P. ROSSETI POETAE LAUREATI The French Neo-Latin poet Pierre Rosset [d. 1530], best remembered for his Christus.
In this poem, the lion of course represents the heraldic lion of the Scottish crown. Rosset’s choice of the leopard (rather than a wolf, say) means that he is alluding here to the royal leopard standard of the English kings and their ambitions to arrogate to themselves the crowns of France (lilies) and Scotland. The northern oxen would then be the Norse, with their traditional claims to the Western and Northern Isles, etc., while the mountain bears would be the Hebridians and the Highlanders who found it difficult to accept royal authority , and were also regarded as thieves, due to their incorrigible penchant for cattle-rustling.
IODOCI BADII ASCENSCII The Humanist Jodocus Badius Ascensius [Josse Bade of Asse in Belgium, 1462 - 1535], operated a printing shop at Paris. He had brought out the first edition of Boethius' history, in 1527. This poem, and in fact all the commendatory material prefacing this volume, had been written for that edition.
6 Lacteaque...eloquia Bade is thinking of Quintilian's description (in the Institutio Oratoria) of Livy's style as one of lactea ubertas (“milky richness).”
quia operaepretium me facturum existimavi A deliberate echo of the opening words of the Preface of Livy’s history, Facturusne operae pretium sim. The traditional comparison of Boece to Livy was first suggested by Boece himself.
Ioannes Campusbellus I have suggested in the Introduction that Sir John Campbell’s name has replaced that of some third early source retrieved from the abbey of Iona.
Ad haec inter neotericos He means 1.) Marcantonio Sabellica, author of the general history Enneades sive Rhapsodia historiarum; 2.) Bartholomaeus de Platina Sacchi (“Il Platino”), author of theVitae pontificum; 3.) Geoffrey of Monmouth, author of Historia regum Britanniae; 4.) John of Fordun, author of the Scotichronicon; 5.) ; 6.) Jean Froissart, author of the Chroniques.
The Abbot of Inchcolm mentioned below was Walter Bower, the continuator of the Scotichronicom.
IDEM AD LECTOREM Boethius humorously names some exceedingly obscure Scotsmen of times past. Some of them are listed in Thomas Dempster's Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Scotorum, Sive de Scriptoribus Scotis (Bologna, 1627, repr. Edinburgh, 1829): 1.) S. Coelius Sedulius. Vide supra in voce Coelim lib. lll. Eius exemplo et imitatione libros suos de virginitate composuit Aldhelmus. Beda lib. v. Hist. Eccles. Gent. Anglor. cap. xix. Opera enumerat Joannes Trithemius lib. de Script. Ecclesiast. pag. ccxxvii. a nobis; 2.) S. Levinus, aut Livinus, Lebuiius, episcopus Gandavensis, ut placet Caesari Baronio: ut alii volunt, "Scotorum archiepiscopus et martyr," ait Anton. Possevin. Apparat. ccliv. Bibliotheca Minorum Patrum. V. CL. Joannis Gualterii Chronic. Chronicor. pag. MVii. "Levinus archiepiscopus Scotorum et martyr;" cuius vitam habet Surius tom. vi. ex Hucbaldo Ehnonensi monacho ad Baldricum episcopum Traiectensem; quam vitae historiam laudat impensius Petrus archidiaconus Cameracensis; 3.) S. Iudocus, canonicus Lateranensis, ut Zacharias Vicentinus putat ex Ioanne de Nigra Valle, bibliothecario apostolico, in Chronicis epilogo XIII. cap. xiix. Regis Scotorum filius; 4.) De s. Willibrordo, Frisonum apostolo, Sigebertus Gemblacensis Chronic. ad annum dcxciv. "Pipinus Rabbodum, ducem Frisonum, bello vicit, et Willibrordum genti illi ad praedicandum direxit." Angli suum faciunt, ut solent, nullo argumento ; Frisones sibi vindicant, sed perperam, Suffrido Petri auctore apud Anton. Possevin. Apparat. Sacr. pag. ccxlixX; 5.) Martinus Poenitentiarius. Mahtinus, papae Poenitentiarius, ab officio ita vocatus, cognomento etiam ab historicis Poloni notus, patria, iit Eisengrinus vult, Cartulanus, monachus Cisterciensis, iit nonnullis perperam videtur, Domini decanus, quod verius est, archiepiscopus Cosentinus. "Alii hunc Scotum faciunt," inquit Antonius Possevinus Apparat. Sacr. pag. ccccx. Bugianus Benedictinus, et Arnold. Uion Lig. Vitae lib. i. pag. lxxti. Platina in Victore III." Martinus Scotus, vir magnae doctrinae, singularisque vitae." Scripsit Chronologiam lib. i. cui aniles passim fabulas admiscuit, maxime portentosum illud commentum de Ioanne pontifice.
GUILIELMUS GORDON William Gordon [d. 1577], a grandson of John Stewart, first Earl of Athol, who became the last of the pre-Reformation Bishops of Aberdeen. He would begin his progress up the ecclesiastical ladder in 1529, when he was appointed Archdeacon of Caithness.
SCOTORUM REGNI DESCRIPTIO 8 Throughout his history Boethius is guilty of the common error of confusing Mona (the Roman name for the island of Angelsey, the Druid stronghold) with the Isle of Man. This mistake reaches the height of silliness at IV.33, where he describes Roman soldiers swimming over to Man (at II.30 he tries to resolve this discrepancy, which he himself obviously sensed, by claiming that in modern times the coastline has drastically changed). In order to reproduce the ambiguity, in my translation I simply write “Mona” and let the reader figure out which island is meant in each individual context, just as the reader of the Latin original has to do.
I.36 The reader will, no doubt, be startled to see Boece placing Camelodunum (modern Colchester, in Essex, as the Tudor antiquarian John Leland astutely realized) in Scotland, and in his Rerum Scotarum Historia (I.20) George Buchanan, who is usually happy to follow Boece as a source, went out of his way to scoff at this idea. It can be said in Boece's partial defense that, in his age of the world, there was a good deal of uncertainty and confusion about the proper identification of this Roman place-name, as can be seen from the discussion in William Camden's Britannia (1607 ed.) Essex §15.
II.5 In Classical Latin (at least if the lexicons are to be believed), nepos invariably designates a grandson. Boece uses this same word for both a grandson and a nephew (usually, although not always, the latter meaning is clarified by such phrases as nepos a fratre). Because of the ambiguity, the possibility that the inaccuracies have crept into this translation cannot be excluded.
II.18 Not the least difficulty in translating Neo-Latin texts is that authors apply use words used to designate various kinds of Roman ships and boats to more modern water craft, and it is not always possible to determine what, if any, specific kinds they have in mind. In this translation, biremes and triremes are non-comittally identified as “ships.”
III.5 There is perhaps a confusion here of a Latinized form of Troynovant (“New Troy”), an alleged ancient name of London, since the town was supposedly founded by the Trojan exile Brutus, and the Trinobantes, one of the Celtic tribes encountered by Caesar.
III.47 See the note on II.19.
IV.29 Boece repeatedly uses the unclassical word praeliarium to designate some kind of weapon. If he has anything specific in mind, it cannot be a regular sword, since at VI.55 he uses the phrase praeliaeriis et gladiis, and certain hand-held weapons, such as the pike and the bill-hook, can probably be ruled out because he usually describes infantry battles, but those ones were devised for use against horses and their riders. I am only guessing that the weapon in question is the battle-axe. The possibility that these are supposed to be daggers or some other kind of small edged weapon can be excluded, since at VII.52 Boece describes wounded men using them to prop themselves up so they can continue fighting, but axes would suffice for the purpose.
IV.41 This confusion of the Danes and the Dacians, which can be traced back to early Medieval writers, was common in Boece’s day (one finds it in such contemporary historians as Polydore Vergil).
IV.49 Thus far, the speeches Boece has placed in the mouths of his characters have been rhetorical exercises of his own invention. As is acknowledged at IV.71, this and the following one by Agricola are appropriated from Tacitus, Agricola xxx et seqq.
VII.13 I do not know what the words supremi ordinis ecclesiastici antistes are supposed to mean. They are historically inaccurate, since Jerome was never a bishop. In his usual periphrastic way, Bellenden absurdly writes “and Sanct Jerome, the Pape.”
VIII.42 In his Britannia (Yorkshire § 3) William Camden places Hengist’s original home at Connisborough (Caer Conan) in Yorkshire.
VIII.73 The reference is to the passage in the medieval Historia Regum Britanniae, which purports to preserve them, whence they were repeated by Geoffrey of Monmouth. These were sometimes circulated as an independent document, as, for example, is described here.
IX.76 Ecclesiastical History II.xix. The pope in question was Honorius, not Hilarius, but it is uncertain whether the mistake is that of Boece or his printer, so the text has not been emended here. Likewise, in Bede the John in question is the subsequent Pope John IV.
X.24 A plainchant hymn to John the Baptist. It is memorable because each of the first six musical phrases of the first stanza of the hymn begins on a successively higher note of the hexachord, and the first syllable of each hemistich has given its name to a successive note in the original form of the solfeggio usually credited to the eleventh century Guido di Arezzo (the French still use ut for the first note of the scale, instead of our do).
X.77 If “Alarudus and Eldredus” are supposed to be Aethelred and Alfred, Boece was of course mistaken: they were kings of Wessex, not East Anglia (this probably comes about from a confusion of King Aethelred II of East Anglia, and the like-named king of Wessex, Alfred’s older brother).
XI.88 William Elphinstone [1431 - 1514], Bishop of Aberdeen, Lord High Chancellor under James III, Keeper of the Privy Seal of Scotland under James IV, and the founder of King’s College, Aberdeen, choosing Boece as its first Principal. He collected materials for a history of Scotland, and the degree to which Boece availed himself of this information is imponderable.
XI.88 Murthiacensium et Aberdonensium Episcoporum Vitae (Paris, 1522). There is a modern edition by J. Moir (Aberdeen, 1894).
Or haue we eaten on the insane Root,
That takes the Reason Prisoner?
XII.13 Bellenden appears to have correctly understood the meaning of temporaneus here: his translation is Na office shal be heritage, but during the kingis pleseir. Of course, certain offices indeed were inherited (as the office of Marshall of Scotland was the hereditary privilege of the Hay family).
XIII.7 See the first note on the dedicatory epistle prefacing this work.
XIII.15 Their names were Richard le Breton, Hugh de Moreville, William de Tracy, and Reginald FitzUrse. It is not clear whether Boece himself got the names wrong or whether the printer has introduced the mistakes. Hence the received text is retained.
XIII.21 Cf. the Roman proverb odit cane peius et angue (employed at Horace, Epistulae I.xvii.30f.), noticed by Erasmus, Adagiorum Chiliades II.ix.63. In the translation I have substituted the equivalent English proverbial expression.
XIII.41 One can only guess who this individual is supposed to be. The Lord Chancellor of Scotland at this time was William Comyn, Lord of Badenoch, and a certain Abraham appears to have been Bishop of Dunblane.
XIII.8o In this paragraph Boece is mistaken in identifying Alexander’s officials. Whatever title Reginald Chein may have enjoyed, the current Great Chamberlain of Scotland was Sir Thomas Randolph, and William Fraser was Bishop of St. Andrews, but not Lord Chancellor of Scotland.
XIV.40 The individual in question was King Edward’s poet laureate Robert Baston: taken prisoner by the Scots, he was obliged to write a poem celebrating their victory as the price of his ransom. Bellenden inserts a quotation of his poem’s first line, De plantu cudo metrum cum carmine nudo, which vividly substantiates Boece’s remark about its uncouth quality.
XV.13 The only way I can make sense out of this otherwise confusing description is to think that imbelles does not mean “helpless” (as it normally does, and as Boece otherwise uses it), but rather that it is employed to express the idea that these men were inexperienced in war and therefore less disposed to take prisoners: experienced soldiers would have had more pity for their enemy, or at least would have realized killing a captive noble entailed the loss of ransom money.
XVI.20 No Archdeacon of Aberdeen of this name is recorded. The current occupant of that office was the celebrated vernacular poet John Barbour, author of the patriotic epic Brus (who held it from 1357 to 1395).
XVI.22 Boece alludes to what he wrote about Hepburn in his Aberdonensium Episcoporum Vitae (p. 59 of the 1825 Edinburgh edition).
XVI.54 One cannot help remarking that it was more than a little incongruous for Boece to pen this paragraph at the time that he himself presided over a university (and when his local bishop was William Elphinstone’s successor, the learned Gavin Dunbar). No doubt he wrote it more to maintain the persona of a morally upright historian than because there was any great amount of truth in it.
XVII.3 This is the second sentence in his history where Boece forgets to have a main clause in his sentence (see the note on XV.9).
XVIII Epistle James Beaton [1517 - 1603], Archbishop of Glasgow and Mary Queen of Scots’ ambassador to France. This was written after Mary had been removed from the throne, which had the effect of leaving Beaton stranded in French exile (as is guardedly acknowledged in §4). Like the former two great churchmen in his family, he was staunchly anti-Protestant and pro-French.
XVIII Epistle 4 The Greek Sophist Prodicus told the following story: Hercules, as he was entering manhood, had to choose one of the two paths of life, that of virtue and that of vice. There appeared two women, the one of dignified beauty, adorned with purity, modesty, and discretion, the other of a voluptuous form, and meretricious look and dress. The latter promises to lead him by the shortest road, without any toil, to the enjoyment of every pleasure. The other, while she reminds him of his progenitors and his noble nature, does not conceal from him that the gods have not granted what is really beautiful and good apart from trouble and careful striving. While one seeks to deter him from the path of virtue by urging the difficulty of it; the other calls attention to the unnatural character of enjoyment which anticipates the need of it, its want of the highest joy, that arising from noble deeds, and the consequences of a life of voluptuousness, and how she herself, honoured by gods and men, leads to all noble works, and to true well-being in all circumstances of life. Hercules decides for virtue. This was recorded by Xenophon, Mermorabilia II.i.21 and latterly by Cicero, De Officiis I.118.
John Bellenden’s verse “Proheme” to his translation of Boece has these same two ladies, now named Vertew and Delite, argue their respective cases to the young James V. Prodicus’s fable retained its appeal: in 1598, James Melville retold it in 104 rhyming couplets entitled “The Way and End of Voluptie and Vertue,” printed towards the end of his catechetical work, A Spirituall Propine of a Pastour to his People.
ipsa si cupiat Salus,
servare prorsu' non potest hanc familiam.
XVIII.31 More accurately, James’ daughters and their husbands were as follows: 1.) Margaret, m. the Dauphin of France, 2.) Isabella, m. the Duke of Burgundy, 3.) Eleanor, m. the Archduke of Austria, 4.) Mary, m. the Earl of Buchan, 5.) Joan, m. the Earl of Morton, 6.) Anabella, m. the Earl of Huntly.
XVIII.44 Actually, this was Sir Magnus Redman, Governor of Berwick (see Sir Walter Scott, History of Scotland, 1830 London ed., I.388). I have corrected Boece in the translation, because if his actual name were Redbeard the humor of his nickname would be ruined.
XVIII.69 The woman in question was actually Margaret, “The Fair Maid of Galloway” mentioned in §23.
XVIII.73 She was married to John Stewart Earl of Athol in 1560, but he was scarcely the king’s brother (as already indicated by Boece, save for a brother named Alexander, who died in infancy, all of James’ siblings were sisters).
Appendix 3 This paragraph contains at least two serious blunders: Jasper Tudor Earl of Pembroke was scarcely the brother of Henry VI (who had no siblings) and Ferrerio confuses Henry’s son Edward of Westminster with Edward, the son of Henry’s archenemy the Duke of York (the future Edward IV), who married Ceciliy Neville, Lord Rivers’ daughter). It may contain a third, too: I have no idea who “Lord Rosset” is supposed to be.