Of The Age of Man.

Isidore sits on a chair, writing on a sloping desk the words '(ysid)oris (de) natu(ra) hominisI' Isidore, Concerning the Nature of Man.

Isidore sits on a chair, writing on a sloping desk the words ‘(ysid)oris (de) natu(ra) hominisI’ Isidore, Concerning the Nature of Man.

Quite the misogynistic treatise.

Text Translation:

Of the age of man There are six stages of life. Infancy, childhood, adolescence, youth, maturity and old age. The first age is infancy, which lasts from the time the child enters the light till it is seven. The second is childhood, that is, when the child is pure and not yet old enough to generate young; it extends to the fourteenth year. The third is adolescence, when the child is old enough to generate children; it lasts until the twenty-eighth year. The fourth is youth, the the most robust of all the ages; it ends in the fiftieth year. The fifth age is that of riper years, that is, of maturity, and represents the movement away from youth to old age; you are not yet ancient, but you are no longer young; the Greeks call someone at this age of maturity presbiteros, an elder; an old man they call geron. This age, beginning in the fiftieth year, ends in the seventieth. The sixth age is that of old age, which has no end-date; whatever of life is left after the five Previous ages is classed as ‘old age’. The final part of old age is senility, senium, so called because it marks the end of the sixth age, sexta etas.

Philosophers, therefore, have categorised human life in these six periods, during which it is changed and runs its race and comes to an end, which is death. So, let us proceed briefly through the above-mentioned categories of the ages, pointing out their etymology in the context of man.

Man at the first stage is called infans; this is because he is incapable of speaking, fari. As his teeth are not yet arranged correctly, his capacity to produce words is restricted. Boy, puer, is so called from purity, puritas, because he is pure, with no down or bloom yet on his cheeks. These are ethebi [ephebi], named after Phoebus; not yet grown men but gentle little boys. The word ‘boy’ is used in three ways. In the context of birth, as in Isaiah: ‘Unto us a child is born’ (9:6). In the context of age, as ‘a boy of eight’ or ‘a ten year-old boy’. In this context: ‘Now he bore the yoke on his tender neck’. And in the context of compliance and purity of faith, as the Lord said to the prophet: ‘You are my son, do not fear’ (see Jeremiah, 1:7-8), although Jeremiah had long since outlived the years of his childhood.

Girl, puella, comes from parvula, very small female, or ‘chicken’, pulla, so to speak. For this reason we refer to ‘orphans’, pupillus, not from their status but because of their childish age. They are called pupillus as if they were without eyes, that is, bereft, orbus, of their parents. They are properly called ‘orphans’ if their parents died before they were named; others call them ‘parentless’, orbi. ‘Orphan’, orphanus, means the same as pupillus. The one is the Greek word; the other, the Latin; as also in the psalm where it says: ‘Thou art the helper of the fatherless’ (Psalms, 10: 14). The Greek text has orphano.

[Boy – Pure. Girl – Chicken. Gosh, I am so surprised.]

The pubescent are so called from pubis, that is, they get their name from the private parts of the body because these first show the down of puberty. Some think of puberty as a specific age, that is, they call ‘pubescent’ someone who has reached the end of his fourteenth year, even though the signs of puberty may appear much later. It is certain, however, that a child has reached puberty when it shows the physical signs and can generate children.

The word puerpure refers to women who give birth during the years of puberty. In this context Horace says: ‘The young mother is praised for her firstborn male’ (Odes, 4, 5, 23). The word is also used of those who are pregnant with their first child, or those who bear sons for the first time.

The adolescent, adolescens, is so called because he is old enough to beget children, or because he grows in maturity and size. A young man, iuvenis, is so called because he begins to be able to help, as among oxen bullocks, iuvencus, are so named when they have withdrawn from the calves. For a young man is at that particular growth period and is ready to be of help. For it is incumbent on a man to devote himself to helping others.

Just as the thirtieth year is that of perfect age in men, so the third is that of greatest strength among cattle and beasts of burden. Man, vir, is so called because there is greater virtue, virtus, in him than in women. It is for that reason that he takes the name, or because he acts with force in his relationship with woman.

Woman, mulier, however, gets her name from her softness, mollicia, as if mollior, softer, with the letter l removed or changed, giving mulier. There are differences between men and women in physical strength and weakness. But because the man’s strength is greater, the woman’s is less and she is subject to him, lest rejected by women, lust should drive men to seek something else, or to fall on their own sex. Woman gets her name, therefore, from her female sex, not as a result of her corruption of man’s integrity, as the words of the holy scripture show.

For Eve was made directly from her husband’s side, and was called ‘woman’ before she had been touched by a man, as the scripture says: ‘He made the rib a woman’ (see Genesis, 2: 22). A virgin, virgo, is so called because she is in the green, viridus, or blooming age of her life like a slender green branch, virga and a calf, vitula. Otherwise the word may come from her uncorrupted state, as virago, because she does not know womanly passion. A virago is so called because she acts like a man, vir agere, that is, she does manly things and has the strength of a man. For this is the name the ancients gave to strong women. But it is not correct to call a virgin a virago if she does not perform the office of a man; nevertheless, a woman who does masculine things, like an Amazon, is rightly called a virago.

What we now call a woman, femina, was, in former times, called vira; as serva, maid-servant, from servus, famula, handmaid from famulus, so vira from vir. Some think that the word virgo has the same derivation. We get the word femina, however, from those parts of the thighs by which this sex is distinguished from the man. Others think that femina derives by Greek etymology, from the phrase ‘fiery force’, because a woman lusts fiercely; for females are more lustful than males, among women as as among animals. For this reason excessive love was called ‘womanly love’ among the ancients.

To be ‘elder’, senior, is to be still more vigorous. Ovid writes in his sixth book: ‘The elder, between youth and old age’ (Metamorphoses, 12, 464]. Terence: ‘By this law we are younger’ (Hecyra II, Prologue, 3). Undoubtedly adolescentior here does not mean ‘more adolescent’ but ‘less’, as an elder is less of an old man, where the comparative form signifies less that the positive. Senior, therefore, is not as old as senex, just as a ‘younger’ man stands between youth and seniority and a ‘poorer’ man stands between rich and poor.

Some think that the aged, senes, are so called from the reduction of their senses and the fact that they act foolishly because of their old age. For physicians say that foolish men are of cold blood, the wise of hot. For this reason, the aged, whose blood has now grown cold, and children, whose blood has not yet warmed up, are less wise. As a result, infancy and old age are alike. The old lose their wits from their excessive age, and the very young, through frivolity and immaturity, do not know what they are doing. The word senex, old man, however, is used of the masculine gender, as anus, old woman, is of the feminine. For anus is used only of a woman. It comes from the word for ‘many years old’, annosa, so to speak. For if the word were common to both genders, why does Terence not use the words senem mulierem? In the same way vetula, a little old woman, comes from vetustus, aged. Just as senility, senectus, comes from senex, so ‘old womanhood’, anilitas, comes from anus.

Hoariness, canities, comes from candor, ‘shining whiteness’, as if it were candities. This gives the phrase ‘blooming youth, milky age’, as if to say ‘white’. Senility brings with it the good and the bad in quantity. The good, because it frees us from our post powerful masters, imposes moderation on our pleasures, bridles the onset of our lust, increases our wisdom, gives more mature counsel. Bad, because the most wretched thing about being old is the frailty you feel and the resentment you meet. For diseases and miserable old age approach together. For there are two things by which the body’s powers are lessened: senility and sickness.

Death, mors, is so called because it is amarus, bitter, or from Mars, the deliverer of death, or from the bite, morsus, of the first man, because by biting into the apple of the forbidden tree, he incurred death. There are three kinds of death: premature, untimely and natural. Premature is the death of a child; untimely, the death of a young man; fitting, that is, natural, the death of the old.

There is some doubt, however, according to which part of speech, mortuus, dead, is to be declined. For as Caesar said, on the basis that it is from morior, in the past participle, it should end in -tus, namely, with one u not two. For where the letter u is doubled, it is an adjective not a participle, as in fatuus, arduus. Thus, it is not inapt that in so far as what death means cannot be shown physically, so the word itself cannot be declined orally. Every dead man is a corpse, either funus or cadaver. His body is called funus if it is buried, the word coming from the burning ropes of reeds in wax, which they used to carry before the bier. It is called cadaver, if it lies unburied. The word comes from cadere, to fall, because it cannot stand up.

When the body is carried, we speak of a funeral procession, exequie. When the remains are burned, we call them reliquie. When the body is interred, we say it is now buried, sepultus. The common word is corpus as in the quotation: ‘The bodies of those lacking light’ (Vergil, Georgics, 4, 255). We call someone dead, ‘defunct’, defunctus, because he has completed the office of life. For we talk of someone having discharged an office, functus officio, because they have completed the duties required of them. In the same way we also talk of someone discharging public business. For this reason, therefore, we use the word defunctus, because the deceased has been set aside from the office of life, or because he has completed the duties of life’s day. The word for ‘buried’, sepultus, is so called because the body is that point without a pulse, sine pulsu, or palpitation, that is, motionless. The word sepelire means to bury bodies; we use the words humare and obruere, that is, to cast earth on the body.

Folio 91r – the parts of man’s body, continued.De etate hominis; Of the age of man.

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