The Construction of Communities in the Early Middle Ages: Texts, Resources and Artefacts

By Richard Corradini; Max Diesenberger et al. | Go to book overview

HAIR, SACRALITY AND SYMBOLIC CAPITAL
IN THE FRANKISH KINGDOMS

Maximilian Diesenberger

When Emperor Julian came to power his beard, after generations of government by clean-shaven Christian generals, was—as Peter Brown recognized—a 'pointed reminder' that a late-antique intellectual was now on the throne.1 This symbolism was not lost on the educated public, but even so another interpretation of its meaning was possible: the beard could be a sign of the barbaric or even seem ridiculous. Thus, the people of Antiochia laughed about his beard.2 The beard is portrayed differently by Augustine several years later: “The beard signifies strong men; the beard signifies young, vigorous, active, quick men. When therefore we describe such men, we say that a man is bearded.”3 Thus, the same sign was perceived differently by different groups. Furthermore, one could combine seemingly inconsistent signa in one person.

For example, as the sixth century began, Ennodius wrote of a certain Jovinian that “although he had a Gothic beard [he] went about wearing a lacemaI am amazed at the races contrasted in [one] immoderate body.”4 In Jovinian's case, the beard represented descent from a specific gens. Differing symbols that represented a person or a people, for example Jovinian's Gothic beard and Roman clothing, could contradict one another, but they also could be interpreted in

1 P. Brown, Society and the Holy in Late Antiquity (Berkeley and Los Angeles 1982)
p. 83. Cf. G. Constable, “Introduction: beards in history”, Apologiae duae (Gozechini
Epistola ad Walcherum, Burchardi Apologia de barbis),
ed. R.B.C. Huygens, Corpus
Christianorum. Continuatio Medievalis 62 (Turnhout 1985) p. 86. I have kept the
bibliography minimal. I am grateful to Mayke de Jong, Ian N. Wood and Walter
Pohl for their helpful comments on earlier drafts. I would like to thank Richard
Corradini and Helmut Reimitz for their help and Karl R. Giesriegl for advice on
the Lex Salica.

2 Brown, Society and the Holy, p. 83. Cf. Constable, “Introduction”, p. 86.

3 Augustine, Enarratio in psalmos 132, 7, ed. E. Dekkers and I. Fraipont, Corpus
Christianorum. Series Latina 40 (Turnhout 1966) pp. 193 If. Cf. Constable,
“Introduction”, p. 60.

4 Ennodius, Carmen 2, 57 (Opus 182), ed. F. Vogel, MGH AA 7 (Berlin 1885)
p. 157. Cf. Constable, “Introduction”, p. 88.

-173-

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