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Latin Christian works, Christianity, philosophy, art of teaching


The Old English Pastoral Care, a translation of Gregory the Great's Liber Regula Pastoralis which King Alfred completed sometime in the first few years of the 890s, was the first in a series of translations of Latin Christian works in English that would serve as the foundation of Alfred's program of cultural and educational reform aimed at restoring England's preeminence as a leading Christian intellectual center. This reputation that the land had enjoyed during the glory days of Bede and Alcuin had been lost as a consequence of continual Viking invasions in the eighth and ninth centuries, with the result that, according to Alfred in his Preface to the Pastoral Care, there were few people left in England who could even read English, let alone Latin (3.13–16). Thus his primary goals were to educate his people in the vernacular and to make the primary Christian teachings of Latin fathers such as Gregory and Augustine and philosophers such as Boethius accessible to them in their native language. He also sought to unify his country by spreading these teachings throughout the kingdom and, by undertaking to translate the principal works himself, to secure his place as his people's intellectual as well as political leader. It is in the Pastoral Care, a book which is itself about the art of teaching, that Alfred first attempts to establish himself as such a leader, as a king who is as much his people's teacher as their ruler.