Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/582

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exegetical, on the Greek or Latin authors whom they expounded in their lectures; but such work has left comparatively few distinctive traces, having been either absorbed into later books, or superseded. Latin translations from the Greek classics formed an important department of humanistic work, and were of the greatest service, not only at the Renaissance but long afterwards, in diffusing the study of Greek literature. The learned humanist Tommaso Parentucelli, who became Pope Nicholas V in 1447, was especially zealous in promoting such translations, many of which were made at Rome during his pontificate. Greek residents in Italy contributed to the work. But Italians were not less active; indeed there were few distinguished humanists who did not give this proof of their Greek scholarship. In the field of textual criticism mention is due to Politian's edition of the Pandects of Justinian, perhaps the earliest work based on a careful collation of manuscripts and on a critical estimate of their relative authority. The manuals of grammar produced at the Renaissance were inevitably of a crude kind; but some of them, at least, had merits which made them standard works for several generations. Thus the earliest of the Renaissance Greek grammars, that of Manuel Chrysoloras (afterwards translated from Greek into Latin by Guarino), held its ground well into the sixteenth century. It was the first text-book used by Erasmus when teaching Greek at Cambridge: the next to which he introduced his pupils was the more advanced Greek grammar of Theodoras Gaza, dating perhaps from about 1445, though first printed in 1495. The Greek grammar of Constantine Lascaris (composed perhaps about 1460, and printed in 1476) also had a high reputation. The Latin grammar of Nicholas Perotti, printed at Rome in 1473, treats grammar in connexion with rhetoric, and is commended by Erasmus as the most complete manual on the subject then extant.

The higher historical criticism is represented by Lorenzo Valla, already mentioned as a fine Latinist. In 1440, when Naples was at feud with the papal See, he published a tract on the Donation of Constantine, proving that the chief document of the temporal power was spurious. Eugenius IV was then Pope. His successor, Nicholas V, a scholar and a statesman, read in Valla's tract a sign of the times. The Council of Florence (1438), where Greeks and Latins met in conference, had lately shown that the history of the early Church could not be fully understood without a knowledge of Greek writings. And now it was plain that the long impunity of ecclesiastical forgery was drawing to an end. Nicholas saw that humanism would be less disastrous to the Vatican as an uncongenial inmate than as an irrepressible critic. He made Valla an official of the Curia. It was a turning-point. The new papal policy was continued, with few breaks, down to the Reformation.

Beyond the limits of strictly literary studies, there was a wide and varied field of interests which the classical revival opened to Italians.