Archive for May 13th, 2014

May 13, 2014

Mirrors for Princes

cyropaedia

Machiavelli

Mirrors for princes refers to a genre of political writing during the Middle Ages (5th to the 15th century) and the Renaissance (14th to the 17th century). They are best known in the form of textbooks which directly instruct kings or lesser rulers on certain aspects of rule and behavior, but in a broader sense, the term is also used to cover histories or literary works aimed at creating images of kings for imitation or avoidance.

They were often composed at the accession of a new king, when a young and inexperienced ruler was about to come to power. They could be viewed as a species of self-help book. Possibly the best known European ‘mirror’ is ‘Il Principe’ (‘The Prince’) (c. 1513) by Machiavelli, although this was not a typical example.

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May 13, 2014

Wisdom Literature

proverbs

psalms

Wisdom literature is a genre of literature common to the Ancient Near East characterized by sayings of wisdom intended to teach about divinity and about virtue. While techniques of traditional storytelling are used, books also presume to offer insight and wisdom about nature and reality.

The genre of ‘mirrors for princes’ (textbooks which directly instruct monarchs on certain aspects of rule and behavior), which has a long history in Islamic and Western Renaissance literature, represents a secular cognate of biblical wisdom literature. In Classical Antiquity, the advice poetry of Hesiod, particularly his ‘Works and Days’ (ca. 700 BCE, a farmer’s almanac in which Hesiod instructs his brother Perses in the agricultural arts) has been seen as a like-genre to Near Eastern wisdom literature.

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