“Primum graecissabant”

Erasmus, Julius II and the Venetians

in Erasmus Studies
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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.

“Primum graecissabant”

Erasmus, Julius II and the Venetians

in Erasmus Studies




See Vincenzo ChiaroniLo scisma greco e il Concilio di Firenze (Florence: Libreria editrice fiorentina1938); Deno J. Geanakoplos “The Council of Florence (1438–9) and the Problem of Union between the Byzantine and Latin Churches” Church History 24 (1955) 324–346; Joseph Gill The Council of Florence (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1959); and Firenze e il Concilio del 1439 ed. P. Viti (Florence: Olschki 1994).


See Giuseppe AlberigoLa chiesa conciliare. Identità e significato del conciliarismo (Brescia: Paideia1981).


FedaltoRicerche storiche 34–35.


Manusos I. Manousakas“Aperçu d’une histoire de la colonie Grecque Orthodoxe de Venise,” Θησαυρίσματα 19 (1982) 7–30.


FedaltoRicerche storiche 44–45.


GeanakoplosGreek Scholars 64.


See Pierre de NolhacÉrasme en Italie étude sur un épisode de la Renaissance. Nouvelle Édition (Paris: Klincksieck1898) and Geanakoplos “Erasmus and the Aldine Academy of Venice: A neglected Chapter in the Transmission of Graeco-Byzantine Learning in the West” Greek Roman and Byzantine Studies 3 (1960) 133. See also Erasmus’ letter to Joost Vroye of March 1523 (ep. 1347 Allen ll. 231–275).


See: Ambroise Firmin-DidotAlde Manuce et l’hellénisme à Venise (Paris: Firmin-Didot1875); Geanakoplos “Erasmus and the Aldine Academy”; Carlo Dionisotti “Aldo Manuzio e i Greci” in Aldo Manuzio umanista e editore (Milan: Il Polifilo 1995) 67–76; and Manousakas Gli umanisti greci collaboratori di Aldo a Venezia (1494–1515) e l’ellenista bolognese Paolo Bombace. Prolusione (Bologna: Lo Scarabeo 1991).


Reinhard Flogaus“Aldus Manutius and the Printing of Greek Liturgical Texts” in The Books of Venice. Il libro venezianoed. L. Pon and C. Kallendorf (Venice and New Castle Del.: Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana La Musa Talìa Oak Knoll Press [2008]) 207–230. I am very grateful to Alessandra Sandrigo of the Biblioteca Statale Isontina Gorizia for sending me a copy of this study.


Martin DaviesAldus Manutius: Printer and Publisher of Renaissance Venice (Tempe: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies1999) 28.


Geanakoplos“Erasmus and the Aldine Academy” 133.


FedaltoRicerche storiche 45–58.


Dionisotti“Aldo Manuzio e i Greci” 73.

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