Neo-Latin Literature 1

Neo-Latin literature, the Latin literature of Europe in modern times.

It emerged in Italy under the influence of humanism from around 1350 and, in a long process of displacement up to 1500, replaced Middle Latin literature, spread throughout Christian Europe in the 16th century and was the last to hold its own in the 17th and 18th centuries supranational, predominantly scholarly literature, but from 1800 onwards produced only a few poems and scientific writings. Their language form is the neo-Latin (neo-Latin language) largely created by the Italian humanists through the reception of classical and ancient word usage and style.


Like other intellectual movements of the late Middle Ages (mysticism, devotio moderna), humanism sought to overcome the religious and social crises of the time. F. Petrarca and C. Salutati are considered to be his fathers and thus also the founders of neo-Latin literature. Petrarch pointed out with his enthusiasm for antiquity, v. a. for Cicero, and with the call for intellectual and political renewal, paved the way and set standards for almost all genres of neo-Latin literature with poems and prose writings that had a programmatic effect. Salutati, since 1375 State Chancellor in Florence, helped the “Studia humanitatis” to achieve a breakthrough by promoting their followers, encouraging the collection of manuscripts and the establishment of libraries, the translation of Greek authors (through the appointment of M. Chrysoloras, 1397), and text philology and initiated discussions on scientific or philosophical questions.

In the 15th century, for example, people were eagerly looking for handwritten ancient works (G. F. Poggio Bracciolini, Bessarion), copying the Latin partly in imitated Carolingian minuscule, partly in humanistic cursive script (created by Niccolò Niccoli, * 1364, † 1437 ) and translated them Greek (L. Bruni, P. C. Decembrio), developed text-critical and philological methods, e.g. B. L. Valla in his fundamental work “Elegantiae linguae latinae” (around 1440) and A. Poliziano in his editions and commentaries on ancient authors. Bruni and P. P. Vergerio the Elder founded the humanistic historiography or pedagogy, M. Vegio and Flavio Biondo (* 1392, † 1463) the classical archeology, L. B. Alberti art theory and architectural history. New school grammars, verses and non-fiction lexicons (N. Perotti) emerged relatively late, and even later the earliest scientific grammar and poetics (both by J. C. Scaliger). In terms of metrics, the classical poets themselves were the model for the predominantly used ancient meters (especially hexameters, elegiac distiches). For more articles about Italy and Europe, please follow Computerannals.

All literary genres of antiquity were taken up again and continued; following the example of Petrarch Almost every humanist teacher, scholar or poet was active in almost all fields of prose and poetry. One expressed personal thoughts and feelings in philosophical dialogue or in lyrical forms, represented one’s own time through historiography, biography, panegyric or satire. Spiritual poetry was also cultivated and in the 16th century the dramatic form was used for instruction and denominational polemics (Biblical, Reformation, Jesuit drama). In accordance with the humanistic educational goal and ideal of friendship, the more communicative genres (letter, dialogue, student talk, personal poetry) were preferred. Beyond the ancient model, specific, individual forms such as epithalamion, epicedion, enkomion (wedding, mourning, travel, praise poems) developed;

The “Studia humanitatis” was implemented in Italy thanks to Salutati’s effortsand his successors in Florence rather than anywhere else in Europe. Worn by mostly academically educated people, originated in cities (e.g. Padua, Siena, Venice), at princely courts (including the Este in Ferrara, the Medici in Florence, the Visconti and Sforza in Milan), at the royal court of Naples and at the Roman Curia humanistic circle (»Sodalitas«, forerunner of the Academy). Characteristic of the literary culture of these circles were intellectual exchange and scientific conversation, writing and poetry for one another, but also polemics and invective against competitors and those who think differently. Some of its members served rulers and popes as educators, secretaries, and envoys; others worked as teachers of grammar, rhetoric, and poetry at the universities. Her fame began in the middle of the 15th century. Century students from all European countries to Italy. Through them, the neo-Latin literature was spread throughout Europe, as well as through book printing, which caused the number of titles (around 500 works up to 1500 appeared) and copies to rise enormously, which also led to humanists as editors and printers (e.g. J. Amerbach and J. Froben in Basel, Guillaume Fichet, * 1433, † around 1480, and the Estienne family in Paris, A. Manutius in Venice) were involved.

Neo-Latin Literature 1