Scholars of the Carolingian renaissance have long been aware of
the major role played by Alcuin of York as the king's teacher in
rhetoric, dialectic, and astronomy. In this book, Luitpold Wallach
indicates that the "deacon from Northumbria" was much more than a
brilliant scholar; he was an accomplished statesman, administrator,
poet, writer, and politician. Wallach offers a detailed account of
his contributions to the growth of the Frankish state and its
cultural development as a central part of Western civilization.
The book is divided into an introductory chapter and four parts,
each devoted to a particular phase of Alcuin's activity in the
service of Charlemagne. The introduction and first chapter describe
Alcuin's political and historical theories and beliefs. Part I
presents his rhetorical textbook as a via regia, a
treatise on kingship, addressed to the Roman emperor. Part II
demonstrates Alcuin's familiarity with procedures of Frankish law
as well as with ecclesiastical and secular legal sources of ancient
and contemporaneous times. Part III shows Alcuin in the
administrative service of Charlemagne, composing and editing
official documents and theological treatises for the ruler and his
clergy. Part IV is devoted to Alcuin's literary method and its
foundation in classical and patristic Latin literature as apparent
in a moralizing treatise, in his epitaph, and in the composition
and collection of his letters.
This volume is a significant contribution both to Carolingian
history and to Latin literature. It is solidly based on pertinent
Latin historical and literary sources, extending from Cicero,
Virgil, and Ovid, through the late classical and patristic
literatures to early medieval and Carolingian writers. Codes of
Roman vulgar law, Frankish capitularies and formularies, charters
of Merovingian and Carolingian rulers, and the Acta of earlier and
later synods are among the legal and administrative sources
included. Epigraphic sources are represented by inscriptions of the
Roman empire and of subsequent periods up to the ninth century.
Throughout, Wallach brings to light many new factors-historical,
diplomatic, epigraphic, and literary-that will be of interest to
historians, Latinists, and students of medieval literature.
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