Saturday, November 28, 2009

Some people might think early medieval history is dry....

Well, some parts of it actually are, although The Inheritance of Rome manages to keep the dry parts fairly short. But some parts rival The National Enquirer (or whatever is the most lurid rag on the supermarket shelves these days) in dirt:
All these different trends converged in the great querelle over Lothar II's divorce from Theutberga, in 857-69. This ought to have been simple. Lothar had married Theutberga, from the prominent aristocratic family of the 'Bosonids', in 855 but soon turned against her and sought in 857 to return to his former partner Waldrada, with whom he had had a son, Hugh. Marriage law was tightening up in the ninth century, however; Charlemagne could put away a wife, but Lothar had to have reasons. He came up with the claim that Theutberga had had anal sex with her brother Hubert, had become pregnant as a result (impossibly, of course; his supporters invoked witchcraft), and had aborted the foetus: incest, sodomy and infanticide all at once. Theutberga proved her innocence in an ordeal in 858, but Lothar staged a show trial at a council in Aachen in 860, where she was forced to confess her guilt and retire to a monastery.

His view on Christian festivals:
But people still maintained the 'wrong' attitudes; they treated the new Christian feast-days in the same ways as they had treated the old pagan ones, as opportunities to get drunk and have a good time, as Augustine complained about a local martyrial feast-day. This way of understanding the Christian calendar, through public enjoyment rather than (as Augustine proposed) psalm-singing in church, was pagan in the eyes of most of our sources, but doubtless fully Christian in the eyes of celebrants; and this double vision would long remain.

A life fit for a king:
Cri­th Gablach, the major eighth-century tract on social status, states: 'There is, too, a weekly order in the duty of a king: Sunday for drinking ale . . . ; Monday for judgement, for the adjustment of tuatha; Tuesday for playing fidchell [a board game]; Wednesday for watching deer-hounds hunting; Thursday for sexual intercourse; Friday for horse-racing; Saturday for judging cases'

On diet:
vegetarianism itself, a standard ascetic trait, was a little suspect in Spain because Priscillianists refused meat, and the 561 council of Braga required vegetarian clerics at least to cook their greens in meat broth, to show their orthodoxy.

Maybe it's just as well Rome was replaced by 'barbarians' who know how to party:
Royal and aristocratic courts also had a different etiquette from those of the Roman world. The otium of the Roman civilian aristocracy, literary house-parties in well-upholstered rural villas, and the decorum of at least some imperial dinner parties (above, Chapter 3), was replaced by what sometimes seems a jollier culture. This was focused on eating large quantities of meat and getting drunk on wine, mead or beer, together with one's entourage, usually in a large, long hall.

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