There is just so much terrible information on the internet that it becomes depressing wading through it all. This past week, for example, Ancient Origins ran a crappy article claiming that the mythic founder of Rome, Romulus, was a real person and thus speculating on how he really died. There is no evidence that Romulus ever lived, so the recounting of various ancient explanations for his death offer no proof of life, only testimony to the ancients’ penchant for inventing details to flesh out the lives of fictional characters.
But much worse was an article from the same author, Valda Roric, alleging the existence of a medieval myth of a Black Knight of Neutrality, one who happens to be a Sith Lord. Yes, a Sith, the made-up evil order of dark Star Wars villains. The author alleges that there was a secret order of Black Knights that emerged in the eighth century under the name of Sith and spent the Middle Ages as mercenaries. While the name “Black Knight” was occasionally used in early literature (often to refer to Moors), the phrase is most closely associated with two fictional works: the Black Knight from Ivanhoe, written in the 1800s, and the “black Knight” from The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia, written in the late 1500s.
According to Roric, the Sith knight encountered a force of “neutrality,” separating good and evil, known as Il Separatio (Italian for “The Separation” despite being a Latin text).
But Roric’s piece just gets weirder as it badly summarizes a poorly translated blog post from 2012 alleging to be an abstract of an early modern Latin philosophical document called the Codex Lugubrum (c. 1535), which is said to exist only in a single manuscript owned by Codrin Ştefănescu, a Romanian politician with a special interest in medieval Romanian demonology. This man, in turn, became associated with the text in online discussions after claiming in 2009 to have seen angels. (See comments here.)
The 2012 post appears to be a word-for-word translation of this one in Romanian from 2011, which imagines that the allegory is somehow anomalous medieval knowledge of quantum astrophysics. (Don’t ask; it involves binary code symbolized by good and evil, and it degenerates into the worst sort of Deepak Chopra-style pseudo-profound quantum nonsense with a dash of DNA contrivance.). The same text was also discussed on an alchemical forum slightly earlier. Someone trying to defend the existence of the text posted low resolution photos of the alleged Codex only to have the distinctive frontispiece reveal it to be the D. Hilarii Pictauorum episcopi Lucubrationes quotquot extant: olim per Des. Erasmum Roterod. haud mediocribus sudoribus emendateanno, Erasmus’ edition of St. Hilary of Poitiers’ works, in which the story does not appear, so far as I know.
Perhaps intriguingly, the seemingly irrelevant addition of quantum physics to the story is actually present in the oldest reference I can find, from a 2010 Romanian discussion forum posting in which the Codex is cited as containing secret truths about Enoch, the Watchers, and the Nephilim (but of course!) that reveal the truth about the quantum state of the universe and how subatomic particles are involved in ceremonial magic.
I have no way of knowing whether a real manuscript exists—it’s not impossible that there was an allegorical text about a force that separates good and evil, but neither has anyone provided evidence that (a) the text exists or (b) that it refers to any historical truth. If real, it would join other early modern allegorical works that have no basis in fact. However, the weird growth of the story suggests a hoax originating in Romanian political culture.
What’s interesting is that Roric seems to have poorly understood the alleged contents of the Codex Lugubrum, eliminated any references to specific texts, and filled in uncertain details with Star Wars myths. The original blog post made clear that it was a fictitious allegory, but our Ancient Origins writer, apparently hearing the story secondhand, misunderstood it as real. Roric has also interpolated into it the name “Ashor,” which doesn’t appear in the 2011/2012 versions, where the character’s name is Amantes. I’ll be damned if I can figure out how Roric’s changes came about, though the story is clearly the one from the 2011 discussions, albeit in slightly altered form.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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