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Introduction: Veteris Vestigia Flammae? The 'Rebirths' Of Antiquity

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Chapter Summary

Any investigation into whether or not there was a Renaissance in western culture between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries must sooner or later confront the issue of what exactly was supposed to have been reborn. Attempts to define the phenomenon have tended to be generous in scope. In its starkest distillation the dilemma faced by the student of the Renaissance falls between two equally Virgilian poles: does the vaunted revival of classical Antiquity represent a genuine recovery and rekindling of the ancient flame distinguishable from any other passing spark, or is the continuing presence of this paradigm in the historical record merely the residue of a lingering falsehood that still lurks beneath the glittering surface of the Golden Ageveteris vestigia flammae (Aeneid 4.23), or priscae vestigia fraudis (Eclogue 4.31)?.

Keywords: classical antiquity; rebirths; Renaissance; veteris vestigia flammae



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