Felix the Grammarian was a scholar and teacher who flourished in war-torn Italy during the transition period between the 7th and 8th centuries. He was particularly active within the regions of Italy that were controlled by the Lombards at that time, and his presence did not go unnoticed by the nobility. The Lombard monarchy eventually decided to recruit Felix into their court, and the grammarian accepted their offer of patronage. Exactly how the monarchy utilized Felix is vague, but the grammarian was said to have grown particularly close to King Cunincpert of the Lombards (r. 688-700). The affection was evidently mutual, for the king was said to have personally rewarded Felix with many gifts for his services, making the grammarian the envy of the realm’s scholars. Of the gifts and rewards, the most famous present was a staff that was lavishly adorned with gold and silver. Felix’ fame and rewards were commented on by the Lombard historian, Paul the Deacon (c. 720-799), who was curiously educated by the grammarian’s nephew. Paul wrote, “At that time Felix, the uncle of my teacher Flavian was renowned in the grammatical art. The king loved him so much that he bestowed upon him among other gifts of his bounty, a staff decorated with silver and gold” (Paul the Deacon, History of the Lombards, 6.7). Unfortunately, little else is known about the fate of Felix the Grammarian in his later life, or about what became of his opulent staff.
Written by C. Keith Hansley
Picture Attribution: (Figure study, old man with staff, possibly Polonius in “Hamlet” by Edwin Austin Abbey (c. 1852–1911), [Public Domain] via Creative Commons and the Yale University Art Gallery).
- History of the Lombards by Paul the Deacon, translated by William Dudley Foulke (c. 1904). University of Pennsylvania Press, 1907, 1974, 2003.