Wednesday, December 30, 2020

From Bride to Groom: A Medieval Tale of Iphis, Gower's Confessio Amantis IV.451ff

TRIGGER WARNING: infanticide (exposure)

Hic ponit exemplum super eodem, qualiter rex Ligdus uxori suae Thelacusae pregnanti minabatur, quod si filiam pareret, infans occideretur, quae tamen postea cum filiam ediderat, Ysis dea partus tunc presens filiam nomine filii Yphi appellari ipsamque more masculi educare admonuit, quam pater filium credens, ipsam in maritagium filiae cuiusdam principis aetate solita copulavit, sed cum Yphis debitum suae coniugi unde solvere non habuit, deos in sui adiutorium interpellat, qui super hoc miserti femineum genus in masculinum ob affectum naturae in Yphe per omnia transmutarunt. 

--John Gower, Confessio Amantis, Latin summary IV.451ff

When King Ligdus threatened his pregnant Thelacusa that if she gave birth to a daughter, she ought to expose it. However, when she gave birth to a daughter, the goddess Isis advised her to name the child “Iphis,” (the name of a son), and to raise the child as a boy. Iphis’ father believed that he had a son, and when the child was an appropriate age, he betrothed Iphis into wedlock with the daughter of a certain lord. But since Iphis did not have the appropriate parts to consummate the marriage [debitum suae coniugi unde solvere non habuit], Iphis begged the gods to help; they pitied Iphis and transformed the suppliant from a girl into a boy, in every way necessary.



Name:  John Gower

Date:  1330 – 1408 CE

Works:  Confessio Amantis



Region 1: Peninsular Italy; Region 2: Western Europe; Region 3: Western Coast of Africa; Region 4: Egypt and Eastern Mediterranean; Region 5: Greece and the Balkans



 John Gower was a 14th century English poet. He was a contemporary and peer of Geoffrey Chaucer; both authors use overlapping characters and themes. Although his Confessio Amantis was written in English, the Latin text of this story was taken from the summaries that the author wrote for each chapter in Latin.


Early Roman Lit: through 2nd c BCE: Republican Rome: through 1st c. BCE; Golden Age: 70 BCE to 18 CE; Silver Age: 18 CE to 150 CE; Age of Conflict: 150 CE - 410 CE; Byzantine and Late Latin: after 410 CE

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