Monday, June 17, 2013

Ebo of Reims and Pseudo-Isidore

In discussing Pope Damasus's reply to Stephen and his fellow bishops, I promised that there remained one interesting feature of this fake decretal to discuss. The time has come to discuss it.

As we saw earlier, Damasus raises very typical Pseudo-Isidorian concerns about the procedure for summoning accused bishops to judgment. Specifically, he declares that
The summons to a synod, according to the canonical decrees of the fathers, of one who is accused reasonably and in writing, should occur over a fitting and canonical time period, because unless one is one's good time and in accordance with the canons--and [even if] one should attend the council through any necessity beyond one's own free will--[the summoned party] will in no way respond to his enemies. Since secular laws do not permit this to happen, how much more should divine [laws forbid it]? 

Awkward translation, I know, but I wanted it to be literal. Last time, we noted that there is no clear support in pre-Pseudo-Isidorian legal texts for any of these points. It is therefore highly interesting to find the same fundamental argument recurring in a treatise by Ebo of Reims. Ebo, you will remember, was deposed at Thionville in 835 for his role in Louis the Pious's deposition two years previously. After spending a few years confined in a monastery, he was restored to archiepiscopal office at Reims in 840, and on that occasion he wrote a short, rather defensive historical-account-cum-apologia known as the Apologeticum Ebonis.

Early on in this text, he writes of having been "forced before imperial judgment, not before a synodal gathering of holy [bishops], where a bishop should not be taken by force, but [where he should] rather be rather summoned freely and canonically."

Kind of rings a bell, no? There is even limited verbal contact between these two loci. Behold, Pseudo-Damasus in Latin:
Vocatio enim ad sinodum iuxta decreta patrum canonica eius qui inpetitur rationabilibus scriptis per spatium fieri debet congruum atque canonicum, quia nisi canonica vocatus fuerit suo tempore et canonica ordinatione, licet venerit ad conventum quacumque necessitate nisi sponte voluerit, nullatenus suis respondebit insidiatoribus, quoniam nec saeculi leges hoc permittunt fieri: quanto magis divine?]  
And Ebo's Apologeticum:
...compulsus ad tribunal palatinum, non ad synodalem sanctorum conventum, quo violenter non licet trahi, sed magis liberum canonice convocari episcopum...
So yeah, not overwhelming, but significant, especially given the underlying originality of Pseudo-Damasus's argument at this point. Nor are these the only Pseudo-Isidorian echoes to be found in the Apologeticum. A little later, Ebo's treatise quotes from a document purportedly subscribed by the Reims suffragans, consenting to Ebo's reinstallation. This document mentions that Ebo was "taken from his own see" ("raptus a propria sede": MGH Conc 2, 2, 798), and of course the Pseudo-Isidorian decretals never tire of complaining about bishops who are "driven" or "ejected from their own see" ("a propria sede pulsus,"  "a sede propria eiiectus"). There's one or two other further parallels along these lines.

Now Charles the Bald forced Ebo from Reims in 841, and our unfortunate archbishop had to find another home. In 845 Louis the German put him in charge of the diocese of Hildesheim. To mitigate the legal problems with this move (bishops were traditionally forbidden to move from see to see), Ebo forged a letter in the name of Pope Gregory IV that purported to cede him the right to transmigrate. This letter is full of textual parallels with the Apologeticum Ebonis, which is how we know (via Karl Hampe) that a) the letter is a forgery, and b) it was likely forged by Ebo himself.

Interestingly, this letter shares some of the Pseudo-Isidorian vocabulary of the Apologeticum, and contributes further parallels of its own. Pseudo-Gregory complains that Ebo's confession at Thionville was not done of his own free will (" sponte confessus...); in Pseudo-Isidore, we are admonished that "Confession...should be freely willed" ("Confessio...spontanea fieri debet"). More crucially, and with an eye to Ebo's plight, Pseudo-Gregory decrees that bishops who have suffered persecution and fled their cities have the faculty of "flourishing in vacant sees" ("proficiendi in locis vacantibus"). This strongly recalls a moment in Pseudo-Isidore where Pseudo-Anterus remarks that "Peter, our holy teacher and prince of the apostles, was translated for reasons of utility from Antioch to Rome, that he might be able to better flourish there" ("Petrus, sanctus magister noster et princeps apostolorum, de Antiochia utilitatis causa translatus est Romam, ut ibidem potius proficere posset"). Establishing legal loopholes that would permit the transmigration of sees is, of course, a key point of the Pseudo-Isidorian agenda--right up there with protecting bishops from forceful synodal summons.

Scholarship has been aware of these parallels for a long time, but nobody really did anything with them because, throughout most of the 20th century, all the Pseudo-Isidore scholars (Paul Hinschius, Emil Seckel, Horst Fuhrmann) wanted Pseudo-Isidore to post-date 847. When MGH editors like Karl Hampe confronted these parallel loci they shrugged their shoulders. Nobody thought Pseudo-Isidore reception was possible much before the year 850.

Now, of course, we live in a new era, and we're free to think of Pseudo-Isidore as an earlier phenomenon. Ebo's allusions (if they are allusions) are no longer chronologically problematic, but they are rather odd. If Ebo knew the forged decretals, why not cite them explicitly? Why simply borrow ideas and vocabulary from the forgers and leave them unattributed? Or was Ebo himself simply in contact with the forgers, aware of their product, and willing to avail himself of the odd useful idea or turn of phrase? Did the forgers, alternatively, get a few ideas from Ebo himself?


  1. Or could it be that the forgers were familiar with Ebo's thoughts and possibly writings? I know we want to date the forgeries to the 30s, so I suppose direct dependence on the Apologia Ebonis might not be the best hypothesis, although I assume Ebo had plenty of time in his monastic prison to think of canonical arguments that he might have shared with the forgers?

  2. And if anyone wants to read the Apologia Ebonis, it is edited here: Sorry for the long and ugly URL. Have not learnt to do tinyurls.

    1.,2_S._794 You can find a persistent and easy to build url for dMGH volumes by clicking on "Zusatzinfo", more details here:

    2. Thanks, Clemens--massively helpful.

  3. Hinschius actually lists the Apologeticum among Pseudo-Isidore's sources whenever he notices these parallels. There are other Pseudo-Isidorian ideas hanging out in that Gregory IV forgery too. Hinschius (Decertales, ccxxxiv) points out that it even attests to the exceptio spolii, if not in so many words; Ps. Gregory complains that Ebo, "absente ecclesia sua alterius sub potestate erat constrictus...."

    It's like Ebo and the forgers share a common fund of proto-Pseudo-Isidorian theories that they articulate in slightly different ways.

  4. Am I wrong in thinking that PL goves a better text than Hinschius?

  5. I guess it depends on what you're after. PL 130 is Merlin's editio princeps, from a C-recension MS (Bibl. de l'Assemblé nationale 27, s. XII ex.). At least there the Hispana material is in its proper Pseudo-Isidorian form, and if you're looking for a non-eclectic edition, PL 130 is basically the only place to go. That said, for the decretals Hinschius is probably better, particularly in Part III, where he's finally leaning more heavily on some of the early A1 witnesses (eg, Paris, BnF ms lat. 9629). For Part I he's mostly dependent on Modena, Bibl. Cap. O.I.4 (s. IX ex.), which he thought for some reason was the oldest extant A1 MS. It seems instead to be A2, and in any case it has crappy text. Despite all those defects, I find it hard to tear myself away from the Decretales Pseudo-Isidorianae, if only for the Quellenangaben (no such thing available in Migne!). Disentangling the greater part of Pseudo-Isidore's sources is, I think, Hinschius's real and enduring achievement. The edition obviously less so.