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By Marcellus T. Mitsos

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A number of its exempla are related by the teacher as he answers the student’s questions on topics such as the acquisition of wisdom, self-preservation, ethical treatment of others, and how to evade the wiles of women. As in the case of Boccaccio (1313–1375), who wrote numerous religious and scholarly treatises in Latin but is overwhelmingly remembered as the author of the Decameron, Petrus Alfonsi’s other writings are largely overshadowed by the modern reception of the Disciplina clericalis, which survives in over 70 Latin manuscripts and was translated into several European languages and now attracts more scholarly attention than his other works, including the Dialogus.

When Kalīla wa-Dimna first appeared in the eighth century, Arabic prose fiction was a marginalized genre, and considered morally suspect. On the legitimation of fiction in Classical Arabic literature, see Drory (Models 37–47). Over time, the quality of Ibn al-Muqaffa’s Arabic prose and the work’s sheer entertainment value prevailed; Kalīla wa-Dimna entered the canon of adab literature and is to this day considered one of the best-loved classics of Arabic literature. In fact, it was so important in Andalusī literary culture that it was the first translation from Arabic to Castilian commissioned by Alfonso el Sabio, who was still the Infante Alfonso when he ordered its translation in 1251.

That is, Petrus may be able to argue adeptly for the superiority of Christianity, but the fact of his powers of reasoning being God-given does not make his arguments true. 32 They believed that reason is God’s gift to humanity, but humans are ultimately responsible for practicing it responsibly. Here, the author’s ambivalence comes to the fore: Petrus claims a logical victory, and though Moshé admits he is bested in the debate, he does not appear to embrace Christ as a result. Here Moshé and Petrus split into two distinct personalities: Petrus the Christian and Moshé the Jew.

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An Inscription from Mycenae by Marcellus T. Mitsos


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