St. Isidore of Seville

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Isidore of Seville (560 – 636) was a Spanish scholar and cleric. For over three decades, he was Archbishop of Seville. He is widely regarded, in the words of 19th-century historian Montalembert, as “the last scholar of the ancient world”.

Two centuries of Gothic control of Iberia incrementally suppressed the ancient institutions, learning, and manners of the Roman Empire, leading to a disintegration of classical culture, aristocratic violence and widespread illiteracy. The ruling Visigoths adopted Arianism as the form of accepted Christianity in their Kingdom and the heresy took deep root in their culture. Isidore was instrumental in the conversion of the Arian Visigothic kings to Catholicism. He was influential in the inner circle of Sisebut, Visigothic king of Hispania. Like Leander, he played a prominent role in the Councils of Toledo and Seville.

Isidore attempted to weld the peoples and subcultures of the Visigothic kingdom into a united nation. He used all available religious resources toward this end and succeeded. Isidore practically eradicated the heresy of Arianism and completely stifled the new heresy of Acephali at its outset. Archbishop Isidore strengthened religious discipline throughout his see. Archbishop Isidore also used resources of education to counteract increasingly influential Gothic barbarism throughout his episcopal jurisdiction. Isidore introduced his countrymen to Aristotle long before the Arabs studied Greek philosophy extensively.

His fame after his death was based on his Etymologiae, an etymological encyclopedia that assembled extracts of many books from classical antiquity that would have otherwise been lost. He also invented the period, the comma, and the colon.


  • Etymologiae

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