Matter of Rome

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According to the medieval poet Jean Bodel, the Matter of Rome was the literary cycle made up of Greek and Roman mythology, together with episodes from the history of classical antiquity, focusing on military heroes like Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar. Bodel divided all the literary cycles he knew best into the Matter of Britain, the Matter of France and the Matter of Rome (although "non-cyclical" romance also existed). [1] The Matter of Rome also included what is referred to as the Matter of Troy, consisting of romances and other texts based on the Trojan War and its after-effects, including the adventures of Aeneas. [2]

Contents

Subject matter

Classical topics were the subjects of a good deal of Old French literature, which in the case of Trojan subject matter ultimately deriving from Homer was built on scant sources; since the Iliad and the Odyssey were unknown, medieval Western poets had to make do with two short prose narratives based on Homer, ascribed to Dictys Cretensis and Dares Phrygius. The paucity of original text did not prevent the 12th century Norman poet Benoît de Sainte-Maure from writing a lengthy adaptation, Le Roman de Troie, running 40,000 lines. [2] The poems that were written on these topics were called the romans d'antiquité, the "romances of antiquity." This name presages the anachronistic approach the medieval poets used in dealing with these subjects. For example, in the epic poems Roman d'Alixandre and the Roman de Troie , Alexander the Great, and Achilles and his fellow heroes of the Trojan War were treated as knights of chivalry, not much different from the heroes of the chansons de geste . [3] Elements of courtly love were introduced into the poems; in the Roman de Thèbes , a romantic relationship absent from the Greek sources is introduced into the tale of Parthenopæus and Antigone. Military episodes in these tales were also multiplied, and used to introduce scenes of knight-errantry and tournaments.

Another example of French medieval poetry in this genre is the Eneas, a treatment of the Aeneid that comes across as being a sort of burlesque of Virgil's poem. Sentimental and fantasy elements in the source material were multiplied, and incidents from Ovid, the most popular Latin poet of the Middle Ages, were mixed into the pastiche. The Philomela attributed to Chrétien de Troyes, a retelling of the story of Philomela and Procne, also takes its source from Ovid's Metamorphoses .

Geoffrey Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde is an English example, with Chaucer adding many elements to emphasize its connection with the matter. [4] :30–1 He also brought the story into line with the precepts of courtly love. [4] :35–6

This anachronistic treatment of elements from Greek mythology is similar to that of the Middle English narrative poem "Sir Orfeo", where the Greek Orpheus becomes the knight Sir Orfeo who rescues his wife Heurodis (i.e. Eurydice) from the fairy king.

Principal Texts

Some principal texts of the Matter of Rome include:

See also

Related Research Articles

Aeneas Trojan hero in Greco-Roman mythology

In Greco-Roman mythology, Aeneas was a Trojan hero, the son of the Trojan prince Anchises and the goddess Aphrodite. His father was a first cousin of King Priam of Troy, making Aeneas a second cousin to Priam's children. He is a character in Greek mythology and is mentioned in Homer's Iliad. Aeneas receives full treatment in Roman mythology, most extensively in Virgil's Aeneid, where he is cast as an ancestor of Romulus and Remus. He became the first true hero of Rome. Snorri Sturluson identifies him with the Norse god Vidarr of the Æsir.

<i>Aeneid</i> Latin epic poem by Virgil

The Aeneid is a Latin epic poem, written by Virgil between 29 and 19 BC, that tells the legendary story of Aeneas, a Trojan who travelled to Italy, where he became the ancestor of the Romans. It comprises 9,896 lines in dactylic hexameter. The first six of the poem's twelve books tell the story of Aeneas's wanderings from Troy to Italy, and the poem's second half tells of the Trojans' ultimately victorious war upon the Latins, under whose name Aeneas and his Trojan followers are destined to be subsumed.

Penthesilea Amazonian queen in Greek mythology

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Astyanax

In Greek mythology, Astyanax was the son of Hector, the crown prince of Troy, and his wife, Princess Andromache of Cilician Thebe. His birth name was Scamandrius, but the people of Troy nicknamed him Astyanax, because he was the son of the city's great defender and the heir apparent's firstborn son.

Latinus Mythical character

Latinus was a figure in both Greek and Roman mythology. He is often associated with the heroes of the Trojan War, namely Odysseus and Aeneas. Although his appearance in the Aeneid is irreconcilable with his appearance in Greek mythology, the two pictures are not so different that he cannot be seen as one character.

Evander of Pallantium Mythical character of Greek and Roman mythology, king of Pallantium

In Roman mythology, Evander was a culture hero from Arcadia, Greece, who was said to have brought the Greek pantheon, laws, and alphabet to Italy, where he founded the city of Pallantium on the future site of Rome, sixty years before the Trojan War. He instituted the festival of the Lupercalia. Evander was deified after his death and an altar was constructed to him on the Aventine Hill.

Pandarus character in Troilus and Cressida

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Poetry took numerous forms in medieval Europe, for example, lyric and epic poetry. The troubadours and the minnesänger are known for their lyric poetry about courtly love.

Matter of Britain Body of Medieval literature associated with Great Britain

The Matter of Britain is the body of medieval literature and legendary material associated with Great Britain and Brittany, and the legendary kings and heroes associated with it, particularly King Arthur. It was one of the three great story cycles recalled repeatedly in medieval literature, together with the Matter of France, which concerned the legends of Charlemagne, and the Matter of Rome, which included material derived from or inspired by classical mythology.

<i>Troilus and Criseyde</i>

Troilus and Criseyde is an epic poem by Geoffrey Chaucer which re-tells in Middle English the tragic story of the lovers Troilus and Criseyde set against a backdrop of war during the siege of Troy. It was written in rime royale and probably completed during the mid-1380s. Many Chaucer scholars regard it as the poet's finest work. As a finished long poem it is more self-contained than the better known but ultimately unfinished The Canterbury Tales. This poem is often considered the source of the phrase: "all good things must come to an end" (3.615).

Benoît de Sainte-Maure was a 12th-century French poet, most probably from Sainte-Maure-de-Touraine near Tours, France. The Plantagenets' administrative center was located in Chinon, west of Tours.

Medieval French literature

Medieval French literature is, for the purpose of this article, Medieval literature written in Oïl languages during the period from the eleventh century to the end of the fifteenth century.

Kings of Alba Longa Series of legendary kings of Latium

The kings of Alba Longa, or Alban kings, were a series of legendary kings of Latium, who ruled from the ancient city of Alba Longa. In the mythic tradition of ancient Rome, they fill the 400-year gap between the settlement of Aeneas in Italy and the founding of the city of Rome by Romulus. It was this line of descent to which the Julii claimed kinship. The traditional line of the Alban kings ends with Numitor, the grandfather of Romulus and Remus. One later king, Gaius Cluilius, is mentioned by Roman historians, although his relation to the original line, if any, is unknown; and after his death, a few generations after the time of Romulus, the city was destroyed by Tullus Hostilius, the third King of Rome, and its population transferred to Alba's daughter city.

<i>Roman dEnéas</i>

Le Roman d'Enéas is a romance of Medieval French literature, dating to ca. 1160. It is written in French octosyllabic couplets totaling a little over 10,000 lines. Its subject matter is the tale of Aeneas, based on Virgil's Aeneid. It is one of the three important Romans d'Antiquité of this period; the other two are the Roman de Thèbes (anonymous) and the Roman de Troie of Benoît de Sainte-Maure.

The Rawlinson Excidium Troie, discovered among the manuscripts collected by Richard Rawlinson (1690–1755) conserved in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, is unique in that it contains the only medieval account of the Trojan War that is fully independent of Dictys and Dares, "strikingly different from any other known mediaeval version of the Trojan War", according to its editor, E. Bagby Atwood. Its discovery revealed a source for many details in medieval texts whose sources had been obscure, not appearing in the familiar Latin epitomes of the Iliad, through which Homer was transmitted to medieval culture, the Greek text being lost to Western Europe.

<i>Roman de Troie</i>

Le Roman de Troie by Benoît de Sainte-Maure, probably written between 1155 and 1160, is a 30,000 line epic poem, a medieval retelling of the theme of the Trojan War. It inspired a body of literature in the genre called the roman antique, loosely assembled by the poet Jean Bodel as the Matter of Rome. The Trojan subject itself, for which de Sainte-Maure provided an impetus, is referred to as the Matter of Troy.

Francus

Francus is a mythological figure of Merovingian scholars which referred to a legendary eponymous king of the Franks, a descendant of the Trojans, founder of the Merovingian dynasty and forefather of Charlemagne. In the Renaissance, Francus was generally considered to be another name for the Trojan Astyanax saved from the destruction of Troy. He is not considered to be historical, but in fact an attempt by medieval and Renaissance chroniclers to model the founding of France upon the same illustrious tradition as that used by Virgil in his Aeneid.

Greek mythology Body of myths originally told by ancient Greeks

Greek mythology is the body of myths originally told by the ancient Greeks, and a genre of Ancient Greek folklore. These stories concern the origin and nature of the world, the lives and activities of deities, heroes, and mythological creatures, and the origins and significance of the ancient Greeks' own cult and ritual practices. Modern scholars study the myths to shed light on the religious and political institutions of ancient Greece, and to better understand the nature of myth-making itself.

<i>Histoire ancienne jusquà César</i>

The Histoire ancienne jusqu'à César is the first medieval French prose compilation of stories of antiquity, mostly consisting of the so-called Matter of Troy and of Rome, besides text from the Bible and other histories. Composed in the early 13th century in northern France, it told the history of the world from the creation to the time of Julius Caesar. Often copied, it underwent an important redaction in Italy in the 14th century; its influence extended into the Renaissance. In manuscripts from the 14th and 15th centuries it was frequently found together with the Faits des Romains, which continued the history of the Roman Empire.

References

  1. Hibbard, Laura A. (1963). Medieval Romance in England. New York: Burt Franklin. p. iii..
  2. 1 2 Fowler, Robert (2004). The Cambridge Companion To Homer. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 364. ISBN   9780521012461 . Retrieved 21 July 2012.
  3. Ker, W. P. (1908). Epic and Romance: Essays on Medieval Literature. London: Macmillan. p. 27.
  4. 1 2 Lewis, Clive Staples (1969). Selected Literary Essays. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.