FROM ORIGINS TO ALFONSO X THE WISE
 



 

Emilianensis glose
    1.-  Spanish prose exists from an unknown age.
 
   Its first documents appear in 10th century since a monk from San Millán de la Cogolla Monastery writes, among other romance, basque and latin notes to a latin book, a short prayer that means: "With the help of our Lord, Lord Christ, Lord Saviour, who is a Lord with honour..."
 
   For the first time castilian language shows more than isolated words: now we can read a sentence plenty of sense. These notes are called emilianenses gloses because they were found in the Monastery of San Millán de la Cogolla. Those from Santo Domingo de Silos are called silenses gloses.
    2.-  After that, literary interests will be projected over historical or religious subjects.

Castilian Bible,
ms. escurialensis i.j.3
   Between historical ones, the first are Toledan Annals, brief register of events ordered by years, and castilian version of Liber Regum called Cronicón Villarense.
 
   Religious ones have to do with spanish-jew situation. We can find polemic short works, like Debate between a christian and a jew or romance Bibles. Many of them were translated by jews, as Fazienda de Ultramar -Deeds of Oversea- that prepared the Alphonsine work.
 
   In order to keep a chronological order, we should look at versions of latin Histories that would be reworked by Alfonso X: the one by Lucas de Tuy (the tudense) (1236) or that by Jiménez de Rada (the toledan) (1244).
   Another topic of medieval prose was Geography, represented by Image of the world -Semejanza del mundo- that was reworked until 15th century.
 
    3.-  The two first collections of medieval tales came from arabian language:
 
a/ Calila and Dimna (ca.1251) recreates tales form Panchatantra probably asked by Alfonso X, before being a castilian King. It includes a foreword by arabian translator, Ibn al-Muqaffa, explainig that Berzabuey translated for king Sirechuel, from indian to old perse, this book, in wich philosopher Burduben teachs king Diçelem. It tells in wich way inquisitions by wise Berzabuey got an indian book for his King.

Beginning of a ms. of the
Image of the world

 
 

Calila and Dimna, ms.B.
   Our book opens with the story of two deer-wolves, Calila and Dimna. The later introduces ox Sençeba to lion king; but jealous of this new friend conspires to get the death of the ox from the own king's hands. When his treason is discovered traición, Calila dies ashamed and Dimna condemned. The rest of the book -almost twenty chapters- deal with fables with animals and persons, full of sentences, including a second short version of Calila and Dimna in wich wolf is not guilty. All fables are within the narrative frame of the dialog between the philosopher and the king.
Ms A:

Calila and Dimna, ms.A
   We get two castilian manuscript translated from an arabian version -maybe one of them influenced by latin texts-. There is also a medieval fragment coming from a hebrew source. Indeed there exist recreations from 15th century -one made on Jean of Capua (13th century) text-; other from 17th century -on a Turkish version- and a third one by spanish arabist José Antonio Conde (1797).
 
   b/ From Panchatantra came also the Sendebar or Book of women's deceits (ca.1253), promoted by Alfonso's brother, don Fadrique. It deals with a misogynist theme, coming from the Biblical episode of Putifar's wife: the only son of king Alcos from Judea must be quiet for seven days, because of a precept from his teacher Çendubete. Since he rejects dishonest propositions by his stepmother, she accuses him of having tried to rape her.

 
   This period will be used by king's wise men and by Prince's stepmother to defend or attack him. Eighth day Prince ends with his explanation a collection of twenty three tales from oriental and occidental tradition. Prince lives and his stepmother dies.
 
   Our work is transmited in a codex full of mistakes: ms. 15 R.A.E.-.
 
   This story is also told in versions by Diego de Cañizares (15th century) from latin sources; in Book of the Seven Wise Men of Rome (1530) or in History of Prince Erasto (1575).
 
   A castilian version of the Book of Mahoma's stairway was lost. It consisted of a collection of visions by this arabian prophet whose traditions were translated by Alfonso X. We just know the french and latin versions

Page of Sendebarfrom Puñonrostro Codex

 

Book of Twelve Wise Men
    4.-  A well-loved gener in prealphonsine prose is that of gnomic literature useful for politics.
 
   This gener began with the Book of Twelve Wise Men or Treatise of Nobility and Loyalty (1237), from the age of Fernando III. It would be finished in Alphonse's days, to whom it is devoted about the middle of the century.
 
   Flowers of Philosophy, in two different versions, is a collection of sentences for kings and nobles.
 
   Really interesting were Poridat of poridades and Secret of secrets, derived from arabian texts on the life and wisdom of Alexander the Great.

 
ALPHONSINE LITERATURE

 
    5.-  A long selection of juridical texts is now written as a previous step for the great collections of Alphonsine Laws.
 
   The first of these ones is the visigothic Juzgo Law-Code whose contemporary laws were then kept in the Book of Castile's Law-Codes and in the Castile's Old Law-Code. A third step would be the composition of a Royal Law-Code, first work in showing original alphonsine way of thinking.
 
   The Setenario is divided into laws similar to chapters. It was a trial for a catechism or encyclopaedia. It dealt with different themes, though it was unfinished.
 
   Especulo, -little mirror- can be seen as a first draft for Partidas. It already treats authoritarianism from the King.

Page from
Royal Law-Code
   Alphonse wrote these books with the help of spanish and italian jurists as Jacobo of Junta, Fernando of Zamora or Master Roldan.

Page from
Lapidarium
    6.-  We keep scientific works collected by the king, who reworked them: different versions of Lapidario (ca.1250) -book of stones-, a Complete Book on stars verdicts (ca.1256), adapted from the arabian text by Aly Aben Ragel or Book of Crosses.

Page from
Complete Book
on stars verdicts

Page from
Book of Crosses

 
    7.-  Many works of gnomic gener belong to Alphonse X age:
 
   The Book of Hundred Chapters is a remake of Flowers of Philosophy and tries to reach the political level as a rule for princes.
 
   The Book of Good Proverbs comes from the arabian Kitâb âdâb al-falasîfa, by Hunayn ibn Ishâq. It opens with philosophers meetings and finishes with sections under names as Socrates, Plato and variations of a false correspondence between Aristote and Alexander the Great.

Dialog of Epictetus and
Emperor Adrianus
   Endly, the Bonium or Book of Golden Bits is another version of an arabian work by Ibn Fâtik, that includes texts by Diogenes Laertium. It copies false sentences from Sed prophet and Hermes until Gregorius, Galienus and other not identified philosophers.

   Dealing with more concret names, we read a Dialogue between Epictetus and Adrian Emperor, derivated from the Ludi Monachorum: a hand-book of questions and answers like a catechism.

 

History of Teodor Maiden
   The History of Teodor Maiden has partially to do with this dialogue, though its structure is more complex: a wise woman shows her knowledge to a judge in wisdom. She will help her master to get out of poverty with the money she gets in reward.

   The Chapter on Philosopher Segundo is full of variants in each copy: Segundo is a philosopher of Trajan's age. This Chapter will be included in Alphonsine History of Spain.

History of Teodor Maiden

    8.-  The most important books from this moment will come out from Alphonsine studio, divided in many geners: juridic, scientist, historical and ludic ones.
 
   The Seven Partidas, whose first draft was the Especulo belongs to the first group.


One of the Incunabula of Partidas (1491) with commentary.
Though these laws did not work until the years of Alfonso XI, they show the royal interests for seeding his authority in his own country. Its breakdown does not touch the validity of this work that let us understand many aspects of medieval life.
 
   The First partida deals with life of religion. The Second one, with that of knights. It has been well read by posterior writers and has influenced on treatises of chivalry until the end of 15th century.

Manuscript of Partidas

The Third partida is devoted to procedural laws, and the fourth one, to matrimonies. Life of merchants is ruled in fifth Partida and Sixth Partida deals with wills. Finally, the Seventh Partida is about criminal law.

Spoiled codex containing Alphosine astronomical works
   Alphonse X interest on astrology kept him in touch with jew and arabian wise men, who wrote latin translations or new romanic versions of books that Alphonse used for other works. So, he created the Book of Astronomic Wisdom, collection of treatises on astrological themes, or the Book on the Eighth Sphere.
Miniature of the Book
on the Eighth Sphere

   He also composed treatises on measurement tools and Astronomical Tables, because his goal was discovering futur -forecasting astrology-.
   In order to know futur, he asked his astrologists before taking decisions. That raised distrust among clerks and men of the court.
 
   Many of Alphonse's books dealt with themes close to magic, like the Book of Shapes and Images, or the partially preserved version of the arabian Picatrix.
 
   A great part of Alphonse's fame is due to historical works: the History of Spain and the Big and General History.

Alphonse's Astronomical Tables


Copy from the
History of Spain
   The History of Spain has come to us in two versions: the royal version (ca.1272) and the critical version (ca.1283). The work consists of a first part on old and latin history; a second one on foreign and gothic history; a third one on asturleones kingdom and a fourth one on leones-castilian deeds.
 
   Many books were used in its composition: the historian ones, from Saint Isidoro of Seville to Jimenez de Rada, or the Farsalia by Lucan.

Galician codex of the
History of Spain

 
   Along the 20th Century History of Spain was identified with the First General Chronicle, remake after Sancho IV's death, edited by Ramón Menéndez Pidal.

Codex of the
General History
   The most important Alphonsine work can be the Big and General History. In it, Alphonse tried to compose an Universal History.
 
   A Bible was its first nucleus. Historical deeds from different sources were added to it: from the Historia Regum Britaniae to the masterpieces of classic and heathen themes. It breaks on the sixth part, dealing with Virgin's genealogy.

Codex of the
Big and General History


Alphonsine Book on Games
   But science was not the only concern in King's Court.
 
   Leisure found a literary form in the Book of Chess, in the Book of Dices and in the Book of Tablatures, that deal with games coming from India and similar to actual chess.
 
   An interesting Polymetrical Trojan History in prose and verse could be written by this age. It could be the source for later works on Trojan subject.

D.Miguel Pérez Rosado.
Ph. D. in Hispanic Philology.