Adam Angligena (DNB00)

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Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 01
Adam Angligena

by Thomas Andrew Archer
The ODNB article on "Adam the Welshman" speaks of him as fictitious

ADAM Angligena (d. 1181?), called by Tanner Adam Anglicus, and by him identified with the author of the ‘Commentarii in Magistrum Sententiarum’ [see Adam Anglicus], was a theologian of some eminence, and flourished in the twelfth century. His life has to be made out from the scattered pieces of information to be found among the writings of his contemporaries. Du Boulay tells us that he was surnamed Adam de Parvo-Ponte, from the little bridge over the Seine near which he gave his lectures. The same authority also states that he was a pupil of Abelard, and identifies him with Adam, bishop of St. Asaph (to whom we shall refer below), and also with John of Salisbury's friend, ‘ille Anglus Peripateticus Adam.’ The grounds for this identification will appear in the course of this account. The year 1147 saw the commencement of one of the most famous ecclesiastical trials of the twelfth century. Gilbert de la Porée, the aged bishop of Poitiers, was accused by two of his archdeacons—Calo and Arnold Neverlaugh—of heresy. St. Bernard embraced their cause, and the pope promised to consider the case when he reached Gaul. After a first hearing at Auxerre the question was formally opened at Paris. Gilbert was summoned to defend himself, while two ecclesiastics were appointed to collect the evidence against him—Adam de Parvo-Ponte, ‘a subtle man,’ who had recently been made canon of Paris, and Hugo de Campo-Florido, the king's chancellor. These two seem to have given great offence to unprejudiced hearers by the system they adopted; for, without bringing forward passages from the writings of Bishop Gilbert, they proposed to swear that they had heard heretical opinions fall from his lips; and people were astonished that men of position, so well exercised in the true methods of argument (‘viros magnos et in ratione disserendi exercitatos’) should offer an oath for a proof. This Adam de Parvo-Ponte, then, was a canon of Paris in 1147, and considered an adept in the science of dialectics. In 1175, when Godfrey, bishop of St. Asaph, was driven from his see by the enmity of the Welsh, we read in the English Chronicles of that age that his successor was one Master Adam, canon of Paris. This Adam is mentioned, a year and a half later, as being present at the great council, when Henry II decided between the claims of the kings of Castile and Navarre; and, indeed, he signs the award as one of the witnesses. In the same year he attested the same king's charter to Canterbury. Meanwhile, events had been occurring on the Continent which attracted Adam's attention. His old master, Peter Lombard, had now been many years dead, and attempts were being made to convict his famous ‘Sentences’ of heterodoxy. At the Lateran council of 1179 the question was raised again, and Walter of St. Victor has left us a graphic account of the whole scene. When the subject was brought forward towards the close of the council, certain cardinals and bishops objected to the introduction of a fresh matter, saying that they had come to Rome to treat of greater affairs than a mere question of dogma; and on the pope's answering that first and chiefest they must treat of the christian faith and of heretics, they left the consistory in a body. As they were quitting the chamber one of them, Bishop Adam of Wales, flung a parting taunt at Alexander III—‘Lord Pope, in time past I was provost (præpositus) of Peter's church and schools, and I will defend the “Sentences of the Master.”’ From this, then, it appears that Bishop Adam had occupied a distinguished position as a teacher during the time that Peter Lombard ruled in the schools of Paris (c. 1150). This would make his date agree remarkably well with that of Adam de Parvo-Ponte, who was, as we have just seen, likewise canon of Paris about the same time. Of the subsequent events of Adam's career we hear nothing definite; but the English Chronicles tell us that he died at Oseney, near Oxford, in 1181.

In an interesting passage (Metalogicus, iii. 3) John of Salisbury makes mention of ‘ille Anglus Peripateticus Adam,’ with whom he had once lived in almost daily interchange of ideas and books, though the two had never stood to each other in the relationship of pupil and master. According to John's testimony Adam was fond of laughing at the word-splitters and phrase-mongers of his age, but, at the same time, would naïvely confess that he dared not practise what he preached, for he would soon be left with few pupils or none at all were he once to handle dialectics with the simplicity that was their due. A graceful tribute is then paid to the honour of a man from whom John had learnt not only to recognise the true but to discard the false. In another passage Adam is coupled with Abelard as one of the typical teachers of the age; and later (iv. 3) is condemned for displaying in his ‘Ars Disserendi’ an over-subtlety and verbiage which friends might perhaps attribute to keenness of intellect, but enemies would certainly ascribe to folly and vanity. Here Adam appears as an expounder of Aristotle, who, though darkening his authority by ‘intricacy of words,’ is yet worthy of much praise.

Du Boulay considers this Adam to be identical with Adam de Parvo-Ponte; and in this opinion he may well be correct. For the dates of the two writers coincide, the characteristic of over-subtlety seems common to both, and lastly there may be an allusion to the ‘Ars Disserendi’ in the passage quoted above, where Otho of Frisingen openly expresses his surprise that a man so well practised in the true method of argument should adopt so strange a course at the trial of Gilbert de la Porée.

[Otho of Frisingen ap. Pertz, xx. 379; Baronius's Annales, xix. 499; Labbe's Concilia, xxii. 217; Du Boulay's Historia Univers. Parisien. ii. 149, 715; Godwin De Præsulibus Angliæ, 634; Ralph de Diceto's Imagines (Rolls Ser.), i. 402; Gervase of Canterbury's Opera Historica (Rolls Ser.), i. 255, 262, and Actus Pontificum, ii. 399; Roger of Hoveden (Rolls Ser.), 78, 121, 131; Annales Waverl. sub anno 1181, and Annales Oseneii sub anno 1181, in Luard's Annal. Monastici (Rolls Ser.); John of Salisbury's Metalogicus, iii. prol. iii. 3, ix. 3; cf. Pits, Rel. Hist. de Reb. Angl., under Adamus Pontraius, 820; and Tanner, under Adamus Anglicus. For Walter of St. Victor's account of the Lateran council of 1179 see Du Boulay, ii. 431.]

T. A. A.