Giles of Rome

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Egidio Colonna
File:Portret van de Augustijn Aegidius Colonna Romanus, RP-P-1909-4432.jpg
Giles of Rome
Born circa 1243
Rome, Papal States
Died 22 December 1316(1316-12-22)
Avignon, Kingdom of Arles
Nationality Italian
Era Medieval philosophy
Region Western philosophy
Main interests
Metaphysics, Logic, Epistemology, Natural Philosophy, Medicine, Ethics, Political philosophy

Giles of Rome O.S.A. (Latin: Aegidius Romanus; Italian: Egidio Colonna; c. 1243 – 22 December 1316), was a Medieval philosopher and Scholastic theologian and a friar of the Order of St Augustine, who was also appointed to the positions of Prior General of his Order and as Archbishop of Bourges. He is famed as being a logician, producing a commentary on the Organon by Aristotle, and for his authorship of two important works, De Ecclesiastica Potestate, a major text of early 14th century Papalism, and De Regimine Principum, a guide book for Christian temporal leadership. Giles was styled Doctor Fundatissimus ("Best-Grounded Teacher") by Pope Benedict XIV.

Writers in 14th and 15th century England such as John Trevisa and Thomas Hoccleve translated or adapted him into English.

Early life

Very little is known about his early life, although the Augustinian friar Jordan of Quedlinburg claimed in his Liber Vitasfratrum that Giles belonged to the noble Colonna family of Rome. But Jordan of Saxony was not a contemporary of Giles, and many scholars remain skeptical of his account of Giles' early life. Having entered the Order of the Hermits of St. Augustine in Rome, he was sent by his Order to the University of Paris for his philosophical and theological studies, and there became a disciple of the Dominican Thomas Aquinas, and was later appointed to teach at the university, being the first of his Order to do so. It has been estimated that Giles was taught by Thomas Aquinas between 1269 and 1272, and in the years that followed, he produced many of his commentaries on the works of Aristotle, who had been experiencing an intellectual revival during the thirteenth century, and he also produced his commentary on Peter Lombard's Sentences. Giles remained in Paris studying and teaching theology until Bishop Étienne Tempier condemned the application of Aristotelianism within the Christian discourse, including those who had produced commentaries on Aristotle's work. Giles, whose work had been condemned, disappeared from the Parisian academic scene.

File:Filip4 Gilles de Rome.jpg
Giles of Rome giving his work to Philip the Fair

There is no information remaining concerning Giles between the period of 1277 and 1281, when he returned to Italy. However, in 1281, at the Thirty-sixth Council of Paris, in which several differences between the bishops and mendicant orders were dealt with, he sided with the bishops against the mendicants. In reference to this, a contemporary philosopher, Godfrey of Fontaines mentioned Giles as the most renowned theologian of the whole city (qui modo melior de totâ villâ in omnibus reputatur), suggesting that he might have been in Paris during this period before going back to Rome.

Philip III of France entrusted to Gile the education of his son and heir, who later, in 1285, ascended the throne as Philip IV. When the new king entered Paris after his consecration at Reims, Giles gave the welcoming address in the name of the university, insisting on justice as the most important virtue for a king to practice. In 1285 Giles' work was again called into question, but by 1287 he was allowed to continue teaching. Eight years later in 1295 Giles was appointed as the Archbishop of Bourges, which he wrote about in his work De renunciatione.


Giles was involved in the condemnation of 1277 promulgated by Étienne Tempier. Several of his opinions had been found reprehensible by Archbishop Tempier, and in 1285 Pope Honorius IV asked him for a public retraction. This, however, was far from lessening his reputation, for in 1287 a decree of the general chapter of the Augustinians held in Florence, after remarking that Giles's doctrine "shines throughout the whole world" (venerabilis magistri nostri Ægidii doctrina mundum universum illustrat), commanded all members of the order to accept and defend all his opinions, written or to be written.

After filling several important positions in his order he was elected superior-general/prior-general, in 1292. Three years later Pope Boniface VIII appointed him Archbishop of Bourges, France, although Jean de Savigny had already been designated for this see by Pope Celestine V. The French nobility protested on the ground that Giles was an Italian, but his appointment was maintained and approved by the king.

He was present at the Council of Vienne (1311–1312) in which the Order of Knights Templars was suppressed. He died in Avignon.


'In secundum librum sententiarum quaestiones, 1581

His writings cover the fields of philosophy and theology. There is no complete edition of his works, but several treatises have been published separately.

In Holy Scripture and theology he wrote commentaries on the Hexaemeron, the Canticle of Canticles, and the Epistle to the Romans; several Opuscula and Quodlibeta, various treatises, and especially commentaries on Peter the Lombard's Four Books of Sentences.

In philosophy, besides commentaries on almost all the works of Aristotle, he wrote several special treatises. But his main work is the treatise De regimine principum, written for, and dedicated to, his pupil, Philip IV. It passed through many editions (the first, Augsburg, 1473) and was translated into several languages. The Roman edition of 1607 contains a life of Egidio. The work is divided into three books: the first treats of the individual conduct of the king, the nature of his true happiness, the choice and acquisition of virtues, and the ruling of passions; the second deals with family life and the relations with wife, children, and servants; the third considers the State, its origin, and the proper mode of governing in times of peace and war.

His pedagogical writings have been published in German by Kaufmann (Freiburg, 1904).

His attitude in the difficulties between Pope Boniface VIII and King Philip IV was long believed to have been favourable to the king. But it has been proved that he is the author of the treatise De potestate ecclesiasticâ, in which the rights of the pope are vindicated. The similarity between this treatise and the bull Unam Sanctam seems to support the view taken by some writers that he was the author of the bull.

He had already taken an active part in ending the discussions and controversies concerning the validity of Boniface's election to the papacy. In his treatise De renunciatione Papæ sive Apologia pro Bonifacio VIII he shows the legitimacy of Celestine's resignation and consequently of Boniface's election. In philosophy and theology he generally follows the opinions of his master, St. Thomas, whose works he quotes as scripta communia.

The Defensorium seu Correctorium corruptorii librorum Sancti Thomæ Acquinatis against the Franciscan William de la Mare of Oxford is by some attributed to him; but this remains uncertain. Nevertheless, on many points he holds independent views and abandons the Thomistic doctrine to follow the opinions of St. Augustine and of the Franciscan School. He even errs in asserting that, before the Fall, grace had not been given to Adam, an opinion which he wrongly attributes to St. Augustine.

Giles wrote a commentary on Guido Cavalcanti's philosophical love canzone "Donna me prega" (see Enrico Fenzi, La canzone d'amore di Guido Cavalcanti e i suoi antichi commenti, Melangolo, 1999).

The Aegidian school

File:IRHT 063616-p.jpg
Giles of Rome writing. XIV century illuminated manuscript

After the decree of the general chapter of 1287, mentioned above, his opinions were generally accepted in the Augustinian Order. He thus became the founder of the Ægidian School. Among the most prominent representatives of this school must be mentioned Giacomo Capoccio of Viterbo (d. 1307) and Augustinus Triumphus (d. 1328), both of them his contemporaries, and also students and professors in the University of Paris: Prosper of Reggio, Albert of Padua, Gerard of Siena, Henry of Frimar, Thomas of Strasburg — all in the first half of the fourteenth century.

For some time after this other opinions prevailed in the Augustinian Order. But as late as the seventeenth century should be mentioned Raffaello Bonherba (d. 1681) who wrote Disputationes totius philosophiæ … in quibus omnes philosophicæ inter D. Thomam et Scotum controversiæ principaliter cum doctrinâ nostri Ægidii Columnæ illustrantur (Palermo, 1645, 1671); and Augustino Arpe (d. 1704) who wrote Summa totius theologiæ Ægidii Columnæ (Bologna, 1701, and Genoa, 1704).

Federico Nicolò Gavardi (d. 1715), the most important interpreter of Colonna, composed Theologia exantiquata iuxta orthodoxam S. P. Augustini doctrinam ab Ægidio Columnâ doctoræ fundatissimo expositam … (6 vols. fol., Naples and Rome, 1683–1696); this work was abridged by Anselm Hörmannseder in his Hecatombe theologica (Presburg, 1737). Benignus Sichrowsky (d. 1737) wrote also Philosophia vindicata ad erroribus philosophorum gentilium iuxta doctrinam S. Augustini et B. Ægidii Columnæ (Nuremberg, 1701).


Translated into English

  • Theoremata de esse et essentia
    • Theorems on existence and essence, translated by Michael V Murray, (Milwaukee, WI: Marquette University Press, 1952)
  • De erroribus philosophorum
    • Errores philosophorum, translated by John O Riedl, (Milwaukee, WI: Marquette University Press, 1944)
  • De ecclesiastica potestate
    • Giles of Rome on ecclesiastical power: the De ecclesiastica potestate of Aegidius Romanus, translated by R.W. Dyson, (Woodbridge: Boydell, 1986)
    • On ecclesiastical power / by Giles of Rome = De ecclesiastica potestate / by Aegidius of Rome, translated by Arthur P. Monahan, (Lewiston, NY: E Mellen Press, 1990)
    • On ecclesiastical power: A Medieval Theory of World Government, edited and translated by RW Dyson, (New York: Columbia University Press, 2004)
  • Commentary on the Song of Songs and other writings, translated by J Rotelle, (Villanova, PA: Augustinian Press, 1998)

See also





Briggs, Charles F. (1993). "Late Medieval Texts and Tabulae: The Case of Giles of Rome, De regimine principum". Manuscripta. XXXVII (3): 253–75. doi:10.1484/J.MSS.3.1444.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
Briggs, Charles F. (1999). Giles of Rome's De Regimine Principum: Reading and Writing Politics at Court and University, c. 1275-c. 1525. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
Briggs, Charles F.; Eardley, Peter S., eds. (2016). A Companion to Giles of Rome. Leiden: Brill.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
BUKOWSKI (Th.), Understanding St. Thomas on the Eternity of the World. Help from Giles of Rome, Recherches de théologie ancienne et medieval, LVIII, 1991, 113-125 ;
Conolly, B. F., 2007. “Averroes, Thomas Aquinas and Giles of Rome on How Man Understands”, Vivarium, 44: 69–92.
Conti, A.D. 2014. “Giles of Rome’s Questions on the Metaphysics”, in A Companion to the Latin medieval Commentaries on Aristotle’s Metaphysics, F. Amerini and G. Galluzzo (eds.), Leiden-Boston, 255-275.
DECORTE (J.), Giles of Rome and Henry of Ghent on the reality of a real relation, Documenti e studi sulla tradizione filosofica medievale, VII, 1996, 183-211 ;
Henry Denifle and Émile Chatelain, Chartularium Universitatis Parisiensis (Paris, 1889–), I, II, see Index
DUMONT (St. D.), Giles of Rome and the ‘De rerum principio’ attributed to Vital du Four, Archivum Franciscanum Historicum, LXXVII, 1984, 81-109.
Eardley, P. S., 2003. “Thomas Aquinas and Giles of Romes on the Will”, The Review of Metaphysics, 56: 835–862.
EARDLEY (P.S.), The Foundations of Freedom in Later Medieval Philosophy Giles of Rome and his contemporaries, Journal of the History of Philosophy, 44, 2006, 353-376.
EASTMAN (J. R.), Giles of Rome and his use of St. Augustine in defense of papal abdication, Augustiniana, XXXVIII, 1988, 129-139.
Eastman, J. R., 1989. Papal Abdication in Later Medieval Thought, Lewinston-Queenston-Lampeter.
–––, 1990. “Giles of Rome and Celestine V: The Franciscan Revolution and the Theology of Abdication”, The Catholic Historical Review, 76: 195–211
–––, 1992. “Giles of Rome and His Fidelity to Sources in the Context of Ecclesiological Political Thought as Exemplified in De renuntiatione papae”, Documenti e Studi sulla tradizione filosofica medievale, III: 145–165.
EASTMAN (J. R.), Relating Martin Luther to Giles of Rome how to proceed, Medieval Perspectives, 8, 1993, 41-52.
EBERENZ (J. H.), The Concept of Sovereignty in Four Medieval political Philosophers John of Salisbury, St. Thomas Aquinas, Egidius Colonna and Marsilius of Padua, Washington, 1968.
ERMATINGER (Ch.J.), Giles of Rome and Anthony of Parme in an anonymous question on the intellect, Manuscripta, XVII, 1973, 91-114.
FÉRRET, La faculté de théologie de Paris et ses docteurs les plus célèbres au moyen âge (Paris, 1896), III, 459-475
Guldentops, Guy, "Giles of Rome on Erring and Devilish Delusions", in: A. Speer / M. Mauriège (Hgg.), Irrtum – Error – Erreur, Berlin 2018, 217-230.
Hugo von Hurter, Nomenclator (3d ed., Innsbruck, 1906), II, 481-486 and passim for Ægidian School
Lambertini, Roberto 1995. “The Prince in the Mirror of Philosophy. About the Use of Aristotle in Giles of Rome’s De regimine principum”, Moral and Political Philosophies in the Middle Ages, Proceedings of the Ninth International Congress of Medieval Philosophy, Ottawa, 17–22 August 1992, B. C. Bazán, E. Andújar, and L. G. Sbrocchi (eds.), New York-Ottawa-Toronto, 1522–1534.
–––, 2014. “Nature and the origins of Power. An Examination of Selected Commentaries on the Sentences (thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries)”, in La nature comme source de la morale au Moyen Age, M. van der Lugt (ed.), Firenze, 95–111.
–––, 2015. “Wealth and Money according to Giles of Rome”, in Reichtum im späten Mittelalter, P. Hesse and P. Schulte (eds.), Stuttgart, 39–53.
LAZARD, Gilles de Rome in Histoire littéraire de la France (Paris, 1888), XXX, 423-566.
Longeway, J. L., 2002, “Aegidius Romanus and Albert the Great vs Thomas Aquinas on the highest sort of demonstration (demonstratio potissima)”, Documenti e studi sulla tradizione filosofica medievale, XIII: 373–434.
Kelley, Francis E. (1987). "Robert Orford's Attack on Giles of Rome". The Thomist. LI (1): 70–96. doi:10.1353/tho.1987.0047.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>}
Mandonnet, Pierre (1910). "La Carrière Scolaire de Gilles de Rome (1276—1291)". Revue des Sciences Philosophiques et Théologiques. IV (3): 480–99. JSTOR 44410716.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
MATTIOLO, Studio critico sopra Egidio Romano Colonna in Antologia Agostiniana (Rome, 1896), I
McAleer, G. J., 1998. "Disputing the Unity of the World: The Importance of Res and the Influence of Averroes in Giles of Rome's Critique of Thomas Aquinas concerning the Unity of the World," Journal of the History of Philosophy, Vol. 36, No. 1, pp. 29–55.
McAleer, G. J., 1999. “Giles of Rome on political authority”, Journal of the History of Ideas, 60: 21–36.
Johannes Felix Ossinger, Bibliotheca augustiniana (Ingolstadt and Vienna, 1768)
Pini, G., 2006. “Giles of Rome”, in Theological Quodlibeta in the Middle Ages. The Thirteenth Century, Leiden – Boston, 233–286.
–––, 2012. “Building the Augustinian Identity: Giles of Rome as Master of the Order”, in Philosophy and Theology in the Studia of the Religious orders and at Papal and Royal Courts, K. Emery, Jr., W. J. Courtenay and S. M. Metzger (eds.), Turnhout, 409–25.
SCHOLZ, Ægidius von Rom (Stuttgart, 1902)
Trifogli, C., 1990a. “The Place of the Last Sphere in Late-Ancient and Medieval Commentaries”, Knowledge and the Sciences in Medieval Philosophy, Proceedings of the Eighth International Congress of Medieval Philosophy (SIEPM), II, S. Knuttila, R. Työrinoja, and S. Ebbesen (eds.), Helsinki, 342–350.
–––, 1990b: “La dottrina del tempo in Egidio Romano”, Documenti e studi sulla tradizione filosofica medievale, I: 247–276.
–––, 1991. “Egidio Romano e la dottrina aristotelica dell’infinito”, Documenti e Studi sulla tradizione filosofica medievale, II: 217–238.
–––, 1992. “Giles of Rome on Natural Motion in the Void”, Medieval Studies, 54: 136–161.
WERNER, Die Scholastik des spätantiken Mittelalter, III, Der Augustinismus des spätantiken Mittelalter (Vienna, 1863)
Scheeben in Kirchenlexikon, s. v.
CHEVALIER, Répertoire des sources historiques (2d ed., Paris, 1905), s. v. Gilles.
Vella, Andrew P. (1961). "Giles of Rome, as Representative of Augustino-thomistic Teaching". Scientia. XXVII (4): 152–64.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links