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Mirrors For Princes
Mirrors for princes (Latin: specula principum), or mirrors of princes, form a literary genre - in the loose sense of the word - of political writing during the Early Middle Ages, Middle Ages and the Renaissance, and are part of the broader speculum or mirror literature genre. They occur most frequently in the form of textbooks which directly instruct kings or lesser rulers on certain aspects of rule and behaviour, but in a broader sense the term is also used to cover histories or literary works aimed at creating images of kings for imitation or avoidance. Authors often composed such "mirrors" at the accession of a new king, when a young and inexperienced ruler was about to come to power. One could view them as a species of self-help book - a sort of proto-study of leadership before the concept of a "leader" became more generalised than the concept of a monarchicalhead-of-state.
One of the earliest works was written by Sedulius Scottus (fl. 840-860), the Irish poet associated with the "Pangur Bán" gloss poem (c. 9th century). Possibly the best known European "mirror" is The Prince (c. 1513) by Machiavelli, although this was not a typical example. Some further examples are listed below.
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De duodecim abusivis saeculi, 'On the twelve abuses of the world' (7th century), a Hiberno-Irish treatise by an anonymous author sometimes referred to as Pseudo-Cyprian. This work, though not a 'mirror for princes' per se, was to be of great influence on the development of the 'genre' as it took place on the Continent.
Alcuin, De virtutibus et vitiis (c. 799-800), written for Count Wido of Brittany.
Dhuoda, Liber manualis, written for her son William.
see De duodecim abusivis saeculi above. The vernacular mirrors differ from most texts mentioned here in that the ones who are described as giving and receiving advice are commonly legendary figures.
Audacht Morainn ('The Testament of Morand'), written c. 700, an Old Irish text which has been called a forerunner of the 'mirrors for princes'. The legendary wise judge Morand is said to have sent advice to Feradach Find Fechtnach when the latter was about to be made King of Tara.
Antonio de Guevara, Relox de príncipes (1529), inspired by and dedicated to Charles V, a bestseller of its times, translated during the 16th Century to English, Latin, Italian, German, French and Dutch.
Finotti, Fabio (ed.), "I volti del principe". Venezia: Marsilio, 2018.
Handy, Amber. "The Specula principum in northwestern Europe, A.D. 650-900 : the evolution of a new ethical rule". Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Notre Dame, 2011. Notre Dame, Ind. : University of Notre Dame, 2011. Retrieved May 17, 2015. Univ. of Notre Dame Online theses & dissertations
Konstantinos D.S. Paidas, He thematike ton byzantinon "katoptron hegemonos" tes proimes kai meses Byzantines periodoy(398-1085). Symbole sten politike theoria ton Byzantinon, Athens 2005.
Konstantinos D.S. Paidas, Ta byzantina "katoptra hegemonos" tes ysteres periodoy (1254-1403). Ekfraseis toy byzantinoy basilikou ideodous, Athens 2006.
Lambton, Ann K.S. "Islamic Mirrors for Princes." In: eadem, Theory and Practice in Medieval Persian Government. London. 1980. VI: 419-442.
Smith, Roland M. "The Speculum Principum in Early Irish Literature." Speculum 2 (1927): 411-45.