This paper examines Augustine’s mysterious correspondent in Epp. 46-47, an exchange about religious practices of pagan barbari. Publicola, a N. African landowner, regularly hired Berbers to transport his shipments, and evinced serious concerns about pollution: would employees, crops, or travelers be polluted by the pagan Berber’s oaths by their ‘demon’ gods? He also worried about sacrificial meats.
Moreau identified ‘Publicola’ with ‘Publicola 1’, son of Melania 1, despite his Latin style. Lepelley found him psychologically inadequate. I will argue, however, not for a Roman aristocrat, nor a Christian neurotic, but a Christian convert from Judaism, bringing specifically Jewish perspectives on miasma to his Christianity.
The Interpretations of Hebrew Names – a biblical glossary of Hebrew and Aramaic words – exists in hundreds of manuscripts and provides a key to the use and dissemination of Bibles in late medieval Europe. The evolution of this glossary, from Jerome to Langton, is intertwined with changes in biblical manuscripts; its nature displays an interest in the Semitic origins of the biblical text, predating humanists and reformers alike. However, its entries complex, rather than simplify, the biblical text, and it refers to enigmatic words, lacking in the Vulgate. A study of late medieval sermons suggests a prime audience for this glossary, explains its complexities and provides reasons for its abrupt disappearance.
During the 1400s, a dichotomy developed in Spain between conversos (converts from Judaism to Christianity or descendants of converts) and Old Christians (those with a pure Christian ancestry) according to which conversos were perceived as crypto-Jews. As a result, conversos became subject to discrimination and persecution. Converso poets demonstrate an awareness of this hostile climate in works in which they underscore their inferior status in humorous terms. In this study I consider some of these works against a psychoanalytical backdrop, in particular with regard to features of Jewish humor, in order to identify the manners by which converso humor functions and to suggest a social motivation for its employment.