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11. Gregory’s Literary Inheritance

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Chapter Summary

Gregory the Great can give the impression of standing at a vast distance from traditional Roman culture. This chapter begins by examining two utterances that seem to suggest a negative view of literary culture. It enquires, as precisely as possible, into what Gregory may have known of classical literary culture, restricting to what would have been available to him in Latin; his knowledge of Greek seems to have been scanty, and the parallels with Latin authors that occur within his works, while often oblique, are far closer to any parallels with Greek authors. And, just as Gregory's utterances that apparently disparage secular letters occur in correspondence with clerics, conversely a disproportionate number of his classical allusions occur in letters to laity, another sign of their being regarded as unseemly in discourse among clergy, just what one would expect from his letter to Desiderius.

Keywords: classical literary culture; Desiderius; Gregory; traditional Roman culture



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