El siglo XXI se enfrascaba, desde sus albores, en una serie de guerras imperiales- invasión de Panamá, 1990,Guerra del Golfo de 1991,Guerra de Afganistán,Ataque a las Torres Gemelas en septiembre del 2001, Guerra de Irán para derrocar a Sadam Husein en el 2003- que , nos parece, han ido mostrando que tras las acciones directas en el terreno de la llamada Real Politik hay una corriente subterránea que se alimenta de aguas con un componente nucleado en lo religioso. Para este asunto quizá conviniera echar un vistazo al concepto de agustinismo políitico, como un material de utilidad para hacer efectivo el estudio de esas guerras imperiales , con apoyo en el regressus-progressus que desde el Materialismo Filosófico se han venido usando en el análisis crítico de hechos y fenómenos histórico-políticos
Este tema del agustinismo político no es un simple asunto de discusiones filosóficas o metafísicas, sino que en ello podemos hallar en hilo conductor que podría mostrarnos el fondo de esas corrientes ideológicas- nematológicas en términos del Materialismo Filosófico-que subyacen bajo las guerras imperiales citadas y otras de similar hechura, a saber: el componente ideológico o nematológico cuyo núcleo está en gran parte conformado por conceptos vinculados a lo que podemos denominar como temática religiosa o más precisamente religioso-moral.Este núcleo va incrustado, digamos, en toda una serie de concptos e incluso categorías de índole antropológica cuya influencia en el curso de las citadas guerras es , nos parece, notoria.
Vamos a sugerir un artículo sobre el asunto del llamado agustinismo político desde el contexto histórico medieval para sacar a raíz de su lectura, posibles conclusiones o ver posibles conexiones gnoseológicas con aspectos actuales de la ontología política de los Estados que están directa o indirectamente implicados en esta serie de guerras imperiales.
ENLACE A UN LIBRO(acceso parcial al mismo) clave acerca del concepto de agustinismo político: Henri-Xavier Arquilière , El agustinismo político(Ensayo sobre la formación de las ideas políticas en la Edad Media) http://books.google.es/books?id=YMJErjbAMEMC&lpg=PP1&ots=2dBUFKXydQ&dq=agustinismo%20pol%C3%ADtico&pg=PP1&output=embed
Arbil, apostando por los valores de la civilización cristiana
Por la Vida, la Familia, la Educación, la dignificación del Trabajo, la Unidad histórica, territorial y social de la Nación, y por la Regeneración Moral y Material de nuestra Patria y el mundo
Indice de contenidos
Texto completo de la revista en documento word comprimido
Anatomía, fisiología, patología, terapéutica y plerosis de la Nación
Vintila Horia(II): El novelista, escritor de la resignación metafísica
Un “Mundo Feliz”
O novo rosto do Terrorismo
La percepción de la inseguridad en España
Demagogia con pólvora del rey
Una consecuencia ineludible del “Plan Ibarretxe”
El humorismo inglés
El aborto y la Constitución
El alcance de la ética procedimental a la luz de la Doctrina Social de la Iglesia
La Masonería invisible, desvelada por Ricardo de la Cierva
Beneficios del matrimonio (“El matrimonio ¡ Qué bicoca!”)
Importancia de la formación. Ser hombres de principios y de acción
La Virgen del Pilar y la Guardia Civil
De la Polis griega a la civitas christiana ( y IV)
Origen y fracaso del nacionalismo catalanista de Cambó
Biblia y “teología” gay
El impacto de la inmigración en las prisiones españolas
Historia de la confesionalidad
¿Es tabú hablar de la abstinencia?
El jardín de los monstruos: El mito según la escuela semiótica rusa
El conflicto en Tierra Santa (II)
Méndez, Fidalgo, y el miedo a la libertad
La Edad de Plata en España
Ortodoxos: la otra cara del ecumenismo.
Léxico español en el sudoeste de Estados Unidos
El movimiento católico en Italia
El esperanto, ¿una lengua para la Europa unida?
El Rosario: ¿Es solamente una tradición de los hombres?
Textos Clásicos: Filosofía del Quijote: (un estudio de antropología axiológica)
Revista Arbil nº 62
De la Polis griega a la civitas christiana ( y IV)
Finalmente, tras estudiar en números anteriores la polis griega, la Res publica romana y los albores de la cristiandad, nos adentramos en lo que se ha dado en llamar la sociedad cristiana, o cristiandad, que supone un nuevo impulso societario consecuente de la penetración que el cristianismo realiza en la sociedad occidental. Sin embargo, sería ingenuo e iluso el llamar “cristiandad” a un único modelo social de un momento puntual, como se ha hecho en ocasiones
Cuando determinados autores hablan de “cristiandad medieval” parecen reducir su momento a lo que fue la Europa del siglo XIII, y ello supone encerrar irreductiblemente en un compacto y sólido bloque monolítico lo que en realidad fue un proceso evolutivo que arranca del Siglo VI y que tendrá como fractura el siglo XVII, consecuencia de la Reforma protestante, la filosofía cartesiana y las guerras de religión.
Los teólogos carolingios son los primeros sistematizadotes del concepto “cristiandad”, que no emplean, si bien utilizan expresiones análogas. Son los doctrinarios del “agustinismo político”, que grosso modo, viene a suponer que la ciudad terrena, identificada con el imperio romano, ha cedido, ante la ciudad de Dios representada por la Iglesia y su brazo secular, el sacro imperio romano-germánico. Veamos si tal especulación ha procedido legítimamente o no.
San Agustín, concibe la realidad política como “reflejo” de la realidad trascendente. El supuesto metafísico es la interpretación del “sí mismo” como “reflejo” de Dios. Entre el creador y la criatura hay diferencia esencial cualitativa, pero la distancia entre uno y otro es mínima.
El ser creado “es” en cuanto imagen del ser divino. La relación del hombre con Dios es más estrecha que lo que media entre lo originario y lo derivado, más profunda también de lo que Platón llama méthexis (participatio). Entre el original -Dios- y la imagen hay verdadera unidad de vida: “et omnia vita sunt, et omnia unum sunt” (1). La vida a la que San Agustín se refiere aquí no es qualiscumque vita, ni el bios animal, sino la vida divina, una e infinita, de la que participa también el alma humana.
La creación entera es como un sol naciente: los matices se degradan hasta el infinito, única es en cambio, la luz original. El ser solo es en la medida en que tiene semejanza con el creador. Cuando la pierde, deja de ser. El hombre imagen de Dios : “impari imagine, attamen imagine” (2). Pero también todas las cosas: todas son “impar sed imago Trinitatis”: en ellas ha de buscar el hombre la imagen de Dios : “vestigium trinitatis”.
La proximidad entre el creador y la criatura es tal que la encrucijada teológica y metafísica del pensamiento agustiniano es el pecado. ¿Cómo dar razón del pecado? ¿Cómo puede el hombre, criatura de Dios a su imagen y semejanza, tan cercano a él, romper radicalmente por el pecado el vínculo que le une al creador?
En el plano político, la encrucijada está donde el santo se propone dar razón de la realidad política. Es realidad humana y tiene, por lo tanto, el carácter propio de tal realidad: la de ser de modo eminente “reflejo” de lo trascendente. Siempre es interpretada como realidad puramente simbólica, reverberación de lo eterno (3).
Se advierte ya en el concepto central agustiniano de la civitas, que se emplea en el sentido genérico e indiferente de la “societas”, referido simultáneamente a una y otra realidad, como conjunto de los que pertenecen a una sociedad meramente terrena o bien ptrascendente. Lo cual no es imprecisión del concepto, sino necesaria consecuencia de la actitud metafísica. De este modo, la realidad humana se implica y entrelaza con la más alta realidad: está como prendida en ella, sin posible desligamiento.
Distingue San Agustín dos civitates . Son ambas modos de vivir irreductibles, pero indesligables: los distingue el vivir secundum Deum y secundum hominem (4), secundum carnem y secundum Spiritum (5), y dos modos de amor: amor Dei – amor sui. Las distingue además, el estar una “praedestinata regnare cum Deo”, la otra “aeternum supplicium subire cum diabolo” (6).
Pero si se mira a la relación entre las dos ciudades, se percibe que la línea que las separa es muy fluida. Una primera lectura de los textos nos enseña que se trata de dos realidades, no históricas, es decir, no empíricamente observables a nivel sociológico o político, sino transempíricas o metahistóricas, captadas solamente por la reflexión del pensador, iluminado por la palabra de Dios. Realidades místicas las llama San Agustín: quas mystice apellamus civitates duas.
La discriminación de mabas ciudades se realizan en la conciencia y en la voluntad de cada hombre (7). Esto es cierto, pero también lo es que San Agustín en muchas ocasiones llama ciudad de Dios a la Iglesia. Y no se puede decir sin más, que la Iglesia no sea una realidad histórica. Por otro lado, hay textos en los que Roma aparece como la ciudad terrena. Escribe Y. Congar : “Hay que poner atención en el carácter complejo y aún ambiguo de la Civitas Dei y la Civitas terrena, que son a la vez, realidades místicas y realidades históricas” (8).
Son fundamentalmente y sin duda alguna, realidades místicas, metahistóricas. Pero, además, la Ciudad de Dios emerge, en la Iglesia, parcial y típicamente, a nivel de observación histórica. El Estado por su lado no es nunca, en San Agustín, una contra-Iglesia, ni la encarnación, ni siquiera parcial, de la ciudad terrena; pero puede ser en ocasiones instrumento de la ciudad terrena, como lo fue la Roma idólatra perseguidora de los cristianos, no por el officium consulendi, sino por la libido dominandi. Por sorprendente que parezca, por lo tanto, no hay en San Agustín una elaboración expresa de las relaciones que deben mediar entre la Iglesia y el Estado. La Ciudad de Dios y la Ciudad Terrena son realidades místicas, que no se identifican con las realidades históricas que son la Iglesia y el Estado.
Lo que se dice de las primeras no puede trasponerse sin más a las segundas. El fin de la Iglesia es ultramundano: busca y procura la pax aeterna en Dios. El fin del Estado es intramundano: buscar y procurar la pax temporales (concordia y bienes terrenos).
Ahora bien, la Iglesia necesita y usa como medio esa pax temporales que asegura el Estado. Y a la vez, ella misma contribuye, formando buenos ciudadanos, a que aumente y prospere el mismo bienestar terreno del Estado. Así podría formularse la ley suprema que ha de regir las relaciones Iglesia-Estado en el pensamiento agustiniano.
Para captar mejor el anacronismo que se comete cuando se atribuye a san Agustín el ideal medieval del orden temporal cristiano, recojamos la tesis de Troeltsch, exacta en este punto. Para San Agustín, el Estado es una realidad que se sitúa fuera de la Iglesia y enfrente a ella. Es verdad que la Iglesia utiliza eventualmente los servicios del Estado, pero es más profundamente verdad todavía que los soporta (tolerat).
La idea de una especie de simbiosis con miras a realizar un programa general de orden temporal cristiano es por principio extraña a las perspectivas del De civitate Dei: la Iglesia es “peregrina” en el mundo, y toda ella está consagrada a lo eterno y celestial.
Sea como fuere, el hecho es que los teólogos carolingios, tomando los conceptos agustinianos de ciudad de Dios-ciudad terrena, los aplicaron indiscriminadamente a las realidades Iglesia-Imperio Romano-Imperio carolingio, conformando todo lo que se dio en llamar “agustinismo político”.
Independientemente que tal elaboración sea extraña al pensamiento agustiniano propiamente dicho, el caso es que tal pensamiento conformó unas estructuras tales que permiten dar el punto de arranque a lo que fue propiamente la instauración del orden temporal cristinao en la Europa medieval, pasando por diversos momentos, claramente distintos entre sí, y no sólo en lo relativo a la aplicación de los principios, sino en lo que se refiere a los principios mismos.
Fundamentándose en las tesis tomadas de San Agustín, la realidad política es un mero reflejo de la trascendencia, sin consistencia autónoma. Dentro de tales coordenadas resulta evidente la imposibilidad de construir una esfera temporal propia, aunque creada por Dios.
El mismo poder temporal será, por lo tanto, reflejo o imagen del único poder verdadero: el asentado en la trascendencia. En el libro V, cap. 27 de la Civitas Dei, dibuja San Agustín al príncipe cristinao: enviado por Dios para el cuidado de la paz en la tierra, todo su obrar cobra sentido “propter charitatem felicitatis aeternae”. Su carácter, más que de soberano es de “primer fiel”, cuyas obligaciones canónicas vienen dadas por la misma Iglesia.
La realidad política no se podrá convertir en realidad substantiva mientras las cosas no empiecen a ser en sí mismas.
Pero esto no sucederá hasta el siglo XIII y será la hazaña de Santo Tomás de Aquino.
Mientras tanto, los pensadores y políticos medievales sacarán la consecuencia de los escritos de San Agustín.
El fenómeno lleva el nombre de “agustinismo político”, en cuya rúbrica se pretende significar la absorción progresiva de la vieja idea de imperio romano por la fuerza creciente de la idea cristiana, hasta la formulación de la doctrina de las dos espadas, doctrina que perderá su vigencia en Santo Tomás.
La perspectiva metafísica de que parten los teólogos imperiales que formulan el agustinismo político, lleva irremediablemente a la inserción del imperio y del poder temporal en la esfera del Corpus Christi.
El ámbito de las dos esferas, la temporal y la espiritual, se cubre hasta identificarse.
Sucede entonces una de estas dos cosas: o la cúspide temporal asume la reacción entera del Corpus Christi, o la asume el poder espiritual.
Caben dentro de estas coordinadas metafísicas alternativas diversas, diferentes constelaciones de fuerzas históricas.
No cabe, empero, el deslinde riguroso de una esfera temporal con plenitud de realidad: La posición oscila desde la posición de Carlomagno y de Otón a la de Gregorio VII e Inocencio III.
En lo profundo, todas estas posiciones son idénticas: lo que cambia es el acento, según se cargue el peso en una u otra cúspide del edificio.
En todos los casos la esfera de lo temporal está absorbida en el Corpus Christi.
La idea imperial de Carlomagno sanciona la íntima fusión de lo temporal y lo espiritual. Todas las funciones del Emperador quedan absorbidas en su misión religiosa. La capitanía del Corpus Christi se une en la voluntad de Carlomagno, y es el imperio escenario en que la Iglesia realiza su obra. El cargo del emperador es sagrado y la consagración imperial simboliza la fusión de ambas esferas. Es auténticamente sacramental, equiparándose el officium del imperio al ministerium canónico.
El fundamento metafísico y religioso de la auctoritas imperial está en Roma. Se llama Carlomagno “supremo señor de la Cristiandad”. Todo esto permitirá luego al Papado, a partir del siglo IX, hacer girar las cosas a su favor. Pero los supuestos seguirán siendo los mismos, aunque será el Papa quien asuma entonces la jefatura del Corpus Christi, en cuya urdimbre espiritual va indisolublemente prendido lo temporal.
Así tenemos esta primera fase de la cristiandad medieval con unas características y principios bien precisos; en ocasiones, algunos autores aún haciendo ecos de la cristiandad dorada del siglo XIII, la hipótesis de que parten es la del agustinismo político pre-tomista, al cual, sin embargo, no se le puede negar el nombre de primera y primitiva cristiandad.
Con Santo Tomás entraremos en una cristiandad nueva, asumiendo principios nuevos, y esto es lo importante, principios distintos a la época anterior.
No se trata de un mero cambio circunstancial y aplicación de un mismo espíritu en distintas coordenadas, sino de un auténtico y nuevo giro conceptual que tendrá como consecuencia la elaboración de una nueva perspectiva.
Sin embargo la cristiandad sigue permaneciendo en un proceso ascensional, si bien distinto, gracias a un factor de unidad del que carecía la polis griega y la urbs romana: el cristianismo.
De la realidad política como reflejo de la realidad trascendente pasamos ahora a la consideración de la realidad política como realidad substantiva, esto es, autónoma y consistente per se.
Su supuesto metafísico es la interpretación del “sí mismo” como natura naturata.
Es la gran hazaña de Santo Tomás.
Como por ensalmo, la realidad toda, las cosas y el mundo humano, adquieren consistencia propia.
Dentro del horizonte cristiano de la creación, la teoría del mundo creado trata ahora de dar razón del “ser” de las criaturas, haciéndose ontología.
El vínculo ontológico entre el Creador y la realidad creada se mantiene intacto, pero se dilata hasta que la criatura se sustantiva y empieza a ser en sí misma. En el orden ontológico, aparece el concepto de individuo como individuación de lo específico, con esta peculiaridad: que lo específico sólo tiene realidad en su individuación.
Paralelamente, en el orden político lo temporal se desglosa de lo espiritual y se constituye en realidad autónoma, dependiente de aquélla, pero substantiva y , por lo tanto, coordinada con ella. Emerge con realidad plenaria el ámbito de las cosas “quae tempore mensurantur”, como dirá Dante lleno de unción tomista (9): “a terrenis spiritualia distincta”: las cosas espirituales son distintas de las terrenas.
Así, este giro en los principios que inspiran la nueva cristiandad de cuño tomista, supone recoger lo anterior, pero matizando aquellos aspectos que parecían más defectusos, con una tendencia ascensional hacia lo mejor.
Tratemos de precisar el sentido de este ingente giro metafísico y su repercusión en lo que más propiamente nos atañe.
Por lo tanto, la realidad social queda anclada en el ser del hombre como persona individual.
El hombre es, por un lado, un ser específico; por otro, individuo. La peculiar trabazón del factor específico e individual en el compuesto humano determina la sociabilidad como estructura originaria del ser del hombre.
Cada uno de los productos de la sociabilidad es en sí mismo substantivo y distinto de los otros, según sea el valor que realice y el bien a que se dirige: familia, civitas, imperium.
Separado del orden más alto de la salvación, se recorta el orden de las cosas temporales. El contenido y la meta de ese orden es el bonum commnune, de carácter temporal, aunque ordenado al fin supremo del hombre.
Entre el bien común y temporal y los valores de salvación hay relación de jerarquía, pero no queda aquélla esfera encerrada en esta.
Junto a la comunidad humana, la Iglesia es rectora y administradora del orden de la salvación y tiene su bonum commune propio: la persona soberana de Dios.
Todas las comunidades terrenas se ordenan a la comunidad superior cuya cabeza es la persona infinitamente valiosa de Dios. En ella tienen todas su origen, y gracias a ella ocupa cada una su puesto en el plan del mundo.
Pero lo decisivo es esto : la realidad política, en cuanto humana, es, naturalmente, realidad creada, pero no es ya simple “reflejo”, sino escala susbstantiva dentro de la creación.
A diferencia de Dios, que es per essentiam, la realidad creada es per participationem, pero es.
La primera causa de la realidad política, como de toda realidad creada es Dios; pero la causa segunda es el hombre y coopera a que tal realidad sea (10), y cada una opera plenariamente en sentido diferente.
De esta suerte, la realidad temporal gana sustantividad propia; dentro de ella la realidad política, y dentro de ésta cada elemento de la realidad tiene también entidad sustantiva y valor propio; de un lado el hombre, de otro, la comunidad (11).
La consecuencia es clara: se dibuja en toda su integridad una esfera “profana”, deslindada de la “espiritual”. Naturaleza y sobrenaturalaza sirven a fines distintos y tienen cada uno su orden propio, aunque entrañablemente trabado.
El poder político, “temporal”, se constituye como poder autónomo: Tanto el poder temporal como el espiritual vienen de Dios. El poder temporal está sometido al espiritual en cuanto Dios le ha sometido a él, es a saber, en las cosas tocantes a la salvación del alma. En tales cosas más se ha de obedecer al poder espiritual que al temporal. En las cosas tocantes al bienestar civil más se ha de obedecer al poder temporal que al espiritual, como el Evangelio de San Mateo dice : “Dad al cesar lo que es del César”. La autoridad política tiene su fundamento en el Derecho natural, no es una derivación de la Iglesia.
Algo más tarde, Dante, polemizando con los curialistas, que han simbolizado los dos poderes en el sol y la luna, con luz propia el espiritual, derivado el otro, lanzará la bella imagen de los dos luminares y definirá su propia tesis de esta guisa: “Sicut ergo dico quod regnum temporale non recipit esse a spirituali, nec virtutem, quae est eius auctoritas nec etiam operationem simpliciter; sed bene ab ea recipit, ut virtuosius operetur per lucem gratia, quam in coelo et in terra benedictio summi pontificis infundit illi” (12). El instrumento dialéctico que en pro de la autonomía de la esfera temporal se resgrime es el del origen divino directo del poder político.
Guste o no guste, Tomás de Aquino será propiamente el que permita dar un paso esencial para el surgimiento del Estado moderno: al considerar la realidad política como realidad substantiva, al no pertenecer a la esfera de lo espiritual, se pone en situación de posibilidad de “pecado original”.
Así como el hombre sólo pudo pecar cuando, con la infusión del alma racional y la subsiguiente libertad pudo pecar, así la realidad temporal, cuando se autopercibió como realidad auténticamente substantiva difícilmente pudo mantener el equilibrio entre el mero naturalismo y el puro sobrenaturalismo y clericalismo.
La distancia entre Dios y el ser creado se dilata tanto que se rompe el vínculo que une al creador con la criatura. El “sí mismo” de las cosas se desliga de su raíz. Santo Tomás es suma serena de equilibrio entre el ser y el concepto.
El paso metafísico definitivo lo dará Ockham. Suceden las cosas de este modo:
Empezará Ockham por variar la imagen de Dios y su posición dentro del universo. Según Santo Tomás, la creación es obra de la voluntad de Dios guiada por su razón absoluta. Entre la ratio y la voluntad divina hay relación de equilibrio. Dicho a manera de fórmula: si Dios quisiera podría hacer el mal, pero no puede quererlo. Ockham acentuará la voluntad frente a la razón. Se introduce así un principio de arbitrariedad en el hacer divino. Entre la potestas absoluta de Dios y las cosas por él creadas, no hay la relación firme de la ratio aeterna.
El nominalismo quebranta también la unidad de la Iglesia. El Corpus Mysticum, dirá Ockham es sólo analogía de un cuerpo real. Paralelamente a lo que acontece en el poder político, el poder espiritual queda referido a la Ecclesia.
El principio de soberanía del pueblo se aplica también a la Iglesia. El poder espiritual queda rebajado al rango de principatus ministrativus. No tiene misión alguna en las cosas seculares.
El poder imperial es solutus legibus positivis. Ningún puente une ya las dos esferas.
La realidad política se erige en realidad autónoma desvinculada del orden de la salvación.
La actitud metafísica y política de Ockham es el giro copernicano hacia una nueva era: el estado moderno.
De todas formas es preciso decir que antes de Ockham nunca se podría haber hablado del Estado moderno; Santo Tomás pondría las bases de la autonomía de ambos órdenes en sinuoso equilibrio; Ockham haría pesar la balanca hacia la radical autonomía y opacidad de los órdenes temporal y espiritual.
Sin Tomás, Ockham hubiese tenido poco que hacer.
En este decurso histórico desde el siglo VIII al XV hubo una auténtica y genuina evolución en los principios que informaron el convivir político animado por el cristianismo.
Tales principios se determinan por la prudencia circunstancial, y lo que llamamos “cristiandad” ha adquirido diversas formas y formulaciones, no es un todo unívoco.
La nueva cristiandad querida por la Iglesia en este siglo es evidentemente distinta que la del siglo XIII, pero igual de auténtica, precisamente porque recibe el impulso ascensional de la naturaleza societaria del hombre transfigurada por el hecho central de la historia humana: la Redención de Cristo.
Siendo así, la sociedad edificada como tal sociedad con el alma cristiana, seguirá abriendo caminos hacia nuevos impulsos, trascendiendo la mera neutralidad del orden político por un lado, y por otro superando la confusión de los órdenes temporal y espiritual en un mismo cuerpo político.
·- ·-· -··· ·· ·-··
1) San Agustín: De Trin. IV,3; Véase también este texto de las confesiones : “Non ergo essen, Deus meus, non omnino Essen, nisi esses in me. An potius non Essen, nisi Essen in te, ex quo omnia, per quem omnia, in quo omnia?” (Confess., I,II)
2) Id, id., IX,2 n.
3) La falta de claridad sobre los supuestos metafísicos es, en buena parte, causa de los infinitos errores de interpretación de la doctrina política agustiniana y de las mil versiones y aún contradictorias a que ha dado lugar. A esta falta de claridad se debe también, sin duda, la grave dificultad hermenéutica tradicional que los intérpretes católicos encuentran para salvar católicamente la famosa tesis agustiniana sobre la predestinación.
4) Civ. D., XV, 1
5) Id., XIV, 4.
6) Civ. D., XV, 1.
7) “Perplexae sunt istae duae civitates in hoc saeculo invicemque permixtae”. Civ. D., I,35.
8) “Civitas Dei” et “Ecclesia” chez Saint Augustin, en Rev Etud August, 3, 1957,2.
9) En De Monarchia
10) Summa Contra gentiles, II, 15;III, 66. S. Th, I,6,1;44,1; 63,3
11) S. Th., II,11; 64,4 ad 3
12) De Monarchia, I..
Revista Arbil nº 62
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Discovering Religious History in the Modern Age
Hans G. Kippenberg
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FROM THE PHILOSOPHY OF RELIGION TO THE HISTORY OF RELIGIONS
SCHOLARS of religion have devoted little attention to the connections between their views of religious history and the philosophy of religion. Hayden White’s comment that “there can be no ‘proper history’ which is not at the same time ‘philosophy of history'”1 can also be applied to religious history, but that is seldom considered today. On the contrary! Religious studies has taken pains to keep the philosophy of religion far away from its field. Nevertheless, there is a great deal of evidence for the assertion that the historiography of religion was also in fact an implicit philosophy of religion. A search for such qualifications soon yields results, coming up with metahistorical assumptions originating in the philosophy of religion. These sorts of connections have been conscientiously noted by Edward E. Evans-Pritchard, Eric J. Sharpe, Jan de Vries, Jan van Baal, Brian Morris, J. Samuel Preus, and Jacques Waardenburg in their histories of the field. Yet, to date, no one has made a serious attempt to apply Hayden White’s comment systematically to research in the field of religious history. But there is every reason to do so. Evidence points to more than simply coincidental and peripheral connections between religious studies as a historical discipline and the philosophy of religion. Perhaps the idea of a history of religions with all its implications can be developed correctly only if we observe it from a broader and longer-term perspective of the philosophy of religion.
The Priority of the Public Good over Private Belief
Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) directly experienced the English revolution that combined two strands: one was a middle-class revolution that demanded private property, the abolition of feudal despotism, and the sovereignty of Parliament; the second was a radical revolution supported by millenarianism and called for both common property and democracy.2 During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, religious wars raged not only in England but also in other parts of Europe. Hobbes did not perceive them as some unique excess, but simply as a return of the state of nature that had prevailed before the formation of governments. In the state of nature, war prevailed–all-out war. Everyone had to fight for his survival. This disastrous condition was ended when men–purely out of fear for their own death–transferred their sovereignty to one single person, or one single assembly, and authorized that agency to act as their representative and end the state of war. This transfer was also rational in itself, even though they were compelled by the fear of violent death. The sole purpose and reason for the state was to force internal peace.
Hobbes saw the religious wars raging all over Europe in his time as the result of a dangerous error on the part of the clergy. It consisted of the assumption that the Church was identical with the Empire of God and that one man or one assembly could represent this empire. The state had to form a counterweight to that. Hobbes’s analysis clearly reveals a royalist position. While serving as a tutor to the noble Cavendish family, he wrote the essay Elements of Law Natural and Politic (1640), in which he supported the unlimited sovereignty of the English king over the revolutionary Parliament.3 Eleven years later in his masterpiece Leviathan, or the Matter, Forme, -&- Power of a CommonWealth Ecclesiastical and Civill (1651), he essentially expanded and deepened his thoughts considerably. The remarkable title contained his basic idea that the state must be a mortal God in order to be able to hold anarchy and civil war in check.4 Ecclesiastical belief had become a source of horrible and excessive violence. Incidentally, recent historical studies agree with Hobbes’s position on this issue. It would be too simple to see religion only as an ideology concealing class struggle, as Friedrich Engels maintained. The absolute nature of belief generates its own dynamic.5 Because the opponents are religious groups and so metaphysical values are involved, the state itself must become God in order to defend the internal peace of the community. Jacob Taubes posited this link between political experience and philosophical reflection: “The seventeenth century is the first period of modern history where we see land. In the constellation of this century, we recognize ourselves and our own problems. Hobbes was aware of this period and experienced it as a thinker.”6
Latent and open civil war can be abolished only if the community has an absolute ruler to whom every citizen owes unquestioned obedience. The boldness of his observation was not lost on Hobbes. Promising unconditional obedience to men is illegitimate. If God’s law conflicts with human law, the believer is commanded to obey God rather than man. Hobbes wanted to dispel this objection with a rigorous interpretation of Scripture. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans (13:1-6) and other Scriptures considered it unlawful not to obey the authorities. There is only one single fundamental and absolutely necessary article of faith in Christianity: “Jesus is the Christ.” All other dogmas are irrelevant for salvation and hence can be stipulated by the state authority as obligatory in accordance with their goal and function of establishing internal peace.
Hobbes devoted a separate chapter to religion in Leviathan. The idea of God as a “Prime Mover” was a thoroughly reasonable assumption.7 Unlike animals, men observed events around them and tried to understand their causes. The acknowledgment of a single omnipotent God originates in the wish to know the causes of all unpredictable events and possibly to influence them. Religion derived from a natural seed: belief in spirits, ignorance of causes, adoration of what is feared, and belief in omens. Over time, this natural seed was developed in different ways by pagan statesmen and Jewish prophets–to produce a peaceful society. For the Jews, the civil regime was part of the Empire of God; for the heathen the cult of the gods was part of the state regime. In both cases, religion served the public welfare of the citizens. Both solutions managed to gain control over the latent conflict between religion and politics and thus successfully put an end to the state of nature. With this explanation, Hobbes moved completely into the context of ancient historiography, or rather ethnography, which considered religion a part of the political nomos of a people. The ancient Jewish historian Josephus had also described the particular nature of Judaism in light of Herodotus’s model.8
Early Christianity’s fundamental distinction between the Kingdom of God and state legislation contained another solution to the ever-lurking conflict between belief in the Kingdom of God and the need for social peace. Jesus Christ taught that His Kingdom was not of this world and required His followers to obey only the laws of the state.9 Thus, He made a fundamental distinction between the Kingdom of God of the next world and the kingdom of state law of this world. Unfortunately, in the course of history, this initial condition did not endure, because of the “unpleasing priests; and those not only amongst Catholiques, but even in that Church that hath presumed most of Reformation.”10 Misinterpretations of Scripture were the main cause of error.
According to Scripture, the Church had no right to demand obedience from citizens. “I have shewn already (in the last Chapter) that the kingdome of Christ is not of this world: therefore neither can his Ministers (unlesse they be Kings,) require obedience in his name.”11 Hobbes’s argumentation amounts to a rigorous separation of public religion from private religion:
There is a Publique, and a Private Worship. Publique, is the Worship that a Common-wealth performeth, as one Person. Private, is that which a Private person exhibiteth. Publique, in respect of the whole Commonwealth, is Free; but in respect of Particular men it is not. Private, is in secret Free; but in the sight of the Multitude, it is never without some Restraint, either from the Lawes, or from the Opinion of men; which is contrary to the nature of Liberty.12
Hobbes’s private religion lacks all independence. As leader of the public religion, the political sovereign decides all questions disputed in the religious wars: what books are canonic, which prophets proclaim the word of God, what is heresy, and so on.13 Only what has been sanctioned publicly by him can claim to be holy and thus binding on all citizens. Hence, the citizen is to practice his private religion only in seclusion. Even conscience did not give him the duty to make a conviction public or to oppose the demands of the ruler.14 Even when a believer is unfairly persecuted by a godless ruler, he is obligated to pay lip service and to dissimulate instead of mounting an open opposition.15 Death for only one article of faith, “Jesus is the Christ,” can qualify as martyrdom.16 Thus Hobbes reached a hypothesis he considered established in the Bible, but which is really in an old heretical tradition:17 only a strictly internal esoteric piety, which values disguise and concealment higher than courageous resistance, is genuinely Christian. The experience of the horrible religious wars had led him to the radical conclusion that making private belief public endangers the political public good.
Hobbes supported this argument with more categorical distinctions between an internal belief, fides, and an external one, confessio, between veritas and auctoritas, between morality and politics. It was important to him to depoliticize religion, which made him the progenitor of a corresponding philosophical tradition.18 For him, “Private worship” is not an authority a citizen can appeal to. Rather it is to make belief politically neutral, and has no independent authority in moral judgments. The historian Reinhart Koselleck has gone into the political context of these observations. In the social and political milieu of absolutism, acts of state and moral sensibilities were separated: auctoritas, non veritas facit legem. The laws governing acts of state could and should be independent from morality. Paradoxically, this separation enabled the development of a civil morality independent from practical political constraints. Among other things, this happened in civil organizations, which had multiplied rapidly in the eighteenth century.19 Yet during the eighteenth century, the cultivation of civil morality in a state run by “Realpolitik” gained public influence. In the debate with absolutism, citizens began to appeal publicly to their conscience and to their own religion of the heart. They even required acts of state to conform to private civil morality. We shall see in Jean-Jacques Rousseau how the private thus became an independent realm of religious sensibilities and moral judgments. But first we must discuss David Hume. Hobbes knew from his own experience that an irrational religion had firm control of men and their history. Hume went further: the history of mankind is a natural history of religion.
The Pendulum of Religious History
Like Hobbes, David Hume (1711-76) knew a proof of God’s existence. Yet this belief based on reason seemed to imply little for the history of religions. To understand that history, the place of religion in human nature had to be determined. In this context, he wanted to rely solely on experience and observation. “As the teaching of man is the only solid basis for other sciences, so the only certain basis we can give this science is inherent in experience and observation.”20 Nevertheless, these are not final authorities either, but are dependent on the laws of cognition; and here, Hume distinguished two categories: impressions that come from objects to the subject (“impressions;” “matters of fact”) and are processed into simple ideas; and secondly, “relations of ideas,” including laws of geometry, algebra, and arithmetic. They are based on assumptions that precede all experience and can be seen as correct only on the basis of intuition. Compared with them, the facts of experience are more precarious. When people link cause and effect, they are really connecting two different impressions. For example, Hume used the connection of heating water with steam to explain that the assumption of a necessary connection between the two does not result from observation itself, but ensues from it: “Necessity is something that exists in the mind, not in the objects.”21
The title of Hume’s The Natural History of Religion (1757) adopts a key concept of his time. Natural history was a program to catch the diversities of facts within chronological parameters.22 In the very first sentence, Hume presents a distinction that was to give the philosophy of religion a special direction and thus marks a watershed: “As every enquiry, which regards religion, is of the utmost importance, there are two questions in particular, which challenge our attention, to wit, that concerning its foundation in reason, and that concerning its origin in human nature.”23 Separating the truth of religion, on the one hand, and its origin in human nature, on the other, posed the problem in a brand new form.24
In A Treatise of Human Nature (1739-40), Hume had previously answered the first question concerning the rationality of religion: “The entire structure of the world reveals an intelligent Author.” Hume considered a proof of God’s existence quite possible: the order of the universe proves the existence of an omnipotent Spirit. In the later Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion (1779) he revealed the same view: the functionalism of the world, analogous to a crafted product–proves the existence of a Deity. His Natural History also alluded to this teleological proof of the existence of God.25
The second question was the subject of the Natural History. The history of religion follows from a law other than that of reason. Actual belief in God could hardly derive from knowledge of the order of the universe, as Deism thought. One of the spokesman of Deism, Herbert of Cherbury (1581-1648), maintained that people came to the view shared by everyone on the basis of rational knowledge: that God exists, that He deserves adoration, that virtuous behavior was a duty, sins were to be avoided, and man was an object of reward and punishment.26 For Hume, on the other hand, “the first ideas of religion arose not from a contemplation of the works of nature, but from a concern with regard to the events of life, and from the incessant hopes and fears, which actuate the human mind.”27 The disturbances of nature, but not her amazing regularity, filled men with the strongest religious feelings. Hence, the resemblance between a belief of reason and historical theism was only external. In fact, they had absolutely nothing in common and had different roots. An earlier letter by Hume, in 1743, indicates why he ruled out the idea that the Deity could be an object of human feelings. Invisible and intangible, the Deity excludes passions and feelings as adequate means for knowing God. All “enthusiasts” are wrong. Even the idea that a prayer could be effective in any way seemed blasphemous to him.28 The actual history of religion is not advanced by rational thoughts, but by irrational fears.
From this vantage point, Hume interpreted what was then known of the ancient history of religions. Fear of the unpredictability of life led people to assume personal powers behind the forces of nature, and they hoped to influence these powers through cults. In fact, the gods are only representations of unknown causes. The initial polytheism soon gave way to a theism that used the fear of believers to concentrate their worship increasingly on a single omnipotent Deity. The resulting theism of the masses shows only “‘an accidental correspondence'” with the philosophical theism of the educated. In truth, it was constructed on irrational principles and was merely superstition. That also explains why theism soon lapsed back to polytheism. That is, the one God of the people had become too remote, and so they worshipped intervening intermediaries. Thus, in the natural history of religions, polytheism and theism alternate in an ebb and flow. Hume’s metaphors of “tides,” “pendulum,” or “oscillation” indicate the conformity to psychological laws that have historically propelled an anxiety-obsessed belief in God.29 The history of belief in God inevitably oscillates back and forth between polytheism and monotheism.
In the second part of his Natural History (Sections 9-14), Hume compared polytheism and theism, particularly examining their moral regulations. Both forms of religion clearly differed regarding persecution or tolerance, courage or obsequiousness, reason or absurdity, doubt or conviction. And here theism came off badly. If believers directed all efforts at gaining the pleasure of their god, they would start persecuting the followers of other gods. Thus, theism entailed intolerance, while polytheism brought tolerance.30 Tolerance among the Dutch and the English was not to be attributed to their beliefs, but to the determination of their governments. Once again, we recognize Hobbes’s old problem. But it finds another solution. Only as an alternative does Hume allow the state to play a role in forcing internal peace. The major argument is historical. The dynamic of the history of religion produces divergent political norms. The internal peace of a community is dependent on the pendulum stroke of religious history. Reason was no longer to be found only in the rational proof of God’s existence. It was also available in a weakened form in the religious history.
The Civilizing of Religion
In France at the same time, Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) was working on a purely moral definition of rational religion. He saw religion not as the expression of fear, but as an intuitive recognition of human obligations. Proud of being from Geneva, the stronghold of Calvinism and a citizen (citoyen) of that community, Rousseau was still imbued with Protestantism even after he converted to Catholicism at the age of sixteen. In 1742, he went to Paris, where he hoped to make his fortune with a musical notation he had invented. An opera made him famous and gave him entry to the circle of the Baron d’Holbach. One day in 1749, on his way to visit Diderot, who was held prisoner in Vincennes, he read in the newspaper a contest question announced by the academy of Dijon: “Has the revival of arts and sciences contributed to the improvement of customs?”31 Even as he read the contest question, he was overcome by a vision that he captured in words twelve years later in a letter:
If ever anything was like a sudden inspiration, it was the emotion that began in me with this reading: suddenly I see my mind blinded by a thousand insights, a plenitude of thoughts surfaced, with such strength and at the same time, in such a muddle that I was thrown into indescribable confusion. . . O my lord, if I could only write a quarter of what I felt and saw under that tree, with what clarity I revealed all the contradictions of our social system, with what force I demonstrated the abuse of our institutions, with what simplicity did I prove that man is good by nature and it is only the institutions that make men evil.32
In 1750 Rousseau submitted to the Academy the work that emerged from this vision, entitled Discours sur les sciences et les arts. Science and courtesy, the jury members read, are ruling men and producing a despicable uniformity: “One incessantly follows customs, never one’s own genius.”33 There was a connection between the revival of the arts and sciences on the one hand and morality on the other, but it worked in reverse: advances in the arts and sciences led to a loss of morality. Yet Rousseau combined this critical answer to the contest question with a hopeful perspective. Man was still thoroughly capable of liberating himself from his institutional deformities. He only had to learn to distinguish his innate abilities from those acquired later. This criticism of culture affected Rousseau’s concept of religion. He consistently distinguished two kinds of religion: one of man and one of the citizen. The religion of man knows no temple, no altar, no rituals, and is limited to the purely internal cult of the Highest God and to the eternal obligations of morality. The religion of the citizen, on the other hand, applies only to one country and prescribes its special gods to him. It has its own dogmas, rituals, and cults.
La profession de foi du Vicaire Savoyard is a magnificent plea for the religion of man. Rousseau included this text, which had already been written in 1758, in Émile . . .. Here he argued against both the “natural religion” of the philosophers and the “revealed religion” of the theologians. With his well-known candor, he denounced the nonsense that true religion could be represented by anyone. Imagine that God really revealed Himself through prophets and had His revelation recorded in books. “Who wrote these books?” asked Rousseau. And answered: “Men.’ And who saw these miracles? ‘Men who attest to them.’ What! Always human testimony? Always men who report to me what other men have reported! So many men between God and me!”34 Such a religion was a matter of geography. The force of the arguments depends on the country in which they are presented.
“In order to judge a religion well, it is necessary not to study it in the books of its sectarians.”35 If you want to make the right choice among the three major religions of Europe (Judaism, Christianity, Islam), you should simply close the Holy Scriptures. History cannot establish any eternal truths. “I regard all the particular religions as so many salutary institutions which prescribe in each country a uniform manner of honoring God by public worship.” But the obligation to obey them did not apply to the dogma of intolerance. “The essential worship is that of the heart.”36 To recognize the true religion, a person needs neither philosophy nor theology. The best teacher is not the judgments of his intellect, but the sensibilities of his heart. “The true duties of religion are independent of the institutions of men.”37 Rousseau saw religion as the strongest social bond connecting people. If Hobbes had political reasons for his great doubt about conscience, for Rousseau, it became an infallible authority that reliably and definitely prescribes the rules of social behavior. “I have only to consult myself about what I want to do. Everything I sense to be good is good; everything I sense to be bad is bad. The best of all casuists is the conscience.”38 There can be no debate about the demands of conscience, for it is an innate principle of justice and virtue, and expresses not judgments but sensibilities. “The forgetting of all religion leads to the forgetting of the duties of man,” says the Profession de Foi.39 Atheists cannot conceivably be good citizens.40
From this concept of a religion of men, in the well-known Chapter Eight of the Contrat Social, “Civil Religion,”41 Rousseau drew the logical conclusion that all political communities must have been legitimated by religion right from the start. Every state had its own gods. The wars it waged were fought on behalf of its gods. This situation changed with Christianity, which put an end to wars between nations and toppled polytheism. But since it separated political from religious loyalties and Church and State posed competing claims for the loyalties of the citizens, the result was an endless chain of civil wars, as Hobbes had correctly seen. In Rousseau’s view, European religious history exists in a permanent dilemma. National religions triggered wars between nations; the universal religion of Christianity incited wars between citizens.
He saw the solution to this problem in a social contract the citizens had to make if they wanted to form a reasonable political community. This contract could be based neither on the religion of men nor on the religion of citizens. The former separates the citizen’s heart from the state; the latter demands war with other nations. The task of the necessary civil religion was to reconcile two different things: to see all men as brothers, and at the same time, to love the fatherland. The sovereign must stipulate a civil religion for the citizens and thus make “sentiments of sociability” obligatory for everyone. The positive propositions of this religion were to be the existence of a Deity; a future life; reward for the righteous; punishment for evildoers; the sanctity of the social contract and the laws. “Its negative dogmas I confine to one, intolerance, which is a part of the cults we have rejected.”42
Hobbes’s trust in the powerful state as a safeguard of the internal peace of a society was no longer available in Rousseau. On the contrary: this price seemed too high for him. The wars waged by the states of Europe against one another indicated that religion urgently needed revision. Only if the political religion was balanced with the universal religion that every man is given in his conscience could it provide the foundation of a genuine civil society.
Rousseau’s argumentation was to give an important impetus to the philosophy of religion because it shaped a discourse of religion that enabled the public acknowledgment of a religion that was identical neither with that of men nor of the state. Civil society had taken a place in the philosophy of religion, as civil religion.
The Public Examination of Private Historic Belief
The thought of Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) continued the approaches of Hume and Rousseau.43 His epistemology worked on the problems Hume posed, and his moral philosophy on those raised by Rousseau. As shown by The Critique of Pure Reason (1781), Kant combined the two. The concept of God epistemologically is a transcendental idea that exceeds every possible experience, and therefore on principle cannot be proved. But that does not lead Kant to conclude that metaphysical ideas are superfluous and dispensable as illusions. That is, what he had expelled from the kingdom of certain knowledge, he allowed to come back in as postulates of ethics in Critique of Practical Reason (1778) and in Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone (1793). Practical reason could also demand acknowledgment from unprovable assertions. Kant listedthree such postulates: that God exists, that the soul is immortal, and that we have free will. Even if these assumptions could not be proved, there are convincing reasons for them. In this reasoning, Kant used an important distinction in his Critique of Pure Reason: between terms that constitute objects and those that have only a regulating function.44 For this purpose, Kant put religion completely within the realm of the Should, which is fundamentally different from Being: “Religion is (subjectively regarded) the recognition of all duties as divine commands.”45
An institutionalized religion is only partly required for attaining moral knowledge. It is reason that decides what is timeless in the historical religion, what is universal in the particular belief, what is common in established teaching, what is unchanging in the ephemeral. Despite all limitations, Kant recognized that a particular religion can achieve a certain preliminary work for the religion of reason. Their relationship is like two concentric circles.46 The historical revelation can include the religion of reason, but the religion of reason cannot include the historical revelation. Although a historical belief has only a particular validity, that does not make it any less useful. It can be a means to the end of the belief of reason. In this respect, Kant talked of “vanguard, “vehicle,” or “organum.” The layman must only be liberated from all ecclesiastical dictates and obey his own reason. The apron strings of the holy tradition then become increasingly unnecessary.47 Where that happens, the particular belief can become the source of a publicly binding morality. Looking at the practical effects of Kant’s postulates, it is clearly no accident that they replicate Christian dogmas. Kant acknowledged Christianity as a sensual vehicle of pure religious belief. However, the vehicle needed the canons of reason to be generally obligatory.48 Ascribing such obligation to it meant succumbing to superstition.
Kant described the procedure of this transformation as a process in the university that was also described as The Conflict of the Faculties. Three departments of the university–theology, law, and medicine–draw their theories from texts prescribed by the government: theology from the Holy Scriptures, jurisprudence from statutory laws, medicine from the medical system. It is up to the philosophy department to examine the particular writings in terms of the basic reason of their truth. It was important to Kant to locate this examination in the university because that was the only way to assure that it took place in public. The quarrel with theology accompanying this examination was inevitable since it was the only means to turn ecclesiastical belief into a reasonable belief and to shape the foundations of a civil morality.
Kant’s argumentation reversed the usual pattern of establishing ethics through religion. Particular religions had to justify themselves in the court of practical reason occupied by philosophers. Since Kant entrusted the examination to philosophy, he gave it competence in public acknowledgment of religion. The examination was to be free of government interests as well. Kant provided nineteenth-century religious discourse with a crucial model, not only with the reversal of religion and ethics. The concept of a philosophical examination of religion was equally effective. It is not surprising that not only Christianity but other religions, too, were also soon subjected to this procedure.
Historical Religions as Educational Powers
Kant had taken the tension between the history and reason of religion so far that it is no accident that an opposite view was developed, whose leading exponent was Johann Gottfried Herder (1744-1803). Herder marks the start of a reevaluation of historical religions, which had received extremely bad grades from Hobbes, Hume, Rousseau, and Kant. Herder was the first of a series of thinkers who displayed good, even brilliant evidence for them. Herder was born in the East Prussian town of Mohrungen and was sent to study medicine in Königsberg in 1762. There, however, he changed his major, enrolled in theology, and attended Kant’s lectures. Kant took a liking to the eighteen-year-old student and allowed him to attend his lectures free of charge. At this time, Herder also became friendly with Johann Georg Hamann (1730-88), the “Magus of the North.” After graduation, he was first a preacher in Riga, then went to France. In 1770, he traveled to Strassburg, where he met Goethe.
Like Rousseau, it was a contest question that led him to organize and write his ideas. In 1769, the Berlin Academy of Science announced the contest question: “Could human beings invent language for themselves, left to their natural abilities?” Anyone with a hypothesis on this could submit it by January 1, 1771. Herder did and won first prize with Essay on the Origin of Languages.49 Ever since the mid-eighteenth century, feelings had run high about the question of where language comes from, whether it was a human invention or a gift of God.50 Christian theologians, led by Johann Peter Süssmilch, opposed the view that language originated in nature (from a humanlike animal).51 According to Süssmilch, . . . the logical perfection of grammar argues unambiguously in favor of its divine origin. Moreover, in human language, there are several symbols that could not have been invented by the human mind. God gave man language to stir and develop his reason.
Like Süssmilch, . . . Herder rejected a rational theory of language, in which words were regarded only as signs of objects and thoughts. Herder noted that the emotional dimension was missing. “The older and the more original languages are, the more the feelings intertwine in the roots of the words.”52 Human speech and thought would not indicate things without also giving them meanings at the same time. But how is “the interweaving of the roots of the words with ideas” to be explained? Unlike Süssmilch, Herder thought that the spirit of metaphor appeared not only in the so-called divine language, Hebrew, but was available in all languages and must therefore come from human inner life. Metaphors originated in the nature of human speech and hearing: not of individuals, but of “the nation” and the “peculiarity of its way of thinking.” With these considerations, Herder granted the sense of hearing a privileged position. In comparison with the cold sense of sight, the perceptions of the ear were distinguished by a special intimacy: words resounded inside the soul.53 However, such words could also degenerate completely and become a mere instrument of signs, thus forfeiting their spirit of metaphor. Only history teaches the full meaning. “The more original a language, the fewer its abstractions and the more numerous its feelings.”54
This suggests conclusions that refute current views of reason. Genuine education cannot be an internal, timeless, universal matter. It was necessarily external, temporary, particular. Herder took on this subject in his Philosophy on the History of Mankind (1774). Languages inscribed a spirit in human views. This appreciation of languages, which led ten years later to a forthright plea for the philosophical comparison of languages,55 followed the rehabilitation of particular religions. That is, they have preserved something that has gotten lost in the cold culture of Europe. From this point of view, Herder devoted himself to the differences between East and West. Didn’t they show something of the impoverishment of European education? “The human mind received the first forms of wisdom and virtue with a simplicity, strength, and majesty that–put bluntly–is absolutely unparalleled in our cold philosophical, European world. And just because we are so incapable of understanding it, feeling it, not to mention enjoying it anymore–we mock, deny and misinterpret! . . . No doubt religion is also part of this, or rather, religion was ‘the element in which all of that lives’ and wove.”56
In Outlines of a Philosophy of the History of Man (1784-85), Herder attacked the current assumption that man had become all that he was by himself. This was a delusion. “Not one of us became a man all by himself.” Reason is not a pure power, independent of senses and organs. Even in terms of his spiritual capacities, man was not autonomous.57 While Rousseau heaped scorn on “tradition,” Herder made it the prerequisite of true education. If an idea is to be conveyed to someone else, it must have the word as a visible sign. This is the only way the invisible can be made visible and past history remain preserved for posterity. This is the true mission of philosophy. “The philosophy of history . . . which follows the chain of tradition is, to speak properly, the true history of mankind, without which all the outward occurrences of this world are but clouds or revolting deformities. . . The chain of improvement alone forms a whole of these ruins, in which human figures indeed vanish, but the spirit of mankind lives and acts immortally.”58
In this “chain of improvement” religion occupies a place of honor, even the religion of savages at the edge of the earth. “Whence is the religion of these people derived? Can these poor creatures have invented their religious worship as a sort of natural theology? Certainly not; for absorbed in labor, they invent nothing, but in all things follow the traditions of their forefathers. . . Here, therefore, tradition has been the propagator of their religion and sacred rites, as of their language and slight degree of civilization.59
Herder had a critical intention in bringing tradition and religion into it. He considered religion as something other than an intellectual exercise, but as an exercise of the human heart and a development of the soul. Since past and foreign religions had preserved human sensibilities intense, Herder ascribed a high status to them. While Herder regarded the history of religion in terms of the education of the subject, he adopted Kant’s idea of a public examination of religion, but gave it a different twist. He saw the contempt for tradition in his time as a result of a seizure of power by the intellect, which was to blame for the mechanization of life and for spiritual impoverishment.60 Awareness of the history of religions could contribute fundamentally to a human culture.
Speeches of Religion as an Individual View of the Universal
Friedrich Schleiermacher’s avowed goal was a reevaluation of positive religion. He was born in Breslau in 1768 and died in Berlin in 1834. Pietism and romanticism, the intensity of emotion and natural experience, clashed and combined in him. Schleiermacher was educated by the Moravian Brethren, but left them and went to Halle to study theology (and philosophy). From 1796 to 1802, he served as the Reformed pastor of the Charité hospital in Berlin. He formed a warm friendship with Henriette Herz, and in her salon he was thrilled and inspired by the intellectual debates that were going on in Berlin at that time. The prevailing thought in those salons was not influenced very much by political hierarchies and social conventions,61 but the transition from the Enlightenment to Romanticism was discussed intensely. Schleiermacher’s work on his book, On Religion: Speeches to its Cultured Despisers, was accompanied by an animated exchange of ideas with Henriette Herz. The following year, he published the Speeches anonymously; it was an enormous success. Although Schleiermacher later rewrote it several times,62 its first version remained the freshest. Schleiermacher left Berlin in 1802 but returned in 1807, married in 1809, and accepted a professorship at the new university in 1810. When he died in 1834, nearly 30,000 people attended his funeral, which gives some indication of his outstanding importance for his fellow citizens.
Schleiermacher began writing at a time when positive religions were scorned and hated by many. The horrible persecutions and bloody wars that had taken place in its name were still fresh in people’s memory. Schleiermacher blamed that on those who, as he put it, had “pulled” religion from deep in the heart into the civic world.63 He himself belonged to a generation that had welcomed criticism of absolutism and clericalism, but that had also experienced the outcome of the political transformation of the new civic morality in the disaster of the French Revolution.64 One who thinks that religions should be taken seriously philosophically, contrary to prevailing opinion, must first correct prejudices about religion. Schleiermacher had also developed a theory of understanding that regarded misunderstanding, and not understanding, as normal. In his hermeneutics, he distinguished two different practices of interpretation: “There is a less rigorous practice of this art which is based on the assumption that understanding occurs as a matter of course. The aim of this practice may be expressed in negative form as: ‘Misunderstanding should be avoided.’ . . . There is a more rigorous practice of the art of interpretation that is based on the assumption that misunderstanding occurs as a matter of course, and so understanding must be willed and sought at every point.”65 Hans-Georg Gadamer considered Schleiermacher’s distinction a unique achievement. For only hermeneutics as the art of avoiding misunderstanding can rise above a pedagogical exercise and turn into a separate method. “Hermeneutics is the art of dealing with the power of misunderstanding.”66
Something of this hermeneutics can also be seen in Schleiermacher’s Speeches. The nature of religion is not given in a naïve way, but must be found behind misunderstood rationalizations. The opinion that religion had its place in metaphysics (transcendental philosophy) and morality was predominant. Schleiermacher demanded from his audience to begin with the clear-cut distinction between our piety and what you call morality.67 Religion, correctly understood, stands beside the realms of thought and behavior as a separate third field. Thus it is also independent of theories and stipulations. Even when God and immortality are doubted, religion does not disappear.68 It must only be sought.
The Speeches present a religion whose center is “the sense and taste for the infinite.” Their source is not God, but the universe. Anyone who wants to have the infinite outside of the finite is deceiving himself, for it is the universe that reveals itself to the person who is completely passive and receptive to it. The universe forms its own beholder and admirer. This revelation happens constantly, and hence there is no hope of pinning it down in myths or theories. Schleier-macher was consistent in recognizing no obligatory representation of religion, which gives his view of “history” its specific meaning. Since there can be no final and obligatory revelation of the infinite, it necessarily manifests itself only in individual variations. This multiplicity of religions is quite different from the multiplicity of churches, for, in principle, experienced religion is remote from and opposed to organized and systematic religion. History documents this endless multiplicity of revelations of the universe and is therefore the highest subject of religion.
Anyone who sets out to study the history of religion experiences a wonderful transformation in himself. “From these wanderings through the whole territory of humanity, pious feeling returns, quickened and educated, into its own Ego, and there finds all the influences that had streamed upon it from the most distant regions You are a compendium of humanity. In a certain sense your single nature embraces all human nature. Your Ego, being multiplied and more clearly outlined, is in all its smallest and swiftest changes immortalized in the manifestations of human nature.”69
The Speeches not only present such a religion, they also represent it. If anything can still represent “religion” today, it is the Speeches. In the last part, Schleiermacher gets into the “Social in religion.” Here he has to explain how a religion can be represented and conveyed, if it cannot be fixed in myth or doctrine, and is present only in strictly individual views of the universe. His own Speeches tacitly had to assume something of that sort.70 Thus Schleiermacher was consistent in developing a theory of the literary form of the “speech,” using a comparison with the competing forms of “book” and “conversation.” In the form of the book, religious communication is robbed of its original life. And a conversation does not suit such a serious subject. Only in the form of the “speech” can religion be communicated. And it wants to be communicated. Because everyone who has experienced the effect of the universe does not want to keep this experience to himself but wants to be a witness for others. To communicate it, he uses the arts: “Hence a person whose heart is full of religion only opens his mouth before an assembly where speech so richly equipped might have manifold working.”71
If we consider Schleiermacher’s concluding reflection on the social aspect of religion, we recognize that he shared the view of his predecessors, Rousseau, Kant, and Herder, that religions are objects of public discussion and examination. Speech will create a common bond of all those who feel moved by the universe. Religion remains both subject and object of public discourse when the individual is considered the implacable final authority of religion.
Different Religions, Different Subjectivities
Schleiermacher’s definition of religion encountered the sharp opposition of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831), who allowed himself the following nasty comment: If religion were based only on the feeling of dependence, the dog would be the best believer.72 The immediacy of a relation was merely a naturalness that still lacked an awareness. From here, Hegel aimed his darts against all Romantics. The unity of nature and mind they glorified was really only the primitive starting point of human history; it was somewhat bestial. Naturally, religion should and must be a matter of feeling. Yet feelings first had to prove their legitimacy. Hegel included this objection in 1822 in a foreword to Hinrich’s Philosophy of Religion:
Religion, like duty and law, shall become and even should become a matter of feeling, and lodge in the heart, as freedom also generally lowers itself into feeling and becomes in man a feeling of freedom. But it is entirely something else whether such content, created out of feeling, as God, truth, and freedom, whether such objects should have feeling for their justification; or whether, conversely, such objective content, valid in and for itself, comes to lodge in the heart and in feeling, and feelings, rather, come to receive their content as well as their determination, rectification, and justification from this objective content.73
Hegel’s rejection of feeling as the basis of religion had serious consequences for his philosophical examination of religions. In natural religions, the spiritual and the natural coincide. But this does not apply to all religions. Thus, Hegel could see positive religions as a potential object of rational cognition, as he showed in his Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion, which are based on the assumption that immediacy is natural, but awareness is exaltation above nature. Such an exaltation is characteristic of religions–aside from natural religions. Religions documented a discord of awareness, since they themselves distinguished the true from the natural, and spirit from nature–even if, as Hegel rigorously noted, they were not always consistent. Thus Hegel made the exaltation of the spirit over the natural into a point of view that can produce rational cognition from the study of the history of religion.74
Hegel combined awareness with mediation. Thus he both continued Kant’s thought and turned against him at the same time. Kant had determined that the pure categories of thought were independent of the things in themselves. Hegel found this claim weak and barren. Doesn’t the external always bear the stamp of the internal, and vice-versa? The way of mediating reality by notions is itself historically determined. Thus he was especially interested in the question: Where and how in human history does consciousness of a difference between subject and object, between spirit and nature emerge? In natural religions, it is not yet available. But what about the religions of Asia?
Hegel’s picture of India was initially determined by his rejection of Romanticism. The unity of spirit and nature that Schlegel saw as the highest stage of development as exemplified in India, Hegel considered the lowest rung. In 1824, when Hegel acquired more precise knowledge about Indian philosophy, he revised and refined his judgment.75 In 1823, Henry Thomas Colebrooke had delivered lectures entitled On the Philosophy of the Hindus to the Royal Asiatic Society of London, which were published a year later. After reading them, Hegel promptly expanded his Lectures on the History of Philosophy with a chapter on “Oriental Philosophy,”76 correcting the opinion that the Orientals lived in unity with nature, as a superficial and distorted impression. For, as Hegel substantiated his charge, this genuine unity essentially contains the element of the negation of nature, as it is immediate. The spiritual is one with nature only when being in itself, and at the same time posing the natural as negative.77 Indian philosophy was very familiar with the difference between spirit and nature, since only on this assumption could the spiritual negate the natural. According to the Indian view, the individual gains his freedom from the natural only by losing himself in contemplation in the general substance, from which the universe emerged. The highest thing in religion as in philosophy is that man as consciousness makes himself identical with substance: through devotion, sacrifice, strict atonement–and through philosophy, through occupation with pure thought.78 Because of Colebrooke’s lectures, Hegel realized that Indian thought knew the difference between subject and object, spirit and nature, and consequently deserved its own chapter in the history of philosophy. But this difference had other practical results than in the Greek-Christian religion: the individual obtained his value not by confronting nature as subject, but by vanishing into substance. That was its defect.79
As soon as Hegel had carried out this revision, another opportunity appeared for refining his philosophical reconstruction of Indian religion. In 1825 and 1826, Wilhelm von Humboldt had delivered two lectures on the much admired Bhagavad Gita at the Royal Academy of Science in Berlin. In 1827, Hegel published a comprehensive review, focusing on a contradiction. The Bhagavad Gita inculcates something that was ruled out: that is, it calls for both the performance of dutiful works and the renunciation of works. The demand for action appears repeatedly in Krishna’s words on Ardshuna alongside the opposite demand for contemplation without action. Hegel’s interpretation fixed on this contradiction. It could not be solved in Indian thinking, he judged. “The solution is impossible because the most sublime in Indian mentality, the absolute Being, Brahman, is as such without qualities. . . In this separation of the universal and the concrete both are spiritless–that as empty Oneness, this as unfree manifold; man as bound to this is only subject to life’s law of nature; elevating himself to that extreme, he is on the escape and in a state of negating all concrete, spiritual activity.”80
As a philosopher, Hegel indicated one essential feature of Indian religion with special emphasis: the divine substance knows no internal differentiation. Accordingly, the released individual loses himself in contemplation and becomes one with the metaphysical substance. This substance does not emerge as a denial of the world and does not constitute a new autonomous subject–as in Christian religion. Thus, the possibility of a tension with the world is not realized. Renunciation only affects acts conditioned by desire, and not obligatory acts. Nor does this encroach on the existing caste system. The individual released from the world is outside the world, not in it, as in Christianity.
Developing two countermodels of denial of the world by comparing Indian religion with Christianity, Hegel created an unprecedented description of religions. For Hegel, God, ethics, and salvation remained immutable ideas. A glance at the Romantics shows clearly what was new in his view. While they found Indian “worship” a confirmation that man is in unity with nature, Hegel regarded “worship” as a “conception” that creates a form of awareness in which man knows himself as one with the divine substance. The facts of the case are the same. But Hegel perceived “idea” where the Romantics saw only “feeling.” Therefore, he viewed religion as the area of development of the subject and the epitome of his experience.
Such a philosophical consideration also required the kind of elements that were remote from Kant’s examination of the regulative function of religions. Hegel reconstructed philosophical religion from the history of religions: from the ideas of God, the conception of the soul, religious practice, and so on. These are the independent conceptions of truth Hegel observed. For from these concepts, the position of the individual in the division between spirit and nature can be perceived. Philosophy can think religion, but not replace it.81 The history of religion documents the process of developing consciousness of the subject.
The Option of Renouncing the World
With Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860), philosophy turned even more decisively to the history of religions than Hegel had done. Schopen-hauer was an outsider, who received no recognition for quite some time. He was not appointed to a university professorship, even though he received his doctorate in 1813 in Jena and qualified as a university professor in Berlin in 1820. In Dresden, he wrote his major work, The World As Will and Representation in 1818, which he expanded to a second volume in 1844. Since no one wanted to read his books, they were pulped. Only at the age of sixty-six did he achieve recognition.82
From the start, Schopenhauer placed an extraordinary emphasis on the sources of the history of religion. In the preface to the first volume of his magnum opus, in 1818, he acknowledged: “Kant’s philosophy . . . is the only one with which a thorough acquaintance is positively assumed in what is to be here discussed. But if in addition to this the reader has dwelt for a while in the school of the divine Plato, he will be the better prepared to hear me, and the more susceptible to what I say. But if he has shared in the benefits of the Vedas . . . if, I say, the reader has also already received and assimilated the divine inspiration of ancient Indian wisdom, then he is best of all prepared to hear what I have to say to him.” The new century had a special advantage: the Upanishads gave access to the Vedas. Schopenhauer expected “that the influence of Sanskrit literature will penetrate no less deeply than did the revival of Greek literature in the fifteenth century.”83
In a debate with Kant, Schopenhauer delineated his basic position. Kant’s “logical I,” which gives our views and thoughts unity and is the permanent bearer of all our ideas, cannot itself be conditioned by awareness. Something else must assume it. “This, I say, is the will.”84 Thereupon, Schopenhauer took a first step: from thinking to willing. The will to live as a practical relationship to the world presupposes the subject-object differentiation. The possibility of knowing the world is formed and conditioned by the will to live. This origin does not ennoble the world; it owes its existence ultimately to a blind, insatiable urge of will. Thus, it is wrong to call it the best of all possible worlds, as Leibniz did. It is “the worst of all possible worlds.”85 Yet, there is an escape from this world: the renunciation of will. The pivot and crux of this operation is the process of individuation. The princi-pum individuationis is the source of all hatred and grief. When the person sees through these, he can lift the veil of Maya, the hocus-pocus of illusion, all by himself. Thus the egotistical difference between one’s own self and the Other fades. Then, discovery of the whole, of the nature of the Things-in-Itself becomes the Quietiv.86 Schopenhauer calls this possibility “asceticism.” It is to be found not only in reports of Indian religiosity, but also in German mysticism. Ultimately, it is also encountered in acts. Thus, the lives of saints can be more instructive for philosophers than philosophical treatises. But the ethics of religions can also contribute to closer knowledge. Christianity knows asceticism when it demands self-denial, although this demand is obscured by the Jewish part of Christianity. If that is eliminated, the same thing that is portrayed more fully and vividly in the ancient Sanskrit works is found. The Hindu ethic shows a willingness for voluntary death which is quite foreign to us, as for example when Hindus throw themselves under the wheels of the juggernaut. What has survived as a practice for so long among so many millions of peoples, while imposing the most difficult sacrifice, cannot be an arbitrary whim, but rather must have its basis in the nature of mankind.87 Moreover, there is also the experience of horror that is triggered by conversion. The story of the conversion of Raimund Lullius is relevant here. He expected the fulfillment of all his wishes when a beautiful woman he had been courting for a long time summoned him to her room, at which time she opened her blouse and showed him her horrible bosom eaten by cancer. From this moment on, as if he had seen hell, he converted.88 But that was only the second best way.
In the complementary second volume of 1844, Schopenhauer raised the status of the history of religion even more with regard to the denial of the will to live. In accordance with the origin of cognition from the will, which was demonstrated in the first volume, all religions at the peak of mysticism and mystery end in darkness and veils. If the Jewish Bible is taken out of Christianity and the true Christianity of the Gnostics is followed, then Christianity belongs to the ancient, true, and sublime faith of mankind. This faith stands in contrast to the false, shallow, and pernicious optimism that manifests itself in Greek paganism, Judaism, and Islam.89 There is Indian blood in the body of Christianity that supports its constant tendency to get rid of Judaism. Even Protestantism knows the ascetic spirit of genuine Christianity. For Schopenhauer, the concurrence of this renunciation of the world despite extreme differences in times, countries, and religions was no coincidence. If contemporaries saw it as a stumbling block, he, on the other hand, saw it as a proof of its sole accuracy and truth.90
The proximity to and distance from Hegel cannot be ignored. Schopenhauer condemned the miserable Hegelism, that school of dullness, that center of stupidity and ignorance, that mind-destroying, spurious wisdom.91 Honesty, however, prompted him to say that he interpreted the Indian sources from the same point of view as his opponent Hegel. But what Hegel considered their defect, Schopen-hauer saw as their superiority. Thus he turned a principle of subjectivity, which was correct for Hegel only in terms of universal history, into a relevant option: the denial of individuation. But in the process, the history of religions obtained a declarative value that was more existential than in the thought of previous philosophers. “What the faculty of reason is to the individual, history is to the human race. By virtue of this faculty, man is not like the animal, restricted to the narrow present of perception, but knows also the incomparably more extended past with which it is connected, and out of which it has emerged. But only in this way does he have a proper understanding of the present itself, and can he draw conclusions as to the future.”92
From the History of Religion to Rational Religion and Back
A survey of the positions on the history of religions adopted in philosophy from Hobbes to Schopenhauer allows us to talk of a reversal of the starting position. At first there was a rigorous separation of historical religions from rational religion. At the end, the history of religion serves as a source of a reason superior to enlightened thought. Hobbes’s own experience was clear proof to him that the more private and apolitical religions were, the more rational they were. Making private beliefs public endangered the social welfare of everyone. Thus, his measure of its rationality was whether it vanquished civil war, especially the horrible wars of religion. For Hume, on the other hand, private religion per se was no longer suspicious, and the state-prescribed religion per se was not rational. The history of religions was subject to a psychological law that made men vacillate back and forth in their history between polytheism and monotheism, tolerance and intolerance. Different types of religions generated divergent public norms. The internal peace of a community depended on whether the pendulum of the history of religion went toward polytheism. Hume assigned the state only the role of a stand-in to compel internal peace.
Separating a rational religion from historical religions posed new difficulties. How could the menacing political function of the church be compatible with the equally obvious social and moral function of a “religion of the heart”? How could the middle class throw off their subordination to historical dogmas and institutions without destroying the morality of the community? Rousseau and Kant worked on this problem and developed a model of behavior of rational religion that was different from that of existing religion. Both thinkers saw the possibility of reforming private religious convictions by means of a public examination and government regulation, thus making them the basis of public morality. Private belief must become public; public requirement of reason must become private. Georg Simmel’s phrase is well suited to Kant’s and Rousseau’s philosophy of religion.
Even before the collapse of the political enlightenment in the French Revolution, there was opposition to such a primarily social and moral view of religion. Religions were much more comprehensive worldviews that molded the thought, behavior, and emotions of human beings. They were a compendium of human culture, either of nations (Herder) or individuals (Schleiermacher). But there was a price for this reevaluation of religions: the Romantic idealization of a unity of spirit and nature. For Hegel, that price was too high. Besides, closer study of Indian religiosity revealed that India had been incorrectly cited as a model for such a unity. Hegel saw the process of a split between spirit and nature, subject and object at work in the great religions. Hence philosophy can identify different structures of subjectivity in the history of religion. While India wanted to overcome the tension between spirit and nature through contemplation, the West cultivated it. What Hegel described as historically universal, Schopenhauer made into individual options, and turned it upside down. India is a good example of how we too can rid ourselves of the false claim to subjectivity.
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Diplomatarium of the Crusader Kingdom of Valencia:
The Registered Charters of Its Conqueror, Jaume I, 1257-1276. III: Transition in Crusader Valencia: Years of Triumph, Years of War, 1264-1270
Robert I. Burns, S. J.
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The years 1265-1270 were a period of triumph for Jaume the Conqueror, ruler of the variegated Arago-Catalan realms of medieval Mediterranean Spain. They represent indeed the apogee of his long career as warrior and world figure. As in a tragedy, these years also had an element of hubris, and culminated in his humiliation before all Christendom. The period began in prosperity and commercial expansion. Now a hero of Christendom, Jaume was preparing a fleet and an army from February through December 1264, to attack Granada and help Castile defend itself. His embassies were busy at Egypt, Tunis, and Hohenstaufen Sicily, with return embassies from as far away as Armenia. Armed with a personal bull of crusade, King Jaume sent his armies into Murcia in 1265, and appeared in person on that “frontaria” of Valencia near year’s end to begin in earnest the last of his three great conquests against Islam. 1266 was a year of military glory on land and sea, of consolidation and renewed settlement on the frontier, and of heady negotiations with Savoy and Navarre. 1267 saw his interchange of embassies with the Mongol Khan Abaqa, looking for joint action against Islam, an alliance which the restored Byzantine empire would join by the start of 1269. Baronial tumult, and a struggle to gain Urgel for the crown, were minor distractions.
All was in readiness now for Jaume’s grand project in 1269, to lead a fleet and army “in Turquiam” and other “overseas” regions, to rescue the Holy Land as the champion and the last hope of Christendom there. The wreckage of his crusade that year by storm at sea, and the emotional storms of romantic love and shame (played out to the comment of troubadour and pope), constitute together one of the best-known episodes of the king’s career. He withdrew to brood for the better part of a year, much of it in Valencia where his spirits eventually revived. By fall of 1270, he was again gathering feudal hosts for mysterious “magna negocia.” Though aborted, that project ends one stage of his public life and introduces another.
During all this time, though Jaume seldom visited Valencia and seems to have neglected it, that favored kingdom was never far from his mind or projects. The Murcian conquest was largely motivated by fear of losing Valencia to Islam, as Jaume himself said; and it was accompanied by serious warfare against Mudejar rebels within Valencia. The liaison with his mistress Berenguera Alfons in this period was formalized or financed by Valencian castles as a species of dowry. Valencian loans and taxes made possible the Murcian war, and contributed strongly to support the Holy Land project. Though the Valencian Mudejar rebellion particularly preoccupied Jaume, its very existence has all but escaped modern historians. The reason is partly because the king, made wiser by his earlier struggle with Valencian Mudejar rebellions in the period 1247 to 1258, took timely action to contain the conflagration. As with that earlier era of warfare, however, this rebellion also left echoes in the crown registers.1
It will be useful to survey in a general way the Valencian themes of Jaume’s registers during those halcyon years. Some of those themes relate to the wider activities of the king; some of them are merely local; and many of them are representative of processes or events otherwise not well documented. In short, the documents are random views of the conquered kingdom of Valencia during a period of intense consolidation. Their unity is artificial, in that each volume of this project arbitrarily covers each 500 documents in sequence. The present set, from 1264 to 1270, can be organized to frame several kinds of “space” in which the Christian colonizers lived: the physical geography, the human geography both political and economic, the juridical, the religious, the military and the fiscal. The documents also frame the Jewish and Muslim spaces, and chart the Murcian war. As the story is told, document numbers in parentheses will direct the reader to pertinent charters in the present volume. My numbers here in parentheses do not coincide with those of the well-known catalog of Jaume’s Valencian documents by J.E. Martínez Ferrando, because many additional charters have been inserted.
REDEFININGTHE PHYSICAL SPACE
The physical space can be seen in the grants of castle-town units, of farms and shops and villages, and in the random appearance of a tower (851), a barbican (937), a small opening in the town wall (937), a plaza (692, 899), the king’s palace at Valencia city (947), and town gates (635). The king and prince continually improved and reorganized this space: establishing or moving markets and fairs (556, 635, 692, 730, 925), rerouting or protecting roads (556, 637, 881), mandating improvements on marshland near the Al-bufera lagoon (737), bringing in settlers (907), moving a population inside its castle (824), ordering extensive rebuilding on the walls and towers of Sumacárcer (664), diverting the taxes of Ares de Alpuente for three years to finance public works there (870), building an alcazar near the main tower of Jijona (775), pulling down a castle (756), doing “work on the tower of Biar” (558), establishing a large hunting preserve (980), and at Pego paying for a terrace roof, a set of keys, and carpentry. When the queen’s grant of a farm adversely threatened the Vall de Seta, the king exchanged it for land elsewhere.
The most impressive single change in the physical landscape during these five years was the construction of the Alcira irrigation network then going on, and the mass distribution of properties along its length. One out of every 25 documents in this series concerns that project. The crown appointed Borràs de Montornés for life to administer this “Alcira canal We are now causing to be built” as irrigation superintendent (cequiarius maior), at an annual salary of 500 sous (933). The many land grants often required a ten-year residency before resale and some required that at least a son or daughter take up personal residence (890, 939). One such grant went the woman Maria and her daughter Dulça (988). In a general confirmation in 1269 of all grants held by Valencia city residents anywhere in the new kingdom, the Alcira region was excluded as a special situation (950). The king did authorize Arnau de Romaní, bailiff of Valencia city and Játiva, to confirm those Alcira properties already granted and also to distribute “what remains” there in the king’s name and “for Our advantage” (948). The outpouring of grants here ran from April 1268 to June 1269, and varied from 4 Valencian jovates through 6 and 10 to 12.
Grants continued elsewhere during the five-year period, at Morella for example (507), Corbera, Calpe (548), Játiva (751, 892, 894), and the Moncada canal (564). License was issued to one settler to purchase up to 6,000 sous of property (628), to another for 3000 (892), and to another for 2,000 (777). One got a hill (586, 756), one a “masada” or farm complex (991), and one the place of Palma (585). Waivers were occasionally given to allow knights to alienate or exchange their properties (946, 628); and in June 1269 the king ordered notaries of Valencia city to omit the clause “except to knights” from land acquisitions anywhere in the kingdom, keeping however the similar clause restricting clerics (946).
This was a second or later wave of grants and purchases, however, and seems to lack the enthusiasm and diffusion of the earlier phases of the land transfer in the kingdom. We do catch glimpses of the local surveyor-distributors (552), of complaints being redressed (827, a shortchanged widow), of confusion when a grant-charter of 1261 was lost and must be revalidated (886), and of purchase rituals such as “a sign, the penny of God” (560). The general confirmation of all grants to date in the kingdom, just seen for Valencia city residents (950) was extended also to Murviedro’s residents (953), Játiva’s (959), and doubtless to other towns not formally registered here. Many beneficiaries of grants were from the king’s household, and that class of owner may well predominate in these registers. If so, the records may tell us more about king and court than about the general patterns of settlement. And this entire activity reshaped and transformed the Islamic contexts of the majority subject Muslims, inventing a local Christendom in their place.
THE HUMAN GEOGRAPHY
Grants of property, though defining a physical context, also introduce the human space. The political component or frame for that space is indicated by the proliferating crown and municipal officials, notably by the bailiffs who will appear again below in their guise as tax-farmers and castellans. Not only the king but his heir Prince Pere as lieutenant in Valencia issued this flood of charters. A document of April 1267 committed “the care of the kingdom of Valencia” to an illegitimate son of the king Pere Ferran(dis), soon to be lord of Híjar in Aragon, as “Our procurator or lieutenant.” As with similar announcements, this carried as addressees the hierarchical list of “bailiffs, justiciars, castellans (alcaits), knights [and municipal] councils” (721). One document guaranteed free election of the local justiciar (761); another detailed his election procedure at Morella (930); another went to the justiciar of Castalla (936). The general bailiff below the Júcar River appears (571), two lieutenants to the bailiff of Gandía (968), and the bailiff of Alcira (996, 999), along with a number of others. The sobrejunter or police functionary above the Júcar is appointed for life with the customary salary (732), while another purchases the office below the Júcar (960). The mostassaf in charge of market and general order is in three charters (515, 610, 765), and the Liria town council in one (840).
The crown executive agents called porters turn up in a half-dozen places (559, 585, 676, 725, 841, 891, 963) as do those of Prince Jaume (907) and of the king’s mistress Berenguera (890). The king appoints Ramon de Montcada for life “in the office of majordomo of the kingdom of Valencia” to serve whenever the king is in that kingdom, the actual work to be done by a sub-appointee of Montcada’s choice (602). The corresponding office for Prince Pere’s wife Constança is briefly seen. Other members of the king’s household in these records include his chief cook (538, 567), falconer (757, 916), butcher (545), physician (alfaquim, 534), and “Our crossbowman” (four times, 553, 606, 733, 978). The expenses for the household of Prince Pere’s wife are in one document (836), for her court baker in another (623). The office of ransomer in contact with Muslims is held by a citizen of Valencia for life as exea (Arabic shz’a)2, but only from Valencia city down to Murcia, “to bring out captives and lead convoy[s] of them” by himself or through others; in 1267 his son succeeds to this office but only when his father should die (740).
More immediate to the daily concerns of the populace are the monopolies and public utilities which frame their daily activities. The charters say much about the saltworks of the Albufera, Arcos, Calpe, Játiva and Peñíscola–including the salt-warehouse (almodí, 662), the officers to search houses and arrest cheaters (505), the boundaries of sale and procedures (531), and the farming of profits. We also see public ovens distributed or operating (643, 661, 682, 849), the oil or olive press (519, 865), the tavern (774), the baths (538, 757, and in 918 a widow building a new baths), public dyeworks (517, 580), a grain-warehouse (almodí, 827), and even a wine-press 25 feet by 7 (887). Meat butcheries or markets receive much attention (519, 536, 545, 638, 786, 791, 952, 962, 975), the meat concession at Gandía particularly detailing “the four stalls for cutting and selling the meat of rams, and two for cutting and selling the meat of he-goats, and two workshops for the maintenance of those stalls,” each stall being sixteen palms wide by eight deep with a customers’ gallery of fourteen palms in front of each (853). Mills singly or plural appear in at least sixteen documents, including their dams, watercourses, paraphernalia, and annual rents to the crown in grain or money. Six charters notice the fonduk or caravanserai, one of which is becoming a hospital (660); another stands in Santa Caterina’s parish in Valencia city “with its workshops, lofts [algorfes]3 and appurtenances” (810).
Commercial life is on display, notably in the many concessions or regulations of shops (e.g. 899), individually or in groups. Sometimes the commercial sections of a city appear: of the shoe merchants, the leather merchants, and the butchers (791), as well as the ship fitters (516) and the rope makers (516). The cloth merchants receive extended attention, especially their street in Valencia city including the names of eight merchants (942). At one point the cathedral canon Mateu Babot receives from the crown 700 sous to be collected from that street, to be assigned by the bailiff “on specific workshops” for cloth (979). Other industries or crafts include the wine trade, as visible in tax audits (519), in provisions for transport to eight towns (596), in restrictions on alien wine at Valencia city (762), in gross purchases (617, 707, 708), and even in wineskins (854).
A privilege of 1268 allows anyone of the Valencian kingdom to cut timber at any place in the kingdom, to float it down the Turia and Júcar rivers or move it by land without tax or fee (748). Local wood for burning in ovens appears in tax records here (865, 869). Long distance merchants turn up in letters of protection (guiatges), including a number of Genoese (642, 709, 926, 945, cf. 983) and Narbonnese (943, 944). And rural life is well represented in the many lists of farm produce taxed–from figs, oranges, pomegranates, and cheese, to garlic, flax, several kinds of grain, fodder, and cheese. Dovecotes and beehives are part of that scene (e.g. 516, 517, 865 to 869, 873). Sheep domestic (621) and transhumant (725) appear, as do fish (638) and eels (621). Some of the products are also in lists of provisions for the Murcia campaign or for the subsistence of prince or king while in Valencia.
THE FISCAL SPACE
Of the several human “spaces” occupied by the settlers, an inescapable and ubiquitous framework consisted of taxes and fees. These constitute the most numerous and prominent of all the registered documents of this period, especially when grants or regulations are factored in, whose purpose was to maximize crown profits. The whole set of charters may be seen as primarily fiscal, with other business as incidental; or they may be seen as a variety of crown affairs and business, in which the aspect of profit was routinely kept in mind. From either vantage, the most powerful figures in the landscape were two financiers now almost effectively lost to history, the knight Arnau de Romaní and Adam de Paterna. Romaní has a role in a dozen documents, Paterna in two dozen. Adam today is so obscure that Ferran Soldevila, a master of the archival resources of this period, bizarrely conjectured that he must have been a wealthy Jew. Most collectors and investors in the Valencian kingdom’s upper echelons, however, as well as at those local levels still visible in these documents, were Christians. Jews played a modest role, with Vives Ibn Vives and Astruc Jacob Shashón the only major players at the highest level in this small span of years.
Both King Jaume and Prince Pere seem to have lived their lives on credit, soliciting a myriad of loans and provisions, then assigning these on present or future revenues. Some bailiff-collectors worked on salary, but even then within a confusion of loans to be repaid and obligations (the violari or pension) encumbering the resources. In 1266 Arnau de Romaní was holding the bailiate of Valencia city to recover 40,000 sous the crown owed him; King Jaume next transferred the post to Prince Pere to repay him a similar loan of 60,000 sous (675). Two men of Montpellier loaned the king 40,000 sous of Melgueil at Alicante, the recovery to come from the minting of money at Montpellier and from the king’s share of ecclesiastical tithes there (711). In one long list Prince Pere named twenty men whose loans to him at Valencia total over 15,000 sous; their claims were added to those already recovering loans from the Albufera, the saltwork, the dyework, and the Jewish market. Each name in this list has appended to it the item sold on credit, such as 50 cafises of barley at 550 sous, 5400 quarters of wine at 820 sous, or a mule (618).
In 1268 Prince Pere and his wife Constança borrowed from Adam de Paterna 25,000 sous (“delivered to Us”) and acknowledged an outstanding debt of some 8,500 sous, for which the royal borrowers pawned to Adam as collateral a crown inset with jewels (750). The previous year Prince Pere had pawned “certain jewels” to a Valencian money-changer for a loan of 450 sous (734). A more convenient pledge could be a village, as with Agres (662), or frequently a castle (573, 646); such a revenue-producing entity seems rather to have been an immediate “assignment” for recovery, despite the rhetoric of collateral. In selling the general revenues of the kingdom to two “citizens of Valencia” for 50,000 sous per year, the prince sent a knight “to swear on his [the prince’s] person” that he would keep his word (689). In one document the king swears on cross and gospels to pay (966); in another the prince does the same but requires from the taxpayers “your plain and simple word, with no kind of proof ” (982).
At the termination of each such contract, the king or prince would hold an audit, which yielded both a charter of clearance or quittance and a multi-page list detailing each category of revenue (517, 518, 683). These allow some conjecture as to local and general income for the crown, and indicate specific resources such as “what you got from the ship that wrecked off Denia” (558). So constant and fluid was this credit operation that, when the prince went off to campaign in Murcia, he left his notary Mateo Babot “blank parchments” on which to draft such instruments of debt (625). To raise money for a local repair or crisis, the crown could exempt those taxpayers, in effect applying their projected taxes to the emergency. To prepare his crusade to the Holy Land in 1269 the king accepted an immediate 50,000 sous from Valencia city but exempted the citizens from taxes for three years (958). He took 12,000 from Játiva in return for three years’ exemption there (957). The king soon canceled his privilege to Valencia city, however, and renegotiated it through its bailiff Arnau de Romaní, who was to provide the crusade with 50,000 sous each year from the following January (981).
THE JURIDICAL SPACE
If finances and profit loomed large from the perspective of the rulers and authorities, as paying such taxes surely did also from the vantage of the less visible settlers, law was more central to the transformation of the human space. Its principles, assumptions, rhetoric, multiplied jurisdictions, and personnel imposed the values and nature of a European society upon the conquered kingdom and helped marginalize its majority Muslim population. The documents of this five-year period are rich in legal formulas, institutions, and insights.
The strains of imposing Roman Law enthusiasms onto a population of diverse custom laws breaks out into the open when King Jaume was forced to issue a “constitution that no jurist, legist, or lawyer should plead” anywhere in “the entire kingdom,” or Roman procedure be admitted or Latin be used, either in the first instance or in appeals. Every local justiciar must swear an oath to that effect on taking office; but Roman Law method and Latin would remain for appeals to the king and in his court (563). The Costum d’España or Forum Hispaniae for castle administration also makes an appearance (646, 929).4 And the great Roman Law jurist Albert de Lavanya, a fugitive from a failed rebellion at Capetian Marseilles, appears in three cases at Murviedro (800). In late 1265 he became chief judge in Valencia during the king’s preoccupation with the Murcian war, for all juridical proceedings, “both original and on appeal” (645).
Several of the cases in these documents have a special interest. For his deceased notary Guillem de Jaca the king drew upon the Emperor Justinian’s code to legitimate four sons and allow them to inherit, despite civil law and the impulses of piety (593). A similar procedure legitimated Esteve de Maldà, whose father does not have “a wife or children born from legitimate wedlock” (896). A major lawsuit involved eight towns in conflict over boundaries in the new kingdom, settled by two Játiva judges and on appeal by the king (880). A notable legal decision of 1269, in a lawsuit between a physician of Játiva and some nearby property-holders, defined the boundaries of any rural Valencian village (alqueria): “in a similar case it was judged that any village of the kingdom of Valencia does not have fixed boundaries except only those boundaries [or areas] which the Saracens of the same village were accustomed to cultivate, returning thence on the same day of their work to that village” (885).
Two nobles contested at court over the town of Culla (541); and the farmers at Burriana went to court to define the procedures for drawing irrigation water in “time of great necessity” from an opening of ten palms in width in a conduit (assut), “for six days and nights every month” under the direction of four overseers specially elected (681). Among criminal cases, the most gruesome was the kidnaping at Alcira of the merchant Dalmau Robert of Montpellier by “the evil” Rodric de Montoro. Dalmau “died from the harsh captivity imposed on him–pulling the teeth from his mouth, and giving him brine to drink, and in many other ways” (787). As always, the crown awarded some pardons, including one to Bernat Sabater in 1264 for “a homicide you committed in Valencia,” conferred “because We consider you necessary on the present campaign [armamentum] that We are ordering made against the Saracens this year, and We want you to go personally” (544). The crown also issued a dozen safeguards or passports (guiatges) to individuals in these years, including one for some merchants of Narbonne applicable even if war were to break out between King Jaume and Amalric I of Narbonne (943, 944).5
Of particular interest is the jail or holding system. In 1265 the king granted “the office of incarceration and jail of Our court of Valencia [city]” for life to the Valencian citizen Pere David, for the customary salary plus two pence from every prisoner every day as board for the maximum legal imprisonment of thirty days (632, 986). The king gave a similar life appointment to Ramon Çayllà in 1269 for Játiva “to keep jailed and in custody all men and women” arrested by the justiciar (883). The para-legal notariate figures prominently throughout in two dozen charters, some as directives (628, 667, 818, 892, 946), others naming these officials for a town (561, 653, 999) or for king, prince, or the prince’s wife Constança (997), and in one case for a five-year term in 1264 as “notary of Our galley that We are causing to be built and armed at Valencia,” to act as do all other notaries on galleys (535).
The last and most important of the human spaces in the new kingdom was the religious, both in its ecclesiastical structures and in its ideological dynamics. The attitudes and values appear largely by indirection or in obiter dicta betraying a pervasive belief-system. In confirming a property whose charter had been lost, but whose most recent holder (a deceased barber of Gandía) had involved it in a dowry, King Jaume explains that “We did not want the soul of Pere to suffer any penalty on account of that” (886). Every charter drafted from these registered documents held a notary’s signum, of course, which was simply an elaborated sacral cross.
Any number of clergy turn up in the folios, such as the prince’s cleric Guillem Torre (654), the rector of the church of Corbera (806), a married layman turned monk (773), the dean of Gandía (672), the archdeacon of Valencia (811, 819, 827), the sacristan of Valencia city’s cathedral (584), a canon (979), and the personnel at the great hospital-shrine of St. Vincent’s (940) along with the lay pensioners there (corrodians) (562, 656, 747, 797). A member of the pope’s household received six jovates on the new Alcira canal (821). The king appointed two lawyers as his special procurators at the papal court in his long contest against Bishop Andreu Albalat of Valencia over crown ownership of a third of the tithe (855). The king also condemned and then pardoned a notary temerarious enough to draft “a disruptive appeal” to the pope on behalf of the clergy of St. Vincent’s (704).
Sacred places in these documents include Sant Bernat of Alcira (821), Sant Feliu at Játiva (885), and (in a tumult of reform by King Jaume) St. Vincent’s (674, 940, 971). A confraternity of furriers (pellissers) was established under the Dominican friars (833); the mendicant Friars of the Sack received properties (881, 972); the Magdalene nuns were protected from anyone fishing within 150 feet upstream or downstream from their mill (594, cf. 767); the Cistercian nuns at the Zaydia former palace of Muslim times received crown support (803, 818, 846); and a Christian convert to Islam, now fled to Granada, was declared “as dead” and his property confiscated (972).
PARALLEL SOCIETIES: VALENCIA’S JEWS
The parallel societies of Muslims and Jews, each occupying its own space and generating its own documents of every category, unwittingly provided yet another context or space for the incoming Christian settlers. Some forty charters, about one in twelve of the whole collection for these years, concern or touch on Jews. Our earliest notice of Morella’s Jewish community, not its establishment but rather a culminating constitution in early 1264, granted themthe “exemptions, privileges, and customs” which “the Valencia [city] aljama has today,” together with a special quarter along the middle of the city’s hillside, a program of tax exemption for five years to attract more Jews there, and the tax obligations thereafter of “other Jews of Our land” (527).
The Jewish section of King Jaume’s chancery, for drafting Arabic documents, makes an appearance (790), as do three of the alfaquim or physician-savant class in the king’s service (534). The estate of one such figure, divided among at least five of his family, left to one son “buildings and vineyards” in Murvedro, a village, more vineyards, buildings at Valencia city, farms at Alcira and Alcanícia, a mill, and buildings at Alcira (534). Among other wealthy servants of the crown in Valencia, such as Astruc of Tortosa (592), Asim Mordecai (682), and Meir (779), Prince Pere’s fiscal right-hand man stands out, Vives Ibn Vives (780-783). His constant loans to the prince were consolidated in one typical receipt of 1268, for over
22,000 sous, as including 150 sous for dogs and doghandlers, 10 sous for wineskins, 174 for a she-mule, and 280 for a horse (equitatura) (854). In another set of accounts, he has supplied the prince with falcons, falcon-handlers, a tunic, a horse, and a he-mule (915). In yet another he has granted properties and other assets for Prince Pere on a general scale to Muslims in the Alfandec valley (993).
A similar tycoon was Astruc Jacob Shashón, seen for example in 1267 overseeing for the king the manufacture of a brigola or gravity-artillery piece with its accoutrements (729), picking up the small expenses of Prince Pere at Burriana (995), and receiving as gifts some mills near Valencia city and for his lifetime half the tithe on all the grains at a village near Morella (706).
The Jewish community at Valencia city is seen in 1269 giving King Jaume 10,000 sous for his overseas crusade, and receiving in turn (as the Christian population had) tax exemption for three years (923). In a long charter the king resolves an intra-aljama dispute over equalizing the tax burdens on the several categories of residents and allowing ostracism, refusal of burial, and other community punishments on those not doing their duty (921). A specialty bazaar “of the Jews of Valencia,” designated by the Arabic term qaysvrza (alqaceria, alchessçeria), appears twice at Valencia city (555, 618). The sumptuary restrictions on women’s clothes are in one charter of exemption (823). More ominously, the Mendicant campaign by the apostate/ convert Friar Pau Crestià to “cleanse” Jewish writings of anti-Christian “blasphemies,” in the wake of the notorious Disputation of Barcelona in 1263, finds its echo on this frontier in early 1264 (533).6 A clear exemplar turns up of that strange ritual by which schoolboy “clerics” threw stones at the gates of the Jewish quarter on Good Friday, which David Nirenberg has recently clarified as dispassionately ludic.7 In this case the king was closing a tower bordering the Jewish cemetery and the castle at Játiva, to restrict the range of the stones (820). Finally, during the early stage of the Murcian war, when the Valencian kingdom was threatened not only by the neo-Muslim Murcia and by Granada but also by rebellion of Valencia’s Mudejar population, “the Jews of Valencia” presented to the crown lieutenant of the kingdom a considerable sum (627).
REBEL MUSLIM SPACE: THE MURCIAN WAR
The story of the other parallel society during these five years or so, the majority Mudejars or subject Muslims, must begin with the agitations of the Murcian war on Valencia’s southern border, and with its reverberations and aftermath within Valencia itself. At the first threat and continuously thereafter, the king undertook widespread garrisoning of his many Valencian castles. Thus in July 1264 he put 30 knights in Cocentaina castle, 20 in Releu, and 6 each in lesser forts, to lead the local defenses “until the war of the king of Castile and the king of Granada is over” (572). Details of the many garrisons, Valencia-built galleys, sea privateers, town militias summoned at places like Játiva, dogs-of-war assigned (“two dogs make one man,” “six dogs make three men” 722), and supplies arranged from Genoese merchants to come by sea, belong rather to a discussion of the war at large than to its Mudejar component. Their multiplication here in the registers must be noted, however, as relevant to that subordinate theme.
A clear echo of a collateral Mudejar rebellion in Valencia comes in an obiter dictum at Castalla, where in June 1269 the crown is redistributing lands “from the properties of Saracens dead or captured at the time of the war of the Saracens just passed.” One such owner was the deceased Muhammad “Alhaxex” (al-Hajjaj?) whose buildings went to Martí Llop de Castellot (935). The most striking single episode of Valencia’s Mudejar war concerned Muhammad ibn Ishaq, the qa’id of Tárbena. Muïammad seems to have succeeded to the leadership role of the earlier exiled rebel al-Azraq. In mid-1264, with crusader troops already in Valencia’s south, the crown confirmed a division of Muïammad’s fief, previously held in common with his brother the qa’id of Castell now deceased. Muïammad kept Tárbena castle, while his nephew Bakrun took over Castell. This action was supported by a separate charter of protection for Muhammad “and your sons” (568, 569). Late that year, the king gave Muïammad as a gift the village of Ayot “in the district of Castell”; and he formally conferred or confirmed to the Muslim “the whole castle entirely of Tárbena” with its districts and villages “forever.” Muhammad was to deduct from the castle’s revenues “a suitable sum for guarding the castle,” and share half the revenues with the king (587, 588). At the same time, Jaume gave Muhammad amnesty “from all civil and criminal” charges because “you instigated and acted against Us” (589). Thus far the documentation seems tentative and discreet, as though the king were conciliating Muhammad as he once conciliated the rebel al-Azraq.
During the actual Murcian campaign, Muhammad fell from grace. The registers describe “an Arabic charter in which are contained the pacts and treaties between the lord king and the qa’id Muhammad, concerning the castles of Tárbena and others held by the said qa’id.” These had been enacted previously, and were now translated. By these agreements Muïammad had lost his castles and was going into exile with his followers; some of his relatives were allowed to remain (790, cf. 795, 827). A safeguard was given to “Muhammad formerly of Tárbena, for himself and all those who are going with him, relatives and household as well as others.” Another safeguard went “to those who are of his family [or clientage], who remain in the kingdom of Valencia” (792).
We learn much of this only because of King Jaume’s passion for Berenguera. Establishing her formally as his royal mistress, and endowing her with Tárbena castle in May 1268, the king noted in passing that Muhammad and Bakrun had surrendered the castles, districts, and villages of Tárbena and Jalón. He recorded here also that “other Saracens” had lost their nearly twenty villages in Jalón valley, each with its district and sub-villages. All these leaders, Jaume says, “have now gone from the kingdom of Valencia” (838, cf. 903, 976). Jaume gave “the castle and town of Polop” with Altea and three villages of Jalón to “the vizier Abiafer [Abu Ja’far?] and your successors” in early 1269. The king was probably rearranging and reconstituting a Mudejar fief here. The grant included tax exemption, but a flat yearly fee of 600 Valencian sous (920).
More general echoes of the war’s strain crop up in various privileges to the Mudejars. Valencia city’s aljama, under the qa’id “Çahat Abinhaia” (Sa`d ibn Hayyan?) in March 1268 received a set of very attractive concessions, including the right to keep workshops functioning on most feast days, and limiting the rights of the city’s Christian inspector (mostassaf ) and justiciar over Muslims. “Any Saracen of whatever place, who wishes to remain in Valencia, can stay and live there and exercise his craft, like the other Saracens of the same morería” (765). The Muslim community at Montesa also received a charter of privileges.
Concentaina’s aljama seems to have diminished during the troubles; in 1269, the king farmed its revenues to a baron and to a functionary of his household, on condition that they so “improve” the situation as to “double the Saracens who inhabit it today.” If they failed to double the numbers there, they were to pay a penalty of 3,000 sous (891). The king also licensed Guillem de Rocafull “to settle twenty households of Saracens” tax-free on his Fortaleny land (858). In the Alfandec area the crown bailiff gave grants to Muslims during these post-war years, so that in January 1270 Prince Pere could make a general approval of all “receipts or charters” given “to whatever Saracens of Alfandec and its districts, of homes and possessions and whatever other things conceded” (993).
In conciliatory spirit also, Jaume promised the Muslims of Domeño district that he would protect them forever, “and keep you in your homes” and “not remove you even for the Lord Pope” (581). Significantly this was a form-letter, sent also to the Muslims at Chulilla, “the castle of Montán,” Liria, Chelva, Tuéjar, and doubtless other Mudejar communities. Jaume similarly promised to keep the Margarida and Llombay Muslims: “neither I nor any of mine will expel or have them expelled from the said castles, towns, and places ever, at any time,” adding that in such expulsion their Christian lord “would suffer great damage” (629). These randomly preserved letters probably reflect a wider panic and royal program. Certainly Jaume contained the troubles of 1264-1266 more successfully than he had those of 1247 or 1258. Whether to secure immediate funds for his war debts or to favor and placate the border Muslims, or both, Jaume made a combination tax-exemption and sale to a number of Muslim communities. Thus in 1268 at Biar he waived a long list of such fees as “alfarda, almagram, the besants, the dyeworks and the fonduk,” so that all crown taxes would be covered by a flat 5,000 besants. Alcalá and Gallinera made a similar arrangement for 2,500 besants (774). And in the post-war years the tax lists sometimes state an assessment and then substitute a lower amount for actual collection. Thus Alfandec was taxed a flat 1,600 besants, a sum immediately reduced to 1,300. In sous, this post-war 4,300 tax contrasts with Al-fandec’s yield in 1265 of 11,000 sous. Similarly Pego’s total tax was reduced from 1,500 besants to 600; Alcira’s from 1,000 to 300; Beniopa’s from 1,500 to 1,000; and Sumacárcel’s from 500 to 130 (990). In the case of Gallinera the Muslims somehow took advantage of the king’s concession, leading him to revoke it “because it had been done by fraud” (743).
Any number of lesser privileges to groups and individuals suggest the same pattern of non-punitive attention. The Cocentaina Muslims won more lenient procedures of criminal law (590). The Quart Muslims had their irrigation methods protected, allowing diversion of water (parada in cequia) into their fields “just as anciently in the time of the Saracens” (799). Among individual gifts, Muhammed ibn Zabr received “houses or a plot for [building] houses” in Chielsa, plus thirty cafisates of land and a lifetime tax exemption, all as “a special favor.” The king’s own reward for such prudence and alertness was not only a relatively quiet Valencia in those turbulent years, but a continued cornucopia of Mudejar wealth by whose credit he could help finance the Murcian war. Thus in 1267 he assigned huge expenses of 78,630 sous, from the Murcian war, largely on Muslim aljamas of the kingdom of Valencia (710).
CAMPAIGN IN MURCIA: A VALENCIAN PERSPECTIVE
Though the Murcian war can be followed with documents from elsewhere in the registers, some thirty documents here (and perhaps fifty if ambiguous loan-charters are counted) afford a Valencian perspective. Almost all of these concern loans and expenses but reveal something of the war’s progress. The principal items may be taken in chronological sequence. In May 1264 Jaume is seen preparing a fleet or an expedition (armamentum) “that We are ordering made against the Saracens this year” (544). By July he is garrisoning castles in Valencia “until the war between the king of Castile and the king of Granada is completely finished” (572). That same month he is encouraging all his subjects in the Valencian kingdom, Catalonia, and Aragon, both Christians and Jews, to loan generously to the Hospitaller castellan of Amposta who “is about to make an expedition with Us, with the largest possible number of knights, against the king of Granada and other enemies of the Christian faith” (574).
In April 1264 the king addressed expenses of over 11,000 sous “in money, clothes, and foodstuffs for the support of Our household, when We went to Murcia” (605). A similar charter took up Prince Pere’s household expenses (612). Three financial episodes in July indicate that the pace of preparations was quickening. One owed Guillem de Castellnou 10,000 Melgorian sous for “service you did and will do in the present army [against the] Saracens” (613). Another spoke of blank charters ready for loan activities (625). The third had the crown lieutenant for Valencia, Ximèn Pere d’Arenós, “present accounts to Us for all the expenses and outlay that you and your knights incurred in Our service during the eleven months you spent on the Valencian frontier [frontaria],” totaling 115,640 sous but after deductions 70,000 (627). In October the king was collecting the crusade tithe from the dioceses of his realms, but also including Pamplona in Navarre and Elne in Occitania (640).
In November a summation for war expenses of 142,250 sous included “the needs of the knights on the frontier” and “the needs of the galleys,” as well as 39,000 sous owed to “the Genoese merchants” (642). For the “labors and immense expenses” by the people of Játiva in “the present war against the Saracens,” the king gave in November a five-year tax exemption; an exception was army service if the king or Prince Pere came personally to lead a raid or expedition (652). A negotiation for clothing for his wife shows Pere conducting siege at Murcia city in February 1266 (663). Later that month the king mandated his lieutenant for the kingdom of Valencia, Ximèn Pere d’Arenós, to arrange repayment to “all men of Aragon, both knights and others” who had loaned money or food “in this Our very great need” (665). An expense account in March by Prince Pere covered “from the day We left Valencia to go to the frontier, up to this day” (670). A few days later King Jaume in concert with Alfonso X of Castile awarded an estate to Peric Matoses, on condition of his transferring to Alfonso’s service “forever” (671). March also brought the homicide pardon, seen above, because of the culprit’s many services on this campaign (673).
An accounting in April included Pere’s return from Alicante to Valencia city, as well as “the money lost in Our service” by the viscount of Castellnou (688). An August instruction noted the expenses made by the bailiff of Játiva (then also castellan of Biar) “for the project of the frontier” (694). January of the new year, 1267, saw a comprehensive audit for stages of travel to and from the war; expenses “of [the king’s] household while We were on the frontier”; for “arming the galleys We caused to be armed by Carròs the lord of Rebollet” at Valencia; and for such items as “wheat for the galleys,” men from the Balearics, and local and Genoese merchants (709, cf. 710). In April the king audited the castellan of Biar for the period from September 1264 to the end of 1265 “by reason of Our frontier of Villena and the war [against the] Saracens” (719). That same month the king settled with Berenguer Arnau d’Anglesola for “the service he did on the frontier of Murcia,” and with the royal bastard Pere Ferran d’Híxar for expenses “on the frontier of Murcia after We withdrew from there” (722).
June brought settlement for the gravity artillery (brigola) ordered for the war (729)8 and the appointment of a new ransomer to negotiate the return of captives (740), both noted above. As late as spring 1268 an occasional document still concerned itself with the war’s cost. In April the son of the king’s secretary Guillem Escrivà was owed 13,200 sous, a part of what “he loaned us when We went to Murcian parts,” as well as a sum he gave Carròs “because of the galleys” armed in Valencia (801). A final charter of May 1268 was arranging repayment to four citizens “for the business of Murcia,” a phrase repeated three times (839). Between documents 610 and 711, over fifteen items seem to concern expenses and provisions of the Murcian war. And the Jews of Valencia, as seen above, had conveyed a large sum in July 1265 through Vives Ibn Vives (627).
Other military notes appear, some general and others probably not unconnected with the war situation. In late 1263 a list of 46 knights by name indicates the vassals owing military service to Prince Pere. Valencia had nine knights, Catalonia three rics homs and ten knights, and Aragon four ricos ombres and twenty knights (513). Some eight castles enter the records as being garrisoned in the first half of 1264, doubtless mere exemplars of a wider movement (520, 547, 551, 553, 558, 559, 577, 579; some of these are within audited general accounts). Double watches were ordered at Almirra, and funds given for maintenance (547). Bergia castle was to have six knights or soldiers, at the usual 150 sous per man (551). Onda was to have twenty men at the same salary (577); Confrides had fifteen added to “those already there” at a total salarium of 2,250 sous (579).
From October 1266 into March 1268, five more garrisonings turn up. Murviedro got 10 men, 4 dogs, and a pack animal (703). Játiva castle got 40 men at the usual 150 sous each, 6 dogs at 75 sous each, and one man with a pack animal at 120 sous annually to provide wood and victuals (716). Castalla got 25 men, 6 dogs, and 2 pack animals; the animals got 180 sous also for fodder (723). By early 1268, Jijona castle was down to 4 men (775). Two other charters of 1268 show alternate ways of financing a castle. The king granted Sanç Pere de Ribabellosa for life “Our castle of Almenara with all the revenues, income and claims” of its district, with custody of the castle but with the obligation of spending a hundred sous every year “on its upkeep [opus]” (812). And when Robau Voltorasc, Gil Ximèn de Segura, and Sans Pere the castellan of Jérica bought from the king the tax-farm of Murviedro’s revenues for three years at 10,000 sous annually, they were instructed to retain 1000 sous from the price each year for garrison salaries at 150 sous per man; the king was to refund any costs for maintenance and also bear all losses if the castle were taken “by cunning or by force” (827).
A cavalry of townsmen was established by three charters of 1265 to Valencia city, Játiva, Alcira, and doubtless most Valencian towns on that same model. By that arrangement adult males “who regularly possess a horse worth forty gold pieces and arms” were exempt from regalian taxes, “but must go in host or raid with horse and arms, whenever and howsoever often the aforesaid township or portion of it will go on army or even raid service.” And every year at Christmas these townsmen were “obliged to mount a review [alardum]” before the bailiff (651, 678).
PARALLEL SOCIETIES: THE MUDEJARS
Valencia’s Muslims are also visible as a kind of mirror image, as reflected in the ample documentation on Christian settlement during these five years. Surveyors and bureaucrats were everywhere, parceling off houses, farms, shops, castles, valleys, mills, baths, surplus mosques, villages, and every sort of property in a welter of notarized charters. The disorientation of the resident Muslims at this systematic encroachment must have been profound. More perhaps than the war itself this physical appropriation and presence wounded the ancient communities. Conversely this very wealth of real-estate items suggests aspects of Muslim life before and after the conquest. The mills so abundantly operating along each waterway were a function of that life (771). So were the baths, the merchants’ fonduks, the butcheries, the public bakeries, the ubiquitous stockpens or corrals, the dovecotes and vegetable gardens, the vineyards, the saltworks, and even the roads that the colonialist masters were rerouting. Sometimes a feature of the Islamic landscape is hidden under a Latinate garble and must be extricated with philological ingenuity, as with the stockpens, mills, and large farms or estates under forms of rahal, real and the like.
Something of the economy peeps out. Taverns were a normal enough item in a Muslim community that did not disdain wine (514). Shopkeepers appear by name, such as Talhah and al-Azraq the carpenter at Gandía (611). A list of shopkeepers of Alcira includes nine Muslims by name (514). Shopkeepers also appear in general directives, as at Valencia city in 1267 where Muslims were allowed to keep their shops open “on whatever feast days or other days” and to work in them, with five exceptions (Christmas, Easter, Pentecost, John the Baptist in June, and feasts of the Virgin) (760). Some property items held echoes of deeper tragedy for the Mudejars: the large mosque at Játiva now used as the city hall (545) or Zaidia palace of Valencia city now a convent of nuns (846). In a number of cases a property is bounded by a Muslim neighbor (529), whose name is thus salvaged from obscurity–as with ‘Ali ibn Ghalib (529). Previous owners also appear, like “Anxa” the Saracen (534), or the daughter of Ibn Asim, or the Ibn Ishaq ibn Asim (671). Among the individuals, the tragic figure of Islamic Valencia’s ex-wali appears twice, reduced from ruler to Christian convert-baron, Abu Zayd of Valencia” (509, 608).
Very detailed tax lists allow glimpses into community activity. One tax item concerns “the lumber that came from Cárcer that the aljama put in the oven and burned” (865). Another reveals undomiciled or relatively transient Muslims (869). Prostitutes and separately a brothel (tarqana) are taxed at Pego (866) and turn up also at La Xarquia and Sumacárcel (869). An array of Muslim agricultural products hints at the diet: garlic, pomegranates, oranges, beehives, figs, grapes, and rabbit hunting (866, 867). The amin at Chelva (871) and the qa’id at Valencia city (786) appear by name. We learn that the Christian mostassaf or market overseer cannot enter the Muslim quarter at Valencia city or judge Muslims, but that the Muslims do elect their own muhtasib every year (765). The same document invites any Muslim to reside or to conduct business at Valencia city; and except in capital cases, only the qadi, amin, and sheikhs can judge a Muslim. A Cocentaina charter has civil judgment by the qadi and criminal by the bailiff, the former using Islamic law; it clarifies that Muslims in its countryside must pay their share of the local Muslim taxes (590), an arrangement also used at Játiva (591).
In one document the king transfers an important property into the hands of the Cocentaina Christians but compensates the Muslim owner (805). In another he takes land from Christians at Alfandec to give to Muslims, but compensates the Christians (806). Social notes can be extracted. The age-span appears in a court record about testimony taken from “the oldest and most ancient of the Moors: of 70 and 80 and 90 years” (766). A crown of exquisite “Saracen” workmanship is pledged as security for a debt of Prince Pere, and described in detail as displaying “thirteen pieces of gold” with “seventeen precious stones called rubies” and seven emeralds and fifty-three pearls, “with fasteners of bluish silk with pearls and turquoises set in gold” (750).
AN INVITATION TO SEARCH
The registered charters of these five years or so can illustrate many other Valencian themes. The many prices for commodities and rentals, as well as the fluctuating value of coinages, deserve particular notice. About a dozen documents record prices for horses, and another dozen the prices for mules divided between male and female. While a horse could cost 2,000 or 1500 or 1000 sous in these years, but with an occasional 800 or even 200, mules went for 300 (a common price) or sometimes for 500 or even 600 sous. Some in either category were meant as gifts and presumably represented a more expensive level of purchase. (For horses see as examples docs. 609, 622 through 624, 649, 827, 800). The silver besant, commonly a money of account for Mudejar taxes, was given an official exchange rate of 3 3 / 4 Valencian sous per besant in a royal decree of 1247; in 1266 a rate of 3 per besant was cited (677), of 3 again in 1267 (710), of 3 1 / 3 in early 1269 (865), and of 3 2 / 3 at that same time (888). Besides minting (711) and other money matters, the topic of taxation is richly represented throughout these charters. So is the elusive subject of weights and measures, specifying dry and liquid, heavy and light, length and breadth for a generous array of products.
For the linguist the registers hold many small discoveries, from macaronic lists of mixed Latin and Romance (610-611, cf. 617) to the several Catalan and other Romance charters invaluable for their early expression of the languages involved (e.g. 866). The scribe also pressed into service for his Latin documents Romance words, some of them Arabic based. Alar-dum, exea, reuca, and tarchana have been seen above, but other examples can be amargialus (737), alfiblays (750), celoquia (664), companatge (683), gayta (547), massata (991), odres (854), pressetum (823), raletus (731), senda (821), and xarxia (554), as well as the Hebrew herem and nidui gamur (922). All will be explained as they appear in their several charters.
Finally, any number of individuals attract notice, and some might be followed through several documents. Dama Bella d’Amichi, the Sicilian nurse of Prince Pere’s Hohenstaufen wife Constança and mother of the famous admiral Roger de Lluria, has five documents (599, 752, 781, 782, 989). The king’s tragic morganatic wife Teresa Gil de Vidaure has a list of her main Valencian holdings (603). The more fortunate royal concubine Berenguera Alfons is endowed with wealth and documents here (571, 693, 817, 838, 890).
Many other women turn up at random. Despite the administrative nature of these five hundred charters, women appear in no less than 73 of them. There are prostitutes and pensioners, nuns of various orders, widows of high and low status seeking justice in the king’s courts, women property holders, landlords, and settlers, owners of baths and a co-owner of a caravanserai, women prisoners, and the mother of a son who became a Muslim. The physician of the king’s deceased wife Violant (more properly Yoles as in 504) is here, as are the galley of Teresa Gil, the crown of Constança of Sicily (the wife of Pere the heir of King Jaume), Constança de Béarn the widow of Diego III López de Haro and holder of the Valencian castle Villa-longa de la Safor, and King Jaume’s daughter Violant the queen of Alfonso X the Learned of Castile. This brief animadversion must suffice, since I have gathered the registers’ women of these five years into a separate contribution to a volume on the women of medieval Catalonia.9
Among notable individuals, the king’s nephew and esquire Alfons Pere del Rei, with his wife Maria the daughter of the king’s secretary Guillem Escrivà, appears (849, 872), as do the king’s bastard brother Pere del Rei (971) and his bastard sons Jaume Sarroca (604, 636, 709, 875) and Pere Ferran d’Híxar (600, 721, 928, 929, 987). A “master artisan” of the king’s coinage (711) and “the master of works of the [cathedral] church of St. Mary of Valencia” (826) represent the arts, as does the jongleur from Galicia who is probably the noted Pere de Vera (604).
The enigmatic German or perhaps Germanic Sicilian admiral Carròs de Rebollet has an active role (511, 520, 549, 595, 801, 839, 885). A central figure in Valencia’s conquest and intimate of its last ruler Abu Zayd, Ximèn Pere d’Arenós, has nine entries but dies early in them (666, 701, 702, 789, 796, 809, 819, 826, 851). The two men responsible for the most entries have already been discussed, the financier-knights Arnau de Romaní and Adam de Paterna. Many lesser figures here deserve close attention. All of them, when conjoined with the 1500 or more documents yet tocome in these volumes, as well as with collateral documentation, will afford an extensive proso-pography of the Valencian kingdom in its founding decades. When eventually indexed, the toponimical contribution of Jaume’s charters can also be appreciated.
Though impressionistic, this tourist’s trip through a five-year span from a very specific kind of document affords a surprisingly panoramic and detailed view of Valencia at that one time. It shows us a truly historical picture–that is, one contextualized by the immediately surrounding happenings, each document a framework and commentary for the others. Drafted for a king’s practicalities in coping with his still uneasy conquest, with its three parallel societies, these charters registered on Mudejar paper open a window on a major colonial society of the Middle Ages.
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The Surprising Life of a Medieval Empire
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The City of Constantine
Constantine resolved to make the city a home fit for an emperor . . . He surrounded it with a wall . . . cutting off the whole isthmus from sea to sea. He built a palace scarcely inferior to the one in Rome. He decorated the Hippodrome most beautifully, incorporating the temple of the Dioscuri in it.
Zosimus, New History, c. 501
Byzantium–Constantinople–Istanbul is one of the most extraordinary natural sites. Like New York, Sydney and Hong Kong, it is a great metropolis with a deep-water harbour which brings the sea into the heart of the city. The proximity of water, the play of sunlight on the waves and views out towards the horizon create a very special quality of light. What attracted Constantine when he looked for a new capital for the Roman Empire in the early fourth century ad was a location from which he could control land and sea routes between Asia and Europe. He found a suitable site with a safe harbour on the Golden Horn, which could be sealed by a chain to keep out enemy ships and provide security from the dangerous currents of the Bosphoros. Where Leander of Greek myth is supposed to have swum the strait to woo his beloved Hero, Russian tankers now dominate, but even though modern Istanbul is a city of 12 million, the panorama of Constantinople on the Bosphoros remains magnificent. Until recently it was possible to rent a small boat and be rowed across to the historic wooden houses built with landing stages in Ottoman times. And although there are now two bridges joining Asia and Europe, passenger ferries continue to cross the Bosphoros, offering glasses of black tea and semits, rings of baked dough coated with sesame. On a fine day it is one of the great pleasures of life in Istanbul to sit on deck and enjoy a splendid view of Constantine’s city.
Born in the central Balkans at Nis, Constantine was the son of Emperor Constantius Chlorus, one of the four rulers established by Diocletian (284–305), in an attempt to provide a much-needed element of stability in the vast Roman world. The Tetrarchy, ‘rule of four’, effectively divided the empire into two halves, ruled by two emperors acting in concert, with two junior colleagues who would succeed to full power on their death. It faltered due to the ambitions of sons of emperors who were denied a role. Constantine manifested this very problem after his father’s death at York in 306, when he was acclaimed emperor by his troops. Yet he was not recognized by Licinius, the senior emperor in the East, and a few years later there were three different military leaders each claiming the imperial title in the West. Moving south from England, Constantine fought and defeated the others, and then in 312 confronted Maxentius at the Milvian Bridge just outside Rome. After this decisive victory Constantine entered the eternal city in triumph, where he was acclaimed by the Senate but declined to thank the gods for his success at the Altar of Victory in the expected fashion. Later he said that he had seen a vision of the Cross in the sky, which he interpreted as a sign from the God of the Christians, who promised him victory. He had made himself Emperor of the West by military conquest and now had to negotiate with Licinius, Emperor of the East.
The two rulers met at Milan in 313 and consolidated their joint administration by marriage alliances which united the empire. They also decided to issue an Edict of Toleration, which proclaimed that all religions could be celebrated freely, including Christianity, so long as adherents of every god prayed for the well-being of the Roman Empire and the emperors. Ever since, Christians have prayed for the well-being of their monarchs. Whatever Constantine’s personal beliefs (see below), in 313 he had taken a step towards making the faith the official religion of the empire and consistently favoured the Christians. Intense rivalry between the two rulers was only resolved eleven years later when Constantine defeated Licinius at Chrysopolis on the Asiatic side of the Bosphoros. He took his rival prisoner, exiled him to Thessalonike and treacherously had him assassinated. In this way in 324 Constantine became ruler of the greater, richer and more populated East as well as the West. He had ridden and fought across the length and breadth of the Roman world, which he ruled for another thirteen years until his death in 337.
After his victory over Licinius, Constantine decided that the empire needed a capital in the East, closer to its most serious rival, Persia, which regularly threatened to invade. The ancient city of Troy was considered. Instead, Constantine chose the colony established by Greeks from Megara, supposedly in the seventh century bc,onthe European shore of the Bosphoros. From this mythical origin Byzantion had flourished, controlling shipping through the treacherous waters that link the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmara, which in turn flows into the Aegean at the Dardanelles.
Byzantion was built on an elevation and had a well-protected harbour on the Golden Horn. Since the sea bordered it on three sides, to the north (the Golden Horn), the east (Bosphoros) and the south (Sea of Marmara), the only fortification required to enclose the city was a wall in the west. In addition, Byzantion commanded the routes for the lucrative sea-borne transport of goods from the far north (amber, furs, metal and wood) and from the Mediterranean (oil, grain, papyrus, flax, and spices imported from the Far East), as well as overland trade between the West and Asia. In the late third century, Emperor Septimius Severus had strengthened its walls, which were always a weak point, and added new monuments.
Constantine transformed Byzantion into a new capital with his own name in the same way that Hadrian founded Hadrianopolis (Adrianople) and Alexander the Great Alexandria. In traditional ceremonies performed in 324, a line was ploughed to mark out the new land walls, which quadrupled the extent of the city and maximized the potential of the site, enclosing an area of approximately eight square kilometres, as Zosimus describes. Gates in the western wall and along the Marmara and Golden Horn were laid out. After six years of intensive construction, the city of Constantine, Constantinople, was inaugurated on 11 May 330 with ceremonies redolent of ancient civic pride and urban festivals. Horse and chariot races, the favourite sport of all Romans, were held in the Hippodrome; the new baths of Zeuxippos were opened for public use; and foodstuffs, clothing and money were distributed to the inhabitants. Those privileged to live in the new capital adopted the name Byzantine, to indicate their affinity with the ancient colony of Byzantion, and to distinguish themselves as its true citizens.
The city of Constantine drew into its centre the great trading routes, both naval and overland, that meet at the deep-water channel separating Europe from Asia. Unlike the Greek colony of Chrysopolis on the Asian side of the Bosphoros, it was protected by its physical setting on an elevated rocky peninsula. One great advantage of being almost surrounded by water was that the western wall stretching across the peninsula enclosed a large amount of land by a relatively short line of fortification. Furthermore, it was harder for the defenders to be taken by surprise by a land attack. It required a regular water supply that was assured by long aqueducts and cisterns for collecting rainwater. With easy access to fertile hinterlands and rich fishing grounds, Constantinople also became a natural fortress exceptionally difficult to storm.
Even with these natural advantages, the decisive element in the city’s defence was always its inhabitants, their institutions, culture and organization created within the walls. From the beginning, Constantinople was also called New Rome. In imitation of Old Rome, it was laid out with fourteen regions and seven hills, linked by wide avenues leading from the centre to the gates in the western wall. Its squares were decorated with ancient sculptures collected from all parts of the empire. On its acropolis overlooking the Bosphoros there were two temples dedicated to Rhea, the mother of the gods, and to Fortuna Romae (the Fortune of Rome). In the central Forum of Constantine stood a dramatic porphyry column made of drums of purple stone brought from Egypt. At the top, a pagan statue of Apollo was adapted to represent the emperor. Works of art decorated the porticoes around this circular public space, which had triumphal arches at east and west marking entry to the Mese (the main thoroughfare).
Constantine brought sculptures from all parts of the empire to embellish his new capital, including the Serpent Column dedicated after the Greek victory over the Persians at Plataea (479 bc) from Delphi, and an Egyptian obelisk from Karnak celebrating a much earlier triumph. The Hippodrome became an open-air museum adorned with protecting, symbolic and victorious Greaco-Roman images. Statues of pagan gods (Zeus, Heracles), wild and fantastic animals, and rulers including Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar and Augustus, and of Rome, in the form of the wolf with Romulus and Remus, vied with trophies of military victory. Four ancient bronze horses were set up above the starting gates at the entrance to inspire competitors and spectators alike in the ancient skills of the races (plate 30). With broad thoroughfares linking the regions, each bordered by colonnades in which shopkeepers and craftsmen established their trades, the new capital was constructed to impress.
In his city Constantine minted the solidus (in Greek, nomisma), which he had introduced in the West in 309. It was a new type of 24-carat gold coin, which became the most reliable currency of Late Antiquity and the Byzantine world. Until the early eleventh century, all emperors minted gold coins of comparable fineness and quality, maintaining a stable standard for over seven hundred years, an extraordinary achievement (plate 22). Since personifications of Rome and of Victory had often been represented on imperial coins, Constantine adapted this type using the Tyche (Good Luck, Fortuna) of Constantinople. She appears as a woman enthroned, wearing a crown of battlements to represent the city walls, and holding a cornucopia to represent its wealth, an allegory in female form of male power, elucidated by Marina Warner. Imperial coinage minted in Constantinople brought the symbol of the new capital into wide circulation. Gradually Christian symbols replaced the ancient ones: the Cross is used for the first time in the sixth century and a portrait of Christ in the late seventh (plate 11a). After the seventh century, the nomisma became the only gold available in the Middle Ages and was highly prized in regions which minted silver. Byzantine gold coins have been excavated in Scandinavia, western Europe, Russia, Persia and Ceylon.
In founding his New Rome, Constantine I brought many of the features of Old Rome on the Tiber to the Bosphoros. He granted land and privileges to senatorial families who agreed to move east and set up a new Senate of Constantinople. Entitlement to a supply of free bread was linked to the construction of new housing. Those who built accommodation in New Rome were granted bread tokens, which allowed them to collect fresh bread daily at points in all the fourteen regions of the city. Grain silos and water cisterns were constructed to ensure the city’s supplies. In 359, a prefect was appointed to take charge of the city on the model of Rome, and all imperial administration was concentrated there. Duplicating the Roman pattern of ‘bread and circuses’ (see chapter 3), Constantine completed construction of the Hippodrome and appointed professional entertainers (the circus factions or demes) to organize the races and spectacles so much enjoyed in ancient times.
From 330 until his death in 337, Constantine continued to campaign against hostile forces in the East, moving from palace to palace, rather than residing permanently in Constantinople. After his initial victory at Rome, he only returned once to the ancient capital, to celebrate the tenth anniversary of his accession (315), when he dedicated the New Basilica and his Victory Arch, which still dominates the Forum. His new foundation grew at the expense of Old Rome and that of other cities previously used as imperial residences: Trier, Nikomedeia, favoured by Diocletian, Sirmium on the Danube or Antioch on the border of modern Turkey and Syria. Although many senatorial families remained in the West, Constantinople attracted craftsmen, architects, merchants and adventurers, while the new court needed educated men to sing the praises of the new Christian emperors as well as to run the administration. Lacking a traditional caste of established families who cherished their genealogies in the Roman style, Constantinople was more open to talent; newcomers who proved successful were rapidly promoted. This social mobility meant that the city experienced a less pronounced divide between aristocrats and plebians, although upstarts were always mocked and slaves continued to be beaten.
The nature and degree of Constantine’s commitment to Christianity is disputed: his biographer Eusebius (Bishop of Caesarea, 313–c. 340) emphasizes it above all else, while secular historians record his devotion to the unconquered sun, Sol Invictus, shared with his father. In the late fifth century, Zosimus blames Constantine for all the ills of the Roman Empire, claiming that he abandoned his ancestral religion (of the pagan gods), because ‘a certain Egyptian assured him that the Christian religion was able to absolve him from guilt…’.
The historian also reports why the emperor felt so guilty: Constantine had killed his son Crispus on suspicion of improper relations with Empress Fausta, his stepmother. Constantine later shut her up in an overheated bath until she died. He was indeed baptized into the new faith but only when he was dying. This was not uncommon as Christians wanted to avoid sinning after baptism, so the ceremony was regularly postponed till the last possible moment.
Different versions of the story of his vision of the Cross before the battle of the Milvian Bridge suggest that it is a myth, although Christian authors later claim it as the moment of his conversion. At Rome during the winter of 312/13, however, Constantine instructed the governor of Carthage to return Christian possessions, which had been confiscated during a recent persecution, to the local bishop and to provide compensation if the objects had been sold or melted down. This implies a definite shift from the previous imperial view of Christianity as a force capable of corrupting military strength, as well as denying due reverence for the ancient gods and emperors.
While Constantine supported Christian leaders and funded the building of Christian churches, his sons also permitted the construction of a temple in Italy dedicated to the cult of the imperial family, complete with priests dedicated to sacrifice in the old pagan style. At the same time, some temples appear to have been forced to give up their statues and any precious metal was stripped from their doors or roofs. The sacrificial element of pagan cult was gradually restricted; the killing of animals was to be replaced by the bloodless sacrifice offered to the Christian God. Since many pagan philosophers had also stressed the need for a spiritual understanding of ‘sacrifice’, this cannot be considered an exclusively Christian restraint. It indicates nonetheless the gradual demise of animal sacrifice, the central act of pagan cult. So whether he was converted by the vision of 312, or only when he knew that he was dying in 337, Constantine spent most of his adult life as a patron of Christianity, supporting the previously persecuted communities; he endowed their grand new churches with liturgical objects of precious metal set with jewels, and tried to help them define their faith more closely.
It is not clear how many new religious buildings within Constantinople were built by Constantine. He probably planned the church of the Holy Apostles, to which the imperial mausoleum was attached, the cathedral church of St Irene and churches dedicated to the cults of two local martyrs, Mokios and Akakios. Outside his capital Constantine paid particular attention to the sites associated with Christ’s life on earth, sending his mother Helena to the Holy Land in 326.In the course of the first imperial pilgrimage, she founded the churches at Bethlehem over the manger of the Nativity and at Jerusalem over the tomb near Golgotha, where she is said to have discovered the True Cross. She also distributed money to the troops, which may have been the primary reason for her journey. Helena set a pattern for later pilgrimage, which was facilitated by building hostels and hospitals. In 335, Constantine himself followed in her steps; he dedicated another shrine to the Saviour and attended a council in Jerusalem, before celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of his rule.
In a decisive shift from the Roman tradition of imperial cremation, however, Constantine was buried according to Christian rites in the mausoleum designed to house relics of the twelve Apostles. The emperor wished to be laid to rest among Christ’s chosen disciples; Eusebius describes him as equal to the Apostles and the thirteenth, though the emperor’s own perception suggests that he considered himself superior to them. Constantine’s son, Constantius II, completed the church of the Holy Apostles and moved what were believed to be the bones of Saints Timothy, Luke and Andrew to the site in 356/7. Subsequent rulers added to an impressive collection of relics: the veil, girdle and shroud of the Virgin deposited in her shrine at Blachernai became particularly important. Emperors paid annual visits to these relics and to the mausoleum where they censed the tombs, lit candles and said prayers for their predecessors. Ceremonies such as these consolidated the notion of an unbroken line of Christian rulers established by Constantine.
Through a naming system which became prevalent in Byzantium and complicates its history, numerous later emperors were also called Constantine, eleven in all. It was common for the first male child of a marriage to be named after his paternal grandfather, which accounts for some of these Constantines. Others were acclaimed as a New Constantine, as if to stress their equality with the founder of Byzantium, or added Constantine to their given name, like HerakleiosConstantine in the early seventh century. In addition to the eleven Constantines, there are eight emperor Michaels, eight Johns and six Leos. They are listed at the end of this book in an effort to distinguish them by date and achievement. None, however, really challenged the enduring position of the first Constantine.
Gradually, the cult of this great emperor and his pious mother, Helena, developed into a model of Christian rule. Legendary accounts of their devotion effaced Constantine’s involvement in the murders of his son and his second wife, and his mother’s obscure origins. A key moment occurred in 451 at the Council of Chalcedon, when Marcian and Pulcheria, the ruling emperor and empress, were acclaimed as ‘a new Constantine and a new Helena’. Marcian was also compared to Paul and David, while Pulcheria was said to have shown the faith and zeal of Helena. The courtiers and secular officials who stage-managed these acclamations no doubt saw the importance of so elevating their fifth-century masters. In the process they also contributed to the transformation of the founder of Constantinople and his mother into saints of the Christian Church, and this is how they appear in later medieval stories and frescoes, where they are often shown flanking the True Cross.
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