Greek Studies in 15th Century Europe

Progetto completo al link:


The “Marco Polo” High-School (Venice) has taken part to the project led by Paola Tomè on the revival of Greek studies in XVth - century Europe. During the past two years we have been working on some translations from Greek into Latin which played an important role in Western Humanism. We benefited from the cooperation with Ms Paola Tomè and other scholars and researchers of the like of Federico Boschetti (CNR - Pisa), Linda Spinazzè (“Poesia Latina” project), Elisabetta Lugato and Tiziana Plebani (Marciana Library, Venice).


Three classes have participated to the project, coordinated by four teachers: Dr Anna Calia, Dr Dario Donadello, Dr Maria Antonietta Rizzetto and Dr Antonella Trevisiol.


The first group worked on Aldus Manutius’ translation of Aesop’s Fables. Manutius was the most important and innovative scholarly publisher of the Renaissance. His Aldine Press was responsible for more first editions of classical literature, philosophy and science than any other publisher before or since. Aldus was particularly concerned to preserve through the printer’s art the most important remains of Greek literature that had survived the age of the manuscript book, and to provide the literati of his own time with the tools they needed to keep the knowledge of Greek alive. The students focused on the fable known as “One Woman and Her Drunken Husband”. They compared the Greek original with the Latin translation through a morphosyntactic analysis. Furthermore, they compared the text with other translations in English and Italian.


A second group worked on Lorenzo Valla’s translation of Thucydides. The well-known Italian humanist finished in 1452 what became the standard translation of Thucydides for the next several hundred years. The students identified the central themes taken up by Valla in the dedicatory letter to Pope Nicholas V and the political meaning of his translation. Valla sought to preserve the Greek literary heritage which was threatened by the Ottoman advance in the Levant. To him, the translation was an act of conquest, a translatio studiorum which brought Greece and its heritage closer to Italian humanists. The students transcribed Thucydides’ proemium from the first incunable containing Valla’s translation, published in Treviso in 1483. They compared the Greek original text with Valla’s translation and they considered the ways in which Valla managed to imitate Thucydides’ style.


A third group worked on cardinal Bessarion’s Latin translation of Demosthenes’ first Olynthiac oration. The famous Athenian orator wrote this speech in 348/9 in an effort to convince his fellow Athenians to push back the imperialistic projects of Philip of Macedon. Bessarion used the oration as part of his anti-Ottoman propaganda. The students put in context Bessarion’s translation and analysed his comments in marginal notes of his translation where he parallels Philip’s rise to the Ottoman expansion. They transcribed some passages of the Latin translation directly from the incunable and they compared it with the Greek original.


We are convinced that we highly benefited from the participation to this project and we deeply believe that cooperation between researchers, academics and schools is most fruitful and it has a vital importance for the future of classical studies in Italy and beyond.


Ultima revisione il 14-06-2016