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John of Salisbury and Classical Antiquity

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Chapter Summary

Situating himself within this patristic tradition, John of Salisbury does not tire in his praise of the benefits to be gained from reading classical texts, while also indicating the limits of pagan teaching, and recommending that pagan works be read with prudence and informed awareness. Classical Antiquity provides useful lessons for those who know how to use it in a prudent and informed fashion, but it is also fundamentally marked by non-fulfilment: pagan authors were unable to attain virtue because they lacked the gift of grace. So the Ancient Greek material was transmitted through the intermediary of some Latin translations, either complete or partial, but above all via authors such as Cicero, Macrobius, Boethius, and Augustine who quoted Greek texts in Latin. In his relationship to ancient authors, John of Salisbury occupies an entirely original position in the Middle Ages.

Keywords: Augustine; Boethius; Cicero; Classical Antiquity; Greek texts; John of Salisbury; Macrobius; pagan



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