Vivat Germania latina, Vivat Latinitas teutonica!

James Michael Weiss

Kennst Du das Land wo die Humanisten blühen?

References to Italy in the Biographies of German Humanists



As the humanist movement spread from Italy into the Germanic lands, it gave rise to a new kind of biographical writing, namely lives written by the humanists about their fellow humanists. [1] This practice began early with Rudolph Agricola, the most celebrated of the earlier German [2] Humanists, who composed a life, not of a fellow German, but of Francesco Petrarca. [3] Agricola's own premature death in 1485 gave rise to at least six biographical writings about him over the next six decades. [4] In the following decades, biographies of other humanists would increase in length, factual comprehensiveness and anecdotal detail. [5] As this practice became established, by the end of the sixteenth century, even obscure academic and literary figures would merit a Vita in the form of a funeral oration, a commemorative speech, or a preface to their published works. [6]

Yet in the German lands, the humanists' biographies of each other embraced purposes wider than the praise of outstanding colleagues or the imitation of their virtues. Often, the Vita of a distinguished colleague could serve to vindicate, for example, the humanist over the scholastic curriculum, a specific direction of church reform, [7] or the priority of civic life over scholarly seclusion. [8] One such pervasive concern, shared almost universally by German humanists, was the defense of German cultural excellence, a theme found in their poetry, polemics, and satire, yet most prominently in their historical research. Their pursuit of the German heritage frequently involved a deep sense of defensiveness and rivalry against Italy and Italians. [9] Thus, the German humanists were acutely aware that their humanist movement sprang from Italian models and sources, yet at the same time those Italian mentors often considered the Germans barbarians. [10]

This rivalry of Germans with Italians unfolded dramatically in historical treatises with strong competitive or polemical bias, which enjoyed a great vogue from the 1490s forward. These historical works included catalogues of illustrious German writers and intellectuals, either drawn from the past (as in Johannes Trithemius's Cat[h]alogus illustrium virorum Germaniam suis ingeniis ... exornantium of 1495) [11] or based on recent and living figures. Of the latter, Franciscus Irenicus stands out for his inventory of contemporaries both famous and obscure in his Exegesis Germaniae of 1518. [12]

Against this background, I would like to examine the frequent references to Italy, not in the catalogues of brief vitae , but in the individual biographies that German humanists wrote of one another across the length of the sixteenth century. These vitae routinely allowed biographers to boast of their subjects' travels in Italy, their studies at distinguished Italian universities, academies, and courts. But this "Italian theme" also inserted these biographies squarely into the chronic debate about the Germans' and Italians' rivalry, relationship, and relative merits. [13] It can appear quite un-self-consciously, as it does in a brief aside in an early vita, the 1513 life of Conrad Celtis composed by the Rhenish Sodality. The life is brief, dry, and factual, and features the theme of Celtis as bringing the new studies of Greek and Latin to the four corners of the Empire as the first among Germans to carry the imperial crown of poet laureate. Celtis's studies throughout Italy are enumerated, but with no difference from his study and travel throughout German lands. The Italian-German question is not really raised, except in an aside: Celtis is praised as the "first [who] brought back Roman eloquence, as far as is granted for a German [to do so]". A slip perhaps, and the only such comment in the Vita , but it reveals a deep-lying concern for self-comparison. [14]

Such references could turn much more negative. Italy might well serve as a measuring stick of how far the Germans still had to catch up in education, literature, and even manners. Philip Melanchthon seems to have intended this in his biography of Rudolph Agricola, written in 1539. To impress on his students their duty to transform the churches, government, and academies where they would serve, Melanchthon drew a dazzling picture of Italy during Agricola's residence there, a place where the duke of Ferrara patronized experts in Greek and Latin literature, mathematics, philosophy, eloquence, and music. Melanchthon's narrative sparkles with the names of great Italian humanists and teachers, but he pointedly remarks that Agricola returned to Germany as the first and only person to introduce humanist curricula in the Universities. Agricola, the ornamentum Germaniae, undertook this alone, but received the support of the Count Palatine and the Bishop of Worms to transform the University of Heideliberg. Clearly Melanchthon's account serves a purpose more rhetorical than factual: he sought to inspire his students to go forth from Wittenberg and do likewise. Thus did the reference to Italy serve not only as a stick to measure how far Germany still stood behind Italy, but a stick to prod his audience into pursuit of his goals. [15]

A second way of referring to Italy was more positive and surely more frequent. In this case, biographers quoted an Italian in praise of a German, although, of course, the obvious implication was that praise from an Italian is very high praise indeed. This typical motif occurs both early and late. In the 1514 Vita of Dietrich Gresemund, Hieronymus Gebwiler holds it to Gresemund's great credit that, before he entered Italy, he had had a perfect pronunciation of Latin, "so that it seemed he was born not of German, but Italian parents, since the Italians take in the Latin language with [their] mother's milk." Gebwiler also boasts that when Gresemund received the poet's laurel in Italy, he refuted the Italian's bias that Germans were barbarians. [16] Even much later, in the 1560 oration on the life of Rudolph Langen, the Westphalian patriot Hermann Hamelmann would resort to inventing fictitious claims about Langen, claiming he had made a positive impression at the Vatican on Sixtus IV and Platina, as also at Florence in the Platonic academy. [17]

Third, and even more proudly, a biographer might "document" the superiority of a fellow German over the Italians, again by quoting an Italian source. Writing around 1530, the Nijmegen humanist Gerardus Geldenhauer went beyond any known historical record to report that Italians "envied [Agricola] and at the same time mourned that the glory of Latium would soon migrate into Lower Germany, that is, Friesland". [18]

Likewise, although Albrecht Dürer was not strictly speaking a humanist, his biographer, the great humanist Joachim Camerarius depicted him as part of an autonomous German cultural awakening, coherent with the humanists' goals. Camerarius calculated the entire biography not only to illustrate that Dürer excelled contemporary Italian painters, but also that they humbly sought him out for instruction. (It is unclear whether he knew that Wimpheling had already compared Dürer favorably with Italian painters in his Epithoma rerum Germanorum of 1505. [19] )

Camerarius adroitly renders the Italians as apprentices of the German master. He relates two important episodes from Dürer's stay in Italy, when both Giovanni Bellini and Andrea Mantegna asked Dürer for instruction, the one in manual technique, the other in theoretical knowledge. [20] Camerarius's calculated strategy is all the more evident when one realizes that he does not relate Dürer's travels throughout Germany and omits any comparison of Dürer with contemporary German artists (a comparison that Camerarius's close friend Melanchthon had already made in print two years earlier). [21]

A fourth use of the Italian theme went so far as to suggest German cultural equality with Italy. Perhaps an example of this, both clumsy and charming, occurs at the opening of Beatus Rhenanus's life of Geiler of Kaiserberg, written early in Beatus's career in 1510. There, Beatus introduced a curious comparison of Florence and Strasbourg. For just as Tuscany had lost both Pico and Poliziano in the same year, he noted, so did Strasbourg lose both Thomas Wolf and Geiler. Beatus's point is that both Christian philosophy and humanistic scholarship could and did flourish together, but his comment also might suggest a kind of cultural equality between the two cities as citadels of cultural renewal. [22]

All these examples, whatever their different points, rested on the usually unspoken assumption that the Italians were in a superior position as poets, historians, rhetoricians, and so forth. This is true even in the paradoxical case when Italians are quoted to attest to German superiority. For after all, even if the Italian proclaims the German superior, that assumes the Italian holds a superior position as a critic. More typically, it suggests that a German's superiority comes as a surprise, an exception to the rule of Italian superiority.

Near 1540, however, two events in humanist biography signal an important, but not necessarily definitive, change in this pattern. A collection of lives of learned men, issued in 1536, and the august biography of Erasmus published in 1540, both made clear that any assumption of Italian cultural superiority could no longer be taken for granted.

In 1536 a unique work appeared. [23] Joannes Fichardus, the advocatus rei publicae of Frankfurt-am-Main, gathered from various sources eighteen Vitae of literary figures. Following, as he claimed, the scheme of Plutarch's Parallel Lives, he arranged his material not in Plutarch's pairs, but in separate sets of ten Italians, six Germans, and two Englishmen. Although his collection was, and has remained, obscure, it has dramatic significance. Before him, as we saw with Trithemius, Wimpheling, and Irenicus, [24] collective lives of illustrious Germans had appeared with the goal to refute Italian claims to superiority over the Germans, without naming any Italians. So Fichardus's collection showed innovation and confidence, as his arrangement boldly invited a comparison between the two regional traditions. Of course, Plutarch had presented biographies in sets of two, matching a Greek figure with a Roman personality in order to show the equality of accomplishment between Greeks and Romans, as well as to compare certain patterns in their virtues and achievements. Fichardus does not in fact mention Plutarch's theme of comparisons and rivalries, whether because he overlooked this aspect of Plutarch or because he considered it self-evident. Whatever his reason, his arrangement would inevitably create the impression that, at last, Italians and Germans were coming into some kind of parity.

Admittedly, the Italians outnumbered the Germans ten to six, but Fichardus compensates for this. [25] For example, among the Italians, Fichardus placed the life of Francesco Petrarca first, as befitted chronology. But among the Germans, he ignored chronology and placed Celtis first, ahead of Rudolph Agricola and Wessel. His point was that both Petrarca and Celtis were the first to revive poetry and the study of the ancients in their respective fatherlands, as indeed each was the first of his nation to receive the poet's laurel crown, Petrarch from the Roman Senate, Celtis from the Holy Roman Emperor. This proud parallel meant that Germany could claim a poetic revival at least comparable to Italy's.

Fichardus's selection of Germans also suggests the Germans' independence in humanistic pursuits distinct from those of the Italians: of the six Germans, four were remembered especially for humanistic pursuit of church reforms (Agricola, Petrus Mosellanus, Wessel Gansfort, and Johannes Oecolampadius). Indeed, the life that crowns the end of the German series is that of Johannes Oecolampadius, the humanist who became the reformer of the church in Basel. (The two Englishmen are likewise noteworthy as advocates of Church reform, the priest John Colet and the layman Thomas More.) [26] , [27]

Fichardus's implicit suggestion becomes for Beatus Rhenanus an explicit and major theme in his biography of Erasmus, probably the best known of all the works discussed here. It appeared in 1540 under very imposing circumstances as a letter of dedication to the Emperor Charles V, introducing the official edition of Erasmus's Opera Omnia issued four years after his death. Beatus used the Vita not only to praise Erasmus, but for the more subtle purpose of demonstrating that the diffusion of humanistic learning is now etablished throughout the Empire and, for that matter, France as well -- thanks chiefly to the labors of Erasmus (although Beatus also misses no occasion to thank Charles for consistent support from the Habsburg dynasty throughout its territories).

As if by habit, Beatus offers a nod of appreciation toward Italy: he judges Erasmus's long-harbored desire to visit Italy as hardly unmerited, for "the world has nothing more cultivated in all ways than this region." [28] But that is as far as Beatus goes, and indeed, he uses the rest of the biography to show how Erasmus would modify, relativize, and even undo that cultural imbalance. Almost immediately after the praise of Italy, Beatus drily notes that Erasmus arrived there at a rather low point in Italian literary life, so that "Erasmus imported into Italy that dignity and learning which others had been accustomed to export thence." [29] Several years later, when Erasmus first visited Rome at the height of Leo X's papacy, Beatus depicts him as a conquering foreign hero, the learned Pope and his cardinals laying their honors at Erasmus's feet. [30] The biography traces a pattern of cultural reversal: by the end, Beatus quotes an unnamed Italian who complained that Erasmus's labors in Greek literature would mean that "barbarians, aided by [Erasmus's commentaries] will now stay at home and fewer of them will visit Italy." [31] Thanks to Erasmus, there was less need to visit Italy. One may forgive Beatus for his hyperbole: once Erasmus's Adagia and his De utraque Copia verborum ac rerum appeared, they were as the sun warming a frozen landscape, in this case consisting of "Germania Galliaque". In summary, the progress of literature in these countries is most chiefly due to Erasmus.

Fichardus's collection and Beatus Rhenanus's life of Erasmus seem to mark a watershed in German humanists' lives of each other. Up to this point, biographical references to Italy had served numerous purposes, even contradictory ones. There was no clear line of development from earlier biographies to later ones. Indeed, the two most contradictory referenfces to Italy occur within a year of each other. The first was Melanchthon's 1539 life of Agricola, where Italy served as a standard that Germans had yet to equal. But in Beatus Rhenanus's 1540 life of Erasmus, he argued that Northern Europe had become self-sufficient and no longer needed Italian mentors. So it is not that a consensus was reached or that the question was settled. It does seem, nevertheless, that in biographies of the 1540s and 1550s, references to Italy become more neutral or even disappear. [32] They lose their rhetorical purpose of conferring praise or blame. For whatever reason, the Italian theme in the humanists' biographies of each other became, at least for an interval, irrelevant to the larger cultural issues that biography served.

Johann Sturm wrote a masterful biography of Beatus Rhenanus in 1551. [33] Beatus had never set foot in Italy, so there was no need to mention it, yet Sturm built the first half of the biography around a description of the progress of humanism during Beatus's youth and early adulthood, both in Italy, and, perhaps more importantly for the Strassburger Sturm, in France. Beatus, he said, "was born in an age not unhappy for letters. For Angelo Poliziano lived up until Beatus's 24th year, during which time there flourished to the praise of letters also Ermolao Barbaro . . ., Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, Theodore of Gaza, George of Trebizond, Marsilio Ficino, and Gioanni Pontano, although Germany at that time was still in infancy for studies and letters. For apart from Rudolph Agricola, the teacher of Alexander Hegius, and [apart from] Erasmus ..., the disciple of Hegius, Germany had seen nothing great or outstanding in letters." [34] This might seem like the familiar, breast-beating discredit to German culture, but Sturm proceeds differently. With a comfortable distance of some 70 years from Beatus's birth, he surveyed with proud equanimity an epoch of progress in the German lands, gradual and irreversible. When he narrated Beatus's departure to study at Paris, Sturm comments with pleasure, "At that point, letters began to flourish more than before in France and Germany." [35] Flourish – the same verb he had used for the Italian scene at the time of Beatus's birth. Sturm recalled a glittering array of humanists awaiting Beatus at Paris -– all of them French but for Erasmus and Fausto Andrelini. The sun of humanism now rises over the North as humanists win the ascendancy over the scholastics at Paris – at least to hear Sturm tell the story. He reports, "The state of letters was good at that time. . . . They had long been suppressed by an age-old barbarism after which they began to be called back to light." [36]

Sturm then describes Beatus's move from Paris to Basel as a turn from one humanist capitol to a greater one, naming twice as many luminaries in Basel during Beatus's adulthood as he had counted for Italy at Beatus's birth – together with praise for their moral character and the charming climate of Basel. [37] Moreover, as Sturm explains the sources he used to reconstruct Beatus's life, he warmly evokes the generation of German luminaries who inspired Beatus – Erasmus, Hutten, Reuchlin, Hochstraten, Merula, Murmelius, and Listrius. Clearly the Germany of Beatus's adulthood could match the Italians of his infancy. Moreover, Sturm's account stands apart from earlier ones by his balanced tone, free of rivalry.

Another contemporary biography of an even more popular figure mentions Italy not at all. Indeed, a pervasive theme of the biography of Helius Eobanus Hessus (1488-1541) is that the Hessian humanist poet modelled himself on a native humanist tradition already some generations old. [38] When Joachim Camerarius published this biography in 1554, it signalled a very large change. Simply as a biography about German literary and religious personalities, it is the longest by far of anything written up to its time, far longer than famous biographies of Erasmus and Martin Luther. As for our theme of Italian influence, the Vita is absolutely silent. Although Eobanus was an exact contemporary of Beatus, his biography extols humanist centers all over Germany at every point in his life. Nothing is said of the origins or progress of the movement. Whether Eobanus is studying at Leipzig or Erfurt, working in Nürnberg or Marburg, the Vita shows him surrounded by scholars and poets of his own kind and merit.

Thus by the 1550s, references to Italy carried no uniform connotation, and were indeed optional. Indeed, Italy could appear in critical, even negative light. An unprecedented blend of detachment and criticism marks the treatment of Italy found in Philip Melanchthon's life of Erasmus in 1557. [39] He does not boast of the Italians' admiration for Erasmus as Beatus Rhenanus had done, nor does he adduce Italy as a cultural model as he himself had done in his life of Rudolph Agricola eighteen years earlier. Rather, Melanchthon speaks with greater appreciation of England than of Italy as nurturing humanist interests. Erasmus's sojourns in Italy serve chiefly as settings for Erasmus's own productivity: he used the rich libraries of Bologna to greatly expand his Adagia ; he took such scandal at the bellicose Pope Julius that he wrote his Querela Pacis . As for Italy itself, Melanchthon discusses it in detached and mixed terms. His first comments are an acid sneer at the state of Latin education there in Erasmus's day and the deplorable style of the once-fashionable Baptista Mantuanus. He claims that Erasmus preferred to attend medical lectures in Italy, and avoided those of theology, law, and Latin – - a distinct slight of three areas in which Italy was sometimes highly credited. These criticisms remain in the reader's mind even when Melanchthon gives credit to the learned coteries at Venice and Rome.

As far as the biographies of humanists (and even of reformers, which we have not examined) serve us, the anxious certamen with Italy seems to have lost its force. It would, of course, return in the period of the transition to the baroque. The best-known literary example of this is Nikodemus Frischlin's Iulius Redivivus . This forceful comedy demonstrates the transference to Germany of both the military and the literary grandeur of ancient Rome, with sarcastic implications about the inferiority of Italian culture. [40] In the sphere of biography, exactly contemporary with Iulius Redivivus , the monumental Vita Petri Lotichii Secundi [41] strikingly revives all the old rivalries, as if nothing had changed in the century since Agricola's death: most surprisingly, however, it describes the Italians' superiority in glowing detail and gladly settles for a lesser and different role for Germany.

Petrus Lotichius Secundus's extensive travels compelled his biographer, Joannes Hagius, to face the old questions about Italian and German cultures. [42] Lotichius had travelled widely and pursued significant studies in medicine, philosophy, and literature, not only in his native Germany, but for extended periods in Italy and France as well. Lotichius loved Germany, and wrote patriotically of it, but was also enthusiastic about the natural beauty, cultural legacy, and academic excellence he encountered in Ferrara, Padua, Bologna, and Venice, but also in Paris, Toulouse, Montpellier, and Marseilles. As a biographer, Hagius writes openly again in the tradition of cultural rivalry and -- what is most remarkable -- leaves it unresolved. Like Lotichius, he was seduced by the beauties of Venice and the charms of Italian life ; he marvelled at their universities. He recognizes Lotichius's own attraction to Italy. [43] But he did not trust Italians nor could he forget or forgive that Lotichius's death resulted from food poisoning calculated by a blundering Italian waitress.

Hagius's ambivalence is striking. On the one hand, he exclaims "For the [Italians] are especially both the noblest and most learned, excellently instructed and practiced in a certain maner of the sciences and disciplines from their early years. Thus they discuss and communicate with a skill and urbanity beyond the talents of our own countrymen. And we Germans who experienced [that], have rightfully rendered praise of their civility, humaneness, and courteous conversation. With good reason we even freely use [those qualities] in our own speech." [44]

Hagius expands on the centuries-old academic brilliance of Padua. Then, when his party arrives in Venice, he follows a well-established tradition of neo-latin praise of Venice by German travellers. [45] Even so, he can hardly find words for its magnificence. "With what admiration, good gods, did we contemplate everything in that city, as if it were a new world: new Neptunian realms, royal riches, everything full of greatness, lofty urban palaces build upon the sea, superb shrines of the gods (for there they reverence not one God, but also St. Mark and Neptune) ... honorable markets, glass factories, harbors, a thousand bridges ... an august people lordly and well dressed . . . " One could go on and on, and Hagius did. [46]

Yet in the face of other disappointments , their homesickness, Lotichius's tragic illness, Lotichius and his friends decide to forgo a visit to study Rome and return prematurely to Germany. Hagius takes a curious turn here. Intead of arguing for German superioity, he calls for a simple separation: Germans should stay in Germany where they can flourish best. [47] Hagius writes, "I wish that we Germans would seek out Italy less, keeping within our own borders, acknowledging our own good things. ... Gifted Italians do not hesitate to praise our skill and concede the palm, if we would only be satisfied to cultivate our own [talents] with equal care, work, and effort, and foster them by practicing the [Italians'] beautiful example, lest we [Germans] keep losing the early Teutonic precepts, laws, and vanished customs. . . from our forefathers, which we lose by laziness, apathy, drunkenness, [and] gluttony, and mad [dietary] excess . . . " [48] This mixture of nostalgia and praise for Italy stands alongisde an awareness of unachieved German potential and a critique of Teutonic vices taken from the well-known list first reckoned by Tacitus. [49] The praise, the hope, the blame, the promise -- all this recalls the views of Melanchthon in his life of Agricola 45 years earlier, or even of Jakob Wimpheling at the turn of the century. [50]

Hagius's reflections look both backward and forward. They look backward in the sense that they echo a sentiment little heard since about 1540. They looked forward in the sense that German rivalry with Italian and foreign cultures would recur often in the Baroque period, the Enlightenment, and the modern period as part of German cultural identity. [51]

For the most part, however, Hagius stood alone among contemporary literary biographers. Apart from him, a wave of German self-congratulation swept through the late sixteenth century and into the seventeenth. [52] On every side there appeared collections of biographies of German literary and religious heroes. Some offered lives of any Germans, regardless of religion or region. Some selected the great German Catholic or Protestant heroes: Theodore Beza's collection of Protestant reformers and humanists called forth Cornelius Loos Callidius's biographies of leading Catholics. Some collections gathered biographies of the learned men of one region, say, Frisia, Westphalia, or Hessia. [53] And in 1617, the centenary of the Reformation, the Silesian Melchior Adam began to publish five huge volumes of biographies of the learned Germans in every academic and literary field from the previous 150 years. [54] Overflowing with pride in what for them had become "the German century", they did not look back to Italy, whether with admiration or self-confidence. The point of all those earlier references was now beside the point. With humanism as the established culture of the German learned class, [55] and with the Reformation as the moment that spread from Germany to define the sixteenth century, the Germans could well feel, at least for those few decades as the century turned, that they had indeed come into their own.

Primary sources.

Adam, Melchior. Dignorum Laude Virorum ... Vitae Theologorum etc. 3d ed. (Frankfurt/Main, 1705). (Five volumes in three.)

Beatus Rhenanus "Geiler": Ioannis Geileri Caesaremontani . . . vita, in Otto Herding, ed., Das Leben des Johannes Geiler von Kaysersberg . (Munich, 1970) (Jacobi Wimpfelingi Opera Selecta, II,1.) Pp. 88-96.

Beatus Rhenanus "Erasmus": Beatus Rhenanus's Prefatory Letter to Charles V on the life of Erasmus, in Opus Epistolarum Desiderii Erasmi , ed. P. S. Allen (Oxford, 1906ff.) I:iv, pp. 59ff ; also, Beatus/Olin: "The Life of Erasmus", in Christian Humanism and the Reformation, ed. and trans. by John Olin (New York, 1965), pp.. 31-54.

Camerarius, Joachim:

Camerarius "Dürer": "Aequis et Studiosis ... Lectoribus." (A life of Albrecht Dürer), in Alberti Düreri clarissimi pictoris et Geometria de Symmetria partium in rectis formis humanorum corporum libri in latinum conversi , J. Camerarius, trans. (Nürnberg, 1532), pp. A-ii (recto) –A-iiii (recto).

Camerarius "Eobanus": Narratio de Helio Eobano Hesso. (Nürnberg, 1553).

Camerarius "Melanchthon": De Vita Philippi Melanchthonis Narratio. Ge. Theodor. Strobelius, ed. (Halle, 1777).

Fichardus 1536: Fichardus, Johannes. Virorum qui ... Vitae. (Frankfurt/Main, 1536)

Fichardus 1544: Fichardus, Johannes, "Descriptio brevis cursus vitae meae", Frankfurtisches Archiv für ältere deutsche Litteratur [sic] und Geschichte II (1812 [sic]), pp. 1-53.

Gebwiler, Hieonymus. Theodorici Gresemundi Vita , in Gebwiler, ed., Theoderici Gresemundi Carmen de Historia Violatae Crucis (Strasbourg, 1514), pp. a-iii(recto) to a-iv(verso).

Hagius Francus, Joannes. Vita Petri Lotichii Secundi , in Petrus Lotichius Secundus, Opera Omnia (Leipzig, 1586), pp. 387-578.

Hamelmann "Buschio": Hamelmann, Hermann. De vita Hermanni Buschii, in his Geschichtliche Werke, eds. Heinrich Detmer et al. , vol. I: Schriften zur niedersächsisch-westfälischen Gelehrtengeschichte, (Münster i. W., 1908), Heft 2 (1905), pp. 35-112.

Hamlemann "Langio": Hamelmann, Hermann, Oratio de Rodolpho Langio, ibid., pp. 1-34.

Melanchthon, Philip (Corpus Reformatorum = CR) :

Melanchthon "Alardo": "Alardo Aemstelredamo", in CR III: 673-676. (Preface to Agricola's works contains brief biography of Agricola)

Melanchthon "Agricola": "Vita Rodolphi Agricolae", in CR IX: 438-446.

Melanchthon "Erasmus": "Oratio de Erasmo Roterodamo", in CR XII: 265- 271.

Melanchthon "Luther 1": "In funere Lutheri", in CR XII: 726-734

(Funeral oration with biography of Luther)

Melanchthon "Luther 2": "Praefatio" (Epistola 3478), in CR VI: 155-170.

(Preface to Luther's works with biography of Luther)

Sodalitas Rhenana. Vita Conradi Celtis , in Joseph Aschbach, ed., Die früheren Wanderjahre des Conrad Celtis (Vienna, 1869), pp. 137-141

Sturm, Johannes. Beati Rhenani Vita. in Adalbert Horawitz et al., eds., Briefwechsel des Beatus Rhenanus (Nieuwkoop, 1966), pp. 1-11.

Trithemius, Johannes. De luminaribus sive de viris illustribus Germaniae, in Johannes Trithemius, Opera Historica , ed. Marquard Freher (Frankfurt/Main, 1601), I: 122-183.

Secondary sources.

Akkerman, F. "A New Life for Agricola. Some Observations on the Sources", in Acta Conventus Neo-Latini Bariensis. Proceedings of the Ninth International Congress of Neo-Latin Studies, 1994. Rhoda Schnur, ed. (Tempe, Arizona, 1998), pp. 105-112.

Akkerman, F., and Vanderjagt, A. J., eds. Rodolphus Agricola Phrisius. 1444-1485. (Leiden, 1988)

Arnold, Klaus. Johannes Trithemius. (Würzburg, 1971; 2d. ed, ca. 1998)

Berschin, Walter, ed. Biographie von der Renaissance bis zum Barock. (Heidelberg, 1993).

Coppel, Bernhard. "Petrus Lotichius Secundus", in Deutsche Dichter der frühen Neuzeit (1450-1600). Stephan Füssel, ed. Berlin: Erich Schmidt Verlag, 1993. Pp. 529-544

Ellinger, Georg. Geschichte der neulateinischen Literatur Deutschlands im sechzehnten Jahrhundert. Berlin & Leipzig: Walter de Gruyter, 1929. 2 vols.

Fleischer 1990. Fleischer, Manfred P. "Komm in den totgesagten Park und schau: Der deutsche Humanismus nach 1550", Zeitschrift für Religions- und Geistesgeschichte 42 (1990): 136-154.

Fleischer 1992. Fleischer, Manfred P. The Harvest of Humanism in Central Europe. Essays in Honor of Lewis W. Spitz. (St. Louis, 1992).

Hallman, Barbara McClung. "Italian 'Natural Superiority' and the Lutheran Question: 1517-1546", Archiv für Reformationsgeschichte 71 (1980): 134-148."

Holtz, Sabine & Mertens, Dieter, eds., Nicodemus Frischlin (1547-1590). Poetische und prosaische Praxis unter den Bedingungen des konfessionellen Zeitalters. (Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt, 1999).

Ijsewijn, Jozef. "Die humanistische Biographie", in August Buck, ed., Biographie und Autobiographie in der Renaissance (Wiesbaden, 1983), pp. 1-20.

Joachimsen, Paul. Geschichtsauffassung und Geschichtsschreibung in Deutschland unter dem Einfluß des Humanismus. (Leipzig, 1912; reprint, Aalen, 1968.)

Kloft, Hans. "Die Germania des Tacitus und das Problem eines deutschen Nationalbewußtseins", Archiv für Kulturgeschichte 71 (1990): 93-114.

Laurens, Pierre. "Rome et la Germanie chez les poètes humanistes allemands", in L'Humanisme Allemand 1480-1540. (XVIII Colloque International de Tours), J.-C. Margolin, ed. (Munich & Paris, 1979), pp. 339-355.

Löffler, Klemens. Reformationsgeschichte Westfalens , vol. II

Mayer, Thomas & Woolf, Daniel, eds. The Rhetorics of Life-Writing in Early Modern Europe. (Ann Arbor, 1995).

Mertens, Dieter. "Mittelalterbilder in der Frühen Neuzeit", in Die Deutschen und ihr Mittelalter, Gerd Althoff, ed. (Darmstadt, 1992).

Mommsen, Theodor. "Rudolph Agricola's Life of Petrarch", Traditio 8 (1952): 367-386.

Münkler, Herfried ; Grünberger, Hans ; Mayer, Kathrin. Nationenbildung. Die Nationalisierung Europas im Diskurs humanistischer Intellektueller. Italien und Deutschland. (Berlin, 1998).

Parente, James A.; Schade, Richard E.; Schoolfield, George C., eds., Literary Culture in the Holy Roman Empire, 1555-1720 . (Chapel Hill & London, 1991)

Parshall, Peter W. "Camerarius on Dürer: Humanist Biography as Art Criticism", in Frank Baron, ed., Joachim Camerarius (1500-1574). Beiträge zur Geschichte des Humanismus ... (Munich, 1978). Pp. 10 - 29.

Phillips, Margaret Mann. "Erasmus and Biography", University of Toronto Quarterly 43 (1973): 185-201.

Price, David. The Political Dramaturgy of Nicodemus Frischlin. (Chapel Hill/London, 1990.)

Rädle, Fidel. "Heitere Luft und frischer Geist in Italien: Deutsche Humanisten jenseits der Alpen", in Acta Conventus Neo-Latini Bariensis (as for Akkerman, above). Pp. 51-69.

Ridé 1977. Ridé, Jacques. L'image du Germain dans la Pensée et la Litterature allemandes de la Rédecouverte de Tacite à la Fin du XVIème Siècle. (Paris & Lille, 1977) 3 vols.

Ridé 1980. Ridé, Jacques. "Der Nationalgedanke im 'Julius Redivivus' von Nicodemus Frischlin", Daphnis 9 (1980): 719—741.

Schmidt, Paul Gerhard. "Das Mittelalterbild hessischer Humanisten", in Humanismus und Historiographie , August Buck., ed. (1991), pp. 137-143.

Schütt, Marie. Die englische Biographik der Tudor Zeit . (Hamburg, 1930).

Spitz, Lewis. The Religious Renaissance of the German Humanists . Cambridge, Mass., 1963.

Stähelin, Friedrich. Humanismus und Reformation im bürgerlichen Raum. Eine Untersuchung der biographischen Schriften des Joachim Camerarius. Leipzig, 1936.

Trunz, Erich. "Der deutsche Späthumanismus um 1600 als Standeskultur," in Zeitschrift für die Geschichte der Erziehung 21 (1931): 17-53, reprinted in Richard Alewyn, Deutsche Barockforschung (Cologne & Berlin, 1965), pp. 147-181.

Weiss, James Michael :

Weiss 1979. "Johannes Fichardus and the Uses of Humanistic Biography", in J.-C. Margolin, ed., Acta Conventus Neo-Latini Turonensis

(Paris, 1980), pp. 263-275.

Weiss 1981a. "The Six Lives of Rudolph Agricola: Forms and Functions of the Humanist Biography", Humanistica Lovaniensia: Journal of Neo-Latin Studies 30 (1981): 19-39

Weiss 1981b. "The Technique of Faint Praise: Johann Sturm's Life of Beatus Rhenanus ", Bibliothèque d'Humanisme et Renaissance 43 (1981): 289-302.

Weiss 1984. "The Rhetoric of Friendship: Joannes [sic] Hagius's Life of Petrus Lotichius Secundus ", Colloquia Germanica: Internationale Zeitschrift für deutsche Sprach- und Literaturwissenschaft 17 (1984): 220-234.

Weiss 1985a. "Erasmus at Luther's Funeral: Melanchthon's Commemorations of Luther in 1546", The Sixteenth Century Journal 16 (1985): 91-114.

Weiss 1985b. "Hagiography by German Humanists, 1483-1516", Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies 15(1985): 299-316.

Weiss 1990. "Melanchthon and the Heritage of Erasmus: Oratio de Puritate Doctrinae (1536) and Oratio de Erasmo Roterodamo (1557)", in Jacques Chomarat et al., eds., Actes du Colloque International Érasme. (Geneva, 1990), pp. 293-306

Weiss 1992. "The Harvest of German Humanism. Melchior Adam's Collective Biographies as Cultural History," in Fleischer 1992, pp. 341-350.

Weiss 1999. "Varieties of Biography during the Italian Renaissance: Individuality and Beyond", in Penny Gold et al., eds., Cultural Visions: Essays in the History of Culture (Amsterdam & Atlanta, 1999), pp. 25-40.

Wiegand, Hermann. Hodoeporica. Studien zur neulateinischen Reisedichtung des deutschen Kulturraums im 16. Jahrhundert. Baden-Baden, 1984.

Worstbrock, Franz Josef. "Über das geschichtliche Selbstverständnis des deutschen Humanismus", in Historizität in Sprach- und Literaturwissenschaft , Walter Müller-Seidel, ed. (Munich, 1974). Pp. 499-519.

Zon, Stephen. Petrus Lotichius Secundua. Neo-Latin Poet. (New York/Frankfort, 1983).



[1] On humanists' biographies of each other, see all the entries by Weiss; on biography in general during Renaissance and Reformation, see Berschin, Ijsewijn, Mayer & Woolf, Phillips, Schütt, and Weiss 1999.

[2] The term German is used throughout this essay to refer to those who lived within the general borders of the Holy Roman Empire, including regions like the Netherlands, Alsace, German Switzerland, and Austria which are now politically and culturally independent.

[3] Mommsen.

[4] Weiss 1981a.

[5] Weiss 1981b, Weiss 1984.

[6] Weiss 1992, Ijsewijn.

[7] Melanchthon's biographical writings on Luther and on Erasmus vindicated Melanchthon's own humanistic and reform programs. See Weiss 1985a and 1990.

[8] Johann Sturm's life of Beatus Rhenanus criticized his lack of civic engagement and other personal faults. See Weiss 1981b.

[9] An extensive study of this topic is the book by Münkler et al. Selected, brief introductions are Hallman, Kloft, Laurens, Rädle, and especially Worstbrock.

[10] This moved the Germans to articulate humanist pursuits in their own distinctive terms. They pointedly avoided the Italians' emphasis on humanism as a revival of their ancient Roman forebears. Instead, the Germans developed a self-consciousness based on that ancient transference of power from the Romans to the Germans, the translatio imperii dating from Charlemagne, of which their pursuits were a cultural consequence. And with the fifteenth-century discovery of Tacitus's Germania , they could claim a Roman author who upheld Germans as moral and cultural models superior to the ancient Romans. See esp. Worstbrock and Münkler (pp. 163-234); on the rediscovery of Tacitus, Münkler, Ridé 1977, and Kloft; generally on these questions Hallman, Laurens, Mertens.

[11] Arnold, pp. 118-30 and passim.

[12] On Irenicus, see Joachimsen, pp. 169-181, and Münkler, pp. 220-229. Münkler also notes (pp. 217-219) that Wimpheling included a section on great German thinkers and writers in his Epithoma rerum Germanicarum (1503). The young Beatus Rhenanus used such an inventory of contemporary to celebrate German accomplishment in a dedicatory letter to Jacques Lefevre d'Etaples; Beatus singles out Bebel, Zasius, Peutinger, Wimpheling, and Erasmus.

[13] Münkler has a brief, illuminating section on collective biographies (not individual ones) of scholars as an instrument of Germans' self-assertion against Italians, pp. 217-229. Schütt, in chapter 3, studies English scholars' biographies of the Elizabethan period.

[14] " . . . primusque eloquentiam Romanam, quantum Germano homini concessum, cum rudimentis graecae linguae in Germaniam retulit . . . " Sodalitas Literaria Rhenana, "Conradi Celtis ... vita", in Joseph Aschbach, Die frueheren Wanderjahre des Conrad Celtes (Wien, 1869), p. 138.

[15] Melanchthon "Agricola", esp. pp. 438-442.

[16] Gebwiler, p. a-iii(recto).

[17] Hamelmann "Buschio" and "Langio"; precise discussions of his inaccuracy in Löffler, vol. II, pp. lxiii-lxviii.

[18] Fichardus 1536, p. 93v.

[19] Münkler, p. 218, n. 163.

[20] Camerarius "Dürer", pp. Aiii, r&v; Parshall, pp. 20-22; Stähelin.

[21] Parshall, p. 18

[22] Beatus Rhenanus "Geiler", p. 88, ll. 6-9

[23] Fichardus 1536; Weiss 1979.

[24] Münkler, pp. 217-229

[25] The two Vitae of Englishmen, John Colet and Thomas More, make a curious appendage, since they are not really narrative lives but character sketches taken from letters by Erasmus, extended in More's case by a description from a different unnamed author of his trial and execution.

[26] One detail is amibivalent. It may be interpreted either to confirm or to compromise Fichardus's bias toward equality between Germany and Italy. Among the Italians he included many whose example or instruction had furthered humanist studies in Germany: Enea Silvio Piccolomini, Pomponius Leto, Pico della Mirandola, Filippo Beroaldo the Elder, and, for better or worse, Giovanni Antonio Campano. Before his pontificate, Pius II stimulated the spread of humanistic learning through his work in the Imperial chancery and correspondence across the Empire. Pomponio Leto's Roman Academy offered Conrad Celtis the immediate model for the humanistic sodalities that Celtis established throughout the Empire. Beroaldo's works were popular with Fichardus's generation, so much that his Declamatio ebriosi was translated into German by both Jakob Wimpheling (1513) and Sebastian Brant (1539). Campano, of course, had stimulated decades of German self-justification by his antagonistic comments about Germans and their mores.

[27] If Fichardus's gesture toward cultural parity was dramatic, it was also perhaps ironic on two counts. First, Fichardus's publication occurred just as he decided to interrupt a promising legal career for the sake of educational travel -- yes, to Italy. In an autobiography written several years later, he described how he had "been moved since boyhood by some wondrous desire to visit and see especially Italy and its city of Rome". (Cf. Fichardus 1544, p. 26; full quotation in Weiss 1979, pp. 270f., n. 2.) In fact, Fichardus could not wait to see his book through press, but left it in the hands of others as he hastened across the Alps, where at length he settled in Pavia for two further years of legal study. The second irony concerns the fate of his book. In his colophon, he promised a second volume of literary lives. He never did so, but in 1539, after his return from Pavia, he issued the Vitae Recentium Iurisconsultorum , not really a collection of lengthy biographies like the former book, but a catalogue of bio-bibliographical entries with data on leading jurists since the fourteenth century -- all of them Italian, except for the last, his own teacher Ulrich Zasius. Unlike the 1536 collection of literary biographies, the Lives of Recent Jurists was indeed reprinted, with additions, in Pavia in 1565.

[28] "... totus hic orbis ea regione nihil modis omnibus cultius habet." Beatus Rhenanus "Erasmus", p. 59: l. 99; Beatus/Olin, p. 35)

[29] "Itaque dignitatem et eruditionem in Italiam importauit, quam caeteri inde reportare consueuerunt."Ibid, ll. 110f.; Beatus/Olin, p. 36.

[30] Ibid., pp. 61f and p. 39.

[31] "Caue, caue hoc facias, ne barbari istis adiuti domi maneant et pauciores in Italiam ventitent." Ibid., p. 67: ll. 418f.

[32] Melanchthon's biographical writings about Luther in 1546-1548 were part of his attempt to re-direct Church reform along more peaceful lines. Camerarius's biography of Melanchthon in 1564 calculated the same purpose. Neither work resorted to the Italian theme, even though they presented their subjects as a kind of German cultural and religious hero. See Melanchthon"Luther 1" & "Luther 2" , Camerarius "Melanchthon", and Weiss 1985a.

[33] Sturm; Weiss 1981b.

[34] "... filius seculo literarum non infoelici fuit natus. Angelus enim Politianus usque ad vigesimum quartum annum Beati Rhenani vixit, intra quod tempus etiam Hermolaus Barbarus, qui ante Politianum natus fuit, et Joannes Picus Mirandula et Theodorus Gaza et Georgius Trapezuntius et Marsilius Ficinus et Iovianus Pontanus literarum laudibus floruerunt, quanquam in Germania eo tempore infantia adhuc studiorum et literarum erat. Nam praeter Rudolphum Agricolam, Alexandri Hegii magistrum, et Erasmum Roterodamum, Hegii discipulum, Germania nihil magnum atque praeclarum in literis viderat." Sturm, p. 2.

[35] "Florere ea aetate coeperunt magis quam antea in Gallia et Germania literae." Sturm, p. 3

[36] "Bona tun temporis literarum conditio fuit, quae diuturna et inveterata barbarie suppressae, posteaquamin lucem revocari coeperunt . . . " Sturm, p. 4.

[37] Segment on Basel and German humanists, Sturm, pp. 5-7.

[38] Camerarius "Eobanus", Stähelin passim, Ellinger vol II, pp. 3-23.

[39] Melanchthon "Erasmus" and Weiss 1990..

[40] Holtz and Price.

[41] On Lotichius himself, see Ellinger, vol. II, pp. 340-394, and Zon; on the 1584 biography of Lotichius, see Hagius, Weiss 1984, and Zon pp. 1-23.

[42] On the tradition of German students writing about their travels in Italy prior to Hagius's 1584 biography of Lotichius, see Wiegand on Aurpach, Chytraeus, Lymvicus, and Lindebergius, pp. 91-107.

[43] On Lotichius in Italy, see Zon, pp. 280-304, and Wiegand, pp. 203-214.

[44] "Sunt etenim profecto eius gentis homines ut nobilissimi quique doctissimi, atque in certo genere scientiarum disciplinarumque a primis annis excellenter eruditi atque exercitatis: ita in conferendo communicandoque supra ingenia nostratia facillimi ac humanissimi. Neque enim non eam laudem comitatis, humanitatis, communicationis perfacilis nos Germani experti Italis hominibus iure tribuimus, ac merito gratis sermonibus usurpamus. ", Hagius, pp. 506f.

[45] See Wiegand, passim, esp. pp. 95-99.

[46] "In qua urbe qua admiratione (boni Dii) contemplati omnia sumus, ceu novum mundum: nova Neptunia regna, regias opes, magnificentiae omnia plena, excelsa urbis palatia in mari structa, delubra superba Deorum (neque enim unus ibi colitur Deus, sed divus etiam Marcus & Neptunus) . . . spectabilia fora, vireta, portus, mille pontes . . . augustam gentem, proceram & bene habitam . . . " Hagius, p. 508.

[47] Zon discusses Lotichius's disenchantment with Italy, pp. 280-304. On other German travellers' critiques of Italy, whereby Germany comes out looking better, see Wiegand on Fabricius, p. 85, and Ridé 1977.

[48] "Italiam vellem minus adpeteremus nos Germani, continentes nos finibus nostris, nostraque agnoscentes bona. Quibus etiam, Itali ingeniosi ingeniorum non dubitant laudem et palmam concedere, si ea modo pari cura, labore, industria bona nostra excolere excitareq: usque exercendo ipsorum perpulchro exemplo satageremus, nec vero molli (ut sit) ignavia, desidia, crapula, gula, vaesaniaque adeo commessationum ac repletionum immodicarum ac perpetuarum, receptis quasi a primis patribus, Teutonibus priscis, institutis, legibus, moribusque perditis perdere perseveraremus." Hagius, pp. 526f.

[49] Ridé 1977, vol. II, ch. X, esp. pp. 1186-1192; also Kloft and Mertens.

[50] See notes 14 and 11, above.

[51] Holtz, Parente, and Ridé 1980.

[52] See Parente and Fleischer 1992.

[53] On all these, see Weiss 1992.

[54] See Adam.

[55] The classic study is Trunz, but see the updating in Fleischer 1990.



Autor (author): James Michael Weiss
Dokument erstellt (document created): 2002-08-13
Dokument geändert (last update): 2002-08-20
WWW-Redaktion (conversion into HTML): Manuela Kahle & Stephan Halder
Schlussredaktion (final editing): Heinrich C. Kuhn