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Search: Colloquium 33 (Fall 2019)

November 20 @ 1:00 pm - 1:50 pm


Casketts with Scenes of Romances
Upper: 1310-1330; Lower: 1330-1350
(Upper: H: 10.9 × W: 25.3 x D: 15.9 cm; Lower: H: 11.8 × W: 25.2 x D: 12.9 cm)

Upper: This coffret illustrated with scenes from Arthurian and other courtly literature of the Middle Ages is one of the most imposing examples to survive. The lid represents the assault on the metaphorical fortress, Castle of Love, with a tournament and knights catapulting roses. The left end depicts Tristan and Isolde spied upon by King Mark, and a hunter killing a unicorn trapped by a virgin. The right end shows a knight rescuing a lady from the Wildman (Wodehouse), and Galahad receiving the key to the castle of maidens. At the back are Lancelot and the lion, Lancelot crossing the sword bridge, Gawain asleep on the magic bed, and the maidens welcoming their deliverer. The newly discovered front panel (1988.16), lost since before 1800, is a poignant depiction of the love tragedy of Pyramus and Thisbe (two scenes at right) and Aristotle teaching Alexander the Great and Phyllis riding on the back of Aristotle (two scenes at left)(Gallery label).
Lower: This splendid casket is carved with scenes from romances and allegorical literature representing the courtly ideals of love and heroism. In the center of the lid, knights joust as ladies watch from the balcony; to the left, knights lay siege to the Castle of Love, the subject of an allegorical battle. The remaining scenes on the casket are drawn from well-known stories about Aristotle and Phyllis, Tristan and Iseult, and tales of the gallant, heroic deeds of Gawain, Galahad, and Lancelot. The box may originally have been a courtship gift (Gallery label).
Alexander and Phyllis: While Alexander was conquering Asia, he became so much infatuated with Phyllis, an Indian damsel whom he had taken to himself as a wife, that he neglected the affairs of the state. The nobles sent Aristotle to remonstrate with him, who did so to such good purpose that the Great King turned his mind once more to business. Of course this did not please the queen, and having found that Aristotle was at the bottom of her husband’s coldness, she resolved to revenge herself. She attracted his attention, made advances to him, and in no time the philosopher was head over heels in love. As he was pressing her to requite his love, she said he must prove it first, by allowing her to ride upon his back. Aristotle was ready to grant her anything and at last consented. In the meanwhile she had warned her husband so that he might watch the performance, and placing a saddle on Aristotle’s back, a bit in his mouth, etc., she rode upon him, he walking upon all fours. Alexander then summoned him and demanded that he explain how his conduct could be so at variance with his advice. Whereupon the philosopher replied: “If a woman can make such a fool of a man of my age and wisdom, how much more dangerous must she not be for younger ones? I added an example to my precept, it is your privilege to benefit by both” (George Sarton, “Aristotle and Phyllis,” Isis 14 (1930): 8-9).

Upper: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Lower: Walters Art Museum, Baltimore


Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics VII-VIII (1145a-1163b) (pages 118-162)

Topic of Discussion

Aristotle’s discussion of friendship is perhaps the most complex and central to the concept of eudaimonia, because he attempts to reconcile the communal nature of human beings with their telos of achieving eudaimonia through the individual pursuit and practice of virtue. After working through Aristotle’s discussion, apply his typology to the following relationship we have encountered and be prepared to share your observations about whether these relationships constitute friendships, and, if they do, to which of the categories they belong and why.

Enkidu & Gilgamesh
Alexandros & Helen
Aphrodite & Helen
Achilles & Patroclus
Achilles & Iphigenia
Andromache & Hector
David & Jonathan
Croesus & Cyrus
Demaratus & Xerxes


November 20
1:00 pm - 1:50 pm
Event Category:


Barret 216
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