The Trivium

MS Codex 1243 Manicule The trivium refers to the three literary disciplines of grammar, rhetoric, and dialectic. These subjects were well-established in the ancient Roman empire and were considered essential training for Roman political life. For this reason, Roman libraries were stocked with textbooks for these subjects, many of which continued to be used in the early Middle Ages, such as Priscian and Donatus on grammar and Cicero on rhetoric. The term trivium does not appear, however, until the ninth century, when it is adopted to distingish the three literary disciplines from the quadrivium, the term first used by Boethius to refer to the four mathematical disciplines. Although Boethuis did not make contributions to the study of grammar and rhetoric, he devoted a significant amount of his scholarly life to studying, translating, and commenting on ancient texts on logic. These translations and commentaries remained central to the study of dialectic throughout the Middle Ages. The following manuscripts illustrate the literary disciplines of the trivium and the traces of the individuals who studied them.

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