, of cold
and moisture.”[86] From this the transition is easy to another
far-fetched application of the theory. The four quarters of the
universe, East, West, North, and South, are connected with the four
seasons, and thus with the four elements. This conception seemed to
Isidore so important that he introduced a figure to illustrate it.
(_Fig. II._)

  [86] _D. N. R._, 7, 4. _Cf. Etym._, 5, 35, 1.

[Illustration: FIG. 3]

The old notion that man is a microcosm or parallel of the universe
on a small scale, was familiar to Isidore. As has been shown, he
believed that man was composed of the same four elements as the
universe, and that they were distributed in him in much the same way
as in it. It was going only a step further for him to declare that
“all things are contained in man, and in him exists the nature of all
things”;[87] after which it was easy “to place man in communion with
the fabric of the universe”[88] by means of a figure. (_Fig. III._)

  [87] _Sent._, 1, 11, 1.

  [88] “Mundus est universitas omnis, quae constat ex coelo
  et terra.... Secundum mysticum sensum, mundus competenter
  homo significatur, quia sicut ille ex quatuor concretus est
  elementis, ita et iste constat quatuor humoribus uno temperamento
  commistis. Unde et veteres hominem in communionem fabricae
  mundi constituerunt. Siquidem Graece mundus κόσμος, homo autem
  μικρόκοσμος, id est minor mundus, est appellatus.” _D. N. R._, 9,
  2, and 3. _Cf._ 11, 3.

The idea of the parallelism of man and the universe, when thus
literally conceived, was a fruitful one. Man could be explained by
the universe. And the process could be reversed and the universe
also explained by man, since man may be observed in his entirety and
his life history may be easily followed, while that of the universe
may not. Isidore doubtless took this view, for he says: “The plan of
the universe is to be inquired into according to man alone. For just
as man passes to his end through definite ages, so too the universe
is passing away during this prolonged time, since both man and the
universe decay after they reach their growth.”[89] The division of
the life of the universe, for example, into six definite ages, which
he incorporated into his chronology, was given greater certainty and
meaning from the similar division of man’s life into six ages.

  [89] _Sentent._, 1, 8, 1–2.

The wide scope assigned by Isidore to the action of the four
elements—which scope includes the immaterial as well as the
material—is completely alien to the modern way of thinking; as is,
also, the bringing of the universe, the year, and man, into so
intimate and specific a connection. Still more difficult is it for us
to grasp such an idea as that the ounce “is reckoned a lawful weight
because the number of its scruples measures the hours of the day
and night”;[90] or that “the Hebrews use twenty-two letters of the
alphabet, following the [number of] books in the Old Testament”.[91]
And the climax is reached when he expresses the notion that a man
bursts into tears as soon as he casts himself down on his knees,
because the knees and the eyes are close together in the womb.[92]

  [90] _Etym._, 16, 25, 19.

  [91] _Etym._, 1, 3, 4. _Cf._ 6, 1, 3.

  [92] _Etym._, 11, 1, 109. _Cf. Diff._, 2, 17, 56 and 71.

Although these examples of Isidore’s thinking afford excellent
proof of his incoherence and lack of logical consecutiveness,
their explanation goes deeper. Like all primitive thinkers, those
of medieval times were firmly convinced of the solidarity of the
universe; they felt its unity much more strongly than they did its
multiplicity; what we regard as separate kinds of phenomena and
separate ways of viewing the universe they regarded as of necessity
closely inter-related. There were no categories of thought that
were for them mutually exclusive; they carried their ideas without
hesitation from the material into the immaterial, and from the
natural into the supernatural. No conception established in one
sphere seemed impertinent in any other. It was this state of mind
that enabled the medieval thinker to take such erratic leaps from one
sphere of thought to another, without any feeling of uncertainty or
any fear of getting lost.[93]

  [93] While this mode of viewing the universe had its origin
  in pagan antiquity, and even earlier, its scope was greatly
  enlarged by Christian thinkers. Living in a world whose general
  constitution and purpose they thought they thoroughly understood,
  they were confident that even in its smallest details there could
  be perceived a conscious adaptation to the whole. This idea they
  often carried so far as seemingly to leave no place for chance
  or convention. Each trifling matter was given a meaning that was
  greater than itself.

Perhaps nothing illustrates more clearly the erratic thinking to
which this idea of the solidarity of the universe led, than the way
in which Isidore reasons about number. To his mind the fact, for
instance, that “God in the beginning made twenty-two works” explains
why there are twenty-two sextarii in the bushel; and that “there
were twenty-two generations from Adam to Jacob, and twenty-two books
of the Old Testament as far as Esther, and twenty-two letters of
the alphabet out of which the divine law is composed”,[94] were
additional explanations for the same thing. A like connection is
found in his statement that “the pound is counted a kind of perfect
weight because it is made up of as many ounces as the year has

  [94] _Etym._, 16, 26, 10.

  [95] _Etym._, 16, 25, 20.

Isidore’s conceptions in regard to number, indeed, deserve to be
ranked closely after the theory of the four elements as affording
to him “paths of intelligence” through the universe, material and
immaterial. Both in the world at large and in the microcosm of man
the harmony of “musical numbers” is an essential;[96] and number is
also an essential factor in every part and aspect of the universe.
“Take number from all things,” he says, “and all things perish.”[97]
However, his idea of the importance of number in the world is equaled
only by the vagueness with which he conceived its operations as a
working principle. Here he takes absolute leave of the logic which,
in his account of the four elements, he had already so often left
behind. The best he could do, in describing the actual operation of
this principle, was to make lists of instances in which the same
number occurred, and no matter how unrelated the spheres of thought
thus connected, to assume their close interrelation and explanation
of one another.

  [96] _Etym._, 3, 23, 2.

  [97] _Etym._, 3, 4, 3.

It is now clear that according to Isidore’s way of thinking, a fact
belonging to one set of phenomena might be caused or explained by
something totally different in another sphere. This being so, it was
inevitable that there should be an effort to pass from the known to
the unknown along the path thus suggested. When we reflect that, for
the medieval thinker, there were three kinds of knowledge—namely,
knowledge of the material, the moral, and the spiritual—and that
they were in an ascending scale of value, it will appear equally
inevitable that this effort to pass from the known to the unknown
should be mainly an effort to pass from the material and obvious to
the intangible and unseen, though more real, spiritual world. In this
consideration we have the chief explanation of medieval allegory.[98]

  [98] The explanation suggested accounts for the prevalence of
  allegory in medieval times. Among the less comprehensive and
  not characteristically medieval causes for it must be reckoned
  the influence of the parables that are explained in the New
  Testament, the occasional grossness of Biblical characters and
  language which called for an interpretation that would remove
  offence and offer edification, the congenial activity which
  allegorizing offered to the pious mind, and, finally, the fact
  that by a clever use of allegorical interpretation some desired
  end might be obtained.

In Isidore we find that allegorical interpretation is a thing
of little spontaneity. The allegorizing of the Scriptures had
long before his time settled down into a system. In his _Certain
Allegories of the Holy Scriptures_ a list is given of the most
noted mystical interpretations of Scripture, a dry enumeration,
with now and then an interesting side-light upon the opinion of the
time. The extent to which the Scripture was subject to allegorizing
may be guessed from the fact that Isidore specifies that “the ten
commandments must be taken literally”.[99] Allegory is applied also
to the phenomena of nature. In _De Natura Rerum_ Isidore makes
a regular practice of first giving the explanation of natural
phenomena and following this with the “higher meaning”. Thus the
sun has Christ for its allegorical meaning; the stars, the saints;
thunder is “the rebuke from on high of the divine voice”, or it may
be “the loud preaching of the saints, which dins with loud clamor in
the ears of the faithful over all the circle of the lands”.[100] In
the _Etymologies_ this “higher meaning” of natural objects is rarely

  [99] Migne, _P. L._, 83, col. 303. “Inter haec igitur omnia
  decem praecepta solum ibi quod de Sabbato positum est figurate
  observandum praecipitur. Quam figuram nos intelligendam, non
  etiam per otium corporale celebrandam, suscipimus. Reliqua tamen
  ibi praecepta proprie praecepta sunt, quae sine ulla figurata
  significatione observantur. Nihil enim mystice significant,
  sed sic intelliguntur ut sonant. Et notandum quia sicut decem
  plagis percutiuntur Aegyptii, sic decem praeceptis conscribuntur
  tabulae, quibus regantur populi Dei.” The Scriptures were for
  Isidore _un vasto simbolismo_ (Cañal, _San Isidoro_, p. 51).

  [100] _D. N. R._, 29, 2.

The view held in the dark ages of the natural and the supernatural
and of their relative proportions in the outlook on life, was
precisely the reverse of that held by intelligent men in modern
times. For us the material universe has taken on the aspect of
order; within its limits phenomena seem to follow definite modes of
behavior, upon the evidence of which a body of scientific knowledge
has been built up. Indeed at times in certain branches of science
there has been danger of a dogmatism akin to, if the reverse of, that
which prevailed in medieval times with reference to the supernatural.
On the other hand, the certainty that once existed in regard to
the supernatural world has faded away; no means of investigating
it that commands confidence has been devised, and any idea held
in regard to it is believed to be void of truth if inconsistent
with the conclusions reached by science. In all these respects the
attitude of Isidore and his time is exactly opposite to ours. To
him the supernatural world was the demonstrable and ordered one.
Its phenomena, or what were supposed to be such, were accepted as
valid, while no importance was attached to evidence offered by the
senses as to the material. It may even be said that the supernatural
universe bulked far larger in the mind of the medieval thinker than
does the natural in that of the modern, and it was fortified by an
immeasurably stronger and more uncritical dogmatism.

It is evident, therefore, that if we compare the dogmatic world-view
of the medieval thinker with the more tentative one of the modern
scientist, allowance must be made for the fact that they take hold
of the universe at opposite ends. Their plans are so fundamentally
different that it is hard to express the meaning of one in terms of
the other.

Isidore’s method of apprehending the supernatural world can hardly
be called mysticism. With mysticism we associate intuition and
exalted feeling, and the examples that have been given of Isidore’s
thinking in terms of allegory and number, show that he thought of the
supernatural in the same prosaic and literal way as he did of the
natural; there was no break for him between them, nor was there any
change of intellectual atmosphere when he crossed the line. So the
higher sense at least of the term ‘mystic’ must be denied him. His
share in the mysticism of his age, which he accepted unquestioningly,
was not a positive one; he exhibits rather the negative side of
mysticism, the intellectual haziness, slothfulness and self-delusion
by which it was so often accompanied in medieval times.

Isidore believed that in point of time the supernatural preceded the
natural. He says that God “created all things out of nothing”,[101]
and, again, that “the matter from which the universe was formed
preceded the things created out of it not in time, but in origin, in
the same sense as sound precedes music”.[102] It is evident that he
regarded the material as an emanation from the spiritual. With such
an origin the material world was naturally subservient to spiritual
control, and miracles caused little wonder. They “are not contrary
to nature, because they are caused by the divine will, and the will
of the Creator is the nature of each created thing.... A miracle,
therefore, does not happen contrary to nature, but contrary to
nature as known.”[103] The supernatural thus not only preceded, but
dominated, the natural. Finally, the universe was to disappear at the
end of six ages, and all was to be reabsorbed in the supernatural.
The world of nature, then, was merely a passing incident in a greater
reality that contained it.

  [101] _De Natura Rerum_, 14, 2.

  [102] _Sent._, 1, 8, 6.

  [103] _Etym._, 11, 3, 1 and 2.

As in the universe at large, so in man the supernatural completely
overshadows the natural. The soul is all-important and theory in
regard to it is precise and dogmatic. “As to the soul,” Isidore says,
“the philosophers of this world have described with great uncertainty
what it is, what it is like, where it is, what form it has, and what
its power is. Some have said it is fire; others, blood; others that
it is incorporeal and has no shape. A number have believed with rash
impiety that it is a part of the divine nature. But we say that it is
not fire nor blood, but that it is incorporeal, capable of feeling
and of change; without weight, shape, or color. And we say that the
soul is not a part, but a creature of God, and that it is not of the
substance of God, or of any underlying matter of the elements, but
was created out of nothing.”[104] He says further, that the soul “has
a beginning but cannot have an end”.[105] All the activities by which
life is manifested are considered as parts or functions of the soul.
Dum contemplatur, spiritus est; dum sentit, sensus est; dum sapit,
animus est; dum intelligit, mens est; dum discernit, ratio est; dum
consentit, voluntas est; dum recordatur, memoria est; et dum membra
vegetat, anima est.[106]

  [104] _Diff._, 2, 100.

  [105] _Diff._, 2, 92.

  [106] _Diff._, 2, 97.

In contrast with the soul the body scarcely deserves to be spoken
of except with disparagement. Its goods are to be unhesitatingly
sacrificed to those of the supernatural element in man, or rather,
they are not regarded as goods at all. “It is advantageous,” Isidore
says, “for those who are well and strong to become infirm, lest
through the vigor of their health they be defiled by illicit passions
and the desire for luxury”.[107] The present life of the body has no
value; it is brief and wretched. “Holy men desire to spurn the world
and devote the activity of their minds to things above, in order to
convey themselves back to the place from which they have come, and
withdraw from the place into which they have been cast.”[108] Thus
philosophy of the supernatural culminated in asceticism.

  [107] _Sentent._, 3, 3, 5.

  [108] _Sentent._, 3, 16, 5.

Isidore’s supernatural world has its inhabitants, and in dealing with
these he has a theology, an angelology, and a demonology; in all of
which fields his ideas are more precise and clear-cut than where he
speaks of the material world.

His theology is of little interest; it consists in the orthodox view
of the time, accepted without a shadow of criticism. He says, “We
are not permitted to form any belief of our own will, or to choose
a belief that someone else has accepted of his own. We have God’s
apostles as authorities, who did not themselves choose anything of
what they should believe, but they faithfully transmitted to the
nations the teaching received from Christ. And so even if an angel
from heaven shall preach otherwise, let him be anathema”.[109]

  [109] _Etym._, 8, 3, 2–3.

The minor inhabitants of Isidore’s supernatural world, the angels and
demons, offer a more practical interest. They represent the stage
of development at which the old polytheism of the Jews had adjusted
itself to monotheism, but had by no means faded out of existence.
Indeed, it is plain that at this time the immediate concern of the
ordinary man was with these spirits, good and bad; while between man
and God there were, for the most part, only mediate relations.

The number of these spirits was very great; each place had its angel,
as had each man,—and, presumably, a demon as well. The seraphim,
the highest order in the hierarchy of angels, were a multitude in
themselves. We may surmise that for Isidore, as for Jerome, the
entire human population of the world was as nothing compared with the
entire population of spirits.[110]

  [110] Jerome, _In Isaiam_, Lib. xi, ch. 40. “Ita universa gentium
  multitudo supernis ministeriis et angelorum multitudini comparata
  pro nihilo ducitur.” _Cf. Etym._, 7, 5, 19.

The good angels are marshalled in a hierarchy of nine orders, to
which they were assigned in order of merit at the beginning of the
world, and to each of these a specified task is given. For example,
the order named virtues (_virtutes_) has charge of miracles; and the
business of the seraphim is “to veil the face and feet of God”.[111]
The nature of the angels is described succinctly in a paragraph of
the _Differentiae_:

  [111] _Etym._, 7, 5, 24.

    Angels are of spiritual substance; they were created before
    all creatures and made subject to change by nature, but
    were rendered changeless by the contemplation of God.
    They are not subject to passion, they possess reason, are
    immortal, perpetual in blessedness, with no anxiety for
    their felicity, and with foreknowledge of the future. They
    govern the world according to command; they take bodies
    from the upper air;[112] they dwell in the heavens.[113]

  [112] For appearance to man. _Cf._ Angeli corpora in quibus
  hominibus apparent, de superno aere sumunt. _Sentent._, 1, 10, 19.

  [113] _Diff._, 2, 41.

The special virtue of the good angels is subjection to God. “There is
no greater iniquity for them than to wish to glory not in God but in
themselves”.[114] The gaps in their ranks caused by the fall of the
bad angels were to be filled from the number of the elect.[115]

  [114] _Sentent._, 1, 10, 16.

  [115] _Sentent._, 1, 10, 13.

The demons, or bad angels, were created along with the good; indeed
the devil, their leader, was first created of all the angels. It
was “before the time of the visible universe” that their fall took
place; at that time they lost “all the good of their natures” and all
possibility of pardon.[116] They are the “enemies of mankind” and
are “sent on the service of vengeance”. The only restraint on their
malignity is that they are obliged to obey God. Isidore sums up their
activities in a fear-inspiring way:

  [116] _De Ord. Creat._, 8, 7–10.

    They unsettle the senses, stir low passions, disorder
    life, cause alarms in sleep, bring diseases, fill the mind
    with terror, distort the limbs, control the way in which
    lots are cast, make a pretence at oracles by their tricks,
    arouse the passion of love, create the heat of cupidity,
    lurk in consecrated images; when invoked they appear; they
    tell lies that resemble the truth; they take on different
    forms, and sometimes appear in the likeness of angels.[117]

  [117] _Diff._, 2, 41.

Their capacity for evil tasks is increased by their superior
intelligence, which retains “the keen perception of the angelic
creation”.[118] Their power of foreknowledge, and, in addition,
the duration of their experience, make the struggle against them
a hopeless one for man. They are also incredibly persistent: “The
devil never rests from his attack on the just man”, who is “sometimes
reduced to straits of despair”.[119]

  [118] _Sentent._, 1, 10, 17.

  [119] _Sentent._, 3, 5, 35–36.

It is evident that these demons were an all-pervading factor in the
life of the time. They were conceived of as entering the mind, both
waking and sleeping, and furnishing it with the very material for
thought and action. The Christian, by the aid of the good angels,
was alone able to defeat them, and, moreover, he alone realized the
necessity of combating them. The pagans of the pre-Christian era, on
the other hand, were believed to have been willing victims. The trail
of demonic influence could be found in every department of their life
and thought, especially in their religion, which was very close to
demon worship, and in their philosophy and poetry.[120]

  [120] See pp. 199–206.

It is of interest to notice in detail Isidore’s scale of values for
secular learning, as shown in opinions expressed throughout his
works. How did the fields of thought that had filled the horizon of
the thinker of classical times, appear in the perspective of the dark

Philosophy,[121] in the first place, no longer stands for any active
principle; all its old aspect of metaphysical and ethical inquiry
has been lost. It is merely a container in which minor subjects
are arranged in a comprehensive plan, and the only interest which
it presents, as philosophy, is to be found in the question of what
minor subjects are included and how they are grouped. Here Isidore is
more inconsistent than usual. He gives three plans of the field of
knowledge, all substantially differing from one another in details
and all strikingly different from his own marshaling of all knowledge
in the _Etymologies_. The only reflection of value suggested by
the treatment of philosophy in Isidore’s works is that in being
de-secularized it has completely lost its essential content. It can,
therefore, no longer be a source of offence to any Christian.

  [121] Four definitions are given, 2, 24, 3 and 9. _Cf._ 8, 6, 1;
  _Diff._, 2, 149. See pp. 116–119. For the marshaling of the minor
  subjects under philosophy see Appendix II.

The pagan philosophy, however, was a different thing. It was known
to have been concerned with the same problems as was Christian
theology. It had thus a certain right to exist and a certain value,
but this terminated with the appearance of Christianity. As Isidore
puts it, “the philosophers of this world certainly knew God, but the
humility of Christ displeased them and they went astray”; “they fell
in with wicked angels and the devil became their mediator for death
as Christ became ours for life”.[122] After Christian theology had
settled beyond the shadow of a doubt the problems that had occupied
the pagan philosophers, these latter could cause only trouble. Pagan
philosophy now stood only for a perversion of the wisdom which was
found in its true form in the books of the Scriptural canon and the
works of the church Fathers. Its “errors” were believed to be the
source of the heresies in the church. “The same material is used and
the same errors are embraced over and over again by philosophers and

  [122] _Sentent._, 1, 17, 1–4.

  [123] _Etym._, 8, 6, 23. In books VII and VIII of the
  _Etymologies_, where the subjects taken up appear to be treated
  in the order of merit, the place of the pagan philosophers in
  the list is an instructive one. The list is as follows: God,
  the persons of the Trinity, angels, patriarchs, prophets and
  martyrs, the clergy, the faithful, heretics, pagan philosophers,
  poets, sibyls, magi, the heathen, and heathen gods, who are the
  equivalent of demons. See p. 196, note.

Isidore’s idea of the function of poetry is a peculiar one. “It is
the business of the poet,” he says, “to take veritable occurrences
and gracefully change and transform them to other appearances by a
figurative and indirect mode of speech”.[124] From this it might
be inferred that he thought that the use of poetry was to furnish
material for allegorical interpretation. He ranks the poets of
pagan antiquity below the philosophers, and brings serious charges
against them. He asserts that they have “disregarded the proper
meanings of words under the compulsion of metre” and have thus been
guilty of introducing a great amount of confusion into thought
and language.[125] His most vigorous indictment of pagan poetry,
however, is that it had its origin in the pagan religions, which he
identifies with demon worship. He quotes Suetonius to establish this
point: “When men ... first began to know themselves and their gods,
they used for themselves a modest way of living and only necessary
words, while for the worship of their gods they devised magnificence
in each”. This “magnificence” of speech is alleged to have been
poetry.[126] With such opinions, he naturally desired the ostracism
of poetry. “The Christian is forbidden to read their lies.”[127]

  [124] 8, 7, 10.

  [125] See p. 26.

  [126] 8, 7, 1.

  [127] _Sentent._, 3, 13, 1. It seems extremely probable that
  Isidore did not quote from the poets directly but merely
  appropriated along with other material the quotations contained
  in the sources which he consulted.

Toward pagan philosophy and poetry, then, Isidore’s attitude is
hostile, and it is very improbable that he ever wasted any time
on them. But in the field of secular knowledge apart from these
subjects he has, within limits, a use for the inheritance left by
pagan Rome. It is his chief claim to recognition that he was not
absolutely content with the de-secularized science that he found in
Ambrose, Jerome and Augustine, but had the independence to go behind
it and draw upon its original sources in Roman literature. The spirit
in which he did this, however, was not the spirit of revolt, but
apparently only a natural desire for more extended information. His
critical faculty did not warn him that in seeking this information
from pagan sources he was passing from one intellectual atmosphere
to another; his mind was too literal and plodding and dwelt too much
on details to notice when it was on dangerous ground. His resort
to pagan science was not always happy in its result; but the many
blunders which he made cannot affect the merit of his enterprise in
going beyond the circle of Christian writers; and it must be said
for his version of secular knowledge, as contained in his secular
writings, that, poor as it was, it was one without which the middle
ages would have been a great deal poorer.

As a matter of fact, Isidore did not leave the science of the Roman
Empire in a state much worse than that in which he found it. It had
been undergoing a process of decay for centuries. At their best the
Roman men of science had been unable even to appropriate the more
abstract parts of Greek science. They were governed throughout by a
short-sighted practicality, as when, for instance, in the case of the
mathematical sciences they tried to take over results without taking
the method of reaching or verifying them. In the natural sciences
their inferiority was only less marked. Here the absence of critical
method permitted the incorporation of many superstitious notions.
As has been pointed out, the Roman science was wholly a science of
authority, and the greatest scientist was the greatest accumulator
of previous authorities. Thus throughout its course in the Roman
world science had been beating a retreat. By Isidore’s time these
forces of short-sighted utilitarianism, the spirit of subservience to
authority, and superstition, had brought it to a state of inoffensive
feebleness such that it was more welcome to the Christian than was
either poetry or philosophy.

This Roman pseudo-science could not, however, hold an important
place in the thinking of the time: the fundamental conceptions that
prevailed forbade it. The material world held a low place, as we have
seen; on every side evidence can be found of an ascending scale of
values from the material through the moral to the spiritual. Upon
this idea is founded “the triple method of interpretation”[128] used
in the Scriptures and elsewhere, and with it is connected the triple
division of knowledge into natural science, ethics, and theology.
There was not only an ascending scale of value for the different
sorts of knowledge, but an ascending scale of validity. Spiritual
truth and moral truth transcended the truth of material facts, whose
stubbornness had been forgotten and had not yet been re-discovered.
Yet, with all this depreciation of the material, it in some measure
reasserted itself: as the literal meaning had to be grasped in the
Scriptures before the higher meaning could be educed, so the material
world had to be recognized before its higher meaning could be
ascertained. This was the basis for science in the philosophy of the
dark ages.

  [128] “Illud trimodum intelligentiae genus,” _Diff._, 2, 154.
  _Cf._ “Tripliciter autem scribitur, dum non solum historialiter
  vel mystice sed etiam moraliter quid in unum quodque gerere
  debeat edocetur.” _Contra Judaeos_, 2, 20. See also _De Ord.
  Creat._, 10, 4–7 and _Etym._, 6, 1, 11 (p. 186).

In this way Isidore’s pseudo-science was brought into harmony with
religion. Natural science was, indeed, concerned with the lowest
and faintest form of reality, namely, the material world; but even
material things had their spiritual implications, and because of
this were worthy of an orderly survey. The _De Natura Rerum_, in
which each term is explained first as it relates to the natural
world and then as to its higher meaning, shows how science played
the subordinate part just indicated. It is of great interest at this
point to notice that Isidore’s successor, Rabanus Maurus, in his
comprehensive encyclopedia _De Universo_, which follows Isidore’s
_Etymologies_ closely, adds, however, the higher meanings which
Isidore had left out in his work.[129] It is the importance of
natural science from this point of view that Isidore has in mind in a
passage in the _Sententiae_: “It does no harm to anyone if, because
of simplicity, he has an inadequate idea of the elements, provided
only he speaks the truth of God. For even though one may not be able
to discuss the incorporeal and the corporeal natures, an upright life
with faith makes him blessed.”[130]

  [129] _De Universo_ is published in Migne, _Patr. Lat._, 3.
  In the preface Rabanus says: “Much is set forth in this work
  concerning the natures of things and the meanings of words and
  also as to the mystical signification of things. Accordingly
  I have arranged my matter so that the reader may find the
  historical and mystical explanations of each thing set together
  (_continuatim positam_); and so may be able to satisfy his desire
  to know both significations.” Isidore’s _Etymologies_ is said to
  have been left unfinished (quamvis imperfectum ipse reliquerit.
  Braulio’s _Introduction_. See p. 25). The conjecture may be
  offered that the finishing of the work might have meant chiefly
  the insertion of “the higher meaning”.

  [130] _Sentent._, 2, 1, 14.

He is far, however, from expressing complete approval of pagan
science; the perversity of the pagan scientists forbids this. “The
philosophers of the world are highly praised for the measuring of
time, and the tracing of the course of the stars, and the analysis
of the elements. Still, they had this only from God. Flying proudly
through the air like birds, and plunging into the deep sea like
fishes, and walking like dumb animals, they gained knowledge of the
earth, but they would not seek with all their minds to know their

  [131] _Sentent._, 1, 17, 2.

In judging the quality of Isidore’s science as science, we must
remember that he is separated from Pliny, his great predecessor in
the encyclopedic field, by nearly six centuries, and that those six
centuries form a period of continuous intellectual decline; and,
further, we must bear in mind the fact that Pliny himself sometimes
copied what he did not understand, and was so little of a scientist
as even to welcome the marvelous.[132] After this, what can be
expected from Isidore? That he wrote what he did write, at the time
he did, is in itself the astonishing fact. His work is the only
symptom of intellectual life in two centuries of Western European

  [132] Cuvier, _Histoire des Sciences Naturelles_, vol. i, pp.

Isidore’s view of the past was as simple and dogmatic as his
view of the universe at large; in fact it was conditioned by his
world-view. The acceptance of Christianity and the new scale of
values thus introduced had of necessity involved the projection of
the new interests into the past. The legendary background of the new
religion had accelerated the process. The past, as seen by writers
of the pagan civilization and as reflecting the interests of that
civilization, now became of no service, and, as a whole, was dropped.
The pagan histories were regarded as written by men whose point
of view was wholly false and mischievous, even though sometimes
their facts might be correct. They were approached by the Christian
re-adjusters of history in much the same spirit as that in which
the modern historian goes to the medieval chronicle, though with an
opposite aim: the modern historian is after what is social and human,
while Augustine and Orosius were after illustrations of the ways of
God to man.[133]

  [133] _Cf._ Isidore’s attitude: “The histories of the gentiles do
  no harm where they tell of what is profitable,” 1, 41, 1. See p.

By Isidore’s time, then, the Christian view of the past had
become completely de-secularized. Biblical tradition dominated
all historical thinking. On the six days of creation was centered
special attention. This point, at which the natural emanated from
the supernatural, fascinated the medieval thinker as the doctrine
of evolution does the modern. It formed the touch-stone by the aid
of which was interpreted not only the material world,[134] but also
the course of history. In parallelism with the six days and the six
periods in man’s life, the history of the world was divided with
absolute definiteness into six ages. Isidore himself was living in
the sixth and last of these, “the residue of which was known to God
alone”.[135] His view of the past had no perspective; or rather, it
had an inverted perspective, because the increasing confusion of
every department of the sublunar world led him to dwell in preference
upon the earlier time when the course of history was confined to the
pure stream of Hebrew tradition, when the supernatural manifested
itself more frequently, and when even the names of personages were
charged with prophetic meaning.

  [134] See p. 28 and note.

  [135] 5, 38, 5; 5, 39.

In this inverted perspective the history of the Hebrews naturally
formed a prominent part. The Hebrew people of antiquity and their
language, which is traced back to Adam, were _the_ original race
and language. It was only “at the building of the tower after the
flood that the diversity of languages arose”. On this occasion not
only did the different languages of later history appear, but at
the same time and as a result, the different races of mankind were
constituted.[136] All languages, then, and all races, are variants
of the Hebrew type. Isidore believed that even in his time some of
the nations could be traced back and identified with the original
Hebrew stock by etymologizing on their names. Others, however, had
cast aside their old names and taken others, “either from kings or
countries or customs or other causes”, and the genealogy of these he
believed to be irretrievably lost.[137]

  [136] 9, 1, 1.

  [137] 9, 2, 132.



The question of perpetuating the pagan range of educational subjects
presented a great difficulty to the leaders of patristic and early
medieval thought, so great a difficulty that some of them were almost
more ready to discard education than to try to separate it from its
heathen entanglements. In both the Greek and Roman worlds formal
education had been late in developing; as a consequence its tone was
wholly secular. Its object was to put the youth of the ruling classes
in touch with the culture and life of the time. The subjects found
most serviceable for study were literature, rhetoric, and philosophy.
The sciences known to the ancients gradually gained a foot-hold also,
and instruction began to be given in a number of them, including
geometry, music, arithmetic, astronomy, medicine, and architecture.
Finally, the subject-matter of education settled down to the
stereotyped list of seven subjects, known as “the seven liberal
arts”, from which there was apparently little deviation in later
Roman and medieval times.[138] This formal education of the Romans
was so well established and enjoyed such prestige that in spite of
Christian hostility it continued to flourish until the increasing
disorganization of society in the fifth and sixth centuries made the
continuance of secular schools impossible.

  [138] The basis on which the canon of the seven liberal arts
  was formed is indicated by a passage in Martianus Capella, who
  makes Apollo say in regard to the exclusion of medicine and
  architecture from it that “their attention and skill is given to
  mortal and earthly things, and they have nothing in common with
  the ether and the gods; it is not unseemly to reject them with
  loathing.” (Ed. Eyssenhardt, IV, 13). The Christian Isidore held
  much the same notion as the pagan Capella. He believed that the
  order of the seven liberal arts terminating in astronomy was one
  whose object was “to free souls entangled by secular wisdom from
  earthly matters and set them at meditation upon the things on
  high” (3, 71, 41). See also pp. 65, 77. It is plain enough that
  education in both the pagan and Christian spheres was strongly
  affected by the mystical tendency of the time, and it is not too
  much to say that the seven liberal arts stand not so much for the
  impracticality of a “gentleman’s” education as for that desirable
  in the education of a mystic.

Upon their disappearance the whole burden of maintaining education
fell upon the church. In the church organization the effective
bodies for such an activity were the groups of clergy attached to
cathedrals and to monasteries. There was no system established
by a central authority and enforced by public opinion to guide
the efforts made by these bodies, and it is plain that in each
case educational facilities for the training of priests would be
provided in accordance with the intelligence and character of the
different bishops and abbots. Where the ecclesiastical authorities
were ignorant or careless, the training of the priest or monk must
have degenerated to a sort of apprenticeship. The evidence which we
possess of the illiteracy[139] of the clergy would lead us to infer
that in the dark ages education, in any sense worthy of the name, was
sporadic, the product of the happy coincidence of opportunity and an
ecclesiastic intelligent enough to realize it.[140]

  [139] _Cf._ Cañal, _San Isidoro_ (Sevilla, 1897), p. 23.

  [140] _Cf._ Roger, _L’Enseignement des lettres classiques
  d’Ausone à Alcuin_ (Paris, 1905), pp. 126–129.

The first comprehensive effort[141] to deal with the educational
situation from the Christian standpoint was made by Cassiodorus
and was designed expressly to meet the needs of the inmates of a
monastery in Southern Italy. Naturally he put forth his main endeavor
on the side of what may be called theology, but, in addition, he felt
impelled to give very brief and vague accounts of the seven liberal
arts, which he was reluctantly forced to consider as an indispensable
preparation for the former study.[142]

  [141] Of Augustine’s treatises on grammar, dialectic, rhetoric,
  geometry, arithmetic, and music, all but that on music were
  lost within a very short time. They could have had but little
  influence. _Cf. Retract._, 1, c. 6, and Teuffel and Schwabe,
  _History of Roman Literature_, Sect. 440, 7.

  [142] M. Aurelii Cassiodori, _De Institutione Divinarum
  Litterarum_ and _De Artibus ac Disciplinis Liberalium
  Litterarum_. In Migne, _P. L._, vol. 70.

Cassiodorus’ attitude toward these preliminary studies is a curious
one. He believed that their subject-matter was to be found scattered
through the Scriptures and that “the teachers of secular learning”
had gathered together the disjointed bits of information and
organized them into the seven liberal arts. As a consequence he
thought that a knowledge of these arts was of assistance when any
passage relating to them was met in the reading of the Scriptures.
In spite of this, however, it seems to have been his opinion that
the less use made of them the better, and that, if ignorance of the
liberal arts was a fault, it was certainly one of a minor character
and had the advantage of not endangering the Christian’s faith.[143]
With Cassiodorus the problem of education was little more than that
of securing a training sufficient to enable one to read and study
the Scriptures. The speculation cannot be avoided as to whether,
if Christianity had depended, like Druidism, on an oral tradition,
Cassiodorus might not have been willing to dispense with education

  [143] Cassiodorus, _De Institutione Divinarum Litterarum_,
  Migne, _P. L._, 70, 1108 and 1141. In the former of these
  passages Cassiodorus discusses also the question whether there
  should be absolute reliance on divine aid in the interpretation
  of the Scriptures—in which connection he cites miraculous
  interpretations by illiterate persons—or “whether it is better
  to continue in the use of the ordinary learning.” He decides on
  the whole for the latter course. The fact that Cassiodorus wrote
  an account of the seven liberal arts shows perhaps that he was
  more benighted in his theory than in his practice. Gregory the
  Great, however, was more consistent and thorough-going. He stands
  as the typical example of extreme illiberality in the history
  of European education. His position is shown in the notorious
  letter addressed to the Bishop of Vienne: “A report has reached
  us which we cannot mention without a blush, that thou expoundest
  grammar to certain friends; whereat we are so offended and
  filled with scorn that our former opinion of thee is turned to
  mourning and sorrow.... If hereafter it be clearly established
  that the rumor which we have heard is false and that thou art not
  applying thyself to the idle vanities of secular learning (_nugis
  et secularibus litteris_), we shall render thanks to our God.”
  Gregory the Great, Ep. ix. 54. The translation is that given in
  R. Lane-Poole, _Medieval Thought_.

Isidore is the second writer to deal comprehensively with the
subject-matter of Christian education. Before giving an account,
however, of the way in which he met the problems that were presented
to him, it is necessary to glance at the educational situation as
it then existed in Spain. It appears from the enactments of the
councils of Toledo in the sixth and seventh centuries that the clergy
as a body were beginning to be concerned for the education of their
order.[144] An article of the council of 531 directs that as soon as
children destined for the secular clergy are placed under the control
of the bishop, “they ought to be educated in the house of the church
under the direction of the bishop by a master appointed for the
purpose”.[145] Another article[146] says that “those who receive such
an education” should not presume to leave their own church and go to
another “since it is not fair that a bishop should receive or claim
a pupil whom another bishop has freed from boorish stupidity and the
untrained state of infancy”. It is further directed that those who
were “ignorant of letters” should not become priests. An article
of the fourth council of Toledo in 633, at which Isidore probably
presided, orders that “whoever among the clergy are youths should
remain in one room of the atrium, in order that they may spend the
years of the lustful period of their lives not in indulgence but in
the discipline of the church, being put in charge of an older man of
the highest character as master of their instruction and witness of
their life”.[147] These passages all refer to cathedral schools, but
there is evidence equally good of the existence of similar schools in
the monasteries.[148] Such, then, were the practical conditions, as
far as known, which determined the educational activity of Isidore’s

  [144] The second council of Toledo (531) devoted especial
  attention to the subject of preparation for the priesthood. See
  Mansi, _Sacrorum Conciliorum Collectio_ (Florence, 1764), vol. 8
  (_Concilium Toletanum II_).

  [145] Mansi, vol. 8, p. 785.

  [146] Cap. 2.

  [147] Mansi, vol. 10, p. 626 (_Concilium Toletanum_, IV, Cap. 24).

  [148] Isidore’s _Regula Monachorum_, 20, 5.

The spirit in which Isidore approached the task of furnishing a
comprehensive treatment of the secular subject-matter of education
was the one proper to his age. He held that its place was a
subordinate one. He seems to be expressing his own and not a borrowed
view when he says that “grammarians are better than heretics, for
heretics persuade men to drink a deadly draught, while the learning
of grammarians can avail for life, if only it is turned to better
uses”.[149] The same depreciation of the independent value of
secular studies is reflected in his statement that the order of the
seven liberal arts in the curriculum was one intended to secure a
progressive liberation of the mind from earthly matters and “to set
it at the task of contemplating things on high”.[150] He evidently
believed that it was the function of the seven liberal arts to raise
the mind from a lower or material to a higher or spiritual plane of

  [149] See p. 30.

  [150] _Etym._, 3, 71, 41.

  [151] To this conception of the time, that the secular side of
  education was a necessary evil, of which a minimum use must
  be made, the school disciplines had in reality been adapting
  themselves for centuries by their growing formalism and loss
  of content. Among the seven liberal arts rhetoric is the
  best example of the former characteristic. It was so purely
  conventional a discipline in Isidore’s time that, even though
  he wrote of it, he confesses that it made no impression on him,
  either good or bad. “When it is laid aside,” he says, “all
  recollection vanishes.” The loss of content, on the other hand,
  is best seen in Isidore’s account of the four mathematical
  sciences, especially in that of geometry, which consists of
  nothing more than a few definitions.

In the _Etymologies_, as has been noticed, Isidore has combined
the encyclopedia of education, as exemplified in the works of
Martianus Capella and Cassiodorus, and the encyclopedia of the
whole range of knowledge, of which the works of Varro, Pliny, and
Suetonius are leading examples. The first three of the twenty books
which are comprised in the _Etymologies_ are evidently educational
texts; the last twelve as evidently belong to the encyclopedia of
all knowledge.[152] The question is in which of these divisions
the intervening books should be classed. If we look to Isidore’s
predecessors for guidance on this point, we find that Capella gives
only the seven liberal arts, while Cassiodorus gives not only a
comprehensive account of preparatory studies in the form of the seven
liberal arts, but adds in his _De Institutione Divinarum Litterarum_
a treatment of the higher, or religious, education of the monk. The
supposition that Isidore followed the example of Cassiodorus is the
more natural one. Their educational purpose was much the same:
Cassiodorus had in mind the training of the monk, while Isidore
was concerned with the education of the priest. It is, all things
considered, more natural to suppose that Isidore is giving in Books
I-VIII of his _Etymologies_ a comprehensive survey of the education
of the secular clergy, than to suppose that his educational texts
stopped short at the end of the seven liberal arts.

  [152] See p. 31 for outline of contents.

If this supposition is correct, the outline of this survey is
as follows: Grammar (Bk. I), Rhetoric and Dialectic (Bk. II),
Arithmetic, Geometry, Music, Astronomy (Bk. III), Medicine (Bk. IV),
Laws and Times (Bk. V), the books and services of the church (Bk.
VI), God, the angels, and the orders of the faithful (Bk. VII), the
church and the different sects (Bk. VIII). The inclusion of medicine,
law, and chronology, which were not in the corresponding plan of
Cassiodorus,[153] meant merely an enlargement of his scheme to fit
it for the slightly different purpose which Isidore had in mind. The
reason for the inclusion of these subjects is the practical one: in
the absence of any other educated class priests were obliged to have
some slight knowledge of medicine and law, while the intricacy of the
church calendar of the time made chronology a professional necessity.

  [153] However, Cassiodorus had in the _De Institutione Divinarum
  Litterarum_ a chapter entitled “On monks having the care of the
  infirm”. In this he urged upon them the reading of a number of
  medical works (those of Dioscorides, Hippocrates, Galen, Caelius
  Aurelianus, and “various others”. Migne, _P. L._, 70, 1146).

At first sight this plan of educational subjects would seem to be at
variance with our accepted idea that the seven liberal arts covered
the whole field of preparatory training. A closer examination shows,
however, that in form at least Isidore kept them in a class by
themselves; and when he passes from them to medicine he is careful
to specify that it is not one of the liberal arts, but forms a
“second philosophy”.[154] By this he means that medicine—and the same
may be assumed for laws and times—is placed in the higher and not the
preparatory stage of education, and that in this sphere it plays a
minor part.

  [154] 4, 13. See also p. 163.

If, then, this view of the subject-matter of the first eight books of
the _Etymologies_ is correct, it will be admitted that in Isidore’s
organization of education a significant step has been taken. In
the education of the Greek and Roman world there was nothing to
parallel the medieval and modern university development, which has
been characterized until recently by the three professional schools
of law, medicine, and theology. In Isidore’s plan we have, for the
first time, as professional studies, first, what corresponds to the
later theology, and, in subordination to this, the subjects of law,
medicine and chronology. It is evident, therefore, that we have here
in embryo, as it were, the organization of the medieval university;
law and medicine have only to be secularized and freed from their
subordination to theology, and the medieval university in its
complete form appears.






Grammar did not appear as a separate body of knowledge until a
late period in the Greek civilization. The merest ground-work of
the science had sufficed to meet all the demands of education, of
philosophy, and of a literature in course of production; for its
development it was necessary to await a period of literary criticism.
When the Alexandrian scholars began to compare the idiom of Homer
with that of their own day, the requisite stimulus for the scientific
study of language was given, and grammar may be regarded as dating
from the Alexandrian age.

What was at that time termed grammar, γραμματική, included far more
than the modern science; it was the study of literature at large. The
grammarian might have nothing to do with what we call grammar, but
be a student of textual criticism or mythology. Any sort of study
undertaken for the purpose of elucidating the poets was grammatical.
Like the modern professor of literature, the only invariable
characteristic of the grammarian was his literary point of view.[155]

  [155] See Sandys, _History of Classical Scholarship_, pp. 6–10.

The grammatical studies of the Romans were patterned closely after
those of the Greeks; the Greek terminology and organization of the
science were adopted without change. The Roman interest in the
subject was no doubt heightened by the fact that the Roman culture
was a bilingual one; thus a broad basis for the study was furnished,
and naturally much attention was given to the derivation of words.
A large number of scholarly works was produced, and the inferiority
of the borrowed Roman culture is perhaps less noticeable in this
department than in any other.

It was inevitable that this ‘grammar’, in a condensed form, should
come to be used in common education. Its outlines, however, were
rather vague, and many of its departments did not lend themselves
to the concise statement necessary in a text-book. The first Greek
school grammar, the τεχνὴ γραμματικὴ[156] of Dionysius Thrax, which
was destined to be the basis of all the school grammars of antiquity,
appeared about 80 B.C. It is noticeable that although the definition
of grammar that is given[157] is the definition of the grammar of
the scholars, the subjects actually treated are little more than the
parts of speech. It was natural that there should be this gap between
promise and performance. For a long time no doubt this mere outline
was filled in by the oral interpretation of the masterpieces in
the manner of the scholars; but when these ceased to be studied, in
the early medieval period, the study of grammar was confined to the
material offered in the text-books.[158]

  [156] It is still in existence. The best text is that of Uhlig,
  1883 (Leipzig).

  [157] “Grammar is a practical knowledge of the usages of
  language as generally current among poets and prose writers. It
  is divided into six parts: (1) trained reading with due regard
  to prosody; (2) explanation according to poetical figures; (3)
  ready statement of dialectical peculiarities and allusions; (4)
  discovery of etymology; (5) an accurate account of analogies;
  (6) criticism of poetical productions, which is the noblest
  part of grammatic art.” _The Grammar of Dionysius Thrax_,
  translated by T. Davidson (St. Louis, 1874), p. 3. In contrast
  to this definition the body of the work is devoted to reading,
  punctuation, the alphabet, syllables, and the parts of speech.

  [158] The older definition or its substance was still retained,
  however. See p. 97. Its retention is rather an evidence of
  conservatism than a proof of the continued study of the poets.

The first of the Romans to produce a school grammar was Remmius
Palaemon, who flourished in the first half of the first century. He
had many successors in the later centuries of the Roman Empire, and
the literary tradition of the school grammar continued unbroken into
the Middle Ages. The most influential exponent of the subject was
Aelius Donatus, whose _Ars_, written in the fourth century, was used
throughout the Middle Ages. The chief writers of grammatical texts in
the centuries preceding Isidore were Victorinus, Donatus, Diomedes,
Charisius, and Martianus Capella in the fourth; Consentius and Phocas
in the fifth; and Cassiodorus in the sixth. No new contributions
were being made to the science, and these writers had no other
resource than to copy their predecessors, which they did in a slavish
manner.[159] The verbal similarity in all of them is so strong that
it is impossible to trace with certainty the immediate source of any
one of the later writers.

  [159] The following list of passages gives some idea of the way
  in which grammatical works were produced in this age.

  Vox sive sonus est aer ictus, id est percussus, sensibilis
  auditu quantum in ipso est. Probi, _Instituta Artium_ in Keil,
  _Grammatici Latini_, vol. vi, p. 4, 13.

  Vox est aer ictus sensibilis auditu, quantum in ipso est. Donati,
  _Ars Grammatica_. _Ibid._, vol. iv, p. 367, 5.

  Vox est aer ictus sensibilis auditu, verbis emissa, et exacta
  sensus prolatio. Sergii, _Explanationum in artem Donati, Liber
  I._, _Ibid._, vol. iv, p. 487, 4.

  Vox est aer auditu percipibilis quantum in ipso est. Marius
  Victorinus, _Ars Grammatica_. _Ibid._, vol. vi, p. 4, 13.

  Vox quid est? Aer ictus sensibilisque auditu quantum in ipso est.
  Maximus Victorinus, _Ars Grammatica_. _Ibid._, vol. vi, p. 189, 8.

  Vox articulata est aer percussus sensibilis auditu quantum in
  ipso est. Cassiodorus, _Institutio de Arte Grammatica_. _Ibid._,
  vol. vii, p. 215, 4.

  Vox est aer ictus sensibilis auditu, quantum in ipso est.
  Isidore, _Etymologiae_, 1, 15.

  These grammars are almost altogether made up of definitions which
  had become stereotyped.

Isidore’s account of grammar is of somewhat more than the average
length[160] found in these text-books, but its lack of solid
substance, in which it differs from the books of the fourth century,
measures the decline in intellectual grasp and thoroughness of the
two intervening centuries. Donatus, Servius, and even Capella, stick
closely to the technique of the subject and are thorough-going; their
books are calculated to afford a severe discipline to the student.
But in Isidore a feebleness in handling the subject is evident; he
is apparently unaware of the superior importance of such subjects as
conjugation and declension, and he is very easily led into confusion
by the trains of thought suggested by his frequent derivations.[161]

  [160] The greater length of his treatment is due to the fact
  that he includes more subjects than do the preceding writers of
  text-books. A comparison of his table of contents with those of
  Cassiodorus, Martianus Capella, Donatus, and Servius shows that
  he professes to cover much more than they; he has ten topics that
  do not appear in Donatus’ _Ars Grammatica_, and a greater number
  that do not appear in Servius, Capella, or Cassiodorus.

  [161] See especially his definition of verbum, 1, 9, 1.


  [162] The analysis is meant to indicate briefly the formal
  organization of the subject. It is followed by selected
  passages in translation, which, while illustrating the
  technical treatment, are meant rather to give what is of more
  general interest. It must be remembered that this treatment by
  selected passages fails to give a just idea of the meagerness,
  attenuation, and confusion of the material considered as a whole.

  A. Introductory.
     1. Definition of _ars_ and _disciplina_ (ch. 1).
     2. Definition of the seven liberal arts (ch. 2).
     3. The Hebrew and Greek alphabets (ch. 3).
     4. The Latin alphabet (ch. 4).

  B. Grammar.
     1. Definition and divisions[163] (ch. 5).
     2. Parts of speech (chs. 6–14).
        a. _de nomine_ (ch. 7).
             _Propria_ (four sub-classes of proper nouns are
             _Appellativa_ (twenty-eight sub-classes of common
               nouns are given).
             _Nominis comparatio_ (comparison of adjectives).
             _Genera_ (genders).
             _Figura_ (simple and compound nouns).
        b. _de pronomine_[165] (ch. 8).
        c. _de verbo_ (ch. 9).
             _Formae_ (desiderative, inchoative and
               frequentative verbs).
             _Modi_ (indicative, imperative, optative,
               conjunctive, infinitive, impersonal).
             _Genera_ (active, passive, neuter, common, and
               deponent verbs).
        d. _de adverbio_[167] (ch. 10).
        e. _de participio_ (the participle) (ch. 11).
        f. _de conjunctione_ (ch. 12).
        g. _de praepositionibus_ (ch. 13).
        h. _de interjectione_ (ch. 14).
     3. Articulate speech (ch. 15).
     4. The syllable (ch. 16).
     5. Metrical feet[168] (ch. 17).
     6. Accent[169] (chs. 18, 19).
     7. Punctuation (ch. 20).
     8. Signs and abbreviations (_Notae_) (chs. 21–26).
        a. _Notae sententiarum_ (critical marks used in
        b. _Notae vulgares_ (shorthand).
        c. _Notae militares_ (abbreviations used in military
        d. _Notae litterarum_ (cipher-writing).
        e. _Notae digitorum_ (sign language).
     9. Orthography (ch. 27).
    10. Analogy[170] (ch. 28).
    11. Etymology (ch. 29).
    12. Glosses (ch. 30).
    13. Synonyms (ch. 31).
    14. Barbarisms, solecisms[171] and other faults[172] (chs. 32–34).
    15. Metaplasms (poetic license in changing the forms of words)
          (ch. 35).
    16. _Schemata_ (rhetorical figures) (ch. 36).
    17. Tropes[173] (ch. 37).
    18. Prose (ch. 38).
    19. Metres[174] (ch. 39).
    20. The fable (ch. 40).
    21. History (chs. 41–44).

  [163] See p. 97.

  [164] A set of terms unfamiliar to the modern student of grammar
  is given under this head. Nouns having six distinct case-forms
  are called _hexaptota_; those having five, _pentaptota_, and so
  on. See 1, 7, 33.

  [165] Pronouns are classified according to use into _finita_,
  _infinita_, _minus quam finita_, _possessiva_, _relativa_,
  _demonstrativa_; and according to origin into _primigenia_ and

  [166] Three conjugations are given.

  [167] Note part of the definition: “Adverbium autem sine verbo
  non habet plenam significationem, ut hodie: adjicis illi verbum,
  hodie scribo, et juncto verbo implesti sensum.” 1, 10, 1.

  [168] Isidore asserts that there are one hundred and twenty-four
  sorts of metrical feet, “four of two syllables, eight of three,
  sixteen of four, thirty-two of five, sixty-four of six.” 1, 17, 1.

  [169] The ten so-called accents of the grammarians are described:
  the acute, the grave, the circumflex, the marks to indicate long
  and short vowels, the hyphen, the comma, the apostrophe, the
  rough and smooth breathing.

  [170] This section is to be explained by reference to the
  chief controversy in the history of the science of grammar in
  classical times, that between analogy and anomaly, or whether
  grammatical regularity or irregularity was the more basic
  phenomenon. In Capella’s grammar _analogia_ is the heading under
  which declensions of nouns and conjugations of verbs are given,
  while exceptions are grouped under the heading _anomala_. See
  Martianus Capella, Eyssenhardt, pp. 75–97. Also Sandys, _History
  of Classical Scholarship_, Index.

  [171] Solecism is “the failure to put words together according to
  the correct method”, while barbarism includes blunders in the use
  of single words. 1, 33, 1.

  [172] Chiefly a parade of long words, like _perissologia_,
  _macrologia_, _tapinosis_, _cacosyntheton_, etc. 1, 34.

  [173] A large number of poetical figures are described. This
  section is probably nothing but an evidence of conservatism,
  since Isidore certainly did not include a study of the poets in
  his scheme of education.

  [174] A number of metres are described and some attention is
  given to different kinds of poetry, such as the elegiac, bucolic,
  hymn, cento, etc.


Chapter 2. On the seven liberal arts.[175]

  [175] Du Breul has _disciplinis_, not _artibus_.

1. The disciplines belonging to the liberal arts are seven. First,
grammar, that is, practical knowledge of speech. Second, rhetoric,
which is considered especially necessary in civil causes because of
the brilliancy and copiousness of its eloquence. Third, dialectic,
called also logic, which separates truth from falsehood by the
subtlest distinctions.

2. Fourth, arithmetic, which includes the significance and the
divisions of numbers. Fifth, music, which consists of poems and

3. Sixth, geometry, which embraces measurements and dimensions.
Seventh, astronomy, which contains the law of the stars.

Chapter 3. On the ordinary letters.

1. The foundations of the grammatic art are the ordinary letters,
which elementary teachers[176] are occupied with, instruction in
which is, as it were, the infancy of the grammatic art. Whence Varro
calls it _litteratio_. Letters are signs of things, symbols of words,
whose power is so great that without a voice they speak to us the
words of the absent; for they introduce words by the eye, not by the

  [176] _Librarii et calculatores._

2. The use of the letters was invented in order to remember things.
For things are fettered by letters in order that they may not escape
through forgetfulness. For in such a variety of things all could not
be learned by hearing and held in the memory.

4. Latin and Greek letters have evidently come from the Hebrew. For
among the latter _aleph_ was first so named; then [judging] by the
similarity of sound it was transmitted to the Greeks as _alpha_;
likewise to the Latins as _a_. For the borrower fashioned the letter
of the second language according to similarity of sound, so that we
can know that the Hebrew language is the mother of all languages and

  [177] From Jerome, _ad Soph._, in Migne, _Patr. Lat._, 6, 7, 30.

7. The letter Υ Pythagoras of Samos first made, after the model of
human life, whose lower stem denotes the first of life, which is
unsettled and has not yet devoted itself to the vices or the virtues.
The double part which is above, begins in youth; of which the right
side is steep, but leads to the blessed life; the left is easier, but
leads down to ruin and destruction....

8. Among the Greeks there are five mystic letters.[178] The first
is Υ, which denotes human life, of which we have just spoken. The
second is Θ, which denotes death. For judges used to place this
letter, theta, at the names of those whom they condemned to death;
and it is called theta ἀπὸ τοῦ θανάτου, _i.e._, from death. Whence
also it has a weapon through its middle, _i.e._, the sign of death.
Of which a certain one speaks thus:

    O multum ante alias infelix littera theta!

  [178] This sentence, as many others, is in the accusative and
  infinitive without any governing verb.

9. The third is Τ, indicating the shape of the cross of the Lord....
The remaining two, the first and the last, Christ claims for himself.
For he is himself the beginning, himself the end, saying: “I am α
and ω,” for they pass into one another in turn, and alpha passes in
regular succession to ω and again ω returns to alpha; in order that
the Lord might show in himself that he was the way from the beginning
to the end and from the end to the beginning.

Chapter 4. On the Latin alphabet.

17. The nations gave the names of the letters in accordance with the
sound in their own language, noting and distinguishing the sounds of
the voice. After they had noted them, they gave them names and forms;
and they made the forms in part at pleasure, in part according to the
sound of the letters; as, for example, i and o, of which one has a
slender stem, just as it has a thin sound; the sound of the other is
gross (_pinguis_), just as its form is full.

Chapter 5. On grammar.

1. Grammar is the science of speaking correctly, and is the source
and foundation of literature.[179] This one of the disciplines was
discovered next after the ordinary letters, so that those who have
already learned the letters may learn by it the method of speaking
correctly. Grammar took its name from letters, for the Greeks call
letters γράμματα.

  [179] _Liberalium litterarum._

4. The divisions of the grammatic art are enumerated by certain
authorities as thirty; namely, eight parts of speech, the articulate
voice, the letter, the syllable, metrical feet, accent, marks
of punctuation, signs and abbreviations, orthography, analogy,
etymology, glosses, synonyms, barbarisms, solecisms, [other] faults,
metaplasms, schemata, tropes, prose, metres, fables, histories.

Chapter 6. On the parts of speech.

1. Aristotle first taught two parts of speech, the noun and the verb.
Then Donatus defined eight. But all revert to these two chief ones,
that is, to the noun and the verb, which indicate the person and the
act. The remainder are appendages, and trace their origin to these.

2. For the pronoun arises from the noun and performs its function,
as _orator_, _ille_. The adverb arises from the noun, as _doctus_,
_docte_. The participle from the noun and verb, as _lego_, _legens_.
But the conjunction and preposition and interjection are included in
those mentioned.[180] Many therefore have defined five parts because
these are superfluous.

  [180] _In complexum istarum cadunt._

Chapter 21. On critical marks (_notae sententiarum_).

1. In addition there were certain marks in the writings of
celebrated authors, which the ancients set in poems and histories to
discriminate among the passages. A mark is a separate form placed
like a letter, to indicate some judgment about a word, thought or
verse. There are twenty-six marks used in annotating verses, which
are enumerated below with their names.[181]

  [181] See _Etym._, 1, 21, 2–28.

Chapter 22. On shorthand.

1. Ennius[182] first invented 1,100 shorthand signs. The use of the
signs was that scribes wrote whatever was said in public meeting
or in court, several standing by at one time and deciding among
themselves how many words and in what order each should write.
At Rome Tullius Tiro, Cicero’s freedman, was the first to invent
shorthand, but only for prepositions.[183]

  [182] The grammarian.

  [183] _Notas sed tantum praepositionum._ Probably abbreviations
  for prepositions and other connectives that were in frequent use.

2. After him Vipsanius Philargius and Aquila, Maecenas’s freedman,
each added a number of signs. Then Seneca, collecting them all and
arranging them and increasing their number, raised the total to
5,000. The signs (_notae_) are so-called because they _denote_ words
or syllables by marks,[184] and bring them again to the _notice_
of readers, and they who have learned them are now properly called

  [184] _Praefixis characteribus._

Chapter 27. On orthography.

1. Orthography is Greek, and it means in the Latin correct writing;
for ὀρθή in the Greek means correct, and γραφή means writing.
This branch of knowledge teaches us how we ought to write. For as
the art[185] treats of the inflection of the parts of speech, so
orthography deals with the knowledge of writing, as, for example,

_ad_, when it is a preposition, takes the letter _d_; when it is a
conjunction, the letter _t_.

  [185] Among the seven liberal arts grammar is the art _par

2. _Haud_, when it is an adverb of negation, is terminated by
the letter _d_ and is aspirated at the beginning; but when it is
a conjunction, it is written with the letter _t_ and is without

7. Forsitan ought to be written with _n_ at the end, because its
uncorrupted form is _forte si tandem_.

Chapter 29. On etymology.

1. Etymology is the derivation of words,[186] when the force of a
verb or a noun is ascertained through interpretation. This Aristotle
called σύμβολον, and Cicero, _notatio_, because it explains the names
of things;[187] as, for example, _flumen_ is so called from _fluere_,
because it arose from flowing.

  [186] _Cf. Quintilian_, 1, 6, 28.

  [187] Quia nomina et verba rerum nota facit.

2. A knowledge of etymology is often necessary in interpretation,
for, when you see whence a name has come, you grasp its force
more quickly. For every consideration of a thing is clearer when
its etymology is known. Not all names, however, were given by the
ancients in accordance with nature, but certain also according to
whim, just as we sometimes give slaves and estates names according to
our fancy.

3. Hence it is that the etymologies of some names are not found,
since certain things have received their name not according to the
quality in which they originated, but according to man’s arbitrary
choice. Etymologies are given in accordance with cause, as _reges_
from _regere_, that is, _recte agere_; or origin, as _homo_ because
he is from the earth (_humus_); or from contraries, as _lutum_ (mud)
from _lavare_—since mud is not clean—and _lucus_ (sacred grove),
because being shady it has little light (_parum luceat_).

4. Certain words also were formed by derivation from other words; as
_prudens_ from _prudentia_. Certain also from cries, as _graculus_
(jackdaw) from _garrulitas_. Certain also have sprung from a Greek
origin, and have changed over into the Latin, as _silva_,[188]

  [188] _Cf._ 17, 6, 5, where _silva_ (_xilva_) is derived from
  ξύλον (wood).

5. Other things have derived their names from the names of places,
cities, or rivers. Many also are drawn from the languages of foreign
peoples; whence their derivation is perceived with difficulty; for
there are many barbarous words unknown to the Greeks and Latins.

Chapter 32. On barbarism.

1. Barbarism is the uttering of a word with an error in a letter or
in a quantity: a letter, as _floriet_, when _florebit_ is correct; a
quantity, if the first syllable is prolonged instead of the middle
one, as _latebrae_, _tenebrae_. And it is called barbarism from the
barbarian peoples, since they were ignorant of the purity of Latin
speech; for each nation becoming subject to the Romans, transmitted
to Rome along with their wealth their faults, both of speech and of

Chapter 37. On tropes.

1. Tropes are so named by the grammarians from a Greek word which
in Latin means _modi locutionum_. They are turned from their own
meaning to a kindred meaning that is not their own. And it is very
difficult to comment on the names of them all, but Donatus gave for
practice a list of thirteen selected from the whole number.

2. Metaphor is the assumption of a transfer of meaning in some word,
as when we say _segetes fluctuare_ (the grain-fields billow), _vites
gemmare_, when we do not find any waves or gems in these things, but
the words are transferred from the old application to a new one.
These and other tropical forms of speech are veiled with figurative
cloaks with reference to the things to be understood, with the view
that they may exercise the intelligence of the reader, and may not be
cheap because they are unadorned and easily apprehended.

22. Allegory is the saying of things that do not belong to the
matter in hand (_alienoloquium_), for one thing is said, another is
understood; as, _tres in littore cervos conspicit errantes_, where
the three leaders of the Punic war, or the three Punic wars are
indicated; and in the _Bucolics_, _aurea mala decem misi_, _i.e._,
ten pastoral eclogues to Augustus. There are many species of this
figure, of which seven are conspicuous: irony, antiphrasis, enigma,
charientismus, paroemia, sarcasmus, astysmus.

23. It is irony where the thought is given a contrary meaning by the
manner of speech. By this figure something is said cleverly, either
in the way of accusation or insult, as the following:

    Vestras, Eure, domos, illa se jactet in aula
    Aeolus, et clauso ventorum carcere regnet.

And why _aula_ (palace) if it is _carcer_ (prison)! It is made
clear by the manner of speech, for the manner of speech says
_carcer_. _Jactet in aula_ is irony, and the whole is expressed in a
contradictory manner of speech by the figure of irony which mocks by

24. Antiphrasis is language to be understood to the contrary, as,
_lucus_ (sacred grove), since it is without light (_lux_) because of
the excessive gloom of the woods....

25. Between irony and antiphrasis there is this difference, that
irony indicates by the manner of speaking alone what is meant,
as when we say to a man doing ill, “Bonum est quod facis”. But
antiphrasis indicates the contrary not by the voice of the speaker,
but only in the words, whose derivation is the opposite [of their

Chapter 39. On metres.

4. Whatever is measured by verse feet is a poem (_carmen_). It
is thought that the name was given because it was pronounced
rhythmically (_carptim_), or ... because they who sang such things
were supposed to be out of their minds (_mente carere_).

9. ... [The hexameter] excels the rest of the metres in authority,
being alone of them all fitted as well to the greatest tasks as to
the small, and with an equal capacity for sweetness and delight....
It is also older than the other metres. It is proved that Moses
was the first to use it in the song of Deuteronomy, long before
Pherecydes and Homer. Whence also it is evident that the making of
poems was older among the Hebrews than among the nations. Since Job,
too, who goes back as far as Moses, sang in hexameter verse, [using]
the dactyl and the spondee.

12. Hecataeus of Miletus is said to have been the first among the
Greeks to compose this metre; or, as others think, Pherecydes of
Syros, and this metre before Homer was called Pythian, after Homer,

17. It is manifest that David the prophet was the first to compose
and sing hymns in praise of God. Later among the nations Timothoe who
(_quae_) lived in the time of Ennius, long after David, wrote the
first hymns in honor of Apollo and the Muses. _Hymni_ is translated
from the Greek to the Latin as _laudes_.

25. Among grammarians they are wont to be called _centones_ who
[take] from the poems of Homer and Virgil with a view to their own
works, and put together in patchwork fashion many bits found here and
there to suit each subject.

26. Proba, wife of Adelphos, composed at great length a cento from
Virgil about the structure of the universe and the gospels,[189] the
subject-matter being made up verse by verse, and the verses being
arranged appropriately to suit the subject-matter. And a certain
Pomponius, among other poems (_otia_) of his own pen, wrote _Tityrus_
from the same poet in honor of Christ.

  [189] _De Fabrica mundi et Evangeliis._

Chapter 41. On history.

1. History is the story of what has been done, and by its means what
has taken place in the past is perceived. It is called in the Greek
_historia_, ἀπὸ τοῦ ἱστορεῖν, that is from seeing (_videre_) and
learning (_cognoscere_). For among the ancients no one wrote history
unless he had been present and witnessed what was to be described.
For we understand what we see better than we do what we gather by

2. For what is seen is told without lying. This discipline belongs
to grammar because whatever is worth remembering is entrusted to

Chapter 42. On the first writers of history.

1. Moses was the first among us to write a history of the beginning
of the world. Among the nations Dares Phrygius was the first to
publish a history of the Greeks and Trojans, which they say was
written by him on palm-leaves.

2. And after Dares, Herodotus is considered the first historian in
Greece. After whom Pherecydes was famous, at the time when Esdras
wrote the law.

Chapter 43. On the usefulness of history.

1. Histories of the heathen do no harm to their readers where they
tell what is useful. For many wise men have put past deeds into their
histories for the instruction of the present.

2. Besides, in history the total reckoning of past times and years is
embraced and many necessary matters are examined in the light of the
succession of consuls and kings.

Chapter 44. On the sorts of history.

1. There are three sorts of history. The doings of one day are called
_ephemeris_. Among us this name is _diarium_....

2. What is arranged according to separate months is called

3. _Annales_ are the deeds of the years, one by one. For whatever was
related in the commentaries from year to year as worthy of memory, in
peace and war, by sea and land, they named annals from the deeds of a

4. But history is a thing of many years or times, and through
diligence in it the yearly commentaries are put into books. Between
history and annals there is this difference, that history belongs to
the times which we see, and annals belong to years which our age does
not know. Whence Sallust is made up of history; Livy, Eusebius and
Hieronymus of annals and history.




Rhetoric held a position in the ancient world that the modern reader
has difficulty in understanding. Democratic government, including
the popular administration of justice, at a time when all discussion
was necessarily oral, created an ideal condition in Athens and the
other Greek states for the development of oratory. In the life of the
Roman republic, too, there was enough of the popular element to make
public speaking of the greatest importance. The art of rhetoric was
therefore in close touch with the real interests of life. It was not
merely a school discipline, but a preparation for a definite activity
that held a high place in the esteem of the people, and it embodied
a set of sensible ideas on public speaking in which the tendency
to over-elaboration and artificiality characteristic of scholastic
disciplines was kept in check by the wholesome influences that came
from practical application.

With the establishment of the Roman Empire public discussion of
political matters quickly disappeared, and forensic oratory for the
same reason tended to decline. Thus the chief element which had
given vitality to ancient rhetoric was eliminated. Roman oratory,
however, died hard. It nursed itself on various pretences and shows.
Much of the old interest in oratory turned back on rhetoric, which
was thus exposed to a double danger, as an educational discipline
that had lost connection with practical life and as a subject that
had become too fashionable. When once the new influence had gained
headway a strong tendency to artificiality was revealed. Rhetoric
became scholastic and ridiculously overburdened with classification
and terminology; it grew more lifeless as it grew more systematic.
Interest then gradually subsided. Treatises grew shorter and drier,
and consisted largely of long lists of terms defined without critical
understanding of their meaning. The subject now held its place by the
mere force of authority.

This was the state of rhetoric in Isidore’s time, and his treatment
reflects the condition to which it had been reduced. He says that
“it is easy for the reader to admire but impossible to understand”
the books on rhetoric, and, further, that when they are laid aside
“all recollection vanishes.” From a writer with this attitude little
need be expected. His few miserable pages, compared with Quintilian’s
interesting treatise, measure fully the decline of rhetoric during
the first six centuries A.D. What Isidore gives is merely a summary,
so cursory and disjointed that it frequently cannot be understood
without liberal reference to the fuller treatises of his predecessors.

In Isidore’s _De Rhetorica_ practically the whole of Cassiodorus’
text-book on this subject is incorporated without acknowledgment. Two
authorities, Victorinus and Cicero, are quoted,[190] but on referring
to Cassiodorus it becomes plain that even here Isidore is merely
copying his authority’s citation of authority. However his brief
chapter on law cannot be paralleled in any extant treatise before his
time and its insertion must be credited to his initiative.

  [190] Isidore, _Etym._, 2, 19, 14, “Praeterea secundum Victorinum
  enthymematis est altera definitio. Ex sola propositione, sicut
  jam dictum est, ita constat. ‘Si tempestas vitanda est, non est
  navigatio requirenda.’”

  Cassiodorus, _De Rhet._ Halm, _Rhetores Latini_, p. 500.
  “Praeterea secundum Victorinum enthymematis est altera definitio.
  Ex sola propositione, sicut jam dictum est, ita constat
  enthymema, ut est illud: ‘si tempestas vitanda est, non est
  navigatio requirenda.’”

  Isidore, _Etym._, 2, 9, 18. “Hunc Cicero ita facit in arte

  Cass. in Halm, p. 500, 18. “Hunc Cicero facit in arte rhetorica.”


  [191] The analytical treatment of this subject is obviously
  carried to an absurd degree. The whole activity of the orator is
  analyzed into five parts: _inventio_, _dispositio_, _elocutio_
  (wording), _memoria_, _pronuntiatio_. The whole subject-matter
  is analyzed into three parts: deliberative, epideictic,
  forensic. All court cases are analyzed from the point of view
  of the defence, according to _status_, that is, according to
  the nature of the leading point in the case. The speech itself
  (_oratio_) is analyzed into four parts: introduction, narrative,
  argument and conclusion. All cases are analyzed again according
  to the psychological impression they make on the audience. All
  arguments are analyzed into regular and irregular syllogisms.
  Even negation, giving the lie, is analyzed into several sorts.
  Rhetorical figures are analyzed elaborately.

      I. Definition (ch. 1).
     II. Chief writers (ch. 2).
    III. Divisions (ch. 3).
         1. _Inventio._
         2. _Dispositio._
         3. _Elocutio._
         4. _Memoria._
         5. _Pronuntiatio._
     IV. The three kinds of cases (ch. 4).
         1. _Deliberativum._[192]
         2. _Demonstrativum._[193]
         3. _Judiciale._[194]
      V. The two-fold status of cases[195] (ch. 5).
         1. _Rationalis._
            a. _Conjectura._[196]
            b. _Finis._[197]
               (1) _Juridicialis._[198]
                   (a) _Absoluta._[199]
                   (b) _Assumptiva._[200]
                       (_a_) _Concessio._[201]
                       (_b_) _Remotio criminis._[204]
                       (_c_) _Relatio criminis._[205]
                       (_d_) _Comparatio._[206]
               (2) _Negotialis._[207]
            c. _Qualitas._[208]
            d. _Translatio._[209]
         2. _Legalis._
            a. _Scriptum et voluntas._[210]
            b. _Leges contrariae._[211]
            c. _Ambiguitas._[212]
            d. _Collectio._[213]
            e. _Definitio legalis._[214]
     VI. The three-fold division of controversies[215] (ch. 6).
         1. Simple.
         2. Compound.
         3. Complex.
    VII. The four parts of a speech[216] (ch. 7).
         1. _Exordium._
         2. _Narratio._
         3. _Argumentatio._
         4. _Conclusio._
   VIII. The five modes of cases[217] (ch. 8).
         1. _Honestum._
         2. _Admirabile._[218]
         3. _Humile._
         4. _Anceps._
         5. _Obscurum._
     IX. Argumentation (ch. 9).
         1. _Inductio._
         2. _Ratiocinatio._[219]
            a. _Enthymema._
            b. _Epicherema._
            c. _Mendacium._[220]
      X. Law[221] (ch. 10).
     XI. The sententious saying (ch. 11).
    XII. Confirmation and denial (ch. 12).
   XIII. Personification and expression of character (chs. 13–14).
    XIV. Kinds of subjects (ch. 15).
     XV. Style and diction (ch. 16).
    XVI. The three ways of speaking (ch. 17).
   XVII. Parts of a sentence (ch. 18).
  XVIII. Faults to be avoided[222] (chs. 19–20).
    XIX. Figures[223] (ch. 21).

  [192] “In which there is discussion of what ought or ought not
  to be done in regard to any of the practical affairs of life.”
  2, 4, 1. The _genus deliberativum_ is divided into _suasio_ and
  _dissuasio_, and each of these again, under the three headings,
  _honestum_, _utile_, _possibile_.

  [193] Epideictic; divided into _laus_ and _vituperatio_, 2, 4.

  [194] Forensic rhetoric.

  [195] Under this heading we have the chief effort of ancient
  rhetoric to be helpful to the defense in cases brought before
  the courts. The term _status_ meant the crucial point in a case,
  and its subdivisions are intended to include the chief kinds of
  crucial points upon which the advocate must base his speech. The
  inference in both Isidore and Cassiodorus is that there is only
  one status in a case, but Quintilian (3, 6, 21) expressly says
  that there are more than one, and that the chief status in a case
  “is the strongest point in it on which the whole matter chiefly

  In this section Isidore borrows from Cassiodorus almost without
  change in the wording. In one case he has made a serious blunder
  in copying: the subdivisions that Cassiodorus places under
  _qualitas_, Isidore has placed under _finis_. (Cass., _De Rhet._,
  Halm, p. 496.)

  [196] “When an act that is imputed to a person is denied by
  another” (2, 5, 3), and the balancing of evidence is the method
  of deciding.

  [197] “When it is maintained that the act that is the matter of
  accusation is not that [specified], and its nature is shown by
  the use of definitions.” 2, 5, 3.

  [198] “In which the nature of justice and right and the abstract
  grounds of reward and punishment are gone into.” 2, 5, 5.

  [199] Term left undefined.

  [200] “Which of itself offers no satisfactory ground for defence
  but seeks for defence beyond its own limits.” 2, 5, 5.

  [201] “When the accused does not deny the act but demands that it
  be pardoned.” 2, 5, 6.

  [202] “When the deed is confessed but guilt is denied” on the
  ground of ignorance, accident, or necessity. 2, 5, 8.

  [203] “When the accused confesses that he has committed the wrong
  and has done so purposely, and still demands that he be pardoned,
  which kind can be of very rare occurrence.” 2, 5, 8.

  [204] “When the accused endeavors energetically to divert the
  charge made against him from himself and his guilt to another.”
  2, 5, 6.

  [205] “When it is urged that there is justification because
  another had committed a wrong before.” 2, 5, 7.

  [206] “When some other honorable or expedient act of another is
  alleged, for the accomplishing of which the act specified in the
  accusation is asserted to have been done.” 2, 5, 7.

  [207] “In which there is discussion of what is just in view of
  civil custom and equity.” 2, 5, 5.

  [208] “When the nature of the case is inquired into; and since
  the dispute is concerned with the real meaning and classification
  of the matter at stake, this is called the _constitutio
  generalis_.” 2, 5, 3. This is the general heading under which all
  the sub-heads classified under _finis_ should have been placed.
  Isidore made a mistake in copying from Cassiodorus, in whom the
  classification is correct.

  [209] “When the case depends on this, that it is not the proper
  person who brings the action, or that it is not before the proper
  court, at the proper time, according to the proper law, charging
  the proper crime, demanding the proper punishment.” 2, 5, 4.

  [210] “When the words seem to be at variance with the intention
  of the writer.” 2, 5, 9.

  [211] “When two or more laws are perceived to be in conflict with
  one another.” 2, 5, 9.

  [212] “When what is written seems to have two or more meanings.”
  2, 5, 10.

  [213] “When from what is written another thing also which is not
  written is inferred.” 2, 5, 10.

  [214] “When inquiry is made as to what is the force of a word.”
  2, 5, 10.

  [215] A division applying only to the _genus deliberativum_.

  [216] Six are usually given. Cassiodorus has _exordium_,
  _narratio_, _partitio_, _confirmatio_, _reprehensio_,
  _conclusio_. Halm, _Rhetores Latini Minores_, p. 497.

  [217] An analysis of cases according to the emotional effect they
  are likely to have on the audience.

  [218] “Ut admirentur (judices) quenquam ad defensionem eius
  accedere.” Halm, 316, 34, from Sulpitius Victor.

  [219] The irregular syllogism. Each sub-head is exhaustively

  [220] Giving the lie as conclusion of an irregular syllogism.

  [221] A short account of the nature of law. This sub-head is not
  found in the text-books on rhetoric before Isidore’s time.

  [222] In the use of letters, words, and sentences.

  [223] _Figurae verborum et sententiarum._ Samples of the former
  are _anadiplosis_, _paradiastole_, _antimetabole_, _exoche_;
  of the latter (forty-seven in all), _coenonesis_, _parrhesia_,
  _aposiopesis_, _aetiologia_, _epitrochasmus_. Cf. p. 107, note.


Chapter 1. On rhetoric and its name.

1. Rhetoric is the science of speaking well in civil questions for
the purpose of persuading to what is just and good. It is called
rhetoric in the Greek ἀπὸ τοῦ ῥητορίζειν, that is, from eloquence of
speech. For speech among the Greeks is called ῥῆσις, and the orator

2. Rhetoric is allied to the grammatic art. For in grammar we learn
the science of speaking correctly, and in rhetoric we discover in
what way to express what we have learned.

Chapter 2. On the discoverers of the art of rhetoric.

1. This discipline was invented by Gorgias, Aristotle and Hermagoras
among the Greeks, and translated into Latin by Tullius and
Quintilian, but with such eloquence and variety that it is easy for
the reader to admire, impossible to understand.

2. For while he holds the parchment the connected discourse as it
were cleaves to his memory, but presently when it is laid aside all
recollection vanishes. Perfect knowledge of this discipline makes the

Chapter 3. On the name of the orator and the parts of rhetoric.

1. The orator is the good man skilled in speaking. ‘The good man’
means nature, character, accomplishments (_artibus_). ‘Skilled in
speaking’ means studied eloquence, which consists of five parts:
invention, ordering, diction and style, memory, delivery, and the
purpose, which is to persuade of something.

2. Skill in speaking consists in three things: nature, learning,
practise; nature, that is, talent; learning, knowledge; practice,
continuous labor. These are the things that are looked to not only in
the orator but in every artist with a view to accomplishment.

Chapter 4. The three kinds of causes.

1. There are three kinds of causes: deliberative, epideictic,
judicial. The deliberative kind is that in which there is a
discussion as to what ought or ought not to be done in regard to
any of the practical affairs of life. The epideictic, in which a
character is shown to be praiseworthy or reprehensible.

2. The judicial, in which opinion as to reward or punishment with
reference to an act of an individual is given.

Chapter 16. Style and diction.

2. One must use good Latin and speak to the point. He speaks good
Latin who constantly uses the true and natural names of things, and
is not at variance with the style and literary refinement of the
present time. Let it not be enough for him to be careful of what he
says, without saying it in a clear, attractive manner; nor that only,
without saying what he says wittily also.

Chapter 21. On figures.

1. Speech is amplified and adorned by the use of figures. Since
direct, unvaried speech creates a weariness and disgust both of
speaking and hearing, it must be varied and turned into other forms,
so that it may give renewed power to the speaker, and become more
ornate and turn the judge from an aloof countenance and attention.



In tracing the fortunes of logic through the period of decadence and
the dark ages the effect upon it of a transition from a pagan to a
Christian environment need scarcely be taken into consideration.
Such marks of degeneration as it shows must be attributed simply to
the general decay of thought, which was marked in both pagan and
Christian spheres. By its character logic was well adapted to pass
from the service of Greek philosophy and science to that of Christian
theology: it had been worked out mainly as a method of Greek science,
which was especially backward in the fields where induction plays a
large part; consequently the Greek logic is not inductive. It is the
logic of universals ready-made, and it has nothing to do with their
making; it receives universals as authoritative. It was therefore
most welcome to Christian thinkers, since it was precisely adapted to
“the task of drawing out the implications of dogmatic premises.”[224]

  [224] H. W. Blunt, Art. “Logic,” in _Encycl. Brit._, 11th ed.
  See also Rashdall, _Universities of Europe in the Middle Ages_
  (Oxford, 1895), vol. i, p. 36.

It was not until a very late period that logic appeared in the Latin
language in the form of a school text. In fact, with the exception
of Varro’s Dialectic in his “Nine Books of the Disciplines,” which
has been lost, there were no writings on logic in the Latin down to
the fourth century. Instruction in the subject was apparently given
in Greek and to but few pupils. In the fourth century, however,
Greek was going out of use, and it became necessary, if logic was
to be saved in the schools, to have Latin text-books.[225] The need
was met by a line of text-writers, of whom Marius Victorinus (c.
350) was the first. The oldest Latin school-book on logic that has
survived, however, is that of Martianus Capella. Neither he nor his
two successors, Cassiodorus and Isidore, were versed in the subject;
they were merely compilers of educational encyclopedias. Such was the
perfunctory origin of the Latin text-books on logic.[226]

  [225] It was thought that the Latin vocabulary was not well
  suited to the expression of the ideas of logic. _Cf._ Martianus
  Capella, _De Nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii_ (ed. Eyssenhardt)
  where Dialectica is about to speak: “Ac mox Dialectica, quanquam
  parum digne latine loqui posse crederetur, tamen promptiore
  fiducia restrictisque quadam obtutus vibratione luminibus etiam
  ante verba formidabilis, sic exorsa.”

  [226] It is true that the works of Boethius, which were not
  school texts, served to revivify the subject, but his influence
  was very slight in this respect until long after Isidore’s
  time. M. Manitius, _Geschichte der lateinischen Literatur des
  Mittelalters_ (München, 1911), pp. 29–32.

The reader of Isidore’s account of logic is struck by the enthusiasm
displayed. Speaking of Aristotle’s Categories he says: “This work
of Aristotle’s should be read attentively, since, just as is stated
therein, all that a man says is included in the ten categories.”[227]
Further on he quotes the saying that “Aristotle dipped his pen in
intellect when he wrote the _Perihermeniae_.”[228] Again, a study of
Apuleius “will introduce the reader advantageously with God’s help to
great paths of understanding.”[229] All of these passages, however,
come word for word from Cassiodorus. Isidore’s enthusiasm as well as
his bibliography seems to lack genuineness.[230]

  [227] 2, 26, 15. _Cf._ Cass. Migne, _P. L._, vol. lxx, col. 1170.

  [228] 2, 27, 1. _Cf._ Cass. Migne, _P. L._, vol. lxx, col. 1170.

  [229] 2, 28, 22. _Cf._ Cass. Migne, _P. L._, vol. lxx, col. 1173.

  [230] The substance of Isidore’s _De Dialectica_ is taken chiefly
  from Cassiodorus. A number of passages seem to be based on
  Martianus Capella: for example, _Etym._, 2, 31, 1, on Martianus
  Capella (Eyssenhardt), 118, 8 ff.; _Etym._, 2, 31, 4–5, on M. C.,
  118, 15–25; _Etym._, 2, 31, 7, on M. C., 120, 9 ff.


     I. Definition of dialectic (chs. 22, 23).
        1. Distinction between dialectic and rhetoric.
    II. Definition of philosophy (ch. 24).
   III. The Isagoges[2] of Porphyry (ch. 25).
        1. The five predicables: genus, species, differentia, proprium,
    IV. The Categories of Aristotle (ch. 26).
     V. Aristotle’s _De perihermeniis_[231] (ch. 27).
        1. Thought as expressed in language.
    VI. The syllogisms (ch. 28).
        1. Categorical syllogisms.
        2. Hypothetical syllogisms.
   VII. Definition (ch. 29).
        The fifteen kinds of definition.
  VIII. Arguments (_topica_) (ch. 30).
        The twenty-two _loci_ of arguments.
    IX. Opposites (ch. 31).

  [231] Isidore’s ignorance of Greek has been inferred from his use
  of the forms, _isagogae_ and _perihermeniae_. See p. 36.


Book II, Chapter 22. On dialectic.

1. Dialectic is the discipline elaborated with a view of ascertaining
the causes of things. In itself it is the sub-division of philosophy
that is called logical, _i.e._, rational, capable of defining,
enquiring and expressing precisely. For it teaches in the several
kinds of questions how the true and false are separated by discussion.

2. The first philosophers used dialectic in their discourses, but
they did not reduce it to the practical form of an art. After them
Aristotle systematized the subject-matter of this branch of learning,
and called it dialectic, because there is discussion of words
(_dictis_) in it; for λεκτὸν means _dictio_. And dialectic follows
after the discipline of rhetoric because they have many things in

Chapter 23. On the difference between the dialectical and the
rhetorical art.

1. Varro, in the nine books of the _Disciplinae_, distinguished
dialectic and rhetoric by the following simile: “Dialectic and
rhetoric are as in man’s hand the closed fist and the open palm, the
former drawing words together, the latter scattering them.”

2. If dialectic is keener in expressing things precisely, rhetoric
is more eloquent in persuading to the belief it desires. The former
seldom appears in the schools, the latter goes without a break [from
the schools] to the law-court. The former gets few students, the
latter often whole peoples.

3. Before they come to the explanation of the Isagoge, philosophers
are wont to give a definition of philosophy, in order that the things
which concern it may be shown more easily.

Chapter 24. On the definition of philosophy.

1. Philosophy is the knowledge of things human and divine, united
with a zeal for right living. It seems to consist of two things,
knowledge and opinion.

2. It is knowledge when anything is known with definiteness;
opinion, when a thing lurks as yet in uncertainty and seems in no
way established, as for example, whether the sun is [only] as large
as it seems or greater than all the earth; likewise whether the moon
is a sphere or concave; and whether the stars adhere to the heavens
or pass in free course through the air; of what size the heaven
itself is and of what material it is composed; whether it is quiet
and motionless or revolves with incredible speed; how great is the
thickness of the earth, or on what foundations it continues poised
and supported.

3. The word philosophy, translated into Latin, means _amor
sapientiae_. For the Greeks call amor φιλὸν, and sapientiae σοφίαν.
The sub-division of philosophy is three-fold: first, natural
philosophy, which in Greek is called _physica_, in which there is
discussion of the search into nature; the second, moral, which
in Greek is called _ethica_, in which the subject is morals; the
third, rational, which in the Greek is called _logica_, in which the
discussion is as to how the truth itself is to be sought in respect
to the causes of things or the conduct of life.

4. In physics, then, the cause of inquiry, in ethics, the manner of
living, in logic, the method of understanding, are concerned. Among
the Greeks, Thales of Miletus, one of the seven wise men, was the
first to search into natural philosophy. For this man first regarded
with contemplative thought the causes of the heavens and the force of
the things of nature. And this division of philosophy Plato afterward
divided into four separate parts, namely, into arithmetic, geometry,
music, astronomy.

5. Socrates first established ethics with a view to correcting and
ordering conduct, and he devoted all his attention to the discussion
of right living, dividing it into the four virtues of the soul,
namely, wisdom, justice, fortitude, temperance.

6. Wisdom is engaged with things, and by it the evil is distinguished
from the good. Fortitude, by which adversity is endured with
calmness. Temperance, by which lust and concupiscence are bridled.
Justice, by which through righteous judgment his own is rendered to

7. Plato added logical philosophy, which is called rational, and by
it he analyzed the causes of things and of conduct, and examined
their force in a rational way, dividing it into dialectic and
rhetoric. It is called logical, that is, rational, for among the
Greeks λόγος means both word and reason.

8. The divine utterances also consist of these three kinds of
philosophy. For they are wont to discuss nature, as in Genesis or
Ecclesiastes; or conduct, as in Proverbs and here and there in all
the books; or logic, instead of which our [philosophers] assert the
claim of theology,[232] as in the Song of Songs or the Gospels.

  [232] Du Breul has _theologia_; Arevalus, _theorica_.

9. Likewise some of the teachers have defined philosophy in its
name and parts as follows: “Philosophy is the probable knowledge of
divine and human affairs, as far as is possible for man.” Otherwise:
“Philosophy is the art of arts and the science of sciences.” Again:
“Philosophy is the meditation upon death, a definition which better
suits the Christians, who trampling on worldly ambition, live in the
intercourse of learning after the likeness of their future country.”

10. Others have defined the scheme of philosophy as made up of
two parts, of which the former is contemplative, the latter
practical. The contemplative (_inspectiva_) is divided into natural,
theoretical, and divine. Theoretical is divided into four parts, into
arithmetic, music, geometry, and astronomy.

11. Practical (_actualis_) philosophy is divided into moral,
economic, and civil. Contemplative is the name given that in which,
passing beyond the visible, we enjoy some contemplation of the divine
and celestial, and behold them with the mind alone, since they pass
beyond the bodily gaze.

12. Natural philosophy is the name given when the nature of each and
every thing is discussed, since nothing arises contrary to nature
in life, but each thing is assigned to those uses for which it was
purposed by the Creator, unless perchance by God’s will it is shown
that some miracle appears.

13. It is called divine philosophy when we discuss the ineffable
nature of God or the spiritual beings that are in some degree of a
lofty nature.

14. The science which considers abstract quantity is called
theoretical. For that is called abstract quantity which we separate
from the material, or from other accidents, by the intellect, and
treat by reasoning alone, as _e.g._, equal, unequal, and other
matters of this kind....

16. Further, that is called practical philosophy which by its
workings makes problems clear, of which there are three parts, moral,
economic, and civil. That is called moral by which an honorable
custom (_mos_) of living is sought and practices tending to virtue
are established. That is called economic (_dispensativa_) in which
the order of domestic affairs is wisely arranged. That is called
civil by which the advantage of a whole state is secured.

Chapter 25. On the Isagoges of Porphyry.

1. After the definitions of philosophy in which all things are
embraced under general heads, let us now describe the Isagoges of
Porphyry. Isagoge in the Greek means _introductio_ in the Latin,
being meant for those, it is plain, who are beginning philosophy, and
containing an explanation of first principles. In regard to anything
whatever it is made clear what its nature is, by unfailing definition
of the substance.

2. For setting down first the genus, then the species, we subjoin
also other things that are possibly related, and by setting aside
common qualities we make distinctions, continually interposing
differences until we arrive at the proper quality of that which we
are examining, its meaning being made definite, as, for example:
_Homo est animal rationale, mortale, terrenum, bipes, risus capax_.

3. When the genus _animal_ is mentioned the substance of man is
declared. For with reference to man the genus is animal; but since
it has a wide application, the species, _terrenum_, is added and now
what belongs to the air or water is excluded. And a difference is
added, as, for example, _bipes_, which is given on account of the
animals that go on several feet. Likewise _rationale_, because of the
animals which lack reason; and _mortale_, because man is not an angel.

4. Afterwards, when the common qualities had been set aside, the
property was added at the end, for it is the characteristic of man
alone to laugh. In this way the complete definition to indicate man
was reached. Aristotle and Tully held that the full definition of
this science consisted of genus and differences.

5. Later certain authorities, expressing their position more fully,
in their teaching divided perfect substantial definition into five
divisions, as if into five organic parts. And the first of these
deals with genus, the second with species, the third with difference,
the fourth with proper quality, the fifth with accident.

Chapter 26. On the categories of Aristotle.

1. Next follow the categories of Aristotle, which in Latin are called
_praedicamenta_, within which all discourse is embraced throughout
its various meanings.

5. There are ten sorts of categories, namely, _substantia_,
_quantitas_, _qualitas_, _relatio_, _situs_, _locus_, _tempus_,
_habitus_, _agere_, _pati_.

15. This work of Aristotle ought to be read with attention, since,
as has been observed, whatever man speaks is included within the ten
categories. It will help also to the understanding of the books that
are devoted either to rhetoric or to logic.[233]

  [233] This passage is copied from Cassiodorus and is not an
  indication that Isidore had read the work of Aristotle that is

Chapter 27. On Interpretation (_de Perihermeniis_).

1. There follows next the book On Interpretation, which is extremely
subtle and guarded in its various formulas and repetitions, of which
it is said: “Aristotle when he wrote the Perihermeniae dipped his pen
in intellect.”

Chapter 28. On syllogisms.

1. Next follow the syllogisms of dialectic, wherein the advantage and
excellence of that whole art is exhibited, the inferences of which
greatly aid the reader in searching out the truth, so that the common
error of deceiving an adversary by the sophisms of false conclusions

2. There are three formulae of categorical syllogisms. To the first
formula belong nine modes....

12. To the second formula belong four modes....

16. To the third formula belong six modes.

22. Let him who desires to understand fully these formulas of
the categorical syllogisms read the book entitled _Apuleii
Perihermeniae_, and he will learn matters that are treated with
subtlety.[234] And by their clearness and well-weighed character
they will introduce the reader advantageously with God’s help to
great paths of understanding. Now let us come to the hypothetical
syllogisms in order.

23–25. The modes of the hypothetical syllogisms that have a
conclusion are seven.... If anyone desires to know more fully the
modes of the hypothetical syllogisms let him read Marius Victorinus’
book entitled _De Syllogismis Hypotheticis_.[234]

  [234] A recommendation copied word for word from Cassiodorus.

26. Next let us approach the topic of dialectical definitions, which
have such surpassing worth that they may rightly be called the clear
manifestations of speech, and in a sense the guides to expression.

Chapter 29. On the division of definitions, abbreviated from the book
of Marius Victorinus.

1. The definition of the philosophers is that which in describing
things sets forth what the thing in itself is—not, of what sort it
is—and how it ought to be made up of its parts. For it is a brief
statement separating the nature of each thing from its class, and
marking it off by its peculiar meaning. Definitions are divided
into fifteen sorts. The first kind of definition is the substantial
(οὐσιώδης), which is named definition in the proper and true
sense, as, for example, _Est homo animal rationale, mortale, risus
disciplinaeque capax_. This definition descends through species and
differences and comes to the property, and expresses most fully what
man is.

16. Now let us come to the _topica_, which are the seats of
arguments, the fountains of ideas, and the sources of speech.

Chapter 30. On the topics.

1. _Topica_ is the science of finding arguments. The division
of the _topica_ or the _loci_ from which arguments are derived
is three-fold. For some inhere in the very thing that is under
discussion; there are others, called _affecta_ (closely connected),
which are known to be derived in a certain sense from other things;
others, which are taken from outside [the subject]....

18. It is clearly a wonderful thing that whatever the nimbleness and
variety of the human mind could discover, searching for ideas in
different cases, could have been gathered into unity; that free and
spontaneous intelligence is limited. For wherever it turns, whatever
thoughts it enters on, the mind must fall upon some of those that
have been described.





In examining Isidore’s _De Arithmetica_ two peculiarities of the
development of the subject should be borne in mind. In the first
place, the predominant position among the mathematical sciences which
Isidore claims for arithmetic was one acquired by it comparatively
late. Owing perhaps to the awkwardness of the Greek notation of
number[235] geometry had been developed first, and historically
arithmetic was an off-shoot from geometry and borrowed its
terminology largely from it.[236] It was not given an independent
form until the time of Nicomachus (fl. 100 A.D.) whose _Introductio
Arithmetica_ was “the first exhaustive work in which arithmetic
was treated quite independently of geometry.”[237] Once it become
independent, arithmetic, instead of geometry, came to be regarded as
the fundamental mathematical science. The old tradition is reflected
in Martianus Capella’s order of subjects, in which geometry is
placed first and arithmetic second, while the newer tradition is seen
in the order of Cassiodorus and Isidore, who both have passages also
emphasizing the fundamental character of arithmetic.

  [235] “The cumulative evidence is surely very strong that the
  alphabetic numerals were first employed in Alexandria early
  in the third century B.C.” J. Gow, _A Short History of Greek
  Mathematics_ (Cambridge, 1884), p. 48.

  [236] We have in Isidore, for example, the terms _numerus
  trigonus_, _numerus quadratus_, _numerus quinquangulus_, and
  _linealis_, _superficialis_, and _circularis numerus_.

  [237] Cajori, _Hist. of Math._, p. 72.

The second peculiarity is one which will surprise the modern reader
who is familiar with arithmetic as a utilitarian study. The ancient
_arithmetica_ had nothing to do with the art of reckoning, which was
called _logistica_.[238] The science and the art of numbers were
completely divorced and the latter was excluded from the higher
education as we have it in the seven liberal arts. Consequently we
can expect nothing practical in Isidore’s _De Arithmetica_. Nothing
is said of methods of calculation, elementary or advanced, and, as a
matter of course, nothing is to be found here on such topics as the
use of the abacus[239] or the method of computing Easter, though the
latter was the greatest mathematical problem of the time.

  [238] Gow, speaking of the Greek ἀριθμητική, says: “Its aim was
  entirely different from that of the ordinary calculator, and it
  was natural that the philosopher who sought in numbers to find
  the plan on which the creator worked, should begin to regard with
  contempt the merchant who wanted only to know how many sardines
  at ten for an obol he could buy for a talent.” Gow, _op. cit._,
  p. 72.

  [239] Cantor believes that the use of the abacus had been
  forgotten before Isidore’s time, _cf._ “calculator a calculis,
  id est a lapillis minutis quos antiqui in manu tenentes numeros
  componebant.” _Etym._, 10, 43. See Cantor, _Vorlesungen über
  Geschichte der Mathematik_ (Leipzig, 1894–1900), vol. i, p. 774.

Isidore’s source in the _De Arithmetica_ was Cassiodorus,[240] whom
he copies with little change; while Cassiodorus’ work was apparently
a bare abstract of Boethius’ translation of Nicomachus. Isidore’s
account is of great brevity and contains a number of unexplained
technical terms.

  [240] Isidore adds to the account as found in Cassiodorus a few
  remarks about numbers in the Scriptures, some derivations of
  numbers, and the sections on the means and on infinity.


PREFACE. Mathematics is called in Latin _doctrinalis scientia_. It
considers abstract quantity. For that is abstract quantity which
we treat by reason alone, separating it by the intellect from the
material or from other non-essentials, as for example, equal,
unequal, or the like. And there are four sorts of mathematics,
namely, arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy. Arithmetic is the
science of numerical quantity in itself. Geometry is the science of
magnitude and forms.[241] Music is the science that treats of numbers
that are found in sounds. Astronomy is the science that contemplates
the courses of the heavenly bodies and their figures, and all the
phenomena of the stars. These sciences we shall next describe at a
little greater length in order that their significance may be fully

  [241] Du Breul has _magnitudinis et formarum_; Arevalo,
  _magnitudinis formarum_.

Chapter 1. On the name of the science of arithmetic.

1. Arithmetic is the science of numbers. For the Greeks call number
ἀριθμός. The writers of secular literature have decided that it is
first among the mathematical sciences since it needs no other science
for its own existence.

2. But music and geometry and astronomy, which follow, need its aid
in order to be and exist.

Chapter 2. On the writers.

1. They say that Pythagoras was the first among the Greeks to write
of the science of number, and that it was later described more
fully by Nicomachus, whose work Apuleius first, and then Boethius,
translated into Latin.

Chapter 3. What number is.

1. Number is multitude made up of units. For one is the seed of
number but not number. _Nummus_ (coin) gave its name to _numerus_
(number), and from being frequently used originated the word.

_Unus_ derives its name from the Greek, for the Greeks call _unus_
ἕνα, likewise _duo_, _tria_, which they call δύο and τρία.

2. _Quattuor_ took its name from a square figure (_figura quadrata_).
_Quinque_, however, received its name from one who gave the names
to numbers not according to nature but according to whim. _Sex_ and
_septem_ come from the Greek.

3. For in many names that are aspirated in Greek we use _s_ instead
of the aspiration. We have _sex_ for ἑξ, _septem_ for ἕπτα, and also
the word _serpillum_ (thyme) for _herpillum_. _Octo_ is borrowed
without change; they have ἔννεα, we _novem_; they δέκα, we _decem_.

4. _Decem_ is so-called from a Greek etymology, because it ties
together and unites the numbers below it. For to tie together and
unite is called among them δεσμεύειν.[242]

  [242] This derivation points to a soft _c_ in _decem_.

Chapter 4. What numbers signify.

1. The science of number must not be despised. For in many passages
of the holy scriptures it is manifest what great mystery they
contain. For it is not said in vain in the praises of God: “Omnia in
mensura et numero et pondere fecisti.” For the senarius, which is
perfect in respect to its parts,[243] declares the perfection of the
universe by a certain meaning of its number. In like manner, too, the
forty days which Moses and Elias and the Lord himself fasted, are not
understood without an understanding of number.

  [243] Six was regarded as a perfect number, because it is equal
  to the sum of all its factors.

3. So, too, other numbers appear in the holy scriptures whose natures
none but experts in this art can wisely declare the meaning of. It
is granted to us, too, to depend in some part upon the science of
numbers, since we learn the hours by means of it, reckon the course
of the months, and learn the time of the returning year. Through
number, indeed, we are instructed in order not to be confounded. Take
number from all things and all things perish. Take calculation from
the world and all is enveloped in dark ignorance, nor can he who
does not know the way to reckon be distinguished from the rest of the

Chapter 5. On the first division into _even_ and _odd_.

1. Number is divided into even and odd. Even number is divided into
the following: evenly even, evenly uneven, and unevenly even, and
unevenly uneven.[244] Odd number is divided into the following: prime
and uncompounded, compounded, and a third class which comes between
(_mediocris_) which in a certain way is prime and uncompounded, but
in another way secondary and compounded.

  [244] _Pariter par, et pariter impar, et impariter par et
  impariter impar._ Since these all profess to be divisions of even
  number, the word odd is not used in the translation.

2. An even number is that which can be divided into two equal parts,
as II, IV, VIII.[245] An odd number is that which cannot be divided
into equal parts, there being one in the middle which is either too
little or too much, as III, V, VII, IX, and so on.

  [245] To remind the reader of Isidore’s notation Roman numerals
  are kept wherever he used them.

3. Evenly even number is that which is divided equally into even
number, until it comes to indivisible unity, as for example, LXIV has
a half XXXII, this again XVI; XVI, VIII; VIII, IV; IV, II; II, I,
which is single and indivisible.

4. Evenly uneven is that which admits of division into equal parts,
but its parts soon remain indivisible, as VI, X, XVIII, XXX, and L,
for presently, when you divide such a number, you run upon a number
which you cannot halve.

5. Unevenly even number is that whose halves can be divided again,
but do not go on to unity, as XXIV. For this number being divided
in half makes XII, divided again VI, and again, III; and this part
does not admit of further division, but before unity a limit is found
which you cannot halve.

6. Unevenly uneven is that which is measured unevenly by an uneven
number, as XXV, XLIX; which, being uneven numbers, are divided
also by uneven factors, as, seven times seven, XLIX, and five times
five, XXV. Of odd numbers some are prime, some compounded, some mean

7. Prime numbers are those which have no other factor except unity
alone, as three has only a third, five only a fifth, seven only a
seventh, for these have only one factor.

Compound numbers are they which are not only measured by unity, but
are produced by another number, as IX, XV, XXI, XXV. For we say three
times three are nine, and seven times three are XXI, and three times
five are XV, and five times five are XXV.

8. Mean (_mediocris_) numbers are those which in a certain fashion
seem prime and uncompounded and in another fashion secondary and
compounded. For example, when IX is compared with XXV, it is prime
and uncompounded, because it has no common factor except unity
alone, but if it is compared with XV it is secondary and compounded,
since there is in it a common factor in addition to unity, that is,
III. Because three times three make nine, and three times five make

  [246] The division into even, odd, and numbers sharing the
  characteristics of even and odd numbers goes back to Nicomachus.
  It is not a logical division, as the second class contains the
  third. See Gow, p. 90.

9. Likewise of even numbers some are excessive, others defective,
others perfect.[247] Excessive are those whose factors being added
together exceed its total, as for example, XII. For it has five
factors: a twelfth, which is one; a sixth, which is two; a fourth,
which is three; a third, which is four; a half, which is six. For one
and two and three and four and six being added together make XVI,
which is far in excess of twelve....

  [247] _Superflui, diminuti, perfecti._

10. Defective numbers are those which being reckoned by their factors
make a less total, as for example, ten....

11. The perfect number is that which is equalled by its factors,
as VI.... The perfect numbers are, under ten, VI; under a hundred,
XXVIII; under a thousand, CCCCXCVI.

Chapter 6. On the second division of all number.

1. All number is considered either with reference to itself or
in relation to something. The former is divided as follows:
some are equal, as for example, two; others are unequal, as for
example, three.[248] The latter is divided as follows: some are
greater, some are less. The greater are divided as follows: into
_multiplices_ (multiple), _superparticulares_, _superpartientes_,
_multiplices superparticulares_, _multiplices superpartientes_.
The less are divided as follows: _Sub-multiplices_ (sub-multiple),
_sub-superparticulares_, _sub-superpartientes_, _sub-multiplices
sub-superparticulares_, _sub-multiplices sub-superpartientes_.

  [248] The examples are found in Du Breul. They do not appear in

6. ... The _superparticularis numerus_ is when a greater number
contains in itself a lesser number with which it is compared, and at
the same time one part of it.

7. For example; III when compared with II contains in itself two
and also one, which is the half of two. IV when compared with III,
contains three and also one, which is the third of three. Likewise V,
when compared with IV, contains the number four and also one, which
is the fourth part of the said number four, and so on.

8. The _superpartiens numerus_ is that which contains the whole of
a lesser number and in addition two parts of it, either thirds or
fifths or other parts. For example, when V is compared with III, the
number five contains three and in addition to this two parts of it.

Chapter 7. On the third division of all number.

1. Numbers are abstract or concrete. The latter are divided as
follows: first, lineal; second, superficial; third, solid. Abstract
number is that which is made up of abstract units. For example, III,
IV, V, VI, and so on.

2. Concrete number is that which is made up of units that are not
abstract, as for example, the number three, if it is understood of
magnitude, whether line, superficies, or solid, is called concrete.

4. The number of superficies is that which is constituted not only by
length but also by breadth, as triangular, square, pentangular, or
circular numbers, and the rest that are contained in a plane surface
or superficies.

5. The circular number, when it is multiplied by itself, beginning
with itself, ends with itself. For example, _Quinquies quini vicies

6. ... The spherical number is that which being multiplied by the
circular number begins with itself and ends with itself; for example,
five times five are twenty-five, and this circle being multiplied by
itself makes a sphere, that is, five times XXV make CXXV.

Chapter 8. On the distinction between arithmetic, geometry, and music.

1. Between arithmetic, geometry and music there is a difference in
finding the means. In arithmetic in the first place you find it in
this way. You add the extremes and divide and find the half; as for
example, suppose the extremes are VI and XII, you add them and they
make XVIII. You divide and get IX, which is the mean of arithmetic
(_analogicum arithmeticae_), since the mean is surpassed by the last
by as many units as it surpasses the first. For IX surpasses VI by
three units, and XII surpasses it by the same number.

2. According to geometry you find it this way. The extremes
multiplied together make as much as the means multiplied, for
example, VI and XII multiplied make LXXII; the means VIII and IX
multiplied make the same.

3. According to music you find it in this way: The mean is exceeded
by the last term by the part by which it exceeds the first term, as
for example, VI is surpassed by VIII by two units, which is a third
part, and by the same part the mean VIII is surpassed by the last
term which is XII.

Chapter 9. That infinite numbers exist.

1. It is most certain that there are infinite numbers, since at
whatever number you think an end must be made I say not only that it
can be increased by the addition of one, but, however great it is,
and however large a multitude it contains, by the very method and
science of numbers it can not only be doubled but even multiplied.

2. Each number is limited by its own proper qualities, so that no
one of them can be equal to any other. Therefore in relation to one
another they are unequal and diverse, and the separate numbers are
each finite, and all are infinite.



In spite of the high development of geometry among the Greeks it
never took root as a pure science in the western Roman world,[249]
and neither the various practical applications of its principles
nor its use as a disciplinary educational subject sufficed to
fasten thoughtful attention upon it; in consequence, it lost almost
its entire content. As it appears in the four writers who treat
of it in later Roman and early medieval times, Martianus Capella,
Boethius,[250] Cassiodorus, and Isidore, it furnishes a striking
commentary upon the intellectual conservatism that could retain
without a suspicion of criticism a subject that was no longer
anything but empty form.

  [249] Cantor, _Vorlesungen über Geschichte der Mathematik_, vol.
  i, p. 521.

  [250] The authenticity of the work on geometry that has been
  handed down under Boethius’ name is questioned. (See Cantor,
  _ibid._, pp. 536 _et seq._) It contains the complete proof
  of only three of Euclid’s propositions. It also contains
  calculations of areas of geometrical figures. See edition of
  Friedlein (Leipzig, 1867).

The substance of Isidore’s _De Geometria_ comes with little change
from Cassiodorus. It is noteworthy that these two writers have
nothing that does not go with the subject according to the modern
conception of it, and do not follow the example of their predecessor
Martianus Capella,[251] in whose account of the seven liberal arts
the void caused by the loss of the proper content of geometry is
filled with geography.

  [251] _Cf._ Martianus Capella’s definition: “Geometria vocor
  quod permeatam crebro admensamque tellurem eiusque figuram,
  magnitudinem, locum, partes et stadia possim cum suis rationibus
  explicare neque ulla sit in totius terrae diversitate partitio
  quam non memoris cursu descriptionis absolvam.” Eyssenhardt, 198,


  [252] The whole of Isidore’s _De Geometria_ is here given,
  with the exception of a few passages that are untranslatable.
  It is given as a whole to enforce attention to the loss of the
  traditional content, partial or complete, which was so striking
  a feature of all the members of the quadrivium in early medieval

Book III, Chapter 10. On the inventors of geometry and its name.

1. The science of geometry is said to have been discovered first by
the Egyptians, because when the Nile overflowed and all their lands
were overspread with mud, its origin in the division of the land by
lines and measurements gave the name to the art. And later, being
carried further by the keenness of the philosophers, it measured the
spaces of the sea, the heavens, and the air.

2. For, having their attention aroused, students began to search into
the spaces of the heavens, after measuring the earth; how far the
moon was from the earth, the sun itself from the moon, and how great
a measure extended to the summit of the sky; and thus they laid off
in numbers of stades with probable reason the very distances of the
sky and the circuit of the earth.

3. But since this science arose from the measuring of the earth, it
took its name also from its beginning. For _geometria_ is so named
from the earth and measuring. For the earth is called γῆ in Greek,
and measuring, μέτρον. The art[253] of this science embraces lines,
intervals, magnitudes, and figures, and in figures, dimensions and

  [253] _Hujus ars disciplinae_. _Ars_ may be equal to ‘hand-book’

Chapter 11. On the four-fold division of geometry.

1. The four-fold division of geometry is into plane figures,
numerical magnitude, rational magnitude, and solid figures.

2. Plane figures are those which are contained by length and breadth.
Numerical magnitude is that which can be divided by the numbers of

3. Rational magnitudes are those whose measures we can know, and
irrational, those the amount of whose measurement is not known.

4. Solid figures are those that are contained by length, breadth, and
thickness, which are five in number, according to Plato.

Chapter 12. On the figures of geometry.

1. The first of the figures on a plane surface is the circle, a
figure that is plane, and has a circumference, in the middle of which
is a point upon which everything converges (_cuncta convergunt_)
which geometers call the center, and the Latins call the point of the

2. A quadrilateral figure is one on a plane surface, and it is
contained by four straight lines....

3. A sphere is a figure of rounded form equal in all its parts.

A cube is a solid figure which is contained by length, breadth, and

5. A cone (_conon_) is a solid figure which narrows from a broad base
like the right-angled triangle.

6. A pyramid is a solid figure which narrows to a point from a broad
base like fire. For fire in Greek is called πῦρ.

7. Just as all number is contained within ten so the outline of every
figure is contained within the circle.

Chapter 13. On the first principles of geometry.

1. ... A point is that which has no part. A line is length without
breadth. A straight line is one which lies evenly in respect to its
points. A superficies is that which has length and breadth alone.

Chapter 14. On the numbers of geometry.

1. You search into the numbers of geometry as follows: the extremes
being multiplied, amount to as much as the means multiplied; as for
example, VI and XII being multiplied, make LXXII; the means VIII and
IX being multiplied, amount to the same.



As an educational subject music is the oldest of those grouped under
the heading of the seven liberal arts. In Plato’s time music and
gymnastic were the staples of education, and the former term meant
chiefly the study of poetry, with music in the proper sense of the
word as a mere adjunct. As the different subjects, such as grammar,
rhetoric, geometry, arithmetic, appeared in the curriculum, the field
of music narrowed and it held a less commanding place. Conflicting
points of view in regard to it appear to have arisen. The older
educational tradition connected music with grammar and the other
literary studies. On the other hand, the influence of the Pythagorean
theory of number and of its application to music tended to dissociate
grammar and music, and to place the latter in relation to the
mathematical sciences. It has been noticed that among the older
Roman writers from whom evidence on this matter can be drawn—Cicero,
Varro, Seneca, Quintilian, and others—the association of music and
grammar appears the natural one, while in the Roman writers of the
second, third, and fourth centuries both traditions prevail, with
an increasing preference for placing music among the mathematical
sciences, where it finally found itself when the canon of the seven
liberal arts was formed, and where it remained to the end of the
middle ages.[254]

  [254] Schmidt, _Questiones de musicis scriptoribus Romanis,
  imprimis de Cassiodoro et Isidoro_ (Darmstadt, 1899). This
  dissertation is in part an examination of the question whether
  the Roman writers associated music with grammar or the
  mathematical sciences in their enumerations of educational
  subjects. It contains a useful list of passages bearing on the
  seven liberal arts.

In Isidore little is to be found to justify the mathematical
environment of music. It is true that at times he defines it as a
mathematical science[255] and he insists on the musical view of the
universe as a necessary complement to other views. “Without music,”
he says, “there can be no perfect knowledge, for there is nothing
without it. For even the universe itself is said to have been formed
under the guidance of harmony.”[256] But, with the exception of a
paragraph on the musical mean, his treatment is entirely taken up
with the non-mathematical aspect of the subject, and the definition
“music is the practical knowledge of melody”[257] is the one that
more closely fits the occasion.

  [255] Five definitions of music are given by Isidore, two making
  no allusion to its mathematical character. They are as follows:

  “Musica est peritia modulationis sono cantuque consistens.”
  _Etym._, 3, 15, 1.

  “Musica est disciplina quae de numeris loquitur qui inveniuntur
  in sonis.” _Etym._, 3, Preface.

  “Musica est disciplina quae de numeris loquitur qui ad aliquid
  sunt his qui inveniuntur in sonis.” _Etym._, 2, 24, 15.

  “Musica quae in carminibus cantibusque consistit.” _Etym._, 1, 2,

  “Musica est ars spectabilis voce vel gestu, habens in se
  numerorum ac soni certam dimensionem cum scientia perfectae
  modulationis. Haec constat ex tribus modis, id est, sono, verbis,
  numeris.” _Diff._, ii, cap. 39.

  [256] _Etym._, 3, 17, 1.

  [257] _Etym._, 3, 15, 1.

The treatment[258] of music is of about the same length as that of
arithmetic, and is devoted mainly to definitions of musical terms and
brief descriptions of wind and stringed instruments. It appears that
Isidore knew nothing of music in a technical sense.[259]

  [258] C. Schmidt, _op. cit._, after a detailed comparison of
  passages, concludes that Isidore did not obtain his material for
  _De Musica_ from Cassiodorus or Augustine, but that all three go
  back independently to an original work produced by an unknown
  Christian writer. However, the numerous identical passages in
  Cassiodorus and Isidore would indicate that the latter had used
  the former at least as a guide in plagiarism. See Schmidt, pp.
  26–52, and compare Dressel, _De Isidori Originum Fontibus_
  (Turin, 1874), pp. 5 and 6.

  [259] Woodridge in the _Oxford History of Music_ (Oxford,
  1901), vol. i, p. 33, note, says of Isidore’s _De Musica_, that
  it “clearly reveals the complete ignorance of his time. His
  dicta upon music are chiefly crude and misleading paraphrases
  from Cassiodorus and others, from which it is evident that the
  signification of the terms employed had completely escaped him.
  Modes are not mentioned by him [but _cf._ 3, 20, 7] and keys and
  genera are confounded together.”


Book III, Chapter 15. On music and its name.

1. Music is the practical knowledge of melody, consisting of sound
and song; and it is called music by derivation from the Muses. And
the Muses were so-called ἀπὸ τοῦ μῶσθαι, that is, from inquiring,
because it was by them, as the ancients had it, that the potency of
songs and the melody of the voice were inquired into.

2. Since sound is a thing of sense it passes along into past time,
and it is impressed on the memory. From this it was pretended by the
poets that the Muses were the daughters of Jupiter and Memory. For
unless sounds are held in the memory by man they perish, because they
cannot be written.

Chapter 16. On its discoverers.

1. Moses says that the discoverer of the art of music was Jubal, who
was of the family of Cain and lived before the flood. But the Greeks
say that Pythagoras discovered the beginnings of this art from the
sound of hammers and the striking of tense cords. Others assert that
Linus of Thebes, and Zethus, and Amphion, were the first to win fame
in the musical art.

2. After whose time this science in particular was gradually
established and enlarged in many ways, and it was as disgraceful to
be ignorant of music as of letters. And it had a place not only
at sacred rites, but at all ceremonies and in all things glad or

Chapter 17. On the power of music.

1. And without music there can be no perfect knowledge, for there is
nothing without it. For even the universe itself is said to have been
put together with a certain harmony of sounds, and the very heavens
revolve under the guidance of harmony. Music rouses the emotions, it
calls the senses to a different quality.

2. In battles, too, the music of the trumpet fires the warriors, and
the more impetuous its loud sound the braver is the spirit for the
fight. Also, song cheers the rowers. For the enduring of labors, too,
music comforts the mind, and singing lightens weariness in solitary

3. Music calms overwrought minds also, as is read of David, who by
his skill in playing rescued Saul from an unclean spirit. Even the
very beasts and snakes, birds and dolphins, music calls to hear its
notes. Moreover whatever we say or whatever emotions we feel within
from the beating of our pulses, it is proven that they are brought
into communion with the virtues through the musical rhythms of

Chapter 18. On the three parts of music.

1. There are three parts of music, namely, _harmonica_, _rhythmica_,
_metrica_. _Harmonica_ is that which distinguishes in sounds the
high and the low. _Rhythmica_ is that which inquires concerning the
succession of words as to whether the sound fits them well or ill.

2. _Metrica_ is that which learns by approved method the measure of
the different metres, as for example, the heroic, iambic, elegiac,
and so on.

Chapter 19. On the triple division of music.

1. It is agreed that all sound which is the material of music is of
three sorts. First is _harmonica_, which consists of vocal music;
second is _organica_, which is formed from the breath; third is
_rhythmica_, which receives its numbers from the beat of the fingers.

2. For sound is produced either by the voice, coming through the
throat; or by the breath, coming through the trumpet or tibia, for
example; or by touch, as in the case of the cithara or anything else
that gives a tuneful sound on being struck.

Chapter 20. On the first division of music which is called

1. The first division of music, which is called _harmonica_, that is,
modulation of the voice, has to do with comedians, tragedians, and
choruses, and all who sing with the proper voice.[260] This [coming]
from the spirit and the body makes motion, and out of motion, sound,
out of which music is formed, which is called in man the voice.

  [260] _Qui voce propria canunt._

2. _Harmonica_ is the modulation of the voice and the concord or
fitting together of very many sounds.

3. _Symphonia_ is the managing of modulation so that high and
low tones accord, whether in the voice or in wind or stringed
instruments. Through this, higher and lower voices harmonize, so that
whoever makes a dissonance from it offends the sense of hearing.
The opposite of this is _diaphonia_, that is, voices grating on one
another or in dissonance.

7. _Tonus_ is a high utterance of voice. For it is a difference and
measure of harmony which depends on the stress and pitch of the
voice. Musicians have divided its kinds into fifteen parts, of which
the hyperlydian is the last and highest, the hypodorian the lowest of

8. Song is the modulation of the voice, for sound is unmodulated, and
sound precedes song.

Chapter 21. On the second division, which is called _organica_.

1. The second division, organica, has to do with those [instruments]
that, filled with currents of breath, are animated so as to sound
like the voice, as for example, trumpets, reeds, Pan’s pipes, organs,
the pandura, and instruments like these.[261]

  [261] The pandura was a stringed instrument! In the succeeding
  sections these instruments are briefly described, and the
  sambuca, another stringed instrument, is also included.

Chapter 22. On the third division, which is called _rhythmica_.

1. The third division is _rhythmica_, having to do with strings and
instruments that are beaten, to which are assigned the different
species of cithara, the drum, and the cymbal, the sistrum, acitabula
of bronze and silver, and others of metallic stiffness that when
struck return a pleasant tinkling sound, and the rest of this

  [262] Other instruments mentioned are _psalterum_, _lyra_,
  _barbitos_, _phoenix_, _pectis_, _indica_, _aliae quadrata forma
  vel trigonali_, _margaritum_, _ballematica_, _tintinnabulum_,

2. The form of the cithara in the beginning is said to have been like
the human breast, because as the voice was uttered from the breast so
was music from the cithara, and it was so-called for the same reason.
For _pectus_ is in the Doric language called κίθαρα.

Chapter 23. On the numbers of music.

1. You inquire into the numbers according to music as follows:
setting down the extremes, as for example, VI and XII, you see by how
many units VI is surpassed by XII, and it is by VI units; you square
it; six times six make XXXVI. You add those first-mentioned extremes,
VI and XII; together they make XVIII; you divide XXXVI by XVIII;
two is the result. This you add to the smaller amount, VI namely;
the result will be VIII and it will be the mean between VI and XII.
Because VIII surpasses VI by two units, that is by a third of six,
and VIII is surpassed by XII by four units, a third part [of twelve].
By what part, then, the mean surpasses, by the same is it surpassed.

2. Just as this proportion exists in the universe, being constituted
by the revolving circles, so also in the microcosm—not to speak of
the voice—it has such great power that man does not exist without

  [263] The general sense of the passage: “ut sine ipsius
  perfectione etiam homo symphoniis carens non consistat.” 3, 23,
  2. See p. 65.



The science of astronomy, in its history from the great period
of Greece down to the dark ages, furnishes almost as complete a
spectacle of decay as does geometry. It is quite certain “that
Aristarchus taught the annual motion of the earth around the sun, and
both he and Seleukus taught the diurnal rotation of the earth,”[264]
but the general scientific development of the age was not sufficient
to assimilate this advanced theory, and astronomers went back to a
geocentric universe. Strange to say, the later rise of practical
astronomy at Alexandria, and the development of pure mathematics,
did not secure a return to the more advanced theory, the efforts of
the later astronomers being devoted, not to a reconsideration of the
fundamental theses of the subject, but to putting the geocentric
theory on a secure mathematical basis. The greatest of these
astronomers, Ptolemy (second century A.D.), left in his _Syntaxis_ a
comprehensive summing up of mathematical astronomy.

  [264] J. L. E. Dreyer, _History of the Planetary Systems from
  Thales to Kepler_ (Cambridge, 1906), p. 141.

Among the Romans no scientists arose to assimilate the results of the
work of the Greeks, and sound ideas as to the form of the universe
were rare even in the most intelligent circles. Since systematic
observation was not practiced, and a knowledge of the higher
mathematics did not exist among the Romans, their astronomy was a
matter of tradition and authority. Therefore upon the acceptance of
Christianity and the realization that there was a conflict between
the Greek and the Hebrew cosmologies, it was a comparatively easy
matter to accept the Scriptures instead of the secular writers as the
source of authority.

In Isidore’s ideas on cosmology a curious inconsistency appears. On
the one hand, he shows that he regards the words of the Scripture as
the final authority, and he frequently gives expression to primitive
notions in accord with the Hebrew cosmology. On the other hand, he
displays a greater liberality than is shown by his predecessor,
Cassiodorus, or by any other Christian writer in the Latin language
up to his time, in borrowing from the pagan writers on astronomy.
The explanation of this may be that it was a natural reaction
from dogmatic narrowness, made possible for him by the favorable
conditions offered by contemporary Spain; but the more probable
supposition is that his natural vagueness of mind and lack of
critical power enabled him to be much more liberal in effect than he
in reality would have wished to be.[265]

  [265] See Introduction, p. 51.

Another feature of Isidore’s _De Astronomia_ that deserves notice
is his attitude toward the forbidden science of astrology.[266] He
denies a fundamental assumption of the science, namely, that Mercury
and Venus, for example, have as planets an influence analogous to
their characters in mythology, and he asserts that the names of the
planets and fixed stars, as used in astrology, have no validity. This
was vigorous reasoning for the dark ages, and to all appearance it
completely cut away the foundation of astrology.[267] Nevertheless
Isidore believed that astrology had some truth—the magi who announced
the birth of Christ were, he believed, astrologers—but this truth
arose “out of a deadly alliance of men and bad angels.” His
attitude, then, seems to be that astrologers may forecast the future,
but that their ability to do so depends on the assistance of demons,
and that the drawing up of nativities is merely a pretence to cloak
this partnership.

  [266] Tannery in his _Recherches sur l’histoire de l’astronomie
  ancienne_ (Paris, 1893), has an interesting discussion of the
  successive names of the science of the heavenly bodies. He
  attributes the revival of the older term astronomy about the
  end of the third century A.D., to the association of the term
  astrology with divination. In Varro the name used was astrology.

  [267] 3, 71, 21–40. See pp. 152–4.

Little is known of astronomy as a subject in the Roman schools. It
no doubt formed part of the curriculum, but apparently no text-book
was produced between the time of Varro and that of Martianus Capella.
The three school treatises of late Roman and early medieval times,
written by Capella, Cassiodorus, and Isidore, were all the work
of educational encyclopedists from whom nothing of a scientific
character could be expected.


Book III, Chapter 24. On the name of astronomy.

1. Astronomy is the law of the stars, and it traces with inquiring
reason the courses of the heavenly bodies, and their figures, and the
regular movements of the stars with reference to one another and to
the earth.

Chapter 25. On its discoverers.

1. The Egyptians were the first to discover astronomy. And the
Chaldeans first taught astrology and the observance of nativity.
Moreover, Josephus asserts that Abraham taught astrology to the
Egyptians. The Greeks, however, say that this art was first
elaborated by Atlas, and therefore it was said that he held the
heavens up.

2. Whoever was the discoverer, it was the movement of the heavens
and his rational faculty that stirred him, and in the light of the
succession of seasons, the observed and established courses of the
stars, and the regularity of the intervals, he considered carefully
certain dimensions and numbers, and getting a definite and distinct
idea of them he wove them into order and discovered astrology.

Chapter 26. On its teachers.

1. In both Greek and Latin there are volumes written on astronomy by
different writers. Of these Ptolemy[268] is considered chief among
the Greeks. He also taught rules by which the courses of the stars
may be discovered.[269]

  [268] Du Breul has _Ptolemaeus, rex Alexandriae_.

  [269] The canons by which Ptolemy calculated the position of the
  planets. Isidore makes no further reference to them.

Chapter 27. The difference between astronomy and astrology.

1. There is some difference between astronomy and astrology.
For astronomy embraces the revolution of the heavens, the rise,
setting, and motion of the heavenly bodies, and the origin of their
names. Astrology, on the other hand, is in part natural, in part

2. It is natural astrology when it describes the courses of the
sun and the moon and the stars, and the regular succession of the
seasons. Superstitious astrology is that which the mathematici
follow, who prophesy by the stars, and who distribute the twelve
signs of the heavens among the individual parts of the soul or body,
and endeavor to predict the nativities and characters of men from the
course of the stars.

Chapter 28. On the subject-matter of astronomy.

1. The subject-matter of astronomy is made up of many kinds. For it
defines what the universe is, what the heavens, what the position and
movement of the sphere, what the axis of the heavens and the poles,
what are the climates of the heavens, what the courses of the sun and
moon and stars, and so forth.

Chapter 29. On the universe and its name.

1. _Mundus_ (the universe) is that which is made up of the heavens
and earth and the sea and all the heavenly bodies. And it is called
_mundus_ for the reason that it is always in _motion_. For no repose
is granted to its elements.

Chapter 30. On the form of the universe.

1. The form of the universe is described as follows: as the universe
rises toward the region of the north, so it slopes away toward the
south; its head and face, as it were, is the east, and its back part
the north.

Chapter 31. On the heavens and their name.

1. The philosophers have asserted that the heavens are round, in
rapid motion, and made of fire, and that they are called by this name
(_coelum_) because they have the forms of the stars fixed on them,
like a dish with figures in relief (_coelatum_).

2. For God decked them with bright lights, and filled them with
the glowing circles of the sun and moon, and adorned them with the
glittering images of flashing stars.

Chapter 32. On the situation of the celestial sphere.

1. The sphere of the heavens is rounded and its center is the earth,
equally shut in on every side. This sphere, they say, has neither
beginning nor end, for the reason that being rounded like a circle it
is not easily perceived where it begins or where it ends.

2. The philosophers have brought in the theory of seven heavens of
the universe, that is, globes with planets moving harmoniously, and
they assert that by their circles all things are bound together, and
they think that these, being connected, and, as it were, fitted to
one another, move backward and are borne with definite motions in
contrary directions.

Chapter 33. On the motion of the same.

1. The sphere revolves on two axes, of which one is the northern,
which never sets, and is called Boreas; the other is the southern,
which is never seen, and is called Austronotius.

2. On these two poles the sphere of heaven moves, they say, and
with its motion the stars fixed in it pass from the east all the
way around to the west, the _septentriones_ near the point of rest
describing smaller circles.

Chapter 34. On the course of the same sphere.

1. The sphere of heaven, [moving] from the east towards the west,
turns once in a day and night, in the space of twenty-four hours,
within which the sun completes his swift revolving course over the
lands and under the earth.

Chapter 35. On the swiftness of the heavens.

1. With such swiftness is the sphere of heaven said to run, that if
the stars did not run against its headlong course in order to delay
it, it would destroy the universe.

Chapter 36. On the axis of the heavens.

1. The axis is a straight line north, which passes through the center
of the globe of the sphere, and is called axis because the sphere
revolves on it like a wheel, or it may be because the Wain is there.

Chapter 37. On the poles of the heavens.

1. The poles are little circles which run on the axis. Of these one
is the northern which never sets and is called Boreas; the other is
the southern which is never seen, and is called Austronotius.

Chapter 38. On the _cardines_ of the heavens.

1. The _cardines_ of the heavens are the ends of the axis, and are
called _cardines_ (hinges) because the heavens turn on them, or
because they turn like the heart (_cor_).

Chapter 40. On the gates of the heavens.

1. There are two gates of the heavens, the east and the west. For by
one the sun appears, by the other he retires.

Chapter 42. On the four parts of the heavens.

1. The _climata_ of the heavens, that is, the tracts or parts, are
four, of which the first part is the eastern, where some stars
rise; the second, the western, where some stars set; the third, the
northern, where the sun comes in the longer days; the fourth, the
southern, where the sun comes in the time of the longer nights.

4. There are also other _climata_ of the heavens, seven in number,
as if seven lines from east to west, under which the manners of men
are dissimilar, and animals of different species appear; they are
named from certain famous places, of which the first is Meroe; the
second, Siene; the third, Catachoras, that is Africa; the fourth,
Rhodus; the fifth, Hellespontus; the sixth, Mesopontus; the seventh,

  [270] For map showing the _climata_ see Konrad Miller, _Die
  ältesten Weltkarten_ (Stuttgart, 1895), vol. iii, p. 127.

Chapter 43. On the hemispheres.

1. A hemisphere is half a sphere. The hemisphere above the earth
is that part of the heavens the whole of which is seen by us; the
hemisphere under the earth is that which cannot be seen as long as it
is under the earth.

Chapter 44. On the five circles of the heavens.

1. There are five zones in the heavens, according to the differences
of which certain parts of the earth are inhabitable, because of their
moderate temperature, and certain parts are uninhabitable because of
extremes of heat and cold. And these are called zones or circles for
the reason that they exist on the circumference of the sphere.

2. The first of these circles is called the Arctic, because the
constellations of the Arcti are visible enclosed within it; the
second is called the summer tropic, because in this circle the sun
makes summer in northern regions, and does not pass beyond it but
immediately returns, and from this it is called tropic.

3. The third circle is called ἰσημερινὸς, which is equivalent to
_equinoctialis_ in Latin, for the reason that when the sun comes to
this circle it makes equal day and night (for ἰσημερινὸς means in
Latin day equal to the night) and by this circle the sphere is seen
to be equally divided. The fourth circle is called Antarctic,[271]
for the reason that it is opposite to the circle which we call Arctic.

  [271] This order is repeated in 13, 6.

4. The fifth circle is called the winter tropic (χειμερινὸς
τροπικός), which in the Latin is _hiemalis_ or _brumalis_, because
when the sun comes to this circle it makes winter for those who are
in the north and summer for those who dwell in the parts of the

Chapter 47. On the size of the sun.

1. The size of the sun is greater than that of the earth and so from
the moment when it rises it appears equally to east and west at the
same time.[272] And as to its appearing to us about a cubit in width,
it is necessary to reflect how far the sun is from the earth, which
distance causes it to seem small to us.

  [272] This passage indicates Isidore’s belief in a flat earth.
  See pp. 51–54.

Chapter 48. On the size of the moon.

1. The size of the moon also is said to be less than that of the
sun. For since the sun is higher than the moon and still appears to
us larger than the moon, if it should approach near to us it would
be plainly seen to be much larger than the moon. Just as the sun is
larger than the earth, so the earth is in some degree larger than the

Chapter 49. On the nature of the sun.

1. The sun, being made of fire, heats to a whiter glow because of the
excessive speed of its circular motion. And its fire, philosophers
declare, is fed with water, and it receives the virtue of light and
heat from an element opposed to it. Whence we see that it is often
wet and dewy.

Chapter 50. On the motion of the sun.

1. They say that the sun has a motion of its own and does not turn
with the universe. For if it remained fixed in the heavens all
days and nights would be equal, but since we see that it will set
to-morrow in a different place from where it set yesterday, it is
plain that it has a motion of its own and does not move with the
universe. For it accomplishes its yearly orbits by varying courses,
on account of the changes of the seasons.

2. For going further to the south it makes winter, in order that the
land may be enriched by winter rains and frosts. Approaching the
north it restores the summer, in order that fruits may mature, and
what is green in the damp weather may ripen in the heat.

Chapter 51. What the sun does.

1. The rising sun brings the day, the setting sun the night; for day
is the sun above the earth, night is the sun beneath the earth. From
the sun come the hours; from the sun, when it rises, the day; from
the sun, too, when it sets, the night; from the sun the months and
years are numbered; from the sun come the changes of the seasons.

2. When it runs through the south it is nearer the earth; when it
passes toward the north it is raised aloft. God has appointed for
it different courses, places, and times for this reason, lest if it
always remained in the same place all things should be consumed by
its daily heat—just as Clement says: “It takes on different motions,
by which the temperature of the air is moderated with a view to the
seasons, and a regular order is observed in its seasonal changes and
permutations. For when it ascends to the higher parts it tempers the
spring, and when it comes to the summit of heaven it kindles the
summer heats; descending again, it gives autumn its temperature. And
when it returns to the lower circle it leaves to us the rigor of
winter cold from the icy quarter of the heavens.”

Chapter 52. On the journey of the sun.

1. The eastern sun holds its way through the south, and after it
comes to the west and has bathed itself in ocean, it passes by
unknown ways beneath the earth, and again returns to the east.

Chapter 53. On the light of the moon.

1. Certain philosophers hold that the moon has a light of its own,
that one part of its globe is bright and another dark, and that
turning by degrees it assumes different shapes. Others, on the
contrary, assert that the moon has no light of its own, but is
illumined by the rays of the sun. And therefore it suffers an eclipse
if the shadow of the earth is interposed between itself and the sun.

Chapter 56. On the motion of the moon.

1. The moon governs the times by alternately losing and recovering
its light. It advances like the sun in an oblique, and not a
vertical course, for this reason, that it may not be opposite the
center of the earth and often suffer eclipse. For its orbit is near
the earth. The waxing moon has its horns looking east; the waning,
west; rightly, because it is going to set and lose its light.

Chapter 57. On the nearness of the moon to the earth.

1. The moon is nearer the earth than is the sun. Therefore having a
narrow orbit it finishes its course more quickly. For it traverses
in thirty days the journey the sun accomplishes in three hundred and
sixty-five. Whence the ancients made the months depend on the moon,
the years on the course of the sun.

Chapter 58. On the eclipse of the sun.

1. There is an eclipse of the sun as often as the thirtieth moon
reaches the same line where the sun is passing, and, interposing
itself, darkens the sun. For we see that the sun is eclipsed when the
moon’s orb comes opposite to it.

Chapter 59. On the eclipse of the moon.

1. There is an eclipse of the moon as often as the moon runs into
the shadow of the earth. For it is thought to have no light of its
own but to be illumined by the sun, whence it suffers eclipse if the
shadow of the earth comes between it and the sun. The fifteenth moon
suffers this until it passes out from the center and shadow of the
interposing earth and sees the sun and is seen by the sun.

Chapter 60. On the distinction between _stella_, _sidus_, and

1. _Stellae_, _sidera_, and _astra_ differ from one another. For
_stella_ is any separate star. _Sidera_ are made of very many stars,
as Hyades, Pleiades. _Astra_ are large stars as Orion, Bootes. But
the writers confuse these names, putting _astra_ for _stella_ and
_stella_ for _sidera_.[273]

  [273] Isidore does not observe the distinctions he lays down
  here. He does not seem to have known that Orion and Bootes were

Chapter 61. On the light of the stars.

1. Stars are said to have no light of their own, but to be lighted by
the sun like the moon.

Chapter 62. On the position of the stars.

1. Stars are motionless, and being fixed are carried along by the
heavens in perpetual course, and they do not set by day but are
obscured by the brilliance of the sun.

Chapter 63. On the courses of the stars.

1. Stars either are borne along or have motion. Those are borne along
which are fixed in the heavens and revolve with the heavens. Certain
have motion, like the planets, that is, the wandering stars, which go
through roaming courses, but with definite limitations.

Chapter 64. On the varying courses of the stars.

1. According as stars are carried on different orbits of the heavenly
planets, certain ones rise earlier and set later, and certain rising
later come to their setting earlier. Others rise together and do not
set at the same time. But all in their own time revolve in a course
of their own.

Chapter 65. On the distances of the stars.

1. Stars are at different distances from the earth and therefore,
being of unequal brightness, they are more or less plain to the
sight; many are larger than the bright ones which we see, but being
further away they appear small to us.

Chapter 66. On the circular number of the stars.

1. There is a circular number of the stars by which it is said to be
known in what time each and every star finishes its orbit, whether in
longitude or latitude.[274]

  [274] Du Breul has in addition: _latitudo intelligitur per
  signiferum, longitudo per proprium excursum_.

2. For the moon is said to complete its orbit in eight years, Mercury
in twenty, Lucifer in nine, the sun in nineteen, Pyrois in fifteen,
Phaeton in twelve, Saturn in thirty. When these are finished,
they return to a repetition of their orbits through the same
constellations and regions.

3. Certain stars being hindered by the rays of the sun become
irregular, either retrograde or stationary, as the poet relates,

          Sol tempora dividit aevi
    Mutat nocte diem, radiisque potentibus astra
    Ire vetat, cursusque vagos statione moratur.

Chapter 67. On the wandering stars.

1. Certain stars are called _planetae_, that is, wandering, because
they hasten around through the whole universe with varying motions....

Chapter 68.

1. _Praecedentia_ or _antegradatio_ of stars is when a star seems to
be making its usual course and [really] is somewhat ahead of it.

Chapter 69.

1. _Remotio_ or _retrogradatio_ of stars is when a star, while moving
on its regular orbit, seems at the same time to be moving backward.

Chapter 70.

1. The _status_ of stars means that while a star is continuing its
proper motion it nevertheless seems in some places to stand still.

Chapter 71. On the names of stars.

3. _Stellae_ is derived from _stare_, because the stars always remain
(_stant_) fixed in the heavens and do not fall. As to our seeing
stars fall, as it were, from heaven, they are not stars but little
bits of fire that have fallen from the ether, and this happens when
the wind, blowing high, carries along with it fire from the ether,
which as it is carried along gives the appearance of falling stars.
For stars cannot fall; they are motionless (as has been said above)
and are fixed in the heavens and carried around with them.

16. A comet is so-called because it spreads light from itself as
if it were hair (_comas_). And when this kind of star appears it
indicates pestilence, famine, or war.

17. Comets are called in the Latin _crinitae_ because they have a
trail of flames resembling hair (_in modum crinium_). The Stoics say
there are over thirty of them, and certain astrologers have written
down their names and qualities.

20. The planets are stars which are not fixed in the heavens like the
rest, but move along in the air.... Sometimes they move towards the
south, sometimes towards the north, generally in a direction opposite
to that of the universe, sometimes with it, and their Greek names are
Phaeton, Phaenon, Pyrois, Hesperus, Stilbon.

21. To these the Romans have given the names of their gods, that
is, of Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, Venus, Mercury. Deceiving themselves
and wishing to deceive [others] into worship of these gods, who had
bestowed upon them somewhat in accordance with the desire of the
world, they pointed to the stars in heaven, saying that that was
Jove’s star, that Mercury’s, and the empty idea arose. This erroneous
belief the devil cherished, but Christ destroyed.

22. Moreover as to the constellations which are given names by the
heathen, in which the likeness of living creatures is traced by means
of the stars, like Arctos, Aries, Taurus, Libra, and others, they who
first discerned constellations in a number of stars were influenced
by superstitious vanity and imagined a bodily form, giving them,
because of certain reasons, the likenesses and names of their gods.

23. For they named Aries, the first constellation—to which, as to
Libra, they assign the middle line of the universe[275]—after Jupiter
Ammon, on whose head image makers fix the horns of a ram (_arietis

  [275] The celestial equator.

24. This the heathen set as the first among the constellations
because in the month of March, which is the beginning of the year,
they say the sun is moving in that constellation.

26. Cancer, too, they so named because when the sun comes to that
constellation in the month of June, it begins to move backward in the
manner of a crab (_in modum cancri_), and brings in the shorter days;
for in this creature front and rear are indistinguishable and it
advances either way, so that its fore part may be behind and its back
part before.

32. Moreover _Aquarius_ and _Pisces_ they named from the rainy
season, because heavier rains fall in winter when the sun turns at
these constellations. And it is a wonderful folly of the heathen that
they have raised to the heavens not only fish, but rams also, and
he-goats and bulls, she-bears and dogs, crabs and scorpions. They
have also placed among the stars of heaven an eagle and a swan, in
memory of Jove, because of the myths about him.

33. They believed, too, that Perseus and his wife Andromeda were
received into the heavens after their death, so they marked out
likenesses of them in the stars, and did not blush to call them by
their names.

37. But by whatever fashion of superstition these are named by men,
they are nevertheless stars, which God made at the beginning of the
universe and ordained to mark the seasons with regular motion.

38. Therefore observations of these constellations, or nativities, or
the rest of the superstition that attaches itself to the observance
of the stars—that is, to a knowledge of the fates—and is doubtless
opposed to our faith, ought to be ignored by Christians in such a way
that it would seem they had not been written.

39. But a good many, enticed by the fairness and brightness of the
constellations, have in their blindness fallen into the errors of the
stars, so that they endeavor to foreknow future events by the noxious
computations that are called _mathesis_; but not only the teachers of
the Christian religion, but also Plato and Aristotle and others of
the heathen, moved by truth, condemned them with unanimous opinion,
saying that confusion as to [future] things was produced rather from
such a belief.

40. For if, as they say, men are driven by the compulsion of their
birth to various kinds of acts, why should the good deserve praise,
or the evil feel the vengeance of the law....

41. This succession of the seven secular disciplines was terminated
in astronomy by the philosophers for this purpose forsooth, that it
might free souls, entangled by secular wisdom, from earthly matters,
and set them at meditation upon the things on high.



  [276] Subjects of medical interest are treated also in book xi
  (parts of the body, monstrous births, etc.), in book xii (healing
  springs), and in book xxii (diet). There is also a chapter (39)
  on pestilence in _De Natura Rerum_.


The Greek science of medicine was one which reached a high degree of
development. As early as the fifth century B.C. it appears in the
school of Hippocrates, divested of nearly all trace of its origin in
superstition and magic, and largely relying on careful observation
and interpretation of symptoms. This school already possessed a
considerable body of recorded observations. At Alexandria, later,
further progress was made, especially in the subject of anatomy. At
this time the dissection—and even vivisection—of the human body was
practiced, though there are few traces of it earlier, and later it
was forbidden. The last great land-mark in the history of ancient
medicine is to be found in the works of Galen (second century A.D.)
who summed up, extended, and interpreted the medical knowledge of
preceding times.

In medicine, however, as in Greek science generally, theoretical
and philosophical elements often prevailed to the detriment of
the pragmatical. Examples of this are to be seen in the theory of
the four humors, first found in the Hippocratic writings; in the
belief of the Methodist school, which held that disease consisted
in the contraction and relaxation of the pores (πόροι); and in the
doctrines of the Pneumatic school, which maintained that health and
disease resulted from the influence of the universal soul (πνεῦμα).
A reaction against this tendency is evidenced by the empirics, who
professed to reject all general notions and to rely on experience
alone. However, the increasing predominance of the theoretical
is shown in the case of Galen, who secured his ascendency over
succeeding ages by his extravagant theoretical system rather than by
his really great practical knowledge.

No contribution to medicine was made by the Romans. Although the
profession appeared among them in the second century B.C., it
remained a thing apart, in the hands of Greek physicians.[277] Of
the three chief writers on the subject in the Latin language, two,
Celsus and Pliny, were not physicians but encyclopedists, who were
necessarily compilers rather than scientists.[278] The only writer of
importance who approached his work from a professional standpoint was
Caelius Aurelianus, and his book is of importance chiefly because its
Greek original is lost.[279] This neglect of medicine is explained
in part by the fact that physicians stood low in the social scale.
Another more powerful influence was the increasing fashionableness
of Oriental religions with their superstition and addiction to magic
practices. Toward the close of the empire the decline was rapid in
medicine as in other fields. Abridgements, which cut down quality
unconsciously as much as they did quantity consciously, held the
field. Itinerant quacks and “folk-medicine” gradually ousted the lay
profession until finally what little science remained was in the
hands of priests and monks, who needed a smattering of the subject
for the people of their parishes, and the inmates of monasteries and

  [277] Galen was one of these.

  [278] Max Neuberger, _Geschichte der Medizin_ (Stuttgart,
  1906–1911), vol. i, pp. 310–321.

  [279] _Ibid._, vol. ii, p. 61 _et seq._

  [280] Neuberger, _op. cit._, vol. ii, pp. 240–278 for an account
  of medicine in the early middle ages.

Isidore does not say for what purpose he wrote his _De Medicina_,
whether to serve as a text-book to aid in the education of the
clergy in the way indicated above, or merely in the spirit of
the encyclopedist. A number of considerations point strongly to
the former conclusion. In the first place, medicine is placed in
juxtaposition with the seven liberal arts, and is separated from
subjects more nearly akin to it. Secondly, the attitude which Isidore
displays in speaking of medicine is one which remembers that this
subject was once classed with the liberal arts. He feels called upon
to explain why “the art of medicine is not included among the liberal
disciplines”, and his explanation is one drawn from the pedagogical
sphere; he tells us that medicine is “a second philosophy”, by
which he means to say that it belongs to the highest stage of
education, but plays therein a minor part. Finally, we must remember
that Cassiodorus, whose comprehensive plan of education had great
influence with Isidore, had recognized the need of medical knowledge
in the education of the clergy, as shown in his chapter “On monks
having the care of the infirm”.

It is not known what were the immediate sources of Isidore’s _De
Medicina_. The ultimate authority for his account of diseases is
the work of the Methodist Caelius Aurelianus, whose eight books
containing a classification of diseases into acute and chronic are
reproduced by Isidore in two chapters that occupy the greater part of
the space that he devoted to medicine.


Chapter 1. On medicine.

1. Medicine is that which guards or restores the health of the body,
and its subject-matter deals with diseases and wounds.

2. And so it includes not only those things which are presented in
the art (_ars_) of those who are called _medici_ in the proper sense,
but food, drink, and covering as well; in short, all the guarding and
defence by which our body is protected against blows and accidents
from the outside.

Chapter 2. On its name.

1. Its name is believed to have been given to medicine from _modus_,
that is, moderation, so that not enough but a little be used. For
nature is made sorrowful by much and rejoices in the moderate. Whence
also they who drink in quantities and without ceasing of herb juices
(_pigmenta_) and antidotes, are troubled. For all immoderation brings
not welfare but danger.

Chapter 3. On the founders of medicine.

1. Apollo is called among the Greeks the author and founder of the
art of medicine. His son, Aesculapius, enlarged it by his fame and
work. But after Aesculapius perished by a thunder-bolt, the business
of curing is said to have been forbidden and the art disappeared with
its author.

2. And it remained unknown for nearly five hundred years down to the
time of Artaxerxes, king of the Persians. Then Hippocrates, born in
the island of Cos, his father being Asclepius, brought it back to the
light of day.

Chapter 4. On the three schools (_haereses_) of medicine.

1. And so these three men founded as many schools. The first,
_Methodica_,[281] was established by Apollo, and it follows
remedies and charms. The second, _Empirica_,[282] that is, relying
on experience, was established by Aesculapius, which depends not on
the interpretation of symptoms, but on experience alone. The third,
_Logica_,[283] that is, rational, was invented by Hippocrates.

  [281] This school was really founded in the first century B.C.
  According to it disease consists in a contraction or relaxation
  of the pores (_strictus status_ or _laxus status_). Nothing but
  the supposed general condition of the body was of importance.
  Neuberger, _Geschichte der Medizin_, vol. 1, pp. 303–309.

  [282] A school that appeared in the third century B.C., and
  corresponded in medicine to the skeptical movement in philosophy.
  All _a priori_ reasoning was rejected. _Ibid._, vol. 1, pp.

  [283] The classical school of medicine founded by Hippocrates.
  Isidore fails to mention the Pneumatici and the Eclectici
  (_ibid._, vol. 1, pp. 327–336), other prominent schools of

2. For the latter, separating the qualities of ages, districts, and
diseases, examined the practice of the art in a rational way. The
_Empirici_, then, follow experience alone; the _Logici_ add reason
to experience; the _Methodici_ observe neither the elements, nor
seasons, nor ages, nor causes, but the substances of diseases alone.

Chapter 5. On the four humors of the body.

1. Health is the integrity of the body and the compound
(_temperantia_) made by nature from hot and moist which is the blood,
whence also it has been named _sanitas_, as it were _sanguinis
status_ (state of the blood).

2. Under the general name of _morbus_ (disease) all disorders of the
body are embraced, to which the ancients gave the name of _morbus_
in order to indicate by the very name the power of death (_mortis_)
which arises from it. Between health and disease the mean is cure,
and unless it harmonizes with the disease it does not lead to health.

3. All diseases arise from the four humors, that is, from blood,
bile, black bile, and phlegm. Just as there are four elements so also
there are four humors, and each humor imitates its element: blood,
air; bile, fire; black bile, earth; phlegm, water. There are four
humors, as four elements, which preserve our bodies.

4. _Sanguis_[284] (blood) took its name from a Greek source, because
it invigorates, sustains and gives life to the body. _Cholera_[285]
(bile) the Greeks named because it is ended in the space of one
day, whence it was named _cholera_, that is, _fellicula_, that is,
effusion of bile (_fel_). For the Greeks call bile χολή.

  [284] The derivation which Isidore had in mind was probably ζῆν
  (to live).

  [285] The sentence is a confused one. Isidore probably had in
  mind the derivation of _cholera_ from χολή and ῥέω.

5. _Melancholia_ (black bile) is named because an abundance of bile
has been mixed with the dregs of black blood....

6. _Sanguis_ in the Latin is so-called because it is _suavis_, whence
men in whom _sanguis_ is predominant are pleasant and bland.

7. _Phlegma_ they have named because it is cold. For the Greeks call
cold φλέγμονα. According to these four humors the well are governed,
and from them the diseases of the infirm arise. For when they have
grown too great beyond the course of nature, they cause illnesses.

8. From blood and bile acute disorders come, which the Greeks call
ὀξέα; from phlegm and black bile troubles of long standing, which the
Greeks call χρόνια.

Chapter 6. On acute diseases.

1. _Oxea_ is acute disease which either quickly passes or more
quickly kills, as pleurisy, phrensy, for ὀξὺ in Greek means swift and
sharp. χρόνια is prolonged bodily disease which lingers through many
seasons, as gout, phthisis.... Certain disorders have received their
names from causes proper to them.

2. _Febris_ (fever) is derived from _fervor_, for it is an excess of

3. Frenzy is so-called because the mind is affected, since the Greeks
call the mind φρένες, or else because they gnash (_infrendant_) with
the teeth, for _frendere_ means to strike the teeth together. It is
excitement with exasperation and dementia caused by the power of bile.

17. Pestilence is a contagion, and when it seizes one it quickly
passes to more. It is produced from a corruption of the air, and
makes its way by penetrating into the inward parts. Although this
is generally caused by the powers of the air, still it is certainly
not caused against the will of Omnipotent God.... It is a disease so
acute that it affords no time to hope for life or death, but a sudden
weakness and death come at the same moment.

Chapter 7. On chronic diseases.

3. _Scotoma_ took its name from an accidental quality, because
it brings a sudden darkness to the eyes along with a whirling
(_vertigo_) of the head. Now there is a whirling as often as the wind
rises and starts the dust going round and round.

4. So too in man’s head the air passages[286] and the veins produce a
windiness from the resolving of moisture[287] and make a whirling in
his eyes whence _vertigo_ is named.

  [286] _Arteriae._ Compare “Sanguis per venas in omne corpus
  diffunditur et spiritus per arterias.” Cicero, _N. D._, 2, 55,

  [287] Referring to the idea that the elements could pass into one
  another. See p. 60.

5. Epilepsy took its name because while seizing the mind it also
holds the body. For the Greeks call seizure ἐπιληψία. And it comes
from the melancholy humor whenever it becomes abundant and has turned
toward the head. This disorder is also called _caduca_ (the falling
sickness), because the sick man falls and suffers from spasms.

6. The common herd call these also _lunatici_ because their
madness[288] comes upon them according to the course of the moon....

  [288] Du Breul has _insania daemonum_.

Chapter 8. On diseases that appear on the surface of the body.

11. Leprosy is a scaly roughness of the skin, like _lepidus_
(pepper-wort), whence it took its name, and its color now turns to
black, now to white, now to red. On the body of a man leprosy is
diagnosed in this way, if a varied color appears here and there
between sound parts of the skin, or if it spreads everywhere in such
a way as to make all of one unnatural color.

12. The _morbus elephantiacus_[289] is so called from the resemblance
to an elephant, whose naturally hard and rough skin gave the name to
the disease among men, because it makes the surface of the body like
the hide of an elephant; or it may be because it is a great disorder,
like the animal itself from which it has derived its name.

  [289] A kind of leprosy.

Chapter 9. On remedies and medicines.

1. The curative power of medicine must not be despised. For we
remember that Isaiah sent something of medicinal nature to Hezekiah
when he was sick, and Paul the apostle said a little wine was good
for Timothy.

3. There are three kinds of cures in all. The first is the dietetic;
the second, the pharmaceutical; the third, the surgical. Diet
(_diaeta_) is the observance of the law of life. Pharmacy is curing
by medicines. Surgery is cutting with the knife; for with the knife
is cut away that which does not feel the healing of medicines....

5. Every cure is wrought either by contraries or by likes. By
contraries, as cold by warm and dry by moist, just as in man pride
cannot be cured except by humility.

6. By likes, as a round bandage is put on a round wound, or an oblong
one on an oblong wound. For the very bandage is not the same for all
wounds, but like is fitted to like....

7. _Antidotum_ in the Greek means in the Latin _ex contrario datum_.
For contraries are cured by contraries in the medical system. On
the other hand likes are cured by likes, as for example, πικρὰ
which means bitters because its taste is bitter. It received a
suitable name because the bitterness of disease is dispelled by its

Chapter 13. On the beginning of medicine.[290]

  [290] _De initio medicinae._

1. Inquiry is made by certain why the art of medicine is not included
among the liberal disciplines. Because of this, that they embrace
separate subjects, but medicine embraces all. For the physician is
commanded to know grammar, in order to be able to understand and set
forth what he reads.

2. In like manner rhetoric, too, that he may be able to define by
true arguments the diseases which he treats. Moreover logic, to
scrutinize and cure the causes of infirmities by the aid of reason.
So, too, arithmetic, on account of the number of hours in paroxysms
and of the days in periods.

3. In the same manner geometry, on account of the qualities of
districts and the situations of places, in respect to which it
teaches what one ought to observe. Moreover, music will not be
unknown to him, for there are many things that are read of as
accomplished by this discipline in the case of sick men, as it is
read of David that he saved Saul from an unclean spirit by the art of
melody. The physician Asclepiades, too, restored one who was subject
to frenzy to his former health by music.

4. Lastly, he will know astronomy, by which to contemplate the
system of the stars and the change of the seasons, for as a certain
physician says, our bodies change too, along with the qualities
of the heavens. Hence it is that medicine is called “a second
philosophy”. For both disciplines claim the whole man. For as by one
the soul is cured, so is the body by the other.


ON LAWS[291]

  [291] The _De Legibus_ constitutes Isidore’s formal account of
  law. In bk. ii a chapter is devoted to the subject of law as a
  sub-division of rhetoric; it consists of definitions of general
  terms. In bk. ix there are chapters on citizens, and on degrees
  of kinship, which have a legal bearing. _Cf._ also bk. xviii, 15.


There was a marked difference between the development of law and that
of the other subjects so far treated by Isidore in the _Etymologies_.
The latter were of Greek origin, and, with the exception of rhetoric,
they appeared as strangers in the Roman environment and never formed
an integral part of Roman culture. Instead, they suffered from
continuous decay, and by the time of the disintegration of the Roman
state they were reduced to such a condition that the “fall of Rome”
meant nothing to them. On the other hand, law was an indigenous
product of Roman society, upon which the Roman intellect had expended
its greatest and most successful efforts, and although it inevitably
shared in the general intellectual deterioration of the time, and
showed a marked decline after the period of the great jurists,
the beginning of its rapid decay is coincident in each section of
western Europe with the close of Roman rule. Thus “the fall of Rome”
played much the same part in the history of law as the transition
from a Greek to a Roman environment had done for the bulk of the
intellectual possession of the ancient civilization. After this event
law was on terms of equality with the other branches of knowledge,
and within two centuries, as judged by its presentation in the
_Etymologies_, it was reduced to as low an estate as they.

Isidore’s _De Legibus_ is divided into two distinct parts. The first
is of a general nature, and embraces such topics as law-givers, _jus
civile_, _jus gentium_, _jus naturale_, why laws are made, and what
character a law ought to have. The second part is more specific;
it treats of legal instruments, the law of property, crimes, and
punishments. The whole forms a scholastic conglomerate of elements
derived from every stage in the development of Roman law and exhibits
a point of view that is philological and Christian as much as legal.

Because of its importance in the history of law, this book of the
_Etymologies_ has been subjected to more detailed study than any
other, but in spite of this its sources have not been clearly
determined. In addition to the Scriptures and Isidore’s authorities
on word derivation, he is believed to have drawn on the _Breviarium
Alaricianum_, the Theodosian code, the text-books of Gaius and
Ulpian, and the _Sentences_ of Paulus. Although the Justinian code
was issued a century before the compilation of the _Etymologies_, it
seems improbable that Isidore made any use of it, or had even heard
of it.[292]

  [292] Considering the intellectual stagnation of the time, it
  seems quite possible that the Justinian code was unheard of
  wherever it was not actually the law of the land. Vinogradoff
  gives the conclusion of modern scholarship as to this when he
  says (_Roman Law in Medieval Europe_, London, 1909, p. 8): “The
  _Corpus Juris_ of Justinian, which contains the main body of law
  for later ages, including our own, was accepted and even known
  only in the East and in those parts of Italy which had been
  reconquered by Justinian’s generals. The rest of the western
  provinces still clung to the tradition of the preceding period,
  culminating in the official code of Theodosius II (A.D. 437).”
  Compare also Conrat, _Die Epitome Exactis Regibus_, Introd.,
  pp. 248–257; Flach, _Droit Romain au Moyen Age_ (Paris, 1890),
  especially pp. 52–57. Conrat, in his _Geschichte der Quellen und
  Literatur des Römischen Rechts in Früheren Mittelalter_, pp.
  150–153, maintains, first, that there is no trace of evidence
  elsewhere in Isidore’s works, of a knowledge of the existence of
  the Justinian code; and, second, that the internal evidence in
  the _De Legibus_ points to the use of other sources. See also
  Ureña, _Historia Crítica de la Literatura Jurídica Española_
  (Madrid, 1897), vol 1, p. 294.

The purpose of the _De Legibus_ was, no doubt, to serve as a
text-book.[293] The amount of space given to it, which is about the
average of that allotted to each of the liberal arts, and the fact
that it treats of law in a general way, point to this conclusion. Its
position in the _Etymologies_, following, with Medicine, immediately
after the liberal arts, is also an indication of its educational
character. The best proof of this, however, is found in the number
of separate manuscripts in which the _De Legibus_ is reproduced in a
catechetical form.[294] At least eight of these are in existence, and
the earliest of them is attributed to the ninth century.

  [293] The _De Legibus_ should not be regarded as a text-book for
  a law school, but for the subject of law as forming a minor part
  of the preparation of a priest. See Introd., p. 87, and Flach,
  _op. cit._, the fourth section of which (pp. 104–128) deals with
  the teaching of law from the sixth to the eleventh century.

  [294] For an account of separate MSS. of Isidore’s _De Legibus_
  (often containing also legal matter from bks. ii, ix and xviii),
  see Joseph Tardif, _Un Abrégé Juridique des Etymologies d’Isidore
  de Seville_ in _Mélanges Julien Havet_ (Paris, 1895).


Chapter 1. On law-givers.

1. Moses first of all set forth the divine laws in the sacred
writings for the Hebrew people. King Phoroneus was the first to
establish laws and courts for the Greeks.

2. Mercurius Trismegistus first gave laws to the Egyptians. Solon
first legislated for the Athenians. Lycurgus first made rules of law
for the Lacedaemonians and pretended Apollo’s authority for them.

3. Numa Pompilius, who succeeded Romulus in the kingdom, was the
first to give laws to the Romans. Later, when the people could not
endure their quarrelsome magistrates they appointed decemvirs to
write the laws, and they translated the laws from the books of Solon
into the Latin language, and set them up on twelve tables.

4. These men were A. Claudius, T. Genutius, P. Sextius, Spur.
Viturius, C. Julius, A. Manlius, Ser. Sulpitius, P. Curiatius, T.
Romilius, Sp. Postumius. These were the decemvirs chosen to write the

5. The consul Pompeius was the first who wished to arrange the laws
systematically, but he did not persevere, through fear of detractors.
Then Caesar began to do it, but he was slain.

6. By degrees the old laws became obsolete through time and neglect;
but a mention of them seems necessary although they are not in use

7. The new laws began with the emperor Constantine and the rest who
followed him, but they were confused and in disorder. Later, in
imitation of Gregorianus and Hermogenianus, the younger Theodosius
arranged a code of constitutions from the time of Constantine, under
the title of each emperor, which he called Theodosian from his own

Chapter 2. On laws human and divine.

1. All laws are either divine or human. Divine laws depend on nature,
human laws on customs; and so the latter differ, since different laws
please different peoples. Divine law is _fas_; human law is _jus_. To
pass through another’s property is of divine but not of human law.

Chapter 3. On the difference between _jus_, _leges_, _mores_.

1. _Jus_ is the general term and _lex_ is a kind of _jus_. _Jus_ is
so-called because it is just (_justum_). All _jus_ is made up of laws
and customs.

2. _Lex_ is the written ordinance. _Mos_ is custom approved by its
antiquity, or unwritten _lex_. For _lex_ is derived from _legere_ (to
read), because it is written.

3. _Mos_ is old custom and is drawn merely from _mores_. _Consuetudo_
(custom) is a sort of _jus_ established by _mores_, which is taken
instead of _lex_ when _lex_ fails. And it makes no difference whether
it depends on writing or reason, since reason commends written law

4. Moreover if _lex_ is in accordance with reason, all that is in
accordance with reason will be _lex_, as far as it agrees with
religion, is in harmony with knowledge, and is beneficial for
salvation. And _consuetudo_ is so-called because it is in common use.

Chapter 4. On _jus naturale_.

1. _Jus_ is either natural, or civil, or universal (_jus gentium_).
_Jus naturale_ is what is common to all peoples, and what is observed
everywhere by the instinct of nature rather than by any ordinance, as
the marriage of man and woman, the begetting and rearing of children,
the common possession of all,[295] the one freedom of all, the
acquisition of those things that are taken in the air or sea or on
the land.

  [295] _Communis omnium possessio._

2. Likewise the restoring of property entrusted or lent, the
repelling of violence by force. For this, or whatever is like this,
is nowhere considered unjust, but natural and fair.

Chapter 5. On _jus civile_.

1. _Jus civile_ is what each people or state has enacted as its own
law, for human and divine reasons.

Chapter 6. On _jus gentium_.

1. _Jus gentium_ is the seizing, building, and fortifying of
settlements, wars, captivities, servitudes, postliminies, treaties,
peaces, truces, the obligation not to violate an ambassador, the
prohibition of intermarriage with aliens. And [it is called] _jus
gentium_ because nearly all nations observe it.

Chapter 7. On _jus militare_.

1. _Jus militare_ is the ceremony of beginning war, the obligation
in making a treaty, the going out against the enemy when the signal
is given, and the joining of battle; likewise the retreat when the
signal is given; likewise the punishment of a soldier’s fault if a
post should be deserted. Likewise the amount of pay, the grades of
office, and the honor of rewards, as when a crown or a necklace is

2. Likewise the determination of the booty, and the just division
according to rank of persons and labors undergone, likewise the share
of the commander.

Chapter 8. On _jus publicum_.

1. _Jus publicum_ has to do with sacred things, and priests and

Chapter 9. On _jus quiritium_.

1. _Jus quiritium_ is the law proper to the Romans, by which none
is bound but the _Quirites_, that is, the Romans, as in regard to
inheritances, declarations of entry upon inheritances, guardianships,
acquiring by prescription; which laws are found among no other
people, but they are proper to the Romans and made for them alone.

2. The _jus quiritium_ is made up of laws, plebiscites, decrees of
the senate, constitutions and edicts of emperors and opinions of

Chapter 10. On _lex_.

1. _Lex_ is the enactment of the people, by which the elders,
together with the plebeians, passed some law.

Chapter 11. On plebiscites.

1. Plebiscites (_scita_) are what the common people alone enact....

Chapter 12. On the _senatus consultum_.

1. A _senatus consultum_ is that which the senators alone determine
in council for the people.

Chapter 13. On the constitution or edict.

1. A constitution or edict is what the king or emperor enacts or

Chapter 14. On the responses of the jurists (_responsa prudentum_).

1. They are the responses which the jurisconsults are said to make
to men who consult them. From this the responses of Paulus were so
named. For there were certain wise men and judges of equity who
composed and published institutions of civil law, by which they
settled the suits and contentions of disputants.

Chapter 15. On consular and tribunitian laws.

1. Certain laws are named from those who secured their enactment,
as consular, tribunitian, Julian, Cornelian. Papius and Poppaeus,
_consules suffecti_[296] under Caesar Octavianus, carried a law which
was called from their names _Papia Poppaea_, offering rewards to
fathers for rearing children.

  [296] Holding the consulate for part of the year only.

2. Under the same emperor, Falcidius, a tribune of the people,
carried a law that no one should bequeath property in such a way that
a fourth, at least, should not remain for the heirs. And it was named
the _lex Falcidia_ from him. Aquilius also secured the passage of a
law which is called _Aquilia_ to the present time.

Chapter 16. On the _lex satyra_.

1. A _lex satyra_ is one which speaks at the same time of many
things, being so called from the abundance of things, as it were from
_saturitas_ (fullness); whence to write satire is to compose poems
with varied contents, as those of Horace, Juvenal, and Persius.

Chapter 17. On the Rhodian laws.

1. The Rhodian laws are the laws of commerce on the sea, being so
called from the island of Rhodes where was a great trade in ancient

Chapter 18. On privileges.

1. Privileges (_privilegia_) are laws applying to individuals,
private laws, as it were. For _privilegium_ is so called because it
is applied to a private person (_in privato feratur_).

Chapter 19. What law can do.

1. Every law either permits something, as that a brave man should
compete for a prize, or forbids, as that no one should be allowed to
ask the sacred maidens in marriage, or punishes, as that he who has
committed murder should suffer capital punishment. For human life is
governed by the reward or punishment of the law.[297]

  [297] Reading _legis_ for _eius_. See 2, 10.

Chapter 20. Why law was made.

1. Laws were made in order that the boldness of men may be checked by
fear of them, and innocence be safe among the wicked, and the power
of harm bridled among the wicked by the dread of punishment.

Chapter 21. What law ought to be.

1. Law will be honorable, just, possible, according to nature,
according to the custom of the country, adapted to the place and
time, necessary, useful, clear also, lest it contain anything in
its obscurity that tends to fraud, drawn up for no one’s private
advantage, but for the common good of all citizens.

Chapter 24. On legal instruments.

1. _Voluntas_ (will) is the general name for all legal instruments,
and it has received this name because it issues from free will, not
from compulsion.

2. _Testamentum_ (will) is so named because, unless the testator
dies, what is written in it cannot be established or known, since
it is closed and sealed; and it is called _testamentum_ because
it is not in effect until the burial of the testator (_testatoris
monumentum_); whence the Apostle says: _Testamentum in mortuis

3. _Testamentum_ has not only this meaning in the Holy Scriptures,
that it is in effect only when the testators are dead, but they also
called every agreement (_pactum et placitum_) _testamentum_; for
Laban and Jacob made a _testamentum_ which was certainly to be in
effect while they were living. And in the Psalms is read: _Adversum
te testamentum disposuerunt_; and many others of the sort.

4. The _tabulae_ of a will are so called because not only wills but
letters were written on hewn _tabulae_ (boards) before paper and
parchment were used. Whence letter-carriers are called _tabularii_.

5. The testament of the civil law is made valid by the signature of
five witnesses.

6. The testament of the praetorian law is sealed with the seals
of seven witnesses; the former testament is made in the presence
of citizens, and from that is called _civile_; the latter in the
presence of the praetors, and thence is of the praetorian law.

7. A _testamentum holographum_ is one wholly written and signed in
the hand-writing of the maker. From this it got its name. For the
Greeks use the word ὅλον for whole, and γραφή for writing.

8. A testament has no legal force if its maker has forfeited his
civil rights, or if it has not been made in due form.

9. A testament is _inofficiosum_ where an attempt has been made to
disinherit the children and recourse has been had to persons outside
[the family] without regard to the duty of natural affection.[298]

  [298] See Muirhead, _The Law of Rome_, p. 249.

10. The _testamentum ruptum_ is so named because it is made void
through the birth of a posthumous child who is neither disinherited
nor made an heir by name.

11. A testament is suppressed when it is not publicly made known, to
the injury of heirs or legatees or freedmen; and although it is not
kept secret, it nevertheless is thought to be suppressed if it is not
made known to the aforesaid persons.

12. _Nuncupatio_ (nuncupative will) is when the testator reads
the will aloud, saying: “These things I thus give and bequeath
as they are written on these tablets and on this wax; and do you
Roman citizens be my witness”, and this is called _nuncupatio_. For
_nuncupare_ means to name and confirm openly.

13. The _jus liberorum_ is the right of childless couples to name
each other as heir in the place of children.

23. _Emptio_ (purchase) and _venditio_ (sale) is an exchange of goods
and a contract arising from agreement.

24. _Emptio_ (purchase) is so called because it is _a me tibi_ (from
me to you); _venditio_ is as it were _venundinatio_, that is, from
_nundinae_ (market day).

27. _Donatio usufructuaria_ is so named because the giver retains the
usufruct of the thing, the title vesting in him to whom it has been

Chapter 25. On property (_rebus_).

3. _Res_ is derived from possessing rightly (_recte_); _jus_ from
possessing justly (_juste_).... What is wickedly possessed is not the
owner’s. He possesses wickedly who uses his own wickedly or takes
possession of another’s.... He who is captured by greed is possessed,
not possessing.

4. _Bona_ belong to the honorable or noble, and they are called
_bona_ so that they may not have a base use but men may use them for
good things.

5. _Peculium_ belongs properly to minors or slaves. For _peculium_ is
that which the father or master allows his son or slave to treat as
his own....


  [299] In his “On Times,” Isidore is apparently condensing what
  he has written elsewhere. The first part of it, which gives an
  account of the divisions of time—the moment, hour, day, week,
  month, year, and so forth—is drawn from _De Natura Rerum_,
  which in turn was based on Suetonius, Solinus, Hyginus, of the
  heathen writers, and Ambrosius, Clement, and Augustine, of the
  Christian. (See p. 46.) In the second part, which consists of a
  brief chronology, Isidore condensed his _Chronicon_, which was
  drawn from Eusebius as translated and modified by Jerome, and
  supplemented by the later work of Prosper, Victor Tunnensis, and
  Joannis Biclarensis. The sources of the _Chronicon_ have been
  thoroughly discussed by H. Hertzberg, _Ueber die Chronicon des
  Isidors von Sevilla_ in _Forschungen zur Deutschen Geschichte_
  (Göttingen, 1875), vol. xv.


To the early and medieval Christian chronology was a subject of
absorbing interest. For him the course of the world’s history was
authoritatively laid down in the Biblical account, and looking back
over it he thought he saw that it was passing by well-marked stages
to an end that was to be as sharply defined as its beginning had
been. It was inevitable that there should be an attempt to plot its
progress and even to form some general notion as to its end. For
this purpose the Greek chronology was accepted in its entirety and
extended by a set of extravagant assumptions, acceptable to the
uncritical minds of the time, back to the beginning of the world. By
this means an authoritative chronological exposition of past time
was secured, such as under wise interpretation would disclose more
clearly the rate and manner in which God’s purpose was working itself

  [300] At the same time chronology was incidentally made to show
  in a statistical way what a great priority Hebrew civilization
  had over its pagan rivals. _Cf._ pp. 79, 80.

The chronology presented by Isidore traces the course of time along
the line of the Roman emperors from Heraclius back to Julius Caesar,
and then by way of the Ptolemaic dynasty to Alexander the Great. Here
a transition is made to the Persian kings, who are followed back to
Darius near the beginning of the fifth age. The four ages between
the captivity of the Jews and the creation are marked by Biblical
personages only.

There are two matters of importance to be noted in connection with
the _De Temporibus_.[301] Isidore is the first to introduce into
formal chronology the division of the world’s history into six ages.
The idea was not his, however; he was merely putting into practice
a suggestion given repeatedly in Augustine’s writings,[302] and used
by Orosius in his _History Against the Pagans_. In the second place,
it should be remarked that Isidore shows no signs of being aware of
the proposal of Dionysius Exiguus for an era beginning with the birth
of Christ. It is true that Isidore’s sixth age is supposed to begin
at that time,—although as a matter of fact it begins at the death
of Julius Caesar,[303]—but his era is a world era beginning at the

  [301] In some respects Isidore’s chronology is peculiar, and
  differs from any known chronology of world-history of the time.
  For example, where Hieronymus gives the time from the flood to
  Abraham as 1072 years, Isidore gives it as 942 years; and where
  Africanus put the birth of Christ in the year 5500 of the world,
  Isidore put it in 5197. See Hertzberg, p. 376. Again, only the
  full years are noticed, the fractions of the older chronologies
  being either counted as integers or ignored, though this is not
  done according to any system. For table showing irregularities
  here, see _ibid._, p. 325, notes 3 and 4.

  [302] E.g. _De Civitate Dei_, xxii, 30.

  [303] 5, 38, 5.


Book V, Chapter 28. On the word _chronica_.

1. _Chronica_ is the Greek word which in Latin is rendered _series
temporum_ (succession of times), such as Eusebius, bishop of
Caesarea, wrote in Greek and the priest Hieronymus translated into
Latin; for χρόνος in Greek is translated by _tempus_ in the Latin.

Chapter 29. On moments and hours.

1. Time is divided into moments, hours, days, months, years, lusters,
generations (_saecula_), ages. A moment is the least and briefest
time, so-called from the motion (_motu_) of the stars.

2. ... _Hora_ is a Greek name and still has a Latin sound. For _hora_
is a limit (_finis_) of time, just as _horae_ are the limits of the
sea and of streams and the borders of garments.[304]

  [304] _Hora_ (hour) and _ora_ (coast or border) are confused.

Chapter 30. On days.

5. The days are named from the gods (_dii_) whose names the Romans
bestowed on certain heavenly bodies. They named the first day from
Sol, which is the chief of the heavenly bodies just as this same day
is the chief of all the days.

6. The second they named from Luna, which is next to Sol in splendor
and size and borrows its light from it. The third they named from the
star of Mars, which is called Pyrois; the fourth, from the star of
Mercurius, which certain ones name Stilbon.

7. The fifth, from the star of Jupiter, which they call Phaeton; the
sixth, from the star of Venus, which they call Lucifer, which has
more light than all the other stars.

The seventh day, from the star of Saturnus, which being placed in the
seventh heaven is said to complete its course in thirty years. And
the heathen gave names to the days from the seven stars because they
thought that some influence was active upon themselves through the
same [stars], saying that they had life (_spiritus_) from Sol, body
from Luna, ability and eloquence from Mercurius, pleasure from Venus,
blood from Mars, self-control (_temperantia_) from Jupiter, and the
humors from Saturn. Such indeed was the folly of the heathen who
created such ridiculous imaginations. But among the Hebrews the first
day is called _una Sabbati_, which among us is _dies Dominicus_,
which the heathen have dedicated to Sol. The second day of the week
is _secunda Sabbati_, which the heathen call _dies Lunae_; the third
day of the week, _tertia Sabbati_, which they call _dies Martis_; the
fourth day of the week, _quarta Sabbati_, which is called _Mercurii
dies_ by the pagans; the fifth day of the week, _quinta Sabbati_,
that is, fifth day from _dies Dominicus_, which among the heathen
is called _dies Jovis_: the sixth day of the week, _sexta Sabbati_,
which is called by them _dies Veneris_. The seventh from _dies
Dominicus_ is _Sabbatum_, which the gentiles have devoted to Saturnus
and have named _dies Saturni_. Sabbatum is translated from the Hebrew
into the Latin as _requies_, because God rested on that day from all
his works.

The ecclesiastical method of speaking the names of the days comes
better from the lips of Christians; still, if custom should perchance
influence anyone so that what he disapproves of in his heart comes
forth from his mouth, let him know that all those from whom these
days were named were men, and on account of certain services of
a human sort (_mortalia_), since they were very powerful and were
prominent in this world, divine honors were bestowed on them by their
admirers, both in respect to the days and the stars, but first the
stars were named after men and then the days were named after the

Chapter 31. On night.

1. _Nox_ is derived from _nocere_ (to injure) because it injures the
eyes. And it has the light of the moon and stars in order that it may
not be without beauty, and that it may comfort all who work by night,
and that the light may be sufficiently tempered for certain creatures
that cannot endure the light of the sun.

3. Night is caused either because the sun is worn out with his long
journey and is weary when he comes to the last stretch of heaven and
blows out his weakened fires; or because he is driven under the lands
with the same force with which he carried his light over them, and
thus the shadow of the earth makes night. Whence Virgilius says:

                      Ruit Oceano nox
    Involvens umbra magna terramque polumque.

Chapter 33. On months.

1. The word _mensis_ is Greek, being derived from the word for moon.
For in the Greek language the moon is called μήνη; whence among the
Hebrews the regular (_legitimi_) months are reckoned not from the
circle of the sun, but from the course of the moon, which is from new
moon to new moon.

2. Because of the swifter course of the moon and the fear that an
error of reckoning might arise because of its speed, the Egyptians
began to reckon the day of the month from the course of the sun,
since the slower course of the sun could be comprehended more easily.

Chapter 34. On the solstices and equinoxes.

2. There are two solstices: first, the summer solstice, eight days
before the Kalends of July, from which time the sun begins to return
to the lower circles; the second, the winter solstice, eight days
before the Kalends of January, when the sun begins to make for the
higher circles, whence the day of the winter solstice is the shortest
and that of the summer solstice the longest.

3. Likewise there are two equinoxes: one in the spring and the other
in the autumn, which the Greeks call ἰσημερίαι. These equinoxes are
the eighth day before the Kalends of April and the eighth day before
the Kalends of October, because the year formerly was divided into
two parts only, that is, into the summer and the winter solstice, and
into two hemispheres.

Chapter 35. On the seasons.

1. There are four seasons of the year: spring, summer, autumn,
winter. And they are called seasons (_tempora_) from tempering,[305]
since they are tempered in turn by moisture, dryness, heat, and cold.

  [305] _A communionis temperamento._

2. It is known that after the creation of the universe the seasons
were divided into three months each, according to the quality of the
sun’s course.... And the ancients make the following divisions of
these seasons: in the first month spring is called _novum_, in the
second, _adultum_, in the third, _praeceps_.[306]

  [306] So in the case of summer, autumn, and winter.

7–8. These seasons are assigned also to separate parts of the
heavens. The spring is given to the Orient, because then all things
arise (_oriuntur_) from the earth; summer to the South, because its
division is more intense in its heat; winter to the North, because
it is torpid with colds and perpetual frost; autumn to the Occident,
because it has serious diseases. Whence, too, the leaves of the trees
fall. The bordering of cold and heat and the contending of opposite
airs causes the autumn to abound in diseases.

Chapter 36. On years.

1. The year is the circle of the sun when it returns to the same
place in relation to the stars, after three hundred and sixty-five

3. There are three kinds of years. For the year is the lunar, of
thirty days, the solstitial, which contains twelve months, or the
great year, when all the planets return to the same place, which
happens after many solstitial years.

Chapter 38. On generations and ages.

5. Age (_aetas_) is used properly in two ways: for it is either the
age of man, as infancy, prime, old age; or the age of the world,
whose first age is from Adam to Noe; the second, from Noe to Abraham;
the third, from Abraham to David; the fourth, from David to the
migration of Judah to Babylon; the fifth, from then to the coming of
the Saviour in the flesh; the sixth, which is now in progress and
which will continue until the world is ended.

6. Julius Africanus was the first of our [writers] to set forth
in the style of simple history, in the time of Marcus Aurelius
Antoninus, the passing of these ages by generations and reigns. Then
Eusebius, bishop of Caesarea, and the priest Hieronymus of holy
memory, published a complex history of chronological tables, using
reigns and dates at the same time.[307]

  [307] The reference in “complex history” (_complicem historiam_)
  is to the parallel sets of chronological tables of the histories
  of different peoples given by Eusebius.

7. Then others, among them especially Victor, bishop of the church of
Tununa, reviewed the histories of earlier writers and filled out the
deeds of subsequent ages down to the consulate of the second emperor

8. We have noted with what brevity we could the total of these times
from the beginning of the world to the emperor Augustus Heraclius and
Suinthilanus, king of the Goths, adding at the side a column of dates
by the evidence of which the total of past time may be known.

Chapter 39. On the ordering of times (chronology).[308]

  [308] Sufficient of Isidore’s chronology is translated to give an
  idea of its method and of the events mentioned in it. His dates
  for the six ages of the world are as follows:

  First age      0–2242.
  Second age  2242–3184.
  Third age   3184–4125.
  Fourth age  4125–4610.
  Fifth age   4610–5155.
  Sixth age   5155-?

  The world according to Isidore’s chronology was in its 5825th
  year. Although Isidore professes to start the sixth age with the
  birth of Christ, he really starts it with the beginning of the
  reign of Augustus. See _Chronicon_; Migne, _P. L._, vol. 83, col.

1. The first age contains at its beginning the creation of the world.
On the first day under the name of light God created the angels; on
the second, under the name of firmament, the heavens; on the third,
under the name of parting, the waters and the land; on the fourth
day, the lights of heaven; on the fifth, living things of the waters;
on the sixth, living things of the land and man, whom he called Adam.


  2. Adam in his 230th year begat Seth, from whom
  [sprang] the children of God.                          230

  Seth in his 205th year begat Enos, who began to call
  upon the name of the Lord.                             435

  Enos in his 190th year begat Cainan.                   625

  Cainan in his 170th year begat Malaleel.               795

  _Second Age_

  5. Sem in the second year after the flood begat
  Arphaxad, from whom sprang the Chaldeans.             2244

  Arphaxad in his 135th year begat Sala, from whom
  sprang the Samaritans and Indians.                    2379

  Sala in his 130th year begat Heber, from whom
  sprang the Hebrews.                                   2509

  6. Heber in his 144th year begat Phaleg. The tower
  was built.                                            2643

  Phaleg in his 130th year begat Ragan. The gods
  are first worshiped.                                  2773

  Ragan in his 132nd year begat Seruch. The kingdom
  of the Scythians begins.                              2905

  7. Seruch in his 130th year begat Nachor. The
  king of the Egyptians appears.                        3035

  Nachor in his 79th year begat Tharam. The kingdom
  of the Scythians and the Sycionii appears.            3114

  Tharam in his 70th year begat Abraham. Zoroaster
  discovered magic.                                     3184

  _Third Age_

  12. Abdon ruled eight years. Troy was captured.       4025

  Samson ruled twenty years. Ascanius founded Alba.     4045

  The priest Eli ruled forty years. The ark of the
  covenant was captured.                                4085

  Samuel ruled forty years. Homer is believed to
  have lived at this time.                              4125

  _Fourth Age_

  13. David ruled forty years. Carthage is founded
  by Dido. Gad, Nathan and Asaph prophesied.            4165

  Solomon ruled forty years. The temple at Jerusalem
  was built.                                            4205

  _Fifth Age_

  19. The captivity of the Hebrews, seventy years.
  Judith writes history.                                4680

  Darius, thirty-four years. The captivity of the
  Jews is ended.                                        4714

  Xerxes, twenty years. The tragedians Sophocles
  and Euripides are famous.                             4734

  20. Artaxerxes, forty years. Esdras renews the law
  which was burned.                                     4774

  Darius, called also Nothus, nineteen years. This
  time possessed Plato and Gorgias, the first teacher
  of rhetoric.                                          4793

  25. Ptolemaeus, eight years. The art of rhetoric
  begins at Rome.                                       5118

  Dionysius, thirty years. Pompey takes Judaea.         5148

  Cleopatra, two years. Egypt is conquered by the
  Romans.                                               5150

  Julius Caesar, five years. He was the first to
  possess sole authority.                               5155

  _Sixth Age_

  26. Octavian, fifty-six years. Christ is born.        5211

  Tiberius, twenty-three years. Christ is crucified.    5234

  Caius Caligula, four years. Matthew wrote his
  gospel.                                               5238

  27. Claudius, fourteen years. Mark published his
  gospel.                                               5252

  Nero, fourteen years. Peter and Paul are put to
  death.                                                5266

  Vespasian, ten years. Jerusalem was destroyed by
  Titus.                                                5276

  41. Tiberius, six years. The Lombards take Italy.     5779

  Mauritius, twenty-one years. The Goths become
  Catholic.                                             5800

  Phocas, eight years. The Romans are defeated by
  the Persians.                                         5808

42. Eraclius is now governing the empire in his seventeenth year.

The Jews in Spain are being made Christian. The remainder of the
sixth age is known to God alone.



  [309] These three books are not grouped by Isidore under one
  name. There apparently was no name in existence by which to
  designate them, as _theologia_ was not applied, commonly at
  least, to Christian doctrine before Abelard’s time.


After the five books devoted to the seven liberal arts there follow
three which are grouped together by unity of subject and are sharply
differentiated from the remainder of the _Etymologies_, which is
prevailingly secular in tone. The contents of these three form a
summary of the non-secular thought of the time.[310] Their presence
in the midst of an encyclopedia of secular learning is to be
explained, as we have seen, by the probability that their purpose was
educational, and that they are to be regarded as the texts of the
final stage in the priestly training. They thus form the conclusion
of Isidore’s educational encyclopedia.[311]

  [310] The sources of bks. vi-viii differ from those of the
  remaining books of the _Etymologies_ in being almost exclusively
  Christian. Isidore himself, in his non-secular writings, covers
  more fully the subjects which he here treats in a summary
  fashion. Compare bk. vi, chaps. 1 and 2, with _Proemia in
  Libros Veteris ac Novi Testamenti_; bk. vii, chaps. 6 and 7,
  with _Expositiones Mysticorum Sacramentorum_ and _De Ortu et
  Obitu Patrum_; bk. viii, chaps. 1–5, with _Sententiarum Libri
  Tres_; bk. vi, chap. 19, and bk. vii, chaps. 12, 13, with _De
  Ecclesiasticis Officiis_.

  [311] See pp. 43, 86.


    I. The books and services of the Church (Book VI).
       1. The Old and New Testaments (ch. 1).
       2. The writers and names of the holy books (ch. 2).
       3. Books (chs. 3–14).
          a. Libraries.
          b. Translators.
          c. Writers of many books.
          d. Kinds of books.
          e. Writing materials.
       4. The canons of the Gospels (ch. 15).
       5. The canons of the Councils (ch. 16).
       6. The Easter cycle and other feasts (ch. 17).
       7. The services of the Church (ch. 18).
   II. God, the angels and the orders of the faithful (Book VII).
       1. God (ch. 1).
       2. The Son of God (ch. 2).
       3. The Holy Spirit (ch. 3).
       4. The Trinity (ch. 4).
       5. The angels (ch. 5).
       6. The meaning of biblical names (chs. 6–10).
       7. Martyrs (ch. 11).
       8. The clergy (ch. 12).
       9. Monks (ch. 13).
      10. The remainder of the faithful (ch. 14).
  III. The Church and the different sects (Book VIII).
       1. The Church and the synagogue (ch. 1).
       2. Religion and faith (ch. 2).
       3. Heresy (chs. 3–5).
          a. The heresies of the Jews.
          b. The heresies of the Christians.
       4. Heathen philosophers (ch. 6).
       5. Poets (ch. 7).
       6. Sibyls (ch. 8).
       7. Magi (ch. 9).
       8. Pagans (ch. 10).
       9. Heathen gods (ch. 11).




Chapter 1. On the Old and New Testaments.

1. The Old Testament is so-called because when the New came it was
at an end, of which the Apostle speaks: Vetera transierunt, et ecce
facta sunt omnia nova.

2. The New Testament is so-called because it brings in the new. For
men do not learn it, except those renewed from their former state
through grace and now belonging to the New Testament, which is the
kingdom of heaven.

3. The Hebrews accept on Esdras’ authority twenty-two books of
the Old Testament, according to the number of their letters,[312]
dividing them into three series, namely, the Law, the Prophets, and
the Hagiographi.

  [312] Of the alphabet.

4. The first series of the Law is accepted in five books, of which
the first is Beresith, which is Genesis; the second, Veele Samoth,
which is Exodus; the third, Vaicra, which is Leviticus; the fourth,
Vajedabber, which is Numbers; the fifth, Elleaddebarim, which is

6. The second series is that of the Prophets, in which eight books
are contained, of which the first is Josue Ben-Nun, which in Latin is
called Jesu Nave; the second, Sophtin, which is Judges; the third,
Samuel, which is the first of Kings; the fourth, Malachim, which is
the second of Kings; the fifth, Isaias; the sixth, Jeremias; the
seventh, Ezechiel; the eighth, Thereazer, which is called ‘Of the
Twelve Prophets,’ which books are taken as one since they are placed
together on account of their brevity.

7. The third is the series of the Hagiographi, that is, those who
write what is holy, in which are nine books, of which the first is
Job; the second, the Psalms; the third, Misse, which is the Proverbs
of Solomon; the fourth, Cohaleth, which is Ecclesiastes; the fifth,
Sir Hassirim, which is the Song of Songs; the sixth, Daniel; the
seventh, Dibrehajamin, which is Verba dierum, _i.e._, Paralipomenon
(Chronicles); the eighth, Esdras; the ninth, Esther. And all of these
together, five, eight, and nine, make twenty-two just as they were
inclusively given above.

8. Certain add Ruth and Cinoth, which in the Latin is Lamentatio
Jeremiae, to the hagiographa and make twenty-four volumes of the Old
Testament, like the twenty-four elders who stand in the sight of the

9. There is with us a fourth series consisting of those books of the
Old Testament which are not in the Hebrew canon. Of which the first
is the book of Wisdom (Sapientiae); the second, Ecclesiasticus; the
third, Thobias; the fourth, Judith; the fifth and sixth, of the
Machabees. Although the Jews set these aside as apocryphal, still the
church of Christ honors and preaches them among the divine books.

10. In the New Testament are two series: first the Evangelic, in
which are Matthew, Mark, Luke and John; second, the apostolic, in
which are Paul in fourteen epistles, Peter in two, John in three,
James and Jude in one each, the Acts of the Apostles and the
Apocalypse of John.

11. Moreover the whole of each Testament is triply divided, that
is, into history, morals, and allegory. Again those three have many
divisions, for example, what was done and said by God, what by the
angels, or by men, what was foretold by the prophets of Christ and
his body; what of the devil and his members; what of the old and the
new people; what of the present age, and the coming kingdom, and the

Chapter 2. On the writers and names of the sacred books.

1. These are said to be the authors of the Old Testament according
to the Hebrew tradition. First Moses wrote a cosmography of divine
history in five volumes, which is named Pentateuch.

8. The book of Josue received its name from Jesus, son of Nave, whose
history it contains, and the Hebrews assert that the same Josue was
its writer, in the text of which, after the crossing of the Jordan,
the kingdoms of the enemy are overthrown and the land divided among
the people, and by the separate cities, villages, mountains and
boundaries the spiritual realms of the church and the heavenly
Jerusalem are prefigured.

18. Solomon, son of David, king of Israel, wrote three volumes
according to the number of his names, of which the first is in Hebrew
Misle, which the Greeks name Parabolae, the Latins, Proverbia,
because in it he sets forth figurative expressions and likenesses of
the truth under the form of a parallel.

19. The truth itself he has reserved to its readers to understand.
The second book is called Coheleth, which in the Greek is
Ecclesiastes, in Latin, Concionator, because its discourse is not
especially addressed to one, as in Proverbs, but generally to all,
teaching that all things which we see in the universe are perishable
and short-lived, and for this reason little to be desired.

20. The third book he called Sir hassirim, which is translated
Cantica Canticorum in the Latin, where in a marriage song he sings in
mystic fashion the union of Christ and the church....

21. The songs in these three books are said to be written in
hexameter and pentameter verse as Josephus and Hieronymus say.

40. These are the four Evangelists whom the holy spirit indicated in
Ezechiel in the four animals. And there are four animals, because the
faith of the Christian religion is spread by their preaching through
the four quarters of the world.

41. And they were called animals (_animalia_) because the Gospel of
Christ is preached by them on account of the soul (_anima_) of man.
And they were full of eyes within and without, since they perceive
that what was said by the prophets and what had been promised was
being fulfilled.

42. And their legs were straight because there is nothing crooked in
the Gospels. And as for the six wings apiece that cover their legs
and faces, those things which were hid are revealed at the coming of

50. These are the writers of the sacred books who, speaking by the
holy spirit for our edification, wrote both the precepts of living
and the rule for believing.

51. In addition to these there are other volumes called apocrypha,
and they are called apocrypha, that is, set aside, because they are
doubted. For their origin is hidden and was not clear to the Fathers
from whom the authority of the genuine scriptures has come down to
us by a most certain and well-known tradition. In these apocrypha,
although some truth is found, there is no canonic authority, on
account of the many things that are false, and it is rightly judged
by the wise that they ought not to be believed [to be the work] of
those to whom they are ascribed.

52. For many [works] were brought forward by the heretics under the
name of the prophets, and many of later origin under the name of the
apostles, and all of those after careful examination were separated
from the authority of the canon, under the name of apocrypha.

Chapter 4. On translators.

1. This man [Ptolemy Philadelphus] asked Eleazer the high-priest
for the Scriptures of the Old Testament, and had them translated
from Hebrew into Greek by seventy translators, and kept them in the
library of Alexandria.

2. Being placed separately in separate cells they so translated all,
by the influence of the holy spirit, that nothing was found in the
text of any one of them, that was different in the rest, even in the
order of the words.

5. The priest, Hieronymus, being expert in the three languages,
translated the Scriptures also from Hebrew into Latin and expressed
them with eloquence, and his translation is rightly preferred to the
rest. For it is nearer to the literal, and plainer because of the
clearness of its expression, and truer, as being done by a Christian

Chapter 7. Those who wrote much.

1. Marcus Terentius Varro among the Latins wrote innumerable books.
Among the Greeks also Chalcenterus is extolled with marvelous praises
because he wrote so many books that no one of us could even copy in
his own hand-writing as many works of other men.

2. Of our own writers, too, among the Greeks, Origen in his toil upon
the Scriptures surpassed both Greeks and Latins in the number of his
works. Hieronymus asserts that he had read 6,000 of his books.

3. However Augustine surpassed the zeal of all these by his genius
and wisdom. For he wrote so much that no one is able in the days and
nights even to read his books, far less to write them.

Chapter 16. On the canons of the councils.

5. Among the rest of the councils we know there are four venerable
synods which embrace the whole faith in its chief heads, like the
four Gospels or the four rivers of Paradise.

6. Of these the first, the Nicene synod of 318 bishops, was held when
Constantine was emperor. In it the blasphemy of the Arian perfidy
was condemned, which the same Arius gave utterance to concerning the
inequality of the holy Trinity. The same holy synod in the creed
defined God the son as consubstantial with God, the father.

7. The second synod of 150 fathers gathered at Constantinople under
Theodosius the elder, and condemning Macedonius, who denied that the
Holy Spirit was God, proved that the Holy Spirit was consubstantial
with the Father and the Son, giving the form of the creed which the
whole confession, Greek and Latin, preaches in the churches.

8. The third synod, the first of Ephesus, of 200 bishops, was held
under Theodosius II, and it condemned with a just anathema Nestorius,
who asserted that there were two persons in Christ, and showed that
the one person of the Lord Jesus Christ was immanent in the two

9. The fourth synod of 630 priests was held at Chalcedon under
Martianus, and it condemned by the unanimous vote of the fathers
Euthyches, abbot of Constantinople, who asserted that the nature of
the Word of God and of flesh was one, and his defender, Dioscorus,
bishop of Alexandria, and Nestorius himself a second time, along with
the remaining heretics, the same synod stating that Christ the Lord
was so born of the virgin that we confess in him the substance both
of the divine and of the human nature.

These four are the principal synods, stating most fully the doctrine
of faith; and whatever councils there are which the holy Fathers,
full of the spirit of God, have ratified, after the authority of
these four, they continue established in all strength.

Chapter 17. The cycle of Easter.

10. After the completion of this [95-year cycle][313] a return
must be made to the beginning. In ancient times the church used to
celebrate Easter on the 14th of the moon at the same time as the
Jews, whatever day it came on; this way of celebrating the holy
Fathers forbade at the council of Nicaea, giving directions to make
inquiry not only for the Easter moon and month, but also to observe
the day of the resurrection of the Lord, and because of this they
extended Easter from the 14th of the moon to the 21st, in order that
the _dies Dominicus_ might not be left out.

  [313] This passage is preceded by a table indicating the date
  of Easter for 95 years (627–721). It is clear that although
  Isidore was not acquainted with the plan of Dionysius Exiguus
  to institute the Christian era, he was acquainted with the
  essentials of his Easter table. Dionysius had given the dates
  for Easter in five 19-year cycles, dating from 525; in Isidore
  this is continued for the years 627 to 721. Isidore’s table
  consists merely of parallel columns of the days of the month
  and corresponding days of the moon on which Easter fell. Each
  date is marked C or E, abbreviations for _communis annus_ and
  _embolismus_ which describe respectively the year of twelve and
  that of thirteen lunar months in use in the Hebrew chronology.
  A further abbreviation, B, stands opposite each fourth year, to
  mark the leap-years. The years are not numbered according to
  any era, and the assignment of dates, 627–721, is inferred from
  the dates given for Easter. See Ideler, _Chronologie_, vol. ii,
  p. 290 (Berlin, 1826). Isidore does not make it plain that he
  understood the mathematics of the computation of Easter. It is
  of interest that in 643 the fourth synod of Toledo passed an
  enactment to secure a common observance of Easter throughout the
  Spanish churches, no doubt according to this Easter-table. See
  Gams, _Die Kirchengeschichte von Spanien_ (Regensburg, 1874),
  vol. ii, part 2, p. 94.

12. The eve of Easter is spent in watching because of the coming of
our King and God, that the time of the resurrection may find us not
sleeping but waking. And the reason for this night is a double one,
either because he received life at that time when he suffered, or
because he is to come for judgment at the same hour at which he arose.

13. And we celebrate Easter in such a way as not merely to call to
memory the death and resurrection of Christ but also to consider the
rest that is told about him with reference to its mystic meaning (_ad
sacramentorum significationem_).

14. For on account of beginning the new life, and on account of
the new man which we are bidden to put on and to put off the old,
purging away the old ferment in order that we may be a new sprinkling
(_conspersio_), since Christ is sacrificed as our Pascha (Passover);
on account of this newness of life, then, the first month in the
months of the year is mystically assigned to the Easter festival.

15. And that Easter is celebrated on a day in the third week, that
is, a day that occurs between the fourteenth and twenty-first, this
signifies that in the whole time of the world, which is based on the
unit of seven days, this mystery has now opened a third time.

16. For the first time is before the law, the second under the law,
the third under grace. Wherein the mystery before hidden in the
prophetic allegory is now plain, and the resurrection of the Lord is
on the third day on account of these three periods of the world.

17. As to the fact that Easter day is sought through seven days from
the fourteenth to the twenty-first, this is done on account of the
number seven, by which the meaning of completeness is often figured,
which is also assigned to the church itself because it is universal.
For this reason also John, the apostle, writes to the seven churches.

18. And by the name of the moon in the Scriptures, on account of its
mutability it is signified that the church as yet is established
[only] in the mortality of the flesh.

19. An observance of different opinions as to the feast of Easter
sometimes produces error. For the Latins seek for the moon of the
first month from the third day before the Nones of March to the third
before the Nones of April, and if the fourteenth day of the moon
comes on Sunday, they postpone Easter to another Sunday.

20. The Greeks observe the moon of the first month from the eighth
before the Ides of March to the day of the Nones of April, and
if the fifteenth day of the moon comes on the Lord’s day, they
celebrate Easter. A difference of this sort between them disturbs the
regularity of the Easter canon.




Chapter 1. On God.

1. The most blessed Hieronymus, a man of the greatest learning and
skilled in many languages, first rendered into the Latin language
the meaning of the Hebrew names. And leaving out many for brevity, I
propose to insert certain of them in this work with their meanings in

2. For the explanation of words sufficiently indicates what they
mean. For certain have the reason for their names in peculiar causes.
And at the beginning we set down ten names by which God is called
among the Hebrews....

Chapter 5. On angels.

2. The word angel is the name of a function, not of a nature; for
they are always spirits, but are called angels when they are sent.

3. And the license of painters makes wings for them in order to
denote their swift passage in every direction, just as also in the
fables of the poets the winds are said to have wings on account of
their velocity....

4. The sacred writings testify that there are nine orders of
angels, namely, angels, archangels, thrones, dominions, virtues,
principalities, powers, cherubim and seraphim. And we shall explain
by derivation why the names of these functions were so applied.

5. Angels are so called because they are sent down from heaven to
carry messages to men....

6. Archangels in the Greek tongue means _summi nuntii_ in the Latin.
For they who carry small or trifling messages are called angels; and
they who announce the most important things are called archangels....
Archangels are so called because they hold the leadership among
angels.... For they are leaders and chiefs under whose control
services are assigned to each and every angel.

17. Certain functions of angels by which signs and wonders are done
in the world are called virtues, on account of which the virtues are

18. Those are powers to whom hostile virtues are subject, and they
are called by the name of powers because evil spirits are constrained
by their power not to harm the world as much as they desire.

19. Principalities are those who are in command of the hosts of the
angels. And they have received the name of principality because
they send the subordinate angels here and there to do the divine

20. Dominions are they who are in charge even of the virtues and
principalities, and they are called dominions because they rule the
rest of the hosts of the angels.

21. Thrones are the hosts of angels who in the Latin are called
_sedes_; and they are called thrones because the creator presides
over them, and through them accomplishes his decisions.

22. Cherubim ... are the higher hosts of angels who, being placed
nearer, are fuller of the divine wisdom than the rest....

24. The seraphim in like manner are a multitude of angels, and the
word is translated from the Hebrew into the Latin as _ardentes_ or
_incendentes_, and they are called _ardentes_ because between them
and God no other angels stand, and therefore the nearer they stand in
his presence the more they are lighted by the brightness of divine

25. And they veil the face and feet of God sitting on his throne, and
therefore the rest of the throng of angels are not able to see fully
the essence of God, since the seraphim cover him.

28. To each and every one, as has been said before, his proper duties
are appointed, and it is agreed that they obtained these according
to merit at the beginning of the world. That angels have charge over
both places and men, an angel testifies through the prophet, saying:
“Princeps regni Persarum mihi restitit” (Dan. x. 13).

29. Whence it is evident that there is no place that angels have not
charge of. They have charge also over the beginnings of all works.

30. Such is the order or classification of the angels who after
the fall of the wicked stood in celestial strength. For after the
apostate angels fell, these were established in the continuance of
eternal blessedness.

32. As to the two seraphim that are read of in Isaiah, they show in a
figure the meaning of the Old and the New Testament. But as to their
covering the face and feet of God, it is because we cannot know the
past before the universe, nor the future after the universe, but
according to their testimony we contemplate only the intervening

Chapter 6. On men who received prophetic names.

1. Most of the men of early times have the origin of their names
in appropriate causes. And their names have been given in such a
prophetic way that they are in harmony with either their future or
their antecedent causes.

2. However we shall now examine merely their literal meaning in
history, without touching on the inner meaning of the spirit.

Chapter 11. On martyrs.

4. There are two kinds of martyrs, one in open suffering, the
other in the hidden virtue of the spirit. For many, enduring the
lyings-in-wait of the enemy and resisting all carnal desires, have
become martyrs even in time of peace, because they have sacrificed
themselves in their heart to the omnipotent God, and if they had
lived in time of persecution, they could have been martyrs in reality.

Chapter 12. On the clergy.

4. The order of bishops is four-fold, namely, patriarchs,
archbishops, metropolitans, and bishops.

5. Patriarch in the Greek tongue means highest of the fathers,
because he holds the first, that is, the Apostolic place, and he is
honored by such a name because he holds the highest office, as for
example, the patriarch of Rome, Antioch or Alexandria.




  [314] It is worth noticing that in bks. vii and viii Isidore
  gives a list of the whole hierarchy of supernatural and human
  existences beginning with God and ending with the devil. An
  inspection of the order of subjects will suggest to the reader
  that he was arranging them in order of merit. If this supposition
  is correct, the table of contents of these two books is a very
  significant one, as throwing light upon Isidore’s scale of values
  for the divine, the human and the demonic.

Chapter 1. On the church and the synagogue.

4. The church began at the place where the holy spirit came from
heaven and filled those who were sitting together.

5. In view of its present sojourn in strange parts the church is
called Sion, because from the distant viewpoint of this sojourn it
contemplates the promise of heavenly things, and therefore it has
received the name Sion, that is, contemplation.

6. Moreover in view of the peace of the future land it is called
Jerusalem, for Jerusalem means vision of peace. For there, all
suffering ended, it shall possess with near contemplation the peace
which is Christ.

Chapter 3. On heresy.

1. _Haeresis_ is so-called in the Greek from choosing, because,
forsooth, each one chooses for himself what seems to him to
be better, as the Peripatetic philosophers, the Academic, the
Epicureans, and the Stoics, or as others who, following perverse
belief, have departed from the church of their own free will.

2. And so heresy is named in the Greek from its meaning of choice,
since each at his own will chooses what he pleases to teach or
believe. But we are not permitted to believe anything of our own
will, nor to choose what someone has believed of his.

3. We have God’s apostles as authorities, who did not themselves of
their own will choose anything of what they should believe, but they
faithfully transmitted to the nations the teaching received from
Christ. And so, even if an angel from heaven shall preach otherwise,
he shall be called anathema.

Chapter 5. On the heresies of the Christians.

69. There are also other heresies[315] without founders or names:
some of whom believe that God has three forms; and others say that
the divinity of Christ is capable of suffering; and others set a date
in time to the generation of Christ by the Father. Others believe
that by the descent of Christ the liberation of all[316] in the lower
regions was accomplished; others deny that the soul is the image of
God; others think that souls are changed to demons and to animals of
every sort; others hold different views about the constitution of the
universe; others think there are innumerable universes; others make
water co-eternal with God; others go on their bare feet; others do
not eat in company with men.

  [315] A list of heresies precedes.

  [316] Du Breul, _hominum_ instead of _omnium_.

70. These heresies have arisen against the catholic faith and have
been condemned beforehand by the apostles and the holy fathers, or
by the councils, and while they are not consistent with one another,
being divided among many different errors, they still conspire with
one assent against the church of God. But whoever understands the
holy Scripture otherwise than as the sense of the Holy Spirit, by
whom it was written, demands, though he do not withdraw from the
church, he can be still called a heretic.

Chapter 6. On the heathen philosophers.

1. Philosophers are so-called by a Greek name, which in Latin means
_amatores sapientiae_. For he is a philosopher who has a knowledge of
divine and human things, and keeps wholly to the way of right living.

2. The name of the philosophers is said to have first originated with
Pythagoras. For when the ancient Greeks boastfully named themselves
sophists, that is, wise men, or teachers of wisdom, he was asked
what he professed to be, and he modestly replied that he was a
philosopher, that is, lover of wisdom, since to make a profession of
wisdom seemed very arrogant.

3. And so in later times it became the practice to give only the
name of philosopher, no matter how great the learning in matters
pertaining to wisdom each seemed to himself or to others to possess.
And these philosophers are divided into three classes: for they are
either natural philosophers (_physici_), or moral (_ethici_), or
rational (_logici_).

4. The natural philosophers are so-called because they treat of

5. The moral philosophers are so-called because they discuss

6. The rational philosophers are so named because they add
reason to nature and morals.... These are divided into their
schools, some having names from their founders, as _Platonici_,
_Epicurei_, _Pythagorici_; others from their places of meeting, as
_Peripatetici_, _Stoici_, _Academici_.

7. The _Platonici_ are named from the philosopher Plato. They assert
that God is the creator of souls, the angels of bodies; they say that
after many cycles of years souls return to different bodies.

9. [The Stoics] assert that no one is happy without virtue. They
claim that every sin is equally sinful, saying: “He is as guilty
who steals chaff as he who steals gold, he who kills a waterfowl as
he who kills a horse; for it is not the thing but the spirit (_non
animal sed animus_) that makes the sin.”

10. These also say that the soul perishes with the body. They love
the virtue of self-control, and seek eternal glory although they
assert that they are not immortal.

11. The _Academici_ are named from Academia, Plato’s villa at Athens,
where he taught. These believe that all things are uncertain; but
although it must be admitted that many things which God willed to
surpass the understanding of man, are uncertain and hidden from us,
yet there are very many things which can be received by the senses
and apprehended by man.

15. The Epicureans are named from Epicurus, a certain philosopher, a
lover of vanity not of wisdom, whom the very philosophers themselves
called a swine because he wallowed in carnal filth and asserted that
bodily pleasure was the highest good, and even said that the universe
was not formed and ruled by a divine Providence.

16. But he assigned the origin of things to atoms, that is, to
indivisible material bodies, from the chance combination of which all
things arise and have arisen. He said that God did nothing, that all
things are corporeal, that the soul is not different from the body.
And so he said, “I shall not exist after I die.”

22. These errors of the philosophers have given rise also to heresies
in the church....

23. When it is said that the soul perishes, Epicurus is honored; and
the denial of the resurrection of the flesh is taken from all the
philosophers; and where matter is put on an equality with God, it is
the teaching of Zeno; and where anything is read about a God of fire,
Heraclitus comes in. The same material is used and the same errors
are embraced over and over by heretics and philosophers.

Chapter 7. On poets.

1. Tranquillus thus tells why poets were so named: “When men putting
off savagery first began to have a settled mode of life and to obtain
a knowledge of themselves and their gods, they contrived a modest
way of living and necessary words for themselves, but sought for
magnificence in each for the worship of their gods.

2. And so, just as they made temples more beautiful than the homes
of that time, and images larger than men’s bodies, so they thought
that [the gods] must be honored with an eloquence even more stately,
and they extolled their merits in splendid words and pleasure-giving

10. The function of a poet is in this, that by the aid of a
figurative and indirect mode of speech he gracefully changes and
transforms to a different aspect what has really taken place. But
Lucan is not placed in the number of poets because he seems to have
composed a history, not a poem.

Chapter 8. On the sibyls.

3. The most learned authors relate that there were ten Sibyls. Of
whom the first was the Persian; the second, the Libyan; the third,
the Delphian, born in the temple of the Delphian Apollo, who foretold
the Trojan wars and very many of whose verses Homer inserted in his
work; the fourth, the Cimmerian in Italy; the fifth, the Erythraean,
Herophyla by name, born in Babylon, who foretold to the Greeks on
their way to Ilium that they would perish and Homer would write lies;
she was called Erythraean because her verses were found in that
island; the sixth, the Samian....

5. The seventh, the Sibyl of Cumae, who brought nine books to
Tarquinius Priscus in which were written the secrets[317] of Rome....

  [317] Reading _secreta_ for _decreta_.

6. The eighth, the Sibyl of Hellespont, born in Trojan territory, who
is said to have lived in the days of Solon and Cyrus.... The ninth,
who prophesied at Ancyra. The tenth, the Sibyl of Tibur, Albunea by

7. Verses of all these are published, in which it is manifestly
proved that they wrote many things about God and Christ and the
heathen. The Erythraean Sibyl, however, is said to be the most
celebrated and famous of them all.

Chapter 9. On the magi.

1. The first of the magi was Zoroaster, king of the Bactrians, whom
Ninus, king of the Assyrians, slew in battle, and of whom Aristotle
writes that on the evidence of his works it is clear that he composed
2,000,000 verses.

2. This art was enlarged by Democritus many centuries later when
Hippocrates was famous for his knowledge of medicine....

3. And so this vanity of the magic arts flourished during many
generations in the whole world by the teaching of the bad angels,
through a certain knowledge of the future and the summoning up of
infernal spirits. Their inventions are divinations, auguries, the
so-called oracles, and necromancy.

4. And there is no miracle in the feats of the magicians, whose arts
of wickedness reached such perfection that they actually resisted
Moses by wonders very like his, turning twigs to serpents and water
to blood.

5. It is said that there was a very famous magician, Circe, who
turned Ulysses’ companions into beasts. We also read of a sacrifice
which the Arcadians offered to their god Lycaeus when all who ate of
it were changed to the shapes of beasts.

6. And it is plain that the famous poet wrote of a certain woman who
excelled in the magic arts: “She promises to soothe by her charms the
minds of whomsoever she wishes, and to cause others cruel anxieties;
to stay the current in the stream, to turn the stars back. She
summons the spirits of the dead at night; you shall hear the earth
bellow beneath your feet and see the ash trees come down the mountain

  [318] Verg. _Aen._ 4, 487–491, not quoted directly but taken from
  Augustine, _De Civitate Dei_, 21, 6.

7. Why should I tell further of the sorceress—if it is right to
believe it—how she summoned the soul of the prophet Samuel from the
secret places of hell and presented him to the gaze of the living—if
we are to believe that it was the soul of the prophet and not some
fantastic deceit created by the trickery of Satan.

8. Prudentius, too, tells of Mercury: “It is said that he recalled
the souls of the dead to the light by the power of the wand he held,
and others he condemned to death.” And a little later he adds: “The
wicked art can summon unsubstantial forms with its magic murmur and
utter incantations over sepulchral ashes, and others it can deprive
of life.”

9. The magi are they who are usually called _malefici_ because of the
greatness of their guilt. They throw the elements into commotion,
disorder men’s minds, and without any draught of poison they kill by
the mere virulence of a charm.

10. ... They summon demons, and dare to work such juggleries that
each one slays his enemies by evil arts. They use blood also, and
victims, and often touch dead bodies.

11. Necromancers are they by whose incantations the dead appear to
revive and prophesy and answer questions.... To summon them blood is
thrown on a corpse; for they say demons love blood, and therefore as
often as necromancy is practiced blood is mixed with water, that they
may be more easily attracted owing to the color of blood.

12. The _hydromantii_ are so named from water. For it is hydromancy
to summon the shades of demons by looking into water and to see their
likenesses or mockeries, and to be told some things by them, while
the pretence is made that it is actually the dead who are being
questioned by the aid of blood.[319]

  [319] From Augustine, _De Civitate Dei_, bk. vii. cap. 35.

13. This sort of divination is said to have been introduced by the
Persians. Varro says there are four kinds of divination, namely,
by earth, air, water, fire; hence geomancy, hydromancy, aeromancy,

14. _Divini_ (sooth-sayers) are so called as if they were _Deo pleni_
(full of God); for they pretend that they are full of divinity and
they guess men’s future by a deceitful cleverness.

There are two sorts of [this] divination, skill and frenzy.

16. _Arioli_ (sooth-sayers) are so named because they utter their
execrable prayers at the altars (_aras_) of idols and make funeral
offerings, and because of their solemn observances they receive
responses from demons.

23. The _genethliaci_ are so named because of their observance of
natal days. They lay out men’s nativities according to the twelve
constellations of heaven, and by the course of the stars endeavor to
foretell the characters, deeds, and fortunes of the new-born, that
is, under what sign each has been born, and what result it has for
the life of him who is born.

25. At first the interpreters of the stars were called _magi_, as is
read of those who announced the birth of Christ in the Gospel; later
they had only the name of _mathematici_.

26. A knowledge of this art was granted up to the time of the Gospel,
that when Christ was born no one after that should read the nativity
of anyone from heaven.

30. To these belong also the _ligatures_, with their accursed
remedies, which medical science condemns, whether in charms or in
signs or in suspending and binding articles.

31. In all these the demonic art has arisen from a pestilential
association of men and bad angels. Whence all must be avoided by
Christians and rejected and condemned with thorough-going malediction.

Chapter 10. On the heathen.

2. The Gentiles are they who are without the law and have not yet
believed. Moreover they are called Gentiles because they are in their
con-genital state, that is, just as in the flesh they have plunged
down into sin, to wit, serving idols and not yet regenerate.

Chapter 11. On the gods of the heathen.

1. They whom the pagans assert to be gods are known to have been men
at one time, and in accordance with the life and services of each one
they began to be worshiped among their own people after their death,
as, in Egypt, Isis; in Crete, Jove; among the Moors, Juba; among the
Latins, Faunus; among the Romans, Quirinus.

2. ... And in their praises the poets, too, have helped, and by
writing poems have raised them up to the heavens.

3. It is said that the invention of certain arts has given rise to
worship, as medicine for Aesculapius, craftsmanship for Vulcan. And
they get their names from their activities, as Mercurius because he
is in charge of merchandise; Liber from liberty.

4. There were also certain brave men and founders of cities, upon
whose death men, because they loved them, made images of them, so as
to have some comfort from the contemplation of their likenesses, but
this error, it is now plain, so insinuated itself among later men by
the influence of demons, that the persons whom earlier men honored
for the sake of memory and nothing else, were believed by their
successors to be gods, and were worshiped.

5. The use of images arose when, because of longing for the dead,
likenesses or representations were made of them as if they had
been received into heaven. And demons substituted themselves to
be worshiped on earth in their place, and persuaded deceived and
wretched men that sacrifices should be made to them.

12. While wicked pride, whether of men or of demons, commands and
desires this worship, on the other hand pious humility, whether of
men or of holy angels, refuses it when offered to them and shows to
whom it is due.

15. Demons, they say, were named by the Greeks as if δαήμονας, that
is, clever and knowing about things. For they foreknow many things
that are to come, and because of this they are wont to give some

16. For there is in them a knowledge of things greater than is in
human weakness, partly by the keenness of their subtler sense, partly
by the experience of very long life, partly by God’s command as
revealed by the angels. They are strong in the nature of their aerial

17. Before their transgression, indeed, they had celestial bodies.
But they fell and changed to an aerial quality, and they are not
allowed to occupy the purer stretches of yonder airy space, but those
misty parts, and this serves as a sort of prison for them until the
time of judgment. These are the apostate angels, and their chief is
the devil.

18. The devil (_diabolus_) in Hebrew means flowing downward (_deorsum
fluens_), because he despised a calm station at heaven’s height and
fell in downward ruin by the weight of his pride; but in Greek devil
means accuser, whether because he reports the guilty deeds to which
he is himself the tempter, or because he accuses the innocence of
the elect with false crimes. Whence the angel’s voice says in the
Apocalypse: “The accuser of our brethren has been cast down, who
accused them in the sight of God day and night.”

19. _Satanas_ signifies in Latin the adversary, or deserter. He is
the adversary, for he is the foe of truth, and struggles to resist
the virtues of the holy; and the deserter, because he became an
apostate and did not stand by the truth in which he was created; and
the tempter, because he demands that the uprightness of the just be
tried, as is written in Job.

20. Antichrist is so named because he is going to oppose Christ. It
is not as certain simple-minded persons understand, that he is called
Antichrist because he is going to come before Christ, that is, that
Christ will come after him; not so, but Antichrist in the Greek means
in the Latin _contrarius Christo_, for ἀντὶ in Greek means _contra_
in Latin.

21. For when he comes he will say falsely that he is Christ, and he
will fight against him, and will oppose the sacraments of Christ, in
order to destroy the Gospel of truth.

22. For he will try to repair the temple at Jerusalem and to restore
all the ceremonies of the old law; moreover he is Antichrist who
denies that Christ is God, for he is opposed to Christ; all who
go out of the church and are cut off from the unity of faith are
themselves Antichrist.

37. They say that _Janus_ is the gate (_janua_), as it were, of the
universe, or the heavens or the months; they make Janus with two
faces because of the East and the West; when they make him with four
faces and call him the double Janus they refer this to the four
quarters of the universe or to the four elements or seasons. But when
they make this pretence they make a monster, not a god.

56. They say that Diana [Apollo’s] sister is at the same time Luna
and the divinity of roads. And they represent her as a maiden because
nothing grows on a road. And both [Apollo and Diana] are falsely
represented as having arrows because the sun and moon send their rays
from heaven down to the earth.

81. _Pan_ is a Greek name; the Latin is _Silvanus_; the god of the
country people whom they invented to represent nature, whence he is
called Pan, that is, _all_. For they pretend that he is made out of
every kind of element.

82. For he has horns to represent the rays of the sun and moon; he
has a skin, marked by spots, because of the stars of heaven; his face
is red to represent the ether; he carries a Pan’s-pipe of seven reeds
because of the harmony of the heavens in which are seven sounds, and
the seven notes of the voice.

89. These[320] and others are the fabulous imaginations of the
heathen, and, being rightly understood, they are such that their
worship, though in ignorance, brings damnation.

  [320] The reference is to heathen gods.

100. They say _manes_ are the gods of the dead, whose power, they
assert, is between the moon and the earth....

101. _Larvae_ they say are demons made from men who have been wicked.
It is said to be their nature to terrify little ones and to gibber in
dark corners.




In spite of the apparent lack of unity indicated by the title, the
subject of Book IX may be fairly described as mankind. It is true
that language is the first topic, but it is brought in merely because
Isidore believed that differences of race were based on differences
of language. It is followed by a survey of the races of mankind,
ending with an account of the races that had won military prominence.
Isidore then turns to man within the state and treats of him first as
a soldier and then as a citizen. Finally man is taken up as a member
of the family, and an account of family relationship and of marriage
is given.[321]

  [321] Isidore gives a table of “the prohibited degrees” within
  which marriage was forbidden by the rule of the church. Since
  the introduction of Christianity these had been steadily
  extended until in Isidore’s lifetime intermarriage within the
  seventh degree was prohibited by Pope Gregory. The analogy
  between the wide extension of “the prohibited degrees” in the
  dark ages and that found among primitive peoples generally is
  remarkable. Westermarck, _History of Human Marriage_, p. 297,
  says: “As a rule among primitive peoples unaffected by modern
  civilization, the prohibited degrees are more numerous than in
  advanced communities, the prohibitions in many cases referring
  even to all the members of a tribe or clan.” For an account of
  this development of marriage, see Westermarck, _op. cit._, p.
  308, and Smith and Cheetham’s _Christian Antiquities_, art.
  “Prohibited Degrees.” This social phenomenon of the dark ages
  is a development parallel to the recrudescence of the primitive
  in the intellectual sphere which is illustrated in so marked a
  manner in the _Etymologies_ (_cf._ pp. 50–54).


    I. Languages (ch. 1).
   II. Mankind (ch. 2).
       1. Mankind the descendants of the sons of Noah (Secs. 2–37).
       2. General view of the peoples of the earth with their Hebrew
            origin where known (Secs. 37–135).
  III. Empires, rulers, and warfare (ch. 3).
   IV. Terms relating to civil life (ch. 4).
    V. The family (chs. 5–7).
       1. The direct line (ch. 5).
       2. Relatives and degrees of relationship, with the “prohibited
            degrees” (ch. 6).
       3. Marriage (ch. 7).


Chapter 1. On the languages of the nations.

1. The diversity of languages arose after the flood, at the building
of the tower; for before that proud undertaking divided human society
among different languages (_in diversos signorum sonos_) there
was one tongue for all peoples, which is called Hebrew. This the
patriarchs and prophets used, not only in their conversation, but in
the sacred writings as well. At first there were as many languages
as peoples, then more peoples than languages, because many peoples
sprang from one language.

3. There are three sacred languages, Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, and
they are supreme through all the world. For it was in these three
languages that the charge against the Lord was written above the
cross by Pilate. Wherefore, because of the obscurity of the holy
Scriptures, a knowledge of these three languages is necessary, in
order that there may be recourse to a second if the expression in one
of them leads to doubt of a word or its meaning.

4. But the Greek tongue is considered most famous among the tongues
of the nations. For it is more resonant than the Latin and all other
tongues, and its variety is discerned in its five divisions: of which
the first is called κοινή, that is, debased or common, which all use.

5. The second is Attic, that is, the Athenian speech which all the
writers of Greece used. The third is Doric, which the Egyptians have
and the Sicilians. The fourth is Ionic. The fifth, Aeolic, which
the Aeoles spoke. In observing the Greek tongue there are definite
distinctions of this sort; for their language is divided in this way.

6. Certain have asserted that there are four Latin languages, namely,
the early, the Latin, the Roman, the corrupted. The early is that
which the oldest Italians used in the time of Janus and Saturn, a
rude speech, as is shown in the songs of the Salii; the Latin, which
they spoke in Latium under Latinus and the kings of Tuscia, in which
the twelve tables were written.

7. The Roman, which began to be spoken by the Roman people after
the kings were driven out, which was used by the poets Naevius,
Plautus, Ennius, Virgilius, the orators Gracchus, Cato, Cicero, and
the rest. The corrupted Latin, which, after the empire was extended
more widely, burst into the Roman state along with customs and men,
corrupting the soundness of speech by solecisms and barbarisms.

10. Every language, Greek, Latin, or of other nations, any man can
grasp by hearing it, or can get from a teacher by reading. Though a
knowledge of all languages is difficult for anyone, still no one is
so sluggish that, situated as he is in his own nation, he should not
know his own nation’s language. For what else is he to be thought
except lower than the brute animals? For they make the sound that
is proper to them, but he is worse who lacks a knowledge of his own

11. What sort of language God spoke at the beginning of the world
when he said “Let there be light”, it is difficult to discover. For
there were no languages yet. Likewise [it is hard to learn] in what
tongue he spoke later to man’s external ear, especially when he spoke
to the first man or to the prophets, or when God’s voice sounded
corporally[322] as when he said, “Thou art my beloved son”, where it
is believed by certain authorities that he used that one and single
language that existed before there was a diversity of language.
However among the different nations it is believed that God speaks
to them in that same tongue which they themselves use, so as to be
understood by them.

  [322] _Corporaliter._

12. God speaks to men, not through the agency of invisible substance,
but by an embodied being, in which form he has willed to appear to
men when he has spoken. The Apostle says also: “If I speak with the
tongues of men and of angels”, where the question arises in what
tongue angels speak. Not that angels have languages, but this is said

13. Likewise it is asked what tongue men will speak in future. The
answer is nowhere found....

14. And we have written first about tongues and later about nations
for the reason that nations have arisen from tongues, not tongues
from nations.

Chapter 2. On names of Nations.

2. The nations among whom the earth is divided are seventy-three.
Fifteen from Japhet, thirty-one from Cham, twenty-seven from
Sem, which make seventy-three, or rather, as calculation shows,
seventy-two, and as many languages began to exist throughout the
lands, and increasing they filled the provinces and islands.

9. ... These[323] are the nations of the stock of Sem, possessing the
southern land from the sun-rise all the way to the Phoenicians.

25. ... These[323] are the nations of the stock of Cham, who hold all
the southern part from Sidon all the way to the Strait of Cadiz.

  [323] The names of the nations are enumerated in the preceding

37. These are the nations of the stock of Japhet, which possessed
the half of Asia and all Europe as far as the British Ocean, leaving
names to both places and peoples from Mt. Taurus to Aquilo, of which
at a later time a great many were changed, but the rest remain as
they were.

38. For the names of many peoples have remained in part, so that it
is evident to-day whence they were derived, as the Assyrians from
Assur, the Hebrews from Heber, but they have changed in part, through
length of time, so that the most learned men scanning the oldest
histories have with difficulty been able to find the origins, not of
all, but of some of them.

39. ... And if all things should be considered, it is evident that
a greater number of peoples have changed their names than have kept
them, and different reasons have imposed different names on them. For
the Indi were so-called from the river Indus which bounds them on the

40. The Seres[324] obtained a name from their own town, a people
lying toward the East, among whom wool taken from trees is woven.

  [324] The name China appeared for the first time in the
  _Christian Topography_ of Cosmas Indicopleustes. It does not
  appear in the _Etymologies_.

89. The Goths are believed to have been named from Magog, son of
Japhet, from the likeness of the last syllable. These the ancients
called Getae, rather than Goths, a race brave and very powerful, of
lofty massive stature, fear-inspiring in the matter of arms....

96. The Vindilicus is a river bursting forth in the extremity of
Gaul, near which stream the Vandals are said to have dwelt, and to
have derived their name from it.

97. The nations of Germany are so-called because their bodies are
of monstrous size, and their tribes are terrible, being inured to
the fiercest cold, and they have derived their characteristics from
the rigor of the climate, of fierce spirit and always unconquerable,
living on plunder and hunting. Of these there are very many
tribes, varying in their armor and in the color of their dress and
with different languages, and the derivation of their names is
doubtful.... The frightfulness of their barbarism contributes a
certain fearfulness of sound to their very names.

100. The tribe of Saxons, dwelling on the shores of the Ocean and
among pathless marshes, brave and active. And from this they get
their name, because they are a hardy and very strong race of men, and
one that surpasses other tribes in piracy.

101. It is believed that the Francs were so-called from a certain
leader. Others think that their name comes from the savagery of their
character. For their customs are uncouth, and they have a natural
fierceness of spirit.

102. Certain suspect that the Britons were so-called according to
the Latin because they are stupid (_bruti_), a people situated in
the midst of the Ocean, separated by the sea, as it were, beyond the
circle of lands.

105. In accordance with diversity of climate, the appearance of men
and their color and bodily size vary and diversities of mind appear.
Thence we see that the Romans are dignified, the Greeks unstable, the
Africans crafty, the Gauls fierce by nature and somewhat headlong in
their disposition, which the character of the climates brings about.

132. The Anthropophagi, a very fierce people, situated in the
direction of the Seres. And they are named Anthropophagi because they
eat human flesh. And just as in the case of these, so in the case of
other peoples throughout the ages, names have been changed either
because of kings, or countries, or customs, or some other causes, so
that the first origin of their name is not evident, owing to distance
of time.

133. Moreover those who are called Antipodes, because they are
believed to be opposite to our feet, so that, being as it were placed
beneath the earth, they tread in footsteps that are opposed to our
feet. It is by no means to be believed, because neither the solid
texture nor the center of the earth admits it. Besides, this is not
established by any historical evidence, but the poets arrive at this
conclusion by a sort of reasoning.

Chapter 3. On kingdoms and terms used in warfare.

2. Whole nations have enjoyed sovereignty each in its own turn, as
the Assyrians, Medes, Persians, Egyptians, Greeks, whose turns the
lot of time so rolled around that one was destroyed by another. Amid
all the kingdoms of the earth, however, two are said to be more
glorious than the rest; that of the Assyrians first, then that of the
Romans, being separated and distinguished from one another both in
time and place.

3. For as the former was earlier and the latter later, so the
former arose in the East and the latter in the West; finally at the
destruction of the former the beginning of the latter immediately
appeared. All other kingdoms and all other kings are regarded as
appendages of these.



  [325] This is the only part of the _Etymologies_ in which Isidore
  gives up every principle of organization of his subject-matter
  except the alphabetical one. Elsewhere the terms are grouped
  according to their meaning, with sometimes traces of alphabetical
  order in the groups, but here the dictionary method alone is used.


1. Though the derivation of words by the philosophers involves
this belief, that _homo_ comes from _humanitas_, _sapiens_ from
_sapientia_, because _sapientia_ exists before _sapiens_, still
another special cause is evident in the derivation of certain names,
as _homo_ from _humus_, whence in a true sense _homo_ is so called.
And we have set down certain of these derivations in this work for
the sake of example.

44. _Compilator_, one who mixes the words of other men with his own
as painters are wont to mix and pound different things in a mortar.
Of this crime the famous poet of Mantua was once accused when he had
translated certain verses of Homer and mingled them with his own,
and when he was called by his rivals a plunderer of the ancients he
replied: “Magnarum esse virium clavam Herculi extorquere de manu”.

194. _Nepos_,[326] so called from a certain kind of scorpion that
eats its own young, excepting one which has a seat upon its back;
this one, being saved, eats its father. Whence men who eat up in
luxury the goods of their parents are called _Nepotes_.

  [326] Grandson, sometimes has meaning of prodigal, spendthrift.

235. _Rationator_, so-called, a great man because he can give a
reason for all the things which are allowed to be wonderful.

BOOK XI[327]


  [327] In the first part of book xi are contained the remnants of
  the sciences of human anatomy and physiology as the ancients had
  known them. The second part is devoted to unnatural births, which
  were regarded as having a prophetic meaning, and to monstrous
  races. It is not known what were Isidore’s immediate sources for
  bk. xi. Most of the natural science of the later Roman empire,
  however, was drawn ultimately from Pliny. To correspond to
  Isidore’s topics in this book of the _Etymologies_, comparative
  anatomy and physiology are found in Pliny’s _Natural History_,
  bk. xi, ch. 44 _et seq._, and chapters on monstrous races
  (_Gentium mirabiles figurae_) and on unusual and unnatural births
  (_prodigiosi, monstruosi partus_) are found in bk. vii.


    I. Man and his parts (ch. 1).
         A description of the human body.
   II. The six ages of man (ch. 2).
  III. Monsters.
       1. Monstrous births (ch. 3, 1–11).
       2. Monstrous races (ch. 3, 12–27).
       3. The imaginary monsters of pagan mythology (ch. 3, 28–39).
       4. Transformations (ch. 4).


Chapter 1. On man and his parts.

4. _Homo_ is so named because he is made of _humus_ (earth), as it is
told in Genesis: “Et creavit Deus hominem de humo terrae.” And the
whole man made up of both substances, that is, of the union of soul
and body, is termed _homo_ by an abuse of the word.

6. Man is two-fold, the inner and the outer. The inner man is the
soul (_anima_); the outer man, the body.

7. _Anima_ received its name from the heathen, for the reason that
it is wind (_ventus_). Wind is called in the Greek ἄνεμος; and we
seem to live by drawing air into the mouth. But this is most clearly
false, because _anima_ comes into being long before air can be
received into the mouth, because it is already alive in the womb of
the mother.

8. _Anima_ therefore is not air, as certain have thought who have not
been able to form a conception of an incorporeal nature.

9. The evangelist asserts that _spiritus_ is the same thing as
_anima_, saying: “Potestatem habeo ponendi animam meam et rursus
potestatem habeo sumendi eam.” And in regard to the _anima_ of the
Lord at the time of the passion, the same evangelist thus spoke,
saying: “et inclinato capite emisit spiritum.”

10. For what is it to send forth the _spiritus_, if not to lay down
the _anima_. But the _anima_ is so called because it lives, and the
_spiritus_ because of its spiritual nature, or because it breathes
(_inspiret_) in the body.

11. Likewise _animus_ is the same as _anima_. But _anima_ is of life,
_animus_ of wisdom. Whence the philosophers say that even without
_animus_ the life remains, and without the mind, _anima_ endures....

12. ... It is not _anima_, but what excels in _anima_ that is called
_mens_, its head or eye, as it were. Whence man himself is called
the image of God in respect to _mens_. However all those things are
united to _anima_ so that it is one thing. The _anima_ has received
different names according to the working of different causes.

13. ... When it gives life to the body, it is _anima_; when it
wills,[328] it is _animus_; when it knows, it is _mens_; when it
recollects, it is _memoria_; when it judges what is right, it is
_ratio_; when it breathes, it is _spiritus_; when it is conscious of
anything, it is _sensus_....

  [328] _Vult._

14. _Corpus_ is so called because being corrupted, it perishes. For
it is perishable and mortal and must sometime be dissolved.

16. The body is made up of the four elements. For earth is in the
flesh; air in the breath; moisture in the blood; fire in the vital
heat. For the elements have each their own part in us, and something
is due them when the structure is broken up....

18. The bodily senses are five: sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch.
Two of these open and close; two are always open.

56. The arteries are so named because the air, that is, the breath,
is carried by them from the lungs; or because they retain the breath
of life in their narrow and close passages, whence they emit the
sounds of the voice, which would all sound alike if the movement of
the tongue did not create differences of the voice.

77. _Lac_ (milk) derives its name from its color, because it is a
white liquor, for the Greeks call white λεῦκος and its nature is
changed from blood; for after the birth whatever blood has not yet
been spent in the nourishing of the womb flows by a natural passage
to the breasts, and whitening by their virtue, receives the quality
of milk.

86. _Ossa_ (bones) are the solid parts of the body. For on these all
form and strength depend. _Ossa_ are named from _ustus_ (burned),
because they were burned by the ancients, or as others think, from
_os_ (the mouth), because there they are visible, for everywhere else
they are covered and concealed by the skin and flesh.

92. _Terga_, because it is on the back that we lie flat on the earth
(_terra_); men alone can do this, for dumb animals lie either on the
belly or on the side; whence the word _tergum_ is applied to them

108. The knees are the meeting-points of the thighs and lower legs;
and they are called knees (_genua_) because in the womb they are
opposite to the cheeks (_genae_). For they adhere to them there and
they are akin to the eyes, the revealers of tears and of pity. For
the knees (_genua_) are so called from the cheeks (_genae_).

109. In short they assert that man in his beginning and first
formation is so folded up that the knees are above, and by these the
eyes are shaped so that there are deep hollows. Ennius says: “Atque
genua comprimit artagena.” Thence it is that when men fall on their
knees they at once begin to weep. For nature has willed that they
remember their mother’s womb where they sat in darkness, as it were,
until they should come to the light.

118. _Cor_ is derived from a Greek term—what they call καρδία
(heart)—or, it may be, from _cura_ (cure). For in it dwell all
anxious thought and wisdom. And it is near the lungs for this reason,
that when it is fired by anger it may be cooled by the liquid of the
lungs. It has two arteries, of which the left has more blood, the
right, more air. From it also is the pulse we find in the right arm.

120. The _pulsus_ (pulse) is so called because it beats (_palpitet_),
and by its evidence we perceive that there is sickness or health.
Its motion is two-fold; a simple motion which is made up of a single
beat, and a composite, made up of several movements—irregular and
unequal. And these movements have definite limits....

121. The veins are so called because they are the passages of the
flowing blood, and its streamlets spread through all the body, by
which all the parts are moistened.

124. The Greeks call the lungs πλεύμων, because they are the bellows
of the heart and in them is πνεῦμα, that is, _spiritus_, by which
they are stirred and moved, whence they are called _pulmones_....

125. _Jecur_ (liver) has its name because in it fire (_ignis_) has
its seat, and from there it flies up into the head. Thence it spreads
to the eyes and the other organs of sense and the limbs, and by its
heat it changes into blood the liquid that it has appropriated from
food, and this blood it furnishes to the several parts to feed and
nourish them. In the liver pleasure resides and desire, according to
those who dispute about natural philosophy.

127. The spleen is so called from corresponding to (_supplementum_)
the liver on the opposite side in order that there may be no vacuum,
and this certain men believe was formed with a view to laughter. For
it is by the spleen we laugh, by the bile we are angry, by the heart
we are wise, by the liver we love. And while these four elements
remain, the animal is whole.

Chapter 3. On human monstrosities.

1. Portents, Varro says, are those births which seem to have taken
place contrary to nature. But they are not contrary to nature,
because they come by the divine will, since the will of the creator
is the nature of each thing that is created. Whence, too, the heathen
themselves call God now nature, now God.

2. A portent, therefore, happens not contrary to nature, but contrary
to known nature....

4. Certain creations of portents seem to have been made with future
meanings. For God sometimes wishes to indicate what is to come by
disgusting features at birth, as also by dreams and oracles, that he
may give forewarning by these, and indicate to certain nations or
certain men coming destruction. This has been proved by many trials.

5. ... But these portents which are sent in warning, do not live
long, but die as soon as they are born.

12. And just as there are monstrous individuals in separate races of
men, so in the whole human kind there are certain monstrous races, as
the Gigantes, Cynocephali, Cyclopes, and the rest.

15. The Cynocephali are so called because they have dogs’ heads and
their very barking betrays them as beasts rather than men. These are
born in India.

16. The Cyclopes, too, the same India gives birth to, and they are
named Cyclopes because they are said to have a single eye in the
midst of the forehead. These have the additional name ἀγριοφαγίται
because they eat nothing but the flesh of wild beasts.

17. The Blemmyes, born in Libya, are believed to be headless trunks,
having mouth and eyes in the breast; others are born without necks,
with eyes in their shoulders.

18. In the remote east, races with faces of a monstrous sort are
described. Some without noses, with formless countenances; others
with lower lip so protruding that by it they shelter the whole face
from the heat of the sun while they sleep; others have small mouths,
and take sustenance through a narrow opening by means of oat-straws;
a good many are said to be tongueless, using nod or gesture in place
of words.

19. They say the Panotii in Scythia have ears of so large a size that
they cover the whole body with them. For πᾶν in Greek means all, and
ὦτα, ears.

21. The Satyrs are manikins with upturned noses; they have horns on
their foreheads, and are goat-footed, such as the one St. Anthony saw
in the desert. And he, being questioned, is said to have answered the
servant of God, saying, “I am mortal, one of the inhabitants of the
waste, whom the heathen, misled by error, worship as the Fauns and

23. The race of the Sciopodes is said to live in Ethiopia. They have
one leg apiece, and are of a marvelous swiftness, and the Greeks call
them Sciopodes from this, that in summertime they lie on the ground
on their backs and are shaded by the greatness of their feet.

24. The Antipodes in Libya have feet turned backward and eight toes
on each foot.

28. Other fabulous monstrosities of the human race are said to exist,
but they do not; they are imaginary. And their meaning is found in
the causes of things, as Geryon, King of Spain, who is said to have
had a triple form. For there were three brothers of such harmonious
spirit that it was, as it were, one soul in three bodies.

Chapter 4. On transformations to beasts.

2. Moreover they affirm with no fabulous lying but with historic
proof, that Diomedes’ companions were changed to birds. And certain
say that witches are created from human beings. For the shapes of the
wicked change for their many villanies, and they turn bodily into
beasts, whether by magic charms or by the use of herbs.

3. Many creatures go through a natural change and by decay pass
into different forms, as bees [are formed] by the decaying flesh of
calves, as beetles from horses, locusts from mules, scorpions from




The history of zoölogical knowledge during the ten centuries from
Aristotle to Isidore may be indicated with sufficient clearness by
enumerating three of the works that survive. They are Aristotle’s
“History of Animals”, the zoölogical part (Books VIII-XI) of Pliny’s
“Natural History”, and Isidore’s “On Animals”. On the first,
belonging to the fourth century B.C., Cuvier has pronounced judgment
as “one of the greatest monuments that the genius of man has raised
to the natural sciences”.[329] Pliny, four centuries later, is
commended by Cuvier for his industry and learning, but reproached
for his predilection for the fabulous, and his absolute lack of
scientific order and of the scientific spirit.[330] Six centuries
later a résumé of zoölogical knowledge is given in the _Etymologies_,
which is of no value except for the information it gives of the
benighted character of the medieval intellect.

  [329] Cuvier, _Histoire des Sciences Naturelles_, vol. i, p. 166.

  [330] Cuvier, vol. i, p. 264.

Isidore’s zoölogy is shown in a better light, however, when it is
compared with that of the _Physiologus_,[331] his great rival in
this field throughout the Middle Ages. This is a collection of
fabulous accounts of animals, with the moral and spiritual lessons
that were drawn from them. In it the ancient science is seen in
its most de-secularized form; nature knowledge is made absolutely
subservient to religious teaching, and in the process actual
knowledge is driven out and fable takes its place. It must be
reckoned to Isidore’s credit that he resisted the temptation to give
“the higher meaning”.

  [331] The _Physiologus_ probably originated at Alexandria in the
  first century A.D., and was translated into the Latin about the
  end of the fourth century. It was very popular with the church
  fathers. Isidore’s _De Animalibus_ exhibits its influence in many
  passages. See Lauchert, _Physiologus_ (Strassburg, 1891), p. 103.
  A Greek version of the _Physiologus_ is given by Lauchert and a
  Latin by Cahier in _Mélanges d’Archéologie_, Paris, vols. ii,
  iii, iv (1851–53).


     I. Flocks and herds and beasts of burden (ch. 1).
    II. Wild beasts (ch. 2).
   III. Small creatures (ch. 3).
    IV. Serpents (ch. 4).
     V. Worms (ch. 5).
    VI. Fishes (ch. 6).
   VII. Birds (ch. 7).
  VIII. Small flying creatures (ch. 8).


Chapter 1. On flocks and work animals.

1. Adam first named all living creatures, assigning a name to each in
accordance with its purpose at that time, in view of the nature it
was to be subject to.

2. But the nations have named all animals in their own languages.
But Adam did not give those names in the language of the Greeks or
Romans or any barbaric people, but in that one of all languages which
existed before the flood, and is called Hebrew.

9. A sheep is a domesticated animal with soft wool, harmless and calm
in disposition.

10. The wether (_vervex_) is so called from its strength (_vires_)
... or because it has a worm (_vermen_) in its head, and, excited by
the itch of these worms, they butt one another and fight and smite
one another with great fury.

17. And so these animals (_Ibices_), as we have said, remain among
the loftiest rocks, and if ever they perceive the hostile presence
of wild beast or of man they throw themselves down from the highest
summits, and land unharmed on their horns.

18. [Deer] are foes of snakes, and when they feel that they are
weighed down with weakness they draw snakes out from their holes by
the breath of their nostrils and overcoming the deadly poison[332]
they refresh themselves by eating them. They made known the plant
dittany. For they eat it, and shake out the arrows that have stuck in

  [332] _Superacta pernicie veneni._

19. They give a wondering attention to the whistling sound of the
Pan’s pipes. They listen sharply with up-pricked ears, not with
hanging ears. If ever they swim across great rivers or seas, they lay
the head on the haunch of the one in front, and following one another
in turn they feel no weariness from the weight.

43. Horses have a high spirit; for they prance in the fields, they
scent war, they are roused by the trumpet-sound to battle, they are
roused by the voice and urged to the race, they grieve when they are
beaten, they are proud when they win a victory. Certain know the
enemy in battle, so that they bite the foe. Some recall their own
masters, and forget obedience if their masters are changed; some
allow none but their masters to mount them; when their masters are
slain or are dying, many shed tears. The horse is the only creature
that weeps for man and feels the emotion of grief....

Chapter 2. On beasts of prey.

5. When lions sleep, their eyes are on the watch; when they walk
about they obliterate their tracks with their tails that the hunter
may not find them. When a cub is born it is said to sleep for three
nights and three days. Then the shaking, as it were, of the ground
where it lies, because of its father’s roaring, is said to awaken the
sleeping cub.

6. Toward man the nature of the lion is kind, so that they cannot
become angry unless attacked. Their pity is shown by continual
examples. For they spare the fallen, they allow captives they meet to
return home; they do not kill man unless very hungry.

17. The Gryphes are so called because they are winged quadrupeds.
This kind of wild beast is found in the Hyperborean Mts. In every
part of their body they are lions, and in wings and head are like
eagles, and they are fierce enemies of horses. Moreover they tear men
to pieces.

20. They say the urine [of the lynx] is changed to the hardness of
a precious stone, which is called _lincurius_, and by the following
proof it is shown that the lynxes are conscious of this; for when
they have urinated, they cover the urine with sand as well as they
can, from a sort of meanness of nature, lest such a product be turned
to the advantage of man.

21. _Castores_ (beavers) are so named from castrating. For their
testicles are useful for medicine and therefore when they perceive
a hunter, they castrate themselves and cut away their potency by a
bite. Of these Cicero speaks in _Scauriana_: “They ransom themselves
by that part of the body for which they are most sought.”

24. [The wolf] is a ravenous beast and greedy for blood, and of it
the country people say that a man loses his voice if a wolf sees him
first. And therefore if a person is suddenly silent, they say, “It is
the wolf in the fable”. But if the wolf perceives that he has been
noticed first, he lays aside his boldness....

25. ... No creature is more sagacious than dogs, for they have more
understanding than other animals.

26. For they alone recognize their names, love their masters, guard
their masters’ houses, risk their lives for their masters, of their
own free will rush upon the prey with their master, do not abandon
even their master’s dead body. And finally their nature is such that
they cannot exist without men. In dogs two things are to be regarded,
courage and speed.

38. _Musio_ is so called because it is a foe to mice (_muribus_).
Common people call it cat (_catus_) because it catches [mice]. Others
say, because it sees (_catat_). For it has such sharp sight that it
overcomes the darkness of the night by the brightness of its eyes.

Chapter 3. On small animals.

1. _Mus_ (mouse) is a tiny animal; it has a Greek name;[333] but any
word that is derived from it becomes Latin. Others say _mures_ are so
named because they are born from the _humor_ (moisture) of the earth.
For _mus_ is equivalent to _terra_, and from the word comes _humus_
too. The liver of these creatures grows at the full moon, just as
certain things that belong to the sea grow, which grow smaller again
when the moon lessens.

  [333] The Greek is μῦς.

3. _Mustella_ (weasel) is so called, being, as it were, _mus longus_
(long mouse); for _telum_ (missile) is so called from its length.
This creature, somewhat wily in its disposition, moves and changes
its nest in the house when it is nursing its young. It chases
snakes and mice. And there are two sorts of weasels. For one is a
creature of the woods, and is of a different size, which the Greeks
call ἴκτιδες. The other wanders about in houses. Now they have an
erroneous idea who say that the weasel conceives in its mouth, and
gives birth through its ear.[334]

  [334] A notion found in the _Physiologus_.

4. In Sardinia is a very tiny creature, spider-shaped, which is
called _solifuga_, because it shuns the daylight. It is very common
in silver mines, secretly creeping along, and it poisons those who
unknowingly sit down on it.

8. _Grillus_ (cricket or grasshopper) has its name from the sound of
its voice. This creature walks backward, tunnels the earth, makes a
loud sound at night. The ant goes hunting it, having itself lowered
by a hair into its hole, first blowing the dust out, that it may not
hide itself, and thus it is dragged out in the embrace of the ant.

9. _Formica_ (ant) is so called because it carries morsels (_ferat
micas_) of grain. Its wisdom is great. For it looks forward to the
future and in summer makes ready food to be eaten in winter. At the
harvest, too, it picks out wheat and refuses to touch barley. After
it rains it always puts out the grain [to dry]. It is said there are
ants in Ethiopia of a dog’s shape, and these dig up golden sands with
their feet, and they watch them in order that no one may carry them
off, and those that do seize them, they pursue till they kill.

10. _Formicoleon_ (ant-lion) has its name for this, that it is a lion
of the ants, or at least ant and lion at the same time. For it is a
small creature that is very hostile to ants. It hides itself in the
sand and kills the ants as they are carrying grains. And it is called
lion and ant because it is, as it were, an ant to other animals, but
a lion to ants.[335]

  [335] This animal is of literary origin and illustrates the
  danger of a literary science. For some reason the Septuagint
  translators translated the Hebrew word for lion in Job 4:11 by
  the word μυρμηκολέων. The commentators later on, in their efforts
  to explain the term, evolved a new animal, a compound of ant and
  lion. See Lauchert, _Geschichte des Physiologus_, p. 21, and art.
  “Physiologus” in the _Encyclopedia Britannica_, 11th ed.

Chapter 4. On serpents.

3. The serpent has received its name because it crawls (_serpit_)
with unnoticed steps; for it does not go with strides that are
observable, but creeps on by the trifling impulses of its scales. But
those that go on four feet, like lizards and newts, are called not
serpents but reptiles. Now serpents are reptiles because they creep
(_reptant_) on their belly and breast; and there are as many poisons
as there are genera; as many deaths as there are species; as many
dolors, as colors.

4. The dragon (_draco_) is the largest of all serpents and of all
living things upon earth. This the Greeks call δράκοντα. And it was
taken into the Latin so that it was called _Draco_. And frequently
being dragged from caves it rushes into the air, and the air is
thrown into commotion on account of it. And it is crested, has a
small face and narrow blow-holes through which it draws its breath
and thrusts out its tongue. And it has its strength not in its teeth
but in its tail, and it is dangerous for its stroke, rather than for
its jaws.

5. It is harmless in the way of poison, but poison is not necessary
for it to cause death, because it kills whatever it has entangled
in its folds. And from it the elephant is not safe because of its
size. For it lies in wait near the paths by which elephants usually
go, and entangles the elephant’s legs in its folds, and kills it by
strangling. It grows in Ethiopia and in India, in the very burning of
perennial heat.

12. It is said that when the asp begins to feel the influence of
the wizard who summons her forth with certain forms of words suited
thereto, in order that he may bring her out from her hole—when the
asp is unwilling to come forth, she presses one ear against the
earth, and the other she closes and covers up with her tail, and so
refuses to hear those magical sounds, and does not come out at the

36. The Salamander is so called because it is strong against fire;
and amid all poisons its power is the greatest. For other [poisonous
animals] strike individuals; this slays very many at the same time;
for if it crawls up a tree, it infects all the fruit with poison and
slays those who eat it; nay, even if it falls in a well, the power
of the poison slays those who drink it. It fights against fires, and
alone among living things, extinguishes them. For it lives in the
midst of flames without pain and without being consumed, and not only
is it not burned, but it puts the fire out.

Chapter 5. On worms.

1. A worm is a creature that as a rule comes into being without
any begetting from flesh or wood or any earthy substance, although
sometimes they are born from eggs, as the scorpion. Worms belong
either to earth or water or air[336] or flesh or leaves or wood or

  [336] _Aranea, vermis aeris_, 12, 5, 2.

3. _Sanguissuga_, a water worm, is so named because it sucks blood.
For it lies in wait for drinkers, and when it is carried into their
throats or fastens itself anywhere, it draws the blood, and when it
has taken its fill of gore, it vomits it out, to suck in again fresh

Chapter 6. On fishes.

3. Certain kinds of fishes are amphibious, being so called because
they have the practice of walking on land and of swimming in the

4. Men gave names to the beasts of the field and wild animals and
birds, before the fishes, because they were seen and known first. And
later, when the kinds of fishes had been learned by degrees, names
were applied either from their likeness to land animals, or to suit
the species, whether in regard to habits, color, shape, or sex.

6. [Fish receive their names] from sex, as the _musculus_ (mussel)
because it is the masculine of whale, for by union with the mussel it
is said this monster conceives.

8. There are huge sorts of whales with bodies the size of mountains,
like the whale that received Jonah, whose belly was of such magnitude
that it held something like a hell, the prophet saying: “He heard me
from the belly of hell”.

14. _Thynni_ (tunnies) have a Greek name. They appear in spring-time.
They come in on the right side and go out on the left. They are
supposed to do this because they see more keenly with the right eye
than with the left.

25. _Mullus_, so called because it is _mollis_ (soft) and most
tender, by eating which they relate that lust is held in check and
that the keenness of the sight is dimmed; moreover men who have often
eaten it have a fishy smell. The killing of a mullet in wine brings a
distaste for wine to those who have drunk thereof.

34. _Echeneis_, a small fish, half-a-foot long, took its name because
it holds a ship[337] back by clinging to it. Though the winds rush
and the gusts rage it is seen nevertheless that the ship stands still
as if rooted in the sea, and does not move, not because the fish
holds it back but merely because it clings to it.

  [337] ἔχω, ναῦς.

35. The uranoscope is so called from an eye which it has in its head,
by which it always looks upward.

41. The likeness of the eel (_anguilla_) to the snake (_anguis_) has
given it its name. Its origin is in mud. Whence whensoever it is
taken, it is so slippery that the more determinedly one squeezes it
the quicker it slips away. They say, too, that a river of the east,
the Ganges, produces them three hundred feet long. If an eel is
killed in wine they who drink of it have a loathing for wine.

43. Lamprey (_muraena_) the Greeks term μύραινα, because it coils
itself in circles. They say that this fish is of the female sex only,
and that it conceives from the serpent. On this account it is enticed
by the fishermen by hissing like a serpent, and it is taken. It is
killed with difficulty by the stroke of a club but at once by that of
a ferule. It is certain that it has its life in its tail, for if the
head is struck it is hard to kill it, but when its tail is struck it
dies at once.

53. Mussels (_musculi_) as we have said before are shell-fish, and
oysters conceive from their milk, and they are called _musculi_ as if
it were _masculi_.

56. Certain relate what is incredible, that ships go more slowly if
they carry a tortoise’s right foot.

Chapter 7. On birds.

3. Birds (_aves_) are so called because they have no definite roads
(_viae_) but speed hither and thither through pathless (_avia_) ways.

9. Many names of birds were evidently made up from the sound of their
cry, as _grus_, _corvus_, _cygnus_, _pavo_, _ulula_, _cuculus_,
_graculus_, and so on. For the variety of their cry told men what
they were to be called.

10. The eagle (_aquila_) is so called from its sharpness (_acumine_)
of sight. For it is said to possess such power of vision that when
it is borne over the sea with motionless wing and is not visible to
human sight, even from such a lofty place it sees the fishes swim,
and descending like a missile from an engine it seizes its booty and
flies with it to the shore.

11. It is also said not to lower its gaze from the rays of the sun,
and for this reason it lifts its young ones in its talons and exposes
them to the rays of the sun, and keeps as worthy of its kind those
which it sees keep a motionless gaze, and drops down as degenerate
whatever ones it sees turning their gaze downward.

18. The swan (_cygnus_) is so called from singing, because it pours
forth sweet song in modulated tones. And it sings sweetly for the
reason that it has a long curving neck, and it must needs be that the
voice, struggling out by a long and winding way, should utter various

19. They say that in the Hyperborean regions when cithara players
lead, many swans fly up and sing very harmoniously.

44. The crow (_cornix_), a bird full of years, has a Greek name[338]
among the Latins, and augurs say it increases a man’s anxieties by
the tokens it gives, that it reveals ambushes, and foretells the
future. It is great wickedness to believe this, that God entrusts his
counsels to crows.

  [338] _Cornix_ is not a Greek word, as Isidore seems to imply.
  Its nearest Greek equivalent is κορώνη.

66. To the hoopoe (_upupa_) the Greeks give its name because it
attends to (_consideret_) human excrements and feeds on stinking
filth, a most foul bird, helmeted with upstanding crests, always
lingering at graves and human excrements. And whoever anoints himself
with its blood, on going to sleep will see demons choking him.

67. _Tuci_, which is the name the Spaniards give to cuckoos
(_cuculi_), were evidently named from their peculiar cry. These
have a time for coming, perched on the shoulders of kites because
of their short and weak flights, in order that they may not grow
weary and fail in the long spaces of the air. Their saliva produces
grasshoppers. [The cuckoo] eats the eggs it finds in the sparrow’s
nest, and substitutes its own, which the sparrow receives and sets on
and cares for.

79. All kinds of flying things are born twice. For first the eggs are
born, then by the heat of the mother’s body they are formed and given

Chapter 8. On small winged creatures.

1. Bees (_apes_) are so called because they hold to one another by
the feet, or it may be because they are born without feet (_pes_).
For it is only later on that they get feet and wings. These are
skilful in the business of producing honey, they dwell in homes
allotted to them, they arrange their dwellings with a skill that
makes no mistake, they store the hive from various flowers, and
forming their wax-cells, they fill the camp with unnumbered young,
and they have an army and kings, they make wars, flee from smoke, and
are enraged by noise.

2. A good many have proved by experiment that these spring from the
carcasses of cattle. For in order to create them the flesh of slain
calves is beaten, in order that worms may be created from the rotten
gore, and these afterward turn to bees. In a correct sense bees
(_apes_) are so called because they spring from _boves_ as hornets
from horses, drones from mules, wasps from asses.




In books XIII and XIV Isidore gives a complete and systematic account
of the material universe, taking up and treating in order the
heavens, the atmosphere, water, and earth. His treatment of the last
two is especially full and constitutes a geographical description of
the earth’s surface as known at his time.[339]

  [339] _Cf._ Beazley, _The Dawn of Modern Geography_, pp. 366–67.
  See also p. 53, note.


    I. The universe (Bk. XIII, ch. 1).
   II. Atoms (ch. 2).
  III. Elements (ch. 3).
   IV. The heavens (chs. 4–6).
       1. The parts of the heavens.[2]
       2. The circles of the heavens.[340]
    V. The air and the clouds (chs. 7–11).
       1. Thunder.
       2. Lightning.
       3. The rainbow and cloud forms.
       4. The winds.
   VI. Waters (chs. 12–22).
       1. Springs.
       2. The sea.
       3. The ocean.
       4. The Mediterranean.
       5. Bays, etc.
       6. Lakes.
       7. The abyss.
       8. Rivers.
  VII. The dry land (Bk. XIV, ch. 1).
       1. The circle of lands (chs. 2–5).
          (1) Asia.
          (2) Europe.
          (3) Africa.
       2. Islands (ch. 6).
       3. Promontories (ch. 7).
       4. Mountains, etc. (ch. 8).
       5. The lower parts of the earth (ch. 9).

  [340] Repeated with little change from _De Astronomia_. See pp.
  145, 146.




PREFACE.—In this book, as it were in a brief outline we have
commented on certain causes in the heavens, and the sites of the
lands, and the spaces of the sea, so that the reader may run them
over in a little time, and learn their etymologies and causes with
compendious brevity.

Chapter 1. On the universe.

1. The universe is the heavens, the earth, the sea, and what in
them is the work of God, of whom it is said: “And the universe was
made by him”. The universe (_mundus_) is so named in Latin by the
philosophers because it is in continued motion (_motu_), as for
example, the heavens, the sun, moon, air, seas. For no rest is
permitted to its elements, and therefore it is always in motion.

2. Whence also the elements seem to Varro living creatures, since, he
says, they move of themselves. The Greeks have borrowed a name for
the universe from ornament, on account of the variety of the elements
and the beauty of the stars. For it is called among them κόσμος,
which means ornament. For with the eyes of the flesh we see nothing
fairer than the universe.

3. It is agreed that there are four _climata_, that is, tracts of the
universe: East, West, North, South.

Chapter 2. On the atoms.

1. The philosophers call by the name of atoms certain parts of bodies
in the universe so very minute that they do not appear to the sight,
nor admit of τομή, that is, division, whence they are called atoms.
These are said to flit through the void of the whole universe with
restless motions, and to move hither and thither like the finest dust
that is seen when the rays of the sun pour through the windows. From
these certain philosophers of the heathen have thought that trees
are produced, and herbs and all fruits, and fire and water, and all
things are made out of them.

2. Atoms exist either in a body, or in time, or in number, or in the
letters. In a body as a stone. You divide it into parts, and the
parts themselves you divide into grains like the sands, and again you
divide the very grains of sand into the finest dust, until if you
could, you would come to some little particle which is now [such]
that it cannot be divided or cut. This is an atom in a body.

3. In time, the atom is thus understood: you divide a year, for
example, into months, the months into days, the days into hours, the
parts of the hours still admit of division, until you come to such an
instant of time and fragment of a moment as it were, that it cannot
be lengthened by any little bit and therefore it cannot be divided.
This is the atom of time.

4. In numbers, as for example, eight is divided into fours, again
four into twos, then two into ones. One is an atom because it is
indivisible. So also in case of the letters. For you divide a
speech into words, words into syllables, the syllable into letters.
The letter, the smallest part, is the atom and cannot be divided.
The atom is therefore what cannot be divided, like the point in

Chapter 3. On the elements.

1. _Hyle_[341] is the name the Greeks apply to the first material of
things, which is in no way formed, but has a capacity for all bodily
forms, and out of it these visible elements are shaped. Wherefore
they have derived their name from this source.[342] This _hyle_ the
Latins called _materia_, for the reason that everything in the rough
from which something is made, is always called _materia_....

  [341] ὕλη.

  [342] I.e., _elementa_ = _hylementa_.

2. The Greeks moreover call the elements στοιχεῖα,[343] because they
are akin to one another in the harmony of like quality and a sort of
common character, for they are said to be allied with one another
in a natural way, now tracing their origin from fire all the way to
earth, now from earth all the way to fire, so that fire fades into
air, air is thickened to water, water coarsened to earth, and again
earth is dissolved into water, water refined into air, air rarefied
into fire.

  [343] The word στοιχεῖον means “one in a series.”

3. Wherefore all elements are present in all, but each of them has
received its name from that which it has in greater degree. And they
have been assigned by divine providence to the living creatures that
are suited to them, for the Creator himself filled the heaven with
angels, the air with birds, the sea with fish, the earth with men and
other living creatures.

Chapter 5. On the parts of the heavens.

1. Ether is the place in which the stars are, and it signifies that
fire which is separated on high from the whole universe. Ether is the
element itself; and _aethra_ is the glow of the ether and is a Greek

Chapter 7. On the air and the clouds.

1. Air is emptiness, having more rarity mixed with it than the other
elements. Of it Virgil says:

    _Longum per inane secutus._

Air (_aer_) is so called from αἴρειν (to raise), because it supports
the earth or, it may be, is supported by it. This belongs partly to
the substance of heaven, partly to that of the earth. For yonder thin
air where windy and gusty blasts cannot come into existence, belongs
to the heavenly part; but this more disordered air which takes a
corporeal character because of dank exhalations, is assigned to
earth, and it has many subdivisions: for being set in motion it makes
winds; and being vigorously agitated, lightnings and thunderings;
being contracted, clouds; being thickened, rain; when the clouds
freeze, snow; when thick clouds freeze in a more disordered way,
hail; being spread abroad, it causes fine weather; for it is known
that thick air is a cloud and that a cloud that thins and melts away,
is air.

2. ... Now the thickening of the air makes clouds. For the winds
gather the air together and make a cloud. Whence is the expression:
“Atque in nubem cogitur aer.”

Chapter 8. On thunder.

1. Thunder (_tonitruum_) is so called because its sound terrifies
(_terreat_), for _tonus_ is sound. And it sometimes shakes everything
so severely that it seems to have split the heavens, since when a
great gust of the most furious wind suddenly bursts into the clouds,
its circular motion becoming stronger and seeking an outlet, it tears
asunder with great force the cloud it has hollowed out, and thus
comes to our ears with a horrifying noise.

2. One ought not to wonder at this since a vesicle, however small,
emits a great sound when it is exploded. Lightning is caused at the
same time with the thunder, but the former is seen more quickly
because it is bright and the latter comes to our ears more slowly....

Chapter 9. On thunder-bolts.

1. ... Clouds striking together make thunder-bolts: for in all things
collision creates fire, as we see in the case of stones, or when
wheels rub together, or in the woods. In the same way fire is created
in the clouds; whence they are clouds before, lightnings later.

2. It is certain that it is from wind and fire that thunder-bolts
are formed in the clouds, and that they are launched by the impulse
of the winds; and the fire of a thunder-bolt has greater force in
penetrating because it is made of subtler elements than our fire,
that is, the fire we make use of....

Chapter 10. On the rainbow and the causes of clouds.

1. The rainbow is so called from its resemblance to a bent bow. Its
proper name is Iris and it is called Iris, as it were _aeris_ (of
the air), because it comes down through the air to earth. It comes
from the radiance of the sun when hollow clouds receive the sun’s ray
full in front, and they create the appearance of a bow, and rarified
water, bright air, and a misty cloud under the beams of the sun
create those varied hues.

2. Rains (_pluviae_) are so called because they flow, as if
_fluviae_. They arise by exhalation from earth and sea, and being
carried aloft they fall in drops on the lands, being acted upon by
the heat of the sun or condensed by strong winds.

13. Shadow (_umbra_) is air that lacks sun, and is so called because
it is made when we interpose ourselves in the rays of the sun. It
moves and is ill-defined, because of the motion of the sun and the
force of the wind. As often as we move in the sun, it seems to move
with us, because wherever we encounter the rays of the sun, we take
the light from that place, and so the shadow seems to walk with us
and to imitate our motions.

Chapter 11. On the winds.

2. There are four chief winds. The first of these is from the east,
_Subsolanus_, and _Auster_ from the south, _Favonius_ from the west,
and from _Septentrio_ (north) a wind of the same name blows. These
winds have kindred winds one on each side.

3. _Subsolanus_ has on its right _Vulturnus_, on its left _Eurus_;
_Auster_ has on its right _Euroauster_, on its left _Austroafricus_;
_Favonius_ on its right _Africus_, on its left _Corus_. Further,
_Septentrio_ has on its right _Circius_, on its left _Aquilo_. These
twelve winds surround the globe of the universe with their blasts.

20. ... In the spring and autumn the greatest possible storms appear
when it is neither full summer nor full winter, whence, as [the time]
is an intervening one, bordering on both seasons, storms are caused
from the conjunction of contrary airs.

Chapter 12. On the waters.

2. The two most powerful elements of human life are fire and water,
whence they who are forbidden fire and water are seriously punished.

3. The element of water is master of all the rest. For the waters
temper the heavens, fertilize the earth, incorporate air in their
exhalations, climb aloft and claim the heavens; for what is more
marvelous than the waters keeping their place in the heavens!

4. It is too small a thing to come to such a height; they carry with
them thither swarms of fishes; pouring forth, they are the cause of
all growth on the earth. They produce fruits, they make fruit trees
and herbs grow, they scour away filth, wash away sin, and give drink
to all living things.

Chapter 13. On the different qualities of waters.

5. Linus, a fountain of Arcadia, does not allow miscarriages to take
place. In Sicily are two springs, of which one makes the sterile
woman fertile, the other makes the fertile, sterile. In Thessaly are
two rivers; they say that sheep drinking from one become black; from
the other, white; from both, parti-colored.

10. Hot springs in Sardinia cure the eyes; they betray thieves, for
their guilt is revealed by blindness. They say there is a spring in
Epirus in which lighted torches are extinguished, and torches that
are extinguished are lighted. Among the Garamantes they say there is
a spring so cold in the daytime that it cannot be drunk, so hot at
night that it cannot be touched.

Chapter 14. On the sea.

2. ... The depth of the sea varies; still the level of its surface is

3. Moreover that the sea does not increase, though it receives all
streams and all springs, is accounted for in this way; partly that
its very greatness does not feel the waters flowing in; secondly,
because the bitter water consumes the fresh that is added, or that
the clouds draw up much water to themselves, or that the winds carry
it off, and the sun partly dries it up; lastly, because the water
leaks through certain secret holes in the earth, and turns and runs
back to the sources of rivers and to the springs.

Chapter 15. On the ocean.

1. _Oceanus_ is so named by both Greeks and Latins because it flows
like a circle around the circle of the land; it may be from its speed
because it runs swiftly (_ocius_); or because like the heavens it
glows with a dark purple color. _Oceanus_ is, as it were, κυάνεος
(dark purple). It is this that embraces the shores of the lands,
approaching and receding with alternate tides. For when the winds
breathe in the depths, it either pushes the waters away or sucks them

2. And it has taken different names from the neighboring lands;
as _Gallicus_, _Germanicus_, _Scythicus_, _Caspius_, _Hyrcanus_,
_Atlanticus_, _Gaditanus_. The Gaditanian strait was named from
_Gades_ where the entrance to the _Mare Magnum_ first opens from the
Ocean. Whence when Hercules had come to Gades he placed the columns
there, believing that there was the limit of the circle of the lands.

Chapter 16. On the Mediterranean Sea.

1. The _Mare Magnum_ is that which flows from the west out of the
Ocean and extends toward the South, and then stretches to the North.
And it is called _Magnum_ because the rest of the seas are smaller in
comparison with it. It is also called Mediterranean because it flows
through the midst of the land (_per mediam terram_) as far as the
Orient, separating Europe and Africa and Asia.

Chapter 20. On the abyss.

1. The abyss is the deep water which cannot be penetrated; whether
caverns of unknown waters from which springs and rivers flow; or the
waters that pass secretly beneath, whence it is called abyss. For all
waters or torrents return by secret channels to the abyss which is
their source.

Chapter 21. On rivers.

6. Certain of the rivers have received their names from causes
peculiar to them, and of these some which are told of as famous in
history should be mentioned.

7. Geon is a river issuing from Paradise and surrounding the whole
of Ethiopia, being called by this name because it waters the land of
Egypt by its flood, for γῆ in the Greek means _terra_ in the Latin.
This river is called Nile by the Egyptians, on account of the mud
which it brings, which gives fertility.

8. The river Ganges, which the holy Scriptures call Phison, issuing
from Paradise, takes its course toward the regions of India.... It is
said to rise in the manner of the Nile and overflow the lands of the

9. The Tigris, a river of Mesopotamia, rises in Paradise, and flows
opposite the Assyrians (_contra Assyrios_), and after many windings
flows into the Dead Sea. And it is called by this name because of its
velocity, like a wild beast that runs with great speed.

10. The Euphrates, a river of Mesopotamia, greatly abounding in
gems, rises in Paradise and flows through the midst of Babylonia....
It irrigates Mesopotamia in certain places just as the Nile does
Alexandria. Sallust, however, a most reliable author, asserts that
the Tigris and the Euphrates arise from one source in Armenia, and
going by different ways are far separated, an intervening space of
many miles being left, and the land which is enclosed by them is
called Mesopotamia. Therefore as Hieronymus noted, there must be a
different explanation of the rivers of Paradise.

24. Tanus was the first king of the Scythians, from whom the river
_Tanais_ is said to have been named. It rises in the Riphaean forest,
and separates Europe from Asia, flowing in the midst between two
divisions of the world, and emptying into the Pontus.

35. Certain rivers were overwhelmed in the flood, and shut off by the
mass of the lands, but certain ones which were not, burst forth by
passages that were at that time violently formed from the abyss.

Chapter 22. On floods.

2. The first flood occurred under Noah, when the Omnipotent, offended
at man’s guilty deeds, covered the whole circle of the lands[344]
and destroyed all, and there was one stretch of sky and sea; and we
observe the proof of this to the present time in the stones which we
are wont to go to see in the distant mountains, which have mingled
in them the shells of mussels and oysters, and besides are often
hollowed by the waters.

  [344] _Orbis._

3. The second flood was in Achaea in the time of the patriarch Jacob
and of Ogygius, who was the founder and king of Eleusina, and gave
his name to the place and time.

4. The third flood was in Thessaly in the time of Moses and
Amphictyon, who reigned third after Cecrops. At which time a flood
of waters destroyed the greater part of the peoples of Thessaly, a
few escaping by taking refuge in the mountains, especially on mount
Parnassus, on whose circuit Deucalion then possessed dominion. And
he received those who fled to him on rafts, and warmed and fed them
on the twin peaks of Parnassus, and so the fables of the Greeks say
that the human race was re-created from stones—because of the inborn
hardness of the heart of man.




Chapter 1. On the earth.

1. The earth is placed in the middle region of the universe, being
situated like a center at an equal interval from all parts of
heaven; in the singular number it means the whole circle;[345] in
the plural[346] the separate parts; and reason gives different
names for it; for it is called _terra_ from the upper part where it
suffers attrition (_teritur_); _humus_ from the lower and _humid_
part, as for example, under the sea; again, _tellus_, because we
take (_tollimus_) its fruits; it is also called _ops_ because it
brings opulence.[347] It is likewise called _arva_, from ploughing
(_arando_) and cultivating.

  [345] _Orbem._

  [346] _Terrae._

  [347] _Opem fert frugibus._

2. Earth in distinction from water is called dry; since the Scripture
says that “God called the dry land, earth”. For dryness is the
natural property of earth. Its dampness it gets by its relation to
water. As to its motion (earthquakes) some say it is wind in its
hollow parts, the force of which causes it to move.

3. Others say that a generative water moves in the lands, and causes
them to strike together, _sicut vas_, as Lucretius says. Others
have it that the earth is sponge-shaped, and its fallen parts lying
in ruins cause all the upper parts to shake. The yawning of the
earth also is caused either by the motion of the lower water, or by
frequent thunderings, or by winds bursting out of the hollow parts of
the earth.

Chapter 2. On the circle of lands.[348]

  [348] See Map, p. 5.

1. The circle of lands (_orbis_) is so called from its roundness,
which is like that of a wheel, whence a small wheel is called
_orbiculus_. For the Ocean flowing about on all sides encircles its
boundaries. It is divided into three parts; of which the first is
called Asia; the second, Europe; the third, Africa.

2. These three parts the ancients did not divide equally; for Asia
stretches from the South through the East to the North, and Europe
from the North to the West, and thence Africa from the West to the
South. Whence plainly the two, Europe and Africa, occupy one-half,
and Asia alone the other. But the former were made into two parts
because the Great Sea enters from the Ocean between them and cuts
them apart. Wherefore if you divide the circle of lands into two
parts, East and West, Asia will be in one, and in the other, Europe
and Africa.

Chapter 3. On Asia.

1. Asia was so called from the name of a certain woman who held
dominion over the East in the time of the ancients. Lying in the
third part of the circle of lands it is bounded on the east by the
sun-rise, on the south by the ocean, on the west by our sea, on the
north by lake Maeotis and the river Tanais. It has many provinces
and regions, of which I shall briefly explain the names and sites,
beginning with Paradise.

2. Paradise is a place lying in the parts of the Orient, whose name
is translated out of the Greek into the Latin as _hortus_. In the
Hebrew it is called Eden, which in our tongue means delight. And
the two being joined mean garden of delight; for it is planted with
every kind of wood and fruit-bearing tree, having also the tree of
life; there is neither cold nor heat there, but a continual spring

3. And a spring, bursting forth from its center, waters the whole
grove, and divides into four rivers that take their rise there.
Approach to this place was closed after man’s sin. For it is hedged
in on every side by sword-like flame,[349] that is, girt by a wall of
fire whose burning almost reaches the heaven.

  [349] Romphaea flamma. _Cf. Etym._, 18, 6, 3.

4. A guard of cherubim, too, that is, of angels, is set over the
burning of the fiery rampart to ward off evil spirits, in order that
the flames may keep men off, and good angels, bad ones, that the
approach to Paradise may not be open to any flesh or to the spirit of

5. India is so called from the river Indus, by which it is bounded
on the west. It stretches from the southern sea all the way to
the sun-rise, and from the north all the way to Mount Caucasus,
having many peoples and cities and the island of Taprobana, full of
elephants, and Chryse and Argyra, rich in gold and silver, and Tyle,
which never lacks leaves on its trees.

Chapter 4. On Europe.

2. Europe, which was parted off to form a third part of the circle,
begins at the river Tanais, passing to the west along the Northern
ocean as far as the limits of Spain. Its Eastern and Southern parts
begin at the Pontus, extend along the whole Mare Magnum, and end at
the island of Gades.

Chapter 5. On Libya (Africa).

3. It begins at the boundaries of Egypt,[350] extending along the
South through Ethiopia as far as Mt. Atlas. On the north it is
bounded by the Mediterranean Sea, and it ends at the strait of
Gades, having the provinces Libya Cyrenensis, Pentapolis, Tripolis,
Byzacium, Carthago, Numidia, Mauritania Stifensis, Mauritania
Tingitana, and in the neighborhood of the sun’s heat, Ethiopia.

  [350] Egypt is regarded as part of Asia. 14, 3, 27–28.

14. Ethiopia is so called from the color of its people, who are
scorched by the nearness of the sun. The color of the people betrays
the sun’s intensity, for there is never-ending heat here. Whatever
there is of Ethiopia is under the south pole. Towards the west it is
mountainous, sandy in the middle, and toward the eastern region, a
desert. Its situation extends from the Atlas Mts. on the west to the
bounds of Egypt on the east. It is bounded on the south by the ocean,
on the north by the river Nile. It has many peoples, of diverse
appearance and fear-inspiring because of their monstrous aspect.

17. Besides the three parts of the circle there is a fourth part
across the Ocean on the South,[351] which is unknown to us on account
of the heat of the sun, in whose boundaries, according to story, the
Antipodes are said to dwell.

  [351] Extra tres autem partes orbis, quarta pars trans Oceanum
  interior est in Meridie.

Chapter 6. On Islands.

2. Britannia, an island of the Ocean, completely separated from the
circle of lands by the sea that flows between, is called by the name
of its people. It lies in the rear of the Gauls and looks toward
Spain. Its circuit is 4,875 miles; there are many large rivers in it
and hot springs, and an abundant and varied supply of metals. Jet is
very common there, and pearls.

3. Thanatos, an island of the Ocean in the Gallic sea, separated from
Britain by a narrow strait, with fields rich in grain and a fertile
soil. It is called Thanatos from the death of snakes, for it is
destitute of them itself, and earth taken thence to any part of the
world kills snakes at once.

4. Thyle is the furthest island in the Ocean, between the region of
North and that of West,[352] beyond Britain, having its name from the
sun, because there the sun makes its summer halt, and there is no day
beyond it; whence the sea there is sluggish and frozen.

  [352] See p. 145.

6. Scotia, the same as Hibernia, an island very near Britain,
narrower in the extent of its lands but more fertile; this reaches
from Africa towards Boreas, and Iberia and the Cantabrian ocean are
opposite to the first part of it. Whence, too, it is called Hibernia.
It is called Scotia because it is inhabited by the tribes of Scots.
There are no snakes there, few birds, no bees; and so if any one
scatters among beehives stones or pebbles brought thence, the swarms
desert them.

8. The Happy Isles (_Fortunatae insulae_) ... lie in the Ocean
opposite the left of Mauretania, very near the West, and separated
from one another by the sea.

12. Taprobana is an island lying close to India on the Southeast,
where the Indian Ocean begins, extending in length eight hundred and
seventy-five miles, in width, six hundred and twenty-five. It is
separated [from India] by a river that flows between. It is all full
of pearls and gems. Part of it is full of wild beasts and elephants,
but men occupy part. In this island they say that there are two
summers and two winters in one year, and that the place blooms twice
with flowers.

21. Delos is said to be so named because after the flood which is
said to have come in the time of Ogygius, when continuous night had
overshadowed the circle of lands for many months, it was lightened
by the rays of the sun before all lands, and got its name from that,
because it was first made visible to the eye. For the Greeks call
visible δῆλος.

Chapter 9. On the under parts of the Earth.

9. Gehenna is a place of fire and sulphur, which they think is so
named from the valley sacred to idols which is near the wall of
Jerusalem, which was filled in former time with bodies of the dead.
For there the Hebrews used to sacrifice their own sons to demons, and
the place itself was called Gehennon. Therefore the place of future
punishment where sinners are to be tortured is denoted by the name of
this place. (We read in Job) that there is a double Gehenna, both of
fire and of frost.

11. Just as the heart of an animal is in its midst, so also
_infernus_ is said to be in the midst of the earth.




    I. Cities (ch. 1).
       Of India (6), Persia (7–10), Mesopotamia (12–13), Syria
         (14–15), Palestine (16–26), Phoenicia (27–28), Egypt
         (31–36), Asia Minor (37–41), Greece (43–48), Italy (49–62),
         Gaul (63–65), Spain (66–72), Northern Africa (74–77).
   II. Architecture.[353]
       1. City architecture (ch. 2).
          a. Kinds of cities (3–14).
          b. Walls (17–21).
          c. Gates, squares, sewers, etc. (22–46).
       2. Dwellings (ch. 3).
       3. Buildings for religious purposes (ch. 4).
       4. Storehouses (ch. 5).
       5. Workshops (ch. 6).
       6. Entrances (ch. 7).
       7. Parts of buildings (ch. 8).
       8. Defences (ch. 9).
       9. Tents (ch. 10).
      10. Tombs (ch. 11).
      11. Buildings in the country (ch. 12).
  III. Fields, landmarks, land-measures[354] (chs. 13–15).
   IV. Roads (ch. 16).

  [353] Architecture appears in a disintegrated form in the
  _Etymologies_ (bks. xv, chs. 2–12; xix, chs. 8–19). A comparison
  with Vitruvius’s work on architecture (translated by J. Gwilt,
  London, 1880) shows that the main differences between the
  subjects treated by Isidore and those in Vitruvius’s work lie in
  the omission by the former of the account of building materials
  (bk. ii), temple architecture, water supply (bk. viii), dialling,
  and mechanics.

  [354] See Introd., p. 32. The two chapters, “De Mensuris Agrorum”
  and “De Itineribus,” together with three chapters of bk. xvi, “De
  Ponderibus,” “De Mensuris,” “De Signis,” are given in Hultsch,
  _Metrologicorum Scriptorum Reliquiae_, Leipzig, 1886 (_Scriptores
  Romani_ in vol. ii). Hultsch finds (vol. ii, 34) that Isidore
  made use of Columella and a number of minor writers on these


Chapter 1. On cities.

5. The Jews assert that Shem, son of Noah, whom they call
Melchisedeck, was the first after the flood to found the city of
Salem in Syria, in which was the kingdom of the same Melchisedeck.
This city the Jebusaei held later, from whom it got the name
Jebus, and so the two names being united, Jebus and Salem became
Hierusalem, and this was later called Hierosolyma by Solomon, as if

42. Constantinople, a city of Thrace, Constantine called after his
own name, the only city equal to Rome in deeds and power. This
was first founded by Pausanias, king of the Spartans, and called
Byzantium, because it extends between the Adriatic and the Propontis,
or because it is a store-house for the wealth of land and sea.[355]
Whence Constantine judged it very fit to become his store-house for
land and sea. And it is now the seat of Roman power, and the capital
of the whole Orient, as Rome is of the Occident.

  [355] Isidore probably had in mind some derivation of Byzantium,
  which would explain his meaning here, but he gives no hint of
  what it was.

66. Caesaraugusta Tarraconensis,[356] a town of Spain, was both
founded and named by Caesar Augustus, excelling all the cities of
Spain in the beauty of its site and in its attractions (_deliciis_),
and more famous than all, and distinguished (_florens_) for the
graves of the sainted martyrs.

  [356] Saragossa.

67. The Africans under Hannibal occupied the coast of Spain and built
Carthago Spartaria, which presently was captured and made a colony by
the Romans, and gave its name also to the province. But now it has
been destroyed and reduced to desolation by the Goths.

69. Caesar Augustus built Emerita after he had taken Lusitania and
certain islands of the Ocean, giving it a name from the fact that he
placed his veteran soldiers there. For veterans, freed from service,
are called _emeriti_.

70. Olyssipona (Lisbon) was founded and named by Ulysses, and at this
place, as historians say, the heavens are separated from the earth
and the seas from the lands.

71. Hispalis (Seville) Julius Caesar founded, and called it Julia
Romula from his own name and the name of the city of Rome. It is
called Hispalis from its situation, because it is placed on marshy
ground, the stakes (_palis_) being driven deep, that it might not
slip because of its slippery and unsteady foundations.

72. Gades is a town founded by the Carthaginians who also founded
Carthago Spartaria.

Chapter 4. On sacred buildings.

8. Fanes (_Fana_) are so called from Fauns to whom the heathen
blindness erected temples wherein those who sought for guidance might
hear the responses of demons.

9. _Delubra_, the name the ancients gave to temples having springs
in which they washed themselves (_diluebantur_) before entering....
These are at the present time sanctuaries with sacred springs in
which the regenerate faithful purify themselves, and they were well
called _delubra_ with a sort of prophetic meaning; for they are for
the washing away of sins.

Chapter 15. On land measurements.

1. Measure is whatever limit is set in respect to weight, capacity,
length, height and mind (_animus_). And so the ancients divided the
circle of lands into parts, the parts into provinces, the provinces
into regions, the regions into districts, the districts into
territories, the territories into fields, the fields into centuries,
the centuries into acres (_jugera_), the acres into _climata_ [about
sixty feet square], then the _climata_ into _actus_ [120 x 4 ft.],
perches, paces, grades (_gradus_), cubits, feet, palms, inches,
(_uncia_), and fingers. For so clever were they.



  [357] Pliny’s five books (xxxiii-xxxvii) on mineralogy in his
  _Natural History_ are the chief source upon which later writers
  drew. An epitome of them, or rather, an epitome of an epitome,
  was made by Solinus in the third century. This underwent a
  further revision in the sixth century. Isidore is supposed to
  have used both the epitome and the original, as well as an
  unknown source, from which he drew the medical virtues of the
  precious stones. _Cf._ King, _The Natural History, Ancient and
  Modern, of Precious Stones_ (London, 1865), p. 6.


     I. Kinds of earth (ch. 1).
    II. Earthy substances made out of water (_de glebis ex
          aqua_[358]) (ch. 2).
   III. Common stones (ch. 3).
    IV. The less common stones (ch. 4).
     V. Marbles (ch. 5).
    VI. Gems (chs. 6–15).
        1. Green gems (ch. 7).
        2. Red gems (ch. 8).
        3. Purple gems (ch. 9).
        4. White gems (ch. 10).
        5. Black gems (ch. 11).
        6. Parti-colored gems (ch. 12).
        7. Crystalline gems (ch. 13).
        8. Glowing gems (ch. 14).
        9. Gold-colored gems (ch. 15).
   VII. Glass (ch. 16).
  VIII. Metals (chs. 17–24).
        1. Gold (ch. 18).
        2. Silver (ch. 19).
        3. Bronze (ch. 20).
        4. Iron (ch. 21).
        5. Lead (ch. 22).
        6. Tin (ch. 23).
        7. Amber (ch. 24).
    IX. Weights (ch. 25).
     X. Measurements (chs. 26, 27).
          Abbreviations for units of measurement (ch. 27).

  [358] Asphalt, alum, salt, soda, etc.


Chapter 4. On the less common stones.

3. _Gagates_ (jet) was first found in Cilicia, thrown up by the
water of the river Gagates. Whence it was named, although it is
very abundant in Britain. It is black, flat, smooth, and burns when
brought near to fire. Dishes cut out of it are not destructible. If
burned it puts serpents to flight, betrays those who are possessed by
demons, and reveals virginity. It is wonderful that it is set on fire
by water and extinguished with oil.

19. _Amiantos_ (amianth) ... resists all poisons, especially those of
the magi.

Chapter 7. On green gems.

8. Certain believe that the jasper gives both attractiveness and
safety to its wearers, but to believe this is a sign not of faith but
of superstition.

9. The topaz is of the green sort and it glitters with every color.
It was found first in an island of Arabia in which Troglodyte
pirates, worn out with hunger and storm, discovered it when they
pulled the roots of herbs. This island was sought for afterward, and
was at length found by seamen, being all covered with clouds. And on
this account the place and the gem received the name from cause. For
τοπάζειν in the Troglodyte language denotes seeking.

12. Heliotropium[359] ... receives the sun-light after the manner of
a looking-glass, and reveals the eclipses of the sun, showing the
moon passing under. In the case of this gem there is also a most
manifest proof of the shamelessness of the magi, because they say its
wearer is not visible if he takes an infusion of the plant heliotrope
and in addition utters certain charms.

  [359] Striped jasper.

Chapter 8. On red gems.

1. ... The magi assert that [coral] resists thunder-bolts,—if it is
to be believed.

Chapter 10. On white gems.

4. _Galactites_ (milk-stone) is milk-white, and being rubbed it
gives a white fluid that tastes like milk, and being tied on nursing
mothers it increases the flow of milk. If it is hung on the necks of
children it is said to create saliva, and it is said to melt in the
mouth and take away the memory.

Chapter 13. On crystals.

1. It is said that crystal glitters and is of a watery color because
it is snow that has hardened into ice in the course of the years....
It is produced in Asia and Cyprus, and especially in the Alps of
the north, where there is no hot sun even in summer. Therefore the
ice itself is bared, and hardening through the years gives this
appearance which is called crystal. This, being set opposite to the
rays of the sun, so seizes upon its flame that it sets fire to dry
fungi or leaves. Its use is to make cups, but it can endure nothing
but what is cold.

2. _Adamas_ ... Though this is an unconquerable despiser of the steel
and of fire, yet it is softened by the fresh, warm blood of stags,
and then is shattered by many blows of an iron instrument.

3. It is said to reveal poisons as does amber (_electron_), to drive
away useless fears, to resist evil arts.

Chapter 14. On glowing gems.

7. _Dracontites_ is forcibly taken from the brain of a dragon, and
unless it is torn from the living creature it has not the quality of
a gem; whence magi cut it out of dragons while they are sleeping. For
bold men explore the cave of the dragons, and scatter there medicated
grains to hasten their sleep, and thus cut off their heads while they
are sunk in sleep, and take out the gems.

Chapter 15. On yellow gems.

17. _Glossoptera_ is like the human tongue whence it took its name.
It is said to fall from heaven when the moon is in eclipse, and the
magi attribute great power to it, for they think that to it the
motions of the moon are due.

21. There are also certain gems which the heathen use in certain

22. By the fragrance of the _liparia_,[360] they relate that all
wild beasts are summoned. By the _ananchitis_[360] in divination
by water they say the likenesses of demons are summoned. By the
_synochitis_[360] they assert that the shades of those below that
have been summoned forth, are held.

  [360] Unknown.

23. _Chenelites_ is the eye of the Indian tortoise, of a varied
purple. By means of this magi pretend that the future is foretold, if
it is put on the tongue.

25. _Hyaenia_ is a stone found in the eye of the hyena and they say
that if it is placed under the tongue of a man he foretells the

Chapter 20. On bronze.

4. Corinthian bronze is a mixture of all metals, and it was first
made by accident at Corinth, when the city was taken and burned. For
when Hannibal had taken the city, he piled all the statues of bronze
and gold and silver into one heap and burned them.

Chapter 21. On iron.

2. There is no body with elements so dense, so closely interlacing
and interwoven, as iron; whence in it there is hardness and cold.

Chapter 25. On weights.

1. It is a delight to learn the manner of weights and measures. For
all corporeal substances, as it is written, from the highest even
to the lowest, are ordered and shaped within the limits of measure,
number, and weight. To all corporeal things nature has assigned
weight. Its own weight regulates everything.

2. Moses, who preceded all the philosophers of the nations in time,
first told us of measures and numbers and weight in different
passages in the Scripture. Phidon of Argos was the first to establish
a system of weights in Greece.

19. _Uncia_ ... And it is reckoned a lawful weight for this reason,
that the number of its scruples measures the hours of the day and
night, or because reckoned twelve times it makes a pound.

20. _Libra_ (pound) is made up of twelve ounces, and thence is
counted a kind of perfect weight, because it is made up of as many
ounces as a year is months. And it is called _libra_ because it is
_libera_ (free) and embraces all the aforementioned weights within

23. _Centenarium_ is a weight of one hundred pounds. And this weight
the Romans established because of the perfection of the number one

Chapter 26. On measures.

1. Measure is the limiting of something in amount or time. It has
to do with either corporeal substance or time. It has to do with
corporeal substance as, for example, the length or shortness of men,
pieces of timber, and columns; even the sun has a measure proper to
its circle, which geometricians dare to inquire into. It has to do
with time as, for example, hours, days, years; whence we say that we
measure the feet of the hours.

2. But speaking in a limited sense, measure (_mensura_) is so named
because by it fruits and grain are meted, that is, wet and dry
measure, as _modius_ (peck), _artabo_ (three and half modi), _urna_
(pitcher), _amphora_ (jar).

10. _Modius_ (peck) is so named because after its own mode it is
perfect. It is a measure of forty-four pounds, that is, of twenty-two
_sextarii_. The cause of this number is derived from this, that in
the beginning God made twenty-two works. For on the first day he
made seven, that is, matter in the rough, angels, light, the upper
heavens, earth, water, and air. On the second day, the firmament
alone. On the third day, four things: the seas, seeds, sowing, and
plantings. On the fourth day, three things: the sun and moon and
stars. On the fifth day, three: fishes, and creeping things of the
water, and flying creatures. On the sixth day, four: wild beasts,
flocks, creeping things of the earth, and man. And in all twenty-two
kinds were made in the six days. And there are twenty-two generations
from Adam to Jacob, from whose seed sprang all the people of Israel,
and twenty-two books of the Old Testament as far as Esther, and
twenty-two letters of the alphabet out of which the doctrine of
the divine law is composed. According to these precedents a modius
of twenty-two _sextarii_ was established by Moses according to the
measure of the holy law, and although different nations in their
ignorance add weight to this measure or detract from it, still among
the Hebrews it is kept unchanged by divine ordinance.

Chapter 27. Abbreviations for weights.

1. The marks for weight are unknown to most and thence they cause
readers to err. So let us add their shapes and characters as they
were set down by the ancients.[361]

  [361] Twenty-one of these are named.




     I. Writers on rural affairs (ch. 1).
    II. The cultivation of the fields (ch. 2).
   III. Grains (ch. 3).
    VI. Leguminous plants (ch. 4).
     V. Vines (ch. 5).
    VI. Trees (chs. 6–7).
        1. Species of trees (ch. 7).
   VII. Aromatic shrubs (ch. 8).
  VIII. Aromatic and common herbs (ch. 9).
    IX. Vegetables (chs. 10, 11).




    I. War[362] (chs. 1–14).
       1. Kinds of war (ch. 1).
       2. Triumphs (ch. 2).
       3. Standards (ch. 3).
       4. Trumpets (ch 4).
       5. Armor (chs. 5–14).
          a. Swords (ch. 6).
          b. Spears (ch. 7).
          c. Arrows (ch. 8).
          d. Quivers (ch. 9).
          e. Slings (ch. 10).
          f. The battering ram (ch. 11).
          g. Shields (ch. 12).
          h. Coats of mail (ch. 13).
          i. Helmets (ch. 14).
   II. The law-court (_de foro_) (ch. 15).
  III. Spectacles[363] (chs. 16–59).
       1. Gymnastic contests (chs. 17–26).
       2. The circus (chs. 27–41).
       3. The theatre (chs. 42–51).
       4. The amphitheatre (chs. 52–58).
       5. Condemnation of spectacles (ch. 59).
   IV. Gambling (chs. 60–68).
    V. Ball-playing (ch. 69).

  [362] The information on military matters contained here and in
  bk. ix was drawn ultimately from the succession of Roman writers
  on military science. The chief of these were Frontinus, Hyginus,

  [363] The title, _De Spectaculis_, and much of the material
  are drawn from Tertullian’s _De Spectaculis_. See M. Klussman,
  _Excerpta Tertullianea in Isidori Hispalensis Etymologiis_
  (Hamburg, 1892).


Chapter 16. On spectacles.

1. Spectacles, as I think, is the general name given to pleasures
which defile not of themselves, but through those things that take
place there.

3. The origin of the word (_ludus_) is of no consequence when the
origin of the thing is idolatry.... On this account the stain of its
origin must be regarded, lest one should regard as good what took its
origin in evil.

Chapter 27. On the sports of the circus.

1. The sports of the circus (_ludi circenses_) were established on
account of worship, and because of the honoring of the heathen gods.
Whence those who view them seem to be furthering the worship of evil
spirits. For horse-racing was in former times practiced by itself,
and its ordinary practice at least was no guilt, but when this
natural practice was included in the games, it was transferred to the
worship of demons.

Chapter 41. On the colors at the races.[364]

  [364] Compare Tertullian, _De Spectaculis_, chs. 6–9.

1. The same heathen have associated the colors worn by the horses
with the elements: likening the red to the sun, that is, to fire; the
white to air; the green to earth; the blue to the sea. Likewise they
wished the red to run in summer because they are of a fiery color
and all things are of a golden hue at that time; the white in winter
because it is icy and everything is white; the green during the
verdure of spring, because then the vine leaves are thickening.

2. They also consecrated the red to Mars from whom the Romans are
sprung, because the Roman standards are adorned with scarlet or
because Mars delights in blood. The white [they consecrated] to
western breezes and fine weather, the green to flowers and earth, the
blue to the sea or air because they are of a caerulean color, the
golden or saffron to fire and the sun, and the purple to Iris, which
we call the bow, because Iris has many colors.

3. And so while under this pretence they pollute themselves with the
gods and the elements of this world, they are known to be certainly
worshiping the same gods and elements. Whence you ought to notice,
Christian, how many unclean gods they have around. Therefore the
place which many spirits of Satan have seized shall be alien to you.
For all that place the devil and his angels have filled.

Chapter 45. On tragedians.

1. Tragedians are they who sang in mournful verse the ancient deeds
and crimes of guilty kings, while the people looked on.

Chapter 46. On comedians.

1. Comedians are they who represented by song and gesture the doings
of men in private life, and in their plays set forth the defilement
of maidens and the love affairs of harlots.

Chapter 59. On the execration of these.

1. These spectacles of cruelty and this gazing upon vanities were
established not only by the fault of men but by the command of
demons. Wherefore a Christian ought to have nothing to do with the
madness of the circus, with the shamelessness of the theatre, with
the cruelty of the amphitheatre, with the atrocity of the arena,
with the luxury of the _ludus_. For he denies God who ventures on
such things, becoming a violator of the Christian faith—he who seeks
afresh that which he long before renounced in baptism, that is, the
devil, his parades and his works.



  [365] At this point in his work Isidore turns from the ‘sciences’
  to the useful arts.


     I. Ships[366] (chs. 1–6).
        1. Seamen (ch. 1, 3–7).
        2. Kinds of ships (ch. 1, 8–27).
        3. Parts of ships (ch. 2).
        4. Sails (ch. 3).
        5. Ropes (ch. 4).
        6. Nets (ch. 5).
    II. Furnaces of smiths (ch. 6).
        1. Tools of smiths (ch. 7).
   III. Buildings (chs. 8–18).
        1. Construction (ch. 10).
        2. Adornment (chs. 11–17).
        3. Tools for building (ch. 18).
    IV. Workers in wood (ch. 19).
     V. Garments (chs. 20–29).
        1. Weaving (ch. 20).
        2. The dress of a priest under the law (ch. 21).
        3. The names of other articles of clothing (ch. 22).
        4. Peculiar costumes of certain peoples (ch. 23).
        5. Men’s garments (ch. 24).
        6. Women’s garments (ch. 25).
        7. Bedding, tablecloths, and so forth (ch. 26).
        8. Wools (ch. 27).
        9. Colors of garments (ch. 28).
       10. Instruments for making cloth (ch. 29).
    VI. Ornaments (chs. 30–32).
        1. Head ornaments for women (ch. 31).
        2. Rings (ch. 32).
   VII. Girdles (ch. 33).
  VIII. Footwear (ch. 34).

  [366] For a similar subject and treatment, compare _De Genere
  Navigiorum_, in Nonius Marcellus’s encyclopedia. See p. 43.




     I. Tables (ch. 1).
    II. Food (ch. 2).
   III. Drink (ch. 3).
    IV. Dishes.
        1. For food (ch. 4).
        2. For drink (ch. 5).
        3. For wine and water (ch. 6).
        4. For oil (ch. 7).
     V. Cooking utensils (ch. 8).
    VI. Receptacles (ch. 9).
   VII. Lamps (ch. 10).
  VIII. Beds and seats (ch. 11).
    IX. Vehicles (ch. 12).
     X. Other utensils (ch. 13).
    XI. Tools for the country (ch. 14).
   XII. Tools for the garden (ch. 15).
  XIII. Horse trappings (ch. 16).



Further light on Isidore’s conception of the earth can be gained by
noticing his use of the word _terra_ in the following passage, and
comparing the passage with that from Hyginus on which it is based.

  Isidore.                           Hyginus.

  Nunc terrae positionem definiemus
  et mare quibus locis interfusum
  videatur, ordine exponemus.

  Terra, ut testatur Hyginus,        Terra mundi media regione
  mundi media regione collocata,     collocata, omnibus partibus
  omnibus partibus coeli             aequali dissidens intervallo,
  aequali dissidens intervallo       centrum obtinet sphaerae.
  centrum obtinet.                   Hanc mediam dividit axis in
                                     dimensione totius terrae.

  Oceanus autem regione              Oceanus autem regione
  circumductionis spherae profusus   circumductionis spherae profusus,
  prope totius orbis alluit          prope totius orbis alluit
  fines. Itaque et siderum           fines. Itaque et signa occidentia
  signa occidentia in eum cadere     in eum decidere existimantur.
  existimantur.                      Sic igitur et terras
                                     contineri poterimus explanare.
  Regio autem terrae dividitur       Nam quaecumque regio est quae
  trifariam e quibus una pars        inter Arcticum et Aestivum finem
  Europa, altera Asia, tertia        collocata est, ea dividitur
  Africa vocatur. Europam            trifariam e quibus una pars,
  igitur ab Africa dividit mare      Europa; altera, Asia; tertia,
  ab extremis oceani finibus, et     Africa vocatur. Europam igitur ab
  Herculi columnis. Asiam autem      Africa dividit mare ab extremis
  et Libyam cum Aegypto              Oceani finibus, et Herculi
  disterminat ostium Nili fluvii,    columnis. Asiam vero et Libyam
  quod Canopicon appellatur.         cum Aegypto disterminat os Nili
  Asiam ab Europa Tanais dividit     fluminis quod Canopicon
  bifariam se conjiciens in          appellatur. Asiam ab Europa
  paludem, quae Maeotis appellatur.  conjiciens in paludem quae
  Asia autem, ut ait beatissimus     Maeotis appellatur. (_Hygini
  Augustinus, a meridie per          Poeticon Astron., Mythographi
  orientem usque ad septentrionem    Latini_, Thomas Muncherus,
  pervenit. Europa vero a            Amsterdam, 1681, vol. i, p. 353.)
  septentrione usque ad occidentem,
  atque inde Africa ab occidente
  usque ad meridiem.

  Unde videntur orbem dimidium
  duae tenere, Europa et Africa.
  Alium vero dimidium sola Asia.
  Sed ideo illae duae partes factae
  sunt, quia inter utramque ab
  Oceano ingreditur, quidquid
  aquarum terras influit, et hoc
  mare Magnum nobis facit. Totius
  autem terrae mensuram geometrae
  centum octoginta millium
  stadiorum aestimaverunt. (_De
  Natura Rerum_, ch. 48.)

In the passage from Hyginus, _terra_ in the singular is the spherical
earth occupying the centre of the sphere formed by the universe. The
ocean is on the surface of this spherical earth, and it washes “the
limits of the circle of lands”. For this reason the heavenly bodies
“are [popularly] supposed to set in it.” Hyginus then turns to the
dry land (_terras_), and describes the land surface “between the
boundaries of the Arctic and torrid zones” as divided into three
parts, Europe, Asia, and Africa.

In Isidore _terra_ means in the first instance, dry land, in the
second—if he realized the meaning of Hyginus—the sphere; in the
third, the dry land; in the fourth, the sphere. There is no evidence
that Isidore was conscious of having made these transitions. He
entirely omits the sentence in which Hyginus passes from the subject
of the spherical earth to that of the lands. It is clear that Isidore
has fallen into the same confusion here as in the passage quoted on
p. 51; he uses the terminology of the spherical earth, while having
no conception of anything but the flat earth.[367]

The difficulty offered by the word _sphera_ in the passage quoted
above from Isidore, is not insuperable, since it is clear from the
following passage that he was not very definite in his notion of what
a sphere was. A sphere and a circle apparently meant about the same
thing to him.

  [367] For passages illustrating Isidore’s cosmology, see _Etym._,
  2, 24, 2; 3, 52, 1; 3, 47; 9, 2, 133; 11, 3, 24; 13, 1, 1. See
  also pp. 50–58 and notes.

    Cujus perfectionem spherae vel circuli multis
    argumentationibus tractans, rationabile Plato Fabricatoris
    mundi insinuat opus. Primo, quod ex una linea constat.
    Secundo, quod sine initio est et sine fine. Tertio, quod a
    puncto efficitur. Denuo, quod motum ex se habeat. Deinde
    quod careat indicio angulorum, et quod in se ceteras
    figuras omnes includat, et quod motum inerrabilem habeat,
    siquidem sex alii motus errabiles sunt, ante, a tergo,
    dextra, laevaque, sursum, deorsum. Postremo, et quod
    necessitate efficiatur, ut haec linea ultra circulum duci
    non possit. D. N. R., 12, 5.



Philosophy was regarded by Isidore as a comprehensive term embracing
all knowledge. He gives its subdivisions as follows:

                   Naturalis     Geometria
                      or         Musica
                   Physica       Astronomia

                   Moralis       Justitia
    Philosophia      or          Fortitudo
                   Ethica        Temperantia

                   Rationalis    Dialectica
                      or         Logica

That Isidore felt the need of an adjustment of this plan to the
Christian scheme of things is to be perceived in the statement with
which he accompanies it, that the Scriptures are made up of the three
kinds of philosophy, natural, moral, and rational; and in the further
statement that Christian scholars asserted the claims of Christian
doctrine (_theorica_) to take the place of rational or logical

  [368] 2, 24, 3–8. See pp. 73–74, 116–119.


                                   Naturalis    Geometria

                      Inspectiva   Doctrinalis




                      Actualis     Dispensativa



                        Physica       Astronomia
                           or         Astrologia
                        Naturalis     Mechanica

      Philosophia[370]  Logica or     Dialectica
                        Rationalis    Rhetorica

                        Ethica or     Justitia
                        Moralis       Fortitudo

  [369] 2, 24, 10–16.

  [370] _Diff._, 2, 39.

In connection with this outline also an attempt at adjustment is
made. Christian doctrine is placed, somewhat inappropriately,
under the head of ethical philosophy: “Wisdom (_prudentia_) is the
recognition of the true faith and the knowledge of the Scriptures, in
which one must have regard for the triple method of interpretation.
The first is that by which certain things are taken literally
without any figure, as the Ten Commandments; the second is that by
which certain things in the Scriptures are taken in a double sense,
both in the definite historic meaning and in accordance with the
understanding of figures, as in regard to Sara and Hagar; first,
because they existed in reality, second, because the two Testaments
are figuratively denoted by them. The third kind is that which is
taken in a spiritual sense only, as the Song of Songs. For if it is
understood according to the sound of the words and their literal
force, the result is bodily wantonness rather than the excellence of
the inner meaning. After the definition of wisdom let us now give the
parts of justice (_justitia_), of which the first is to fear God, to
venerate religion, to honor parents, to love the fatherland, to help
all, to harm none, to embrace the bonds of brotherly love, to face
the dangers of others, to bring aid to the wretched, to repay a good
turn, to observe equity in judgments.” (_Diff._, 2, 39.)


  [371] The list given here is not a complete list of works
  consulted. The wide range of topics included in Isidore’s
  encyclopedia has made it necessary to consult a great many books,
  and the great modern encyclopedias have been used continuously,
  especially the 11th edition of the _Encyclopedia Britannica_.


  Boetius, A. M. S. _Opera._ Migne, Patrologia Latina, vols. 63, 64.

  Boetius, A. M. S. _De Institutione Arithmetica libri duo, de
  Institutione Musica libri quinque. Accedit Geometria quae fertur
  Boetii._ Edited by Friedlein, Leipzig, 1867.

  _Breviarium Alaricianum._ Edited by Conrat, Leipzig, 1903.

  Cassiodorus. _Opera._ Migne, Patr. Lat., vols. 69, 70.

  Dionysius Thrax. _Ars Grammatica._ Uhlig, editor. Leipzig, 1883.

  Einhard. _Vita Caroli_ in _Monumenta Germaniae Historica,
  Scriptores_ (ed. Pertz).

  _Grammatici Latini._ 7 vols. Edited by H. Keil, Leipzig,

  Hyginus, C. Julius. _Poeticon Astronomicon_, in vol. 1 of
  _Mythographi Latini_, edited by Thomas Muncker, Amsterdam, 1691.

  Isidore of Seville. _De Natura Rerum._ G. Becker, editor. Berlin,

  Isidore of Seville. _Opera._ Migne, Patr. Lat., vols. 81–84 (a
  reprint of the edition of Arevalus, Rome, 1796).

  Isidore of Seville. _Opera._ Edited by Du Breul. Paris, 1601.

  Isidore of Seville. _De Rhetorica_, in Halm, _Rhetores Latini

  Martianus Capella. _De Nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii._ Edited
  by Eyssenhardt, Leipzig, 1866.

  _Metrologicorum Scriptorum Reliquiae_ (2d vol., _Scriptores
  Romani_). Edited by F. Hultsch, Leipzig, 1866.

  Orosius. _Historiarum adversus paganos libri VII._ Edited by
  Zangemeister, Leipzig, 1889.

  _Physiologus._ Greek version contained in Lauchert’s _Geschichte
  des Physiologus_. Strassburg, 1889.

  Plinius Secundus, Gaius. _Naturalis Historiae Libri XXXVII._
  Edited by L. Janus, Leipzig, 1854–65.

  _Rhetores Latini Minores._ Edited by C. F. Halm, Leipzig, 1863.

  Tertullianus. _De Spectaculis_ in _Opera Omnia_, Migne, _P. L._,
  vol. i.


  Altamira, R. _Historia de España y de la civilización española._
  4 vols. Barcelona, 1900–11.

  Ball, W. W. R. _A Short Account of the History of Mathematics._
  London, 1901.

  Baas, J. H. _Outlines of the History of Medicine and the Medical
  Profession._ Translated and, in conjunction with the author,
  revised and enlarged by H. E. Handerson. N. Y., 1889.

  Beazley, C. R. _The Dawn of Modern Geography: A History of
  Exploration and Geographical Science from the Conversion of the
  Roman Empire to A.D. 1420._ London, 1897–1906.

  Boissier, G. _Étude sur la vie et les ouvrages de M. Varron._
  Paris, 1861.

  Boissier, G. _La Fin du paganisme; étude sur les dernières luttes
  religieuses en occident au 4ème siècle._ 2 vols. Paris, 1891.

  Bury, J. B. _History of the Later Roman Empire from Arcadius to
  Irene._ 2 vols. London, 1889–92.

  Cahier, C. _Physiologus_ (Latin version), Mélanges d’Archéologie
  (1851–53), Paris.

  Cajori, F. _A History of Elementary Mathematics._ New York, 1907.

  _Cambridge Medieval History_, planned by J. B. Bury, edited by H.
  M. Gwatkin and J. P. Whitney. Vol. 1. New York, 1911.

  Cañal, Carlos. _San Isidoro. Exposición de sus obras e
  indicaciones acerca de la influencia que han ejercido en la
  civilización española._ Sevilla, 1897.

  Cantor, M. _Die Römischen Agrimensoren und ihre Stellung in der
  Geschichte der Feldmesskunst._ Leipzig, 1875.

  Cantor, M. _Vorlesungen über Geschichte der Mathematik._ 3 vols.
  Leipzig, 1894–1900.

  Chaignet, A. E. _La Rhétorique et son histoire._ Paris, 1888.

  Christ, W. _Geschichte der Griechischen Literatur._ München,
  1905. Müller’s _Handbuch der Altertumswissenschaft_.

  Conrat, M. _Geschichte der Quellen und Literatur des Römischen
  Rechts im früheren Mittelalter._ Leipzig, 1891.

  Conrat, M. _Die Epitome Exactis Regibus._ Berlin, 1884.

  Coussemaker, E. de. _Histoire de l’harmonie au Moyen Age._ Paris,

  Cumont, F. _Les Religions orientales dans la paganisme romaine._
  Paris, 1906.

  Cuvier, G. L. C. F. D. _Histoire des sciences naturelles chez
  tous les peuples connus._ Paris, 1841–45.

  Delambre, J. B. J. _Histoire de l’astronomie ancienne._ 2 vols.
  Paris, 1817.

  Delambre, J. B. J. _Histoire de l’astronomie du moyen âge._
  Paris, 1819.

  Dill, S. _Roman Society in the Last Century of the Western
  Empire._ 2d ed. London, 1899.

  Dressel. _De Isidori Originum Fontibus_ in _Rivista di
  Filologia_, vol. 3 (1874–75).

  Dreyer, J. L. E. _History of the Planetary Systems from Thales to
  Kepler._ Cambridge, 1906.

  Ebert, A. _Allgemeine Geschichte der Literatur des Mittelalters
  im Abendlande bis zum Beginne des 11 Jahrhundert._ 3 vols.
  Leipzig, 1880–89. French translation by Aymeric and Condamin.
  Paris, 1884.

  Flach, J. _Études critiques sur l’histoire du droit romain au
  moyen âge avec textes inédits._ Paris, 1890.

  Gams, P. B. _Die Kirchengeschichte von Spanien._ 3 vols.
  Regensberg, 1862–79.

  Gleditsch, H. _Metrik der Griechen und Römer mit einem Anhang
  über die Musik der Griechen_, 1901. (In Müller, _Handbuch der
  klassischen Altertumswissenschaft_.)

  Gow, J. _A Short History of Greek Mathematics._ Cambridge, 1884.

  Günther, S. _Abriss der Geschichte der Mathematik und der
  Naturwissenschaften in Altertum._ An appendix to _Geschichte
  der alten Philosophie_ (München, 1894) (Müller’s _Handbuch der
  klassischen Altertumswissenschaft_).

  Harnack, A. _History of Dogma_, translated from the 3d German
  edition by N. Buchanan. 7 vols. Boston, 1897–1900.

  Hertzberg, H. _Die Chroniken des Isidors_ in _Forschungen zur
  deutschen Geschichte_, vol. 15.

  _Histoire générale du IVe siècle à nos jours_: ouvrage publié
  sous la direction de MM. E. Lavisse et A. Rambaud. Tome premier,
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  Paris, 1902.

  Ideler, C. L. _Handbuch der mathematischen und technischen
  Chronologie._ 2 vols. Berlin, 1825–26.

  King, C. W. _The Natural History, Ancient and Modern, of Precious
  Stones and Gems, and of the Precious Metals._ London, 1865.

  Klussman, M. _Excerpta Tertullianea in Isidori Hispalensis
  Etymologiis._ Hamburg, 1892.

  Lauchert, F. _Geschichte des Physiologus._ Strassburg, 1891.
  Relation of Isidore’s _De Animalibus_ to the _Physiologus_, pp.
  103 ff.

  Leminne, J. _Les quatre elements, le feu, l’air, l’eau, la terre.
  Histoire d’une hypothèse_, in Mémoires couronnées par l’Académie
  Royale de Belgique, vol. 65.

  Lindsay, W. M. _Nonius Marcellus, De Compendiosa Doctrina._
  Oxford, 1903.

  Manitius, M. _Geschichte der Lateinischen Literatur des
  Mittelalters._ München, 1911. (In Müller’s _Handbuch der
  klassischen Altertumswissenschaft_.)

  Menéndez y Pelayo. _Estudios de Crítica Literaria._ 2 vols. (San
  Isidoro in vol. 1). 2d edition. Madrid, 1893.

  Meunier, L. _Histoire de la médicine depuis ses origines jusqu’à
  nos jours._ Paris, 1911.

  Muirhead, J. _Historical Introduction to the Private Law of
  Rome._ London, 1899. Second edition revised by H. Goudy.

  Nettleship, H. _Lectures and Essays on Subjects Connected with
  Latin Literature and Scholarship._ Oxford, 1885.

  Nettleship, H. _Lectures and Essays_; second series, edited by F.
  Haverfield. Oxford, 1895.

  Neuberger, Max. _Geschichte der Medizin._ 2 vols. Stuttgart,
  1906–11. Translated by E. Playfair. 2 vols. London, 1910.

  Parker, H. _The Seven Liberal Arts_ in _English Historical
  Review_. Vol. 5, 1890.

  Poole, R. Lane. _Illustrations of the History of Medieval
  Thought._ London, 1894.

  Prantl, K. von. _Geschichte der Logik im Abendlande._ 4 vols.
  Leipzig, 1855–70.

  Rashdall, H. _Universities of Europe in the Middle Ages._ 2 vols.
  Oxford, 1895.

  Reifferscheid, A. _Suetoni Tranquilli Reliquiae._ Leipzig, 1860.

  Reinach, Salomon. _Orpheus, Histoire générale des religions._
  Paris, 1909.

  Ritschl, F. W. _Opuscula philologica._ 5 vols. Leipzig, 1866–79.

  Roger, M. _L’Enseignment des lettres classiques d’Ausone à
  Alcuin._ Paris, 1905.

  Saintsbury, G. _A History of Criticism and Literary Taste in
  Europe._ 3 vols. New York, 1900.

  Sandys, J. E. _History of Classical Scholarship._ Cambridge, 1903.

  Sandys, J. E. _M. Tullii Ciceronis ad M. Brutum Orator._
  Cambridge, 1885. (The introduction contains a brief history of

  Schanz, Martin. _Geschichte der Römischen Literatur._ München,

  Schenk, Arno. _De Isidori Hispalensis de natura rerum libelli
  fontibus._ Jena, 1909.

  Schmidt, C. _Quaestiones de musicis scriptoribus Romanis,
  imprimis de Cassiodoro et Isidoro._ Darmstadt, 1899.

  Schöne, A. K. J. _Die Weltchronik des Eusebius in ihrer
  Bearbeitung durch Hieronymus._ Berlin, 1900.

  Steinthal, H. _Geschichte der Sprachwissenschaft bei den Griechen
  und Römern mit besonderer Rücksicht auf die Logik._ Zweite
  Auflage. Berlin, 1890.

  Stolz, F. _Lateinische Grammatik._ München, 1900. In Müller’s
  _Handbuch der klassischen Altertumswissenschaft_.

  Tannery, P. _Recherches sur l’histoire de l’astronomie ancienne._
  Paris, 1895.

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  Taylor, H. O. _The Classical Heritage of the Middle Ages._ New
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  Taylor, H. O. _The Medieval Mind; a History of the Development of
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  Teuffel, W. S. _Geschichte der Römischen Literatur._ Sechste
  Auflage, neu bearbeitet von W. Kroll und F. Skatsch. 2 vols.
  Leipzig, 1910. Translated from the 5th German edition by G. C. W.
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  Ueberweg, F. _History of Philosophy._ Translated by Morris. New
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  klassischen Altertumswissenschaft_.

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  Wulf, M. de. _History of Medieval Philosophy._ 3d edition.
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  Polyphonic Period_. Oxford, 1901.


The writer of this thesis was born in Prince Edward Island, Canada.
He attended Dalhousie College, from which he graduated in 1894 with
high honors in the Classics. He entered Harvard University in 1895,
and received the degree of A. B. in 1896, and A. M. in 1897. From
1898 to 1908 he was Instructor, Assistant Professor and Professor of
Latin at Colorado College, and from 1908 to 1911 Professor of History
at the same institution. He spent the years 1908–9 and 1911–12 in
the school of Political Science of Columbia University. He has taken
courses with Professors Burgess, Dunning, Osgood, Robinson, Shotwell,
and Sloane of Columbia. He is thirty-eight years old.

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