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Corporal terror: critiques of imperialism in The Siege of Jerusalem.

In defining the relationship between violence and justice in "The Critique of Violence," Walter Benjamin suggests that violence must be evaluated "within the sphere of means, themselves, without regard for the ends they serve." (1) As Giorgio Agamben points out, this moment in Benjamin's essay is informative for the function of sovereignty and law because it identifies violence as a "pure medium" and "a means that ... is considered independently of the ends that it pursues." (2) Benjamin and Agamben's definition of violence within a context that eliminates its justificatory value characterizes the way one late-medieval English poet represents the corporal violence inflicted on Jews in the first-century Roman siege of Jerusalem. (3) The Jewish bodies that appear in the late fourteenth-century alliterative romance, The Siege of Jerusalem, are afflicted by a kind of violence that demands attention to the violence itself, not its "necessity" within salvation history. While the christological "ends" of such violence are the supersession of the old Judaic law and the punishment of Jews for their "crime" of crucifying Christ, the Siege-poet consistently diverts attention from this purpose to critique violence as a means divorced from its end. The violated Jewish bodies possess no value or rights within the operation of Roman sovereignty over Jerusalem, and are accordingly reduced to what Agamben calls "bare life." (4) As extinguishable entities, these Jewish corpores assume a didactic power that modulates this anti-Semitic homily with a condemnation of Roman imperialism: the disciplined bodies are on display, creating a collective image that teaches its audience both the vengeance of God and the cruelty of Roman imperial siege-craft. (5)

The Siege-poet reinterprets scenes in his sources that would normally incite virulent anti-Semitism in medieval Christians, such as Christ's passion, the flaying of Caiaphas, and Jewish mother Maria's eating of her child, and transforms them into moments that exhibit the pitiable fate of the Jews and evince his disgust for the cruelty of the Roman conquerors. As the humanity of the besieged Jews grows, the newly baptized besieging Romans, Vespasian and Titus, increasingly embody the surfeit of their pagan predecessor Nero by expressing exorbitant enthusiasm about their imperial stature and exacting excessive punishment of their enemies. Vespasian and Titus face moral and corporal dilemmas that efface their Christian identities, enhance their desire for power, and reflect their moral inferiority to Jews like Josephus. The result is an unexpected redirection in the poem's object of critique from the bodies of Christ-killing Jews to those of the bullion-hungry Romans.

The Siege of Jerusalem is primarily known as a vitriolic invective against the Jews for crucifying Christ that delights in describing scenes of excessive violence. (6) Understandably, few scholars have been able to avert their gaze from the horrifying fate of the Jews in the poem to acknowledge the complex investigations of Roman imperialism that emerge through these disturbing scenes of corporal malady and dismemberment. (7) After all, few late medieval Christians would have been able to distinguish irrational prejudice against Jews from their religious doctrine, which taught that the destruction of Jerusalem was a sign of God's providence. I do not deny the presence of the anti-Semitic discourse that runs throughout the poem--its existence is indisputable. However, scholarly focus on the poem's anti-Semitism has obscured the Siege-poet's exploration of the relationship between assertions of sovereignty and corporal violence. This essay explores the way that the Siege-poet treats the bodies of the Jews and Romans as sites of anxiety-producing indeterminacy and recasts them as objects of both punishment and compassion. As I will demonstrate, when the poem's scenes of corporal violence are read as didactic in nature, it becomes clear that the graphic detail of these scenes are a manifestation of a pessimistic martial discourse that does not delight, but rather, instills a deep, emotionally overwrought ambivalence about the horrors of war and empire-building. The sympathy for the Jews that the Siege-poet interjects therefore directs attention to the cruelty, imperial intentions, and internal division of a Roman Empire that had been fictively recast in the fourteenth century as newly Christian. Ultimately, the relentless succession of scenes of violence demands that readers question the martial ethics not only of the superseded pagan Roman Empire of Nero, but also of constructions of empire based on the logic of Christian "justice" embodied in the converted Titus and Vespasian.

As hard as they may try, Titus and Vespasian are unable to shed their Old Roman imperial identities. Even after the virtuous Jew, Josephus, heals his crippled body, Titus cannot control the wrath against the "Christ-killers" in exacting the siege that he inherited from his father Vespasian, who is continually described as "wrope" [angry] (371), "wode wedande wrop" [raging mad with anger] (385), and "wrop as a wode bore" [angry as a wild boar] (781) in his confrontations with his Jewish enemies, an emotion that is in direct contrast to the Jews who talk "mekly" (338) and fight as "ferce men & noble" (867). (8) The Siege-poet's compassionate characterization of the Jews is especially unique given his sources in Flavius Josephus' The Jewish Wars and Ranulph Higden's Polychronicon, which describe the Jews as filled with "impetuosity and unbridled rage" (6.159) (9) and "furor cum temeritate" (429). (10) Through new interpretations of these scenes, the Siege-poet attributes the Jewish rage in his sources to the vengeance of the Vespasian, which he consequently translates to Titus when he grants him control of the siege. Titus and Vespasian, as representatives of a Christian Roman Empire, would have held a unique significance for a late fourteenth-century British audience because they serve both as the imperial predecessors of Britain and as the tools of divine vengeance. The extensive illustrations of Roman siegecraft and glorified annihilation of a heathen Jerusalem has even led Malcolm Hebron to claim that poem "emphasizes the heroism of the Romans and the exotic strangeness of the defenders." (11) While I believe this reading can be supported, this essay argues the opposite, claiming that the heroism of the Romans is undercut by intimate and sympathetic depictions of Jewish corporal destruction. At times, it may even appear that the Siege-poet "cheerfully sanction[s]" the violence the Romans inflict upon the Jews, but his overall perspective of Christian imperialism is more ambivalent than it seems. (12)

This interrogation of imperialism is remarkable because it runs counter to the dominant ideology of empire in the Middle Ages, that of the translatio imperii. This optimistic model of imperial translation is most clearly expressed through Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia regum Britannie, a text that establishes itself as Trojan and British history through its articulation of a genealogy, which causally connects the destruction of Troy with the birth of Rome and Britain. Galfridian historiography has fascinated many modern scholars because this transfer of empire is traceable in a vast number of consequent historical and literary works, including alliterative romance. The Historia's historiographical influence has gained so much critical currency that Geraldine Heng has even claimed that "Geoffrey's Historia ... supplies a foundational mythology irresistible to insular monarchs and virtually ensures that the Historia, issuing the foundational myth of Britain, will furnish the conditional matrix for imagining England as well." (13) Positing the Historia's legitimizing influence as providing a "matrix" for the English imaginary informs late medieval conceptions of historical and royal authority, but its singularity has obscured other strains of historiography which did not provide such optimistic and linear models.

This essay calls into question Geoffrey's influence on British perspectives of imperialism and romance through the consideration of the historiography of the Siege-poet. By treating the bodies of Jewish victims and Roman conquerors as irredeemable casualties of imperialism, he articulates what Agamben has characterized as the biopolitical nature of the sovereign body, which necessarily inflicts corporal violence to assert power. (14) Agamben's theory of sovereignty originates in the ancient Roman law that posited criminals as homines sacri, a label that accorded them a contradictory status of both sacred and profane. In other words, the homo sacer may not be sacrificed, yet he may be killed by anyone with impunity. (15) This ambivalence of the sacred eliminates any divine or civil value for the criminal and reduces him to the status of "bare life." (16) Such an evacuation of criminal life makes all humans potential homines sacri and subject to unsanctionable killing by state or sovereign authority. (17) The Siege-poet's critique of this reduction of the Jewish body to that of "bare life" reflects an awareness of the operation of sovereignty that is remarkably anti-Galfridian, since it does not reflect an optimism about the destruction of cities and the imperial glory of Rome that is the basis of Geoffrey's theory of empire.


The most compellingly didactic figure that articulates pessimism about empire throughout The Siege of Jerusalem is the mutilated body. Christ's scourging begins this motif, setting the inimitable example of a body that is both sacred to the faithful and criminal to his persecutors. As Sarah Beckwith notes, Christ's body, both in the late medieval passion and eucharist, was "the very meeting place of the sacred and the profane" that acknowledged both his human and divine nature. (18) For modern anthropologists, the destroyed human body of Christ represents the paradox of the homo sacer. As Agamben points out, over time the Latin term sacer came to signify both sacrality and criminality, creating an ambivalence of the sacred that had been previously noted by Freud, among others. But in his examination of the phenomenon of homo sacer, Agamben suggests:

What defines the status of homo sacer is therefore not the originary ambivalence of the sacredness that is assumed to belong to him, but rather both the particular character of the double exclusion into which he is taken and the violence to which he finds himself exposed. This violence--the unsanctionable killing that, in his case, anyone may commit--is classifiable neither as sacrifice nor as homicide, neither as the execution of a condemnation to death nor as sacrilege. Subtracting itself from the sanctioned forms of both human and divine law, this violence opens a sphere of human action that is neither the sphere of sacrum facere nor that of profane action. (19)

This "double exclusion" refers to the location of the homo sacer outside both human and divine jurisdiction, which attributes a liminality to the body that obscures its status as distinctly sacred or criminal. Agamben connects the structure of this violent sacratio of the victim with what he calls the "sovereign sphere," which is the political space wherein the sovereign subject has license to take human life without declaring the act as homicidal or sacrificial. This leads him to conclude that, "[t]he sacredness of life, which is invoked today as an absolutely fundamental right in opposition to sovereign power, in fact originally expresses precisely both life's subjection to a power over death and life's irreparable exposure in the relation of abandonment." (20) The disturbing consequence of this compelling logic is that the quintessence of sovereign or imperial power is the violence it may inflict on human life. Read this way, Christ's body, in its subjection to Roman sovereignty, possesses no individual right to life or sacrificial power and instead serves as first casualty of Roman imperialism in the poem. The emphasis on Christ's corporal destruction invites readers to dwell on his human, expendable nature in addition to his spiritual transcendence and central role in providential history.

Most critics will acknowledge that the fourteenth century environment, which Eustache Deschamps described as an "age of tears, of envy, of torment ... [an] age of decline nigh to the end," may have contributed to the pessimism that runs through the extensive illustrations of bodily violence and digressive expressions of moral outrage. (21) Yet, few modern readers of The Siege of Jerusalem are willing to acknowledge the genealogy of destruction that this poem reaffirms. Michael Livingston notes the "dark" perspective of the poem, but insists that the Siege-poet believed that "the downward spiral of society would end, finally and inevitably." (22) To prove this point, he turns to the poem's articulation of divine providence, which begins and ends with a visitation of Christ. (23) While it is correct that the poem begins with a visit from Christ, it is a macabre vision, in which Christ is bloodied with scourges (9-12). Such scenes of Christ's passion in the late fourteenth century were commonplace, but in this poetic context Christ's scourged body serves both as the catalyst for future destruction and as an emblem of the corporal violence that runs throughout the poem, just as his "blode ran as rayn [i]n pe strete" (12). The blood of the crucified Christ marks all in its path, from Titus' facial lesion (30-32) to the Eucharistic sacrifice of Maria's child (1081-88), both healing and destroying those it affects. Likewise, if we try to identify to what Livingston calls "Christ's second visitation" at the end of the poem, we are bound to be disappointed. After the Romans have obliterated Jerusalem and then sowed the land with salt (1295), they collect their booty and head home (1337-40). Presumably, Livingston reads the last half-line of the poem, "now rede ous oure Lord" (1340) as the path to Christ's second coming, which he claims, "lies just beyond the end of the poem," but such a stock ending surely carries less eschatological weight. In fact, Livingston aptly notes that these lines describe a return home to Rome, both physically and spiritually, which indicates the path of the imperial line more than a fulfillment of prophecy. (24) Very little of this passage exhibits Christian optimism--rather it focuses on the treasure obtained and the disturbingly gleeful singing of the soldiers as they return home. I suggest that we read this "joy" within the context of previous events, which are the destruction of the temple, the selling of the Jews, and the suicide of Pontius Pilate. Even if we are to read these events as divinely sanctioned as the consequence of Christian supersession, the ending stanza does not reaffirm the justice of these acts. Instead, the Romans ride away with an ill-gotten profit of imperialism established through an arrogant display of violence. (25)


Christ's spiritual transcendence in the passion sequence is modulated by his role as homo sacer, which paradoxically posits his mutilated body as just one of the many casualties of Roman imperialism. As an object of corporal punishment, Christ's body is surprisingly equated with the bodies of Jews, which are also scourged and crucified for their crimes. Scholars have noted the Siege-poet's obsession with these disturbing images of Jewish mutilations. (26) The most unforgettable instance of anti-Semitic corporal violence is the flaying of Caiaphas and other Jewish clerics, an act that the Siege-poet describes as an antitype of Christ's passion and crucifixion:
   Domesmen vpon de[y]es
   pat ech freke were quyk fleyn
   [Firste] to be on a bent
   And sup honget on an hep
   pe feet to pe firmament,
   With hony vpon ech [half]
   Corres and cattes with
   Foure kagge[d] and knyt
   Twey apys at his armes
   pat renten pe rawe flesche
   So was he pyned fram prime
   Tille pe sonne doun s[yed]

   demeden swype
   pe felles of clene;
   with blonkes todrawe
   vpon heye galwes,
   alle folke to byholden,
   pe hydeles anonynted;
   claures ful scharpe
   to Cayphases peyes;
   to angren hym more
   vpon rede peces.
   with persched sides
   in [pe] somere tyme.

[The judges upon the dais decide quickly that each man would be flayed alive, cleaned of the flesh; first to be drawn upon a field by horses, and then hanged all together upon a high gallows, the feet to the sky, for all people to behold; the hideless were anointed with honey upon each half; four dogs and cats with very sharp claws were caught and latched to Caiaphas' thighs, two apiece at his arms to torment him more that rent the raw flesh into red pieces. Thus was he pained from prime with pierced sides until the sun set in the summer time.] (27)

While such attention to the detail of the punishment may express an anti-Semitic odium against Caiaphas and his fellow priests, there is more than sadistic hate going on here. This juridical act is performed with a pedagogical objective in mind--the revered clerics are not simply flayed, but flayed publicly, for "alle folke to byholden," which implies that all who observe the fate of their bodies will learn not to betray their allegiance to Rome. Vespasian intensifies this lesson by ordering the bodies to be burnt "into browne askes" (720) and their remains to be blown back over the walls of the Jerusalem. He even takes his message a step further, beseeching his soldiers to cry out to the Jews, "Ther is doust for your drynke!" (723) and "bidde hem bible of that broth for the bischop soule" [bid them imbibe of that broth for the bishop's soul] (724). By having his men desecrate the remains of the priests and force the Jews to drink in their ashes, Vespasian orders the besieged to become cannibals. This cannibalism is a parody of the passion and the Eucharist: Caiaphas is tortured, executed, and consumed in a way that both meets and exceeds the violence of Christ's crucifixion. Like Christ, Caiaphas is pierced in his side (707), but the Romans amplify his suffering by having him drawn (699) and rent by dogs and cats (703-6). Caiaphas and his fellow priests' bodies are burnt into ashes to prevent any possibility of bodily resurrection and then they are literally, without any divine act of transubstantiation, fed to the living Jews. And at the same time that the Siege-poet establishes these Jews as antitypes of Christ, their dispersed remains symbolize the diaspora that the destruction of Jerusalem will effect. The Siege-poet sums up the nature and message of their death:
   pus ended coursed Cayphas
   Al tobrused myd bestes,
   In tokne of tresoun
   Whan Crist prow h[ere]

   and his clerkes [twelf],
   brent at pe laste,
   and trey pat [p]e[y] wroght
   conseil was cached to dep.

[Thus Caiaphas and his twelve clerks died, completely mangled by beasts, finally burned as a token of treason and trouble that they wrought when through their counsel Christ was put to death.]

Here the Siege-poet identifies "tresoun" as the sin that Caiaphas and the twelve clerics committed through their "conseil." Through the use of these terms, the Siege-poet characterizes Caiaphas and the clerics as treasonous counselors for their role in convincing Pontius Pilate to inflict Roman punishment for a false cause. Their crime of deceptive "conseil" would have been subject to the Old Roman rite of sacratio in which the criminals would have been declared sacer. (28) Caiaphas and the clerics then join Christ as homines sacri, paying the ultimate price of their subjection to the Roman Empire. The more significant consequence of their misdeed is the ensuing destruction of their holy city, an obliteration that is intimately connected to the fate of their bodies.

If we follow the "flaying" motif throughout the poem, we discover that the death of the Jewish clerics parallels the imperial ascendancy of Vespasian and reaffirms what Agamben calls "the inseparability of the imperium from a power of death." (29) No figure of Roman history better embodies the association between empire and death than Vespasian's predecessor, Nero. After falling out of favor with the Roman people through his executions of Peter, Paul, and Seneca, and his burning of the city of Rome, Nero commits suicide, leaving the imperial throne vacant for a successor. After a series of botched emperorships, Vespasian is called to the seat, which raises a chivalric dilemma regarding the "breaking of truth." Vespasian had vowed to destroy Jerusalem and enact what he perceived as God's vengeance for the Jewish killing of Christ. He is, in the eyes of a Christian audience, also fulfilling the scriptural prophecy (Matthew 24:2), which would seemingly bind him to his task. Yet, Sir Sabyn of Syria beseeches Vespasian to break his vow and assume the imperial throne, using the following "flaying" logic: "For as fers is pe freke atte ferre ende / pat of-fleis pe fel as he pat foot holdep" [For the man at the far end who flays the skin is as fierce as he that holds the foot] (991-2). The language used here describes men engaged in breaking a deer, whereby one flays and the other holds the foot steady "atte ferre ende." Through this distich, Sir Sabyn makes the argument that Vespasian's chivalry and his attention to his vow to obliterate Jerusalem will remain intact even if his agency will reside at a geographical extremity, that is, Rome. By comparing the siege to the hunt, Sir Sabyn speaks to the sensibilities of an aristocratic audience who perceives hunting and hawking as staples of chivalric life. This flaying motif contributes to a larger pattern of hunting and hawking in the poem that David Lawton has characterized as "turning violence into the recreation of honourable men." (30) Vespasian agrees with this logic and leaves his son Titus "to wield the knife" in his stead, thereby privileging his own imperial stature to a fulfillment of Christian prophecy.

This means that Vespasian no longer has to be in the dirty business of flaying Jews--the demands of the Roman Empire call him to exact the fate of Jerusalem callously from afar. As Hanna aptly puts it, "the total action of the poem is constituted by the displacement through which torn flesh blandly gets transformed into Vespasian's heroic resolve and by the rule of agency through which such resolve animates cooperative underlings to perform 'enobling' acts of racial violence." (31) For Hanna and many readers, Vespasian's translation of power is presented to a late fourteenth- and early fifteenth-century audience as an act of good faith, which would support such imperial governance by proxy. To justify this reading, Hanna points to the poem's reception in the south by the scribe Richard Frampton, who in the 1410s copied The Siege of Jerusalem into the manuscript, Cambridge University Library (CUL) Mm.v.14. Hanna believes that Frampton worked for a "Lancastrian menage" in London, not only because of recorded payments from the Duchy of Lancaster or Henry IV, but also because of the Roman road between the Duchy center at Pontrefract in West Yorkshire and Lancaster that runs right by the monasteries at Whalley, Sawley, and Bolton, the probable sites for the poem's composition. (32) He further suggests that the Sir Sabyn's flaying argument speaks to an issue of governmental agency that brought about the Lancastrian assumption of the English throne in 1399. In short, Hanna views the poem and its support of monarchical proxies as "arguments justifying usurpation and regicide" that would have been important subjects of discussion within the Ricardian and Lancastrian courts. (33)

Speculating even further, Hanna suggests that the Siege-poet's fascination with flaying the flesh of Jews may have been easily assimilated by Lancastrian readers who inflicted similar religious violence upon Lollards who rejected the doctrine of transubstantiation. In absence of Jews who had been expelled in 1290, the Lollards "materialized the corpus Christi" and suffered the displaced cruelty of "Christian xenophobia." (34) Given the poem's composition near York, the notorious location of the 1190 pogrom, it is likely that The Siege of Jerusalem is a product of an environment of anti-Semitism. (35) It is also plausible, I believe, to envision flayed Jews as flayed Lollards in the midst of virulent religious intolerance that led to Arundel's Constitutions in 1409. (36) But, Hanna's argument rests on a reading of the poem that praises the imperialism of Vespasian and justifies xenophobic violence, a reading that I wish to call into question.

If we also consider the way the Siege-poet presents the flaying maxim and Vespasian's decision to become the Roman emperor within the poem itself, it becomes clear that Vespasian's imperial desires ultimately trump his original vow and belie readings that do not perceive the poem's critique of Vespasian's actions. By using the "flaying" language in this way, the Siege-poet connects the fate of the Jewish clerics with the fate of hunted deer and characterizes the Romans' treatment of the Jews as inhuman. For many readers of the poem, this dehumanization of the Jews is part and parcel of a larger accepted anti-Semitic tradition and would therefore seem unexceptional. However, as these scenes of Jewish dismemberment accumulate to a state of frenzy, the Siege-poet expresses compassion for the fate of the Jews. As I will demonstrate, the juxtaposition of the "flaying" scenes with a later questioning of these acts undermines what would otherwise be a glorious occasion for empire. Even by assuming the imperial throne, Vespasian cannot escape his culpability in the cruelty of the siege that he governs through his newfound inheritance.

The larger context of the flaying maxim supports this reading. Later in the poem, the Siege-poet continues his use of bodily violence and malady through Titus' corporal response to news of his father's imperial ascendance. The joy that overtakes him is so overwhelming that his body betrays his enthusiasm:
   And Titus for pe tydyng
   pat in his synwys soudeynly
   pe freke for pe fayndom
   With a cramp and a colde
   pat pe fyngres and feet,
   Was lypy as a leke
   Becroked agens kynde

   ha[p] take [so] mychel ioye
   a syknesse is fallen.
   of pe fadere blysse
   caught was so hard
   fustes and ioyntes
   and lost han here strengpe,
   and as a crepe1 woxen.

[And Titus took so much joy from the news that a sickness suddenly struck his sinews. Because of his joyousness for his father's happiness, he was caught so violently with a cramp and a cold that his fingers and feet, fists and joints, were as weak as a leaf and lost their strength. He became crooked against nature and grew like a cripple.]

This biopolitical moment in the poem articulates a dialectic of imperial desire and illness that threatens the capability of the Romans to sustain their siege against Jerusalem. The image of Titus as a "crepel," which according to the MED could refer both to a "cripple" and "dwarf," suggests a deflation of imperial power and descent to a death-like state that can only be remedied through the reduction of superfluous "ioye." (37) In his unnatural sickness, Titus neither possesses the physical nor imperial power to "wield the knife" that Vespasian has just bestowed upon him. As Christine Chism has argued, this moment "threatens the poem's trajectory towards a new Christian empire by introducing a premature ending, a Christian/Roman empire that has not fully assimilated the profits from the destruction of both its predecessors." (38) The revolt of his body reflects a resistance to imperial success that obstructs Titus' ability to carry out his Christian charge. His unnatural enthusiasm for the news of his imperial lineage indicates that he cannot fully divorce himself from Rome's destructive desire for power. Acting as the proxy for the sovereign body of his father, Titus' corporal reaction represents the inseparability of the sovereign's body from the physical body. Understood this way, the excessive zeal of the political body overwhelms Titus' physical body and confounds any separation of Roman imperial desire and Christian retribution. If Vespasian's preference for imperial authority and translation of power to Titus were to go unquestioned, we might embrace readings of the poem that legitimize the casualties of empire, but this is clearly not the case.

Failing to purge his imperial heritage and fantasies and escape the limitations that his body has imposed upon him, Titus seeks help from his Jewish enemies, who prove to be superior both in virtue and reason. (39) Titus sends for Josephus, who is not only a Jewish cleric and defender of Jerusalem, but also the same historian who wrote The Jewish Wars, an account of the siege that is sympathetic to the Romans. The choice to have a Jew provide counsel in such a medical matter not only violates medieval canon law that forbids Christians to consult Jewish physicians, but also defies the way most medieval Christians perceived the relationship between Jews and the body. (40) As Anna Abulafia suggests, since Jews refused to accept the orthodox teaching that God retained his divinity when assuming human form, "they were viewed by these Christians as lacking spiritual qualities and being dominated by their bodies." (41) A situation in which a Christian emperor, who cannot secure a Christian remedy for his body's revolt, consults the reason of a Jew is then of course ironic. And when we consider the bodily nature of the cure, it is clear that Titus is the one ruled by his body. Josephus obtains safe passage to Titus' bedside, where he presents a man whom Titus hates more than any other on the earth. The mere sight of this man inspires such "hote yre" (1050) that his blood resumes its course and revives his limbs to their former strength. Detailing the course of the blood as it restores his features articulates the relationship between superfluous wrath and healing. An excess of joy is therefore balanced by an excess of anger to resurrect Titus' lifeless body back to its "owen kynd" and his status as "kyng" (1054). (42) If this miracle is read according to the principles of patristic exegesis, it is curious to say the least. Not only does the Siegepoet offer no real explanation of this cure by wrath, but also he significantly alters his source, the Legenda Aurea of Jacobus de Voragine, in retelling it. (43) Jacobus continually denies the apocryphal miracle's significance and only recounts it because his own source includes it. Also, Jacobus specifically identifies this hated "segge" as Titus' slave and offers an explanation of the cure that opposites have the power to cure one another. (44) In The Siege of Jerusalem, the man who inspires such hatred is undoubtedly a Jew, since Josephus brings him from the city. This substitution attributes the cure entirely to Jews and "God of his grace" (1055) and leads into a scene of forgiveness between Titus and his enemy. Titus then offers Josephus a reward for his efforts, which Josephus rejects, choosing instead to return promptly to Jerusalem. (45) While these alterations may, as Chism contends, "dramatize[] the healthful consequences of balancing the furious need to destroy the Jews against the material profits of their continued existence," they also reveal the Siege-poet's admiration of benevolent Jews such as Josephus, who repress their own hostilities in offering compassion to an enemy. (46)

Instead of causing forgiveness and peace, Josephus' act of mercy unleashes the destructive power of a revived figure, a common type in alliterative romance. (47) Like a vivified corpse, Titus' healed body enacts further destruction that begins the line following Josephus' return to the city:
   Bot alle forsakep pe segge
   With condit as he come--
   [And] Tytus segyp pe toun
   For hard hunger and hote

   and to pe cite yede
   he kepip no more.
   per tene is on hande
   pat hem is bylompyn.

[But he refused the man and went to the city with safe conduct as he came--he kept nothing more. And Titus besieged the town where woe was at hand because of the intense and severe hunger that had befallen them.]

Both the visual and aural similarities between "segge" (man) and "segyp" (besieges) invite us to read them together, highlighting the abrupt transition between the miracle and the final days of the siege and suggesting that Titus' consequent actions are condemnable. The phrase "forsakep pe segge" and its proximity to "segyp pe toun," encourage us to imagine Titus as one who "forsakep pe sege (siege)" just as Josephus had forsaken all gold and jewels he had been offered for his services. Using the same grammatical positioning two lines later, the Siege-poet reverses the syntax so that attention is directed to Titus' identity as a cruel military commander, who callously "segyp pe toun." The clever introduction of such evocative aural and visual correspondences between "segge" and "sege" demarcates a clear line between the lesson of forgiveness and imperial vengeance. Having learned nothing from the Jewish "segge," the healed Titus continues the siege with renewed vigor.

Like his father before him, Titus' cruelty forces the Jews to revert to unnatural consumption and cannibalism, actions that inspire the Siege-poet's sympathy. After forty days of no food and water, the Siege-poet reports that the Jews must resort to drinking their own tears, and eating their shields and shoes (1071-76). To amplify the horror of the siege, the Siege-poet describes the fate of one Mafia, whose hunger deludes her into roasting and eating her own child:
   On Marie, a myld wyf,
   Hire owen barn bat ho bare
   Rostyp rigge and rib
   Sayp, 'sone, vpon eche side
   Batail aboute pe borwe
   Withyn h[u]nger so hote
   perfor yeld pat I pe gaf
   Entre per pou [o]ut cam',

   for meschef of foode,
   brad on pe gledis,
   with rewful wordes,
   our sorrow is alofte:
   our bodies to quelle;
   pat negh our herte brestyp.
   and agen tourne,
   and etyp a schouldere.

[One Maria, a well-born woman, because of food deprivation, her own child that she had borne she cooked on the coals, roasted its back and its ribs with lamentable words. She said, "Son, our troubles are coming from all sides: a battle outside the city to slay our bodies, and inside the city is hunger so fierce that it almost bursts our hearts. Therefore, give back to me the life that I gave you! Turn about and enter the body you came out from!" And she ate a shoulder.]

The reference to a "myld" or "noble" woman accentuates the uncharacteristic nature of her behavior and emphasizes the depths of despair that have driven a gende woman to commit such a base act. More importantly, the invocation of the name "Marie" and the expression of her sorrow encourage the reader to connect her suffering with that of the Virgin Mary when she watched her son Jesus be crucified. (48) Given the Virgin Mary's image as the quintessential mother who nursed the savior of humankind, aristocratic Christians would have been disturbed by the perversity of the scene. The reference to the Virgin Mary juxtaposed with the eating of a child, invites us to read this Maria as a monstrous version of Christ's Mary, who transforms from the bearer and nurturer of Jesus to a desperate cannibal, who justifies her fight to the consumption of his body by claiming that he will return to her stomach from whence he came. The Eucharistic nature of this cannibalism is even more explicit than Vespasian's earlier order to blow the ashes of Caiaphas and the other flayed Jewish clerks over the walls of Jerusalem for the living Jews to drink. By demanding that the Jews "bible" (724) or drink the powdered remains of the priests and then later reducing Maria to the eating of the shoulder of her child, the Siege-poet highlights the contaminated Eucharistic structure behind these antitypical acts. In these cases, no transubstantiation is necessary or desired--the ritual is raw in its literality and evokes the horror of those that discover Maria's sacrilege. (49) To medieval Christians, cannibalism was the most heinous crime one could commit because the act confused bodily identities and posed a problem to the last days when the bodies of the faithful would be reunited. (50) To make matters worse, it is the most vilified Other, the Jew, who violates the innocent body of a child, which conjures up images of other anti-Semitic allegations, such as child abuse, host desecration, and well-poisoning that were common after the twelfth century. (51) The image of a Jew devouring a child specifically plays on the Christian fear of Jewish ritual cannibalism, made famous at the German monastery at Fulda where Jews were accused of murdering five boys and drawing their blood for religious or medicinal purposes. (52) As Mid Rubin observes about such xenophobia, "the Jew came to carry all of the pent up anxiety, shame and fear which Christians harboured about themselves, their bodies, their God, their doubts, their desires." (53) Because of the horror of bodily fragmentation and the innocence of the Christ-like infant, its dismemberment strikes a ghastly note to the Christian reader.

In describing this episode, however, the Siege-poet does not use Maria's cannibalism to condemn the Jews. Instead, he alters his sources and provides sympathetic commentary through eyewitness testimony. The Siege of Jerusalem contains one of the earliest versions in English of this infamous tale of Maria's cannibalism and primarily depends on Josephus' account; however, the Siege-poet also draws from Hegesippus' fourth-century Latin redaction of The Jewish Wars, which uniquely includes Maria's claim that her child return to her womb. (54) Yet, instead of translating Hegesippus' condemnation of "factum Mariae, quod cuiusvis barbari atque impii mens perhorrescat" ["the deed of Maria, at which the mind of even the barbarian and the impious would shudder"], the Siege-poet offers no moral evaluation of Maria's act and emphasizes the pitiable nature of her state through a revised account of the eyewitnesses of this horror. (55) After smelling the roasting meat, starving Jews storm through her door, demanding their share. When she offers them a piece of her son they recoil in horror:
   [Forp] ey went for wo
   And sayn, 'alas in pis lif
   it beter were at o brayed
   pan pus in langur to lyue

   wep [ande sore]
   how longe schul we dwelle?
   in batail to deye
   and lengpen our fyne'.

[Because of their woe, they went away weeping grievously and saying, "Alas, how long shall we endure in this life? It would be better to die by one blow in battle than to live this way in languish and prolong our end."]

Far from rejoicing in their plight, the Siege-poet expresses ambivalence for the dire fate of the Jews in reproducing their sympathetic laments. This is in contrast to his source Josephus, who precedes this scene with a barbarization of his fellow Jews, claiming that they consume feces and other "food" that even the lowest of animals would reject (5.571). Instead of following his sources that emphasize the perversions of the Jews, the Siege-poet transforms the episode's effect from disgust to desperation. In the manner of the Kiddish ha-Shem or Sanctification of God's Name, they decide to sacrifice all who do not possess the strength to fight. (56) According to the Vindicta salvatoris, twelve thousand Jews slay one another to claim the glory of their own defeat, but in The Siege of Jerusalem, it is characterized as a mercy killing. (57) By creating a more desperate fate for the Jews, the Siege-poet does not paint their deaths as unjustified--that would be blasphemy--but rather condemns the manner of their deaths. Titus has amplified his power as an instrument of God to a level of imperial cruelty that transcends the ethics of Christian vengeance. The decision to kill themselves also intimately connects Jewish cannibalism and suicide in a way reminiscent of their earlier consumption of the ashes of Caiaphas and his fellow priests, which had been directly preceded by seven hundred Jews who "slow hemself for sorrow of here clerkes" (714). Here again, grief, not a desire for glory, instigates self-immolation. Both their refusal to indulge their hunger and their desire to die honorably elevates their virtues and reminds us of the temperance and grace of Josephus that directly precede Mafia's pitiable cannibalism. Through the juxtaposition of Jewish mercy and suffering, the actions of the Romans in the figure of Titus are called into question.

The Siege-poet's reluctance to embrace Jewish suffering likely originates in the Augustinian teaching that urged the preservation of Jews as the witnesses to Old Testament law. Based on manuscript evidence, the poem was most likely composed at Bolton Priory, which would make the Siege-poet an Augustinian canon who would have been conversant with not only a large number of Latin histories such as Ranulph Higden's Polychronicon, but also the Augustinian doctrine of toleration that was expressed through texts such as William of Newburgh's twelfth-century Historia rerum Anglicarum. (58) William's Historia is the most intimately connected with local Yorkshire history and expresses the sympathetic perspective of Judaism that the Siege-poet inherited. (59) Like The Siege of Jerusalem, William's chronicle contains explicit accounts of violence against Jews, but his subject is not the Roman siege of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. Instead, William covers the pogroms that occurred in Yorkshire in 1190, including both specific details of the riots and his own opinions about the necessity of preserving the Jewish race as physical representations of Christ's sacrifice (316-17). (60) Even though William unsurprisingly considers Jews to be the treacherous crucifiers of Christ, he also criticizes their barbarous treatment at the hands of avaricious English Christians (308-9; 312; 313). In his account of the massacre at York, he cites Psalm 59:12, which commands, "Slay them not, lest my people forget" (316). (61) This central passage to the Augustinian doctrine of toleration is the basis for the claim that Jews should be preserved since they serve as living witnesses of the Old Testament law. As Jeremy Cohen urges, however, "One ought not to characterize Augustine as an advocate of Jews and Judaism," since he did not stray from the standard patristic exegesis that supported their diaspora. (62) In following Augustine, William still expresses an anti-Judaic xenophobia, but he contextualizes the York pogrom with the siege at Masada (318-19), thereby providing a frame that redirects his ire to the persecuting Christians. He draws on Josephus' The Jewish Wars to describe the way the Jews in Clifford Tower slay themselves in avoidance of capture by the Christian townspeople, which increases his sympathy for the Jewish victims and compels him to condemn the Christian murderers. William even shockingly suggests:

With regard to these persons, whom savage excess executed thus, if there was no fiction in their petition for holy Baptism, I will assert, without hesitation, that their own blood baptized them, and by no means were robbed of its efficacy; but whether they sought the holy font with deception or without deception, the cruelty of those murderers is to be execrated without excuse. (63)

Here, William not only illustrates the baptismal power of their sacramental death, but also explicitly upbraids the actions of the Christians who enacted the pogroms. This defense of besieged Jews within the context of the Roman siege of Masada and William's use of Josephus translates almost seamlessly into the ideologically modulated anti-Semitism that we find in The Siege of Jerusalem.

The Siege-poet, most likely an Augustinian canon from Yorkshire as well, would have been familiar with the doctrine of toleration and Newburgh's history, which explains not only his disgust for anti-Semitic violence, but also his distrust of imperialistic enthusiasm. His adherence to this doctrine is confirmed in his description of the final days of the siege. The Roman besiegers are confronted with the sight of the emaciated bodies of the Jews and the sympathy expressed for the fate of the besieged increases. Titus makes his way into the city, smelling the dead corpses and viewing those who had become reduced to "[n]o gretter pan a grehounde to grype on pe medil" [no bigger than a greyhound to grip around the middle] (1252). Even though Titus "tariep noght'" (1253), the Seige-poet mterrnpts the narrative to lament that it "was pite to byholde" (1247). The humanity of the Jews also increases--whereas they are normally characterized as the infidel, the Jews now become "[w]ymmen" (1147), "ladies" (1249), "[b]urges" (1251) and "peple" (1247). Even though the Siege-poet ultimately sanctions their destruction, he cannot refrain from expressing what Elisa Narin van Court has called "the humanizing impulse" that mollifies the anti-Semitism of the narrative and condemns the imperial resolve of the Romans. (64)

From the scourged corpus Christi to the cannibalistic Maria, the Siege-poet inserts horrific illustrations of mutilated, dismembered, and revived bodies into his alliterative narrative not to delight bloodthirsty readers, but rather to emphasize the indiscriminate corporal damage that inheres to martial assertions of imperial sovereignty. The alliterative long line is an appropriate choice, not only because of its adaptability to historical themes, but also because of its ability to replicate the violence and frenetic pace of battle. As Thorlac Turville-Petre observes, alliterative poets such as the one who wrote The Siege of Jerusalem

realized how wonderfully alliterative verse, with its repeated emphasis on the stressed syllables, evoked the energy of a violent battle or a storm at sea, and some poets seize on every opportunity for a display of this sort. The Siege of Jerusalem is mainly taken up with endless descriptions of battles. Individually they are fairly powerful, but together they quite overwhelm the story. (65)

The relentless succession of scenes of dismemberment and corporal malady are so vivid and dominant that the poem reads as if it belongs to a new genre of medieval horror. Contrary to many modern readers of this poem, I believe that the Siege-poet's use of such violent imagery is not gratuitous, but rather purposeful. Through these horrific images, the Siege-poet obscures the message of Christian vengeance and submits the imperialism of the Romans to scrutiny. The employment of the alliterative line to present acts of violence provides the audience unmediated contact to the fervor and realities of warfare. Attention is consistently directed to victimized bodies, which exhibits a corporal didacticism that privileges compassion over vengeance. While a providential structure is certainly evident and consistent throughout the poem, its articulation of salvation history is too frequently interrupted by dismembered bodies, which express a didactic message that strives against enthusiasm about martial endeavors, Roman imperialism, and anti-Semitism. Because of their status as "bare life" within the Roman sovereign sphere, the bodies of Caiaphas, his clerks, Maria, and her son are equalized with Christ as casualties of imperialism. By eliminating the sacrificial nature of Christ's crucifixion and reminding the audience of his identity as a Jew, this corporal didacticism belies the prospective nature of the salvational poetic that emphasizes the redemption of Christ's sacrifice. Without a christological justification for such violence against Jews, the destruction of Jerusalem becomes merely an object to be consumed by the expanding Roman Empire. This anti-Galfridian invective reinforces the Siege-poet's assimilation of an alternative historiographical discourse that interrogated British hereditary claims to empire. When The Siege of Jerusalem, a poem replete with horrifying and sympathetic depictions of violence against Jews, is read within the context of the Augustinian doctrine of toleration and the repudiation of imperial designs, it is difficult to interpret the Roman siege of Jerusalem as a providential inevitability carried out with the enthusiastic sanction of the poet.

SUNY Plattsburgh


(1) Walter Benjamin, "Zur Kritik der Gewalt," in Tiedemann and Schweppenhauser, Gesammelte Schriften, vol. 2, pt. 1 (1921), 179; translated by Edmund Jephcott in Selected Writings, Vol. 1, 1913-1926, ed. Marcus Bullock and Michael W. Jennings (Harvard U. Press, 1996), 236.

(2) Giorgio Agamben, State of Exception, trans. Kevin Attell (U. of Chicago Press, 2005), 61.

(3) The "corporality" that I discuss here does not refer to the "corporeality" that is more recognizable to readers familiar with Epicurean philosophy and Lucretian discussions of the union of the body and the soul. Instead, I choose "corporal" for its now antiquated connotations of bodily discipline, since the Jewish bodies in question are displayed for didactic effect.

(4) Agamben, Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life (Stanford U. Press, 1998).

(5) I accept Gavin Langmuir's definition of anti-Semitism as an irrational form of anti-Judaism. Therefore, I use the adjective "anti-Semitic" to characterize the psychopathological discourse that colors the Siege-poet's illustrations of the Jews. Also, the fact that this poem was composed after the twelfth century, when Langmuir claims such anti-Semitism began, suggests that its composition originated from the tradition of Christian accusations of Jewish ritual murder, blood libel, and host desecration. See Langmuir's Toward a Definition of Antisemitism (U. of California Press, 1990); Anna Sapir Abulafia, ed., Religious Violence Between Christians and Jews: Medieval Roots, Modern Perspectives (New York: Palgrave, 2002), xvi.

(6) For an assessment of scholarship that focuses on the and-Semitic aspects of the poem, see Elisa Narin van Court, "The Siege of Jerusalem and Augustinian Historians: Writing About Jews in Fourteenth-Century England," Chaucer Review 29 (1995): 227-48; Derek Pearsall condemned the poem as a "model of a decadent poetic in Old and Middle English Poetry (London: Routledge & K. Paul, 1977), 169; A.C. Spearing similarly decried its "horrible delight in the suffering of the Jews" in Readings in Medieval Poetry (Cambridge U. Press, 1987), 167, 172; more recently, Ralph Hanna claimed that the poem contains "cheerfully sanctioned violence in Contextualizing The Siege of Jerusalem" Yearbook of Langland Studies 13 (1999), 109-21, at 110.

(7) Christine Chism is an exception. She compellingly argues that the "Jews are not the only threatening precursors in the poem; the poem pinions pagan Rome as well." See Alliterative Revivals (U. of Pennsylvania Press, 2002), 181-88 at 181.

(8) All citations from the poem refer to Ralph Hanna and David Lawton, eds., The Siege of Jerusalem (Oxford U. Press, 2003).

(9) All references to The Jewish Wars are from Flavius Josephus, The Jewish Wars, trans. H. St J. Thackeray (Harvard U. Press, 1928; rpt. 1990); Narin van Court, "The Siege of Jerusalem and Recuperative Readings," Pulp Fictions of Medieval England: Essays in Popular Romance, ed. Nicola McDonald (Manchester U. Press, 2004), 151-70, at 157; until Hanna and Lawton s study of the Siege-poet's use of Josephus, scholars had assumed that the Siege-poet either used the fourth century loose Latin translation of Josephus attributed to one "Hegisippus" or did not have access to Josephus at all; see E. Kolbing and Mabel Day, eds. The Siege of Jerusalem (Oxford U. Press, 1932), xxi; Hanna and Lawton identify a closer translation of Josephus by Rufinus of Aquileia (ft. c.385-410) that survives in over two hundred manuscripts and contains multiple parallel passages to The Siege of Jerusalem. See Hanna and Lawton, The Siege of Jerusalem, xl-lv.

(10) Ranulph Higden, Polychronicon, Together with the English Translation of John of Trevisa and an Unknown Writer of the Fifteenth Century, eds. Churchill Babington and Joseph R. Lumby (London: Longmans, Green, 1869). Trevisa translates this phrase as "woodnesse and folye"; Narin van Court, "The Siege of Jerusalem and Recuperative Readings," 157.

(11) Malcolm Hebron, The Medieval Siege: Theme and Image in Middle English Romance (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997), 123-27 at 124.

(12) Hanna, "Contextualizing The Siege of Jerusalem," 110.

(13) Geraldine Heng, Empire of Magic: Medieval Romance and the Politics of Cultural Fantasy (Columbia U. Press, 2003), 66.

(14) Agamben, Homo Sacer, 78-89.

(15) Ibid., 71-4; H. Bennett, "Sacer esto," Transactions of the American Philological Association 61 (1930): 5.

(16) Agamben, Homo Sacer, 8.

(17) Ibid., 84.

(18) Sarah Beckwith, "Making the World in York and the York Cycle," in Framing Medieval Bodies, ed. Sarah Kay and Miti Rubin (Manchester U. Press, 1994), 254-76 at 254.

(19) Agamben, Homo Sacer, 82-3, 78-80.

(20) Ibid., 83.

(21) See Michael Livingston, ed., The Siege of Jerusalem (Kalamazoo, Mich.: Medieval Institute Publications, 2004), 30; Carter Lindberg, The European Reformations (Oxford: Blackwell, 1996), 24.

(22) Livingston, Siege of Jerusalem, 30.

(23) Ibid., 30-6. See in particular Livingston's helpful visual aid, "Figure 2: Structure of Siege of Jerusalem."

(24) Ibid., 36.

(25) See also Chism, Alliterative Revivals, 181-8.

(26) See Roger Nicholson, "Haunted Itineraries: Reading The Siege of Jerusalem," Exemplaria 14, no. 2 (2002): 470-84; Hanna, "Contextualizing The Siege of Jerusalem," 109-21; Chism, "Profiting from Precursors in The Siege of Jerusalem, Alliterative Revivals, 155-88. For readings of the anti-Semitism in this scene, see references in note 6.

(27) All translations from Middle English to Modern English are mine.

(28) Agamben, Homo Sacer, 85.

(29) Ibid., 89.

(30) Lawton, "Titus Goes Hunting and Hawking: The Poetics of Recreation and Revenge in The Siege of Jerusalem," in Individuality and Achievement in Middle English Poetry, ed. O. S. Picketing (Woodbridge: D. S. Brewer, 1997), 105-17 at 117.

(31) Hanna, "Contextualizing The Siege of Jerusalem," 109-11; the breaking of the deer is explained in detail in The Parliament of the Three Ages, 75-78: "I raughte the righte legge byfore, ritt it peraftir, / And so fro legge to legge I lepe thaym aboute, / And pe felle fro fete fete fayre I departede / And flewe it doun with my fiste faste to the tigge." See Turville-Petre, Alliterative Poetry of the Later Middle Ages: An Anthology (Catholic U. of America Press, 1989), 73; for his treatment of the flaying scene, see 168-69.

(32) Ibid., 115-18. Hanna also suggests a more direct route for the poem to reach a Lancastrian audience through Thomas, sixth lord of Clifford, and knight under Richard II (118). See also George E. Cokayne, et al., The Complete Peerage 3 (London: St. Catherine's Press, 1910-59), 292; Chris Given-Wilson, The Royal Household and the King's Affinity: Service, Politics and Finance in England 1360-1413 (Yale U. Press, 1986), 282.

(33) Ibid., 118-9.

(34) Ibid., 119-20.

(35) Ibid., 114.

(36) See Nicholas Watson, "Censorship and Cultural Change in Late-Medieval England: Vernacular Theology, the Oxford Translation Debate, and Arundel's Constitutions of 1409," Speculum 70 (1995): 822-64.

(37) In most instances, "crepel" refers to "cripple." For a standard example, see Cleanness. "pay ben bope blynde and balterande cruppelez" (103). For the more obscure "dwarf" definition, confer the Catholicon Anglicum: "A Crepyll: hic tantillus [cp. A Dwarghe: hic tantillus]" in Catholicon Anglicum: An English-Latin Wordbook, eds. S.J. H. Herrtage and H. B. Wheafley, EETS 75 (1881; reprint, Oxford U. Press, 1987); Bonnie Millar, The Siege of Jerusalem in its Physical, Literary and Historical Contexts (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2000), 89. She even claims that Titus experiences a "symbolic death."

(38) Chism, Alliterative Revivals, 182.

(39) Narin van Court, "The Siege of Jerusalem and Recuperative Readings," 162; Chism, Alliterative Revivals, 182-3.

(40) James Brundage, "Intermarriage Between Christians and Jews in Medieval Canon Law," in Sex, Law, and Marriage in the Middle Ages (Aldershot, Hampshire: Variorum, 1993), XIII: 25-40 at 27; Raymond of Penyafort, Summa de paenitentia, ed. X. Ochoa and A. Diez, Universa bibliotheca iuris, vol. 1.4.3 (Rome, 1976), col. 277; Geoffrey of Trani, Summa super titulis Decretalium (Arden: Scientia Verlag, 1968), X.5.6; Johannes Teutonicus, Glossa Ordinaria to the Decretum (Venice, 1605), C.28 Q.1 c. 13 v. percipiat.

(41) Abulafia, "Bodies in the Jewish-Christian Debate," in Framing Medieval Bodies, 123-37 at 126.

(42) Millar, The Siege of Jerusalem in its Physical, Literary, and Historical Contexts, 89.

(43) Jacobus de Voragine, Legenda, Aurea, ed. T. Graesse (Dresden, 1846), 301; for a discussion of the Siege-poet s alterations of the Legenda's account, see Millar, The Siege of Jerusalem in its Physical, Literary, and Historical Contexts, 72; Chism, Alliterative Revivals, 183-84.

(44) Jacobus de Voragine, Legenda Aurea, 301.

(45) Ibid., 301. Josephus' refusal to accept an award is an original contribution to the story by the Siege-poet. According to the Legenda, "Titus et servum in sui gratiam et Josephum in sui amicitiam recepit" [Titus accepted the slave into his favor and admitted Josephus into his friendship], but a reward is not mentioned. All translations from Latin to English are mine.

(46) Chism, Alliterative Revivals, 183-84.

(47) Ibid., 6. She reveals how Middle English alliterative poems "animate British history by reviving past bodies," citing the examples of the giant of St. Michael's Mount, Sir Priamus, and even the Green Knight.

(48) Compare also Geoffrey Chaucer's Prioress's Tale, in which similar "pitous" language is used to describe the sorrow of the mother of the "litel clergeon" who is ritually sacrificed by Jews (593-624). See Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales, The Riverside Chaucer, 3rd ed., ed. Larry D. Benson (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1987), 211.

(49) Chism, Alliterative Revivals, 161; for the literary history of Maria's cannibalism, see Merrall Llewelyn Price, "Imperial Violence and the Monstrous Mother: Cannibalism at the Siege of Jerusalem,' Domestic Violence in Medieval Texts, ed. Eve Salisbury, Georgiana Donavin, and Merrall Llewelyn Price (U. Press of Florida, 2002), 27298. Price suggests that Josephus may have created this cannibalistic Maria, since his Jewish Wars contains the earliest account. However, the starving mother motif originates in 2 Kings 6:28, in which a Samarian woman and her neighbor devour her son with the agreement that they will eat the neighbor's son the following day. Unfortunately for the Samarian woman, the neighbor hides her son the next day, breaking their agreement (273).

(50) C. Walker Bynum, The Resurrection of the Body in Western Christianity, 200-1336 (Columbia U. Press, 1995), 31-3.

(51) Langmuir, "Thomas of Monmouth: Detector of Ritual Murder," Speculum 59 (1984): 820-46; R. P. Hsia, The Myth of Ritual Murder (Yale U. Press, 1988); Miri Rubin, "Desecration of the Host: The Birth of an Accusation," Studies in Church History 29 (1992): 169-85; "The Person in the Form: Medieval Challenges to Bodily 'Order," in Framing Medieval Bodies, 100-22 at 108; J. Trachtenberg, The Devil and the Jews (New York: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1943), 97-108; Carlo Ginzburg, Ecstasies: Deciphering the Witches' Sabbath, trans. Raymond Rosenthal (New York: Pantheon Books, 1991), 33-68.

(52) Langmuir, Toward a Definition of Antisemitism, 264; Annales Ephordensesin Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Scriptores (Hanover, 1826-1934), 16:31; Annales Marbacenses in Monumenta Germaniae Historica, 17:178.

(53) Rubin, "The Person in the Form," 108.

(54) Price, "Imperial Violence and the Monstrous Mother," 279. Price contends that since the Sieg-poet emphasizes the place "per pou [o]ut cam" rather than Hegesippus' "redi fili in illud naturale secretum in quo domicilio sumsisti spiritum" [return, son, into that natural mystery in which place you took up the spirit], the Siege-poet transforms Hegesippus' "womb-stomach conflation" into "a vagina-mouth conflation, suggesting a connection between the motif of the devouring mother and castration anxiety; Barbara Creed, The Monstrous-Feminine: Film: Feminism, Psychoanalysis (London: Routledge, 1993), 109.

(55) For a more extensive discussion of Hegesippus' account, see Price, "Imperial Violence and the Monstrous Mother," 275-76; Narin van Court, "The Siege of Jerusalem and Recuperative Readings," 160.

(56) Ibid., 160; Kenneth Stow, Alienated Minority: The Jews of Medieval Latin Europe (Harvard U. Press, 1992), 116-18; according to rabbinic commentaries, Kiddush ha-Shem obeys the order of Leviticus 22:32, which requires self-immolation for divine sanctification.

(57) "Melius est nobis ut nosmetipsos interficiamus, quam dicant Romani quod illi occidissent nos et fecissent super nos victoriam. Et extraxerunt gladios suos et percusserunt se, et mortui sunt numero duodecim millia hominum ex ipsis" [It is better that we should destroy ourselves than the Romans say that they had struck us down and had obtained victory over us. And they drew forth their swords and pierced themselves, and twelve thousand people died]. For the text of Vindicta salvatoris see Constantin Tischendorf, ed., Evangelia apocrypha (Leipzig, 1876), 477; 471-86; Narin van Court, "The Siege of Jerusalem and Recuperative Readings," 160.

(58) For a discussion of the possibility of a Bolton composition, see Hanna, "Contextualizing The Siege of Jerusalem," 115-6. Bolton Priory owned both a copy of the poem and one of its sources, the Bible en francois; The Middle English Prose Translation of Roger d'Argenteuil's Bible en francois, ed. Phyllis Moe (Heidelberg: Winter, 1977); for more on the Augustinian doctrine of toleration, see Narin van Court, "The Siege of Jerusalem and Recuperative Readings," 164-5; "The Siege of Jerusalem and Augustinian Historians," 227-48; Chism, Alliterative Revivals, 156-60.

(59) William of Newburgh, Historia rerum Anglicarum in Chronicles of the Reigns of Stephen, Henry II, and Richard I, ed. Richard Howlett (London: Longman, 1856). All future references to William's Historia are from this edition.

(60) Narin van Court, "The Siege of Jerusalem and Augustinian Historians," 239; see also R. B. Dobson, The Jews of Medieval York and the Massacre of March 1190, Borthwick Papers 45 (York: St. Anthony's Press, 1974).

(61) "Ne occidas eos, nequando obliviscantur populi mei."

(62) Jeremy Cohen, Living Letters of the Law: Ideas of the Jew in Medieval Christianity (U. of California Press, 1999), 67-145 at 67.

(63) "Et de his quidem, quos ita plusquam belluina illa confecit immanitas, incunctantur dixerim, quia si in petitione sacri baptismatis fictio defuit, ejus nequaquam effectu fraudatos sanguis proprius baptizavit. Sive autem ficte sive non ficte sacrum petierunt lavacrum, inexcusabilis est execranda ilia crudelitas lanistarum" (321-22). For more on Newburgh's condemnation of Christian cruelty, see Narin van Court, "The Siege of Jerusalem and Augustinian Historians," 239-44; Nancy Partner, Serious Entertainments: The Writing of History in Twelfth-Century England (U. of Chicago Press, 1977); Antonia Gransden, Historical Writing in England c. 550 to c. 1307 (Cornell U. Press, 1974), 265.

(64) Narin van Court, "The Siege of Jerusalem and Recuperative Readings," 163.

(65) Thorlac Turville-Petre, The Alliterative Revival (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1977), 100.
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Date:Jun 22, 2005
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