Secondary responses to fear and grief in Gregory of Tours’ Libri historiarum

Secondary responses to fear and grief in Gregory of Tours’ Libri historiarum

By Ron F. Newbold

Studia Humaniora Tartuensia, vol. 7 (2006)

Abstract: Bodies of evidence drawn from the occurrence of Latin words for fear and grief in Gregory’s history form the basis for this study. Although the causes of these emotions and their distribution across social status are noted, discussion centres on the secondary, more cognitive and considered manifestations of fear and grief, rather than, for example, initial trembling and wailing. Secondary responses to fear may display avoidance and flight from the threat, attempts to placate and conciliate, taking extra precautions, and counter-phobically using aggression to overcome fear and turn the tables on the threat.

Secondary responses to grief and sorrow may manifest in funeral rites, consolation, violence against others and the self. Grief at the sorrow and suffering of others can lead to intervention, petition and prayer. Prostration and tears typically reinforce supplication and petition. Grief at one’s own sins evokes displays of penance and pious works, as well as prayer and prostration. Gregory commends placatory and penitential responses to fear and grief. These tend to be more successful. They are also one of the chief marks of pious, Christian humility.

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