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The Knight quoting Aristotle

It might be surprising for some readers to know that a 15th-century knight, who spent most of his adult life taking part in wars and campaigns, would be a fan of the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle (384–322 BC). Such is the case, however, with Jean de Bueil, the author of Le Jouvencel. In fact, in the Prologue of this work Jean explains that this book will emulate Aristotle’s writings by dividing his book up into three sections.

Later on in the book Jean references several of Aristotle’s works, including Politics, The Nicomachean Ethics, and even History of Animals. This should not be too surprising, as there was much interest during the Middle Ages in the works of classical authors such as Aristotle. The fact that Jean de Bueil repeatedly notes him is a way of demonstrating that he too was learned and well-read.

One interesting thing to note is how Jean makes use of a particular quote of the Greek philosopher and applies it to a military sense. In The Nicomachean Ethics Aristotle says, ““The beginning seems to be more than half of the whole.” (Another way of translating it is “Well begun is half done.”). Jean offers his own take on that phrase, writing at the beginning of Part III of Le Jouvencel: “For as the philosopher says, a good beginning is half the battle.”

Jean de Bueil and his Le Jouvencel are the main topic of our new issue of Medieval Warfare. Click here to learn more about it.

 

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