De duodecim abusivis saeculi

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De duodecim abusivis saeculi ("On the Twelve Abuses of the World") is a treatise on social and political morality written by an anonymous Irish author between 630 and 700. During the Middle Ages the work was very popular throughout Europe.


The work was first propagated throughout Europe by Irish missionaries in the 8th century. Its authorship was attributed at different times to Saint Patrick, Saint Augustine, but mainly Saint Cyprian of Carthage – men of such authority that it explains its acceptance and popularity. It was not until 1909 that Siegmund Hellmann revealed its Pseudo-Cyprian origins to an anonymous Irish author of the 7th century.

Duodecim abusivis saeculi[edit]

De duodecim condemns the following twelve abuses:

Abusivis Abuse
sapiens sine operibus the wise man without works
senex sine religione the old man without religion
adolescens sine oboedientia the young man without obedience
dives sine elemosyna the rich man without charity
femina sine pudicitia the woman without modesty
dominus sine virtute the nobleman without virtue
Christianius contentiosus the argumentative Christian
pauper superbus the proud pauper
rex iniquus the unjust king
episcopus neglegens the neglectful bishop
plebs sine disciplina the community without order
populus sine lege the people without a law


Hellmann points out the extensive influence of the work upon Carolingian writings, such as the mirrors for princes, and later political literature.

There is some direct evidence for the text's popularity in tenth-century England. Bishop Æthelwold of Winchester is known to have donated a copy to the Peterborough house.[1] Ælfric of Eynsham drew on a version included in Abbo of Fleury's Collectio canonum for his Old English treatise De octo vitiis et de duodecim abusivis gradus, in which the section on the rex iniquus was translated whole.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sawyer no. 1448. See Michael Lapidge, "Surviving booklists in Anglo-Saxon England." Anglo-Saxon Manuscripts. Basic Readings, ed. Mary P. Richards. London, 1994. 87–167: 117–9.

Further reading[edit]

  • Hellmann, Siegmund (ed.). Ps.-Cyprianus. De xii abusiuis saeculi. Texte und Untersuchungen zur Geschichte der altchristlichen Literatur 34. Leipzig, 1909.
  • Anton, Hans Hubert. "Pseudo-Cyprian: De duodecim abusivis saeculi und sein Einfluss auf den Kontinent, insbesondere auf die karolingischen Fürstenspiegel." In Die Iren und Europa im früheren Mittelalter vol 2, ed. Heinz Löwe. Stuttgart, 1982. 568–617.
  • Anton, Hans Hubert. "Zu neueren Wertung Pseudo-Cyprians ('De duodecim abusivis saeculi') und zu seinem Vorkommen in Bibliothekskatalogen des Mittelalters." Würzburger Diözesangeshichtsblätter 51 (1989): 463–74.
  • Breen, Aidan. "Pseudo-Cyprian De Duodecim Abusivis and the Bible." Irland und die Christenheit: Bibelstudien und Mission, ed. Próinséas Ní Chatháin and Michael Richter. Stuttgart, 1987. 230-45.
  • Breen, Aidan. "The evidence of antique Irish exegesis in Pseudo-Cyprian, De duodecim abusivis saeculi." Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy 87 (1987), Section C. 71–101.
  • Meens, Rob. "Politics, Mirrors of Princes and the Bible: Sins, Kings and the Well-being of the Realm." Early Medieval Europe 7 (1998): 345–57.
  • Ó Néill, Pádraig P. "De Duodecim Abusivis Saeculi". Dictionary of the Middle Ages. vol-4. 1989. ISBN 0-684-17024-8
  • Throop, Priscilla. Vincent of Beauvais: The Moral Instruction of a Prince with Pseudo-Cyprian: The Twelve Abuses of the World Charlotte, VT, MedievalMS, 2011.
  • Ælfric's De octo vitiis et de duodecim abusivis gradus: the text in Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, MS 178, ed. R. Morris, Old English Homilies. Early English Texts Society 29, 34. First Series. 2 vols. London, 1868. 296–304; the text in London, British Library, MS. Cotton Vespasian D.XIV, ed. Ruby D.-N. Warner, Early English Homilies from the Twelfth-Century MS. Vespasian D.XIV. EETS 152. London, 1917. 11-9. A new edition by Mary Clayton is forthcoming.