The Heroic Age

Issue 5

Summer/Autumn 2001



Spain: A History

The Celtic Sources for the Arthurian Legend

The Vision of MacConglinne, A Middle-Irish Wonder Tale

Taliesin poems: new translations.

Arthurian Legends on Film and Television.

The Rise of Christianity in Northern Europe, 300-1000

Britain and Ireland 900-1300: Insular Responses to Medieval European Change.

The Ancient Celtic Festivals and How We
Celebrate Them Today.

St. George: hero, martyr and myth.

Medieval Germany: An Encylopedia

Medieval hagiography: an anthology.

Northumbria's Golden Age


Raymond Carr, Editor. Spain: A History. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. ISBN 0-19-820619-4.

Reviewed by Linda A. Malcor, Aliso Viejo, CA

Functioning under the premise that Spanish history "should be studied as one would study the history of any other major European country" (Carr 2000:1), Carr has pulled together nine essays on Spanish history from an impressive array of scholars. The collection begins with A.T. Fear's piece on "Prehistoric and Roman Spain", which is followed by Roger Collins's insights on "Visigothic Spain, 409-711." Continuing in chronological order, Richard Fletcher discusses Spain in "The Early Middle Ages, 700-1250" while Angus MacKay presents "The Late Middle Ages, 1250-1500." Next, Felipe Fernández-Armesto's paper, entitled "The Improbably Empire", examines Spain's "Golden Age", a period that is also covered by Henry Kamen's "Vicissitudes of a World Power, 1500-1700." Richard Herr picks up the narrative with "Flow and Ebb, 1700-1833," which Raymond Carr follows with "Liberalism and Reaction, 1833-1931." Sebastian Balfour's essay, "Spain from 1931 to the Present" rounds out the collection.

Perhaps the most striking feature of this collection is the balanced point of view that the various scholars use in the presentation of their material. I was, however, a little perplexed as to the nature of the volume's intended market. There are no footnotes or bibliography. This means that the reader must approach the work with a vast knowledge of the pertinent historical sources and evidence or must have such information provided by someone else, say, in the context of a class on Spanish history. The result is that the book is not particularly useful for pursuing a research project on any of the various topics that are covered, which include the politics, economics, art and literature of Spain. The essays might be useful as a secondary course textbook, but the apparatus that would make such a book useful to the novice is largely missing. For instance, a number of names and dates are thrown at the reader in each essay. While there is an overall chronology in the back of the book, individual time tables along the way would have helped the reader put various discussions in context, particularly when covering a stretch of monarchs with similar names. "Further Reading" suggestions are separated into an appendix at the back of the volume when they might have been more effective at the end of each chapter if the collection were used as a textbook.
The book is extensively illustrated, featuring eight color plates and seventy black-and-white illustrations. The captions that accompany each illustration are extensive and extremely insightful--often more informative than the accompanying text. There are four maps, but these are oversimplified, providing a few cities, rivers and political borders. More information could have been presented in map form to greater effect, such as battles, areas of political control, trade routes, population distribution, religious centers, and invasion patterns.

As far as production quality is concerned, the reflective quality of the paper obscured the text in every level of lighting that I tried so that I was constantly being forced to angle the pages this way and that to see what was written on them. As a result, the process of trying to read the material often detracted from the material itself, which is a shame since the various scholars often had very interesting points to make that are not readily available elsewhere in books on the history of Spain.

Promotional material indicates that the book is suitable for general readers, but I suspect that the majority of general readers would find the text hard to follow for the reasons cited above. Scholars of Spanish history who are seeking a new way of organizing their thoughts on various topics will find the collection invaluable. Educators who are seeking a book specifically on Spain to accompany a general medieval history text may also find this volume useful. I do not, however, think that these essays are something general readers would want to tackle without an already extensive knowledge of Spanish history or access to a course instructor could help supply the source material and structure that is missing from the text.


Jon B. Coe and Simon Young, The Celtic Sources for the Arthurian Legend. Lampeter: Llanerch Publishers, 1995. Pp. x, 201. isbn: 1-897853-83-1. £8.99.

Reviewed by Christopher Snyder, Marymount University

Unless you have been haunting small bookshops in Wales-or paying attention to source referrals on ArthurNet-you are likely to have missed this little gem of a book. Llanerch Publishers specialize in Welsh and Celtic studies, and usually print affordable paperback editions of older works and translations. This book, however, is a new collection of primary sources relating to Arthur originating in the medieval Celtic fringe. Coe and Young offer a unique collection that is bound to be prized by an assortment of Arthurian and Celtic enthusiasts as well as by teachers looking for a Celtic supplement to their Arthurian courses.

The text excerpts are arranged in no apparent order. After a brief introduction comes the early Latin material-Gildas, the Historia Brittonum and the Annales Cambriae, Welsh and Breton hagiography-followed by Welsh poems and romances, then finally 'the Gaelic material' (three Gaelic texts plus Adomnán's reference to Artúr of Dalriada). Each text is preceded by a brief discussion and bibliography. One of the best features of this anthology is its presentation of the text in its original language and in translation on opposing pages. This is especially helpful for the Welsh poetry, for it gives the reader a sense of the rhyme and meter even if one does not read Welsh.

Many readers will rejoice at seeing some obscure and hard-to-find Welsh Arthurian material presented here, as well as the seldom-seen 'Sawley Glosses' to the Historia Brittonum. It is also helpful to be able to compare the Welsh and the Gaelic texts. Noticeably absent from this collection are the Myrddin poems, the romances Owain and Peredur, and The Dream of Rhonabwy. More troubling is the absence of any theoretical discussion of 'Celtic,' or even of a definition of how it is being used here by Coe and Young (given that they include Latin, Welsh, and Gaelic texts). The scholarly discussion and bibliography are good, but both are too brief. Describing Geoffrey of Monmouth as 'an obscure Anglo-French clerk' (p. v) is just wrong on all counts.

But these are minor criticisms of an otherwise remarkable collection. This Arthurian anthology deserves to be better known. Perhaps a second edition will be picked up by a larger press who can afford to correct its shortcomings and market it a bit better. Regardless, Llanerch and Coe and Young need to be praised for their service to Arthurian and Celtic studies.

Aislinge Meic Conglinne, The Vision of MacConglinne, A Middle-Irish Wonder Tale, translated and edited by Kuno Meyer, Introduction by Wilhelm Wellner. Llanerch Publishers.

Reviewed by Joseph Carroll, English Department, Rhode Island College

Over the past few years Llanerch Publishers have produced hundreds of facsimile reprints of out of print medieval texts, translations and scholarly works. In doing so they have provided the medievalist and those interested in the history of medieval scholarship some valuable and hard to find sources. Among their series of reprints devoted to Irish texts and scholarship is the wonderful Aislinge Meic Conglinne, The Vision of MacConglinne, A Middle-Irish Wonder Tale, translated and edited by Kuno Meyer with an introduction by Wilhelm Wellner (sic). The text is a wellspring for scholars interested in medieval humor, monasticism, visions, and food or in the 13th century English poem "The Land of Cockaygne," an obvious analog.

For those not familiar with the 12th century text, the tale recounts the plight of Cathal MacFingunine, a good king of Munster who is grievously afflicted by a demon of voracity. This demon lodged in the king's throat causes him to consume grotesque amounts of food much to the vexation of his court. MacConglinne, a scholar with a leaning toward poetry and a hunger for fine food, sets out to meet the king. Along the way, however, he runs into a conflict with the monks of Cork with whom he trades insults. Their torment of MaConglinne, including his stripping and whipping and dousing in the river Lee, causes him to receive a fanciful vision of a land and a court that is composed and constructed entirely out of delicious foodstuffs. The abbot of Cork, upon learning of this vision, is convinced that it will cure the king, and he sends MacConglinne off at once to him. During his meeting with the king, he coerces him into fasting for two nights. MacConglinne then cures him by driving the demon out with a recitation of various delicacies.

Although Meyer's translation can be found on the Internet, this reprint provides the original text, on facing pages, and a copious amount of textual notes that demonstrate why this particular translation is an improvement over earlier ones. Moreover, Meyer provides an extensive glossary of Middle Irish vocabulary. Wollner's Introduction (misspelled as Wellner on the cover) is wholly in line with medieval scholarship of the late 19th century. He devotes a great deal of time to examining the two known versions of the tale (the 'H" and "B" manuscripts) and postulates that their relationship generates from a common textual source. He goes on to discuss the vision itself, its possible authors and parallels.

In general Llanerch's reprint of Meyer's translation and Wollner's introduction make a suitable first look at the Aislinge Meic Conglinne. For those who wish a more updated presentation of the text, I suggest looking at the1990 edition and translation by the late Kenneth Jackson, the celebrated Celtic scholar. His grammatical appendix is one of the best resources available on Middle Irish.


Pennar, Meirion. Taliesin poems: new translations. Llanerch Enterprises, 1988. 120 pages. 15 illustrations. ISBN 0-94799-224-3. £ 6.50.

Reviewed by: Anne Berthelot, University of Connecticut, Storrs.

It is a difficult task to review MP's translations of Taliesin's poems. The book as such hesitates between an academic model ­ using XX's edition of the poet's "complete works" ­ and a much more popular one ­ as evinced by the choice of illustrations, the relationship of which to the poems is at best fragile. One could say that these pen drawings present a more or less complete survey of the most famous objects or monuments linked to Middle Ages Wales and Welsh poetry.

The hesitation is the same at the level of the reproduction of the manuscript and the edition: there is practically no critical apparel, no indications of folii, no scientific description of the manuscript. The translation follows as a block. While reproducing the manuscript as a fac-simile may be a good idea, one might hope for a "en regard" translation, allowing the reader little conversant with medieval Welsh to follow at least the order of verses, and to recognise the recurring formulas in the poems. As such, the edition is of little use, not even as useful as the "diplomatic" ones implemented by older critics like O. Sommer. It is certainly little practicable for lay readers, unused to the absence of punctuation, paragraph marks, capital letters and such. On the other hand, it hardly stands up to the standards of scientific handling of a medieval text nowadays.

The translation itself ­ if one forgets that it might as well be published alone, since the other two parts can hardly be read synoptically ­ does show a certain amount of gusto. It contains a number of striking formulas, although one may question the choice of several prosaic sentences, or the mixing of different levels of language. As for its accuracy, this reviewer is not able to really measure it up; however, some of the choices explained in the introduction fail to convince, and let worst doubts weigh upon the whole enterprise.

This introduction is in fact the crux of the problem. Again, it fails to measure up to academic standards, while at the same time supposing a great lot known already by the reader. No lay audience would be apt to find its way through the intricacies of historical or textual argument in these pages, but on the other hand, much is missing. There is no chronology, no time-table, hardly one date; no temporal perspective at all, in fact. One is just confronted to a rather confusing mix of events, people, and circumstances. This is all the most regrettable since the author's choice of texts would need to be strongly based on such elements.

Indeed, MP rather abruptly states that the most famous works attributed to Taliesin are not his (so declares the back cover, too), and then proceeds to edit those which are authentic, without bothering to explain about this somewhat unusual situation. He dismisses with a few lines the existence of the other, rather more famous, character named Taliesin in order to focus on the historical bard. In fact, what most interests MP is this Taliesin's poetry, in so far as he gives a kind of running commentary of it: it is not,
however, much more than a paraphrase of some so-called striking lines. This is, of course, in part understandable, since MP has to use his own translation in his examples. But it nevertheless does not contribute to a real appreciation of Taliesin's works; no more than to a strong grasp of the historical situation these works describe.

Globally, one may consider this publication not as an academic book, but as a lover booklet, the work of a man who loves everything Welsh and wants to share this love with an audience already converted to his point of view. It is not quite certain, that any other reader will find it useful or convincing.


Samantha Riches. St. George: hero, martyr and myth. Phoenix Mill, England: Sutton Publishing, 2000. xviii, 238 p. ISBN 0-7509-2452-7.

Reviewed by Dr. Brad Eden, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

This lavishly illustrated book is a wonderful history of the legend of St. George, the patron saint of England. In the introduction, the author discusses the problems of defining a saint's cult, and how cults in general developed and spread. The types of evidence for the cult of St. George fall into three main categories: literary evidence, visual evidence, and historical records. The author examines each of these sources in depth throughout the book. The six chapters of the book contain information on the development of the cult of St. George, the martyrdom of St. George, the chivalric ideal in the cult, St. George as a military saint and patron of England, the dragon myth, and post-medieval themes present in the cult. There is a nicely constructed epilogue that examines modern-day observances involving St. George. Three tables provide vital information on the cult: literary versions of St. George's legend, tortures in the literary versions of St. George's legend, and comparisons of literary versions of the legend of St. George and the Dragon. A select bibliography and index are included. This book includes numerous color photographs and illustrations showing the development and presentation of St. George and his legend in art and illumination, which along with the scholarly presentation of the literary sources, makes this a book every scholar in saints' cults, dragon mythology, and medieval chivalric ideals will want to obtain.

Bert Olton, Arthurian Legends on Film and Television. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company, Inc.,2000. . ISBN 0-7864-07180-2. 341pp. $39.95.

Reviewed by Rebecca Umland, University of Nebraska at Kearney

In his "Preface," Bert Olton states that, while his is "not a scholarly work," he intends his bibliography to serve as a "supplement to scholarly works available on Arthurian film" (1). With this goal in mind, in Arthurian Legends on Film and Television Olton has compiled some 250 entries, demonstrating the degree to which Arthurian legend has entered our collective cultural consciousness. Olton includes feature films, television programs and documentaries that contain "Arthurian references more substantial than a comment like that from the movie Beetlejuice, 'She's sleeping with Prince Valium tonight" (1). Despite this professed guiding principle, in what must be seen as an effort to be as complete as possible, Olton does include entries that contain little more than brief allusions to the Matter of Britain.

The entries are arranged in alphabetical order with no generic subdivisions. Each item features a complete list of credits, followed by an accurate and extensive plot synopsis. Olton acknowledges that he finds the quality of these productions to be "varied," but refrains from offering a critical commentary because, he avers: "Film evaluation is such a subjective thing that one simply has to judge for oneself" (2). The author reviews programs that appear on a VHS format only, and if he has been unable to view a particular work, he indicates this, providing what information he has available. It is somewhat regrettable that the work does not include laser discs and DVDs; even more lamentable is its failure to distinguish between variant editions of the same film on VHS. For instance, Stephen Weeks' Sword of the Valiant is available on VHS in the United States in an out-of-print edition by MGM/UA Home Video, offering an uncut version. However, the UK (PAL) version on Guild Home Video is cut by approximately 50 seconds (some violence has been removed). While it is true that for a casual viewer, this distinction would matter little, for film scholars distinguishing between versions would be a matter of some importance.

Olton's bibliography is, on the whole, very thorough. Perusing the entries, this reader found very few omissions. An exception, for instance, is the television series, Roar, that aired in the Summer of 1997, the premise and episodes of which reveal a decided Arthurian influence. This bibliography includes the famous feature films (and some that are not so well known), the more obscure Arthurian television series, and individual episodes of series that featured special Arthurian elements, such as Bonanza, MacGyver, and Babylon 5. It offers an especially complete inventory of animated series that include episodes which employ Arthurian characters, themes, or motifs (i.e., Fractured Fairytales, Animaniacs, and Poppa Beaver's Storytime). Entries about documentaries with an Arthurian component, most them devised for educational purposes, are also included. For easier reference, this reader would have welcomed additional subcategories: feature films, television series, television episodes, and documentaries. Such divisions might reveal interesting patterns about the venues in which Arthurian legend is employed. Nonetheless, Olton's book accomplishes its intended goal, serving as a useful, reliable reference guide for the serious student of Arthuriana, and as a virtual treasure trove for those who like to browse, or who have a penchant for the unusual, amusing, and even bizarre uses of the legend.

Arthurian Legends on Film and Television includes two appendices, a "Chronological Listing of Films and Television Programs" (by date) and a list of "Possible Films and Television Programs with Arthurian Content," the latter depending, one supposes, on how one defines "Arthurian," a thorny question that nonetheless should be addressed by anyone who proposes a study of the subject. There is also a partial bibliography of print sources and a sampling of websites (those divided into "Commercial" and "Noncommercial"). The work has an attractive hard cover, an index, and a number of nice black and white illustrations.


Carole M. Cusack. The Rise of Christianity in Northern Europe, 300-1000. London: Cassell, 1998. ix, 214 pp. ISBN 0-304-70735-X

Reviewed by Dr. Brad Eden, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

This book is a study of the process of Christian conversion among the Germanic peoples from the third to the eleventh centuries. The author attempts to examine previous scholarship on conversion and to develop a model of conversion appropriate to the Germanic peoples. A comparative study of six Germanic conversions follows this examination: Goths, Franks, Anglo-Saxons, continental Saxons, Scandinavians, and Icelanders. The author then summarizes her findings in the final chapter.

Cusack reviews existing models of conversion; explores the areas of psychology, religious studies, and anthropology; and then develops an alternative model of conversion. This model is based on the cognitive and social structures of pre-Christian Germanic society, highlights the motivations and roles of the agents of mission and traditional religious and secular leaders, and relates how corporate decision-making is involved in religious transitions. The book is interesting in that the case studies supply the main elements of religious conversion in this time period into one source, and that recent conversion scholarship and research is examined as well. An extensive primary and secondary bibliography, as well as some unpublished research, is of great use to scholars.


Smith, Brendan, ed. Britain and Ireland 900-1300: Insular Responses to Medieval European Change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999. ISBN 052157319X $59.95

Reviewed by Larry Swain.

Brendan Smith has collected a group of essays which seek to identify the moments defining political and cultural development in the British Isles within the framework of the changes occurring all over Europe beginning about 900 CE. Over the last twenty years a number of volumes have appeared that have attempted to integrate English, Irish, Welsh, and Scottish histories as new ties were forged and old alliances and relationships sundered. This volume is a conscious contribution to those ongoing efforts.

This particular volume is the result of a conference in 1996 held at the University of Bristol. The focus of the ten essays offered is the exploration of the defining moments in the development of the High Middle Ages. This volume follows on several works in the last twenty years that have sought in various ways to examine England, Ireland, Wales, and Scotland during various periods of their interrelated history. These essays discuss the impact of changes on the continent and their impact on the islands.

They generally cover a four-hundred-year period focusing on the twelfth century and after. (A list of the contents follows this review.) Only three of the essays deal in any fashion with the period before 1100. The contributors are all recognizable names in their fields, but only one is a North American, oddly enough. The essays vary in length but average around thirty pages, and most of them are densely argued.
In addition to the essays, the volume contains a preface by the editor, a bibliography, and an index. Smith's preface is the weakest link in the book, containing some general comments regarding past volumes dealing with the subject matter, an all too brief mention of the 1996 conference, and acknowledgements. While his general comments are cogent and to the point, anyone familiar with the field will already be aware of this general brush stroke background that Smith gives in his two and half pages. Such a short preface is indeed common and Smith can not be faulted for this one. But it is a lost opportunity to give more detailed information not only about the background and reasons for the conference and the papers, but also editorial choices regarding focus would have been welcome additions to his comments. Also regrettably absent from the volume is an essay from Smith whose Cambridge book Colonization and Conquest in Medieval Ireland: The English in Louth, 1170-1330 has been well received elsewhere. An eleventh essay from the editor would have been an excellent addition to the volume.

The bibliography of the volume is by and large a good one. It is divided into two sections: "Published Sources" by which is meant primary material in published format and "Secondary Sources." The primary source material is alphabetized by either title or author name. Thus Aelred is subdivided into the 3 works of his that are cited somewhere within the text. This is followed shortly by the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and the published source. The primary sources listed are restricted to those mentioned in the essays and cover an impressive eight pages. Likewise the secondary sources are those listed in the footnotes in the essays. This creates a somewhat odd and uneven bibliography. For example, a few general works such as A. G. Rigg's A History of Anglo-Latin Literature 1066-1422 or Otway-Ruthven's A History of Medieval Ireland are cited. Other classic and general works are missing, however; such as Michel Richter's Medieval Ireland, Nora Chadwick's works, and only a single essay by Kathleen Hughes is listed. Further, essays are cited from essay collections, but the collection itself is not referenced in the bibliography. The Hughes essay mentioned is a case in point. The essay is her "British Museum MS Cotton Vespasian A.XIV (Vitae Sanctorum Wallensium): its purpose and provenance" is from Nora Chadwick's Studies in the Early British Church. The latter is not referenced elsewhere. There are many such essays whose collections are otherwise not mentioned. These comments aside, the bibliography is a detailed one, the items cited are generally articles or books which have a narrow scope and the bibliography is thus useful in that it lists material often not available to scholars in North America but that one should be aware of.

The index is detailed and well organized. Subjects are listed, and then broken down into easily searchable subsections. For example, Kildare is subdivided into: attacked by Vikings, bishop of, Franciscan priory at, St. Mary's priory, and de Vescy involvement in, the latter the subject of the final essay. Other subjects, even if only mentioned once in the text, are nonetheless mentioned in the index, such as Essex, Njal's Saga, or the Golden Gospels. Many of the individuals are listed by name and title and often their death date is given as well. Thus, Gilbert, bishop of Galloway (d. 1253) is listed. Others however are given only by name, such as Geoffrey of Monmouth or Pippin II. It is uncertain what criteria are used for listing individuals with title and death date and those listed without title and death date. The index overall, however, is very useful in locating almost any subject or person contained within the book, and is detailed enough that it is unlikely that one will not find the desired subject if it is mentioned at all in one of the essays.

The remainder of this review will focus on the three essays that deal in some fashion with the pre-1000 era. The first essay in the volume is Alfred P. Smyth's "The Effect of Scandinavian Raiders on the English and Irish Churches: A Preliminary Reassessment." Smyth's essay is at heart a reaction to the "Revisionists," as he calls them, that group of scholars who have attempted in recent years to reevaluate the impact of the Vikings. The result of this "revision" has been to see the Vikings as traders as well as raiders, as settlers as well as destroyers and so on. Smyth's purpose is to address this revision in his essay, saying about revisionists at the outset, "In their zeal to promote an image of the Scandinavian raiders as yet one more political, cultural, and religious grouping in Western Europe-little different from their Christian neighbors in most respects-they either minimized evidence which did not fit their preconceptions or else they distracted historians' attention from those negative affects which Vikings wrought on Western society." Smyth continues throughout the essay to illustrate the utter destructiveness of the Vikings in Ireland and Britain and works specifically to refute the "revisionists" as naïve partisans whose methodology does not belong in the sphere of sound historical research.

Smyth's characterizations of the "revisionists" in some ways, however, reflect his own willingness to overlook some evidence in favor of his point. For example, he ignores those Vikings who, rather than maraud, came as settlers and within a generation had risen to the rank of abbot of the very foundations that others of their kind were razing. Smyth's article is part of an ongoing discussion regarding the role of the Vikings. But his essential point is one that must not be overlooked no matter what one's position is regarding on the role the Vikings played. They destroyed what they came into contact with, and in the earliest waves were, without question, only after "loot." Only later did they seem interested in settling and establishing kingdoms. In the early half of the ninth century they successfully remade the maps of Ireland and England, threatened Constantinople, and helped France destabilize. Smyth presents a good deal of evidence from multiple sources in service of his polemic, but the essay is worth reading if one can take the contentious tone in stride.

The second essay in the volume is an inclusive one. Benjamin Hudson takes on the subject of the sea-based economy of Ireland representing the sea as in fact a "highway" rather than a barrier in trade as well as in other areas. Hudson reviews information given in Irish saint's lives and in pre- and post-Christian stories as well as artifacts and archaeological remains in Ireland, England, and the Continent that suggest an active trade between them. He credits the Vikings with enhancing what already existed by the establishment of trade centers on the Irish and English coasts, so that in the tenth century the Irish Sea resembled a Scandinavian lake. His detailed purview of the advantages of this economy takes in not only the Viking period but extends well into the Anglo-Norman period as well. The article over-all is full of detailed examples of how the economy changed around the Irish Sea between the seventh and twelfth centuries and how vital that trade economy was on both sides of the water.

The last essay I will mention is Robert Bartlett's examination of twelfth-century use of Irish, Welsh, and English saints during the early Anglo-Norman period. While this essay doesn't specifically deal with the period covered by the Heroic Age it is full of interesting information about the formation of these saints' cults and their survival into the twelfth century.

This book of essays is not light reading. Each essay is detailed, well-written, and well-documented. Since the book is the result of a conference, the papers contained therein do assume a fairly high-degree of knowledge about the period and the subjects. They also assume that a reader will have a degree of command of the primary source material as well. However, its bibliography and the subject matter make it a excellent reference tool for anyone interested in Britain and Ireland during a critical phase of Medieval History.

Essays in the volume:

Clare Walker Leslie and Frank E. Gerace. The Ancient Celtic Festivals and How We Celebrate Them Today. Rochester, Vermont: Inner Traditions International, 2000. 58 pp. ISBN 0-89281-822-0.

Reviewed by Dr. Brad Eden, University of Nevada, Las Vegas,

This book is designed specifically for young readers aged 8 through 12 years old, but it is so well illustrated and interesting that anyone in the area of Celtic studies would enjoy it. The authors document how many modern holiday traditions originated in northern Europe with the festivals of the ancient Celts. There are hands-on activities, natural science facts, and explorations in the concepts of measuring time, making calendars, and marking seasonal celebrations that help young people reconnect with the natural cycle of the year. A very nice book to introduce and explain the influence of the ancient Celts and their lifestyle and practices on modern-day holiday celebrations.


Medieval Germany: An Encylopedia ed. John M. Jeep (Garland Publishing; New York, 2000) ISBN 0 8240 7644 3 Price: $175.00 (Can. $263.50)

Reviewed by Felice Lifshitz, Florida International University

Despite its numerous and substantial virtues, this volume is in many ways unreliable, sometimes extremely so. The nine-member editorial team boasted five specialists on vernacular (German and Dutch) literature, including the main editor, Jeep; as a result, those fields are extremely well covered. The fields of Art, Music and Philosophy/Religion are also reasonably well covered. Unfortunately, the entire scope of medieval German History seems to have been too much for the single editor assigned to that field, Michael Frassetto, who was further handicapped by the fact that his own research specialty is central medieval France. Finally, both the History and the Art categories suffer from the lack of a clear rationale for inclusion or exclusion, so that a potential user cannot easily predict which persons, events or places are likely to have received an entry. Nevertheless, Medieval Germany: An Encyclopedia represents a good start for a field which is little studied in the United States and Canada.

A major problem with Medieval Germany: An Encyclopedia is that ­ with the exception of the thoroughly covered area of vernacular literature - it omits many entries which users are likely to require, or at least to seek. There are no entries for any historical region of present-day Germany, Austria, Switzerland or the Czech Republic (e.g. Swabia, Saxony, Thuringia, Upper and Lower Austria) ­ except for Westphalia - although there are entries for Friesland, Holland and Lorraine. There are no entries for the Rhine, Danube, Main or Elbe rivers but there are entries for the Meuse, Moselle and Lahn rivers. There are no entries for the historical gentes of the "Migration Age" (e.g. Burgundians, Franks, Bavarians, Alemanni), nor are there entries for the key medieval concept gens or for the key historiographical concept Voelkerwanderung. There are entries for Eigenkirche and Fuerstbischof and Landfrieden but no entries for Eigenkloster (Proprietary Monastery) or Kurfuerst (Elector) or Vogt (Advocate) or Stammherzogtum (Stem-Duchy). There are entries for non-German figures such as Charles the Simple but no entries for Boniface of Mainz or Chrodegang of Metz or Arnulf of Carinthia or Tassilo of Bavaria. There are entries for Melk but not Kremsmuenster, for Gurk but not for Mondsee, for Sankt Wolfgang but not for Innsbruck, to use only Austrian examples, while the entries for Admont, Linz, Millstatt, Sankt Paul in Lavanthal, Sankt Veit an der Glan and Viktring (to stick with Austrian examples) may go unread because they are not included in the alphabetical list of "Places and Place Study." A reader cannot in any case count on the "Places and Place Study" entries, because some take an exclusively art historical approach (e.g. the article "Corvey" mentions neither that the house was founded as a missionary center in Saxony nor that it was founded as a second Corbie, but tells us only about the westwork) while others take a historical approach. The fact that Cologne and Constance alone have two entries ("Cologne, History" plus "Cologne, Art" and "Constance, History" plus "Constance, Art") is probably not the result of a concerted plan (although I would recommend such double entries in a revised edition) but rather the result of a double assignment of both "Cologne"/"Koeln" and "Constance"/"Konstanz;" "Coblenz" and "Koblenz" were similarly assigned and appear under both the German and the English spelling. Kings and emperors are consistently included, queens and empresses less consistently so; mysteriously, however, some rulers receive only historical entries (e.g. "Henry I"), some only art historical ones (e.g. "Henry II, Art") and some both (e.g. "Henry the Lion" and "Henry the Lion, Art") ­ another example of the scattershot approach to topic-development which plagues the volume. The various thematic entries from the realm of social history tend to be far too short to be useful; e.g. "Birth, Marriage, Burial" gets one page, as does "Slavery," and "Family" gets two pages, while "Versification" gets six pages and "Minnesang" gets eight, a clear indication of the priorities of the editors.

Cross-references are inadequate. For example, the "Fulda" article cross-references only two general topics ("Carolingian Art and Architecture; Charlemagne") but not such closely related entries as "Hrabanus Maurus" (the monastery's most significant abbot), or "Hildebrandslied" (an important vernacular alliterative epic which is attested only in a Fulda manuscript), or "Glosses, Old High German" (which singles out Fulda as one of the most important centers of vernacular glossing), or "Tatian" (the Old High German Gospel "Harmony" made at Fulda) or Gottschalk of Orbais (the monastery's most controversial monk). A good index could have compensated both for inadequate cross-referencing and even for the outright lack of entries; however, the index is itself incomplete (e.g. neither the Fulda provenance of the manuscript of the "Hildebrandslied" ­ noted on p. 357 ­ nor the importance of Fulda as a center of glossing ­ noted on p. 271 ­ nor the composition of the vernacular "Tatian" at Fulda ­ noted on p. 750 - appear in the index under "Fulda"). Other errors are proper to the Index itself, such as listing the nonexistent "Ado of Vienna" (instead of Vienne), separately listing "Anna Selbdritt" and "Annaselbdritt," listing a "Dagobert, Frisian ruler" (a non-existent person) as though he were a separate individual from "Dagobert, Merovingian Ruler," listing the "gatehouse" of Lorsch separately from the "Torhalle" of Lorsch, and so forth. There are many typographical errors throughout (e.g. "dyansty" p. 1; "elventh" and "architectually" p. 6; "Spainsh territory" p. 96), some of which may seem plausible to the uninitiated and will therefore create errors in students' papers (e.g. "the Benedictive Rule" on p. 97, the confusion of "Petersburg" and "Petersberg" on p. 208, "St. Cyruakus" on p. 268, "the Marlenkapelle" for the Marienkapelle on p. 399, or the dating of the tenth-century historianWidukind of Corvey to "fl. 760s ­ 770s" on p. 810). The award for best typo goes, hands down, to the book title E-mail in fruehen Mittelalter (p. 95). There are many photos throughout the volume, but all are black and white and most are quite small, and they ultimately do not contribute very much to the encyclopedia; more importantly, there is no list of illustrations, which limits their utility even further.

Throughout the volume there are parenthetical entries which were presumably meant to be helpful, but which instead are disastrously misleading. These erroneous parenthetical remarks simply cannot be ­ in most cases - the fault of the authors of the articles; I do not believe for a moment that Ute-Renate Blumenthal believes that "regalia" are "relic possessions" (p. 141), a mistranslation which will terribly confuse any student who uses the encyclopedia into thinking the Investiture Controversy centered around control of relics, or that Matthias Exner, (whose affiliation is the Bayerisches Landesamt fuer Denkmalpflege) believes that the Odenwald, in the state of Hesse, is in the state of Bavaria (p. 734). Other egregiously misleading parenthetical comments include (but are not limited to) that the Donation of Constantine "was designed to legitimize papal claims to the Exarchate (Eastern Church)" (p. 170), that Henry II's royal bulls bore the inscription "Renovatio Regni Francorum (For the Renown of the Rulers of the Franks)" (p. 341), that the 1215 negotiations between pope Innocent III and King John of England concerned "suzerainty over the regnum Angliae (rule of Anglia)" (p. 642), that Einhard built the church at Steinbach in honor of himself ("a me costructam" of course simply means constructed by him ­ see p. 734) and that pope Sylvester II (Gerald of Aurillac) "was a strong supporter of reform in the church, especially in curbing simony (selling of indulgences) and nicolaitism (opposition to celibacy)" (p. 745). I found substantive errors in those entries concerning topics with which I myself am currently most well acquainted; for instance, under the heading "Echternach" (p. 191): that institution's copy of the Hieronymian Martyrology is not bound with a Book of Prophets in Paris, BN lat. 9382 but rather with the Calendar of St. Willibrord in Paris, BN lat. 10.837. There are problems elsewhere as well. Lawrence Duggan's entry on "Empire" misleads by omission, in failing to mention even the existence of ecclesiastical electors in connection with its elaborate discussion of the lay electors (p. 201). Audrey Shinner's idiosyncratic article on "Saints' Cult" [sic] is almost entirely devoted to drama, including the Oberammergau Passion Play, first performed in 1633. This sort of thing simply does not inspire confidence in the volume as a reliable work of reference, particularly when used by students.

On a more positive note, the encyclopedia should nevertheless prove invaluable as a reference tool for Language and Literature, marred only slightly by a lack of consistent editorial coordination which presumably resulted from having five Language and Literature editors. Some articles are thus extensive original contributions (e.g. Irmengard Rauch on "Bible Epic, Saxon") while others are brief summaries of previous work, and some articles provide lengthy bibliographies while others provide only a handful of references. "Historiography, Dutch" concerns historical writing by Dutch people in the Middle Ages while "Historiography, German" concerns historical writing in the twentieth century about Germans in the Middle Ages. The Latin literature entries, overseen in his capacity as informal advisor and sometimes written by Jan M. Ziolkowski (e.g. "Poeta Saxo," "Wahalfrid Strabo"), contribute further to the value of the volume for literary specialists. Both Latin and vernacular language and literature entries cover the entire generic gamut, from simple glossaries to performed dramas. Even in the History field, all is not gloom and doom, for a series of reliable articles have been contributed by acknowledged specialists in fields which are likely to be of interest to readers of The Heroic Age: John W. Bernhardt (e.g."Fodrum, Gistum, Servitium Regis," "Itinerant Kingship"), Uta-Renate Blumenthal (e.g. "Concordat of Worms," "Investiture Controversy"), John J. Contreni (e.g. "Charlemagne," "Johannes Scotus"), Kelly DeVries (e.g. "Armor," "Warfare"), David A. Warner (e.g. "Magdeburg," "Thietmar of Merseburg"), and many more.

After taking into account published reviews and submitting the volume to expert readers and to competent indexers and proofreaders, the publishers should bring forth a revised, corrected and expanded edition of Medieval Germany: An Encyclopedia.

Medieval hagiography: an anthology. Edited by Thomas Head. New York: Garland, 2000. (Garland reference library of the humanities; v. 1942). xlix, 834 pp.

Reviewed by Dr. Brad Eden, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

This book attempts to chart the development of hagiography through the Middle Ages by presenting a set of important exemplary texts in English translation. For many of the works, this is the first time that they have been translated into English. The texts translated range from the fourth through the fifteen centuries, and are largely confined to Western or Latin-speaking Christendom.

The thirty-six chapters have been arranged in roughly chronological order. The majority of the chapters contain translations of complete texts, although eight chapters (1, 3, 6, 7, 22, 27, 28, and 35) have omitted certain parts of the texts due to the constraints of space. Six chapters (4, 13, 25, 26, 29, 30, and 36) present a collection of different texts based on a coherent theme. Five of the chapters (9, 11, 20, 23, and 24) provide newly revised and annotated versions of previous translations that are significantly out of date, while the first three chapters provide original translations of text that are already available in alternate English translations. Since these first three chapters are considered foundational texts for medieval hagiography, these versions provide substantial new material based on recent textual and historical scholarship.

Each chapter consists of three parts: an introduction by the translator, a guide to sources and further reading, and the translated text or texts themselves. The editor of the volume has provided a substantial Introduction on the history of hagiography, as well as an excellent Guide for Further Reading on the topic.

This is a unique and essential reference work in the area of medieval hagiography, saints, and history. The translations in themselves are priceless, and obviously available no where else. Adding the translator's introductory comments and the sources/further readings sections make the translations all that much more valuable. For the geographic and time areas of interest to readers of The Heroic Age, chapters of interest include:

Chapter 8: Bede, Martyrology
Chapter 9: Einhard, Translation of the Relics of Sts. Marcellinus and Peter
Chapter 10: Hrotsvit of Gandersheim, The Establishment of the Monastery of Gandersheim
Chapter 19: Guibert of Nogent, On Saints and Their Relics
Chapter 20: A Tale of Doomsday Colum Cille Should Have Left Untold
Chapter 22: The Book of Ely
Chapter 24: Thomas of Monmouth, Life and Passion of St. William of Norwich
Chapter 26: Liturgical Offices for the Cult of St. Thomas Becket
Chapter 27: Saga of Bishop Jon of Holar
Chapter 33: The Life of St. David set down by an Anchorite at Llanddewibrefi

These are just a few of the many interesting translations and hagiographies that are included in this book.


St. Augustine and the Conversion of England. Edited by Richard Gameson. Phoenix Mill, England: Sutton Publishing, 1999. viii, 436 pp.

Reviewed by Dr. Brad Eden, University of Nevada, Las Vegas,

This book originated from a conference held at the University of Kent in September 1997 as part of the celebrations commemorating the 1400th anniversary of the arrival of St. Augustine in England. The sixteen chapters consider the achievement of Augustine, examine his commemoration and cult, reassess the role of Gregory the Great, explore the phenomenon of conversion itself, and evaluate its broader cultural implications. While there has been previous study and research regarding Canterbury's role in the history of the Anglo-Saxon Church and the origins of England, this is the first volume of any size to deal exclusively with the topic of St. Augustine and his role in the conversion of England.

I found this book to be highly enlightening and well written. Given that I consider myself a scholar of some measure on St. Augustine of Canterbury, especially in regards to Anglo-Saxon music and liturgy, I found many of the comments and historical threads to current research of great interest. This book is must reading for anyone involved in Anglo-Saxon liturgy and history, especially late-sixth through seventh century studies. Topics and chapters are presented below.

Northumbria's Golden Age. Edited by Jane Hawkes and Susan Mills. Stroud: Sutton, 1999. ISBN: 0-7509-1685-0.

Reviewed by Michelle Ziegler

Jane Hawkes and Susan Mills have compiled an impressive collection of essays on the Golden Age of Northumbria, the seventh and eighth century. The essays are divided into four categories: archaeology and history, material culture, manuscripts, and Bede.

There is something for everyone interested in early Northumbria in this volume. I particularly enjoyed the essays by Nicholas Higham, Craig Cessford, and Catherine Karkov. It was also nice to see Willibrord's mission to Frisia included in a discussion of early Northumbria. Unfortunately with the exception of Higham and Karkov there is a lack of discussion on politics or state formation even though the writings of this period provide relatively ample source material. The book could have been improved with a map indicating the major sites discussed. With the exception of these minor criticisms, this book moves scholarship on early Northumbria significantly forward.

The essays in this book are:


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