Scholars are at odds about the details of Aquinas's life. 1 They even disagree about the date of his birth. The year usually given is 1224/5, but 1226 is also possible, and a very good case has been made in its favour. 2 The general picture is clear, however. Aquinas came on the scene some ten years after Magna Carta, within a year or so of the death of St Francis of Assisi (1181/2-1226), and within five years of the death of St Dominic (c.1170-1221), whose Order he joined and with whom he is therefore naturally associated. At the time of his birth, Roger Bacon (c.1214-c.1292) was about 22 years old. Robert Grosseteste (c.1170-1253) was roughly 51. St Albert the Great (c.1200-80) was only in his twenties.
Aquinas was born in what was then the Kingdom of Naples, ruled by the Emperor Frederick II (Stupor Mundi). His family were local gentry. His birthplace was probably their main residence, the castle of Roccasecca. His father, who was one of Frederick's barons, was called Landulf d'Aquino. His mother's name was Theodora. At the age of 5 he was sent to the Abbey of Monte Cassino 'in order to be trained in good morals and taught his letters'. 3 His parents may have intended him to become abbot of the monastery, 4 but the place was a strategic site in a conflict between the emperor and the pope, and in