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Walter of Châtillon


Humanist poet of the 12th century; b. Ronchin, near Lille, France, c. 1135; d. Amiens. Because Walter was born at Lille, john of salisbury called him ab Insula or de Insulis. He studied at Paris and at Reims. He taught at Laon and later at Châtillon-sur-Marne (hence the surname de Castellione ); he was a canon at Reims (hence the name Remensis ). His career included service for King henry ii of England and a mission to England but he seems to have resigned from Henry's chancellery over the becket affair. His travels encompassed study at Bologna and a visit to Rome. He was later in the service of Abp. William (Guillelmus) of Reims (11761201), whom he served as notarius and orator.

Perhaps his greatest claim to fame is his epic poem, the Alexandreis (Patrologia Latina 209:463572), with its 5,464 hexameter verses. After some five years of work (c. 1178 to 1182) it was published in 1184. The epic comprised 10 books just as the Latin name of his good friend, Abp. William, had 10 letters; the plan called for each of the books to begin with a successive letter of that name. The work owes much to Quintus Curtius's history of Alexander the Great, with borrowings from other sources such as Justinus and Josephus, and Isidore's Etymologies. Both its prosody and its rhyme have been admired. Walter's moral and satirical works, which form the bulk of his lyrical verse, and which are noted for their attacks on the upper clergy of his day, had considerable influence on contemporary Latin writers.

He wrote also a Tractatus contra Judaeos consisting of a prologue and three books presented as a dialogue between Walter himself and Canon Baldwin of Valenciennes. A work under the Vergilian title of Georgica has in the past been attributed to Walter but this attribution is now seriously doubted. Walter's familiarity with the poets of antiquity is well established; his place among the more distinguished of medieval versifiers is securely fixed.

Bibliography: walter of chÂtillon, Die Lieder W. von C. in der Handschrift 351 von St. Omer, ed. k. strecker (Berlin 1925); Moralisch-satirische Gedichte W. von C., ed. k. strecker (Heidelberg 1929). m. manitius, Geschichte der lateinischen Literatur des Mittelalters, 3 v. (Munich 191131) 3:920936. a. wilmart, "Poèmes de Gauthier de Châtillon ," Revue Bénédictine 49 (1937) 322365. j. de ghellinck, L'Essor de la littérature latine au XIIe siècle, 2 v. (Brussels-Paris 1946) passim. f. chÂtillon, "Flagello Contribution à l'étude des mauvais traitements infligés à Gauthier ," Revue du moyen-âge latin 7 (1951) 151174. r. a. gauthier, "Pour l'attribution à Gauthier du Moralium ," ibid. 1964; "Les Deux recensions du Moralium ," ibid. 9 (1953) 171260. p. delhaye, Gauthier de Châtillon estil l'auteur du "Moralium dogma"? (Namur 1952). f. j. e. raby, A History of Secular Latin Poetry in the Middle Ages, 2 v. 2d ed. (Oxford 1957) 2:7280, 190214.

[w. c. korfmacher]

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