Research samples

What can we believe?

Those with Cathar sympathies tend to stress the strict moral code of the “Perfects”, the elite of the faith, whereas those who have sympathy with the Roman Church tend to stress the depravity of the “Credentes”, ordinary believers.

The Oral Tradition

During visits to Occitan between 2004-2008 I had many discussions about the Cathar faith admittedly mostly with those promoting “Catharism” as a tourist attraction. However some of the discussions were with librarians and they guided me to fragments of documents which supported their beliefs. In all these discussions I encountered an innocent view of the faith as a different and possibly better formula for governing human relationships, This view does not seem to have found it’s way into mainstream print. The following formula is based on dozens of references and discussions but there was a unifying theme.

First and foremost the Cathar faith believed the procreation of children should be limited. For this aim to be achieved all sexual activity must be under women’s control.

Both men and women were free to have multiple relationships but if a couple chose to be monogamous then that too was acceptable, as long it was the free will of both parties.

Social life is organised to make it possible for women to meet other potential partners and for men to express their admiration for other women. The decision on wether a new relationship would be entered into was entirely the woman’s.

The aristocratic version of this social activity is what has become known as the courts of love, but similar events took place at all levels of society.

These relationships are entirely honourable but are usually conducted in a discreet manner. However sometimes a second man would join a woman’s household and or a second woman would join a man’s household.

Inheritance (the possession of worldly goods) was also simple. Women and men could and did both have private possessions. A husband did not automatically acquire possessions from his wife. nor did a woman automatically control her husbands possessions.

All wealth of each individual was uniformly distributed to all children. Thus a child would inherit quite independently from mother and father. A woman would know without doubt who her children were but a man had to claim children, at birth. An unclaimed child inherited only from the mother. As the number of children was small this created few problems even where landholdings were concerned.

If a person decided to become a Perfect it was just as if they had died. Their possessions, all their possessions, were distributed to children or relatives at the time they adopted the new role.

It was the Credente’s role to provide an environment in which the Perfects could live and preach the message that the material world is evil and it is only by rejection of the pleasures of the material world that eternal happiness can be obtained. The Perfects were the visible conscience of the Credentes. Because they had no possessions their teaching was never biased by political or economic issues. The message was essentially simple, care and love for each other is far more important than material possessions.

Authors note:-

This amounts to the principles of a culture not a religion. I am aware that, in terms of normal scholarship, this imformation is virtually worthless, but it does make sense!

There was also a belief that there was a theology which underpinned these essentially cultural attitudes. This was not so so consistently articulated.

I was referred to a book, perhaps more of a pamphlet, by Michel Roquebert, Published in France by Editions Loubatiers Toulouse entitled Cathar Religion, which unfortunately has no IBSN. and was given access to a second book “ La Religion des Cathares” by Jean Duvernoy published in 1967 By Privat, Toulouse which again had no IBSN.

Michel is concerned with proving that despite many differences from the Church of Rome the Cathar religion was Christian and based on the teaching of Jesus.


The written record.

First some sympathetic considerations

Linda Hendrick On Cerebral Boinkfest

Trobairitz were female troubadors who composed, wrote verses, and performed for the nobility. They are the first known female composers of secular music in the West, although there were female composers who wrote sacred music before them. The trobairitz were from the courts and were born of nobility, as opposed to their male counterparts, the troubadors, who sometimes came from humbler beginnings. Both trobairitz and troubadours wrote about courtly love, or fin’ amors. Trobairitz mostly wrote tensos (debate poems) and cansos (strophic songs – ones whose verses share the same melody). Tensos was a common form, for in the tradition of courtly love, poems were often written as an exchange of letters, or a debate.

The majority of information on the trobairitz comes from their vidas (bios) and razós(explanations of their songs). These were compiled in chansonniers, or collections of their songs. The vidas are not reliable since they contain embellishments from info gathered from their poems. Not much is extant of the troibairitz or their work: about thirty-two works from twenty known trobairitz. But it is hard to determine whether a piece was written by a man or a woman.

Since the poetry was so stylized, when a poet wrote as a woman it is not clear if the poet was actually a woman, or a man speaking as a woman. Often times the poet’s name gave no clue as to gender, and could be an alias, or a poem was written by the ubiquitous “anonymous”. The chansonniers who compiled the works did not seem to distinguish those from the trobairitz from those from the troubadours. In the case of tensos between a woman and a man, credit is given to the man as the originator of the dialogue, which may not have been so.

There is a feeling of sexual equality, and sex as a mode of pleasure and not sin in their songs. With women experiencing more freedom with their lords and masters off to war, it is not surprising to to think of them as wanting to express themselves creatively. Their geographic proximity to Muslim Spain may have been an influence as well – Muslim Spain was more sophisticated and perhaps liberal in this age.

I was plunged into deep distress by a knight who wooed me,

And I wish to confess for all time how passionately I loved him;

Now I feel myself betrayed, for I did not tell him of my love.

Therefore I suffer great distress in bed and when I am fully dressed.

Would that my knight might one night lie naked in my arms

And find myself in ecstasy with me as his pillow.

For I am more in love with him than Floris was with Blanchfleur.

To him I give my heart and love, my reason, eyes and life.

Handsome friend, tender and good, when will you be mine?

Oh, to spend with you but one night to impart the kiss of love!

Know that with passion I cherish the hope of you in my husband’s place,

As soon as you have sworn to me that you will fulfill my every wish.

History is often written by the victors not the vanquished. Interestingly most of my research leads to to sources sympathetic to the Church of Rome.


Maria Guineva on Bogolism

II Article by Maria Guineva for the “International Survey: Bulgaria-Italy” of (Sofia News Agency)

Bogomislims (Bogomilstvo), often called the Bulgarian heresy, is a social and religious teaching, which appeared in Bulgaria during the first half of the 10th century.

Contemporary historians and scientists characterize Bogomilism as a dualistic teaching and an anti-feudal, reformative movement, born in the bosom of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, quickly spreading across Bulgarian lands during the tumultuous times in the eve of the Byzantine invasion of the country. Its roots can be found in the dualistic gnostic and the mass deportations of Armenians and Syrians from Byzantine.

There are several versions about who the founder of the teaching is – one of them is that he was Boyan Maga, son of King Simeon I. Boyan’s older brother Peter took over the throne after Simeon’s death while Boyan was sent to Constantinople to study at the Magnaura school where he possibly was initiated in a secret Egypt teaching and the ancient knowledge of cosmogony, religion, philosophy, medicine, and extrasensory. Upon returning to Bulgaria, Boyan Magna founded his own school with the goal to reinstate real Christianity.

According to another version, the founder of the sect was the priest Bogomil, who lived during the reign of King Petar

The term Bogomil means “Dear to God”, and ultimately derives from the proto-Slavic *bog (“God”) and *mil (“dear”). It is still unknown whether the name was taken from the presumed founder of that movement, the priest Bogomil, or whether he assumed that name after it had been given to the sect itself.

What is most important is the fact Bogomilism had not been transferred from another place to Bulgaria – it was born in the country. Bulgaria is the true cradle of this teaching closely intertwined with Bulgaria history for five centuries, popular among rich and power, common people and people in power, men and women.

Bogomilism is a universal teaching, examining common human issues, summarizing the ancient wisdom and revealing the hidden simplicity of Christianity. The Bogomils declared themselves against the dogma of the Church, the lavish decorations, the hypocrisy, greed and strive for power of the clergy, the merge between the church and the king’s power. The Bogomils appealed for bringing back the virtues of real Christianity – kindness, humility, helping others, equal rights and lawfulness, abandon of opulence, admiration for human labor, dignity and high morals.

The Bogomils had many public speakers and education centers. They called each other brothers and sisters and treated each other as such. They eliminated the social and origin differences; celebrated brotherly gatherings, went on trips to the mountains seen as symbolic of the real liberation of the Spirit from the mundane worries and problems. The Bogomils valued highly women and their role in society and considered them equal to men.

Some of the elements of the Bogomil teaching are: unity of everything – visible and invisible; building the human being – spirit, soul, body; the laws of karma and rebirth returning the human to the divine; thinking and meditation of sacred books; brotherly sharing of bread and wine; living in conformity with nature; leading active public life; symbolic, not literal interpreting of the scriptures.

The popularity of the teaching turned into an uprising against the official Church and to a threat to the power of the King, who began a manhunt against the Bogomils – they were burnt as heretics and their literature was eventually destroyed.

The leaders of the movement left Bulgaria and found shelter in several European countries. From Bulgaria the teaching quickly spread in other countries of the Balkan Peninsula, and from there – across Europe to Italy, France, Germany, Spain, and even as far as Great Britain. During the 11th and the 12th centuries writings about the spread of the Bulgarian heresy throughout Europe become more and more frequent.

Bulgarian-born Bogomils brought a beam of light to Europeans frozen in the darkness of the Middle Age and in their dogmas, fanatics, and cruelty. The Bogomils, known in the West under different names, such as Bougres, Babuni, Patarenes, Albigens, Chatars, created their own schools and became founders of Humanism and Renaissance. Their schools taught Bulgarian cosmogony, Christianity and ancient wisdom. These schools were built on the principle of three concentric circles – the consecrated (called the Perfect) in the most inner one, the believers in the middle and the listeners in the outer one. The Perfects were consecrated after many tests. Because their life was very strict and simple, there number was very limited, and they were revered by the much larger circle of believers. The latter could marry, own property, go to war, and eat all types of food.

Despite the many names at the time the Bogomils called themselves simply “good people” or “good Christians,” because they wore modest attire and possessed missionary ardor, which was in stark contrast with the pompousness and pretense of the Pope’s circles and the Catholics.

The Perfects traveled from place to place to lead the brotherhood, to preach and teach, to encourage the believers. They fasted for long periods of time, lived in communities and had not property – if they did, they donated it to the brotherhood, along with all gifts they received from the believers or people they healed.

The Bogomilism spread early on to Dalmatia and Bosnia. In Dalmatia, the center of the movement was the town of Trogir, (Trogkir, Trau) which had booming trade and relations with Italy. Trogir was precisely the place from where the dissemination of the teaching to Italy began.

The dispersal of the movement was done by merchants, craftsmen, travelers and pilgrims, whose ideological connection with the troubadours and the minnesingers, gave them a wide publicity and access to the management of the free Italian cities.

In Italy, Bogomilism arrived for the first time at the end of the 10th century with its first very strong manifestation noted around 1030-1065. The castle of Monteforte in northern Italy became its main center, thus a subject to attack, after which those caught were taken to Milano and burned on the pyre. Despite the opposition and all obstacles, Bogomilism spread throughout Lombardy and in the 12th century was very strong there. In 1200, Pope Innocent III ordered the city of Viterbo to undertake all necessary measures to counter the Bogomils. Nevertheless they were elected in the city council in 1205. There are accounts that in 1205 there were 50 Perfects in Toscana.

In 1220, Pope Honorius III ordered all Italian cities to chase Bogomils away, but because Bogomils had followers and supporters among the wealthy and those in power, they were often taken back and their properties were returned. In some cities, such as Rivolla, citizens rose to free the jailed Bogomils. Despite the manhunt, many nobles of Milan were Bogomils, giving shelter to the Perfects, helping them open schools and find venues to spread the teaching. The Bogomils were also very prominent in Florence – in 2012, they had a flourishing school there and a leader, who was directing and redirecting Bogomil communities to other locations in the area.

Around this time, Bogomilism also reached Naples. It was transferred there in 1224 from people coming from Lombardy. There were plenty of Bogomils in Rome as well, noted around 1231, both among the clergy and the laymen, men and women, many of whom were burned on the pyre.

In 1231, Pope Gregory IX (Gregorius) launched in Florence the Inquisition against Bogomils. The inquisition was introduced in Lombardy in 1233. In 1254, Pope Innocent IV, declared a crusade against all Bogomils in Italy.

At the end of the 13th century, the Bogomilism reached as far as Sicily.

From Italy, Bogomilism spread to France with its first traces dating to the end of the 10th century.

According to different accounts around 1250, there were about 4 000 Perfects – men and women across Europe with 2 000 of them in Lombardy around 1241 and about 150 in Verona.

The connection between the Bulgarian Bogomils and different movements in Italy can be further established by the spread of Bulgarian names in northern Italy. In 1047, there is a mention of a site named Bulgaro in the vicinity of Turin. In 1116, there was noble man in Turin – Bulgarello; in 1149, in the vicinity of Vercelli, there is a castle with the name Bulgaro; in 1231, there is a mention of another Italian noble – De Bulgaro.

It is believed that many Italians – Lombardy natives and residents of Milano have Bulgarian blood in their veins since the movement flourished the most in Northern Italy. Its center was the city of Milano, while the followers of the movement were called Patarenes. The derivation of the name is unclear though some sources claim patarini (also patarines or patarenes, from singular patarino), was a word chosen by their opponents, which means “ragpickers”, from Milanese patee, the equivalent of the Italian stracci, “rags.” Later the term “Patarene” came to mean a rebel against ecclesiastical authority or a heretic.

Milan’s Patarenes became organized in 1057, when Deacon Arialdo da Varese began preaching against clerical concubinage and simony. At the time, Milan was controlled by the powerful archbishop Guido da Velate, who was known for his strong ties with high-ranking clergy, the nobles and the rich. Preaching against the clergy meant opposition of the hated da Velate rule, and very soon the deacon gathered a number of supporters and followers, some quite prominent such as brothers Landolfo and Erlembald Cotta, respectively a notary of Milan’s cathedral and a knight. Patarenes bound themselves by an oath and boycotted the sermons of the official clergy, rejected their rituals, and drove the congregation from their services.

Amidst mutual accusations of heresy, in 1059, Pope Nicholas II finally approved the Patarenes’ opposition of unfit clergy. Later that same year, Guido and his circle were forced to renounce simony and incontinence before papal legates, but soon took up again their old practices and the hunt of the Pataria. The next pope, Alexander II, supported the Pataria openly. In 1066 he excommunicated Guido, generating a wave of violence among his followers during which Arialdo was killed. In 1070 Guido was finally forced to resign, but 5 years later Arialdo’s successor Erlembald also died during riots. His demise marked the end of Patarenes’ political power in Milan.

However, the Patarene movement had already spread to other cities in northern Italy, including Florence, Piacenza, Lodi, Cremona, and Brescia. In 1068, Florence even sent clergy to assist the fight in Milan.

Pataria strongly declined after the 1090s, when Pope Urban II’s led a policy of assuaging bishops of northern Italy, which pushed through many of the reforms the Pataria were striving for. In the 1140s “Pataria” already had a pejorative connotation. The Third Lateran Council in 1179 identified Patarenes as heretics; at about the same time, the name was adopted by Cathars in northern Italy.

The Cathars were a religious group who appeared in Europe in the eleventh century by way of the Balkans and Northern Italy. Records from the Roman Catholic Church mention them under various names and in various places. Roman Catholics still refer to Cathars as heretics while the official Catholic position is that Catharism is not Christian at all.

Cathars, however, called themselves Christians; their neighbors distinguished them as “Good Christians”. The Catholic Church called them Albigens, or sometimes Cathars.

The Cathar beliefs almost certainly spread to Western Europe, particularly Languedoc in France, but also to the Netherlands and various places in Germany from Northern Italy. They were carried by travellers, merchants and probably Cathar Perfects. At the time, the Cathar Church was already well established in Northern Italy.

Similarly to Bogomils, Cathars believed in two principles, a good creator god and his evil adversary, maintained a Church hierarchy and practiced a range of ceremonies, but rejected any idea of priesthood or the use of church buildings. They divided into ordinary believers who led ordinary medieval lives and an inner Elect of Perfects. They largely regarded men and women as equals, and had no doctrinal objection to contraception, euthanasia or suicide.

As the Cathar derided the Catholic doctrine calling the Catholic Church “Church of Wolves,” the Catholics, on their part, accused Cathars of heresy using remarkable propaganda against them. But since this propaganda was only partly successful, in 1208, Pope, Innocent III, declared a crusade against the people of Languedoc – the Albigensian Crusade. The Crusades ended in 1244, though Cathars were still being burned alive into the fourteenth century. An Inquisition was founded to extirpate the last vestiges of Cathar belief.

It is further believed the Order of the Rosicrucian, the Order of Knights Templar, and Freemasonry are based on the Bogomil teachings. There is a need of deeper research on the subject, but in any way, Bogomils will remain in history as the people who sparked the Western periods of Reformation and Enlightenment.

Authors note:- Michel Roquebert, despite promoting the origins of Catharism in Jesus teaching identifies similarities with the Manichism and Gnostic traditions as well as Bogomilism.


History is often written by the victors not the vanquished. Interestingly most of my research leads to to sources sympathetic to the Church of Rome.

Altila Sinke Guimares on Paganism

The following is a Quote From “Tradition in Action”,

From the beginning of the 14th century, under the pretext of Humanism and Renaissance, a return to Paganism was promoted by the “secret forces”. Toward that end, Roman and Greek customs, language, literature, and art became the fashion. The old Roman and Greek mythologies became popular and were played on stage almost everywhere. Spreading the stories of pagan mythologies, the arts exalted nudism, adultery, free love, incest, homosexuality, and even bestiality with the much disseminated tale of Leda, for example, who had love relations with a swan from which a daughter was born, Helen of Troy. This is how the arts promoted sensuality.It was popular to decorate walls with immoral pagan scenes.The old minstrels, who used to occasionally sing the chansons de geste to bolster Catholic militancy, were replaced by an organised network of troubadours, who traveled broadly throughout Europe. Spreading courtly love in their lyrics, they frequented the castles of kings and nobles, or entertained the people at the markets and fairs.

At the same time, chivalry in great part abandoned its fight for religious ideals, putting aside the defence of the Holy Land and the protection of widows and orphans. Instead, it became sentimental. It became a chivalry of love, with knights dedicated to fighting for the affections of a lady. Those pleasures were not always legitimate. The old minstrels, were replaced by an organised network of troubadours, who traveled broadly throughout Europe. Spreading courtly love in their lyrics, they frequented the castles of kings and nobles, or entertained the people at the markets and fairs. Often, the themes of these songs were no longer moral and decent. For instance, it was popular for a time for them to sing songs describing in great detail the nude body of Eleanor of Aquitaine, the heiress of one of the most powerful dukedoms of France. She married Henry Plantagenet, the King of England, and became the mother of Richard the Lionhearted and John the Landless. Her court in Aquitaine, and afterward in England, was one of the focal points to spread the courteous love that came to dominate chivalry and the noble courts. It was also a centre for the organised company of immoral troubadours whom she welcomed and patronised.

In parallel, the “secret forces” encouraged Nationalism among the peoples of each country. “We the French are more than the Spanish;” “We the English are better than the French;” “We the Germans are greater than the Italians,” and so on. The same pride that generated individuals to boast and appear the most learned and refined now expanded to a competition between countries and peoples. It was the birth of Nationalism and the fading of the ideal of Christendom.

Authors note:- This article sees the liberality depicted as sinful, generated by the same secret forces as those which created nationalism. It does not mention who represented the ” Secret Forces”. The force of liberalism was of course Cathar but the force of nationalism emphatically was not. Nevertheless a good description of the Cathar Culture.


Fray Diego Matamoros on Catharism

Albigensianism, or Catharism, as the heresy is also known, is a type of Manichaeanism, which made its way to the West from the near Orient (Persia, Asia Minor, and Syria), via the returning Crusaders.

In southern France, it spread among the women of the nobility, who remained the most committed segment of the population to embrace the heresy. The Albigensian women indoctrinated their children in the ways of Catharism, and won from their male relations protection from the authority of the Church, if not a total embrace by their men folk of the erroneous teachings. The movement established itself principally in the city of Albi in Lanquedoc (the southern French kingdom). It is from this city that the heresy derives its name.

Albigensianism is essentially a Manichaean dualist system in which two principles of creation exist — two “gods.” The first of these is responsible for the material order, and considered evil. The second of these principles (or gods) is the one responsible for the spiritual order. He, of course, is good.

From this fundamental principle in Catharism the heretics derived all of their other teachings. The Albigensian dislike for marriage, for motherhood, for the eating of animal flesh, for the sacraments, for the clerical state and monasticism, for private property and physical beauty, etc., are all derived from this one fundamental idea that the physical world was evil.

It was the hope of every Albigensian to achieve a level of asceticism so profound that he would stop eating altogether and abandon the use of physical comforts. Those among these heretics who attained to this level of mortification were known as the Perfect. The Perfect were the prophets of this heretical system, and they commanded a tremendous level of respect from their coreligionists. Within Albigensian society, they were responsible for the administration of the heretical “sacrament” of Consolamentum. The Consolamen-tum was administered by the Perfect to other, less observant members of the community known as Believers, who, due to their attachment to the things of the world, had no hope of attaining salvation on their own. The Consolamentum was administered by the Perfect to the Believers at the moment of death, by the placing of the Perfect’s hand on the head of the Believer. Should a Believer survive after having been given the Consolamentum, he would be smothered to death by his family in a practice known as the Endura. The Endura was necessary because the administration of the Consolamentum could only be performed once in a person’s life, and it was seen as absolutely necessary to assure the salvation of the non-Perfect among the members of the community.

Among the great strengths of the Albigensians was their ability to imitate facets of the Church’s organization and adjust them to their use. By the end of the twelfth century, they had become so well organized that they claimed a “pope” as head of their congregation, a man by the name of Niceta. This pope depended for the administration of the Albigensian community on a number of Catharite “bishops” who, in turn, made use of “deacons” and the Perfect to maintain order in the formal structure of the sect. This clerical arm of Catharism had a secular arm that could be counted upon to guarantee internal order and protection from the outside world. The secular arm consisted of the counts of Toulouse, Foix, and Beziers, as well as a number of noble knights.


Paul Halsall- translations from an inquisitor

Medieval sourcebook

Fordham University

The Jesuit University of New York

An experienced inquisitor ( The dominican Bernard Gui) describes the Albigensians.

It would take too long to describe in detail the manner in which these same Manichaean heretics preach and teach their followers, but it must be briefly considered here.

In the first place, they usually say of themselves that they are good Christians, who do not swear, or lie, or speak evil of others; that they do not kill any man or animal, nor anything having the breath of life, and that they hold the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ and his gospel as the apostles taught. They assert that they occupy the place of the apostles, and that, on account of the above-mentioned things, they of the Roman Church, namely the prelates, clerks, and monks, and especially the inquisitors of heresy persecute them and call them heretics, although they are good men and good Christians, and that they are persecuted just as Christ and his apostles were by the Pharisees.

Moreover they talk to the laity of the evil lives of the clerks and prelates of the Roman Church, pointing out and setting forth their pride, cupidity, avarice, and uncleanness of life, and such other evils as they know. They invoke with their own interpretation and according to their abilities the authority of the Gospels and the Epistles against the condition of the prelates, churchmen, and monks, whom they call Pharisees and false prophets, who say, but do no.

Then they attack and vituperate, in turn, all the sacraments of the Church, especially the sacrament of the eucharist, saying that it cannot contain the body of Christ, for had this been as great as the largest mountain Christians would have entirely consumed it before this. They assert that the host comes from straw, that it passes through the tails of horses, to wit, when the flour is cleaned by a sieve (of horse hair); that, moreover, it passes through the body and comes to a vile end, which, they say, could not happen if God were in it.

Of baptism, they assert that the water is material and corruptible and is therefore the creation of the evil power, and cannot sanctify the soul, but that the churchmen sell this water out of avarice, just as they sell earth for the burial of the dead, and oil to the sick when they anoint them, and as: they sell the confession of sins as made to the priests.

Hence they claim that confession made to the priests of, the Roman Church is useless, and that, since the priests may be sinners, they cannot loose nor bind, and, being unclean in themselves, cannot make others clean. They assert, moreover, that the cross of Christ should not be adored or venerated, because, as they urge, no one would venerate or adore the gallows upon which a father, relative, or friend had been hung. They urge, further, that they who adore the cross ought, for similar reasons, to worship all thorns and lances, because as Christ’s body was on the cross during the passion, so was the crown of thorns on his head and the soldier’s lance in his side, They proclaim many other scandalous things in regard to the sacraments.

Moreover they read from the Gospels and the Epistles in the vulgar tongue, applying and expounding them in their favor and against the condition of the Roman Church in a manner which it would take too long to describe in detail; but all that relates to this subject may be read more fully in the books they have written and infected, and may be learned from the confessions of such of their followers as have been converted.

From the Inquisitor’s Manual of Bernard Gui [d.1331], early 14th century, translated in J. H. Robinson,

Readings in European History, (Boston: Ginn, 1905), pp. 381-383

 Elena Maria Vidal on Courtly Love

on her site “Tea at Trianon” She describes herself as ” A Catholic Novelist”

Medieval Courtly love was connected to the heresy of the Cathars. (see Rougemont’s Love in the Western World) It glorified love outside of marriage as being superior to married love. Since most people, even peasants, had arranged marriages with spouses who had sometimes been chosen for them in childhood, it was not unheard of for them to later fall in love with someone other than their spouse. Divorce was out of the question; annulments happened but they were rare. Once you were married, you were married. Adulterous wives incurred severe penalties, if caught. Therefore, it should not be surprised that courtly love gained such a hold upon people, for it helped them to deal with difficult situations by romanticizing relationships that had no legitimate expression. The Christian way, of course, is to offer it up, and take up the cross”

This article quotes two other sources


 Mitchell Kalpakgian on sexual promiscuity

Mitchell is Professor of English at Simpson College in Iowa.

The sexual revolution, with its permissiveness about — even idealization of — sex outside of marriage, is not exactly new. History shows that heresies that seem to have died can spring up in stylish forms, advertising themselves as the latest thing and the newest thought. In today’s sexual revolution we find ourselves beset anew by a heresy that now calls itself sexual liberation but that in the Middle Ages was called “courtly love.” For a dramatization of the evils of this sexual heresy we need look no further than the great poet of the Middle Ages, Geoffrey Chaucer, and his tale of two lovers, Troilus and Criseyde, which I shall summarize in a moment. (Who says the old classic works of English literature are not relevant to modern times?)

The old courtly love, like the new sexual liberation, rejected Catholic teaching on sexual morality, disdained procreative sex, undermined the sacramentality of marriage, and threatened the integrity of the family. The marriage practices of that time, scholars say, may have provided fertile ground for the growth of such weeds. As C.S. Lewis puts it in his study of the literature of the period, The Allegory of Love, “Marriages had nothing to do with love, and…any idealization of sexual love, in a society where marriage is purely utilitarian, must begin by being an idealization of adultery.” Our modern marriage practices are presumably based on love and free choice, not on property or status or obligation. Hence one would expect that modern marriages would incorporate romance and love. Yet, as we turn marriage into a mere temporary contract — a private arrangement between individuals that is cancelable at will — we see the same weeds that festered in the Middle Ages sprouting in what should be the hallowed ground of matrimony.

In those days the writers and musicians called troubadours extolled in verse and song the beauty and romance of love affairs without benefit of marriage; today our filmmakers and musicmakers and writers extol the same joys. The aristocrats and the high-born ladies lent the cult of courtly love an enviable air of sophistication and respectability; today our medical, legal, and educational establishments grant legitimacy to premarital sex, teenage sex, cohabitation, legalized abortion, no-fault divorce, “safe sex,” and same-sex “marriage.” The poets of courtly love ridiculed marriage as an oppressive institution that stifles romance; today the apologists for sexual freedom deconstruct the family and view children as disposable and large families as detrimental to “quality of life.


 Brad Milner on Cathar origins

Brad Is senior editor of the Catholic Thing, which is a forum for “The intelligent catholic community”

Do you have a favorite heresy – in the sense of one that, though patently wrong, most fascinates you? I do. It’s Albigensianism, aka Catharism, which for more than a century – many other wild sects notwithstanding – held much of Europe in thrall during the middle of the Middle Ages. And thereby hang several instructive lessons.

Compared with even our own enduring, alluring, do-your-own-thing modernists, the Cathars (from the Greek katharos for “pure” or, possibly, a German insult having to do with kissing a cat’s backside) or Albigensians (from the town of Albi in what today is southern France) were among the most significant heretical sects in the history of the Western Church. Centered in what amounts to the territories of the most powerful woman of the medieval period, Eleanor of Aquitaine (c. 1122-1204), Albigensianism was born of the older Manichaeism, itself a variant of Zoroastrianism, the mother of all dualisms. Dualism sounds like an abstract philosophical problem; in fact, it means looking on the Creation, which to say the world and everything in it, as essentially evil. Manichaeism had been ably refuted by Saint Augustine after his conversion in the mid-fourth century, and legend has that it the cult was brought to Albi by one Fontanus, with whom Augustine himself may have had face-to-face debates.

The Cathars believed that the world lies in tension between two eternal realities, Good and Evil; between God, who rules heaven and the world of pure spirit, and Satan, who reigns on earth and over all muddy reality. They believed that Jesus, the one who walked among us, was literally an apparition. God would never descend into our physical world. As a pure spirit, he had not really died and had offered no actual redemption, but only ethical instruction. For them, salvation, which was unity with God, came through renunciation of the flesh and the repudiation of material structures such as civil authority and, especially, the Catholic Church, which the Albigensians considered Satan’s right arm. Suicide was a popular form of Catharist self-denial, as were pacifism and vegetarianism. You may pause now to consider how many friends and neighbors favor the same darn things today.

But there were actually two kinds of Cathars: the “perfect” (perfecti) and the “believers” (credentes). From the former group came the sect’s leadership, and they were aspirants to purity: chaste, serene, ascetic. The credentes, however, were often libertines. The path to purity for them ran through a dominion of excess, the paradoxical notion being that earthly desires may be extinguished through debauchery! At the end of his drunkenness and fornication (adultery and even incest were tolerated), a believer might (and should) embrace perfection in the consolamentum (or “consolation”), a ritual that compressed baptism, confirmation, ordination, and last rites into a single ceremony. Deathbed consolamenta were common, since mostcredentes figured they couldn’t handle the perfecti’s rigid rule except in life’s last, precious moments. Indeed, if a dying believer recently elevated in extremis to lofty perfection were to recover his health, his concerned brethren might lovingly poison or suffocate him in order to prevent backsliding.
In fairness, nearly everything written about the Cathars in their time – and much subsequently – comes down to us from their enemies, and it’s hard to know how much of the report of scandalous shenanigans is verity and how much is smear. But we know that St. Dominic founded his Dominicans, the Order of Preachers, to go out and refute the errors of the Albigensians and that they made it a point of learning what they were dealing with, a principle we see brought to perfection in the form of Aquinas’ careful sifting of all arguments.

The grip of Catharism (in France and in large portions of the rest of Europe) was finally broken, however, only by the so-called Albigensian Crusade, which went on for a century after 1200 and resulted in the disenfranchisement and death of nearly all Cathari. The warrior abbot leading an attack on one Albigensian stronghold (the walled city of Béziers) is said to have replied to concerns about how crusaders would differentiate Catholics from Cathars by saying, “Kill them all. God will recognize his own.” This infamous quip may be apocryphal, but it’s a fact that the abbot later wrote to Pope Innocent III that 20,000 “were put to the sword, regardless of age and sex. The workings of divine vengeance have been wondrous!”

With the echo of steel and the stink of smoke still hanging in the Provençal air, the Inquisition was born. It was the Albigensian heresy that led Pope Gregory IX to establish his New Tribunal through the Council of Toulouse in 1229. My old edition of the Catholic Encyclopedia, bearing the imprimatur of Francis Cardinal Spellman, archconservative archbishop of New York, ruefully admits that “the Inquisition has come to stand in the judgment of many historians as a symbol of cruelty, intellectual terrorism, and religious intolerance. The attempts of certain Catholic apologists to exonerate the medieval Church and Inquisition of those charges have been futile.”

By contrast, St. Thomas Aquinas’ works, especially the two great Summae, which in passing refute the positions of heretics, are universally admitted as belonging among the great books of the Western world. In a time when heresies and sheer philosophical silliness lie all about us, we could do with a large dose of that kind of “medievalism.”

Amongst the responses to this article was:-

written by Titus, March 14, 2011

Of course, His Eminence Cdl. Spellman was correct: the use of the Holy Office of the Inquisition as a bogeyman by Whig historians was a smear, invented out of whole cloth and English myth. The Inquisition’s procedures were a model of fairness and procedural punctiliousness: many of the safeguards it provided defendants would be unheard of at common law until the 20th century. The abuses for which there is historical evidence almost invariably came in places where an alternative “inquisition,” instituted under dubious authority by the sovereign and without papal oversight, was set up. Spain, of course, is the most notable example.

The Albigensians were a scourge, and St. Thomas’s refutation of their errors of course a masterpiece. But there’s little reason to go implying that historical slanders about other aspects of ecclesiastical history might be true in order to point that out.


Peter Wronski on Cathar beliefs

The dualist Cathar heretic religion has been over time both demonized and romanticized. At the peak of their existence in 13th century Europe, primarily in France and Italy, they were characterized as satanic demon worshipers. Today the Cathars are most often portrayed as pacifist vegetarian feminists; medieval New Agers who were ruthlessly put down by a supposedly reactionary and corrupt Catholic Church. While there are elements of some truth in these portrayals, the reality of the Cathar faith falls somewhat short of the fuzzy-warm puppy-loving reputation attributed to it.

The origin of Cathar beliefs has never been precisely identified, but most historians link them to the dualistBogomil sect in the Byzantine sphere. Like the Bogomils, Cathars were Christian dualists–a doctrine that has existed in various forms as long as there has been Christianity and before. The dualists attempt to confront the question of how can a God that is all powerful, merciful and good, allow monstrous evil to exist. Their response is that there must be two equally powerful gods–one good and one evil. Unlike Christianity, which demoted Satan beneath God’s authority, dualists see the forces of evil and good as equally powerful.

According to the Cathar approach to dualism, a good god made the heavens and the human soul, while an evil god entrapped that soul to suffer in the flesh of the human body and in material and worldly things of the earth–an evil place. Salvation, according to the Cathars, lay in the human soul’s escape to the spiritual realm from its prison of flesh in the material world.

Cathars rejected sex as a continuation of the human soul’s entrapment in earth-bound carnal evil. According to Cathars, marriage was a form of prostitution. Children were born as demons until they could be consciously lead to choose salvation in the Cathar path. Cathars believed that the human soul could pass on its journey through animal life, thus they were vegetarians: they did not eat meat, eggs, cheese or any fat except vegetable oil and fish. The Cathars rejected oath taking and violence in principle; they conveniently hired mercenaries to do violence on their behalf.

Cathars considered themselves Christians but rejected the Old Testament and the vengeful and angry God described within it. The God of the Old Testament was the one who created the world, thus he was the other “evil” god. The values, however, such as the Ten Commandments of the Old Testament were espoused by the Cathars. They rejected the humanity of Jesus and the doctrine of virgin birth, insisting that Christ was pure spirit which was “concealed” until birth in Mary’s body–she had no power of intercession. They did not believe that Christ died on the cross, as Christ could only be spirit and they rejected any idea of bodily resurrection, since material things of the body were evil. It is unclear what sort of burial or cremation rites were practiced by Cathars.

The origin of the term Cathar is in dispute. Some link it to the Greek term katharos–“pure.” Some historians believe that the term Cathar comes from a 12th century German play on words implying that the Cathars kissed cats’ asses. In France, the Cathars were insultingly know as Texerants–from the practice of weaving–a trade considered in medieval times as an inhonesta mercimonia–an questionable activity practiced in cellars and prohibited to Catholic priests. As for themselves, the Cathars only referred to themselves as “good Christians” and their church as “The Church of God.”

The Cathar religion was divided between a majority of credenti–(croyants)–the believers, or followers, and a minority of perfecti–(parfaits)–the “perfect ones”–those who had committed themselves to the celibate and dietary rigors of the Cathar faith and had passed through a ritual known as consolamentum–“consoling”–a type of Cathar born-again baptism carried through with a laying of hands instead of water. Only perfecti were considered as “members” of the Church.

The Cathars had no lavish church properties–services were held in homes or out in fields and forests. But while there were no priests as in the Catholic Church, the perfecti in fact functioned as priests–in a manner more restrictive than in the Catholic Church. In the Cathar Church, a mere credent was considered too impure to have his or her prayer heard by God. Only the perfecti’sprayer could reach the ears of God. The credenti were required to abase themselves before the perfecti and beg them to pray for their souls in a ritual known as the melioramentum. The credentwould fall to their knees and place their palms to the ground, bowing deeply three times and begging the perfect to pray on his or her behalf: “Bless us Lord”, or “good Christian” or “good Lady” and on the third bow, “Lord, pray God for this sinner that he deliver him from an evil death and lead him to a good end.”

The fact that women could become a perfecta and perform the melioramentum leads many modern commentators to portray the Cathar Church as a feminist institution where both men and women served equally as church functionaries. That was not the case in fact. The Cathar religion had an episcopate as structured as that of the Catholic Church, with territorial titles and geographical demarcations of dioceses, and an ambitious leadership. There were elected Cathar bishops, two subordinate ranks of filius major and filius minor and a diaconate. These were exclusively the domain of males: none of these positions were open to female perfectae.

Nor were female perfectae allowed to perform the ritual of consolomentum; the raising of a credent to the rank of a perfect was also an exclusive privilege of male Cathar perfecti.

While not expressly forbidden, female perfectae did not preach extensively either, as often implied by modern rosy accounts of the Cathars. In the records of the Languedoc Inquisition of 1245-46, female perfectae are reported in witness statements on 1,435 occasions–but only on twelve of those occasions are they reported to be preaching. Of three hundred eighteen named perfectae, only eleven are identified as having preached.1 In other words, Cathar perfectae basically had a status not much different from Catholic nuns, the primary difference being that they were not cloistered and isolated from the populace as were Catholic nuns. Moreover, there was a foundation of class behind those female perfectae who preached–almost all leading women in the Cathar Church came from powerful noble families and by virtue of their secular education, wealth, and power, they gathered around them both male and female followers.

Catharism was in some ways darkly hostile to maternity and family. Pregnant credents were admonished that they carried demons in their bellies. A perfecta advised a follower to pray to God that she be liberated from the demon in her belly; another warned a pregnant woman that if she died in pregnancy she could not be saved.2 Because the Cathars believed that baptism had to be consciously understood, children who died in infancy could not be considered as saved either.

Statistical analysis of Inquisition records show that of 719 identified active perfecti and perfectae, 318 were women — a little under 45 percent. This is a very high number, compared to how many women were nuns in the Catholic Church compared to all the priests, officials, monks, friars, clerks and other men engaged in official Church duty. Thus the elite strata of the faith drew women. On the other hand, in analyzing 466 identified credenti followers or believers, only 125 were women — roughly 28 percent–indicating that Cathar beliefs were of less interest to the average medieval woman, who probably found the anti-procreative ideology repellent. Nonetheless, female perfectae played a more direct and crucial role in forming and sustaining Cathar nuclei; as there were no formal churches, their homes became religious centers.

The Cathar Church in comparison to the corrupt practices of the medieval Catholic Church, was an honest and dedicated movement that rejected the trappings of wealth, lust and power. There were no church buildings or property. The Cathar Church did not demand tithes of its members and it educated its children, both male and female. As such it was a threat to the Catholic Church, and after numerous failed attempts to sway Cathar followers away by persuasion, the Pope finally sponsored a bloody crusade to put down the Cathars by fire and sword in 1209.

Medieval Studies,XLI, (1979), pp. 227-228
2. Wakefield Journal of Medieval History, XII, pp. 232-233

and Lambert, Malcolm The Cathars Oxford:1998. p.151


Jennifer Emick on the elimination of Cathars


The Cathars were a medieval Gnostic movement that flourished for a time in the Languedoc region of Southern France. They are thought to be an offshoot of the Bogomils, a Bulgarian gnostic sect, in turn most likely influenced by ideas from Manichean and other eastern gnostic sects,* brought West through trade routes from the Middle East.

The Cathars believed themselves to be the only “true” church, and dismissed the Roman Church as corrupt, greedy, hypocritical, and power-hungry Roman paganism. They eschewed materialism and hierarchy, and attempted to emulate the earliest Christians, living simply and ascetically.

Cathar Dualism

Very little is known about the intricacies of Cathar theology, but it is known that they had a dualistic view similar to that of the Zoroastrians- that good and evil were eternal powers that existed in almost balanced measure, in constant opposition. They believed the material world to be a prison- that Satan was the personification of chaos, and the earth a construct that allowed the dark forces to imprison and partake of the nature of the light. The taught that it it was a Cathar’s spiritual duty to liberate the spirit from its material prison. These beliefs led to a lot of superstious misinterpretation by enemies of the sect, who claimed that the Cathars utterly rejected the physical body, that they were favorable to or encouraged suicide, etc. The Cathars themselves seemed to interpret this “liberation of spirit” to be metaphor, carried out by their rejection of material wealth and social rank and their emulation of Jesus.

Cathars on Jesus and the Sacraments of the Church

Cathar views of Jesus were also gnostic in character. They taught that Christ was not a physical man, but a being of pure spirit who visited the earth only long enough to teach his apostles the doctrine of salvation from the Old Testament God, the Demiurge who was synonymous with Satan as the creator of the material world. The realm of Light was the abode of the good and of freed souls, but the forces of the earthly god worked to keep the souls of men imprisoned. They condsidered the rituals of the Catholic Church to be inventions, and decried the veneration of saints, relics, and especially the crucifixion, to be works of the devil. They rejected the crucifixion and those that upheld it as a symbol, and they denied the virgin birth. They found the eucharist to be abhorrent, and decried the possibility that something that “met such a bad end” as sewage could in fact be the body of God.

Cathars did not believe in hell, but in reincarnation into the created world. The ascetic life of the Parfait was intended to aid in overcoming the cycle of rebirth, as one who became pure would have the strength to fight the evil spirits who would continually hound human souls into new bodies. Those who received the consolamentum late in life or while dying were thought to have the opportunity to return to a more spiritual life- this death-bed baptism was referred to as “making a good end.”

The Parfaits, or Perfecti, and the Cathar Sacrament

The Cathars were divided into two groups, the laity, called credentes, or ‘believers,’ and the Parfaits(‘Perfect,’ a name given somewhat scornfully by outsiders**), also called Perfecti, men and women who had received the ritual of consolamnentum, one of only two sacraments practiced by the sect. Cathars did not believe in universal baptism- according to Cathar belief, the consolamentum conferred the baptism of fire as described in the gospels, and served as both baptism and ordination.

While the laity were free to live as they wished, those who had received the consolamentum were expected to live a simple, ascetic life, ministering to and healing the laity. They promised to eshew meat, alcohol, sexual intercourse, and to share a companion of the same sex wherever they went. Services performed by the Parfaits consisted of simple ceremonies of hymn-singing and the recitation of the Lord’s prayer, and members made regular public confessions of sin, in a ritual known as the apparelhamentum.They elected Bishops who oversaw public rituals. Additionally, both the ordained and the laity forswore lying, killing, oath taking, or the judging of others.

Although very few elected to partake in the consolamentum, the Parfaits were very highly regarded and the faith was adopted by many of the the powerful families of the region. This combination of terrestrial and spiritual power threatened the Church’s interests, and they elected to dispose of these “heretics” who threatened their authority. For this purpose the Church, under the authority of Pope Innocent III, instituted the Inquisition and called for the very first Crusade, promising blessings, land, and wealth to those knights and assorted nobles who would help to put the heretics down.

The Inquisition, Crusades

Prominent Catholics who preached against the Albigensians were Domenic Guzman, the founder of the Dominican order, and Bernard of Clairvaux, who founded several orders and was involved in the creation of the Knights Templar. Domenic at first attempted to show a pious example, preaching Catholic doctrine while living ascetically as a poor monk, but later was to resort to much more violent methods of persuasion.

The Albigensian Crusade consisted of some twenty-thousand Knights and a large number of soldiers and mercenaries, who set off on the Feast of John the Baptis on June 24th, and within a month had slaughtered some 20, 000 people, Cathars and Catholic alike. It is at this time a Papal Legate, when asked how to distinguish the heretics from their catholic neighbors (who had refused to give them up), is reported to have said, “Kill them all- God will look after his own.” Through sheer violence and a number of dishonorable tricks, the army accomplished most of the Church’s political goals by the end of the third month. The Crusade officially ended, but the territorial fighting continued for years. The work of exterminating the remaining Cathars fell to Domenic, who now headed the Inquisition and had long abandoned gentle persuasion.

The Cathar way of life was snuffed out forever in 1244 at the hilltop fortress of Montsegur, where the last remaining members of the sect were beseiged for ten months before surrendering; the remaining 200 Perfecti were burned alive at the stake. Many are said to have willingly walked into the flames, and it was recorded that several of those who burned were members of the opposing military who had converted at the cost of certain death.

J. C. Marler on Genuissa, Arviragus, and Claudius

J. C. Marler, Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy
and the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies,
and Assistant Vatican Film Librarian,
Saint Louis University

To the best of my knowledge, everything that can be known about Genuissa (aka Venissa or Venus Julia) is to be found in Geoffrey of Monmouth, the 12th century British chronicler who wrote the Historia regum Brittaniae.

Below, I reproduce the transcription of a passage which, in 1929, Acton Griscom made from the Latin of a 12th century manuscript of the Historia. The orthography of the Latin is consistent with what Griscom found in the manuscript. I also give Lewis Thorpe’s modern English translation of this passage and, furthermore, I give Robert Ellis Jones’s translation of the Welsh abridgement of the Latin text, taken from a manuscript copied in the 15th century.

Neither Tacitus, Suetonius, nor Dio Cassius, the Roman historians, have anything at all to say about Genuissa. But Griscom, in his lengthy introduction to the Historia, is much concerned to defend Geoffey’s credibility. And, if Geoffrey, who relied upon sources to which we may not now have access, can be believed, then grounds may exist for saying that Genuissa was the daughter of Claudius and the spouse of Arviragus. Thorpe agrees with Griscom that, on the whole, Geoffrey is likely to be something better than a fabulist.

The historicity of Arviragus himself has some support from this passage from Juvenal, the 2nd century (AD) Roman satirist (Satire 4.124-128):

. . . “ingens omen habes,” inquit, “magni clarique triumphi; regem aliquem capies, aut de temone Britanno excidet Arviragus. Peregrina est belua, cernis erectas in tergas sudes?” (Veiento addresses the Emperor: . . . “A mighty presage hast thou,” he says, “of a great and glorious victory. Some king will be thy captive; or Arviragus will be hurled from his British chariot. The brute is foreign-born: dost thou not see the prickles bristling upon his back?”)

This poetic fragment, the text and translation of which are taken from Juvenal and Persius, trans. G. G. Ramsay (Cambridge, MA: 1929), is also cited by Geoffrey after his giving credit to Genuissa for establishing peace between Arviragus and Vespasian. Juvenal, as is well known to Classical scholars, was somewhat adverse to things not historically Roman.

The Historia regum Brittaniae of Geoffey of Monmouth, ed. Acton Griscom (London: 1929).

Cambridge University Library, MS 1706 (12th century), folios 38r-38v:

[folio 38 recto] Mandabat igitur ei concordiam daturumque promittebat sese filiam suam si tantum modo regnum brittanie sub romana potestate recognouisset. Post positis ergo debelationibus suaserunt maiores natu aruirago promissionibus claudii acquiescere. Dicebant autem non esse ei dedecori subditum fuisse romanis cum totius orbis inperio potirentur. His uero & pluribus aliis mitigatus paruit consiliis suorum & subiectionem cesari fecit. Mox claudius misit propter filiam suam romam & auxilio aruiragi uersus orcadas & provintiales insulas potestati sue submisit. Emensa hyeme deinde redierunt legati cum filia [folio 38 verso] eamque patri tradiderunt. Erat autem nomen puellae genuissa eratque tanta pulchritudo ut aspicientes in ammiratione ducerat. Et ut maritali lege copulata fuit tanto feruore amoris succendit regem ita ut ipsam solam cunctis rebus preferret. Vnde locum quo ei primo nupserat celebrem esse uolens suggessit claudio ut edificarent in illo ciuitatem quae memoriam tantarum nuptiarum in futura tempora preberet. Paruit ergo claudius precepitque fieri urbem quae de nomine eius kaerglou id est gloucestria nuncupata usque in hodiernum diem in confinio kambrie & loegrie super ripam sabrine sita est. Quidam uero dicunt ipsam traxisse nomen a gloio duce quem claudius in illa generauerat cui post aruiragum gubernaculum kambrit ducatus cessit.

Modern English translation of the above passage, as given in Geoffey of Monmouth, The History of the Kings of Britain, trans. Lewis Thorpe (London: 1966), p. 121:

He (Claudius) therefore proposed peace to him (Arvirargus), promising to give him his own daughter, if only he would recognize that the kingdom of Britain was under the sway of Rome. His nobles persuaded Arvirargus to abandon his plans for battle and to accept the proposals of Claudius. Their argument was that it could be no disgrace for him to submit to the Romans, since they were the acknowledged overlords of the whole world. Arvirargus was swayed by these arguments and by others of a similar nature. He accepted their advice and submitted to Claudius. Claudius soon sent to Rome for his daughter. With the help of Arvirargus he subdued the Orkneys and the other islands in that neighbourhood.

At the end of that winter the messengers returned with Claudius’ daughter and handed her over to her father. The girl’s name was Genvissa (= Genuissa). Her beauty was such that everyone who saw her was filled with admiration. Once she had been united with him in lawful marriage, she inflamed the King with such burning passion that he preferred her company to anything else in the world. As a result of this Arvirargus made up his mind to give some special mark of distinction to the place where he had married her. He suggested to Claudius that the two of them should found there a city which should perpetuate in times to come the memory of so happy a marriage. Claudius agreed and ordered a town to be built which should be called Kaerglou or Gloucester. Down to our own day it retains its site on the bank of the Severn, between Wales and Loegria. Some, however, say that it took its name from Duke Gloius, whom Claudius fathered in that city and to whom he granted control of the duchy of the Welsh after Arvirargus.

English translation by Robert Ellis Jones from the Welsh manuscript cited as Oxford, Jesus College, MS LXI (15th century). The Welsh translation is printed in Griscom’s edition of the Latin. The Welsh manuscript, as is plain to see, gives an abridged translation of Geoffrey’s Latin. This passage is found on fol. 80r.

[folio 80 recto] When Gloywkassar (= Claudius Caesar) saw this, he sent to the Bryttaniait to ask for peace, and forthwith peace was made between them; and to confirm the peace, Gloyw kassar gave his daughter to Gwairydd (= Arviragus) to wife. And after this, with the power of the Bryttaniaid, the men of Ryfain (= Rome) subdued the Ork islands, and the other islands about them. And when winter slipped away, the maid, matchless in her form and fairness, came from Ryfain, and Gwairydd married her. And then Gloyw kassar built a city which he called kaer-loyw (= Gloucester) on the bank of Hafren (= Severn), on the boundary betwen kymrv (= Wales) and lloegr (= Loegria).

Dr. J. C. Marler

June 17, 1999

translation from plutarch on Marcus Antonius.

Sample translation from Plurtarch ( who along with Tacitus is one of the major sources for the roman period)


(died 30 B.C.E.)By Plutarch Written 75 A.C.E.Translated by John Dryden

The grandfather of Antony was the famous pleader, whom Marius put to death for having taken part with Sylla. His father was Antony, surnamed of Crete, not very famous or distinguished in public life, but a worthy good man, and particularly remarkable for his liberality, as may appear from a single example. He was not very rich, and was for that reason checked in the exercise of his good nature by his wife. A friend that stood in need of money came to borrow of him. Money he had none, but he bade a servant bring him water in a silver basin, with which, when it was brought, he wetted his face, as if he meant to shave, and, sending away the servant upon another errand, gave his, friend the basin, desiring him to turn it to his purpose. And when there was, afterwards, a great inquiry for it in the house, and his wife was in a very ill-humour, and was going to put the servants one by one to the search, he acknowledged what he had done, and begged her pardon.

His wife was Julia, of the family of the Caesars, who, for her discretion and fair was not inferior to any of her time. Under her, Antony received his education, she being, after the death of his father, remarried to Cornelius Lentulus, who was put to death by Cicero for having been of Catiline’s conspiracy. This, probably, was the first ground and occasion of that mortal grudge that Antony bore Cicero. He says, even, that the body of Lentulus was denied burial, till, by application made to Cicero’s wife, it was granted to Julia. But this seems to be a manifest error, for none of those that suffered in the consulate of Cicero had the right of burial denied them. Antony grew up a very beautiful youth, but by the worst of misfortunes, he fell into the acquaintance and friendship of Curio, a man abandoned to his pleasures, who, to make Antony’s dependence upon him a matter of greater necessity, plunged him into a life of drinking and dissipation, and led him through a course of such extravagance that he ran, at that early age, into debt to the amount of two hundred and fifty talents. For this sum Curio became his surety; on hearing which, the elder Curio, his father, drove Antony out of his house. After this, for some short time he took part with Clodius, the most insolent and outrageous demagogue of the time, in his course of violence and disorder; but getting weary before long, of his madness, and apprehensive of the powerful party forming against him, he left Italy and travelled into Greece, where he spent his time in military exercises and in the study of eloquence. He took most to what was called the Asiatic taste in speaking, which was then at its height, and was, in many ways, suitable to his ostentatious, vaunting temper, full of empty flourishes and unsteady efforts for glory.

After some stay in Greece, he was invited by Gabinius, who had been consul, to make a campaign with him in Syria, which at first he refused, not being willing to serve in a private character, but receiving a commission to command the horse, he went along with him. His first-service was against Aristobulus, who had prevailed with the Jews to rebel. Here he was himself the first man to scale the largest of the works, and beat Aristobulus out of all of them; after which he routed in a pitched battle, an army many times over the number of his, killed almost all of them and took Aristobulus and his son prisoners. This war ended, Gabinius was solicited by Ptolemy to restore him to his kingdom of Egypt, and a promise made of ten thousand talents reward. Most of the officers were against this enterprise, and Gabinius himself did not much like it, though sorely tempted by the ten thousand talents. But Antony, desirous of brave actions and willing to please Ptolemy, joined in persuading Gabinius to go. And whereas all were of opinion that the most dangerous thing before them was the march to Pelusium, in which they would have to pass over a deep sand, where no fresh water was to be hoped for, along the Acregma and the Serbonian marsh (which the Egyptians call Typhon’s breathing-hole, and which is, in probability, water left behind by, or making its way through from, the Red Sea, which is here divided from the Mediterranean by a narrow isthmus), Antony, being ordered thither with the horse, not only made himself master of the passes, but won Pelusium itself, a great city, took the garrison prisoners, and by this means rendered the march secure to the army, and the way to victory not difficult for the general to pursue. The enemy also reaped some benefit of his eagerness for honour. For when Ptolemy, after he had entered Pelusium, in his rage and spite against the Egyptians, designed to put them to the sword, Antony withstood him, and hindered the execution. In all the great and frequent skirmishes and battles he gave continual proofs of his personal valour and military conduct; and once in particular, by wheeling about and attacking the rear of the enemy, he gave the victory to the assailants in the front, and received for this service signal marks of distinction. Nor was his humanity towards the deceased Archelaus less taken notice of.He had been formerly his guest and acquaintance, and, as he was now compelled, he fought him bravely while alive, but on his death, sought out his body and buried it with royal honours. The consequence was that he left behind him a great name among the Alexandrians, and all who were serving in the Roman army looked upon him as a most gallant soldier.

About Eutropia .

Eutropia was the (second?) wife of Emperor Maximian, second mother-in-law of Emperor Constantius Chlorus, and also second mother-in-law of Constantius Chlorus’ son Emperor Constantine I.

Her ancestry is uncertain. She was a daughter, sister or sister-in-law of Claudia Crispina. It has been suggested that her ancestry is a fiction designed to connect the Constantintian dynasty to their predecessors.

There are three standard reconstructions:

She was the daughter of Titus Flavius and his wife Gordiana Balba. Titus Flavius was a member of the Forum Julii, a family descended from Julius Caesar’s cousin Sextus Julius Caesar. Gordiana Balba was a granddaughter of Emperor Gordian I and a sister of Emperor Gordian III.
She was the granddaughter of Titus Flavius and his wife Gordiana Balba, through their son Flavius Eutropius and his wife Claudia Crispina. (These same parents are also claimed for Eutropia’s husband Constantius Chlorus.) Claudia Crispina was was a niece of the Emperors Claudius II and Quintillus, and a daughter of Flavius Crispus and his wife Aurelia Pompeiana.
She was a sister rather than daughter of Claudia Crispina. This reconstruction is offered by David Hughes, a problematic source. According to Hughes, Eutropia was daughter of Flavius Crispus by his wife Aurelia Pompeiana. Flavius Crispus was a son of Flavius Numerius, a Greek prince. Aurelia Pompeiana was a daughter of Commodus Pompeianus (died 209).
Eutropia md (1) Unknown, perhaps a man from the province of Asia, and perhaps Afranius Hannibilianus, consul in 292, and praetorian prefect under Diocletian. If so, they apparently divorced before 283. Alternatively, Afranius Hannibilianus might have been the father of an unknown first wife of Emperor Maximian.

Theodora, who married Emperor Constantius Chlorus, father of Constantine I. Alternatively, Theodora might have been a daughter of Maximian by his unknown first wife.
md (2) Emperor Maximian reigned 286-305, and died 309 or 
310 CE.

Emperor Maxentius
Flavia Maxima Fausta, who married Emperor Constantine I, son of Constantius Chlorus

Eutropia was of Syrian extraction and her marriage to Maximianus Herculius seems to have been her second. She bore him two children: Maxentius and Fausta. An older daughter, Theodora, may have been a product of her first marriage. Fausta became the wife of Constantine I , while her sister Theodora was the second spouse of his father Constantius I Chlorus .

Eutropia is said to have become a Christian. Eusebius in his Life of Constantine, 
narrating the role of Constantine’s mother Helena in identifying Christian sites in the Holy Land, adds that “Constantine’s mother-
in-law [Eutropia] was restoring the sites at Hebron”. “By the initiative of Eutropia, Constantine’s 
mother-in-law, a church was also built at 
Mamre, . . .”

Eutropia’s husband, the Emperor Maximianus, was a notorious persecutor of Christians. Maximianus and his son Maxentius both died resisting Constantine, but Eutropia herself was (second) mother-in-law to Constantine, and also (second) mother-in-law of Constantine’s 
father, Constantius Chlorus.

Eutropia apparently survived all her children, with the possible exception of her daughter Fausta, who was alive in 325 and seems to have died in 326.


De Imperatoribus Romanis, Eutropia, Maximianus Herculius’ Wife.
David Hughes, The British Chronicles (Heritage Books, 2007), Volume 2, Table 8J.
Sir Anthony Wagner, Pedigree and progress: essays in the genealogical interpretation of history (London: Phillimore & Co., Ltd., 1975 ), Pedigree 24.


Eutropia (d. after 325) a woman of Syrian origin, who was the wife of Emperor Maximian.

Marriage to Maximian and their children

In the late 3rd century, she married Maximian, though the exact date of this marriage is uncertain. By Maximian, she had two children, a boy, Maxentius (c. 277-287), who was Western Roman Emperor from 306-312 and a girl, Fausta (c. 298), who was wife of Constantine I, and mother of six children by him, including the Augusti Constantine II, Constantius II and Constans.

Another daughter?

There is some doubt as to whether Flavia Maximiana Theodora, who married Constantius I Chlorus, was the a daughter of Eutropia by an earlier husband or whether she was a daughter of Maximian by an earlier anonymous wife.


Barnes, New Empire, 34. Barnes dates Maxentius’ birth to circa 283, when Maximian was in Syria, and Fausta’s birth to 289 or 290 (Barnes, New Empire, 34).
Aurelius Victor, de Caesaribus 39.25; Eutropius, Breviaria 9.22; Jerome, Chronicle 225g; Epitome de Caesaribus 39.2, 40.12, quoted in Barnes, New Empire, 33; Barnes, New Empire, 33.
Origo Constantini 2; Philostorgius, Historia Ecclesiastica 2.16a, quoted in Barnes, New Empire, 33. See also Panegyrici Latini 10(2)11.4.

s.v. DiMaio, Michael, “Maximianus Herculius (286-305 A.D)”, DIR
Barnes, Timothy D. The New Empire of Diocletian and Constantine. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1982. ISBN 0783722214

Garrett G. Fagan on Claudius

Pennsylvania State University

Coin with the image of the Emperor Claudius


Ti. Claudius Nero Germanicus (b. 10 BC, d. 54 A.D.; emperor, 41-54 A.D.) was the third emperor of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. His reign represents a turning point in the history of the Principate for a number of reasons, not the least for the manner of his accession and the implications it carried for the nature of the office. During his reign he promoted administrators who did not belong to the senatorial or equestrian classes, and was later vilified by authors who did. He followed Caesar in carrying Roman arms across the English Channel into Britain but, unlike his predecessor, he initiated the full-scale annexation of Britain as a province, which remains today the most closely studied corner of the Roman Empire. His relationships with his wives and children provide detailed insights into the perennial difficulties of the succession problem faced by all Roman Emperors. His final settlement in this regard was not lucky: he adopted his fourth wife’s son, L. Domitius Ahenobarbus, who was to reign catastrophically as Nero and bring the dynasty to an end. Claudius’s reign, therefore, was a mixture of successes and failures that leads into the last phase of the Julio-Claudian line.

Early Life (10 BC – 41 A.D. )

Claudius was born on 1 August 10 BC at Lugdunum in Gaul, into the heart of the Julio-Claudian dynasty: he was the son of Drusus Claudius Nero, the son of Augustus’s wife Livia, and Antonia, the daughter of Mark Antony. [[1]] His uncle, Tiberius, went on to become emperor in AD 14 and his brother Germanicus was marked out for succession to the purple when, in AD 4, he was adopted by Tiberius. It might be expected that Claudius, as a well-connected imperial prince, would have enjoyed the active public life customary for young men of his standing but this was not the case. In an age that despised weakness, Claudius was unfortunate enough to have been born with defects. He limped, he drooled, he stuttered and was constantly ill. [[2]] His family members mistook these physical debilities as reflective of mental infirmity and generally kept him out of the public eye as an embarrassment. A sign of this familial disdain is that he remained under guardianship, like a woman, even after he had reached the age of majority. Suetonius, in particular, preserves comments of Antonia, his mother, and Livia, his grandmother, which are particularly cruel in their assessment of the boy. From the same source, however, it emerges that Augustus suspected that there was more to this “idiot” than met the eye.[[3]] Nevertheless, Claudius spent his entire childhood and youth in almost complete seclusion. The normal rites de passage of an imperial prince came and went without official notice, and Claudius received no summons to public office or orders to command troops on the frontiers.[[4]] When he assumed thetoga virilis, for instance, he was carried to the Capitol in a litter at night; the normal procedure was to be led into the Forum by one’s father or guardian in full public view. How he spent the voluminous free time of his youth is revealed by his later character: he read voraciously. He became a scholar of considerable ability and composed works on all subjects in the liberal arts, especially history; he was the last person we know of who could read Etruscan. [[5]] These skills, and the knowledge of governmental institutions he acquired from studying history, were to stand him in good stead when he came to power.It should not be forgotten that Claudius’s wing of the family suffered terribly in the internal struggles for succession that racked the imperial house. His father died on campaign when Claudius was only one year old, and his beloved brother, Germanicus, succumbed under suspicious circumstances in AD 19. His only other sibling to reach adulthood, Livilla, became involved with Sejanus and paid the ultimate price in the wake of the latter’s fall from grace in AD 31. Through all this turmoil Claudius survived, primarily through being ignored as an embarrassment and an idiot.[[6]]Claudius’s fortunes changed somewhat when his unstable nephew, Gaius (Caligula), came to power in the spring of 37 A.D. Gaius, it seems, liked to use his bookish, frail uncle as the butt of cruel jokes and, in keeping with this pattern of behavior, promoted him to a suffect consulship on 1 July 37 A.D. At 46 years of age, it was Claudius’s first public office. Despite this sortie into public life, he seemed destined for a relatively quiet and secluded dotage when, in January 41, events overtook him.[[7]]

Accession (24-25 January, 41 A.D.)

Arguably the most important period of Claudius’s reign was its first few hours. The events surrounding his accession are worthy of detailed description, since they revealed much about the true nature of the Augustan Principate.In the early afternoon of 24 January 41 A.D., the emperor Gaius was attending a display of dancers in a theater near the palace. Claudius was present. Shortly before lunch time, Claudius took his leave and the emperor decided that he, too, would adjourn for a bath. As Gaius was making his way down an isolated palace corridor he was surrounded and cut down by discontented members of his own bodyguard. In the aftermath of the assassination — the first open murder of a Roman emperor — there was widespread panic and confusion. The German elements of the emperor’s bodyguard, who were fiercely loyal to their chief, went on the rampage and killed indiscriminately. Soldiers of the larger Praetorian Guard began looting the imperial palace. According to the best-known tradition, some Guardsmen found Claudius cowering behind a curtain and, on the spot, they declared him their emperor and carried him off to their camp. In this story, a hapless Claudius falls into power entirely as a result of accident, and very much against his will. It is not hard to see why, with its implicit theme of recusatio imperii, it is the story of his accession that Claudius himself favored.[[8]] Vestiges, however, can be traced of another tradition that paints a somewhat different picture. In this version, the Guardsmen meet in their camp and discuss the situation facing them in light of Gaius’s murder. Their pleasant, city-based terms of military service were in jeopardy. They needed an emperor. Fixing their intentions on Claudius as the only surviving mature member of the Julio-Claudian house, they sent out a party of troops to find him and bring him back to their camp so he could be acclaimed emperor, which is what happened. In this story, the elevation of Claudius to the purple was a purposeful plan on the part of the soldiers, even if Claudius remains a passive and reluctant partner in the whole process.[[9]]The possibility has to be entertained that Claudius was a far more active participant in his own elevation than either of these traditions let on. There is just reason to suspect that he may even have been involved in planning the murder of Gaius — his departure from the theater minutes before the assassination appears altogether too fortuitous. These possibilities, however, must remain pure speculation, since the ancient evidence offers nothing explicit in the way of support for them. On the other hand, we can hardly expect them to, given the later pattern of events. The whole issue of Claudius’s possible involvement in the death of Gaius and his own subsequent acclamation by the Praetorian Guard must, therefore, remain moot.[[10]]Despite the circumstances that brought him there, the hours following Claudius’s arrival at the Praetorian Camp and his acceptance as emperor by the Senate are vital ones for the history of the Principate. Events could have taken a very different course, but that they worked out as they did speaks volumes as to how far seven decades of the Augustan Principate had removed Rome from the possibility of a return to the so-called free Republic.News of Gaius’s death prompted a meeting of the Senate. Initially, there was talk of declaring the Republic restored and dispensing with emperors altogether. Then, however, various senators began proposing that they be chosen as the next princeps. Debate was in progress when news reached the senators that the Guard had made the decision for them: Claudius, the soldiers’ choice, was sitting in the Praetorian Camp.[[11]] The main historical difficulty in what happened next is due to confusion in Josephus’s account (which is the fullest). In one version, the Senate sent two tribunes to the Camp to demand that Claudius step down. Once in the Camp, however, the tribunes were cowed by the ardent support for Claudius among the soldiers and instead requested that he come to the Senate to be ratified as emperor. In Josephus’s alternate version, however, Herod Agrippa is summoned by the senators and employed as an envoy between the Camp and the Senate.[[12]] Clearly, Josephus is conveying two traditions about these events, one Roman (featuring the tribunes), the other Jewish (highlighting the role of Herod Agrippa). Suetonius, naturally enough, follows the Roman tradition, as does Dio in his main account; interestingly, the latter shows awareness of some participation on the part of Herod Agrippa in a later passage.[[13]]Regardless of how the negotiations were conducted, the Senate quickly realized it was powerless in the presence of several thousand armed men supporting Claudius’s candidacy. The impotence that the esteemed council had experienced time and again when dealing with the military dynasts of the Late Republic was once more revealed to all, and the meeting dissolved with the fate of the Empire left undecided. When the Senate met again later that night in the Temple of Jupiter Victor, it found its numbers much depleted, since many had fled the city to their country estates. The senators assessed their military strength: they had three or four urban cohorts under the command of the City Prefect, numbering perhaps 3,000 men. With these, they occupied the Forum and Palatine. Plans were laid to arm some ex-slaves to provide reinforcements. By these actions the senators were accepting that supreme power in post-Augustan Rome could be achieved only by military force; all questions of legal niceties were irrelevant. But the Senate could not control their troops — they all deserted to the Praetorian Guard, with whom they shared the Camp.[[14]]Now completely powerless, the senators hurried off to the Praetorian Camp to pay their respects to Claudius. On 25 January 41 A.D. Claudius was formally invested with all the powers of the princeps, becoming Ti. Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus. (Since Claudius had no legal claim to it whatsoever, the appearance of “Caesar” in his imperial name marks the first step in this word’s transmutation from a family name to a title denoting ruler, and so begins a tradition that stretches into the modern era with “Kaiser,” “Czar,” and possibly “Shah.”)These events have been treated in some detail because of their immense historical importance. Gaius was the first emperor of Rome to be openly murdered, and Claudius’s accession marks the first overt and large-scale intrusion of the military into post-Augustan politics. The basic fact of the Principate, which had always been implicit in the Augustan settlement but heretofore carefully disguised, was now made plain: the emperor’s position ultimately rested not on consensus but on the swords of the soldiers who paid him homage. From one perspective, the Principate had been revealed for what it truly was — an exercise in managing the military’s loyalties, and not a form of government rooted in law and consensus. The Senate, in attempting to block Claudius with troops of their own, had acquiesced in this structure of power. For ever afterward, emperors sat on the throne on the sufferance of the troops they commanded, and a loss of army loyalty necessarily entailed a loss of power, usually accompanied by the loss of the incumbent’s life. But the harder lessons in these realities lay in the future; for the moment order had been restored, and Claudius embarked on his reign in relative security.

The Early Years: Britain, Freedmen, and Messalina (AD 41 – 48)

Among Claudius’s first acts was the apprehension and execution of Gaius’s assassins. Whatever his opinion of their actions, politics and pietas required that Claudius not be seen to condone men who murdered an emperor and a member of his own family.[[15]] He also displayed immediate understanding of the centrality of the military to his position and sought to create a military image for himself that his prior sheltered existence had denied him. Preparations got under way soon after his accession for a major military expedition into Britain, perhaps sparked by an attempted revolt of the governor of Dalmatia, L. Arruntius Camillus Scribonianus, in 42 A.D.. The invasion itself, spearheaded by four legions, commenced in the summer of 43 and was to last for decades, ultimately falling short of the annexation of the whole island (if indeed that was Claudius’s final objective at the outset). This move marked the first major addition to the territory of the Roman empire since the reign of Augustus.[[16]] Claudius himself took part in the campaign, arriving in the war zone with an entourage of ex-consuls in the late summer of 43 A.D. After a parade at Camulodunum (Colchester) to impress the natives, he returned to Rome to celebrate a triumph in 44 A.D. His military credentials had been firmly established.[[17]]The sources are united in portraying Claudius as a dupe to his imperial freedmen advisors as well as to his wives. It is possible that the hostile stance of the elite toward Claudius extended back into his reign — he was, after all, a usurper who had been foisted on the aristocrats by the soldiers. If so, Claudius’s reliance on his freedmen may have stemmed from this circumstance, in that the ex-slaves were (as far as he was concerned) more trustworthy than the sullen aristocracy. For whatever reasons, there is no doubt that Claudius’s reign is the first era of the great imperial freedman. To be sure, the secretariat had existed before Claudius and members of it had achieved some prominence (notably Helicon and Callistus under Gaius), but the rise of powerful individuals like Narcissus, Polybius, and Pallas was a distinctive mark of Claudius’s reign. The power of these men was demonstrated early on when the emperor chose Narcissus as his envoy to the legions as they hesitated to embark on their invasion of Britain.[[18]] According to our sources, the freedmen were frequently to exert less beneficent influences throughout Claudius’s reign.In 38 A.D. Claudius had married Valeria Messalina, a scion of a noble house with impressive familial connections. Messalina bore him a daughter (Octavia, born in 39) and a son (Britannicus, born in 41): she was therefore the mother of the heir-apparent and enjoyed influence for that reason. In the sources, Messalina is portrayed as little more than a pouting adolescent nymphomaniac who holds wild parties and arranges the deaths of former lovers or those who scorn her advances; and all this while her cuckolded husband blunders on in blissful ignorance. Recently, attempts have been made to rehabilitate Messalina as an astute player of court politics who used sex as a weapon, but in the end we have little way of knowing the truth.[[19]] What we can say is that either her love of parties (on the adolescent model) or her byzantine scheming (on the able courtier model) brought her down. While Claudius was away in Ostia in AD 48, Messalina had a party in the palace in the course of which a marriage ceremony was performed (or playacted) between herself and a consul-designate, C. Silius. Whatever the intentions behind it, the political ramifications of this folly were sufficiently grave to cause the summary execution of Messalina, Silius, and assorted hangers-on (orchestrated, tellingly, by the freedman Narcissus).[[20]] Claudius was now without a wife.

The Rise of Agrippina and Claudius’s Death (48-54 A.D.)

In our sources, the death of Messalina is presented as initiating a scramble among the freedmen, each wishing to place his preferred candidate at Claudius’s side as the new empress. In the end, it was Pallas who prevailed when he convinced Claudius to marry Agrippina the Younger. The marriage took place within months of Messalina’s execution. Agrippinawas a colorful figure with extensive and far-reaching imperial connections: she was the daughter of Claudius’s brother, Germanicus, and a sister of Gaius Caligula, by whom she had been exiled for involvement in the conspiracy of Gaetulicus; moreover, she had been married before. She therefore brought to the marriage with Claudius — which necessitated a change in the law to allow uncles to marry their brothers’ daughters — a son, L. Domitius Ahenobarbus. Agrippina’s ambitions for this son proved the undoing of Claudius.[[21]]The years between his marriage to Agrippina in 48 and his death in 54 were difficult ones for Claudius. Whether or not sources are right to portray him as a dupe of his wives and freedmen throughout his reign, there can be little doubt that Agrippina’s powerful personality dominated Claudius’s last years. Her position, openly influential in a manner unlike any previous empress, was recognized by those attuned to imperial politics, and she appears more and more prominently in official inscriptions and coins. In 50 the Senate voted her the title “Augusta,” the first prominent imperial woman to hold this title since Livia — and the latter had only held it after Augustus’s death. She greeted foreign embassies to the emperor at Rome from her own tribunal, and those greetings were recorded in official documents; she also wore a gold-embroidered military cloak at official functions. It is a sign of her overt influence that a new colony on the Rhine bore her name.[[22]]Agrippina’s powerful position facilitated the advancement of her son Domitius and was, in turn, strengthened by it. Claudius already had a natural son, Britannicus, who was still a minor. Domitius, at 13, was three years older. Now Claudius began to advance Domitius through various signs of favor, the most important being his adoption as Claudius’s son on 25 February AD 50. Henceforth Domitius was known as Nero Claudius Drusus Germanicus Caesar and known to posterity simply as “Nero”. But Claudius openly advanced Nero in other ways, too: the emperor held the consulship in 51, which was the year Nero took the “toga of manhood,” and that event was itself staged several months before the customary age for Roman teenagers; Nero was granted imperium proconsulare outside the city, addressed the Senate, appeared with Claudius at circus games (while Britannicus appeared still in the toga of a minor), and was hailed as “Leader of the Youth” (princeps iuventutis) on the coinage; in AD 53 Nero married Claudius’s daughter, Octavia.[[23]] All of these are sure signs of preference in the ever-unstable imperial succession schemes. The main difficulty for modern scholars lies in how to explain Claudius’s favoring of Nero over his natural son, Britannicus; the reasons remain a matter of intense debate.[[24]]No matter what the reasons were, there can be little doubt that Nero, despite his tender age, had been clearly marked out as Claudius’s successor. Agrippina, according to Tacitus, now decided it was time to dispose of Claudius to allow Nero to take over. The ancient accounts are confused — as is habitual in the cases of hidden and dubious deaths of emperors — but their general drift is that Claudius was poisoned with a treated mushroom, that he lingered a while and had to be poisoned a second time before dying on 13 October 54 A.D. At noon that same day, the sixteen-year-old Nero was acclaimed emperor in a carefully orchestrated piece of political theater. Already familiar to the army and the public, he faced no serious challenges to his authority.[[25]]

Claudius and the Empire

The invasion and annexation of Britain was by far the most important and significant event in Claudius’s reign. But several other issues deserve attention: his relationship with and treatment of the aristocracy, his management of the provinces and their inhabitants, and his judicial practices, and his building activities. Before looking at these subjects, however, we should note that the long-lived notion that Claudius initiated a coherent policy of centralization in the Roman Empire — evidenced in the centralization of provincial administration and judicial actions, in the creation of a departmental bureaucracy, his interference in financial affairs, and so on — has been decisively disproven by a recent biography of Claudius.[[26]]Whatever actions Claudius took in regard to the various wings of government, he did so without any unifying policy of centralization in mind.Claudius’s relationship with the Senate did not get off to a good start — given the nature of his succession and the early revolt of Scribonianus with its ensuing show trials — and it seems likely that distrust of the aristocracy is what impelled Claudius to elevate the role of his freedmen. During his reign, however, Claudius made efforts to conciliate Rome’s leading council, but he also embarked on practices that redounded to his detriment, especially those of sponsoring the entrance men considered unworthy into the Order and hearing delicate cases behind closed doors (in camera). In the last analysis, the figures speak for themselves: 35 senators and several hundred Knights were driven to suicide or executed during the reign. The posthumous vilification of Claudius in the aristocratic tradition also bespeaks a deep bitterness and indicates that, ultimately, Claudius’s relationship with the Senate showed little improvement over time. His reviving and holding the censorship in 47-48 is typical of the way the relationship between Senate and emperor misfired: Claudius, no doubt, thought he was adhering to ancient tradition, but the emperor-censor only succeeded in eliciting odium from those he was assessing.[[27]]Claudius was remembered (negatively) by tradition as being noticeably profligate in dispensing grants of Roman citizenship to provincials; he also admitted “long-haired” Gauls into the senatorial order, to the displeasure of the snobbish incumbents. Both of these practices demonstrate his concern for fair play and good government for the provinces, despite his largely sedentary reign: under Claudius are attributed the first issues of standing orders (mandata) from emperor to governor.[[28]] In the organization of the provinces, Claudius appears to have preferred direct administration over client kingship. Under him the kingdoms of Mauretania, Lycia, Noricum, and Thrace were converted into provinces. Stable kingdoms, such as Bosporus and Cilicia, were left untouched. A good example of the pattern is Herod Agrippa I. This client prince had grown up at Rome and had been awarded tetrarchic lands in Galilee by Gaius (Caligula). As we saw above, he had been involved in the accession of Claudius and, as a reward for services rendered, he was granted Judaea and Samaria in addition to his former holdings. He fell from grace, however, when he suspiciously extended Jerusalem’s walls and invited other eastern kings to a conference at Tiberias. He died suddenly in 44 A.D., after which his former kingdom again came under direct Roman rule.[[29]]One feature of Claudius’s reign that the sources particularly criticize is his handling of judicial matters. While he was certainly diligent in attending to hearings and court proceedings — he was constantly present in court and heard cases even during family celebrations and festal days — the sources accuse him of interfering unduly with cases, of not listening to both sides of a case, of making ridiculous and/or savage rulings, and of hearing delicate cases in closed-door private sessions with only his advisors present. The most celebrated and infamous of the latter cases is that of Valerius Asiaticus, the Gallic ex-consul and one-time friend of Claudius, who fell from grace in 47, reputedly at Messalina’s instigation. His case was heard in the emperor’s bedroom and Asiaticus was forced to suicide. Even if a survey of surviving rulings by Claudius do not show him making silly decisions, his judicial practices caught such attention that Seneca’s Apocolocyntosis ends with a courtroom scene with Claudius as the accused: he is not allowed to make his defence, is convicted, and condemned to be a powerless courtroom clerk. Such an image must have been most pleasing to the senatorial imagination.[[30]]Finally, there is Claudius’s building activities. Public building was de rigueur for Roman emperors, and ancient accounts of individual reigns routinely include mention of imperial munificence. Matters hydraulic account for Claudius’s greatest constructional achievements, in the form of a new aqueduct for the city of Rome, a new port at Portus near Ostia, and the draining of the Fucine Lake. The sources are at pains to highlight the almost catastrophic outcome of the latter project, but its scale cannot be denied. Suetonius’s assessment that “his public works were grandiose and necessary rather than numerous” is entirely correct[[31]].


Robert Graves’ fictional characterization of Claudius as an essentially benign man with a keen intelligence has tended to dominate the wider public’s view of this emperor. Close study of the sources, however, reveals a somewhat different kind of man. In addition to his scholarly and cautious nature, he had a cruel streak, as suggested by his addiction to gladiatorial games and his fondness for watching his defeated opponents executed.[[32]] He conducted closed-door (in camera ) trials of leading citizens that frequently resulted in their ruin or deaths — an unprecedented and tyrannical pattern of behavior. He had his wife Messalina executed, and he personally presided over a kangaroo court in the Praetorian Camp in which many of her hangers-on lost their lives. He abandoned his own son Britannicus to his fate and favoured the advancement of Nero as his successor. While he cannot be blamed for the disastrous way Nero’s rule turned out, he must take some responsibility for putting that most unsuitable youth on the throne. At the same time, his reign was marked by some notable successes: the invasion of Britain, stability and good government in the provinces, and successful management of client kingdoms. Claudius, then, is a more enigmatic figure than the other Julio-Claudian emperors: at once careful, intelligent, aware and respectful of tradition, but given to bouts of rage and cruelty, willing to sacrifice precedent to expediency, and utterly ruthless in his treatment of those who crossed him. Augustus’s suspicion that there was more to the timid Claudius than met the eye was more than fully borne out by the events of his unexpected reign.

BIBLIOGRAPHY (see also the bibliographies for Gaius and Nero)

Barrett, A. A. Agrippina: Sex, Power, and Politics in the Early Empire. New Haven, 1996.Braund, D. Augustus to Nero: A Sourcebook on Roman History, 31 BC – A.D. 68. London, 1985.Eck, W., A. Caballos, and F. Fernández. Das Senatusconsultum de Cn. Pisone Patre. Munich, 1996.Ehrhardt, C. “Messalina and the Succession to Claudius.” Antichthon 12 (1978): 51-77.Sherk, R. K. The Roman Empire: Augustus to Hadrian. Cambridge, 1988.Levick, B. Claudius. New Haven, 1990.Momigliano, A. Claudius: The Emperor and his Achievement.2 Oxford, 1961.Schwartz, D. R. Agrippa I: The Last King of Judaea. Tübingen, 1990.Scramuzza, V. M. The Emperor Claudius. London, 1940.Sherwin-White, A. N. The Roman Citizenship2. Oxford, 1973.Smallwood, E. M. Documents Illustrating the Principates of Gaius, Claudius, and Nero. Cambridge, 1967.Strocka, V.M. (ed.) Die Regierungszeit des Claudius. Mainz 1993.Sutherland, C. H. V. Coinage in Roman Imperial Policy. London, 1951.________. The Roman Imperial Coinage. Vol. 1,2 London, 1982. (= RIC)Talbert, R. J. A. The Senate of Imperial Rome. Princeton, 1984.Vivo, A. de. Claudio e Tacito: Storia e codificazione letteraria. Naples, 1980.Wellesley, K. “Can You Trust Tacitus?” GaR 1 (1954): 13-33.Wiseman, T.P. Flavius Josephus: Death of an Emperor. Exeter 1991.


[[1]] The main ancient literary sources for Claudius’s reign are: Tac. Ann. 11-12; Dio 59.1-60(61).4; Seneca, Apocolocyntosis; Suet. Claudius. Supplementary information is found in Josephus, and inscriptions and coins are collected in Smallwood, Documents (many of the latter’s entries are translated in Braund or Sherk). Birth: Suet. Claud. 2.1.[[2]] Defects: Suet. Claud. 2.1-2. Claudius may have suffered from cerebral palsy, but medical diagnoses in the absence of physical remains and at a distance of 2,000 years are not the soundest.[[3]] Antonia, reports Suetonius [Claud. 3.2], used to call him “a half-formed monster” and berated fools as “more stupid than my son Claudius.” These assessments may well derive from the imperial archives, to which Suetonius had access. For citations from Augustus’s correspondence that reveal a more balanced view of the young Claudius, see Suet. Claud. 4. Recent confirmation of Claudius’s low status in the dynasty comes from the SC de Cn. Pisone Patre (AD 20): in the lengthy praises of members of Germanicus’s family, Claudius, Germanicus’s brother, is barely mentioned (line 148) ; see W. Eck et al., Das Senatusconsultum de Cn. Pisone Patre (Munich, 1996), ll. 136-50.[[4]] He did hold an augural priesthood, but nothing else. The flimsiness of Augustus’s bequest to him, in naming him an heir in the third degree among complete strangers, is a further indication of his almost total marginalization from the center of the dynasty, see Suet. Claud. 4.7.[[5]] Suet. Claud. 3.1, 41-42. Among his works, which were composed in Greek and Latin and none of which survive, were: 43 books of Roman history, 21 books of Etruscan history, and 8 on Carthaginian; a book on philology; a rhetorical defence of Cicero; and an autobiography in 8 books. The latter have been fictionalized by Robert Graves in his masterly novels “I, Claudius” and “Claudius the God.”[[6]] Suetonius (Claud.5-6) records various incidental honors and respects paid to him from various quarters, such as his representation on two occasions of the equestrian order as their patron. However, as he was an under-utilized and therefore accessible member of the imperial house, it would have been more surprising had some party not attempted to use him as an avenue of approach into more powerful inner circles.[[7]] Consulship and rough treatment under Gaius: Suet. Claud. 7-9.[[8]] Suet. Claud. 10; Dio 60.1.2-3a. Josephus (AJ 19.212-20) is largely in agreement, but unwittingly contradicts an earlier passage in his work (see next note). Another possibility (see Scramuzza, 56-57) is that Josephus in AJ 19.212-20 is portraying the sequel of the events he describes in AJ 10.162-65.[[9]] The tradition of the “active Guard” is preserved in Jos. AJ 19.162-65.[[10]] The danger here is that we enter a pattern of circular reasoning: because Claudius was involved in the assassination and his own accession, he suppressed the evidence and put out the “hapless accession” story; therefore, the absence of evidence for his active involvement is to be read as proof of it! Levick (29-39) skirts this sort of logic, but falls short of endorsing it.[[11]] Suet. Claud. 10.1-3; Dio 60.1.3a; Jos. AJ 19.229, BJ 2.206-7.[[12]] Tribunes: Jos. AJ 19.229-35; Herod Agrippa: Jos. AJ 19.239-45.[[13]] Suet. Claud. 10.3; Dio 60.1.4 (tribunes), 60.8.2 (allusion to Herod Agrippa’s role). Josephus’s account of these Roman events, in fact, is part of an extended, self-contained subdivision of his AJ that could easily be entitled “The Adventures of Herod Agrippa Among the Romans.” There is just cause to doubt the degree of prominence he affords Herod in these events, but that the Jewish prince played some role is hardly to be doubted.[[14]] Depleted Senate: Jos. AJ 19.248-49. Senatorial military strength and actions: Suet. Claud. 10.4; Jos. AJ 19.188, 242, BJ 2.205. Desertions: Dio 60.1.4; Jos. AJ 19.259-60, BJ2.211-12. The most likely reason for the sudden desertion of the Senate’s troops late on 24 January was not fear of a restored Republic or an unwillingness to fight their comrades (as Josephus claims in the AJ and BJ, locc. citt., respectively), but the announcement on the evening of that day of Claudius’s huge donative to the urban and provincial troops (Jos. AJ19.247, Suet. Claud. loc. cit.).[[15]] Suet. Claud. 11.1; Dio 60.3.4; Jos. AJ 19.268-71. Chaerea had virtually ensured his own death by insisting that Claudius be killed along with Gaius.[[16]] Scribonianus’s rebellion: Suet. Claud. 13.2; Dio 60.15-16; Tac. Hist. 1.89, 2.75, Ann. 12.52.2. The invasion of Britain has been analyzed in minute detail by many British scholars: e.g., S. Frere, Britannia,3 (London, 1987), 16-80; J. Peddie, Invasion: The Roman Conquest of Britain (New York, 1987); P. Salway, Roman Britain (Oxford, 1981), 65-99; G. Webster and D. Dudley, The Roman Conquest of Britain,2 (London, 1973). Claudius’s initial objective may have been the annexation of the southern shoreline only; see Levick, 137-48.[[17]] The bombastic inscription from his (lost) triumphal arch, now in a courtyard of the Musei Capitolini in Rome, declares that “he received the surrender of eleven British kings who had been defeated without loss in battle, and was the first to bring barbarian peoples from across the Ocean under the sway of the Roman people” (CIL 6.920 = ILS 216). There were other military actions. Claudius inherited a war in Mauretania from Gaius’s reign and, once fighting subsided, organized the former kingdom into two provinces (Mauretania Tingitana and Caesariensis) perhaps as early as AD 43; he subdued trouble in Lycia and annexed the region as a province, probably around AD 47 or 48; and he saw fighting along the Rhine and Danube frontiers; for all this, see Levick, 149-61. By the end of his reign, he had been hailed as imperator twenty-seven times (see, e.g., CIL 6.1256 = ILS 218), more than any emperor until Constantine the Great.[[18]] On the imperial freedmen, see Levick, 53-79; Scramuzza, 5-34. Claudius’s relations with the aristocracy: Levick, 93-103. Narcissus and the legions: Dio 60.19.2-3. A classic example of the growing power of the freedmen is Claudius’s abolition of the senatorial post of quaestor Ostiensis and its replacement with a freedman procurator portus Ostiensis in 44; see Suet. Claud. 24.2.[[19]] Messalina was Claudius’s third wife: previous unions with Plautia Urgulanilla and Aelia Paetina had failed for various reasons; see Suet. Claud. 26.1-2. Messalina’s influence is indicated by her appearance on the obverse of coins of Claudius’s reign (where one would expect the head of the emperor), or in the cameo now in Paris depicting Messalina, Octavia, and Britannicus. Messalina’s excesses are reflected in such sources as Sen. Apoc., passim and Juv. Sat. 6 and 10.[[20]] Messalina’s fall: Tac. Ann. 11.26-37; Suet. Claud. 26; Dio 60(61).31.1-5; Sen. Oct. 257-61.[[21]] Timing of marriage: Tac. Ann. 12.6-8. Agrippina’s life and connections: Barrett, Agrippina, 1-94 (before marriage to Claudius).[[22]] Augusta: Dio 60(61).33.2a. Greeting ambassadors: Tac. Ann. 12.37.5; Dio 60(61).33.7. Cloak: Pliny HN 33.63, Dio 60(61).33.3. Colony: Tac. Ann. 12.27.1-2. Tacitus, typically, contrives the most biting aphorism to describe Agrippina’s ascendancy: “she presided over an almost masculine servitude” (adductum et quasi virile servitium — Ann. 12.7.5).[[23]] Adoption: Tac. Ann. 12.25; Suet. Claud. 27, Nero 7; Dio 60(61).32.22. Toga virilis and public appearances: Tac. Ann. 12.41-42; Suet. Nero 7; Dio 60(61).32.5, 33.2c, 33.9.Imperium proconsulare: Tac. Ann. 12.41.2. Princeps Iuventutis: C.H.V. Sutherland, Coinage in Roman Imperial Policy (London, 1951), pp.143-44 and id., RIC 126 (nos. 75. 80, 82) (many of these coins also celebrate Agrippina independently of Claudius — e.g., Sutherland, Coinage, 146 and id., RIC, 125 [no. 75] — a sure sign of her overt influence). Marriage toOctavia: Tac. Ann. 12.58.1; Dio 60(61).33.11.[[24]] Tacitus is unequivocal in attributing Nero’s advancement to Agrippina’s efforts (studiis matris at Ann. 12.9.2). Modern attempts to counter this judgment (e.g., Scramuzza, 91-92) are unconvincing, though Barrett’s (Agrippina, 95-142) portrayal of Agrippina and Claudius acting in concert has its attractions. Tacitus portrays Pallas, Agrippina’s ally, as persuading Claudius to advance Nero for reasons of state, slyly appealing to the sort of historical precedents he knew would appeal to Claudius’s antiquarian sensibilities (Tac. Ann. 12.25). It is noteworthy that in his epigraphically preserved speech to Lugdunum (dated to AD 48, and thus before Nero was a factor), Claudius had referred to just such precedents regarding monarchic succession (Smallwood, Documents, no. 369.8-27). Levick (69-79) argues for the “pairing” of Britannicus and Nero in a joint-succession scheme she sees extending back to Augustus. However, her “dynastic collegiality” format for the imperial succession is rather thin for evidence and, tellingly, was not realized even once when power changed hands in the first century AD. Barrett (Agrippina, loc. cit.) argues that Claudius intended to promote Nero from the outset, since the prince could claim direct descent from Augustus and that this claim buttressed his own regime. This position seems a little stretched, since Claudius must have known that to do so would result in Britannicus’s death (as indeed it did, within weeks of Nero’s accession; see Tac. Ann. 13.15-17). Another possibility, little more than mentioned in the modern authorities but entirely possible, is that Claudius saw some flaws in Britannicus that turned him toward Nero (Tac. Ann. 13.16.5).[[25]] Death of Claudius: Tac. Ann. 12.64-67; Suet. Claud. 43-44; Dio 60(61).34.1-3. Scramuzza (92-93) believes that Claudius died naturally, and Barrett (Agrippina, 139-42) leans in the same direction, on the basis that the confused and conflicting accounts of our sources make murder unlikely. Levick (76-77), while stating that murder cannot be proven, nonetheless finds Claudius’s death altogether too timely to have been natural. The aging emperor had fallen ill frequently in the years leading up to his death, but the fortuitous timing of his death is indeed highly suspicious.[[26]] Proponents of centralization: e.g., Momigliano, passim; H.H. Scullard, From the Gracchi to Nero5 (London, 1985), 292-95. Disproven: Levick, 81-91.[[27]] Consulting the House: Claudius’s record of attendance at meetings of the Senate is among best for the emperors; see R.J.A. Talbert, The Senate of Imperial Rome (Princeton, 1984), 174-84, esp. 176-77. Conciliatory gestures: he declared amnesty for senators implicated in Gaius’s death (Dio 60.3.5-4.2); he adopted a general demeanor of deference to the House (Suet. Claud. 12.1-2, 35.1); he rose to greet consuls and dressed unassumingly for meetings (Dio 60.6.1, 9); and so on. Unworthy senators: e.g., Tac. Ann. 11.20.4-21.4. Numbers of dead: Sen., Apoc. 14.1 (who numbers 35 senators and 221 equites); Suet. Claud. 29.2 (35 senators and over 300 equites). Censorship: Tac. Ann. 11.13, Suet. Claud. 16.[[28]] Excessive grants of citizenship: Sen. Apoc. 3.3; his grant of citizenship en masse to the Alpine tribe of the Anauni (CIL 14.85 = ILS 206) is a particularly famous example. Levick (165) has pointed out, however, that in the indices of provincial citizens “Claudii” are far outweighed by “Iulii” or “Flavii,” suggesting that the tradition has exaggerated this tendency of Claudius’s; see also see A.N. Sherwin-White The Roman Citizenship2 (Oxford, 1973), 237-50. Admission of Gauls to the senate: Tac. Ann. 11.23-25; Smallwood,Documents, no. 369 (see also K. Wellesley, “Can You Trust Tacitus?”, GaR 1[1954]: 13-33). Mandata: Levick, 164.[[29]] Career of Herod Agrippa I: D.R. Schwartz, Agrippa I: The Last King of Judaea (Tübingen, 1990); above, nn. 12-13.[[30]] Hearing cases: Suet. Claud. 14, Dio 60.4.3, 17.1. Suetonius (Claud. 14-15) sums up his judicial failings with many examples; see also Dio 60.5.6-7. Closed hearings: Tac. Ann. 11.2.1, 13.4.2. Valerius Asiaticus and survey of rulings: Levick, 61-63 (with sources in notes) and 123-26, respectively. Seneca: Apoc. 12-14 (where there are many echoes of Suetonius’s charges).[[31]] Suet. Claud. 20 (quote at 20.1: opera magna potius et necessaria quam multa perfecit). See also F.C. Bourne, The Public Works of the Julio-Claudians and Flavians(Princeton, 1946), 42-48; Levick, 108-11.[[32]] Cruelty: Suet. Claud. 34.

Copyright 1998, Garrett G. Fagan. This file may be copied on the condition that the entire contents, including the header and this copyright notice, remain intact.


1 Family, ancestry and early life

2 Queen of Palmyra

3Modern fiction

4 Sources
Zenobia was born with the name Iulia (or Julia) Aurelia Zenobia. Her name in the Arabic language is Znwbya Bat Zaddai or (الزباء بنت عمرو بن الظرب بن حسان ابن أذينة بن السميدع); Greek Ζηνοδία or Ζηνοδίαs and is known as Xenobia or Septimia Zenobia(she added that name to her name when she married Septimius Odaenathus). Her father, Zabaii ben Selim or Iulius Aurelius Zenobius, was a chieftain of Syria in 229 and her mother may have been Egyptian. Her father’s gentilicium Aureliusshows that his paternal ancestors received Roman citizenship under either Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius (reigned 138-161),Marcus Aurelius (reigned 161-180) or Commodus (reigned 180-192). Zenobia was born and raised in Palmyra, Syria. Her mother being Egyptian is based on the fact that Zenobia knew the ancient Egyptian language very well and had a strong predisposition towards the ancient culture of Egypt.Inscriptions found at Palmyra, show that Zenobia’s father had a Greek name Antiochus. However according to Augustan History (Aurel. 31.2), his name was Achilleus and his usurper was named Antiochus (Zos. 1.60.2). Zenobia’s near ancestry is not certainly known however; her father’s paternal ancestry is traceable up to six generations, who includes a Sampsigeramus (a Syrian chieftain, who founded the Royal Family of Emesa modern Homs, Syria) and Gaius Julius Bassianus, a high priest from Emesa and father of Roman Empress Julia Domna.Zenobia claimed to be a descendant of Queen of Carthage Dido, King of Emesa Sampsigeramus and Ptolemaic Greek QueenCleopatra VII of Egypt. According to Augustan History, an imperial declaration in 269, was sent to the citizens of Alexandria,Egypt, describing the city as “my ancestral city”. This declaration only fits Vaballathus, the son of Zenobia. Historian Kallinikos of Petra, dedicated a ten-book history on Alexandria’s history to a ’Cleopatra’, who can only be Zenobia. Zenobia is descended the three above named figures from Drusilla of Mauretania. Drusilla was a daughter of King Ptolemy of Mauretania and QueenJulia Urania of Mauretania. Drusilla’s mother most probably came from the Royal Family of Emesa and Drusilla married in that Royal Family. Drusilla’s paternal grandmother Queen of Mauretania Cleopatra Selene (II), was a daughter of Ptolemaic Greek Queen Cleopatra VII of Egypt and Roman Triumvir Mark Antony. Drusilla’s paternal grandfather African King Juba II of Mauretania, claimed to be a descendant of the sister to General of Carthage Hannibal (Lucan. Pharsalia 8.287). Hannibal’s family, the Barcids claimed to be descended from Dido’s younger brother.Zenobia was beautiful, attractive and intelligent. She had a dark complexion, her teeth were pearl white, she had black bright eyes that sparkled and had a sweet look in her face. Zenobia had a strong and melodic voice and had the charms of a woman. Zenobia was well educated and knew Greek, Aramaic, Egyptian and Latin. She was very interested in history and interested in the works of Homer, Plato and other writers from Greece. She also enjoyed hunting animals and drinking.Zenobia married King of Palmyra Septimius Odaenathus by 258 as his second wife. She had a stepson Hairan, a son from Odaenathus’ first marriage. As in 258, there is an inscription ‘the illustrious consul our lord’ at Palmyra, dedicated to Odaenathus who was chief of Palmyra, by Zenobia, who was a supporter of his.Around 266, Zenobia and Odaenathus had a son, his second child, Lucius Iulius Aurelius Septimius Vaballathus Athenodorus. Her son Vaballathus (Latin from the Arabic as وهب اللات Wahballath), is the name of Odaenathus’ paternal grandfather that means ‘gift of the Goddess’. In 267, Zenobia’s husband and stepson were assassinated. Vaballathus, not old enough to rule as king, his mother succeeded his father and ruled Palmyra on his behalf. Although Vaballathus was declared king, he was king in title and position only, as his mother had the real power and ruled the throne. Zenobia bestowed upon herself and her son the honorific titles of Augusta and Augustus.Xenobia conquered new territories and increased the Palmyrene Empire, in the memory of her husband and as a legacy to her son. Her stated goal was to protect the Eastern Roman Empire from the Sassanid Empire, for the peace of Rome; however, her efforts significantly increased the power of her throne.In 269, Zenobia, her army and the Palmyrene General Zabdas violently conquered Egypt with help from their Egyptian ally, Timagenes and his army. The Roman prefect of Egypt, Tenagino Probus and his forces, tried to expel them from Egypt; but Zenobia’s forces captured and beheaded Probus. She then proclaimed herself Queen of Egypt.After these initial forays, Zenobia became known as the “Warrior Queen”. In leading her army, she displayed significant prowess: she was an able horse rider and could walk three or four miles with her foot soldiers.Zenobia with her large army made expeditions and conquered Asia Minor as far as Ancyra or Ankara and Chalcedon, then toSyria, Palestine and Lebanon. In her short lived empire, Zenobia took the vital trade routes in these areas from the Romans. Roman Emperor Aurelian, probably did recognise Zenobia and Vaballathus, who was at that time campaigning with his forces in the Gallic Empire. However this relationship began to degenerate when Aurelian began a military campaign to reunite the Roman Empire in 272-273. Aurelian and his forces left the Gallic Empire and arrived in Syria. Aurelian, Zenobia and their forces met and fought near Antioch. After a crushing defeat, the remaining Palmyrenes briefly fled into Antioch and into Emesa. Zenobia was unable to remove her treasury at Emesa as Aurelian successfully entered and sieged Emesa. Zenobia and her son escaped from Emesa on camel back with help from the Sassanids and were captured on the Euphrates River by Aurelian’s horsemen. Zenobia’s short lived kingdom and the Palmyrene Empire had ended. There is a claim, after Aurelian’s defeat Zenobia committed suicide, however this is not likely. The remaining Palmyrenes who refused to surrender were captured by Aurelian and were executed on Aurelian’s orders. Among those who were executed was Zenobia’s chief counselor and Greek sophist Cassius Dionysius Longinus.Zenobia and Vaballathus were taken as hostages to Rome by Aurelian. Vaballathus died on his way to Rome. In 274, Zenobia appeared in golden chains in Aurelian’s military triumph parade in Rome. Aurelian, out of clemency, impressed by her beauty and dignity, freed Zenobia. Aurelian granted her an elegant villa in Tibur (modern Tivoli, Italy). She lived in luxury and she became a prominent philosopher, socialite and Roman matron. Zenobia married a Roman governor and senator whose name is unknown. The two had several daughters, whose names are also unknown but who married into Roman noble families. She would have further descendants surviving in the fourth and fifth century.The evidence of a descendant of Zenobia’s can be confirmed by an inscription found in Rome. The inscription Lucius Septimia Patavinia Balbilla Tyria Nepotilla Odaenathiania has the names of her first husband Septimius Odaenathus. He was probably named in the honor of Zenobia’s first husband. (After the deaths of Odaenathus and his sons, Odaenathus had no descendants). Another possible descendant is Saint Zenobius of Florence, a Christian bishop who lived in the fifth century.

Geoffrey Chaucer, “The Monk’s Prologue and Tale”, in The Canterbury Tales, vv. 359-486
Beloved, by Bertrice Small, is a fictitious retelling (historical novel) of Zenobia’s life. ISBN 0-345-32785-3
The Chronicle of Zenobia: the Rebel Queen[1], by Judith Weingarten (Pegasus 2006).
Ethan Frome, by Edith Wharton, contains a manipulative character named Zenobia Pierce
“Rites of Passage”, by William Golding contains an actrice under the name of Zenobia
Alison Wier – Katherine Swynford -The court of Edward IIIThe court attracted people of rank, intellect and sophisticated tastes, and was a centre of learning and culture. Its members were wealthy, privileged and overwhelmingly preoccupied with the securing of patronage and the accumulation of material luxuries. Display was what mattered, they dined in style on rich and novel cuisine, drank to excess, and dressed in extravagantly fashionable and colourful clothes, women’s necklines were very low and often left their breasts half bared, while young men wore such clinging hose beneath their short jackets (paltrocks) that little was left to the imagination. Elaborate headgear, shoes with long pointed toes, trailing sleves and belts slung seductively low on the hips completed these ensembles for both sexes and a profusion of jewellery was de rigueur. Not surprisingly these pampered gaudily attired courtiers shocked the King’s more sober subjects not only by their revealing dress but also by their licentious conduct.

“The City of God”

Extracts from “The City of God” by St Augustine of Hippo

Book V, Chap. 15

Concerning the temporal reward which God granted to the virtues of the Romans….Forr as to those who seem to do some good that they may receive glory from men, the Lord also says, “Verily I say unto you, they have received their reward.” So also these despised their own private affairs for the sake of the republic, and for its treasury resisted avarice, consulted for the good of their country with a spirit of freedom, addicted neither to what their laws pronounced to be crime nor to lust. By all these acts, as by the true way, they pressed forward to honors, power, and glory; they were honored among almost all nations; they imposed the laws of their empire upon many nations; and at this day, both in literature and history, they are glorious among almost all nations. There is no reason why they should complain against the justice of the supreme and true God,–“they have received their reward.”

Book IV, Chap. 4

Justice being taken away, then, what are kingdoms but great robberies? For what are robberies themselves, but little kingdoms? The band itself is made up of men; it is ruled by the authority of a prince, it is knit together by the pact of the confederacy; the booty is divided by the law agreed on. If, by the admittance of abandoned men, this evil increases to such a degree that it holds places, fixes abodes, takes possession of cities, and subdues peoples, it assumes the more plainly the name of a kingdom, because the reality is now manifestly conferred on it, not by the removal of covetousness, but by the addition of impunity. Indeed, that was an apt and true reply which was given to Alexander the Great by a pirate who had been seized. For when that king had asked the man what he meant by keeping hostile possession of the sea, he answered with bold pride, “What thou meanest by seizing the whole earth; but because I do it with a petty ship, I am called a robber, whilst thou who dost it with a great fleet art styled emperor.”

Other sources

There are a multitude of other individual and collected sources which have survived until the present day. Many of the classical texts reached modern times through the good agencies of the Arab nations and the Moors. The great centre of learning at Toledo was where fair copies of many of the texts were made in the original language for distribution throughout Europe. The books were then translated from Latin and Greek into first Arabic but then French.
John Julius Norwich devotes five pages to his bibliography in his book “Byzantium, the early centuries”. It is this book (p143)that information on one of the most important gateways between the ancient and medieval worlds was brought to my attention. Gallia Placeda was Augusta of the Roman Empire and kidnapped from Rome by the Visigoths in 410, during the death throes of the Western Empire.

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The most dangerous woman in the world

The Treasure of Trencavel

List of Characters

Table Of Contents



List of Places

Table of Contents

Pseudo History