Monday, September 14, 2009

What's YOUR Dark Ages tea party list?

I have amused myself while writing this book by trying to identify which, if any, late antique or early medieval writers (that is, those whose personality we can recapture, at any rate in part, with least mediation) I could imagine meeting with any real pleasure. It comes down to remarkably few: Theodoret of Cyrrhus, Gregory the Great, Einhard, maybe Braulio of Zaragoza -- and, with less enthusiasm, Augustine, for his remarkable intelligence and self-awareness however, not for his tolerance.
-- Chris Wickham, The Inheritance of Rome: A History of Europe from 400 to 1000, at 553.


  1. Alfred the Great, hands down. We're talking war leader, educational reformer and creditable Latin translator here. The time-management tips alone would be worth the going price of a time-travelling dinner.

    Alcuin of York would be fascinating to hold down a cafe table with, but these scholars, you know, can sometimes be tedious company, the sparkle of Old English conversation notwithstanding.

  2. Wickham was a tad cool about Alfred: "not only the patron of writers but an author in his own right, well aware of the possibilities of political spin, and visibly skilled in covering cynical political calculations with a moralistic veneer" (460).

    I think Procopius would be entertaining. But really, the main thing I know about the period is how little I know about it (hence picking up Wickham's book).

  3. Oh, and I would be more sanguine than Wickham about Augustine.