Ancient Geographers and Modern Travelogues in the Early Seventeenth Century. The Difference between Hugo Grotius’s Bewys van den waren Godsdienst (1622) and De veritate religionis christianae (1627–40)

In: Grotiana
Silke-Petra Bergjan Faculty of Theology, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland,

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The Bewys van den waren Godsdienst and De veritate religionis Christianae originated against the background of Grotius’s familiarity with classical literature. To understand the innovative impact of these writings, the historical method applied must be considered. Grotius did not rely on authorities, but was compiling historical witnesses for the three religions. The availability and visibility of the witness reports are regularly referred to in the text. Thus, history and classical historians enter the picture. Interestingly, this cannot be separated from the debate about the methods to be used in geography, a matter that gains importance as the difference between Bewys and De veritate is nowhere as visible as in the geographical references. The generous sprinkling of place names from different continents contributes to the poem’s factual character. The place names in the Bewys derive from the Dutch sea trade and can be found in the travel reports of the time. This is elucidated by two examples: the island Waygat in the Artic, and the coast of Mina in the Gulf of Guinea. In De veritate, however, all such references are removed. In their stead appear examples from ancient topography, to be annotated in the 1640 edition with ample quotations from Pliny, Strabo, Josephus and others.

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