Mark D. Johnston

title.none: Casagrande, Crisciani, Vecchio. eds., Consilium: Teori e pratiche (Mark D. Johnston)

identifier.other: baj9928.0611.006 06.11.06

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Mark D. Johnston, DePaul University,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2006

identifier.citation: Casagrande, Carla, Chiari Crisciani, and Silvana Vecchio, eds. Consilium: Teori e pratiche del consigliare nella cultura medievale. Series: Micrologus Library vol. 10. Florence: SISMEL - Edizioni del Galluzzo, 2004. Pp. x, 346. ISBN: $85.00 (pb) 88-8450-120-2.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 06.11.06

Casagrande, Carla, Chiari Crisciani, and Silvana Vecchio, eds. Consilium: Teori e pratiche del consigliare nella cultura medievale. Series: Micrologus Library vol. 10. Florence: SISMEL - Edizioni del Galluzzo, 2004. Pp. x, 346. ISBN: $85.00 (pb) 88-8450-120-2.

Reviewed by:

Mark D. Johnston
DePaul University

Readers familiar with the work of Casagrande, Crisciani, and Vecchio will welcome this new addition to their previous studies on the oral and ethical cultures of the Middle Ages (e.g. Prediche alle donne del secolo XIII [1978]; I peccati della lingua [1987]; I sette vizi capitali [2000]). In turning their attention now to the giving and receiving of counsel, they focus on what must surely have been one of the most widely exercised discursive practices of the entire medieval era. As the editors rightly acknowledge in their brief introduction (ix-x), the circumstances of giving and receiving counsel were many and diverse, ranging from the formal councils of aristocratic, civic, and ecclesiastical government; to the consultation of communal jurists to mediate private disputes; and finally to the individual advice provided by physicians, astrologers, or clergy. The essays collected in this volume, published as the proceedings of a conference held at Pavia in 2000, do offer some insights into the practice of counsel in these diverse realms of activity, but deal largely with textual examples of advice and counsel from theological, political, legal, medical, and even magical learning.

An initial group of essays analyzes theories and questions regarding counsel from moral and pastoral theology, as well as from the rules for monastic life: Carla Casagrande, "Virtù della prudenza e dono del consiglio" (1-14), Maria Luisa Picascia, "La concezione teologica di donum consilii: Patristica latina e cultura monastica del XII secolo" (15-32), Silvana Vecchio, "Precetti e consigli nella teologia del XIII secolo" (33-56), Barbara Faes de Mottoni, "Profezia e consilium: 'Deus mutat sententiam, non consilium'" (57-76), and Gabriella Zarri, "Dal consilium spirituale alla discretio spirituum: Teoria e pratica della direzione spirituale tra i secoli XIII e XV" (77-107). These analyses usefully identify academic and clerical concepts of counsel, which will be familiar already to specialists in Patristic and Scholastic theology. The value of these analyses lies in their contribution to understanding whether and how such theological doctrines informed or defined the exercise of counsel at court and in government.

A second group of essays offers more detailed analysis regarding the theory and practice of counsel in particular spheres of activity: the feudal familia, the Carolingian monarchy, the papal administration, great aristocratic courts, and the Italian communes. These are Doris Ruhe, "Hiérarchies et stratégies: Le conseil en famille" (109-23), Marta Cristiani, "Ego sapientiam, habito in consilio: Proverbia VIII.12-16 nella teologia politica carolingia" (125-38), Steven J. Williams, "Giving Advice and Taking It: The Reception by Rulers of the Pseudo-Aristotelian Secretum Secretorum as a Speculum Principis" (139-80), Agostino Paravicini Bagliani, "De fratrum nostrorum consilio: La plenitudo potestatis del papa ha bisogno di consigli?" (181-94) and Enrico Artifoni, "Prudenza del consigliare: L'educazione del cittadino nel Liber consolationis et consilii di Albertano da Brescia (1246)" (195-216). Ruhe surveys how reliance on individual sage advisors or guidebooks to governance gradually displaced the consultation of assembled vassals in feudal society by the twelfth century. Williams, analyzing aristocratic ownership of the widely circulated Secretum secretorum and Giles of Rome's De regimine principum, concludes somewhat paradoxically that the widespread possession of these works was no guarantee that their owners even read these works or, if they read them, followed their advice. Artifoni applies his magisterial knowledge of Italian communal life to teasing out from Albertano da Brescia's Liber consolationis et consilii actual examples of the behaviors and locutions used in private or public counsel (see especially 211-13); his essay is one of the most rewarding in the entire collection.

The final section of Consilium gathers essays devoted to particular texts or textual traditions of advice and counsel, understood in the broadest sense: Claudio Fiocchi, "Il principe e il filosofo: Consilia fiscali alla corte di Carlo VI: Nicolas Oresme e Evrart de Trémaugon" (217-41), Stefano Simonetta, "Il principe e il filosofo II: Consulenti fiscali al servizio di Sua Maestà" (229-41), Mario Ascheri, "Il consilium dei giuristi medievali" (243-58), Chiara Crisciani, "Consilia, responsi, consulti: I pareri del medico tra insegnamento e professione" (259-79), Vittoria Perrone Compagni, "Precetti della magia, consigli sulla magia" (281-98) and Silvia Nagel, "Il consilium nella letteratura ebraica medievale: la tradizione dei responsa rabbinici" (299-324). The essays by Fiocchi and Simonetta examine individual cases of treatises written to provide guidance in fiscal affairs. Ascheri reviews well the evolution of the communal consiliatores whose status and authority reached its peak in thirteenth-century Italy, replaced afterwards by consultations with professional jurists and canonists. The final essays by Crisciani, Compagni, and Nagel deal more with the development of discourses of argumentation (in medicine and the rabbinical tradition) and the status of magic as an art. Though interesting, these discussions stray rather far from the collection's nominal focus on giving and receiving counsel. Indeed, in the essays by Compagni and Nagel there is little mention of counsel at all as a discursive practice.

Despite the disparate range of topics analyzed in this collection, Consilium: Teorie e pratiche del consigliare nella cultura medievale certainly offers enough useful information about giving and receiving counsel to interest any scholars attracted to study of its obviously important role in medieval society. An especially promising field for exploration would be the representations of counsel found in so many chronicles and histories. For such investigations, the essays by Ruhe and Artifoni provide an excellent point of departure.