Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/573

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With him the Italian revival of learning began in earnest, and at a time when, owing to the causes above noticed, there were as yet few symptoms of such a movement in the other countries of Europe.

The medieval fortunes of the Latin classics differed widely from those of the Greek. The classical Latin language and literature were never wholly lost. But, after the fifth century, a knowledge of classical Greek rapidly faded out of the West, until it became practically extinct. Between the fall of the Western Empire and the Renaissance, no general provision for teaching Greek existed in the West, similar to that which was made in regard to Latin. Charles the Great wished, indeed, to restore Greek, mainly for the practical purpose of intercourse with the East. One of the Capitularies attests his design (" Graecas et Latinos scholas in perpetuum manere ardinavimus"); but it is doubtful whether his purpose was anywhere fulfilled. Some study of Greek was fostered, as we have seen, in the Irish monasteries; and a few instances of it occur in other places. Thus in the tenth century Greek was studied by some brethren of the Abbey of St Gall. The Council of Vienne (1311) had proposed to establish chairs of Greek in several cities of Europe; but nothing was done. Several eminent men of western Europe, in the course of those centuries, certainly possessed some knowledge of Greek, though it is often difficult to say how much. After the schism between the Eastern and Western Churches, sporadic settlements of Greeks occurred in the West, especially in France; and Latin controversialists had a new motive for acquiring the language of their opponents. Grosseteste, according to Matthew Paris, was aided by a Greek priest of St Albans in translating the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs into Latin. The Benedictine historians give lists of the persons in each century who were reputed to know Greek; but it may well be that these lists, short though they are, include men who had merely gained some slight knowledge of the language from intercourse with Greeks. In Italy, doubtless, the number of those who knew some Greek was larger than elsewhere, owing to the greater closeness of Italy's relations with the East. But even at Constantinople itself, in the fourteenth century, a sound knowledge of ancient Greek was confined to a narrow circle; and an intelligent appreciation of the ancient Hellenic literature was probably rarer still.

Enough has been said to guard against the notion that the Italian revival of learning wa's something more sudden and abrupt than it actually was. The movement in the second half of the fourteenth century would appear almost miraculous, if the new light were supposed to have flashed upon Italy, at Petrarch's word, from a background of utter darkness. The fact is rather that the dawn had long been growing in the sky. On the other hand, the revival which dates from Petrarch was, in a very definite sense, the beginning of a new era. The appreciation of classical antiquity which came with it differed in