J. C. Martin-Iglesias u.a. (Hrsg.): La Hispania tardoantigua y visigoda en las fuentes epistolares

La Hispania tardoantigua y visigoda en las fuentes epistolares. Antología y comentario

Martin-Iglesias, José Carlos; Díaz Martínez, Pablo C.; Vallejo Girvés, Margarita
NUEVA ROMA. Bibliotheca Graeca et Latina Aevi Posterioris (52)
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Rezensiert für H-Soz-Kult von
David Addison, History, All Souls College, Oxford

This volume, the joint work of three major Spanish scholars, compiles translated epistolary sources from c. 400 to c. 695. Its one-hundred-and-forty-one texts, translated into Spanish by José Carlos Martín-Iglesias, are presented alongside historical commentaries by Pablo Díaz Martínez and Margarita Vallejo Girvés. The texts are divided into three chronological sections: the first covers late Roman Hispania from 400 onwards; the second addresses “the Arian period” (essentially the sixth century); and the third (and largest) covers the Catholic Visigothic kingdom up to its latest sources in the 690s. The historical and philological discussions which precede the translations are typically enlightening, with up-to-date bibliographies. In addition to these, the volume carries over one-hundred and twenty pages of scholarly notes, indices, bibliography, and maps. This is not just a book of translations, then, but a work providing rich historical insight into the world illuminated by the letters. The editors have cast their nets widely. A work on this scale can never be comprehensive, but the editors should be commended for incorporating the letters of numerous lesser-known authors (Justus of Urgel, Licinianus of Cartagena, Quiricius of Barcelona) alongside those already well known to scholars (Severus of Minorca, Isidore of Seville, several Popes).[1]

It is to be hoped that this volume helps to shine a light on some of the lesser studied figures and episodes in the Iberian record. The only really substantial absence comes about due to the understandable omission of much of Braulio of Zaragoza’s letter collection. Since Ruth Miguel Franco’s recent translation render a new one redundant, the editors have decided to include only those of Braulio’s letters addressed to or from other important figures like Isidore of Seville and Fructuosus of Braga.[2] This is a good compromise. The view of Hispania we receive is one which showcases its embeddedness in a wider Mediterranean world. The volume’s texts hail from a wide geographical area. We encounter the Balearic layman Consentius corresponding with the African bishop Augustine of Hippo about events on the Iberian mainland (pp. 168–201). Later we come across the Visigothic count Bulgar in diplomatic dialogue with bishops in Frankish territories, discussing, among other things, his fears of Avar involvement in ongoing conflicts north of the Pyrenees (pp. 488–516). Highlighting these broader connections, the editors have chosen to include a number of texts from adjacent polities and regions. Selections from the Epistulae Austrasiacae, for example, show the Frankish royals Childebert II and Brunhild in complex diplomatic engagement with the Byzantine court at Constantinople at the time when Athanagild, the son of the fallen Visigothic rebel Hermenegild and his Frankish wife Ingund, was present there (pp. 466–477). It is fair to say that the category of “fuentes epistolares” has been interpreted relatively loosely. The volume aims at breadth rather than focus. Some of the letters are epistolary treatises, others are letters of dedication to longer works. Some are diplomatic correspondence, others are legal texts. Occasionally, the notion of “epistolary” form is pushed beyond reasonable limits. It is not evident why Redemptus of Seville’s idealised account of the penance and death of Isidore finds a place here (pp. 606–610), other perhaps than to offer a contextualising portrait of the bishop. The inclusion of certain of Valerius of Bierzo’s works is also puzzling. It is no surprise to find Valerius’ “Letter in praise of blessed Egeria” here, but it is unclear to me why his three accounts of monks’ visions of the beyond and his three autobiographical’ works are translated here (pp. 813–854).[3] The latter two collections lack any obvious claim to epistolary form and have already been translated more than once. That said, we can be very grateful that a number of important and hitherto untranslated texts have been made available here, however we reckon their form or genre. Some of the texts, like the second of Eutropius of Valencia’s monastic letters (the “Letter on the eight vices”, pp. 375–383), have never been translated in full into a modern language. The translations of the Epistolae Wisigothicae deserve a special mention in this regard (pp. 419–425, 478–559). This letter collection, which comes down to us only through the circuitous route of Ambrosio de Morales’ transcription of a now-lost medieval manuscript, contains notoriously impenetrable (and sometimes corrupt) Latin. Martín-Iglesias’ translation and philological notes will be met with gratitude by anyone (specialists included) who has ever tried to wade through the arcane language of these letters in the original.[4]

Discussions of various of the texts’ provenance is welcome, too. Díaz’s discussion of Isidore’s small corpus of letters, long dogged by concerns over authenticity, is lucid and considered. Not everyone will agree with the positions taken here, but Díaz presents as good a “state of the question” as one is likely to find (pp. 564–571). The editors are to be commended for producing such a wide-ranging resource, rich in both primary material and analysis. While this volume will doubtless primarily serve as a convenient collection of texts and discussions for Iberian specialists and those teaching Spanish-speaking students, it is to be hoped that it also encourages those who do not specialise in the Peninsula’s history to acquaint themselves with some of its lesser-known riches.

[1] Papal letters to Hispania have recently been surveyed in Alberto Ferreiro, Epistolae plenae. The Correspondence of the Bishops of Hispania with the Bishops of Rome: Third Through Seventh Centuries, Leiden 2020.
[2] Ruth Miguel Franco (trans.), Braulio of Zaragoza. Epístolas. Madrid 2015; English translation: Claude W. Barlow (trans.), Iberian Fathers, Volume 2. Braulio of Saragossa, Fructuosus of Braga, Washington DC 1969, pp. 15–112.
[3] The translations of Valerius’s visions and autobiographical texts re-edited under the auspices of a French project now published as Patrick Henriet / Jacques Elfassi / Florian Gallon / Céline Martin / José Carlos Martín-Iglesias (eds. and trans.), Valère du Bierzo. Écrits autobiographiques et Visions de l’au-delà, Paris 2021.
[4] The most recent edition is Juan Gil (eds.), Miscellanea Wisigothica, rev. edn, Salamanca 1991, pp. 3–49; The letters of Isidore to Helladius and Fructuosus to Reccesuinth (translated in the volume under review at pp. 571–572, 719–722) appear in Wilhelm Gundlach / Ernst Dümmler (eds.), Epistolae Merowingici et Karolini aevi (I), Weidmann 1892.

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