ADULT LIFE: MEN Florilegium Urbanum

Keywords: medieval household administration cities community ethics morality values attitudes society behaviour manners relationships marriage women children education possessions economy commerce servants
Subject: The household and its management
Original source: Bodleian Library, Ms. Digby 233, ff.62, 84, 102, 111
Transcription in: D. Fowler, C. Briggs, and P. Remley, eds. The Governance of Kings and Princes: John Trevisa's Middle English translation of the De Regimine Principum of Aegidius Romanus, New York: Garland Publishing, 1997, 159-60, 209-210, 251-252, 271-273.
Original language: Middle English
Location: Berkeley
Date: late 14th century


[Book II The Rule of the Household]

[Part i Marriage]

1 That it is natural for people to live socially and that kings and princes should pay careful heed to that fact.

[Men must co-operate to provide themselves with food, clothing, protection, and early education. Hence the need for kings and princes to know how to govern not just their own behaviour, but that of others.]

2 What a household is and how such a community is necessary for Mankind to live.

[Four types, or levels, of community can be distinguished: household, street (i.e. neighbourhood), city, and kingdom, each comprising multiples of the previous class (later in the book Giles adds provinces to the list). The precursor and most fundamental social unit is the household. The origins of a town or city lie in a single household where the number of children exceeds its capacity, necessitating further houses to be built, and thus a street develops, and so on until many streets are formed. Thus the development of communities takes place primarily, though not exclusively, through procreation of children.]

3 That kings, princes and all citizens should know that a household unit is in some regards the primal community, and a natural community.

['House' may refer to the physical structure (foundation, walls and roof) or the people who live in it, just as 'city' can mean a collection of houses, streets, and their encircling walls, or the residents of the place. Moral philosophy is concerned with these primarily as communities of people, and only secondarily with built structures, since men must have a proper dwellings, according to their degree of wealth. Household is the least developed form of community, having as its goal the generation of a street, just as the goal of a street is generation of a city, and so on. No man can govern the community of a city, or a kingdom, unless he first knows how to govern himself and to govern the members of his household. And no citizen can share in the profits of a kingdom unless he first knows how to manage his own household to his profit.]

4 What a household community is, and that a household must comprise many individuals.

[A household is intended to meet basic daily needs. However, not everything needful to life is found there – some needs (e.g. buying and selling) are not everyday and are met by higher levels of community, which are therefore superior (e.g. a confederation of cities enables better defence against enemies).]

5 That a household must comprise two communities and three types of persons.

[A household naturally encompasses two types of social relationship: husband-wife and master-servant, the former serving the need of procreation, the latter of maintenance and preservation. (Giles allows that those too poor to have human servants may have animals or, failing that, tools that serve similar purposes).]

6 That a household must comprise three communities, four types of persons, and three ways of managing them, and this must be divided into three parts.

[A better type of household, however, has a third social relationship: father and son. Of the total six roles seen as making up a household community, three of the roles are held by the male head of household: husband, father, and master, in each case with authority over the other member of the pair, so that running a household comprises managing the three relationships.]

7 That men are naturally best in wedlock and those who will not wed, nor be wedded, do not live as men but as beasts or gods.

[Men are naturally disposed to what is institutionalized in marriage for several reasons: first, as a social animal, man needs companionship, friendship and love; second, marriage is the proper context for reproduction (fornication outside of marriage is unnatural); third, the work of men is undertaken outside the house, while the work of looking after the house is the job of a woman. A household, because it fulfills basic needs, is a more natural form of community than those at higher levels (at the level of city, man is a political animal). He whose life entails fornication without marriage is like a beast, whilst he who chooses a solitary life of contemplation is like a divine being.]

8 That all citizens, particularly kings and princes, should remain with their wives, and not desert them.

[Fidelity is an attribute of friendship, and a corollary to love of the children.]

9 That each citizen, particularly king or prince, should consider himself satisfied with only one wife.

10 And that the wife of each citizen, particularly kings or princes, should consider herself satisfied with one husband.

[Polygamy fosters lust and a taste for lechery, and interferes with the proper love that should exist between husband and wife. Monogamy is the natural state of a loving relationship, the best in which to raise children, and conducive to harmonious marital relations. Giles acknowledges that a man having multiple wives is acceptable in some societies (e.g. Saracen), but that it is universally repugnant for a woman to have multiple husbands, promiscuous women being more likely to be barren. and fatherly love more assiduous if a father is certain that children are his own.]

11 That no citizens, particularly kings and princes, take wives from their own kin.

[This is contrary to reason, moderation, law, and social order. The relationship between men and women who are kin is already amicable, whereas the purpose of a marriage is in part to create friendships; the love between kind should be of a different kind than that between husband and wife.]

12 How kings, princes and all citizens should choose wives endowed with material wealth.

13 How all citizens, particularly kings and princes, should endeavour to have wives who not only possess goods but are innately good, both physically and morally.

[The choice of a wife should be based not only on physical attributes but, more importantly, on the quality of her family, on her social connections, and (to a lesser extent) on her wealth. A wife should be attractive yet modest, calm-natured, loving, and not lazy but inclined towards good, honest work (without being forced to it). ]

14 That all citizens, particularly kings and princes, should not manage their wives and their children in the same fashion.

[Just as a city can be governed on the basis of laws and policy or on the basis of pragmatic considerations in individual cases, so a wife should be managed according to the marriage contract and marriage vows, whereas children can be managed more arbitrarily, as seems best in any particular situation, for a father has more complete control over a child than a husband over a wife.]

15 That all citizens, particularly kings and princes, should not manage their wives and servants in the same fashion.

[Similarly, although wives and servants are both expected to perform certain household functions and duties, they must be dealt with differently, for a wife's role is in the bearing and raising of children and she should not be treated as a servant, husbands and wives having a relationship closer to equality than do masters and servants.]

16 That it is inappropriate for all citizens, particularly for kings and princes, to enter into matrimony at a very young age.

[To marry at too young an age results in offspring who are physically or mentally impaired, increases the risk of mothers dying in child-birth, and instills intemperate sexual appetites.]

17 That the act of begetting children should rather be done in the cold season, when the wind is northerly, than in the hot season, when the wind is southerly.

[This is argued primarily on the basis of medical science of the time, founded on the theory of four bodily humours (hot, cold, moist, dry) governing health matters.]

18 Some of what is to be praised, and what to be criticized, in women.

[Women are somewhat childlike, being less rational than men. They are humble (desiring to earn praise and have men's good opinion for doing things well), tend to anxiety, which makes them meek, and have a mild and compassionate nature. However, they are excessively passionate, which leads them to extremes of cruelty or shamelessness; they chatter, argue, and scold, and are inconstant in their desires and wishes.]

19 How all citizens, particularly kings and princes, should manage their wives.

[Moderating the behaviour of women aims at ensuring their fidelity and propriety, discouraging them from eating or drinking to excess (the latter a cause of promiscuity), and encouraging them to be placid.]

20 How all citizens, particularly kings and princes, should behave towards their wives.

[Husbands should treat their wives with respect, restricting sexual demands to what is necessary for procreation, providing them with adequate clothing and other necessaries, communicating criticisms in a gentle fashion, and giving signs and tokens of love.]

21 How wives should dress their bodies.

[Since, from the desire to be considered attractive, women like to dress fashionably, husbands must know what is permissible. Whatever creates a false impression – such as use of cosmetics (rouge or whitewash) – is unacceptable. But husbands may endorse what is appropriate to social station, in terms of clothing or ornamentation, so long as it is compatible with modesty and a wife is not over-dressed or under-dressed.]

22 How neither citizens, kings, nor princes should be jealous concerning their wives.

[Unwarranted jealousy causes anguished husbands to neglect their business and civic duties, leads to excessive attempts to restrain their wives which may push the latter towards misbehaviour, and creates strife within households.]

23 What women's counsel [is worth] , and how their counsel should not be acted upon except in a crisis.

[Since women are less rational than men, the advice they can give is poorer, except in cases where a quick decision has to be made, for women can more quickly formulate an opinion than men.]

24 That it is not appropriate for kings and princes, nor for other citizens, to tell their private plans to their own wives.

[Because of their want of rationality, their foolish hearts, and their desire to win praise, women talk too easily and are inclined to tell their husband's secrets to others.]

[Part ii Children]

1 That father and mother should busy themselves with [the upbringing of] their own children.

[Governing children should take priority over governing servants, for children are the father's offspring, fathers are wiser than their children, and they owe them love and friendship.]

2 That it is most appropriate for kings and princes to busy themselves with their own children can be shown in three ways.

3 Managing children is done out of love and children should be managed in a different way to servants.

[Fathers govern children for their own good and benefit, whereas servants must be concerned with the good and benefit of their masters. Men's should not treat their wives or children as servants, unless they are too poor to have servants proper.]

4 The love that should be between father and son is sufficient proof that fathers should govern their children and children should be obedient to fathers.

[Since parents have a stronger love for children than children for parents, and provide for children's needs, parents should govern and control children, while the latter should honour, respect and obey their parents.]

5 All citizens, particularly kings and princes, should be attentive to managing their children, so that they learn their beliefs in childhood.

[Parents should teach their children fundamental values and articles of faith while they are young, for the benefit of the kingdom and of the Christian religion.]

6 All citizens, particularly kings and princes, should be attentive to managing their children, so that they are taught good manners in childhood.

[Manners should be taught while children are young and foolish, to avoid them falling into bad habits (notably lechery, self-indulgence, or outrageous behaviour) or being ruled by their passions.]

7 The children of gentlemen, and particularly children of kings and princes, should during childhood be sent to school to be taught the liberal arts of free men.

[All men could benefit from being literate, which leads to prudence, wisdom, and awareness of what is unlawful. Poor men may not be able to afford such an education for their children, but gentlemen have no excuse for not sending their children to school. Schooling should capitalize on the eagerness of youth, so that children learn to converse well, develop their attention-span, and become knowledgeable.]

8 What sciences children of gentlemen, kings, and princes should learn.

[Children must first learn grammar (precision in the use of language), so that they can understand the written and spoken language of philosophers and doctors. Then they must learn the other liberal sciences: dialectic, rhetoric, music, astronomy, arithmetic (which is necessary to learn music), geometry (which is necessary to learn astronomy). Also good for those destined to govern cities and kingdoms are natural philosophy, metaphysics, ethics, economics, and political science.]

9 What kind of master should teach children of gentlemen, particularly those of kings and princes.

[A schoolmaster must be able to bring the best out of students, in terms of manners and understanding. Good manners are taught by personal example, by reasoned oral communication, and by disciplinary correction. To convey understanding a teacher should be sharp-witted and have an active mind. He must be able to convey the lessons of the past, but be conscious of future challenges. He must be wary of mixing in any falsehoods with the truths he teaches. He must be very knowledgeable about a wide range of subjects.]

10 How children should be taught to speak and to use their sight and hearing.

[They should learn not to use bad language, tell tales, talk of inappropriate subjects, or speak ill-advisedly. They should be restrained from viewing unsuitable images (such as of naked women) or foul deeds, or looking nosily about, and should rather be taught to use discrimination in looking. Similarly, they should be forbidden to listen to what is vile or false.]

11 In what ways errors can be made while eating and how children should behave when eating.

[Intemperate behaviours that impede digestion and foster gluttony are to be discouraged: gobbling down food (rather than chewing it properly), over-eating, eating messily, eating outside of regular hours for meals, developing a taste for delicacies (particularly those not appropriate for one's social status), favouring dishes that are elaborately presented or exotically seasoned.]

12 What behaviour children should be taught in regard to drinking, married life, and clothing themselves.

[Caution must most be exercised in matters posing the greatest risks, youth being the age when the risk of gluttony, intemperance, and lechery is greatest. Children should be encouraged to sobriety and forbidden to drink large quantities of wine, as it leads to lechery, impairs rationality, and encourages argumentativeness. A father should encourage his son to be virtuous and satisfied with confining sexual desires to the marriage partner. The philosopher says that a man should refrain from marriage until the age of twenty-one and a woman until the age of twenty-eight, unless they are unable to restrain themselves that long.]

13 How children should behave, in terms of bearing, when playing.

[Since idleness gives opportunity to turn one's mind to inappropriate activities, play is necessary, and a desirable break in the more serious business of working to achieve a goal. Malicious games, dishonest pleasures, and bad language should be forbidden, however. Recreational activities should involve appropriate exercise, in terms of proper movements of the limbs. Children need to be taught correct deportment, and to dress in a practical rather than outlandish manner – while allowing for personal preferences, they should take into account the time of year (e.g. warm clothing in winter and light in summer), their bodily needs (women being less bothered by heat and cold), and local customs.]

14 When young it is good to be wary of bad company.

[Children should be kept from companions who are bad influences, since at that age they are impressionable, gullible, and easily led astray (following their natural inclination to mischief) by companions to whom they form too strong an attachment.]

15 In what way children should be managed and cared for from the time they are born until they are seven years old.

[Up to the age of seven, children have no rationality and are not capable of virtue or intelligence. The most they can be expected to learn in that period is spoken language. They should be nourished primarily with milk, initially from the mother or a substitute. For health reasons, they should be given no wine while breast-feeding. To build hardiness they should be acclimatized to cold conditions and for physical development should be allowed moderate mobility. They should be entertained by gentle play, story-telling (when they begin to understand language), and simple songs. They should be discouraged from excessive crying, so that they learn self-control.]

16 In what way children should be managed and cared for from seven to fourteen years.

[From the age of seven to fourteen (these seven-year terms being adjustable to the individual), children develop in body, personality, intellect and are ruled by their desires; all these all need to be nurtured or controlled. They should undertake more demanding activities that build their strength (Tacuinus recommends ball-playing, and the philosopher wrestling). They must be steered towards virtuous and law-abiding behaviours and moderation in their emotions, and be discouraged from willfulness. They must learn grammar and logic, as a foundation for intelligence and rationality.]

17 In what way children should be managed and cared for from fourteen years onwards.

[The development of children from age fourteen to twenty-one or older takes further the directions followed in the previous term. They should undertake harder tasks and activities that will equip them for public life, including combative sports that train them for communal defence. Since they develop greater desire for independence, they must be taught obedience to their parents and elders and not to resent being ordered about. Sobriety and abstinence must be encouraged. They should be taught moral and other more advanced sciences. They must learn how to govern themselves and others.]

18 Not all children should be put to the same amount of work and physical activity.

[All destined to live in a community governed by law – especially those who will lead a civil life in cities or towns – should, for reasons that include health and bearing as well as avoidance of indolence, become accustomed to physical labour. This should include use of arms and wearing of armour, since they may have to do this lawfully at some time in their lives for the benefit of their community. However, those destined to govern should do less labour and focus on developing their knowledge, for labour builds brawn, whereas muscularity counteracts intelligence and wisdom, attributes more desirable in those who govern.]

19 Daughters of citizens, and particularly of gentlemen, kings, and princes, should be restrained from wandering or from strutting about lewdly.

[Just as wives should be self-controlled, chaste, abstemious, and demure, so should daughters. They should be prevented from wandering about freely and immodestly, for else they risk losing their chastity.]

20 How all citizens, and particularly kings and princes, should be careful to manage their daughters so that they are not idle.

[Since the time of young women is not, unlike that of men, occupied with civic duties and communal responsibilities, they should be kept busy at home with honest and useful tasks (such as weaving, spinning, or learning to read), so that they have no occasion to sin.]

21 Kings, princes, and all citizens in general should teach their daughters to be meek and quiet and not to chatter endlessly.

[As they are deficient in rationality, young women should not be chatterboxes or outgoing. They should learn to be tranquil and reserved, saying little (and nothing that criticizes), as this will make them more appealing to potential husbands.]

[Part iii The Household]

1 That managing the household concerns not only how to treat servants but also things that help meet human needs, and that these two matters are connected.

[This part of the book addresses management not only of servants and other supporters but also of money, possessions, and property. This governance is much like other crafts, such as smithing and weaving, in that it is accomplished through its own tools and instruments, which are used for the accumulation of money and possessions. The main skill required is prudence that leads to sensible actions.]

2 That instruments for managing the household should be distinguished from each other, and in what ways each compares to the other.

[Some instruments have souls, such as servants and officials, and some are inanimate, such as clothing, or beds; inanimate instruments cannot accomplish purposes by themselves, but require servants or officials to use them.]

3 What kinds of buildings kings, princes, and all citizens in general should have, as to construction and temperate climate.

[Buildings should be skilfully constructed, reflecting the social status of the owner, and suitable for accommodating all members of the household. Also well-situated as regards exposure to the elements and avoiding low areas where the air is stale and damp, making those who live there sickly.]

4 How the building should be in regard to its situation and water supply.

[Since water is essential to life in many regards, houses should be situated with good access to ample water of good quality – not that which that has been standing in marshes or pits, or is discoloured from passing through minerals or slimy ground. In regard to the situation, consideration should also be given to its exposure to sun – whether the house would receive enough light in winter, but will not get too hot in summer – and to wind, as well as to the condition of the ground.]

5 That it is to some extent natural for men to have possessions and that those who renounce possessions do not live like men but as those who are better than men.

[Men naturally acquire possessions, for these are things they need to live their lives. God created men to have domination over other living things, and Nature has designed the latter to provide nourishment when they are mature. Only spiritual men, who are not residents of a city, abstain from such possessions.]

6 That it is good for the political life of a community governed by law that citizens have private possessions.

[Plato and Socrates believed it would be beneficial for unity and harmony within a city if citizens had no personal possessions, but held everything in common, including wives and children. But citizens of today are common men not so disposed to goodness that they could live such a communal life. Each is more motivated by the prospect of personal prosperity than that of communal prosperity. Communality of possessions would lead to confusion and give rise to strife, even among kin. So it is better that each have his own possessions.]

7 How material wealth should be used and what manner of lifestyle is lawful.

[Use of possessions varies according to how men make a living: some legitimately by tilling fields, raising livestock, or hunting and fishing, some illegally by despoiling others. Citizens should live within the law, relying on their own rightful possessions and not those taken from others.]

8 That citizens, and even more so kings and princes, should not desire limitless possessions.

[It is common for men, more concerned with their physical than their moral well-being, to have an inordinate appetite for possessions and wealth that can never be satisfied. But, just as Nature provides only what is necessary to sustain life, and as craftsmen have only those tools needed for their work, so a man should be satisfied with only those possessions that enable him to manage a household suitable to his social status.]

9 How many ways there are of exchanging and of buying and selling, and what the need is for having money.

[There are three ways in which trade can take place: exchange of one type of goods for another (e.g. wheat for wine); exchange of money for goods, or vice versa; and exchange of one type of money for another. If households were the only form of community to exist, trade would not be necessary, as each householder provides for the needs of his own. It came about to serve other types of community, for some things needful to life are not found locally but must be obtained in distant lands. For the community of a street, exchange of goods for goods might suffice, as it did in olden times when men lived more simply. But, goods such as wheat and wine being heavy to transport, when commerce is conducted over a wider area money is needed; and when it takes place internationally there is need for exchanges of money for money, particularly of gold and silver – metals from which can be made utensils valued by men and whose use earns them respect. Exchange of goods for precious metals was initially by weight of the latter, but it became more convenient to put it in the form of coinage, which had a fixed value and was more portable. Since different kingdoms use different coins, there is the need for money-changing. A wise householder knows how to manage such exchanges, for the Latin term for husbandry is economics.]

10 How many ways there are of [making] money, and which of them is good, which evil.

[The philosopher distinguishes four ways of making money: by exchanging Nature's products for it; by profiting from money exchange (which requires a man to know the value of foreign currencies); by melting down coin in order to re-mint it at lower weight; and by usury. Princes should restrict themselves to the first method, while merchants and certain others may be allowed to engage in the second and third, but no man should engage in usury.]

11 Concerning the fourth way of [making] money, which is known as "takos" and is evil, and that kings and princes, if they would be worthy lords, should forbid usury, for it is contrary to natural law.

[Giles presents a convoluted argument that includes some of the following points: coin is a thing that, like other things (such as benches, stools, or coffers) does not naturally multiply' usury is a rent charge on the use of something, but when coin is handed over to another, the giver has no rights over its use; just as the proper use of a house is dwelling, the proper use of coin is spending or exchanging.]

12 That there are various ways of acquiring money, and some of them are compatible with being a king or prince.

Towards the end of the Politics, Book One, the philosopher identifies various methods of making money, which can be done in five ways. The first of these is called "possession", the second "mercativa", "mercenaria" or "conductiva", the fourth "experimentalis", the fifth "artificialis".

The first way to make money is known as "possessoria" and is when a man has many possessions and obtains money for the products from the same. For the philosopher says that a householder and manager of a household should have expert knowledge of possessions and which are the most fruitful for supplying the household with what it needs; this assumes that he knows which kinds of resources are most plentiful in particular lands and countries, since a man has the greatest returns from livestock in the country in which particular livestock are best kept and raised. We intend to say nothing of how that might be known, how a man should deal with possessions, how birds, wild-fowl, and four-footed animals should be kept and raised, or of what lands yield the best corn, what land is best for vines, or how to look after trees. For other have, it seems, dealt with such activities fully, and Paladius says a great deal about them.

The second way to make money is known as "mercativa" and is from the transport or acquisition of merchandize by sea or by land. That which is called "mercativa" can be divided into three parts, as the philosopher indicates: one is known as "navicularia" and is by sea, another by land transport, and the third is known as "astrix".

The third way of acquiring money, known as "mercenaria" or "conductiva", is when a man works for wages or a fee.

The fourth is known as "experimentalis", or experience of particular things. This is when a man knows the particular processes which certain men carry out in order to acquire money; then he has the way of acquisition that is known as "experimentalis", for he knows it by experience. And the philosopher sets out two particular methods whereby money is acquired.

The first was the method of one Gallo Mellonys, one of the seven wise men who first began to work as a philosopher. He was poor, and despised and criticized by many men for working in philosophy; I asked him what his philosophy was worth, since he was always poor and in need. Not because he was greedy for money, but to prove that philosophers can quickly become wealthy if they occupy their time with such a pursuit, he replied that he knew from astronomy that in the coming year there would be plenty of olive oil. He bought up, from all the men of that region, all the oil that they would harvest that year, borrowing money and putting down deposits on all the oil of that year. Then, since he had all the oil, and no-one else but he had any oil, he made a great deal of money, thus proving that a philosopher could become rich.

The second method set out by the philosopher was that of Siculus, a Sicilian, who bought up all the iron at a fair and sold it again at as much] as he wished and made a great deal of money, for he was the only one selling iron.

Of the various ways of acquiring money identified by the philosopher, monopoly is an excellent method. But monopoly is when one man, and no more, sells; for when only one sells he can set the price that he wishes. Then he who would acquire money must keep this particular money-making method in mind, so that, if he sees an opportunity, he may acquire money by this particular method, assuming it to be legal.

The fourth way is known as "artificialis", or craft, when a man acquires money by practicing his occupation. For although the goal of the craft of chivalry is victory and that of medicine is health, all crafts are intended for earning money. Physicians, smiths, carpenters, as well as knights who serve as soldiers, all desire money for employing their skills.

Thus, every man who wishes to live in a community governed by law should arrange for things that are necessary for a household and take charge of acquiring such money as his social status requires. For kings and princes, only two of the methods touched upon seem good. Those two methods are possessoria and experimentalis. For they should, in their own right or through others, have expert knowledge of the particular circumstances of the kingdom and the particular actions of their predecessors to acquire money; and they should uphold the best of the established practices of the kingdom which earn them legitimate revenues, without wrongfully appropriating other men's goods. Under those circumstances the method employing experience is an acceptable way for kings and princes to acquire money.

Furthermore, the acquisition method known as possessoria is not only applicable to possessions that are immovables, such as fields, vineyards, and other such, but they should also have many moveables, livestock, and fowl to help them live life to the full. For we have seen that the emperor Frederick, who was considered so worldly-wise, owned many different places where provisions were stored, notwithstanding that his own land was very fertile and victuals were cheap there. He was, nonetheless, always able to have meat from his own stock of beasts and fowl.

It is seemly for kings, princes, and other men of the kingdom that they do not appear to be living as new-comers or pilgrims, for he who buys all his food with money lives more like an outsider than a citizen. Therefore kings and princes should have shrewd and knowledgeable men to look after the tilling of fields, their vineyards, cattle, oxen, sheep, and other livestock necessary for their livelihood – not only four-footed beasts but also birds and fowl, as it is often the custom in some countries to keep many doves and other fowl that can feed the household. As the philosopher says in the Politics, if the land of a country is good for tilling, one should busy oneself with tilling. Similarly, in suitable regions a high yield can come, at low cost, from bees.

To sum up, concerning he would who live in a community governed by law, civil life is always better than a vagrant's life and it is better to have provisions of one's own than buy everything with money.

13 That some men are naturally servants and that it is advantageous for some men to be subject to others.

[Some service is natural, for in a community of many voices there must be some element by which all is brought into harmony. Just as the soul governs the body, men govern beasts, and men have mastery over women because the former are more rational, so in a political affairs of a community wise men should govern those who lack wisdom; not all rulers are wise, but this is a perversion. It is natural that those men who have less intelligence than women should be servants.]

14 That everything beyond natural servitude (that is, as it were, servitude in itself) is servitude by law and is, as it were, by force.

[Since everything other than the laws of Nature is made for the common good, cities and kingdoms need to have effective laws by which they can be governed. Law-makers have considered it beneficial to society that men superior in morals, might, or intellect have mastery. These are men who fight strongly to defend cities and kingdoms and, through victory, obtain lordship over those they overcome; lesser men who are virtuous and sensible should not oppose this state of affairs, for the common good is better than what is good for an individual.]

15 That besides natural and lawful thralldom and servitude there is service by hire and out of love.

[There are four types of servants: those brought to it by Nature, because incapable of looking after themselves, those legitimately enslaved by conquest, those who serve in return for wages or sustenance, and those who serve out of goodwill and devotion. Masters should treat the last more like their children than like servants, for it is common sense that those who live next to the well have more water.]

16 How in the households of kings and princes servants should be appointed to offices.

[In a great household there must be many servants, some serving at table, some as masters of horse, and some with other roles. Any particular duty should not be assigned to too many servants, since this leads to confusion or neglect, but a hierarchy established, with one set in charge of them all. Nor should too many duties be assigned to one servant, just as in a large city one man should not hold too many offices, since then none will be thoroughly performed. In small households with few servants and fewer tasks to be performed, it is more acceptable for a servant to have multiple responsibilities; one might, for example, double as cook, server at table, and gate-keeper. Attention must also be paid to the capabilities of servants, for some do poor work; the desirable qualities are diligence and prudence.]

17 How kings and princes should arrange for clothing for their servants.

[A wise king supplies the needs of his supporters. Well-dressed supporters reflect well on a king, and a uniform dress identifies the servants as his, although different servants should be costumed differently, according to their place in the hierarchy, and with allowance for local customs.]

18 What courtesy is, and that servants of kings and princes should be courteous.

[Courtesy is a gentile behaviour. Commoners tend to recognize men of noble blood and civil authority from their outward appearance and manners, rather than their lineage. Courtesy goes beyond behaviours that merely comply with the law; it is the way by which virtues and good manners (notably, liberality and affability) are displayed. Servants should emulate their lords in aspiring to courteous behaviour.]

19 How kings and princes should behave towards their servants.

[Since the honesty and capability of servants can only be gauged on their performance over time, they should first be assigned minor responsibilities to test their qualities; if they do well, then to be moved on to greater responsibilities, gradually upwards by degree, before they are deemed capable of the full exercise of their duties; for those too quickly promoted to a position of authority often abuse the advantage gained. Once assigned duties, they should be kept busy by a supervisor, rather than directly by the king or prince, who has more important matters to attend to. Towards his servants a king or prince should neither be too familiar nor too high-and-mighty, but behave with magnanimity and moderation, so that he be revered by them and not seem cruel. Citizens may act with more familiarity towards their servants. None, however, should reveal private matters to those who are servants by Nature, by law, or for wages, for these lack either the wit or the loyalty necessary to keep secrets. Only those who serve out of devotion, and whose intelligence and will-power has been proven over time, may be trusted with secrets. Masters should not withhold wages or food from servants, but give them additional rewards commensurate with their performance and adherence to the standards indicated above.]

20 That those who sit at the table of noblemen should not chatter too much nor be too full of tales.

[Around the dining table, kings and princes, or citizens, those who eat with them, and their servants should not talk too much, for the mouth should be exercised primarily with eating, and conversation that is too lively gives the appearance of drunkenness. Giles suggests that conversation be discouraged by having educational passages from some book, such as De Regimine Principum, read out loud.]


The above is an amalgamated list of chapter titles for the three parts of Book II of Giles of Rome's De Regimine Principum, for which I have provided some elaboration in the form of a selective abstract of basic points made in most of the chapters. Chapter 12 of part III has been translated in full as an example particularly germane to this section of the Florilegium Urbanum. Where the text seems obscure or problematic, I have cross-checked against a somewhat loose thirteenth-century French translation of the De Regimine, which omits some material, [Li livres du gouvernement des rois, ed. Samuel P. Molenaer. New York: Macmillan, 1899], and an incunable Latin version published at Venice by Simone Gabi "Bevilaqua" in 1498. However, the aim here is to present Trevisa's take on Giles' text, rather than the strict sense of the original.

Giles of Rome, or Egidius Romanus, (ca.1243 to 1316) was reputedly, according to later sources, a member of the noble family of Colonna, one of the most powerful families, socially and politically, in papal Rome. He pursued a career in the Church and became one of its most influential thinkers of his time. After joining an Augustinian order (of which he later became Prior General) he was sent to university in Paris, where he probably studied for a while under Thomas Aquinas, who was re-interpreting Aristotelian thought for audiences of his own era. Among a large body of his written work, Giles authored commentaries on most of the writings of Aristotle, whose thought became authoritative in the Late Middle Ages. Giles was also familiar with the works of a number of later philosophers, although in the Thomasian tradition, Aristotle's pre-eminence is indicated in references to him simply as "the philosopher", as if later thinkers were of little consequence.

After receiving his doctorate, Giles taught at the university himself and about the same time the king of France, Philip III, appointed him tutor to his son and heir, Philip the Fair. To help with that task, and at the prince's request, Giles composed the treatise De Regimine Principum as a kind of manual on optimal political and moral behaviour, for those destined to rule not only principalities, but smaller communities such as cities and households. It was divided into three books, the first advising on personal behaviour (i.e. governing oneself), the second on various aspects of managing a household, and the third on civil government during peacetime and (as regards military operations) wartime. This ethics-economics-politics scheme was a product of Parisian scholasticism in the decades before Giles studied there. The title of Giles' treatise echoes a slightly earlier work whose initial part may possibly have been written by Aquinas (as a guide to kingship supposedly produced for the heir of a king of Cyprus), and continued by Ptolemy of Lucca, another student of Aquinas. This work, however, Ptolemy developed into a political treatise, though one limited to civil government; he followed Aristotle in recognizing management of the household as a form of government (albeit one incorporating various modes of rule in the different relationships between householder and servant, wife, or children), but did not discuss this in detail, intending rather to devote a separate work to the subject.

After a Church backlash against Aristotelianism, from 1277, forced Giles to abandon Paris – not before completing (ca.1280) the De Regimine and delivering it to his pupil, to whom it was dedicated – he returned to Italy to involve himself in the government of his order. In 1295 Pope Boniface VIII made him archbishop of Bourges, although he spent much of his time at the papal curia, initially harnessing his intellect to the political support of Boniface which, ironically, brought him into conflict with his former student, now Philip VI of France. Soon after taking the throne (1285) Philip had shown his appreciation of the De Regimine by commissioning, for the benefit of his own sons, a French translation.

Copies of that work, in both its Latin and French versions, were widely disseminated geographically and chronologically (being reprinted into the early seventeenth century). No work aiming at making the Christian West receptive to Aristotelian thought on ethics and politics was so successful, in terms of its popularity in the Middle Ages; over 300 manuscripts of the Latin version alone still survive today. It essentially established a new model for the "mirror of princes", a genre already with a long history, of which something is seen in the slightly earlier, but more encyclopedic, work of Brunetto Latini, although the most notorious example is Machiavelli's The Prince. Copies of De Regimine were influential not only in France and Italy, but in a number of other countries where vernacular translations are known to have been made. Furthermore, ideas from the De Regimines of Giles and of Aquinas filtered into other genres; for instance, Jacobus de Varragine's Chronica civitatis Ianuensis (1296), of which some 44 copies are known, adapts their sections on the different forms of government, the desirable qualities of rulers, and the duties of a good citizen in his relations with rulers, his wife, and other members of his household. Some 60 or 70 years after Philip the Fair received his copy of Giles' work, a new French manual was commissioned by Charles V, or perhaps his brother, under the title Advice for kings. Profusely illustrated –: no mean task given the somewhat abstract matters dealt with in the text – it was not an edition of the De Regimine, but similarly structured and likely influenced by it; this, however, perhaps because the text is written with a much narrower audience in mind, it spawned only one known copy, and that unillustrated.

We know (or suspect from titles of works) not only that Latin or French versions were circulating widely among the English clergy and were studied at England's universities, but were also read by, or in the libraries of, a number of prominent laymen; among them: Edward II; Edward III's son, Thomas of Woodstock (who owned in 1397 a Latin copy, while his widow bequeathed a French version two years later); Sir Simon Burley, one of Richard II's tutors; Henry V (an adaptation by Thomas Hoccleve), the earl of Shrewsbury, who presented Margaret of Anjou with a copy ca.1445; a chief baron of the Exchequer Peter Arderne (bequeathed to his daughter in 1467); Richard duke of Gloucester; and Cardinal Wolsey. Giles' reworking of Aristotelian philosophical ideas was framed in a way that offered more accessible and more concrete advice in many areas pertinent to the lifestyles and spheres of activity particularly of the upper classes.

No notice has yet been made of any copy owned by an English townsman, but it is not improbable. William Thorp, a Cambridgeshire knight with property in London, bequeathed a copy in 1391. A likely candidate, the capable and learned town clerk of London John Carpenter, did not include it among books mentioned in his will, although he left a medieval abridgement of Aristotelian philosophy (mixed in with later ideas) Liber de regimine dominorum, as well as the Speculum morale regium a mid-thirteenth century compilation of the thought of Aquinas and others. The lawyer John Cokayn, who served London as recorder in the 1390s before going on to become a king's justice and steward of the duchy of Lancaster, was still in possession of a copy of Aquinas' Summa Theologica at his death; while John Baret of Bury St. Edmunds, a successful clothier, administrator and landowner, bequeathed an unidentified book described as containing useful advice on various matters, unlikely to have been the De Regimine but perhaps something along similar lines. The number of copies in circulation is disguised by the fact that many libraries were bequeathed en masse, while some owners may have passed such useful books along to male or female heirs before death.

The wide accessibility of the Latin and French versions may have discouraged production of an English translation. It appears to have been at the commission of Thomas IV Lord Berkeley that such an effort was begun, by his chaplain John Trevisa (ca.1342-1402), an Oxford scholar and vicar of Berkeley (a small seigneurial town). Precisely when is uncertain, but one possibility is that the work was undertaken to provide Lord Berkeley with arguments in his role as baronial representative in the proceedings against Richard II for tyranny, in the closing years of the 1390s. Although a translation (from the Latin rather than the French) was completed, it has every appearance of a draft text, and never proceeded to a revised fair copy that would necessarily have preceded 'publication'. Whether this was because the deposition of Richard ended Berkeley's interest, because Trevisa thought there was no great market for an English version (his working copy perhaps serving the needs of his immediate circle), or because of his death, we cannot know. A one-time Speaker of the House of Commons and county sheriff, Thomas Charlton, owned an English copy in 1465, but this might have been the manuscript produced for Berkeley. That manuscript has not survived, but we have a copy executed soon after Trevisa's death, believed true to his original, but with some corrections entered by other hands than that of the copyist.

The chapters on the various aspects of the household probably reflect widespread values and attitudes (though less evidently actual practices) in medieval society, albeit that De Regimine was written by a cleric who presents the conservative and moralistic views of the Church (although Giles was a moderate in that regard); he also supported the idea of papal supremacy, leading him, in at least one regard, to argue a political theory almost diametrically opposed to the position espoused by Aristotle. Giles was nonetheless anxious to create the impression that he was passing along Aristotle's philosophy, making frequent references to various of the latter’s' works. But this Aristotelianism is very much filtered through Aquinas' interpretation, adapting it to the medieval context and the teachings of the Catholic Church.

Moreover, the author was clearly most familiar with those parts of Europe that were politically fragmented and relatively highly urbanized; indeed, his understanding of civil society and its politics seem heavily geared towards the thirteenth century Italian city-state, with some attitudes clearly reflecting those of Italy's landed urban nobility. However, we should not take the references to citizens in Giles' work too literally; he may have been using the term broadly to mean the subjects of kings or princes, although in Italy this in practice meant predominantly those who were residents of,or affiliated with, cities. Although, partly due to the influence of his sources, the rank-and-file members of communities are heavily addressed by his advice, his primary target audience is ostensibly the upper echelons of society, and certainly some of his passages are relevant only to that audience. But the attitudes expressed in the philosophy of Giles of Rome, although to some extent borrowed from earlier times, were probably largely palatable to both rural and urban elites, although we cannot be certain how well they would have resonated with members of society lower down the scale. The style of his discourse was patterned on the methodical approach of the universities, but sufficiently modified and with enough practical advice to give the work some appeal to less well-educated readers; the sections on household management and education of children appear to have been particularly appreciated.

However, although Giles has customized iformation from his sources to shape advice for princely rulers, these elements often have the appearance of additions to the mainstream of his arguments, which have in mind a broader class, perhaps particularly an urban class, considering the occasional analogies made or narrative examples given in the text to crafts and (to a lesser extent) commerce), apparently on the expectation that his audience will be familiar with how craftsmen and merchants operate. These analogies with the familiar must have helped make his work more accessible to urban readers.

In part because the text is a handbook for training those destined to govern, the scope of the book covers matters principally of significance to a male-dominated society. Thus the focus of the children section is primarily on the development of sons – the male preoccupation with succession. Giles, however, acknowledges that "marriage does not always produce sons, but sometimes results in daughters" [Book 2, Part 2, Ch.19] and adds some advice almost as an afterthought. In terms of human behaviour, Giles' underlying assumption is that "all [untutored] men are inclined to evil, and women even more so, for they are more defective in their use of reason." [Book 2, Part 3, Ch.19]

The ecclesiastical distaste for women, in part a mix of scorn and resentment rationalized by natural philosophy and theology, persists without any evident abatement between the time of Giles and Trevisa. However, it is not just because Giles' target audience is male that men are the main actors throughout his handbook. The term used for a householder (in the sense of the head of household) is "husband", and this is applied interchangeably to the male partner in a marriage and to the manager of a household. Yet the reality of urban society was that wives, mothers, and widows had important, if limited, roles and it is not surprising to find that women were among owners of the book.



"clothing themselves"
This topic, actually addressed in the next chapter, was erroneously transferred to this chapter heading by Trevisa or his source, although it was never Giles' intention.

What De Regimine was to civil life Tacuinus Sanitatis was to health: a handbook on diet, hygiene, exercise, and other behaviours conducive to a healthy lifestyle. Drawn from an older Arab medical treatise, it was widely disseminated in the same period as Giles' book and targeted at a similar audience.

"Plato and Socrates"
Plato, with the encouragement of his teacher Socrates, explored aspects of utopian communism in his writings before abandoning the idea as impractical.

A 4th century author of a treatise on farming and animal husbandry.

"land transport"
the Latin text terms this "portativa"

There is a small possibility this is derived from astrictio, suggesting a mercantile contract involving subsequent delivery of goods. The French version is less detailed than the Trevisa translation and does not mention three divisions of "mercativa". However, the Latin version that I have consulted uses the term assistricem (suggesting assize) without further clarification. I suspect that the reference is therefore to establishing value assessed on quality of the goods, rather than according to weight (a characteristic that the Latin text seems to associate with the other two divisions).

"a fee"
Trevisa has "mede", which I initially thought meant food, but the Latin version has mercedis (reward), which it differentiates from conductivus (a customary stipend for hire of services).

"Gallo Mellonys"
The seven sages were ancient Greeks (first listed by Plato) renowned as statesmen and law-givers, rather than philosophers. The anecdote recounted by Giles (taken from Aristotle's Politics) corresponds to a tradition about one of them, Thales of Miletus, which is the name given in the Latin version, so (assuming the transcription of the Middle English to be accurate) either Trevisa's source was corrupt, or he misread.

"plenty of olive oil"
Giles simplified this anecdote to meet his needs, and Trevisa continued the process; Aristotle's version is that Thales predicted a good harvest of olives and hired in advance all the olive-presses; having a monopoly when the harvest came in, he could then rent them out to farmers at a good profit.

It was Giles, not Aristotle, who identified this individual's geographical origins, but gave him no name. Giles, by referring to a quodam Sciculo, left the way open for the conversion of nationality to personal name, although Trevisa hedged his bets. Again, the version in Giles has been simplified, to make the story more readily accessible to a medieval audience (fair being a substitute for iron mine in the original) without sacrificing the point, which concerns monopoly.. The French version has "ferriers", probably meaning iron-mongers), and it seems possible that Giles' nundinarum was intended as market sources generally, rather than specifically fairs.

"assuming it to be legal"
This proviso, with the look of an after-thought, was a sensible one, since urban authorities took a dim view on price-setting through monopolization (which could often only be managed by committing illegal acts such as forestalling), although in times of famine it was not unknown for those authorities (most famously in Italian cities) to buy up foodstuffs themselves in order that they be sold at an affordable price.

"knights who serve as soldiers"
The Latin suggests that Giles means those who hire themselves out as mercenaries.

The English and French versions use "strangers" and the Latin indicates someone newly arrived, such as an immigrant not yet well established and lacking land of his own. The intent here seems to be to suggest that townsmen who live off their earnings and make no effort to acquire land and resources that might move them towards self-sufficiency, are little better than vagrant beggars, less true members of a community than established landowners who have a vested interest in it. In this we can see Italian (and likely English) prejudices held both by Church conservatives and by the urban nobility whose authority was rooted in land ownership.

"shrewd and knowledgeable"
The Latin intends industrious.

"cap 20"
The folio with the greater part of the chapter is missing from the manuscript and the editors have supplied it from the Latin.

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Created: September 29, 2009. Last update: February 24, 2014 © Stephen Alsford, 2009-2014