The Heroic Age

A Journal of Early Medieval Northwestern Europe

Founded 1998   |   ISSN 1526-1867

Issue 15 (October 2012)

Issue 15: October 2012

Late Antiquity

Tenebrae Refulgeant: Celestial Signa in Gregory of Tours

Gregory Halfond, Framingham State University

Abstract: Celestial portents appear frequently in the Historiae of Bishop Gregory of Tours (ca. 539–94). Gregory carefully distinguished between the interpretation of celestial signs and horoscopic astrology by describing signs as natural, albeit miraculous, elements of God's Creation.

Relics and Reliquaries in the Vita Germani Auctore Constantio : the Capsula

Francesca Bezzone, National University of Ireland, Galway

Abstract: The use of the word capsula in the Vita Germani appears to be unique for the late antique period. This paper will shed light not only on the originality of Constantius's semantic choice, but also on how the term capsa—of which capsula is one of the variations—seems to have undergone an evident semantic shift during Constantius's years, and how his text appears to be the first literary witness to this shift. It will be shown how the change in meaning of the term is rooted in the evolution and diffusion of the burgeoning cult of saints during the fourth and fifth centuries.

a tale of Wade: The Anglo-Saxon origin myth in an East Saxon setting

Phillip Heath-Coleman, Independent Scholar

Abstract: In the past Walter Map's tale of Gado, included in his De Nugis Curialium, written towards the end of the twelfth century, has been merely regarded as a Medieval Latin version of a pre-conquest lay concerning the exploits of the Germanic hero Wade. However, if we look past the fantastic elements which surround him we are left with what appears to be an East Saxon version of the English settlement myth most familiar in the Kentish form involving Hengist and Vortigern, which itself seems to have been adopted from a common Germanic theme.

Arthuriana & Folklore

John Dee, King Arthur, and the Conquest of the Arctic

Thomas Green, Exeter College, University of Oxford

Abstract: A detailed study of John Dee's late sixteenth-century claim that King Arthur conquered the far northern world and North America. Although sometimes treated as Dee's own invention, the concept of Arthur as a conqueror of the Arctic and even parts of North America clearly antedates Dee. One witness to it is the Gestae Arthuri, which was seen and summarized by Jacob Cnoyen, who probably wrote in the fourteenth century. This medieval document apparently described Arthur's attempts to conquer the far north, including an expedition launched against the North Pole itself. Another witness is the Leges Anglorum Londoniis Collectae, which dates from the start of the thirteenth century and provides a list of Arthur's northern conquests, including Greenland, Vinland and the North Pole. On the basis of these and other documents, it would appear that the concept of Arthur as an Arctic conqueror can be traced at least to the later twelfth century, if not before.

The Hittite Sword in the Stone: The Sword God and his Twelve Companions

Linda A. Malcor, Independent Scholar

Abstract: In 2160 BCE a celestial phenomenon was observed in the north Caucasus region. The tale of the Sword in the Stone that was created in response to this observation was transmitted—along with the knowledge of how to forge iron—as the Eurasian horse nomads left the steppes and rode in other areas of the ancient world. This paper considers the evidence for the Hittite variant of the Sword in the Stone tale as well as the significance of the Twelve Companions who are associated with the story and whose images are preserved along with that of the Hittite sword god in the mortuary chapel at Yazilikaya in modern Turkey.

The Sword in the Tail: Susanō, Yamato-takeru, and the Embedded Sword Theme in Ancient Japan

C. Scott Littleton, Occidental College, Los Angeles, CA

Abstract: This paper examines two Japanese legends and compares their motifs with Arthurian legend.

General Article

Mark 16:9–20 in Tatian's Diatessaron

James Snapp, Jr., Curtisville Christian Church (Indiana, USA)

Abstract: This paper presents an analysis of the arrangement of Mark 16:9–20 in two major witnesses to Tatian's Diatessaron, an important second-century witness to the text of the Gospels.


Annales Cambriae, from Saint Patrick to AD 682: Texts A, B & C in Parallel

Henry Gough-Cooper, Independent Scholar

Abstract: The three principal texts of Annales Cambriae have a common ancestor from which their annals are derived for the fifth through the tenth centuries. Presenting the texts in parallel allows us to discern the outlines of this lost ancestor, and to examine the chronological speculation involved as the Welsh scholars of the period set about compiling what might be called 'The Chronicle of Wales' from the various sources available to them. This paper covers the earlier part of the chronicle, from the middle of the fifth century to the later part of the seventh.

The Forum

Waldere in the Burgundian Vosges

Marijane Osborn, University of California, Davis

New directions for early medieval women's history?

Rachel Stone, Department of Coins and Medals, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge University


Recent Scholarship

Blake, Martin, Aelfric's De Temporibus Anni. Reviewed by William H. Smith.

Bremmer, Rolf H., An Introduction to Old Frisian: History, Grammar, Reader, Glossary. Reviewed by Orrin W. Robinson.

Carver, Martin, et. al., Wasperton: A Roman, British and Anglo-Saxon Community in Central England. Reviewed by Heather M. Flowers.

Fulk, R. D., The "Beowulf" Manuscript. Reviewed by Harley J. Sims.

Gunn, Vicky, Bede's Historiae: Genre, Rhetoric and the Construction of Anglo-Saxon Church History. Reviewed by Shannon Godlove.

Gwara, Scott, Heroic Identity in the World of Beowulf. Reviewed by Murray McGillivray.

Higham, Nick, Britons in Anglo-Saxon England. Reviewed by Craig R. Davis.

McDonald, R. Andrew, Manx Kingship in its Irish Sea Setting 1187–1229: King Rọgnvaldr and the Crovan Dynasty. Reviewed by Sally-Jayne Gilpin.

McMaster, Johnston, A Passion for Justice: Social Ethics in the Celtic Tradition. Reviewed by Craig R. Davis.

Wiley, Dan, Essays on the Early Irish King Tales. Reviewed by Craig R. Davis.


Elliott, Anna, Twilight of Avalon: A Novel of Trystan and Isolde. Reviewed by Matthew Scribner.

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