Legions of Pigs in the Early Medieval West

Legions of Pigs in the Early Medieval West

Jamie Kreiner

Print publication date: 2021

ISBN: 9780300246292

Publisher: Yale University Press

Abstract

Early medieval communities were thinking seriously about their environments. They saw themselves as part of a complex and dynamic universe that was propelled by interconnected organisms and forces. In that system, even the smallest creatures or events could have far-reaching consequences. The big picture was tied to hyperlocal circumstances. The people who lived in the early medieval West (in what is now northwest Africa and Europe) brought these perspectives to bear on their farming, policy making, and philosophizing. And pigs were both a means and a motivation for doing this. They were a flexible species that could handle a diversity of ecologies. They illustrated the benefits of being adaptable. But they were also a constant reminder that humans had to adapt to their animals and landscapes: total control or assimilation was unthinkable. Pigs were nearly everywhere in the early medieval West, and they left their hoofprints on laws, politics, philosophy, religion, and even humans’ own sense of themselves.