If you look closely at the portrait on the front face of the old Irish 5-pound note, known colloquially as the ‘orange’ fiver, you will observe a rather austere looking gentleman, gazing. soft eyed, toward some point off in the distance. His taciturn mien does not divulge much about him at first glance, but on closer inspection you will notice that he is wrapped carefully in a snug-looking fur coat. You will further notice that he has what some would term a ‘high-brow,’ denoting a man of deep thought and abundant worldly knowledge.

His name is Johannes Scotus Eriugena, the 9th-century philosopher, translator and theologian, known fondly as ‘John the Philosopher.’ John was born in Ireland around 810 A.D. and it is widely accepted that he possessed the finest and most original intellect of the early Middle Ages.

Although a singular and enigmatic figure who took his stand separate from the mainstream, he was highly proficient in Greek, quite rare at that time in mainland Europe, and was thus well-placed for translation work. Born in Ireland, John later moved to France, where he took over a school, the Palatine Academy, at the invitation of King Charles I.

Charles, affectionately known as Charles the Bald (pictured), was a charismatic and powerful man, and also the King of Italy. As Charles II, he became the Holy Roman Emperor. After a series of civil wars that began during the reign of his father, Louis the Pious, Charles succeeded, by virtue of the Treaty of Verdun, in acquiring the western third of the Carolingian Empire. Charles was also a grandson of the Frankish King Charlemagne.

Although mostly known as a deep thinker and brilliant scholar, John, being born and bred an Irishman, never lost his sense of humor and was an expert in the art of ‘repartee.’ One example of his quick wit tells the story of a discussion he had with his friend King Charles. One night the two men sat opposite each other at the banquet table, discussing many wide-ranging and important topics. After the other guests had retired for the night, and with the wine undoubtedly flowing freely, Charles posed a question to John.

 “John, in your esteemed opinion, what would you say separates the wise man from the fool?”

John, looked at his friend, sipped from his goblet, and answered wryly, “Nothing but the table your majesty, just the table.”

We can only assume that Charles took it all in his stride and I am sure that the two men laughed and cajoled well into the night.

 Read more here:


Books for Sale:

Don’t Die with Regrets: Ireland and the Lessons my Father Taught Me.


The Journey: A Nomad Reflects.


Views: 1065

Tags: Academia, Currency, Medieval Ireland, Middle Ages, Philosophy

Comment by Claire Fullerton on October 3, 2015 at 10:05am

Love this!

Comment by John Anthony Brennan on October 5, 2015 at 3:27am

Yes, it is a great story and shows the typical Irish humor at it's finest.

Comment by Richard R. Mc Gibbon Jr. on October 11, 2015 at 9:01am

The Table,.... hmmmm. I believe that nothing separates the wise man from the fool, they are the same, its all a matter of simple perspective.  Slainte !  

Comment by John Anthony Brennan on October 11, 2015 at 6:47pm

Maybe it depends on which side of the table  we sit............LOL

Comment by Richard R. Mc Gibbon Jr. on October 11, 2015 at 7:19pm

Jakkers!!! I can't even find a table to sit at, or maybe I have had a wee bit too much of the porter tonight ;-)

Slainte !

Comment by John Anthony Brennan on October 11, 2015 at 7:28pm

LOL......You can never have too much porter.......!!

Comment by Richard R. Mc Gibbon Jr. on October 11, 2015 at 7:38pm

Said by a very wise man to the fool ;-)


Comment by John Anthony Brennan on October 11, 2015 at 7:43pm

What side of the table are you on........LOL

Comment by Richard R. Mc Gibbon Jr. on October 11, 2015 at 7:50pm

Still can't find that damn table, but I have always been a fool surrounded by wise men. At least that is what they tell me and who am I to question wise men. But as I see it being the fool allows me enough room to seek improvement. The journey gives character even when the goal cannot be reached. Slainte

Comment by John Anthony Brennan on October 11, 2015 at 8:04pm

A wise fool once said, "It takes a wise man to act the fool."


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