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Klaus Arnold on Libanius Gallus

A man whom Trithemius calls Libanius Gallus stands out as the most singular personality among his teachers. Libanius is only known in connection with Trithemius and seems to have had a great influence on him. We would gladly know more of him than the colourless picture which can be acquired from mentions by his pupil and three, in part distinctly obscure letters. What can the abbot have learned from his 'best and unique teacher'? A first indication is given by the mention of the acquaintanceship arising from a visit to Sponheim in the summer of 1495 in the apologia against accusations of sorcery in the Nepiachus. Libanius was the inheritor of the knowledge and library of a hermit, one Pelagius, whom Trithemius identifies with Fernando of Cordoba (circa 1425-1486) in the Annales Hirsaugienses. Libanius spent a lengthy period in Saint Quentin, as did Carolus Bovillus (Charles de Bovelles), whose house he frequented, as we learn from the letters of 1505 which were delivered by the physician Narcissus. Along with Nicolas of Cues and Henricus Cornelius Agrippa of Nettesheim, Bovillus was one of the most important disseminators of Lullist thinking. Fernando too was - with all due reservations - familiar with the esoteric thinking of Ramon Lull. The common ground between these scholars - and Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, whose acquaintance Trithemius attributes to the intervention of Libanius, should be counted amongst them - is the impluse towards an all-encompassing knowledge; a goal towards which the abbot also strove: he wants to attain to insight into the secrets of philosophy, Christian belief and nature through Libanius. The draw of mysterious things which Trithemius surrounds himself with, and the 'Faustian' urge for the natural and supernatural secrets of the world belong in the picture of his personality just as much as his unbounded striving after knowledge. At the end of his life, however, he must recognise with resignation that he is to take his secrets to the grave.