Mulio and Mulier

I didn’t mention in my previous post that St. Beatus had made yet another horrible pun on mulier. (One of the Latin words for an adult woman, or in Spain, wife. The Spanish still use “mujer” for wife and woman both.)

Before, we got the standard horrible Latin pun of “mulier” and “molliter”, soft or fleecy.

This time, it was mulier (in the wife meaning) and “mulio”, muledriver. (Which means that a husband and kids are the mules, I guess….)

However, it seems that a “mulio” (civilian or military) was almost always a slave, in the Roman Empire, and it seems to have been a serf or slave job during most of the early Middle Ages, until times got better and reforms set in. So that’s why there was all the talk about the mulio being “cheap” or “worthless”, and also being powerless before authority.

Of course, in most of the early Middle Ages, religious sisters of various sorts were often under strong pressure by their families to leave the convent, if the family suddenly had an advantageous marriage prospect and another daughter home would be useful. (In many cases, even if she had already married and been widowed or divorced.)

But the mulio and field exemplae seem to be directed primarily at sisters who wanted to leave and get married because they felt like it.


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