Bernard Silvestris

Bernard Silvestris, also known as Bernardus Silvestris, was a Medieval Platonist philosopher and poet of the 12th century.

Biography

Little is known about his life. André Vernet, who edited Bernard's "Cosmographia", believed that he lived from 1085 to 1178; the only certain date in his life is 1147, when the "Cosmographia" was supposedly presented to Pope Eugene III. There is some evidence that he was connected to Spanish schools of philosophy, but it seems likely that he was born in Tours, due to the intimate descriptions of the city and the surrounding area found in the "Cosmographia". Later medieval authors also associated him with that city.

Wherever he was born, he certainly studied and taught at Chartres, home of the most important school in western Europe until the rise of the universities later in the 12th century. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, it was assumed that Bernard was the same person as Bernard of Chartres, although this identification has been challenged by more recent scholars such as Julian Ward Jones. Most notably, a contemporary of Bernard, John of Salisbury, who was bishop of Chartres, quotes from works attributed to Bernard but does not know the author by name. He also quotes from Bernard of Chartres and knows him as a separate author.

Works

Bernard's greatest work is the aforementioned "Cosmographia", a "prosimetrum" on the creation of the world, told from a 12th-century Platonist perspective. The poem influenced Chaucer and others with its pioneering use of allegory to discuss metaphyscial and scientific questions. Bernard also wrote the poem "Mathematicus" and probably the poem "Experimentarius" as well as some minor poems.

Among the works attributed to Bernard later in the Middle Ages were a commentary on Virgil's "Aeneid" (Bernard's authorship of which has been questioned by modern scholars) and a commentary on Martianus Capella's "De Nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii". The commentary on the "Aeneid" is the longest medieval commentary on that work, although it is incomplete, ending about two-thirds of the way through book six.

Editions and translations

::"For editions and translations of the" Cosmographia, "see Cosmographia (Bernard Silvestris)#Editions and translations".

*"Mathematicus", ed. and trans. Deirdre M. Stone, "Archives d'histoire doctrinale et littéraire du moyen âge" 63 (1996): 209–83.
*"Experimentarius", ed. Charles Burnett, in "What Is the "Experimentarius" of Bernardus Silvestris?: A Preliminary Survey of the Material," "Archives d'histoire doctrinale et littéraire du moyen âge" 44 (1977): 62–108. Reprinted in Burnett, "Magic and Divination in the Middle Ages" (Aldershot: Variorum, 1996). ISBN 0-86078-615-3
*"The Commentary on the First Six Books of the" Aeneid "of Virgil Commonly Attributed to Bernardus Silvestris", ed. Julian Ward Jones and Elizabeth Frances Jones (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1977). ISBN 0-8032-0898-7
*"The Commentary on the First Six Books of Virgil's" Aeneid, trans. Earl G. Schreiber and Thomas E. Maresca (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1979). ISBN 0-8032-4108-9

Bibliography

*Desmond, Marilynn, "Bernardus Silvestris and the Corpus of the "Aeneid"," in "The Classics in the Middle Ages", ed. Aldo S. Bernardo and Saul Levin (Binghamton: Centre for Medieval and Early Renaissance Studies, 1990).
*Dronke, Peter, "Fabula: Explorations into the Uses of Myth in Medieval Platonism" (Leiden: Brill, 1974).
*Dronke, Peter, "Bernard Silvestris: Nature and Personification," in "Intellectuals and Poets in Medieval Europe" (Rome: Edizioni di storia e letteratura, 1992).
*Jeauneau, Édouard, "Bernard Silvestre," in "Dictionary of Scientific Biography", vol. 2 (New York: Scribner's, 1970): 21–22. ISBN 0-684-10114-9
*Jones, Julian Ward, "The So-Called Silvestris Commentary on the "Aeneid" and Two Other Interpretations," "Speculum" 64 (1989): 838-48.
*Stock, Brian, "Myth and Science in the Twelfth Century: A Study of Bernard Silvester" (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1972). ISBN 0-691-05201-8
*Wetherbee, Winthrop, "Platonism and Poetry in the Twelfth Century: The Literary Influence of the School of Chartres" (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1972). ISBN 0-691-06219-6

ee also

*Allegory in the Middle Ages


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