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“Primum graecissabant”

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Erasmus, Julius II and the Venetians

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Starting with the two recent editions by Silvana Seidel Menchi, this article seeks to analyze a passage of the notorious dialogue Julius by Erasmus of Rotterdam which remains unclear, namely the short exchange between St. Peter and Julius II in which the late pope finds fault with the Venetian tendency to graecissare (“to imitate the Greeks”). The current article argues that the allusion might be a pun on the long standing request of the Venetian Greek community to be granted a church where it could hold ceremonies more graeco. The plea, supported by Venetian authorities, was finally granted by pope Leo X, the successor to Julius II. Moreover, the passage might also present a further allusion to Aldus Manutius and to his circle of friends and collaborators, among whom several first and second generation Greek émigrés living in Venice and worshiping at the Greek scuola have been identified. In particular, the passage may refer to their printing production as well as to the program of the “New Academy” founded by Aldus himself. Both possibilities are especially worthy of consideration on account of the multi-layered composition of the dialogue.

Affiliations: 1: The Warburg Institute


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