Medieval Government: The World of Kings and Warriors

Medieval Government: The World of Kings and Warriors

Medieval Government: The World of Kings and Warriors

Medieval Government: The World of Kings and Warriors

Excerpt

King Alfonso the Learned,” the Castilian Justinian,” started his immense systematic code or legal vision with a book on God and godly matters. Major functions of kingship in his day included the duty to aid toward his people’s salvation and morals, to monitor church and clergy, to provide and protect ecclesiastical resources, and to encourage religion. Kingship came from God, and the king’s vocation as God’s vizier in temporalities embraced religious attitudes and obligations. As for ecclesiastical and spiritual realities, much of the mechanics of church administration, articles of faith, and sacramental life had been newly clarified and amplified by the great Fourth Lateran Council of Christendom, around whose decrees Alfonso could weave the large volume that constituted the first partida.

That task accomplished, the king takes up in the next partida three allied foundations of the earthly kingdom: governance and the role of a king, defense and the art of war, and higher education as a central resource and sacral binding of governance. Alfonso devotes 31 titles or chapters, containing 356 laws or essays, to these interlinked topics. In the present translation, these units convert to some 264 dense pages on king and country, 108 on war and warriors, and 10 on schools, making a considerable book in itself. This is not a treatise on the state, politics, or kingship. Alfonso concentrates instead on the mechanics of attitude and behavior and on the nuts and bolts of institutions. Theory does underlie this section, as he draws upon Aristotle, the Bible, Roman authors, Augustine, Isidore of Seville, Pope Gregory the Great, customary fuero and Visigothic law, and especially Roman law. Joseph O’Callaghan has noted Alfonso’s debt in this second partida to the Disciplina clericalis of Petrus Alfonsi and to such works as the Poridad de poridades and the Bocados de oro. The king’s passion throughout for definition, divisions, categories, and distinctions marks this and the other books of the Partidas . . .

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