Unfinished Animus In Middle Age

Genius Figure In The Middle Ages

Christian writers, after examining very carefully other classical definitions of the Genius, synthesized the many, by envisioning an over-all pattern, and moralized the figure. The moralization made the god palatable to the Christian reader. It also affected the allegorical and literary appearance of the Genius for the next four centuries .



The number of classical authors defining or using Genius in some way, and accessible to a twelfth- century writer, was very large. Terence, Persius, Horace, Ovid, Tibullus, Juvenal, Virgil, Cicero, to name a few, were copied, recopied, and read during the period from the sixth to the twelfth century. Apuleius, Augustine (and through him, Varro), the Christian apologist, Calcidius (and through him Plato), Macrobius, Servius, Martianus Capella- many writers of the late classical and early medieval period found a receptive audience in the scholars of the Middle Ages.

Eye of a needle1


The renaissances of the ninth and the twelth centuries, characterized by a revival of interest in the classics, stimulated their transmission, many other classical authors, in addition to those listed above, were cited copiously in scholia, florilegia, glosses, commentaries, cyclopedias, and  libri manuales.


Most of the ideas and definitions of Genius- with the exception of those involving the State cult of the imperial Genius, the Genius of the city, and related popular beliefs, which did not appeal to the medieval mind- were available in some form in the twelfth century. Frequently, however, scholia from the classics were used to define Genius without acknowledgement of authorship and understanding of all the philosophical  and religious implications of the figure.


Jane Chance Nitzsche, The Genius Figure in Antiquity and the Middle Ages, 1975


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