Díaz y Díaz [Comp.]. Isidoriana; colección de estudios sobre Isidoro de Sevilla. 1961.

Isidoriana; colección de estudios sobre Isidoro de Sevilla (1961)

Author: Díaz y Díaz, Manuel C., comp
Subject: Isidore, of Seville, Saint, d. 636
Publisher: León, Centro de Estudios “San Isidro,”
Language: Spanish; English; French; German; Italian
Call number: BX4700.I78 D52 1961
Digitizing sponsor: Princeton Theological Seminary Library
Book contributor: Princeton Theological Seminary Library
Collection: majorityworldcollection; Princeton; americana

Díaz y Díaz (Comp.). Isidoriana; Colección de estudios sobre Isidoro de Sevilla. 1961. by Patrologia Latina, Graeca et Orientalis

Quote. Roger Collins. ‘Visigothic Spain 409-711’, “Books and Readers: The Legacy of Africa”. 2004.

In the seventh century the Spanish church appears intellectually outstanding. It produced a succession of authors of theological, literary, and liturgical texts that were unparalleled, at least in the West, at this time. Many of the writers were also leading figures in the political life of the period, especially the bishops of Seville and Toledo, and most of them were involved in the impressive series of ecclesiastical councils held in Spain during the course of the century. The works of several of them, most notably Isidore of Seville (died 636) and Julian of Toledo (died 690) subsequently circulated widely outside the Iberian peninsula, as would the Hispana collection of canon-law texts, in the compiling of versions of which both these bishops were probably involved. Other authors of the Visigothic period, such as Ildefonsus of Toledo (died 667) and the monastic founder Fructuosus of Braga (died c.670) may have been less well known outside the Iberian peninsula, but within it their writings remained influential for centuries. The largely anonymous liturgical legacy of the Spanish church of the Visigothic period was outstanding for both its literary and theological qualities, and continued in use until finally suppressed in favor of Romano-Frankish traditions in the late eleventh century.
The variety of texts produced in the century and a quarter between the conversion of Reccared and the Arab conquest included works of history, devotional and dogmatic theology, biblical studies, poetry, monastic rules, saints’ lives, polemics, and educational texts, in addition to canon law and liturgy. Many of these items were not original, in that they consisted of rearranged excerpts from the works of earlier writers, thought to be particularly authoritative. But the compiling of them required the existence of libraries containing substantial collections of books. It would be wrong to assume that the often rare and early texts thus used by the authors of the Visigothic period would have been easily available to them, or would have survived in the peninsula from the later Roman period. The evidence for the marked lack of intellectual activity in Spain in the intervening centuries would argue against such a view. What has been called “the Isidoran Renaissance,”from the central role played in it by Isidore of Seville, depended on the presence in Spain by the late sixth century of very specific literary resources. How they came to be there requires an explanation, and it is one that involves looking outside the Iberian peninsula to some contemporary events in Byzantium and Africa.
Around 578/9 a young man from Scallabis (modern Santarém), called John but of Gothic origin, returned home after spending seven years in Constantinople. According to the brief account of him by Isidore of Seville, he had gone there to study. It is noteworthy that despite the ongoing war between the Visigothic kings and the Byzantine forces in Spain, it was clearly possible for a Goth to travel to Constantinople without difficulty, and that Latin literary studies were still being cultivated there.
Isidore’s words are not the only proof that Latin learning was still actively promoted in Byzantium. A Latin poet, Flavius Corippus, who had written a verse panegyric on one of the imperial viceroys of his native province of Africa, was encouraged by his literary success to move to Constantinople in search of patronage. There he wrote another panegyric on the accession of Justin II in 565, which tactfully omitted any hint of opposition to the new emperor’s supposedly unanimous selection by senate, army, and people. Whether this gained him the rewards he sought is not known.
Other Latin authors were also present in Constantinople for rather different reasons. These were bishops from Africa and Italy who were being detained there for opposing the emperor’s theological policies. Several of them wrote works to send to their supporters in the West, urging continued resistance to the emperor’s theology. They also recorded the ill-treatment they had received, which they saw as a modern counterpart to the imperial persecution of the early Christian confessors and martyrs.

Roger Collins. ‘Visigothic Spain 409-711’, Chp. 6: “Books and Readers: The Legacy of Africa”, pp. 147-149. Blackwell Publishing, 2004.

Quote. Robert M. Grant. Early Christians and Animals. 1999.

Isidore died before finishing his Etymologies, divided into twenty books by his friend Braulio, bishop of Saragossa. The title reflects his basic literary interests, and his method often leads him into fanciful word-derivations which he considers scientific. He discusses animals at the end of Book XI and in the whole of Book XII, and is less credulous than the author of the Physiologus. He has avoided many legendary anecdotes because he has analyzed narratives in the manner of Greek rhetoric, dividing them into three classes defined as historical fact, fiction, and myth.
For Isidore historical “facts” really took place, and even if “argumenta” (fictitious accounts) did not occur they could have occurred. Fables (myths) did not occur and cannot occur, however, because they are contrary to nature. The Physiologus, of course, had paid no attention to such distinctions, but Isidore was better trained in rhetorical analysis and more concerned with it. Though he discussed many of the fabled creatures found in the Physiologus, he did not often classify them as “animals.” Relying on Varro (through Augustine), he placed “monsters” and “fabulous portents” at the end of the eleventh book (or did his editor Braulio do this?), accepting the first group of portents as trustworthy (11.3.1–27), and even (like Pliny) citing Aristotle as an authority. These stories are placed under the heading “portents” and are different from the materials “on animals,” but they are also different from a few fabulous and fictitious accounts which can be explained away (11.3.28–39). Isidore definitely believes that transformations of men into beasts, or vice versa, are possible, and it seems surprising that he accepts the existence of vampires (11.4).
Henkel notes Isidore’s criticism, possibly after Augustine, of the tales about the weasel and the pelican and his references to the existence of hearsay. Isidore’s work is somewhat more “scientific” than the Physiologus, and Henkel rightly insists that medieval people did not regard the latter as a textbook of zoology. It is not what we should call scientific, however, for it is based on neither observation nor analysis but simply on rhetorical tradition.

Robert M. Grant. ‘Early Christians and Animals’, pp. 113-114. Routledge, 1999.

Becker. Isidori Hispalensis De natvra rervm liber. 1857.

Isidori Hispalensis De natvra rervm liber;


Author: Isidore, of Seville, Saint, d. 636; Becker, Gustav Heinrich, 1833-1886, ed
Subject: Meteorology; Astronomy
Publisher: Berolini, Weidmanni svmptvs fecervnt
Language: Latin
Call number: 9662797
Digitizing sponsor: The Library of Congress
Book contributor: The Library of Congress
Collection: library_of_congress; americana

Becker. Isidori Hispalensis De natvra rervm liber. 1857.

Brehaut. An encyclopedist of the Dark Ages, Isidore of Seville. 1912.




In saeculorum fine doctissimus
(Ex conciliko Toletano viii, cap. 2)




The writer of the following pages undertook, at the suggestion of Professor James Harvey Robinson, to translate passages from Isidore’s Etymologies which should serve to illustrate the intellectual condition of the dark ages. It soon became evident that a brief introduction to the more important subjects treated by Isidore would be necessary, in order to give the reader an idea of the development of these subjects at the time at which he wrote. Finally it seemed worth while to sum up in a general introduction the results of this examination of the Etymologies and of the collateral study of Isidore’s other writings which it involved.

For many reasons the task of translating from the Etymologies has been a difficult one. There is no modern critical edition of the work to afiford a reasonable certainty as to the text; the Latin, while far superior to the degenerate language of Gregory of Tours, is nevertheless corrupt; the treatment is often brief to the point of obscurity; the terminology of ancient science employed by Isidore is often used without a due appreciation of its meaning. However, the greatest difficulty in translating has arisen from the fact that the work is chiefly a long succession of word derivations which usually defy any attempt to render them into English.

In spite of these difficulties the study has been one of great interest. Isidore was, as Montalambert calls him, le dernier savant du monde ancien, as well as the first Christian encyclopaedist. His writings, therefore, while of no importance in themselves, become important as a phenomenon in the history of European thought. His resort to ancient science instead of to philosophy or to poetry is suggestive, as is also the wide variety of his ‘sciences’ and the attenuated condition in which they appear. Of especial interest is Isidore’s state of mind, which in many ways is the reverse of that of the modern thinker.

It is perhaps worth while to remark that the writer has had in mind throughout the general aspects of the intellectual development of Isidore’s time : he has not attempted to comment on the technical details—whether accurately given by Isidore or not—of the many ‘ sciences that appear in the Etymologies. The student of the history of music, for example, or of medicine as a technical subject, will of course go to the sources.

The writer is under the greatest obligation to Professors James Harvey Robinson and James Thomson Shotwell for assistance and advice, as well as for the illuminating interpretation of the medieval period given in their lectures He is also indebted to Mr. Henry O. Taylor and Professors William A. Dunning and Munroe Smith for reading portions of the manuscript.

E. B.

Columbia University, New York, February, 1912.