date tradition death translations
SCOT, MICHAEL, whose fame as a magician has surrounded his history with legend, is sometimes claimed by the Italians as a native of Salerno and by the Spaniards as a native of Toledo ; but there is no reason to doubt the Scottish origin to which his name testifies. Scottish tradition is unanimous in identifying him with Sir Michael Scot of_Balwearie in Fifeshire, but the ascertainable dates place some difficulties in the way of this. The traditional date of Scot's birth is 1190, but this does not harmonize well with the embassy to Norway attributed to Sir Michael Scot in 1290. Some accordingly have fixed the date of his birth approximately as 1214, but apparently without any further reason than is afforded by the supposed date of his death in 1291. But Jourdainl refers to certain manuscript translations of Scot's which are expressly dated " 1217 at Toledo." This would accord fairly well with the date 1190, the translations being executed by Scot soon after the conclusion of his student period. Scot is said to have studied at Oxford, whence he proceeded, as was usual, to Paris, then the centre of mediaeval learning, devoting himself especially to philosophy and mathematics. Du Boulay, the historian of the university of Paris, adds that he received the degree of doctor of theology and acquired a brilliant reputation in that faculty. There is no evidence of this, however, in his writings. At Toledo, where he also studied, Scot acquired a knowledge of Arabic. It is not likely that his knowledge extended to Greek and the other Eastern tongues mentioned by the earlier bibliographers. His knowledge of Arabic was sufficient to open up to him the Arabic versions of Aristotle and the multitudinous commentaries of the Arabians upon them, with which Western Christendom had only lately become acquainted in Latin translations (see ScrroLASTICISM). It also brought him into contact with the original works of Avicenna and Averroes. His own first work was done as a translator. He was one of the savants whom Frederick II. attracted to his brilliant court, and at the instigation of the emperor he superintended (along with Hermannus Alemannus) a fresh translation of Aristotle and the Arabian commentaries from Arabic into Latin. There exist translations by Scot himself of the Historia Animalium, the De Anima, and De Ccelo, along with the commentaries of Averroes upon them. This connexion with Frederick and Averroes - both of evil reputation in the Middle Ages - doubtless contributed to the formation of the legend which soon enveloped Michael Scot's name. His own books, however, dealing as they do almost exclusively with .astrology, alchemy, and the occult sciences generally, are mainly responsible for his popular reputation. The chief of these according to the more critical views of recent investigators are Super Auctorem, Spher.x, printed at Bologna in 1495 and at Venice in 1631 ; De Sole et Luna, printed at Strasburg, 1622, in the Theatrum Chintieum, and containing more alchemy than astronomy, the sun and moon being taken as the images of gold and silver ; De Chiromantia, an opuscule often published in the 15th century ; and, perhaps best known of all, De Physiognomia et de Ilominis Procreation, which saw no fewer than eighteen editions between 1477 and 1660. This treatise is divided into three books, of which the first deals with generation according to the doctrine of Aristotle and Galen, the second with the signs by which the character and faculties of individuals may be determined from observation of different parts of the body. The Physiognomia (which also exists in an Italian translation) and the Super Auctorem. Spheres expressly bear that they were undertaken at the request of the emperor Frederick. To the above list should be added certain treatises in manuscript, - De Signis Planetaruni ; Contra Averrhoem in Meteora ; Notitia Convinctionis .3Iundi Terrestris CUM Ccelesti, et de Definitions utriusque Mundi; De Prmsagiis Stellarum et Elementaribus. Michael is said to have foretold (after the double-tongued manner of the ancient oracles) the place of Frederick's death, which took place in 1250. The Italian tradition makes Scot die in Sicily not long afterwards, stating that he foretold the manner of his own death. Jourdain is inclined to agree with this approximate date, observing that Scot is spoken of by Albert the Great as if he were already dead, and that Vincent of Beauvais (d. c. 1268) quotes him with the epithet " vetus." But the generally received tradition makes him return by way of England (where he was received with much honour by Edward I.) to his native country. The ordinary account gives 1291 as the date of Scot's death. According to one tradition he was buried at Holme Cultram in Cumberland ; according to another, which Sir Walter Scott has followed in the Lay of the Last Minstrel, in Melrose Abbey. In the notes to that poem, of which the opening of the wizard's tomb forms the most striking episode, Scott gives an interesting account of the various exploits attributed by popular belief to the great magician. "In the south of Scotland any work of great labour and antiquity is ascribed either to the agency of Auld Michael, of Sir William Wallace, or the devil." He used to feast his friends with dishes brought by spirits from the royal kitchens of France and Spain and other lands. His embassy to France alone on the back of a coal-black demon steed is also celebrated, in which he brought the French monarch to his feet by the effects which followed the repeated stamping of his horse's hoof. Other powers and exploits are narrated in Folengo's Macaronic poem of Merlin Coccaius (1595). But Michael's reputation as a magician was already fixed in the age immediately following his own. He appears in the Inferno of Dante (canto xx. 115-117) among the magicians and soothsayers" Quell' altro, cho ne' fianchi 6 cosi poco, Michele Scotto fit ; the veramente Delle magiche frode seppe it giuoco."
He is represented in the same character by Boccaccio, and is severely arraigned by John Pico do Mirandola in his work against astrology, while Naude finds it necessary to defend his good name in his Apoloyie pour les Brands personnages faussement accuses de magie.