Historical region of Country
ENCYCLOPEDIA. By the term encyclopedia Gk. evgku,klioj paidei,a the ancients designated, from the Hellenistic era, the group of disciplines that formed the indispensable basis for the education of the cultured man and, at a higher level, assumed the more specific function of a propaedeutic to the study of philosophy. This group, apart from occasional additions or subtractions, comprised as a rule what would become, over time, the well-known canonical disciplines of the trivium grammar, rhetoric, Recife Map dialectic and the quadrivium arithmetic, music, geometry, astronomy. The attitude of the Fathers toward encyclopedic culture was at various times well-disposed or extremely cautious, according to their different approaches to classical culture in general.
Greek patrology shows significant cases of appreciation and adherence, such as that of Origen who, in a letter to Gregory Thaumaturgus, exhorted his friend to put Greek philosophy and evgku,klia maqh,mata at the service of the Christian faith; or of Anatolius, bishop of Laodicea, who according to Eusebius had studied all, or nearly all, of the liberal disciplines. Recife Map Above all, it is in Latin patrology that we meet a genuine attempt to reorganize in a Christian sense the system of the disciplines or liberal arts, by another name that had first been given comprehensive treatment in Varro’s nine Disciplinarum libri. If Lactantius Institutiones III, 25, 1 praised the function of the disciplinae as a preparation for philosophy, it was Augustine who put forward a concrete plan for an adaptation of the Varronian encyclopedia. Recife Map Of this project, a rough sketch of which can in some sense be traced in the excursus on the disciplinae contained in book II of De ordine, Augustine only succeeded in completing a Liber de grammatica lost, at least in its original version and six books De musica which, though limited to the rhythmic-metrical aspect, are the most prestigious treatise in dialogue form on musical aesthetics in all of patristic literature.
Also linked to the encyclopedic tradition are the treatises of Boethius’s socalled quadrivium only a De arithmetica and a De musica remain, based exclusively on Greek sources and with no explicit connection with Augustine and the patristic tradition and esp. book II of Cassiodorus’s Institutiones, a sort of handbook for the use of the monks of Vivarium, which joins a summary treatment of the essential principles of each discipline to a list of books available in their own library. An encyclopedic compendium of great prestige throughout the Middle Ages extended from the quadrivium to other sciences was that contained in Isidore of Seville’s Etymologiae which, however, along with an ambitious plan of cultural synthesis, reveals clear lacunae due to the general decadence of the period. We cannot speak properly of an encyclopedic culture for the insular culture of the 7th and 8th c., despite the interest of the Venerable Bede in disciplines such as arithmology, the science of nature and perhaps even music; we must await the 9th c. and the Carolingian Renaissance for the great syntheses of an Augustine, a Boethius, a Cassiodorus or an Isidore to be thoroughly and definitively included in the cultural development of medieval Christian literature.