Friday, August 2, 2013

Towards a Theory of Pseudo-Isidore: Part III

What elements of Pseudo-Isidore does Divinis praeceptis attest to?

As I said last time, its text is little more than a patchwork of legal citations, almost all of them apparently drawn from the Collectio Hispana. And one of these citations contains a fairly distinctive textual variant that recurs in the interpolated Hispana (a.k.a the Autun Hispana, or the Hispana Gallica Augustodunensis--the legal collection apparently prepared by our forgers and deployed as a vehicle for the decretal forgeries) and almost nowhere else. So if you buy my arguments, Divinis praeceptis gives you a terminus ante quem of 833 for the start of work on the interpolated Hispana.

Divinis praeceptis also contains two Roman law citations (one of them from an expansion to Alaric's Breviary, the other a Sirmondian constitution). Interestingly, our decretal forgers almost never cite Roman law unless that law is also excerpted somewhere in Benedictus Levita. Whenever you get Roman law in the decretals, if you look down in Hinschius’s apparatus fontium you’ll almost always find that the same text also occurs in Benedictus. It’s like our decretal forgers didn’t have any Roman law to hand, except the Roman law that had been cut and pasted into Benedictus Levita. And sure enough, the Roman law citations of the Gregory missive also have Benedictus Levita parallels. So if you buy my arguments, we also have at least the slightest hint that someone has started to amass the texts that later came to be packaged as the capitularies of Benedictus Levita. I want to emphasize that this is a slight hint. It is not a firm date. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a terminus of any kind. But it is still worth noting.

Divinis praeceptis rewards close study in other ways, too. Remember the fundamental position of the interpolated Hispana in the forgery universe: Excerpts from our forgers' unique recension of the Hispana crop up in Benedictus Levita, and this Hispana was also mined in the composition of the False Decretals, which were then packaged with the interpolated Hispana and circulated as the three-part canonical collection of Isidorus Mercator. While much about the internal chronology of the Pseudo-Isidorian forgeries remains unclear, it is all but indisputable that the interpolated Hispana came first. I’ve already noted that the frenetic patchwork composition of Divinis praeceptis, with hundreds of citations lifted from all manner of legal texts, smells a lot like Pseudo-Isidore. The limited source pool, though—primarily Hispana texts and little else—is extremely atypical. In fact, though the interpolated Hispana was certainly used in the composition of other Pseudo-Isidorian decretals, it’s far from being our forgers’ favorite source.  I can’t think of a single decretal forgery that draws exclusively from the Hispana. If anything the Dionysio-Hadriana crops up more often, and even those excerpts occur alongside a wide range of other patristic and biblical snippets. It’s like our forgers-to-be drafted Divinis praeceptis before they had begun to pull together other materials for their forgery project.

So there’s some philological confirmation that the Gregory letter is indeed an early product of the forgery workshop. The arguments advanced in the epistle also look a little primitive in light of the full Pseudo-Isidorian program outlined in the decretal forgeries (and select capitula of Benedictus Levita). Among Pseudo-Isidore's most elaborate and ridiculous inventions surrounds the creation of an entirely new ecclesiastical rank, the primate-patriarch. Basically, a Late-Antique list of the provinces of the Roman empire known as the Notitia Galliarum made our forgers aware that the certain provinces in the later Empire bore numbers—for example, “Belgica prima” (The first Belgian [province]), “Belgica secunda” (the second Belgian [province]), etc. These administrative districts went on to become ecclesiastical provinces, so Belgica prima became the Trier province and Belgica secunda became the Reims province . Pseudo-Isidore wants to attach hierarchical significance to these (heretofore purely descriptive) numbers, such that Trier, as the first Belgian province, would enjoy primacy over Reims, as the second Belgian province.

In Pseudo-Isidore land, if you’re a primate you basically get to run something like an appellate court serving those other provinces over which you are a primate. If you’re unfortunate enough to wind up as a suffragan bishop accused of a crime by your metropolitan, you can therefore appeal your case either to Rome or to your primate. No word on what happens if your metropolitan is also your primate (as would be the case if you were a Trier suffragan),  or if you happen to be a bishop in an unnumbered province (Vienne, say). Details, details.

This primatial scheme is articulated in multiple false decretals, but in Divinis praeceptis it occurs not at all, despite the fact that it would have worked perfectly for Aldric. As bishop of Le Mans in the Tours province (or Lugdunensis tertia), Aldric could have taken advantage of the primatial appeals process to bring his case before Agobard of Lyon (Lugdunensis prima). 

Maybe there are no primates in Divinis praeceptis because our Pseudo-Isidorian friends only dreamed up the notion of primacy sometime after 8 July 833? 

Also rather odd, in light of Pseudo-Isidore’s other products, is Gregory’s repeated insistence that Aldric be permitted to appeal after any process against him is initiated, but before judgment has been issued. Again and again, Gregory reveals his anxiety that Aldric may be condemned before he is permitted to invite the pope to participate in his trial. In the False Decretals, Pseudo-Isidore emphasizes repeatedly that appeals are allowed at any point; even those serving sentences are allowed to appeal, and therefore only those who fear their judges are biased will need to appeal before a verdict is handed down. In my article I argued that this was another indication that the letter belonged with the date it carries. Perhaps, I suggested, in that brief moment when Lothar and his episcopal allies (including, perhaps, some of those responsible for Pseudo-Isidore) were in charge of the Frankish church, our forgers were more inclined to take a positive view of the provincial synod. I speculated that the basic reluctance to overturn its judgment, even on appeal, reflected this less radical position, as did the absence of primacy.

My views on these issues have shifted since I first made these arguments. I’m no longer so sure that the Pseudo-Isidore of our decretal forgeries is all that down on the provincial synod; indeed, as we’ll see soon, many of his forgeries seem to buttress its jurisdiction (while giving suffragan bishops all manner of escape mechanisms, of course). Gregory’s anxiety about the judgment of the provincial synod might instead reflect the pragmatics of Aldric’s situation: Whatever their broader views on the matter of appeals, Pseudo-Isidore (and maybe also Gregory) found threats to Aldric’s position ideologically repugnant. At the same time, it's easy to appreciate that forestalling Aldric’s deposition might have seemed far more feasible than trying to reinstate the poor archbishop of Le Mans, once he had been deposed. Indeed, you could even say that Divinis praeceptis represents a stalling tactic more than anything else--an attempt to increase the red tape involved in trying Aldric by first requiring his opponents to involve the pope or papal representatives. Even with this approach, though, it strikes me that the peculiarities of the appeals process laid out by Divinis praeceptis are easier to explain in the context of 833 than at later dates. I'm therefore still inclined to see Gregory's anxiety about permitting appeals before judgment as a further indicationthat the arguments of this decretal belong with the date they claim to have.

We've devoted an inordinate amount of attention to one very small, very solitary element of the Pseudo-Isidorian library. I fear that the payoff is rather meager. We can only say that there is a good prima facie case that something like the Hispana had begun to take shape, at Corbie, as early as 833—before Ebo was ever deposed at Thionville in 835. Particularly early elements of Benedictus Levita might—just might—also date from this period.

To understand the implications of these points, we must confront much more important problems. This thing called the interpolated Hispana—we have a (provisional) date for it, but what is it, actually? What was it for? We have been comparing Divinis praeceptis to the decretal forgeries. To what extent is that a worthwhile exercise? Does it assume too much? Did the personalities responsible for the decretal forgeries also implement the corrections and interpolations that we find in the interpolated Hispana (the source of Divinis praeceptis)? Or did the decretal forgers simply get the interpolated Hispana from their friends or allies, or their teachers or predecessors? Since the very first post of this blog, I‘ve been calling the interpolated Hispana an element of Pseudo-Isidore's forgery complex. But before we can say anything about what Divinis praeceptis and 8 July 833 might mean, we need to bring more precision to our understanding of the interpolated Hispana and its position in the broader library of Pseudo-Isidorian products.

That's a subject for Part IV.

Back to Part I or Part II; ahead to Part V (with one Addendum on the nature of the Hispana, and another Addendum on the priority of the Hispana)

1 comment:

  1. So all this brings us back to the Field of Lies in 833, which I know about from this one historical novel where it's pretty much described like a humiliating public show trial put up by Louis's angry sons so they could take his empire, but in the long run all they managed in their furor was give a disastrous blow to the empire itself because of how much the empire in the eyes of the people was considered identical to its monarch as the empire incarnate. So if the monarch as the empire incarnate had failed as judged at the Field of Lies, then so had the empire and it wasn't worth to be recognized and maintained any longer. In short, they tried to damage the monarch, but only damaged the empire for one or two generations or a century, no matter what came after the Field of Lies.

    Anyway, your speculations sound to me like Pope Gregory was sitting next to the Field of Lies, all anxious on whether he had chosen the right side and how disastrous his choice could turn out for his future life and standing if he had been mistaken, so he called upon Radbertus and Wala to make him a legal expertise on what laymen and especially worldly monarchs could and couldn't legally do to Popes.

    Gregory liked the result (which itself doesn't survive, but obviously drew from both Benedict and the interpolated Hispana) so much that within days, he had his two legal experts draw up a letter for the Aldric case where he first used the reasonings taken from their expertise, and that was Divinis praeceptis.

    After that, Wala and Radbertus began drafting the much greater and more consistent work of Pseudo-Isidore based on the same strategies employed in Divinis praeceptis, and over the course of creating the False Decretals they increasingly refined their technique, which would also explain why some early primitive reasonings from Divinis praeceptis are absent in Pseudo-Isidore where they've already found much more elegant solutions that in turn are not yet to be found in Divinis praeceptis.


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