Page:Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire vol 7 (1897).djvu/133

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117
OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE

with thousands of scholars; and their misguided ardour might be directed to more liberal and manly studies. In the resurrection of science, Italy was the first that cast away her shroud; and the eloquent Petrarch, by his lessons and his example, may justly be applauded as the first harbinger of day. A purer style of composition, a more generous and rational strain of sentiment, flowed from the study and imitation of the writers of ancient Rome; and the disciples of Cicero and Virgil approached, with reverence and love, the sanctuary of their Grecian masters. In the sack of Constantinople, the French, and even the Venetians, had despised and destroyed the works of Lysippus and Homer; the monuments of art may be annihilated by a single blow; but the immortal mind is renewed and multiplied by the copies of the pen; and such copies it was the ambition of Petrarch and his friends to possess and understand. The arms of the Turks undoubtedly pressed the flight of the Muses; yet we may tremble at the thought that Greece might have been overwhelmed, with her schools and libraries, before Europe had emerged from the deluge of barbarism; that the seeds of science might have been scattered by the winds, before the Italian soil was prepared for their cultivation.

Revival of the Greek learning in Italy The most learned Italians of the fifteenth century have confessed and applauded the restoration of Greek literature, after a long oblivion of many hundred years.[1] Yet in that country, and beyond the Alps, some names are quoted: some profound scholars, who, in the darker ages, were honourably distinguished by their knowledge of the Greek tongue; and national vanity has been loud in the praise of such rare examples of erudition. Without scrutinising the merit of individuals, truth must observe that their science is without a cause and without an effect; that it was easy for them to satisfy themselves and their more ignorant contemporaries; and that the idiom, which they had so

  1. Of those writers, who professedly treat of the restoration of the Greek learning in Italy, the two principal are Hodius, Dr. Humphrey Hody (de Græcæ Literarumque humaniorum Instauratoribus; Londini, 1742, in large octavo), and Tiraboschi (Istoria della Letteratura Italiana, tom. v. p. 364-377, tom. vii p. 112-143). The Oxford professor is a laborious scholar, but the librarian of Modena enjoys the superiority of a modern and national historian. [Cp. above note 81. Legrand, Biographie hellénique, vol. i., 1885. J. A. Symonds, The Renaissance in Italy, ii, The Revival of Learning, 1877. Therianos, in the first volue of his biography of Koraês (Arabic, 1889), gives a good summary of the movement. G. Fioretto, Gli umanisti, o lo studio del Latino e del Greco nel secolo xv. in Italia, 1881. See also the excellent monograph on Vittorino da Feltre, dealing with the education of the Humanist teachers in Italy, by W. H. Woodward, 1897.]