Pacis Encomium

Virgil’s Georgics, Humanist Allegory, and the Pacifism of Erasmus, More, and Vives

In: Erasmus Studies
Ryan Hackenbracht Texas Tech University USA Lubbock, TX

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Virgil’s Georgics was a source of pacifistic thinking for Erasmus, More, and Vives, who used figurative readings of the poem to reinforce their notions about the incompatibility of war and Christian society. In doing so, they furthered an interpretive tradition begun by Mancinelli, Valeriano, Landino, and other humanists of the Quattrocento, who were intrigued by the poem’s political potential. In the Enchiridion, Querela Pacis, Utopia, and de Concordia et Discordia, the Georgics functioned as a heuristic for thinking through current events and critiquing violence within Christendom. From soils to trees to cattle and bees, Virgil’s poem supplied Erasmus, More, and Vives with diverse tools for deflating militaristic ideology and imagining alternatives to the status quo. At a time when late scholastics were debating the finer points of iustum bellum, the humanists were moving the discussion into an entirely new direction, using Virgil to envision the abolition of war between Christian states.

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