Isidore of Seville

Saint Isidore of Seville (/ˈɪzɪdɔːr/; Latin: Isidorus Hispalensis; Seville, c. 560 –  Seville, 4 April 636), a scholar and, for over three decades, Archbishop of Seville, is widely regarded, as the 19th-century historian Montalembert put it in an oft-quoted phrase, "The last scholar of the ancient world."[1]

At a time of disintegration of classical culture,[2] and aristocratic violence and illiteracy, he was involved in the conversion of the Arian Visigothic kings to Catholicism, both assisting his brother Leander of Seville, and continuing after his brother's death. He was influential in the inner circle of Sisebut, Visigothic king of Hispania. Like Leander, he played a prominent role in the Councils of Toledo and Seville. The Visigothic legislation that resulted from these councils influenced the beginnings of representative government.

His fame after his death was based on his Etymologiae, an etymological encyclopedia which assembled extracts of many books from classical antiquity that would have otherwise been lost.

Saint Isidore of Seville
Isidor von Sevilla.jpeg
St. Isidore of Seville (1655), depicted by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo
Bishop, Confessor, and Doctor of the Church
Bornc. 556
Cartagena, Visigothic Kingdom
Died4 April 636 (aged 79–80)
Seville, Visigothic Kingdom
Venerated inCatholic Church
Eastern Orthodox Church
Canonized653 by the Eighth Council of Toledo
Feast4 April
AttributesBees; Bishop holding a pen while surrounded by a swarm of bees; bishop standing near a beehive; old bishop with a prince at his feet; pen; priest or bishop with pen and book; with Saint Leander, Saint Fulgentius, and Saint Florentina; with his Etymologiae
PatronageThe Internet, computer users, computer technicians, programmers, students


Childhood and education

Isidore was born in Cartagena, Spain, a former Carthaginian colony, to Severianus and Theodora. Both Severianus and Theodora belonged to notable Hispano-Roman families of high social rank.[3] His parents were members of an influential family who were instrumental in the political-religious maneuvering that converted the Visigothic kings from Arianism to Catholicism. The Catholic Church celebrates him and all his siblings as known saints:

  • An elder brother, Saint Leander of Seville, immediately preceded Saint Isidore as Archbishop of Seville and, while in office, opposed king Liuvigild.
  • A younger brother, Saint Fulgentius of Cartagena, served as the Bishop of Astigi at the start of the new reign of the Catholic King Reccared.
  • His sister, Saint Florentina, served God as a nun and allegedly ruled over forty convents and one thousand consecrated religious. This claim seems unlikely, however, given the few functioning monastic institutions in Iberia during her lifetime.[4]

Isidore received his elementary education in the Cathedral school of Seville. In this institution, the first of its kind in Iberia, a body of learned men including Archbishop Saint Leander of Seville taught the trivium and quadrivium, the classic liberal arts. Saint Isidore applied himself to study diligently enough that he quickly mastered Latin,[5] and acquired some Greek, and Hebrew.

Two centuries of Gothic control of Iberia incrementally suppressed the ancient institutions, classic learning, and manners of the Roman Empire. The associated culture entered a period of long-term decline. The ruling Visigoths nevertheless showed some respect for the outward trappings of Roman culture. Arianism meanwhile took deep root among the Visigoths as the form of Christianity that they received.

Scholars may debate whether Isidore ever personally embraced monastic life or affiliated with any religious order, but he undoubtedly esteemed the monks highly.

Bishop of Seville

Isidoro de Sevilla (José Alcoverro) 01
A statue of Isidore of Seville by José Alcoverro, 1892, outside the Biblioteca Nacional de España, in Madrid

After the death of Saint Leander of Seville on 13 March 600 or 601, Isidore succeeded to the See of Seville. On his elevation to the episcopate, he immediately constituted himself as protector of monks.

Saint Isidore recognized that the spiritual and material welfare of the people of his See depended on the assimilation of remnant Roman and ruling barbarian cultures, and consequently attempted to weld the peoples and subcultures of the Visigothic kingdom into a united nation. He used all available religious resources toward this end and succeeded. Isidore practically eradicated the heresy of Arianism and completely stifled the new heresy of Acephali at its very outset. Archbishop Isidore strengthened religious discipline throughout his See.

Archbishop Isidore also used resources of education to counteract increasingly influential Gothic barbarism throughout his episcopal jurisdiction. His quickening spirit animated the educational movement centered on Seville. Saint Isidore introduced Aristotle to his countrymen long before the Arabs studied Greek philosophy extensively.

In 619, Saint Isidore of Seville pronounced anathema against any ecclesiastic who in any way should molest the monasteries.

Second Synod of Seville (November 619)

Saint Isidore presided over the Second Council of Seville, begun on 13 November 619, in the reign of King Sisebut, a provincial council attended by eight other bishops, all from the ecclesiastical province of Baetica in southern Spain. The Acts of the Council fully set forth the nature of Christ, countering the conceptions of Gregory, a Syrian representing the heretical Acephali.

Third Synod of Seville (624)

Based on a few surviving canons found in the Pseudo-Isidorian Decretals, Saint Isidore is known to have presided over an additional provincial council around 624.

The council dealt with a conflict over the See of Écija, and wrongfully stripped bishop Martianus of his see, a situation that was rectified by the Fourth Council of Toledo. It also addressed a concern over Jews who had been forced to convert to Christianity by Sisebut failing to present their children for baptism.

The records of the council, unlike the First and Second Councils of Seville were not preserved in the Hispana, a collection of canons and decretals likely edited by Saint Isidore himself.[6]

Fourth National Council of Toledo

All bishops of Hispania attended the Fourth National Council of Toledo, begun on 5 December 633. The aged Archbishop Saint Isidore presided over its deliberations and originated most enactments of the council.

Through Isidore's influence, this Council of Toledo promulgated a decree, commanding all bishops to establish seminaries in their cathedral cities along the lines of the cathedral school at Seville, which had educated Saint Isidore decades earlier. The decree prescribed the study of Greek, Hebrew, and the liberal arts and encouraged interest in law and medicine.[7] The authority of the Council made this education policy obligatory upon all bishops of the Kingdom of the Visigoths. The council granted remarkable position and deference to the king of the Visigoths. The independent Church bound itself in allegiance to the acknowledged king; it said nothing of allegiance to the Bishop of Rome.


Saint Isidore of Seville died on 4 April 636 after serving more than 32 years as archbishop of Seville.


Isidore's Latin style in the Etymologiae and elsewhere, though simple and lucid, reveals increasing local Visigothic traditions.


Isidoro di siviglia, etimologie, fine VIII secolo MSII 4856 Bruxelles, Bibliotheque Royale Albert I, 20x31,50, pagina in scrittura onciale carolina
A page of Etymologiae, Carolingian manuscript (8th century), Brussels, Royal Library of Belgium
Isidori Hispalensis Opera Omnia
Isidori Hispalensis Opera Omnia (1797)

Isidore was the first Christian writer to try to compile a summa of universal knowledge, in his most important work, the Etymologiae (taking its title from the method he uncritically used in the transcription of his era's knowledge). It is also known by classicists as the Origines (the standard abbreviation being Orig). This encyclopedia — the first such Christian epitome—formed a huge compilation of 448 chapters in 20 volumes.[8]

In it, as Isidore entered his own terse digest of Roman handbooks, miscellanies and compendia, he continued the trend towards abridgements and summaries that had characterised Roman learning in Late Antiquity. In the process, many fragments of classical learning are preserved which otherwise would have been hopelessly lost; "in fact, in the majority of his works, including the Origines, he contributes little more than the mortar which connects excerpts from other authors, as if he was aware of his deficiencies and had more confidence in the stilus maiorum than his own" his translator Katherine Nell MacFarlane remarks.[9]

Some of these fragments were lost in the first place because Isidore's work was so highly regarded—Braulio called it quaecunque fere sciri debentur, "practically everything that it is necessary to know"—[10] that it superseded the use of many individual works of the classics themselves, which were not recopied and have therefore been lost: "all secular knowledge that was of use to the Christian scholar had been winnowed out and contained in one handy volume; the scholar need search no further".[11]

The fame of this work imparted a new impetus to encyclopedic writing, which bore abundant fruit in the subsequent centuries of the Middle Ages. It was the most popular compendium in medieval libraries. It was printed in at least ten editions between 1470 and 1530, showing Isidore's continued popularity in the Renaissance. Until the 12th century brought translations from Arabic sources, Isidore transmitted what western Europeans remembered of the works of Aristotle and other Greeks, although he understood only a limited amount of Greek.[12] The Etymologiae was much copied, particularly into medieval bestiaries.[13][14][15]

On the Catholic faith against the Jews

Diagrammatic T-O world map - 12th century
The medieval T-O map represents the inhabited world as described by Isidore in his Etymologiae.

Isidore's De fide catholica contra Iudaeos furthers Augustine of Hippo's ideas on the Jewish presence in Christian society. Like Augustine, Isidore accepted the necessity of the Jewish presence because of their expected role in the anticipated Second Coming of Christ. In De fide catholica contra Iudaeos, Isidore exceeds the anti-rabbinic polemics of earlier theologians by criticizing Jewish practice as deliberately disingenuous.[16]

He contributed two decisions to the Fourth Council of Toledo: Canon 60 calling for the forced removal of children from parents practicing Crypto-Judaism and their education by Christians, and Canon 65 forbidding Jews and Christians of Jewish origin from holding public office.[17]

Other works

Isidore's other works, all in Latin, include:

  • Historia de regibus Gothorum, Vandalorum et Suevorum, a history of the Gothic, Vandal and Suebi kings. The longer edition, issued in 624, includes the Laus Spaniae and the Laus Gothorum.
  • Chronica Majora, a universal history
  • De differentiis verborum, a brief theological treatise on the doctrine of the Trinity, the nature of Christ, of Paradise, angels, and men
  • On the Nature of Things, a book of astronomy and natural history dedicated to the Visigothic king Sisebut
  • Questions on the Old Testament
  • a mystical treatise on the allegorical meanings of numbers
  • a number of brief letters
  • Sententiae libri tres Codex Sang. 228; 9th century[18]
  • De viris illustribus
  • De ecclesiasticis officiis
  • De summo bono


Meister des Codex 167 001
Isidore (right) and Braulio (left) in an Ottonian illuminated manuscript from the 2nd half of the 10th century

Isidore was one of the last of the ancient Christian philosophers and was contemporary with Maximus the Confessor. Some consider him to be the most learned man of his age, and he exercised a far-reaching and immeasurable influence on the educational life of the Middle Ages. His contemporary and friend, Braulio of Zaragoza, regarded him as a man raised up by God to save the Iberian peoples from the tidal wave of barbarism that threatened to inundate the ancient civilization of Hispania.

The Eighth Council of Toledo (653) recorded its admiration of his character in these glowing terms: "The extraordinary doctor, the latest ornament of the Catholic Church, the most learned man of the latter ages, always to be named with reverence, Isidore". This tribute was endorsed by the Fifteenth Council of Toledo, held in 688, and later in 1598 by Pope Clement VIII. Isidore was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1722 by Pope Innocent XIII.

Isidore was interred in Seville. His tomb represented an important place of veneration for the Mozarabs during the centuries after the Arab conquest of Visigothic Hispania. In the middle of the 11th century, with the division of Al Andalus into taifas and the strengthening of the Christian holdings in the Iberian peninsula, Ferdinand I of León and Castile found himself in a position to extract tribute from the fractured Arab states. In addition to money, Abbad II al-Mu'tadid, the Abbasid ruler of Seville (1042–1069), agreed to turn over St. Isidore's remains to Ferdinand I.[19] A Catholic poet described al-Mutatid placing a brocaded cover over Isidore's sarcophagus, and remarked, "Now you are leaving here, revered Isidore. You know well how much your fame was mine!" Ferdinand had Isidore's remains reinterred in the then-recently constructed Basilica of San Isidoro in León. Today, many of his bones are buried in the cathedral of Murcia, Spain.


In Dante's Paradiso (X.130), Isidore is mentioned among theologians and Doctors of the Church alongside the Scot Richard of St. Victor and the Englishman Bede the Venerable.

The University of Dayton has named their implementation of the Sakai Project in honour of Saint Isidore.[20]

His likeness, along with that of Leander of Sevile and Ferdinand III of Castile, is depicted on the crest badge of Sevilla FC.

The Order of St. Isidore of Seville is a chivalric order formed on January 1, 2000. An international organisation, the order aims to honour Saint Isidore as patron saint of the Internet, alongside promoting Christian chivalry online. Members, who may be men or women, receive a modern-day knighthood.[21]


  1. ^ Montalembert, Charles F. Les Moines d'Occident depuis Saint Benoît jusqu'à Saint Bernard [The Monks of the West from Saint Benoit to Saint Bernard]. Paris: J. Lecoffre, 1860.
  2. ^ Jacques Fontaine, Isidore de Séville et la culture classique dans l'Espagne wisigothique (Paris) 1959
  3. ^ Priscilla Throop, Isidore of Seville's Etymologies: Complete English Translation. Vermont: MedievalMS, 2005, p. xi.
  4. ^ Roger Collins, Early Medieval Spain. New York: St Martin's Press, 1995, pp. 79–86.
  5. ^ "His literary style, though lucid, is pedestrian": Katherine Nell MacFarlane's observation, in "Isidore of Seville on the Pagan Gods (Origines VIII. 11)", Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, New Series, 70.3 (1980):1–40, p. 4, reflects mainstream secular opinion.
  6. ^ Rachel Stocking, "Martianus, Aventius and Isidore: provincial councils in seventh-century Spain" Early Medieval Europe 6 (1997) 169–188.
  7. ^ Isidore's own work regarding medicine is examined by Sharpe, William D. (1964). "Isidore of Seville: The Medical Writings". Transactions of the American Philosophical Society. 54 (2).
  8. ^ MacFarlane 1980:4; MacFarlane translates Etymologiae viii.
  9. ^ MacFarlane 1980:4; MacFarlane translates Etymologiae viii.
  10. ^ Braulio, Elogium of Isidore appended to Isidore's De viris illustribus, heavily indebted itself to Jerome.
  11. ^ MacFarlane 1980:4.
  12. ^ St. Isidore of Seville
  13. ^ Verner, Lisa (2005). The Epistemology of the Monstrous in the Middle Ages. Routledge. pp. 94–95. ISBN 978-0-415-97243-7.
  14. ^ Green, Roland, ed. (2012). The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics (4th ed.). Princeton University Press. ISBN 9780691154916.
  15. ^ Barber, Richard W. (1992). Bestiary : Being an English Version of the Bodleian Library, Oxford M.S. Bodley 764: With All the Original Miniatures Reproduced in Facsimile. Woodbridge, Suffolk, England: Boydell & Brewer. pp. 8, 13.
  16. ^ Cohen, Jeremy (1999). Living Letters of the Law. Berkeley: University of California Press. p. 97. ISBN 978-0-520-21870-3 – via
  17. ^ Bar-Shava Albert (1990). "Isidore of Seville: His attitude towards Judaism and his impact on early Medieval Canonical law". The Jewish Quarterly Review. XXX 3,4 (3/4): 207–220. JSTOR 1454969.
  18. ^
  19. ^ Father Alban Butler. "Saint Isidore, Bishop of Seville". Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Principal Saints, 1866. 2 April 2013. Web. 9 August 2014. Saints SQPN
  20. ^
  21. ^ The Order of St. Isidore of Seville. Accessed 28 June 2014.

Primary sources

Isidorus - Chronica minora, alli anni domini MCCCCLXXXII Addi cinque di octobro - 512701
Chronica minora, 1482

Secondary sources

Other material

External links

Aberdeen Bestiary

The Aberdeen Bestiary (Aberdeen University Library, Univ Lib. MS 24) is a 12th-century English illuminated manuscript bestiary that was first listed in 1542 in the inventory of the Old Royal Library at the Palace of Westminster.Information about its origins and patron are circumstantial. It probably comes from the 12th century and was owned by a wealthy ecclesiastical patron of the north or south province. The Aberdeen Bestiary is related to other bestiaries of the Middle Ages such as the Ashmole Bestiary. The Aberdeen Bestiary and the Ashmole Bestiary are considered by Xenia Muratova, a professor of art history, to be "the work of different artists belonging to the same artistic milieu." Due to their "striking similarities" they are described by scholars as being "sister manuscripts." The medievalist scholar M. R. James considered the Aberdeen Bestiary ''a replica of Ashmole 1511".

Agila I

Agila I or Achila I (died March 554) was Visigothic King of Hispania and Septimania (549 – March 554). Peter Heather notes that Agila's reign was during a period of civil war following the death of Amalaric, the last member of the old Visigothic dynasty, when ambitious Gothic nobles competed openly for the throne.Agila came to power after the assassination of Theudigisel, who had ruled for less than two years. However, opposition to his rule soon emerged. First was the revolt of the city of Córdoba, which Isidore of Seville suggests was due to local Roman Catholics objecting to his Arianism: in his account, Isidore mentions that Agila defiled the church of a local saint, Acisclus, by drenching the sepulcher "with the blood of the enemy and of their pack-animals", and attributes the death of Agila's son in the conflict — along with the majority of his army, and the royal treasury — to "the agency of the saints".Peter Heather lists several groups who revolted against Agila: a local dynast, Aspidius, established a hegemony in one mountainous region; the landowners of Cantabria established a "senate" to govern their affairs; and then there are the Sappi and Suani mentioned by John of Biclar.The most important rebel opposed to Agila was Athanagild, whose open revolt began in 551, following Agila's defeat at Cordoba. The armies of Agila and Athanagild met at Seville, where Agila met a second defeat. At this point, a third party entered the war between these two: the Byzantine Empire. As Peter Heather writes, "One of the two — which is the subject of varying report — summoned a Byzantine army, which duly arrived in southern Spain in 552." Heather understands Isidore's chronicle states that Athanagild summoned the Byzantines, while Jordanes implies in his Getica that Agila had asked them for help.During this three-sided conflict King Agila was killed — according to Isidore by his own people, who realized the destruction Agila's wars to retain power had caused, but "fearing even more that Roman soldiers might invade Spain on the pretext of giving help". Athanagild was then accepted as king.

Asterism (typography)

In typography, an asterism ("group of stars") is the typographic symbol consisting of three asterisks placed in a triangle: ⁂.

Now the symbol is used rarely and is nearly obsolete. Its purpose is to "indicate minor breaks in text", call attention to a passage, or to separate sub-chapters in a book.

It is encoded by Unicode as character U+2042 ⁂ ASTERISM (HTML ⁂).

Fonts that provide the Unicode character include Arial Unicode MS, Code2000, Lucida Sans Unicode, Lucida Grande, MS (P)Mincho and Segoe UI.

Often, this symbol is replaced with three consecutive asterisks (called a dinkus), more than three asterisks, or three or more dots. Otherwise, an extra space between paragraphs is used. An asterism or its analogue may be used in conjunction with the extra space to mark a smaller subdivision than a sub-chapter.

It can also be used to mean "untitled" or author or title withheld. For example, some editions of Album for the Young by composer Robert Schumann (no. 21, 26, and 30).In meteorology, an asterism in a station model indicates moderate snowfall.The asterisk (Latin: asteriscus) is mentioned by Isidore of Seville as "put in place of something that has been omitted so as to call attention to the omission".The asterism should not be confused with the similarly looking therefore sign, U+2234 ∴ THEREFORE (HTML ∴ · ∴), which is composed of three round dots rather than asterisks.


Athanagild (c. 517 – December 567) was Visigothic King of Hispania and Septimania. He had rebelled against his predecessor, Agila I, in 551. The armies of Agila and Athanagild met at Seville, where Agila met a second defeat. Following the death of Agila in 554, he was sole ruler for the rest of his reign.

Roger Collins writes that Athanagild's reign "is perhaps more significant than our sources may care to let us believe." Collins argues that the account of Isidore of Seville may be colored by the hostility subsequent Visigothic kings had towards Athanagild and his descendants.

Chryse and Argyre

Chryse and Argyre were a pair of legendary islands, located in the Indian Ocean and said to be made of gold (chrysos in Greek) and silver (argyros).

In Book 6, chapter 23 of his Natural History, concerning the regions near the Indus River, Pliny the Elder (23–79 CE) wrote that "Beyond the mouth of the Indus are the islands of Chryse and Argyre, abounding in metals, I believe; but as to what some persons have stated, that their soil consists of gold and silver, I am not so willing to believe that."Some five or six centuries later, in section of his encyclopedic Etymologies, Isidore of Seville (c. 560–636) repeated much the same information: "Chryse and Argyre are islands situated in the Indian Ocean, so rich in metal that many people maintain these islands have a surface of gold and silver; whence their names are derived." This was almost certainly taken—like much else in the Etymologies, as Isidore freely admitted—directly from the Natural History. Both of these Latin works, the Naturalis Historia and especially the Etymologiae, were widely read in Europe throughout the Middle Ages, and this ensured the survival of the legend of the Gold and Silver Islands until the beginning of the Age of Discovery.

As European geographers gathered more reliable information about the Indian Ocean, the purported location of Chryse and Argyre shifted farther and farther east to the fringes of the known world. By the time Martin Behaim created his Erdapfel globe in 1492, the islands were though to be near Japan, possibly because Marco Polo had claimed Japan itself (which he called Cipangu) to be rich in gold and silver; Behaim is known to have used both Pliny and Marco Polo as sources.The discovery of the Americas changed everything. European explorers in search of fabled lands of gold now sailed west for El Dorado, instead of east to Cipangu. The works of Isidore of Seville fell out of fashion, and the islands of Chryse and Argyre slowly faded from the popular imagination.

In 1877, however, they were recalled to life by the astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli, who used the planetary opposition of that year to begin mapping the planet Mars. As an expert in ancient astronomy and geography he was very familiar with classical legends and fabled lands, and used them to name the features he could see through the telescope. He assumed that dark areas might be low flat "seas", as they are on the Moon, while "land" would be lighter. In particular he noted several light patches that he took to be islands; he named the most striking circular one Hellas (for Greece), and two others Chryse and Argyre.

It was only with the observations made from Martian orbit by Mariner 9 in 1972 that it became clear that these light areas were not islands at all, but depressions carpeted with light windblown dust. Chryse is really a low flat plain, but the name has been kept, and it is now known as Chryse Planitia, "Chryse Plain". Argyre (like Hellas) is in fact a broad impact crater, and is now Argyre Planitia, "Argyre Plain", which in turn has given its name to one of the cartographic quadrangles of the Martian atlas.

Councils of Toledo

Councils of Toledo (Concilia toletana). From the 5th century to the 7th century AD, about thirty synods, variously counted, were held at Toledo in what would come to be part of Spain. The earliest, directed against Priscillianism, assembled in 400. The "third" synod of 589 marked the epoch-making conversion of King Reccared from Arianism to orthodox Chalcedonian Christianity. The "fourth," in 633, probably under the presidency of the noted Isidore of Seville, regulated many matters of discipline and decreed uniformity of liturgy throughout the kingdom. The British Celts of Galicia accepted the Latin rite and stringent measures were adopted against baptized Jews who had gone back to their former faith. The "twelfth" council in 681 assured to the archbishop of Toledo the primacy of Hispania (present Iberian Peninsula). As nearly one hundred early canons of Toledo found a place in the Decretum Gratiani, they exerted an important influence on the development of ecclesiastical law.

The later synod of 1565 and 1566 concerned itself with the execution of the decrees of Trent; and the last council of Toledo, that of 1582 and 1583, was so guided in detail by Philip II that the pope ordered the name of the royal commissioner to be expunged from the acts.

The seventh century is sometimes called, by Spanish historians, the Siglo de Concilios, or "Century of Councils".


Etymologiae (Latin for "The Etymologies"), also known as the Origines ("Origins") and usually abbreviated Orig., is an etymological encyclopedia compiled by Isidore of Seville (c. 560–636) towards the end of his life. Isidore was encouraged to write the book by his friend Braulio, Bishop of Saragossa. The Etymologies summarized and organized a wealth of knowledge from hundreds of classical sources; three of its books are derived largely from Pliny the Elder's Natural History. Isidore acknowledges Pliny, but not his other principal sources, namely Cassiodorus, Servius and Solinus. The work contains whatever Isidore, an influential Christian bishop, thought worth keeping. Its subject matter is extremely diverse, ranging from grammar and rhetoric to the earth and the cosmos, buildings, metals, war, ships, humans, animals, medicine, law, religions and the hierarchies of angels and saints.

Etymologiae covers an encyclopedic range of topics. Etymology, the origins of words, is prominent, but the work covers among other things grammar, rhetoric, mathematics, geometry, music, astronomy, medicine, law, the Roman Catholic Church and heretical sects, pagan philosophers, languages, cities, animals and birds, the physical world, geography, public buildings, roads, metals, rocks, agriculture, ships, clothes, food and tools.

Etymologiae was the most used textbook throughout the Middle Ages. It was so popular that it was read in place of many of the original classical texts that it summarized, so these ceased to be copied and were lost. It was cited by Dante Alighieri, who placed Isidore in his Paradiso, quoted by Geoffrey Chaucer, and mentioned by the poets Boccaccio, Petrarch and John Gower. Among the thousand-odd surviving manuscript copies is the 13th-century Codex Gigas; the earliest surviving manuscript, the Codex Sangallensis, preserves books XI to XX from the 9th century. Etymologiae was printed in at least ten editions between 1472 and 1530, after which its importance faded in the Renaissance. The first scholarly edition was printed in Madrid in 1599; the first modern critical edition was edited by Wallace Lindsay in 1911.

Etymologiae is less well known in modern times, though the Vatican considered naming its author Isidore the patron saint of the Internet. Scholars recognize its importance both for its preservation of classical texts and for the insight it offers into the medieval mindset.


According to the Table of Nations in the Book of Genesis in the Hebrew Bible, Gether (Hebrew: גֶּ֫תֶר‎ Ḡeṯer; Aather in Arabic) was the third son of Aram, son of Shem. He appears only twice in the Hebrew Bible, and both times is only mentioned in passing in genealogical lists. In the Table of Nations (Genesis 10:23), he is identified as a son of Aram, while in 1 Chronicles 1:17, he is listed among the sons of Shem.

In Arabic traditions, he is sometimes considered the father of Thamud, whose brother the Qur'an calls Salih.According to the first-century Jewish historian Josephus, he is ancestor of the Bactrians. Jerome (c. 390) considers Gether the ancestor of the Acarnanians. Isidore of Seville (c. 635) makes him ancestor of the Acarnanians or Curians.


Madai (Hebrew: מָדַי, pronounced [maˈda.i]; Greek: Μηδος, [mɛːˈdos]) is a son of Japheth and one of the 16 grandsons of Noah in the Book of Genesis of the Hebrew Bible. Biblical scholars have generally identified Madai with the Iranian Medes of much later records. The Medes, reckoned to be his offspring by Josephus and most subsequent writers, were also known as Madai, including in both Assyrian and Hebrew sources. Some scholars in more modern times have also proposed connections with various earlier nations, such as Mitanni, Matiene, and Mannai. In addition, the Kurds still maintain traditions of descent from Madai.According to the Book of Jubilees (10:50-51), Madai had married a daughter of Shem, and preferred to live among Shem's descendants, rather than dwell in Japheth's allotted inheritance beyond the Black Sea; so he begged his brothers-in-law, Elam, Asshur and Arphaxad, until he finally received from them the land that was named after him, Media.

Another line in Jubilees (8:5) states that a daughter of Madai named Milcah (Aramaic: Melkâ) married Cainan, who is an ancestor of Abraham also mentioned in the Septuagint version of Genesis and in the Gospel of Luke (3:36).

Medos (Μηδος), and his mother Medea, were also reckoned to be the ancestors of the Medes in classical Greek mythical history. Christian scholars have proposed linking Hebrew Madai and Greek Medos since at least the time of Isidore of Seville [Etym 9.2.28], ca. 600 AD.

Madai is also the name of the deified ancestor of the Kachin people of Myanmar, according to the indigenous Kachin religion.

Also linked with Madai is the Iranian city of Hamadan.

Maximus (bishop of Zaragoza)

Maximus was the first Visigothic bishop of Zaragoza (Hispania) in 592–619. He was also a theologian and historian.

He succeeded Simplicius of Zaragoza as Bishop and was influential in the conversion of the Visigothic Kings to Catholicism.

He assisted at the Councils of Barcelona in 599 and Egara in 614, held the Second Council of Zaragoza, against Arianism, in 592, and signed a decree of Gundemar of 610.

Maximus also contributed to the Visigothic cultural renaissance of the 6th and 7th centuries, which was continued by such scholars as Isidore of Seville, Eugenio of Toledo and Braulio of Zaragoza.

It has been theorized that he wrote the Chronicles of Zaragoza, a history of that time surviving via a 16th-century manuscript copy, because Isidore of Seville notes that Maximus had written on history. However, Collins (1980) and Johnson (1993) argue that the Chronicles were not the work of a single author.

Maximus was succeeded in his see by John, brother of Braulio of Zaragoza, who was in turn succeeded by Braulio; see, e.g., Collins (1995).

Mount Chimaera

Mount Chimaera was the name of a place in ancient Lycia, notable for constantly burning fires. It is thought to be the area called Yanartaş in Turkey, where methane and other gases emerge from the rock and burn. Some ancient sources considered it to be the origin of the myth of the monster called the Chimera, because of similarities described below.

Ctesias is the oldest traceable author to offer this euhemerizing theory. We know of this because of a citation by Pliny the Elder, who in his second book of Historia Naturalis identified the Chimera with the permanent gas vents in Mount Chimaera, in the country of the ancient Lycian city of Phaselis, which he described as being "on fire", adding that it "...indeed burned with a flame that does not die by day or night." Pliny was quoted by Photius and Agricola.

Strabo and Pliny are the only surviving ancient sources who would be expected to discuss a Lycian toponym, but the placename is also attested by Isidore of Seville and Servius, the commentator on the Aeneid. Strabo held the Chimaera to be a ravine on a different mountain in Lycia, placing it unhesitatingly in the vicinity of the Cragus Mountains, the southern part of the present Babadağ, some 75 km due west as the crow flies, and Isidore quotes writers on natural history (see below) that Mount Chimaera was on fire here, had lions and goats there, and was full of snakes over there. Servius goes so far as to arrange these with the lions on the peak of the mountain, pastures full of goats in the middle, and serpents all about the base, thus imitating Homer's description of the monster.

The site was identified by Sir Francis Beaufort in 1811, as the modern Turkish Yanar or Yanartaş, which was described by Thomas Abel Brimage Spratt in his Travels in Lycia, Milyas, and the Cibyratis, in company with the late Rev. E. T. Daniell. The discussion on the connection between the myth and the exact location of Mount Chimera was started by Albert Forbiger in 1844, and George Ewart Bean was of the opinion that the name was allochthonous and could have been transferred here from its original location further west, as cited by Strabo, owing to the presence of the same phenomenon and the fires.

Míl Espáine

In Irish origin legends, Míl Espáine or Míl Espáne (later Latinized as Milesius; also Miled/Miledh) is the mythical ancestor of the final inhabitants of Ireland, the "sons of Míl" or Milesians, who represent the vast majority of the Irish Gaels. His father was Bile, son of Breogan.

His name is an Irish version of Latin Miles Hispaniae, meaning "Soldier of Hispania", which is attested in a passage (§ 13) in the 9th-century semi-historical work Historia Brittonum ("The History of the Britons"). According to the Lebor Gabala Erenn or the Book of Invasions where this tale is recorded his real name is Galam which is equivalent to Columba and its derivatives such as Malcolm and Callum. The work offers an account of how Ireland was successively taken by settlers from Spain, among them Partholom, Nimeth and the "three sons of a Hispanic soldier" (tres filii militis Hispaniae). As A.G. van Hamel has suggested, the status of Iberia as the land of origin can be traced back to Isidore of Seville, who in the introduction to his history of the Goths, Vandals and Suebi had elevated Spain to the "mother of all races". A further explanation may lie in the mistake made by some classical geographers in locating Ireland closely opposite Iberia. For instance, the Lebar Gabála (§ 100) recounts that from Bregon's Tower, the Milesian Íth was able to see right across the sea to Ireland.He served as a soldier in Scythia and Egypt, before remembering a prophecy that his descendants would rule Ireland. He set off to the west, getting as far as Iberia where he fought several battles before dying, never seeing Ireland himself.

His wife Scota and his uncle Íth, who had spied Ireland from a tower, sailed to Ireland where Íth was killed by the Tuatha Dé Danann. When his body was brought back to Iberia, Míl's eight sons and Íth's nine brothers invaded Ireland and defeated the Tuatha Dé Danann.

He figures prominently in the mythological genealogies of John O'Hart, being the common ancestor of all the Irish.

Milesius died in Spain before he could reach the Isle of Destiny. His wife Scota went to Ireland with their eight sons. Due to some terrible storms, (attributed to the magic of the Tuatha Dé Danann who already lived in Ireland) most of Milesius' sons died when they tried to land.


In ancient Greek religion, an orgion (ὄργιον, more commonly in the plural orgia) was an ecstatic form of worship characteristic of some mystery cults. The orgion is in particular a cult ceremony of Dionysos (or Zagreus), celebrated widely in Arcadia, featuring "unrestrained" masked dances by torchlight and animal sacrifice by means of random slashing that evoked the god's own rending and suffering at the hands of the Titans.

The orgia that explained the role of the Titans in Dionysos's dismemberment were said to have been composed by Onomacritus. Greek art and literature, as well as some patristic texts, indicate that the orgia involved snake handling.Orgia may have been earlier manifestations of cult than the formal mysteries, as suggested by the violently ecstatic rites described in myth as celebrated by Attis in honor of Cybele and reflected in the willing self-castration of her priests the Galli in the historical period. The orgia of both Dionysian worship and the cult of Cybele aim at breaking down barriers between the celebrants and the divinity through a state of mystic exaltation:

Initiates of the Orphic and Bacchic orgia practiced distinctive burial customs (see Totenpass) expressive of their beliefs in an afterlife; for instance, it was forbidden for the dead to wear wool.Members of a group devoted to performing orgia are called orgeônes, whose activities were regulated by law. The cult of the Thracian goddess Bendis was organized at Athens by her orgeônes as early as the Archaic period.The participation of women in orgia, which in some manifestations was exclusive to women, sometimes led to prurient speculation and attempts to suppress the rites. In 186 BC, the Roman senate tried to ban Dionysian religion as subversive both morally and politically.Isidore of Seville says that the Latin equivalent of orgia was caerimoniae (English "ceremonies"), the arcane rites of ancient Roman religion preserved by the various colleges of priests.


Partholón (Modern spelling: 'Parthalán') is a character in medieval Irish Christian pseudo-history. By tradition, he is credited with leading a large group to settle in Ireland. The tale is probably an invention of the Christian writers. "Partholón" comes from the Biblical name "Bartholomaeus" or "Bartholomew". The name may be borrowed from a character who appears in the Christian pseudo-histories of Saints Jerome and Isidore of Seville.

Phoenix (mythology)

In Greek mythology, a phoenix (; Ancient Greek: φοῖνιξ, phoînix) is a long-lived bird that cyclically regenerates or is otherwise born again.

Associated with the Sun, a phoenix obtains new life by arising from the ashes of its predecessor. According to some sources, the phoenix dies in a show of flames and combustion, although there are other sources that claim that the legendary bird dies and simply decomposes before being born again. There are different traditions concerning the lifespan of the phoenix, but by most accounts the phoenix lived for 500 years before rebirth. Herodotus, Lucan, Pliny the Elder, Pope Clement I, Lactantius, Ovid, and Isidore of Seville are among those who have contributed to the retelling and transmission of the phoenix motif.

In ancient Greece and Rome, the phoenix was associated with Phoenicia, (modern Lebanon), a civilization famous for its production of purple dye from conch shells.

In the historical record, the phoenix "could symbolize renewal in general as well as the sun, time, the Empire, metempsychosis, consecration, resurrection, life in the heavenly Paradise, Christ, Mary, virginity, the exceptional man, and certain aspects of Christian life".

Pictish Chronicle

The Pictish Chronicle is a name often given by (especially older) historians to a pseudo-historical account of the kings of the Picts beginning many thousand years before history was recorded in Pictavia and ending after Pictavia had been enveloped by Scotland. The original (albeit lost) manuscript seems to date from the early years of the reign of Kenneth II of Scotland (who ruled Scotland from 971 until 995) since he is the last king mentioned and the chronicler does not know the length of his reign. Apart from the list of kings, the chronicle survives only in the 14th century Poppleton Manuscript.

There are actually several versions of the Pictish Chronicle. The so-called "A" text is probably the oldest, the fullest, and seems to have fewer errors than other versions. It is in three parts:

An account of the origins of the Picts, mostly from the Etymologies of Isidore of Seville.

A list of Pictish kings.

Occasionally included is the Chronicle of the Kings of Alba.It is evident that the latter two sections were originally written in Gaelic since a few Gaelic words have not been translated into Latin.

Saint-Isidore, Chaudière-Appalaches, Quebec

Saint-Isidore is a municipality in La Nouvelle-Beauce Regional County Municipality in the Chaudière-Appalaches region of Quebec, Canada. Its population was 2,947 as of the Canada 2011 Census. Founded in 1855, it is named after Isidore of Seville.


Theudigisel (or Theudegisel) (in Latin Theudigisclus and in Spanish, Galician and Portuguese Teudiselo, Teudigiselo, or Teudisclo), (c. 500 – December 549) was king of the Visigoths in Hispania and Septimania (548–549). Some Visigothic king lists skip Theudigisel, as well as Agila I, going directly from Theudis to Athanagild.

Theudigisel was a leading general of Theudis, and, when the latter was murdered, managed to make himself king. He had repelled the Franks from Spain after their invasion of 541, cutting them off in the pass of Valcarlos, but accepted a bribe to allow them to return to home.According to Isidore of Seville, Theudigisel was assassinated because he "defiled the marriages of very many powerful men by public prostitution", and was assassinated by a group of conspirators during a banquet in Seville. Although he agrees that Theudigisel died during a banquet, Gregory of Tours records a different tale of his end: in the middle of the feast, the lights were blown out and an unidentified person killed Theudigisel in the dark. "The Goths had adopted the reprehensible habit of killing out of hand any king who displeased them and replacing him on the throne by someone they preferred," Gregory concludes.


Theudis (Spanish: Teudis, Portuguese: Têudis), (c. 470 – June 548) was king of the Visigoths in Hispania from 531 to 548. He was the sword-bearer of Theodoric the Great, who sent him to govern the Visigothic kingdom during the minority of Amalaric, the son of king Alaric II and Theodegotha, the daughter of king Theodoric.

According to Procopius, during his governorship Theudis had married a Spanish woman who "belonged to the house of one of the wealthy inhabitants of that land, and not only possessed great wealth but also a great estate in Spain." With this wealth he was able to muster a private army of two thousand men, effectively making him independent of Theodoric's authority. Theodoric did not take any action against Theudis. One reason was that doing so would give the Franks, who had killed the Visigothic king Alaric in the Battle of Vouillé, an excuse to take to the field once again. Another was that Theudis was careful to obey the commands of his king, and never failed to send the annual tribute.Following the death of Amalaric, last of the Balti dynasty, Theudis was elected king. Herwig Wolfram believes one factor that led to his selection was support of fellow Ostrogoths who had gone west with him. Peter Heather posits a second, noting that two of Theudis' Italian relatives -- Ildibad and Totila -- became kings of the Ostrogoths following the fall of the House of Theodoric in the Gothic Wars: "They probably represent, therefore, a particularly powerful non-royal clan."In 541, Theudis had to confront the Franks under Chlothar I and Childebert I, who had penetrated as far as Zaragoza, which they besieged for forty-nine days, but according to Gregory of Tours the Franks lifted their siege when they learned the city was protected by the relics of Saint Vincent of Saragossa. The primary sources disagree over the outcome of this Frankish invasion: Isidore of Seville writes that the future king Theudigisel, who was then a general of Theudis, had killed all of the invaders except a group which had bribed him to allow them to escape; Although Gregory of Tours writes that "they succeeded in conquering a large part of Spain and they returned to Gaul with immense booty", Roger Collins observes that this was the first Visigothic victory over their Frankish rivals -- an achievement which undoubtedly added to Theudis' prestige.Early in his reign, Theudis (533) received a delegation from the Vandal king Gelimer seeking help against the impending Byzantine assault. Theudis received them cordially, throwing a banquet in their honor, at which he asked them how matters were at home. The envoys had traveled slowly to Hispania, and were out of contact with events in Carthage; meanwhile a merchant ship, which had left Carthage the same day it fell to the Byzantines, encountered favorable winds and reached Hispania first with the news, which Theudis had known when the Vandal envoys arrived. So when they proposed an alliance against the Byzantines, Theudis declined, telling them to go to the sea-coast, "For from there you will learn of the affairs at home with certainty." Puzzled at this response, the envoys eventually followed his advice and returned to Carthage where they were taken prisoner by the victorious Byzantines. Roger Collins suggests that Theudis exploited the Vandals' defeat by occupying a portion of North Africa opposite Spain. This would explain why in 542 the Visigoths made an unsuccessful attempt to come to the defense of Ceuta, when the Byzantines besieged it from land and sea. According to Isidore of Seville, the invading army refused to fight on the Sabbath, and when the Byzantines learned of this attacked the Visigoths and left not one alive.Despite Theudis being an Arian Christian, Isidore of Seville praises him, for he not only tolerated the practices of the native Roman Catholic citizens, but permitted their bishops to meet at Toledo to arrange "those matters which were necessary for the teaching of the Church." Collins notes that "of the few provincial councils that are known to have taken place in Spain before 589, nearly half were held during his [Theudis] reign: I Barcelonia in 540, Lerida in 546 and Valencia also in 546." During his reign a further codification of Gothic law was effected and promulgated November 546, quoting numerous Roman authorities.In 548, he was assassinated in his palace by a man who had feigned madness in order to get close enough to strike the fatal blow. According to Isidore of Seville, as he bled out Theudis called out that no one kill his murderer, "saying that he had received a requital agreeing with his own deserts, because he himself too as a private citizen had killed his leader."

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