Guide Erasmus as a Translator of the Classics

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He has devised a system set up according to the canons of modern linguistic science - a system which If you had slain the tyrant inadvertently, or to satisfy a personal grudge, or if he had been killed by someone else, you would have deserved no reward, for you would not have fulfilled the conditions of the law C-E.

Nor do you deserve it for what you did. You appear to have been actuated solely by hope of reward F. Though I were to grant that you caused the tyrant's death, you caused it illegally and therefore deserve.

Erasmus as a Translator of the Classics

The law cannot condone so dangerous a precedent as you would have it do. With respect to killing a tyrant, Even had you slain the tyrant without endangering the state, the law would disapprove of your deed. It requires that the tyrant — no one else — be killed Whatever you did, you did not kill the tyrant D-E. That the state today is free of tyranny is due not to your rash actions but to the benevolence of the gods F.

Do not anger them by claiming the gratitude which belongs to them A-B. The laws, the state, and the gods all deny your presumptuous claim C - B. J It is only for the sake of the public weal that I act in this case. The claimant' s assertion that I am sorry to see the tyrant dead is absurd. No, the reason I oppose you is simply that you did not kill the tyrantf For some reason you slew his son and then, when the tyrant had committed suicide, you stepped forward and claimed a tyrannicide's reward to which you are not entitled.

Nor do I object because of. The f act is [and this is More's principal plea] that the death of the tyrant was brought about solely through the mercy of the gods. To them, and to them alone, are thanks due. Your argument that the son was the true tyrant in everything but name and that consequently whoever killed him deserves a tyrannicide's reward is ridiculous.

As if the father would have tolerated a son equal to him in power. Such is not the custom of tyrants. The father was the sole tyrant. It is of no use to claim reward for having slain the heir of the tyrant. In a tyranny laws of inheritance count. A tyrant always dies intestate ; in fact the laws, which alone can make a will valid, are held captive by him.

He who succeeds a tyrant is not the heir but a new tyrant ; our tyrant had a son but no heir. Again, to claim reward for having tried to kill the tyrant, and while trying having killed his son, is inadmissible. For if merely good intentions were made the basis for seeking reward, everyone might rightfully seek it. In fact, you deserve no reward, but punishment for not having killed the tyrant when you were in the castle and had a chance to do so. It is plain that you attempted your deed rashly and without planning. You assert that you had foreknowledge that the tyrant would immediately kill himself when he found his son dead.

How and whence did you get such wonderful knowledge of the future? You did not have it. It is true that the son' s death was in some measure the cause of the father's, but it does not follow that the slayer of the son ought therefore to be credited with having caused the parent's death. As for leaving your sword behind, you did that out of fear. You heard the guard approaching, and you fled in terror. Now you have the effrontery to claim reward for your cowardice. It is most likely that the tyrant, instead of killing himself, would have revenged himself upon his subjects.

But at that critical juncture the gods took pity on the city and caused the tyrant to go mad and f ail upon his sword. You had nothing to do with the city's deliverance : it was entirely providential. Let us thank the gods for liberty. Both Erasmus and More insist that the tyrant must be killed lawfully ; that is, a man cannot have the reward merely because the homicide of some one other than the tyrant in this case the tyrant's son caused, directly or indirectly, the death of the tyrant himself. Erasmus is particularly emphatic on this point. In a long passage D - C , concluding with words put into the mouth of the laws themselves, words that remind the reader of the speech by the laws in Crito 50 ff.

If they are not observed, if a citizen may with impunity interpret the laws of a state according to his pleasure, and take them into his own hands, the authority of the laws is destroyed 2. From the summaries of Erasmus' and More's orations given above it is evident that they take up the same main points, but they do not present them in quite the same order. It is more florid, more elaborate, more copious. Erasmus adds details, repeats charges, and expands figures of speech. He has two or three illustrations where More is content with one 4. He has an abundance of literary and mytho- logical allusions.

More has frequent ones, but not so many as Erasmus has. He calls attention to. Nostram declamationem ita leges vt eam me pauculis diebus lusisse cogites, non scripsisse. More's Declamatio is perhaps the least read of all his writings. Except for brief mention in Bridgett's book and in Chambers' most recent study 3 , it has received scarcely any attention at all. One reason may be its inaccessibility, for More's Latin works have not been reprinted since the seven- teenth century. Yet to the inquirer into More's classical reading, as well as to the student of his early life, this Declamatio, his earliest extant Latin prose composition, is of some value.

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It was written by More before he became immersed in public business. It handles a somewhat fantastic legal question with literary skill.

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Similarly, More's statements in the Declamatio are not to be taken as his true conclusions on such matters. His and Erasmus' orations are as sophistical in their way as Lucian's is in its. Those with a taste for this kind of writing have praised More's speech very warmly. Erasmus, for example, writes of it;. Tractat ille idem argumentum, et ita tractat vt nullus sit omnino locus quem non excutiat eruatque. Neque enim arbitror nisi me vehemens in illum fallit amor vnquam naturam finxisse ingenium hoc vno praesentius, promptius, oculatius, argutius, breuiterque dotibus omni- genis absolutius.

Accedit lingua ingenio par, turn morum mira festiuitas, salis plurimum, sed candidi duntaxat, vt nihil in eo desyderes quod ad absolutum pertineat patronum 2. He adds that More wrote it It was praised as a speech, an oration, remember. It was no laboured task, we may. Declamationibus praecipue delectatus est, et, in his, materiis adoxis, quod in his acrior sit ingeniorum exercitatio.

Vix alium reperias qui felicius dicat ex tempore : adeo felici ingenio felix lingua subseruit. Ingenium praesens et vbique praeuolans, memoria parata ; quae cum omnia habeat velut in numerato, prompte et incontanter suggerit quicquid tempus aut res postulat. In disputationibus nihil fingi potest acutius, Save this remark by Erasmus, we have no information about More's youthful dialogue in defence of Plato's community of wives.

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Of whom, for his wisdome and learninge, had the kinge suche an opinion, that at suche tyme as he attended vppon his highnes, takinge his progresse either to Oxford or Cambridge, where he was receaved with very eloquent orations, his grace wold alwaies assigne him, as one that was prompte and ready therein, ex tempore to make awneswer therevnto. Whose manner was, whensoeuer he had occasion, either here or beyond the sea, to be in any vniuersity, not onely to be present at the readinge and disputations there comonly vsed, but also learnedly to dispute amonge them himself 2. More's friend Tunstall, Bishop of London, in his licence grant- ing More permission to read Lutheran books in order to confute them , asserted that both in English and in Latin Demosthenem quendam praestare potes Badius' praise has already been quoted 2.

It is a masterpiece of oratory, and gives us a specimen of that skill in arranging argument, and expressing it in powerful and dignified language, which placed More the first in order of time on the list of great English orators 3. And formai English oratory, in style and structure, followed Latin rules and models. It is not extravagant or wishful thinking to believe that the composition in his youth of declamationes, of which Erasmus tells us, and of which this one replying to Tyrannicida is the sole surviving example, was a helpful discipline in developing that readiness and effectiveness of expression for which More was famous.

After all, such training was the original purpose of declamatio, and it was for that reason that Quintilian recommended it as being profitable for future speakers at the bar. If we may believe Erasmus, oratory in his time sorely needed improvement. In his prefatory epistle to Whitford he says that if men would train themselves by the. Quare non hoc animo laborem hunc suscepi, vt tantum artificem vel aequarem vel vincerem, sed vti cum amico omnium dulcissimo, quicum libenter soleo seria ludicraque miscere, in hac ingeniorum palestra quasi colluctarer ; idque feci eo libentius quod magnopere cupiam hoc exer- citii genus, quo nullum aliud aeque frugiferum, in ludis nostris aliquando instaurari.

Neque enim aliud esse in causa puto, quod hac nostra tempestate, quum tam multi sint qui scriptores eloquentissimos euoluant, tam pauci tamen existant qui non infantissimi videantur, si quando res oratorem poposcerit. This is recorded by Stapleton, who in extolling Margaret's learning says :. Et penes me declamatio quaedam huius Margarethae eloquentissima et ingeniosa admodum, omnibusque veri Oratoris numeris absoluta, qua Quintilianum 4 imitata vel aemulata potius respondet illi eius orationi, quae est de pauperis opibus, in horto divitis veneno floribus asperso necatis.

Erasmus As A Translator Of The Classics

Quae sane causa quanto ad defen- dendum difficilior, tanto ars et eloquentia Margarethae excellentior videri debet 5. As historical subjects take, for example, the warning of a friend that Cicero should reject the offers of Antony. He suggests also Phalaris speaking to the people of Delphi, urging them to accept his brazen buil as an offering to the god cf. Lucian's Phalaris, I and II.

The literature of tyranny, to which Lucian's, More's, and Erasmus' works belong, was an ancient and extensive one 5. We find an interest in the despot, and description of him, in literature from the time of the classical Greek writers e. Lucian, in addition to his Tyrannicida and Phalaris, I and II, wrote on tyrants in some of his satirical dialogues. More and Erasmus were no doubt acquainted with many of the classical writings on tyrants and tyrannicide, and like- wise with some of the Christian opinions, for instance those of St.

Thomas Aquinas and John of Salisbury. Aquinas 3 in one place seems to allow tyrannicide if the tyrant has ob- tained his power by violence and without the will of his subjects. In his treatise on government, De Regimine Principum, however, he does not go so far. It would, moreover, be dangerous both for the multitude and for their rulers if certain persons should attempt on their own private presumption, to kill their governors, even tyrants Furthermore it rather seems, that to pro- ceed against the cruelty of tyrants is an action to be under- taken, not through the private presumption of a few, but by public authority Should no human aid whatsoever against a tyrant be forthcoming, recourse must be had to God, the King of all, who is a helper in due time in tribula- tion 6.

Such leading figures as Luther, Melanchthon, Calvin, and Erasmus all had to deal with the question. Erasmus' feelings can be seen in his In- stitutio Principis Christiani No tyranny is so firmly pro- tected that it will endure for long. Every state that has degenerated into a tyranny has rushed on into utter dissolution That Thomas More had thought much on tyranny and absolutism we know not only, or not so much, from his translation of Tyrannicida and his Declamatio as from his epigrams on tyrants.

In these he gives utterance to sentiments of lofty and idealistic patriotism and denounces misrule and oppression as the following verses demonstrate. Quid bonus est Princeps? Tyrannum in somno nihil differre a plebeio. Erigit ergo tuas insane superbia cristas,. Quod flexo curuet se tibi turba genu, Quod populus nudo surgat tibi vertice, quod sit. Multorum in manibus vitaque, morsque tuis. At somnus quoties artus adstringit inertes,. Haec tua iam toties gloria die vbi sit? Tune ignaue iaces trunco non impar inani,.

Aut paulo functis ante cadaueribus. Quod nisi conclusus timide intra tecta lateres,. In cuiusque foret iam tua vita manu 3. More's interest in tyranny was at this time, I repeat, literary, not personal or political. It reads In an examination of Erasmus' and More's writings, the translations they made from Lucian in are in certain. They prepared the way for Moriae Encomium, the greatest work of its kind in Renaissance literature.

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The familiarity with Lucian which the translations compelled and which they attest contributed much to the irony of Moriae Encomium, and contributed some- thing to the verisimilitude of the wonderful Utopia. In Moriae Encomium the Lucianic influence in form, in style, in technique, and in some of the matter and allusions is plain to see. Erasmus made most of his translations in He wrote Moriae Encomium in In his prefatory epistle to the work he adduces from classical literature many examples of the sort of composition he has made, e.

But of all the ancient authors he names, none approaches Lucian in importance so far as influence upon Moriae Encomium is concerned.

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Lucianum quempiam referre atque omnia mordicus arripere Q. Others were far from complimentary. Erasmus' enemies accused him of sharing Lucian's skepticism, and employed his fondness for that author as a club with which to beat him. Luther wrote that Erasmus Homo On his deathbed, declared Luther, he would forbid his sons to read Erasmus' Colloquia, for Erasmus was much worse than Lucian 2.

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The Ciceronians whom Erasmus had outraged by his Ciceronianus were quick to denounce his Lucianism. The elder Scaliger, for example, accused him of jeering at religion, just as Lucian had done 3. Etienne Dolet wrote that Erasmus wore a mask of thoughts from Lucian, the most vicious of men 4. And More? Erasmus tells us that it was at More's insist- ence that he wrote Moriae Encomium, and it is significant that in the same sentence he says that More took particular pleasure in Lucian The first Englishman known to have translated any of Lucian's dialogues, More was intellectually and temperamentally re- sponsive to the Samosatensian's sharp irony.

He was a notably pious man, but he was merry as well. This quality. It never failed to impress his contemporaines and his biographers. He was of a nature irrepressibly good- humoured and jocose and facetious, traveling on life's common way in cheerful godliness. He delighted in jokes 2 ; he was born with a jest in his mouth, wrote Gabriel Harvey 3 ; in the whole course of his life, according to Erasmus , he played the part of a Democritus 4. It did not trouble him — as he wrote to Ruthall — that Lucian was skeptical of religion ; he knew that Lucian taught in an amusing manner ethical and moral lessons, whether he scoffed at immortality or not.

Nam a Luciano nihil fere triuiale solet proficisci, in Erasmus' words 5. In after years both Erasmus and More much regretted the misinterpretation of their early secular writings.

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Erasmus more than once had to protest against misreadings of Moriae Encomium and Colloquia. More, in writing against Tyndale , says :. After quoting from this passage, Chambers observes :. In speaking of earlier works which he would have burnt, More was, I fancy, thinking not so much of Utopia as of some of the Epigrams, and of his translations from Lucian — such things, for example, as the epistle to Dr. Chambers may be right ; Lucian was in worse repute in , when More wrote these words, that he was in , and if More thought his translations would be a stumblingblock to any Christian, he would surely have destroyed or recalled them if possible.

Yet, whatever he thought of them in later life, the fact remains that he was much attracted by Lucian's writings when a young man. Thompson, Cornell University. Fowler The Works of Lucian of Samosata, trans. Fowler and F. Fowler [Oxford, ], I, And furst by hym compylyd in the Greke tonge.

And after translated owt of the Greke into Latyn, and now lately translated out of Laten into Englissh for the erudicion of them, which be disposyd to lerne the tongis. Inter locu- tores, Menippus and Philonides Henrietta R. Although it is not impossible that More himself was the author of this Dialog, it is f ar more likely that Rastell wrote it. Reed in. Campbell London, In his Homily St. John Chrysostom inveighs against men's solicitude for food, property, and the things of this world instead of the things which are eternal.

Augustine's writings. Augustine's youthful Manichaeism. But possibly More was thinking of St. Gregory the Great instead of St. Augustine, for St. This volume will be cited hereafter as English Works, He may have borrowed the information that More translated ad verbum, but if he borrowed the criticism he misread Benedict, for Spence condemns More's close rendering as superstitious and slavish, whereas Benedict in fact praises it, as my quotation shows. In it More says Peter Gilles sent the translation to him,.

William A. Edward [Cambridge, ], p. Edward's introduction is valuable. On suasoriae and controuersiae see also H. Droit, Lettres. Fascicule 1 [Lille, ] ; C. See notes to these passages in A. Juvenal, Saturae, vu, More says nothing about this. Again, Erasmus F goes so far as to say that if there had been no other means of reaching the tyrant save by murdering his son, that murdering of the son would be pardo- ned. More does not make even this putative concession. Thomas More in English Literature and History, pp.

The title-page wrongly ascribes the authorship to Thomas More, Cresacre's brother. Cresacre's biography was first published c. Elsie Vaughan Hitchcock. Arthur Irving Taft. The Deelamationes are not now accepted as Quintilian's. The oration has not sur- yivecl. Karl R. Schmid and O. Cited by R. Caklyle and A. Phelan St. Michael's College Philosophical Texts [Toronto, ] , pp. John Dickinson New York, , p.