2

THE PHILOSOPHY OF CREATION

John Scottus Eriugena

It is not known when Ireland's greatest pre-modern thinker was born, though it was probably during the first or second decade of the ninth century. This was also the period during which the Scandinavian adventurers, the Vikings (or Norsemen), had begun to sail up Ireland's estuaries and waterways to plunder monasteries and schools for their stores of food and valuables. By the time that John Scottus Eriugena makes his first appearance in the historical record he has left his increasingly terrorized native country and made his way to the Continent, to the more secure and supportive surroundings of the court of Charles the Bald, grandson of the great eighth-century Frankish emperor, Charlemagne. Eriugena certainly lived in northern France, at one or other of the royal palaces, between 845 and 877. Confirmation of Eriugena's Irish nationality comes from no less an authority than Pardulus, the bishop of Laon, who, when presenting Eriugena to the clergy of Lyons, referred to him as 'the famous Irishman at the court' (Wohlman 1998:xvi). It was not a matter of chance that a scholar and prospective philosopher such as Eriugena should have found himself on the Continent at the court of Charles the Bald. Charles had chosen to continue the programme of reform and revival that his grandfather had initiated in the final quarter of the eighth century and which is known to historians as the Carolingian renaissance or renovatio. Just as Charlemagne had attracted scholars to his palace from all over Europe, so his grandson proceeded to do the same. And just as Irish scholars, such as the geographer Dicuil, had been among

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