JEAN DE MEUN'S TRANSLATION OF MILITARY TERMINOLOGY IN VEGETIUS' "EPITOMA REI MILITARIS"

RENE GUY B MONGEAU, Fordham University

Abstract

Jean de Meun, known principally for the continuation of the Roman de la Rose, was also a translator. Vernacular translators made certain Ancient writers available to a larger public unable to read the original. In the thirteenth century Jean de Meun continued this interest in antiquity by translating the well-known military treatise Epitoma Rei Militaris, composed in the late fourth century by the Roman administrator Flavius Vegetius Renatus and edited in 1885 by Carl Lang.^ As implied by the title Epitoma Rei Militaris, Vegetius compiled and synthesized all the military knowledge known to him. The treatise was actually of little use to the Romans, for cavalry of the fourth century was gradually replacing the infantry of the legion. To the contrary, Vegetius' manual was very popular throughout the Middle Ages. His popularity grew especially in the thirteenth century when the role of the infantry increased and the need for national forces required effective training and military discipline which are continuously emphasized by Vegetius. During the latter part of the thirteenth century, there appeared in France three translations: the best known was Jean de Meun's, followed by Priorat's verse translation and one in an Anglo-Norman dialect. Jean de Meun's translation was commissioned in 1284, by "nobles princes Jehans, (de Brienne) contes d'Eu", who belonged to an illustrious French family of crusaders. The long military tradition of the Brienne family explains Jean I's strong interest in Vegetius' treatise.^ The translation, L'Art de chevalerie, was first edited by Ulysse Robert in 1897 and recently by Leena Lofstedt in 1977 under the title Li Abregemenz Noble Honme Vegesce Flave Rene des Establissemenz Apartenanz a Chevalerie. Both editors agreed with the critics that Jean de Meun was faithful to the original with one noticeable exception, his translation of military terms.^ A detailed study of Jean de Meun's translation of military words has never been undertaken; the purpose of the thesis is to examine the military terminology to determine to what extent the translator adapted the Roman treatise in his effort to up-date a fourth-century treatise to thirteenth-century use. The thesis consists of an examination of Jean de Meun's translating techniques (Introduction) and a brief discussion of the term chevalerie and the various forces and social changes which shaped the concept (Chapter I). It also includes an analysis of a select group of military words which fall into three basic categories: words for the legion's personnel (Chapters II and III), for its organization (Chapters IV and V) and for its armament (Chapters VI, VII and VIII). In addition, it is hoped that this study will clarify Jean de Meun's intentions and performance as a translator and will give insight into thirteenth-century warfare.^ The survey of Jean de Meun's translation of military terminology reveals a translator intentionally relying on and systematically using anachronisms for the purpose of adapting Vegetius' treatise, thereby converting the Roman didactic military manual into one on medieval warfare. In the process of adaptation, Jean de Meun had to consider basic differences between the Roman and medieval systems: in contrast to the legionaires who were infantry with few exceptions, the chevaliers, heavy armed cavalrymen, were the dominant force in battle. The anachronistic term chevalier with its many connotations was used for a Roman soldier insofar as his behavior was exemplary; otherwise variants appeared. At times the anachronisms forced the translator to alter the Latin text. Ranks of the legionaries, as well as their arms and armor, had to undergo similar transformation to conform to chevalerie. Siege equipment, described by Vegetius, was changed to reflect medieval warfare. L'Art de chevalerie addressed itself to military problems of the late thirteenth-century: organization, discipline, training, tactics and siege warfare. ^

Subject Area

Literature, Medieval

Recommended Citation

MONGEAU, RENE GUY B, "JEAN DE MEUN'S TRANSLATION OF MILITARY TERMINOLOGY IN VEGETIUS' "EPITOMA REI MILITARIS"" (1981). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8111550.
http://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI8111550

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