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End Game: Humanist Latin In The Late Fifteenth Century

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Chapter Summary

Sometime between 1485 and 1491, the humanists Angelo Poliziano (1454-94) and Paolo Cortesi (1465-1510) engaged in an exchange of letters that, among scholars of Neo-Latin, has become well known. Cortesi expressed this need to communicate clearly and in a classicizing fashion most famously in his response to Poliziano. Poliziano, needless to say, had no such Valla-sized ambitions. He did, however, have an audience: scholars, who would appreciate his recherché yet classically based Latin. The audience for which Cortesi, by contrast, aimed his loosely Ciceronian Latin was a society in which sovereign states of all stripes were growing. These states possessed bureaucratic institutions that needed standardized languages, languages that were translatable across the newly emerging order of elite European Latinate education. Scholars were included in that realm, but they were not the only audience.

Keywords: Angelo Poliziano; Ciceronian Latin; elite European Latinate education; fifteenth century; humanist debate; Paolo Cortesi



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