1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Seven Wise Masters, The

SEVEN WISE MASTERS, THE, a cycle of stories of Oriental origin. A Roman emperor causes his son to be educated away from the court in the seven liberal arts by seven wise masters. On his return to court his stepmother the empress seeks to seduce him. To avert some danger presaged by the stars he is bound over to a week’s silence. During this time the empress accuses him to her husband, and seeks to bring about his death by seven stories which she relates to the emperor; but her narrative is each time confuted by tales of the craft of women related by the sages. Finally the prince’s lips are unsealed, the truth exposed, and the wicked empress is executed.

The cycle of stories, which appears in many European languages, is of Eastern origin. An analogous collection occurs in Sanskrit, but the Indian original is unknown. Travelling from the east by way of Arabic, Persian, Syriac and Greek, it was known as the book of Sindibâd, and was translated from Greek into Latin in the 12th century by Jean de Hauteseille (Joannes de Alta Silva), a monk of the abbey of Haute-Seille near Toul, with the title of Dolopathos (ed. H. Oesterley, Strassburg, 1873). This was translated into French about 1210 by a trouvère named Herbers as Li Romans di Dolopathos; another French version, Li Romans des sept sages, was based on a different Latin original. The German, English, French and Spanish chap-books of the cycle are generally based on a Latin original differing from these. Three metrical romances probably based on the French, and dating from the 14th century, exist in English. The most important of these is The Sevyn Sages by John Rolland of Dalkeith edited for the Bannatyne Club (Edinburgh, 1837).

The Latin romance was frequently printed in the 15th century, and Wynkyn de Worde printed an English version about 1515. See G. Paris, Deux Rédactions du roman des sept sages de Rome (Paris, 1876, Soc. des. anc. textes fr.); Büchner, Historia septum sapientium . . . (Erlangen, 1889); K. Campbell, A Study of the Romance of the Seven Sages with special reference to the middle English versions (Baltimore, 1898); D. Comparetti, Researches respecting the Book of Sindibâd (Folk-Lore Soc., 1882).