Migrants in the 21st century make their way across the sea from Libya and Syria to Europe to escape the scourge of war, but 1300 years ago, the African monk Hadrian and Bishop Theodore of Tarsusi took the same road in order to spread knowledge, science and culture throughout England and Europe as a whole.
In his article published by the British "History Extra" website, writer Michael Wood says that England was a land without a cultural or religious identity when the African monk Hadrian arrived from Libya in 670 AD.
Within years, Hadrian and his friend Theodore, who came from Syria, helped lay the foundations of English culture.
The writer affirms that Britain knew the African population during its Roman era, who came from Mauritania, Morocco and Algeria, but after the end of the Roman era and the early British campaigns abroad during the Tudor Dynasty, which included 5 kings who ruled England between 1485 and 1603, Africans did not have a prominent role in the history of The country, he said.
In the year 731, the English historian Monk Beda Venerable wrote about “a man of African descent, perhaps a Berber (Berber), a pioneer of one of the most important cultural movements during the past 1400 years, and a milestone who played an exceptional role in the history of the English language.” This man was born in North Africa and spent the last 40 years of his life in England and was buried here. He had a beautiful Roman name, Father Hadrian the African.
From North Africa to Britain
How did a North African man born in the early seventh century AD to change the course of English history?
The writer says that the story begins in the land in which Hadrian was born, Libya, where the Greeks mixed with the local population, and from there came some of the early church fathers, including Bishop Cudvaultdaus the Carthaginian who came from North Africa to Europe.
It is likely that Hadrian grew up in coastal Apollonia (northeastern Libya), which included about 4 Byzantine churches in his days, and a large Roman palace.
The city was rebuilt during the sixth century during the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian.
According to the writer, it was the Islamic conquest of the neighboring city of Benghazi in (642 AD) and thus the collapse of Byzantine rule, which forced Hadrian to flee and made his way to southern Italy, and after crossing the Mediterranean, he became abbot of a monastery in Nisida, a picturesque island in the Bay of Naples .
It is clear - according to the writer - that Hadrian was a man of high stature and good reputation, as he went on diplomatic trips to Gaul (contemporary France), and perhaps worked as a translator from the Greek language for Emperor Constantine II during his visit to Italy in 663.
The writer adds that Hadrian's distinguished reputation made Pope Vitalian offer him the position of Archbishop in Britain, and he initially refused and suggested the abbot of Naples to take over the task, and then later suggested his close friend Theodore, a monk from Tartus (located in the Turkish state of Mersin now), Greek of origin Educated in Syria, Antioch and Edessa.
Theodore agreed to go to England, and served as Archbishop of Canterbury from 669 until his death in 690, and Hadrian joined him a year after he took over the task, and according to the writer the two men contributed to setting one of the most important teaching programs in British history.
England's Happiest Time
The writer affirms that the "Syrian" monk and his "Libyan" friend set up a pioneering educational institution in Canterbury, whose fame soon reached all over Europe.
Beda wrote in 731 of the school of Theodore and Hadrian saying, "They went everywhere and did everything together. It was the happiest time since the English language first appeared in Britain."
According to the English historian, Hadrian and Theodore traveled all over England while working together, but lived and worked in Canterbury, building a library there, writing studies, giving lectures, and training a generation of priests, administrators, artists and writers.
Beda stated that Hadrian's linguistic skills were exceptional, and they are clearly evident through his works of defining terms and his teaching notes that range from Greek and Latin, in addition to Old English.
According to the writer, Hadrian and Theodore succeeded in reviving education in England after the country had been a land without any cultural identity since 597, when they brought from North Africa, which was an important Christian center at the time and home to great authors such as Tertullian and Cebrian, copies of African writings similar to manuscripts. Primacyus is housed today in the Bodley Library at the University of Oxford.
A cultural legacy in Europe
The author states that Hadrian also performed lessons in Canterbury using Latin puzzles by the Roman writer Simphusius, who is also likely to be of African origin.
In ancient Rome, African personalities shone, including the philosopher Augustine (right), Pope Glasius I (center), and the writer Tertullian (websites)
These puzzles were simple games to teach students the methods of deduction and deductive reasoning, and they inspired a student named Aldhelm to create longer puzzles, and from that moment on the puzzle became an integral part of English culture.
The writer adds that a number of newly discovered manuscripts may reveal more secrets about the great legacy left by Hadrian and Theodore, from linguistic writings on Latin and Greek, translations and writings on religion, medicine, philosophy, history, as well as Roman civil law, poetry and rhetoric.
Among those discoveries are parts of a manuscript containing grammar in the Latin language found recently in the French city of Reims, and a manuscript in Milan containing notes made by a student during a lecture given by Theodore and Hadrian in Canterbury, explaining the meaning of Bible texts, names of places and landscapes And customs, plants and animals of the Near East.
The writer says that copies and parts of the works of Theodore and Hadrian spread throughout Europe during the Middle Ages, which made many view in a later period the two monks as the founders of the educational system in the West.