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Goliards were wandering scholars devoted to adventure and the good life. While some serious students traveled from one university to the next in search of the specific knowledge each school had to offer, the Goliards traveled in search of wine, women and song. Most scholars began their studies through the Church, so Goliards were usually clerics, but they were not at all priestly in their behavior.
In between drinking and chasing women, Goliards found time to write a variety of songs, from the religious to the bawdy. This included love songs (both reverent and scandalous), political satires and, of course, drinking songs. They also wrote plays and poetry. While only a percentage of their surviving works have musical notation, it is believed that almost all their poetry was meant to be sung.

Also known as:

Goliardic Poets

Origins and History:

The Goliards took their name from one "Bishop Golias," a fallen priest who figured in many of their poems and was very likely a purely fictional creation. They first appeared in France in the ninth century, during the reign of Charlemagne. Their travels took them all over Europe, and they were best known in England, France and Germany. The Goliards flourished until the early 14th century.


  • Goliards wrote most of their songs, poetry and plays in Latin, but they were also among the first to use vernacular languages in their works.
  • Goliardic songs appear to be the earliest known preserved examples of secular music.
  • Some Goliardic poetry survives today, including the Carmina Burana and the 11th-century Cambridge Songbook.

Disreputable Associations:

  • Goliards were renowned for gambling, fighting, drinking and wenching, and their poems reflected this as well as a satirical attitude toward the Church and its clergy.
  • In the 13th century the Church began to pass restrictions against the Goliards, decreeing they could not preach or grant indulgences, and by the early 14th century all their clerical privileges were withdrawn.

Notable Goliards:

The names of only a few Goliardic Poets are known to us: Hugh (or Hugo) Primas of Orleans, Gautier de Châtillon, Pierre de Blois, and Phillipe the Chancellor. Perhaps the most famous Goliard is the anonymous Archpoet, whose works imply that he lived the principles of adventure to the full. Virtually nothing outside of the content of their poems exists to shed light on the lives of these individuals.

Suggested Reading:

  1. About.com
  2. Education
  3. Medieval History
  4. Arts, Literature & Music
  5. Music
  6. Goliards - Wandering Scholars Devoted to Adventure and the Good Life - Goliardic Poets

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