Bulletin of Hispanic Studies

The 'Discovery of Aristocracy' in Twelfth-Century Spain: Portraits of the Secular Élite in the Poem of Almería

Bulletin of Hispanic Studies (2006), 83, (6), 453–468.

Abstract

Between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries the role of the secular élite in western European society was discussed, redefined and celebrated by clerical writers as never before, while the aristocracy itself embraced the 'higher ethos' of knighthood that began to circulate and became far more concerned to broadcast its claims to social dominance and exclusivity than had previously been the case. This article explores the manner in which the burgeoning 'cult of aristocracy' was embraced in the realms of Christian Iberia, paying particular attention to the Poem of Almería of c.1150, a Latin epic song of praise to the military prowess of the court magnates of Alfonso VII of León-Castile (1126–57). It is argued that although it is tempting to regard the work as the swan-song of a dying Latin epic tradition, in ideological terms the Poem, with its exuberant celebration of the aristocratic ethic, marked a strikingly original departure in peninsular literary composition.

Durante los siglos XI al XIII el papel de la nobleza en la Europa occidental fue discutido por escritores eclesiásticos como nunca antes lo había sido. Por su parte, la aristocracia adoptó con entusiasmo los altos valores de la caballería que comenzaban a propagarse y se afanó en proclamar su predominio social. Este artículo explora la manera en la que el creciente 'culto a la aristocracia' se propagó en los reinos cristianos de la peninsula ibérica, concentrándose particularmente en el Poema de Almería (a.1150), una alabanza épica en latín a las destrezas militares de los magnates de la corte de Alfonso VII de Castilla y León (1126–57). Se discute que aunque esta obra podría ser considerada como el canto del cisne de una tradición épica en latín en vías de extinción, en términos ideológicos el poema, con su exuberante celebración de los valores aristocráticos, supuso sin lugar a dudas una original aportación a la literatura peninsular.

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Barton, Simon