Postdoctoral research: Dr Christian Schweizer

Irish Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow (2023–2025)

Dicuil—an Irish and Carolingian Universalist and his Intellectual Legacy (DICUIL)

Dicuil was one of the first Irishmen to make an international career as a scholar. He worked for the Carolingian emperors Charlemagne (747–814) and Louis the Pious (778–840), and wrote several scientific, grammatical, poetic, and geographical texts between 814 and 825. While a considerable quantity of his writings is extant, most of them have long been ignored by modern scholarship. This is partly because they are hard to understand due to the complexity of their intellectual contents and Latin language. Only his ‘Liber de mensura orbis terrae’ (‘Book on the measurement of the orb of the earth’) has attracted considerable attention.

The extent of early medieval Irish knowledge is highly controversial. Dicuil’s texts as key sources have barely been used so far. My work will shed new light on this issue by first analysing Dicuil’s legacy in its entirety.

In my PhD thesis, I have undertaken the most crucial step in this direction by editing, translating, and analysing his longest and most original work: ‘De cursu solis lunaeque’ (‘The course of the Sun and Moon’). However, three of Dicuil’s further works remain inaccessible and understudied:

  • 'Epistula censuum' ('Letter on measurements'), written for Louis in 818 and still unedited.
  • 'De prima syllaba' ('The first syllable'), a didactic treatise from 825, helping students to determine if the first syllable of a word is long or short.
  • A poetic epilogue to Priscian’s ‘Partitiones’, a Late Antique text that metrically and grammatically analyses the beginnings of the books of Vergil’s 'Aeneid'.

I will analyse these remaining works, translate them, and edit the 'Epistula censuum'. This will facilitate a comprehensive analysis of Dicuil’s Latinity and style, the early medieval reception of Dicuil himself (in the manuscripts of his texts), and his scholarly profile. For instance, how did his Irish education influence his language, interests, and legacy?

Exactly 1,200 years after Dicuil completed his last three texts, the project will fully reintroduce him to the academic and general public, pushing the boundaries of our knowledge about early medieval Irish scholarship and its  impact on the ‘Carolingian renaissance’.

Mentor: Dr Pádraic Moran

Research areas: the Latin tradition, cross-cultural encounters, Digital Humanities