Ethos, Pathos, Logos and Me (I)

The codex Renbaudus was found in 1962 in Southeastern France. It contains the memoirs in Latin of an 11th century Norman knight, Renbaudus of Bernay. The codex mainly narrates his pilgrimage to Jerusalem between 1095 and 1099.

Even though many pages of the codex have been lost, it is now understood that it originally contained different sections. In one of the few surviving ones, Renbaudus describes his childhood and the lessons he learned from the Benedictine monks who raised him at Cluny abbey.

As a codicologist, my aim is to translate and share with you what he wrote more than 10 centuries ago, hoping these timeless lessons will be useful. I have taken some stylish liberties and you can find a glossary at the bottom for place names, difficult words and Latin words. You may also hover over the dotted-underlined words to get the definitions.

G.B.

-I-

Joy filled my soul whenever I visited Berzé. With Father Eusebius supporting me, I always felt like a winner. Back in Cluny, I felt like someone not very smart, especially when studying difficult subjects. My friend Henry helped me. He understood what the teachers meant and explained everything so well.

One can understand why I was looking to escape the iron grip of the Cluny schola for the bucolic atmosphere of Berzé. Here I was again, looking for some encouragement. As usual, Father Eusebius was somewhere in the shadows of the barns. Sometimes he took a quick nap, but always awoke upon hearing my footsteps as I ran to find him.

“Here is my young genius!” he said cheerfully while rubbing his eyes, still red from the nap.

“Father, I am lost! Between the Ethos, the Pathos, and the Legos that brother Sergius taught us this morning, I don’t see the point of all of these useless words! All I want is fight our enemies.”

“Well, Renbaudus,” Father Eusebius said, “you are going to lose.”

“Why? I am working very hard to learn horse riding and swordsmanship. Now only Henry can beat me.”

“And why is this so?” he asked, with a slight smile.

“I don’t know. He is not that much stronger. Somehow he always finds the right moment to strike me. It’s as if he can read my thoughts.”

Father Eusebius laughed out loud.

“Why is it so amusing?” I was disappointed by his attitude.

“Because, Renbaudus, he is reading your thoughts!”

“That’s impossible!”

“Henry has learned to read your body language. Before you move he knows what you are going to do.”

I was shocked. “How can he do that?”

“He is using his brain much more than you. Hence the Ethos, Pathos, Logos and not Legos as you said earlier.

I couldn’t believe it. We had studied such difficult concepts that morning. How could this be linked to Henry’s ability to beat me? “How is it possible? Words and swords? Linked together?”

“Yes, my son. Do you want to know why?”

I nodded, waiting to discover another mystery from my mentor.

-IJ-

“Do you know who Aristotle was?” asked Father Eusebius.

“No I don’t,” I said cautiously. “Was he a valiant knight?”

He chuckled. “He was a knight, yes, but instead of using a sword he used words.”

I frowned. “Words cannot be stronger than a good sword that can kill you.”

“Don’t be so sure,” he said. “If your teacher calls you names and everyone laughs at you, how do you feel?”

“Like… I want to disappear!”

“And my son, what is disappearing? Isn’t it the same idea as that of dying, of being no more present, right here?”

That made sense, and I nodded. “You are right, Father. I know that words can be powerful. If Hilduin does wrong to me, I call him a name that I am sure will sting him.”

“Thank you. You see now that words can be very powerful.”

He paused, smiling. “Let’s talk about Aristotle, this Greek thinker who lived a long time ago. He understood that words equaled power. The power to convince, the power to win someone over, the power to win an argument.”

That was interesting. I looked off in the distance. If I could convince Henry, maybe he would lend me his favorite sword.

Father Eusebius waited until I looked back at him, and then continued. “He spent a lot of time studying, and found the secret to winning a sound argument: the secret of how to have others follow you because of your words.”

“What is this secret?”

“Three magic words,” the good Father answered in a whisper, “Ethos, Pathos, and Logos.”

What? But this is what we studied this morning! This is not a secret!”

“Did you understand what was taught this morning?”

“No,” I whispered.

“So these three words are still secrets for you. And secrets are always magical, Renbaudus. If you want to learn to have the power I just told you about, you’d better understand the three of them!”
“I want to understand!”

“Good, my son. Now tell me what you remember about the morning lectio.”

I kept silent for a while, embarrassed.

“What is the problem? Come on, tell me.”

“I am sorry Father, but I got sleepy. You know brother Sergius’s voice is perfect to doze off to.”

The old cleric shook his head, his eyes twinkling with amusement. “I guess I must start from the beginning.”

-IIJ-

“What’s your favorite game?” asked Father Eusebius.

“Knights & Heathens,” I answered, remembering all the fun we had while pretending to be heroes fighting the Infidels.

“Good. Now, who among your friends says, “Let’s play Knights & Heathens”?

“Usually it is Henry.”

Suddenly, Father Eusebius looked at me more closely. He seemed worried. “Why do you and your friends always accept his offer?”

I reassured the good father. “Oh, you know Henry! He is very serious-minded when we play. He tries to balance the teams so we can all have fun. He is so devoted to the game that nobody would dare try cheating.”

“Ethos!” whispered Father Eusebius, with a slight smile on his face.

“I don’t understand. What do you mean?”

“You just said it, Renbaudus. Sincerity! Good reputation! Devotion! These are all the marks of Ethos as defined by the great Aristotle. You play with Henry because he is trustworthy. You wouldn’t play with someone who was known as a deceiver.”

“Father, I get it. If I want to be a convincing person, I need Ethos. I need to be serious minded and have a good reputation. But what about Pathos?”

Father Eusebius reflected for a moment, scratching his white-haired head. “Sometimes when you don’t want to play, what is Henry’s reaction?”

“Actually, it is difficult to resist, because when Henry mentions all the fun I will miss if I don’t play, I usually change my mind. How could I miss this joyful time with my friends?”

“And there is your Pathos, Renbaudus!” he said triumphantly. “It is the emotion that drives us. It can be pleasure, ambition, or anger. Anything that makes us human beings do things we wouldn’t usually do.”

As I thought about Aristotle’s concepts, I wondered if Henry was aware of them, or if it was just natural for him. I felt a little bit envious.

Father Eusebius looked up at the darkening sky and the declining sun. The bell of Berzé sounded None.

“I must go soon,” he said. “Let’s see if Henry is also using Logos. Are there any other reasons he gave you to play this game?”

I kept silent, blushing. Noticing my silence, he looked at me and saw my red complexion. “Uh, Renbaudus, I have to leave, but you wouldn’t want to miss the last of the three secrets that so far you understand so well. Is there something difficult you need to tell? Even to an old and trusted friend?”

-IIIJ-

I cleared my throat. “It is not that difficult but with you… a holy man…”

Father Eusebius’ face lit up. “I was young too,” he said with a laugh. “We all have desires. There are many beautiful things on Earth created by God.”

I nodded eagerly. “Yes there are beautiful damisels in the village at Cluny. Henry says if we play Knights & Heathens often, we will get better, stronger, and we will win more often.” Trying to sound casual, I added, “I know that the damisels secretly watch our games and cheer for some of us.”

Smiling, Father Eusebius put a hand on my shoulder. “Thank you for trusting me with this matter. God forbid I tell anyone. I will take it to my grave.”

“Thank you, Father. But tell me, is Henry using Logos?”

“Indeed. He is giving you practical reasons as to why you should play. Logos, as you should know, means “word” in Greek. When we talk about Logos, there are no emotions involved, only facts. Logos appeals to your logic. It’s all about why you should do something. In your case, you can enhance your physical skills by practicing this game over and over. To which, by the way, Henry or you, finally suggests…”

I cut off Father Eusebius. “I know! To another Pathos…the pretty damisels.”

He tapped my back. “Excellent! You now understand Aristotle’s three principles to giving a convincing speech.”

“Yes, Father. If I absolutely want someone to help me, I should do three things: primo, state how much I am trusted and respected for my knowledge; secundo, tell that person how much fun he will have helping me; and tertio, explain what he can get or learn by helping me.”

Father Eusebius nodded. “Well said. Don’t forget, though, that your message must be true and appealing to your interlocutor. You wouldn’t want to try to convince an old woman to become a miles.”

I laughed out loud as the sun set over Berzé.

He looked me in the eye. “Could you do me a favor, Renbaudus?”

“Of course Father, and I want to thank you for enlightening me.”

He lowered his voice. “Please, try, in the next few days, to find how to apply the three secrets to your life. You don’t want Henry being the only one enjoying their power.”

“I’ll do my best, and I’ll report to you.”

“God bless you, my son.”

As he was about to stand, he stopped. “Did you know that Aristotle was a teacher?”

“No, but he couldn’t be as good as you, Father.”

He let out a little laugh. “Ah, Renbaudus, you just made my day brighter! Aristotle was a greater teacher than I can ever be. To prove it,” he said, “let me tell you the name of one of his young students: Alexander the Great.”

He stood up and left me wide-eyed and speechless.

Alexander The Great? I thought. The greatest warrior of all times? The man who conquered almost all the known world, never to be defeated?

Benedicite Dominum !” I mumbled, slowly standing up as Father Eusebius cautiously made his way to the chapel.

Glossary:

Berzé: Small village near the abbey of Cluny.
Cluny: Abbey located in Burgundy, France. Cluny was the head of the most powerful monastic movement in the Middle Ages.
Bucolic: charming scenery in the countryside.
Aristotle (384BC-322BC): He was one of the founding fathers of Western philosophy along with Socrates and Plato. His views are still actively studied today.
Lectio, lectionis: lesson, class, lecture.
None: Mid-afternoon prayer rung by the bells around 3pm.
Interlocutor: conversation partner.
Miles, militis: soldier.
Alexander the Great (356BC-323BC): He was one of the most successful military commanders of all time and is presumed undefeated in battle.

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