Why Hincmar would have blogged…

…if he hadn’t been dead for 1100 years. Now, I know there are long-dead people with blogs, like Antoninus Pius and Geoffrey Chaucer, but to arrange that for Hincmar someone would have to metaphorically channel his spirit. And I really wouldn’t advise that with Hincmar.

Three reasons why Hincmar would have blogged:

1) Getting back at enemies

I once had to try and find a picture to illustrate a flyer for an internet project on Hincmar. I couldn’t find one of Hincmar, so ended up using a nice one of Isidore of Seville instead. A colleague commented that this was appropriate, since Isidore is the patron saint of the internet. To which my immediate thought was: in that case shouldn’t Hincmar be the patron saint of the flame war?

When I was trying to get to grips with Hincmar’s political career I found it necessary at an early point to make a brief list of all the significant disputes he was involved in, to keep them straight in my mind. And I needed this because if I wanted to discuss how a pope reacted to a specific decision by Hincmar on a marriage case, I have to remember that that pope was probably simultaneously arguing with Hincmar on three different unrelated cases, and his decision may have been driven by this more than the facts of this particular case.

And Hincmar’s dispute weren’t just numerous and hostile, but often extremely wordy. The MGH has published a whole 600 page volume (Conc 4 Supplement 2) just on his conflict with his nephew Hincmar of Laon. The possibilities for him of daily invective on his own blog would have been irresistible.

2) Forging ahead

The Carolingian period was an age of forgery and misuse of documents and Hincmar was a serial offender, forging privileges, inventing visions and deliberately misquoting patristic texts. The opportunities on the internet for false attributions, easy cut and pastes from Patrologia Latina or simply altering original documents would have given him huge scope. (As for Hincmar given a chance to edit Wikipedia, it doesn’t bear thinking about).

3) More efficient haranguing of rulers

Hincmar’s urge to tell rulers what to do was life-long, but hampered by poor technology. When he decided that the advice he and fellow bishops had given to Louis the German in 858 was also pertinent to Charles the Bald, he would have had to have had an additional copy of the letter made and sent out. With a blog, however, he could simply have posted a short (or more probably long) admonition, and then e-mailed the link simultaneously to ludwig@rex.de, charles@rex.fr, Louis2@imp.it and even Lothar2@rex.lo, thus leaving him extra time to make the lives of his suffragan bishops miserable.

Next week: Lupus of Ferrières meets LibraryThing.


2 thoughts on “Why Hincmar would have blogged…

  1. Always sense and no sensibility towards this poor Hincmar I see: I know you Magistra et Mater! Congratulations for this exhilarating blog! For my part I “channel my spirit” with (anonymous) authors of early medieval Hagiography…
    Best wishes from Jean Devisse’s spirit & I (alias Hincmar’s fan club)


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