[Sca-cooks] fork mythology

Terry Decker t.d.decker at worldnet.att.net
Sun Jun 24 22:23:28 PDT 2007

>    This is not working out Alonso Luengo says at the beginning of the
> 15th Century Pietro de Oreseolo married his son to Romano Agrilio's
> sister. He was a rich Venetian businessman. She brought gold forks to
> the wedding banquet for all the guests who followed her example of
> eating all morsels with this new fangled instrument. Now I have no
> knowledge of the existence of this man but of a woman called Agrilio
> which I shall explain below.

I'm a little confused by this.  Are you referencing the modern author, Luis
Alonso Luengo, or are you referencing a 15th Century source, say the Don
Alonso Luengo that was the patron of the Church of Our Lady of Carmen and
Ildefonso?  If it is the former, then it would be interesting to know if he
provides a source for the reference.

>    Pietro II de Oreseolo was Doge of Venice from 991-1009. It seems to
> be pretty well established that the wedding in question took place in
> 1004 in some sources between his son and a Byzantine princess.

Giovanni Oreseolo, eldest son of Pietro II, married Maria Argyra, niece of
Emperor Basil II, in Constantinople in 1004.  Giovanni died in 1006.
Otto, the third son, married a daughter of Stephen I of Hungary and
succeeded Pietro as Doge.  Orso and Vitale were churchmen.

>    On the other hand Henrisch states and I believe one of our SCA
> colleagues too that the marriage was between a Byzantine princess and
> Domenice Selvo's son. Selvo was dogge between 1071-1081.

Doge Domenico Selvo married the Byzantine Princess, Teodora Doukaina, 
daughter of Constantine X and sister of then Emperor Michael VII, in 1075. 
Selvo was deposed in 1084 and died in 1087.

Interestingly, I've found references for both of these stories that have 
Peter Damian speaking harshly about the conduct of the bride at the time. 
Damian was born in 1007 (or possibly as early as 995) and died in 1072. 
Thus he was probably not born when Giovanni Oreseolo married Maria Argyra 
and was dead before Domenico Selvo married Teodora Doukaina, which make any 
commentary upon the actions of the brides suspect until it can be confirmed 
from a contemporary source.

>    It seems to me that Alonso Luengo has a grammatical mishap as his
> subject here is that a fruit fork was served as a novelty to guests
> during Suero Quinones' tournament in Leon, Spain in the 1434 and that
> Henrisch has a mishap perhaps because the fork was supposedly pardoned
> (to an extent obviously) during Selvo's service as doge, i.e. some 70
> years after the marriage took place.
>    Now for the Agrilio problem, there is a story that she was a Greek
> princess very much influenced by the Byzantines who used the fork at her
> wedding banquet with the son of the doge in 955 - that would mean Pietro
> III Candiano (942-959).

I'm wondering if Agrilio may not be an interpretation of Argyra and that 
this story is that of the marriage of Giovanni Oreseolo attributed to the 
wrong date.

While I don't have much on Pietro III Candiano, his eldest son, Pietro IV 
Candiano, who was also Doge, set aside his first wife, Joan, for political 
reasons and in 966 married Waldrada, daughter of Hubert, Duke of Spoleto.

It could be possible as far as I know but then
> we get into a messy affair of the Church. Somehow beyond my knowledge it
> seems this had something do with the schism between the RC and the
> Orthodox Church in 1054 cause, I presume, the clergy of the RC Church
> identified the fork with the devil as DA indicates - you know the
> devil's pitchfork verses the natural gift of God that we have fingers as
> forks and using the devil's instrument, therefore, to transmit food from
> the plate to the mouth is an offense to God. - Here were get into Old
> Testament teaching that for any act against God, He strikes the Pharaoh
> or whoever down so therefore our heroine, whoever she is, dies some
> eight days after the wedding and in some stories the groom as well for
> trespassing the will of God.

As far as I can ascertain, the Great Schism was primarily due to language 
and cultural differences and justified by differences in ritual and dogma. 
Without documentable evidence that the RC Church in or around 1054 
considered forks tools of the devil and/or prohibited or regulated their 
use, presuming that they did so is fallacious reasoning.

>    But Alonso points out fruit forks are permitted to carry out that
> function as long as the food transmitted to the mouth does not come from
> an animal (ok so we can eat hay with a fork, no?). Obviously that means
> fruit is ok. Don't know why eggplants and other plants consumed are not
> included. Why don't we have vegetable and legume forks except that
> generally those were included in pottages, perhaps?
>    On the other hand the knife prior to the fruit fork was permitted to
> carry morsels of meat to the mouth. The blade of the knife is metallic,
> no?
>    Finally if metal is the question why was cutlery not all wooden? Why
> does the silver or pewter spoon come in centuries before the fork?
>    The more I read the less I believe! Can anyone sort me out?
> Suey

The stories are good, but the facts don't fit.  That screams apocrypha to 
me.  It's like George Washington and the cherry tree; great story, but the 
invention of Parson Weems.  In the matter of the fork, I'm of the opinion 
it's time to go back to square one and look for primary sources.


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