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Praise of Folly, ch. 43

Latin after CDLXXVI

Praise of Folly, ch. 43

Postby hlawson38 » Sat Mar 10, 2018 10:48 am

Context: The chapter number 43 corresponds to the division in http://www.thelatinlibrary.com/erasmus/moriae.shtml. Folly derides the foolish efforts of nations to claim for themselves distinctive possession of particular virtues. After ticking off examples of several nations, she gets to the Greeks.

Graeci tamquam disciplinarum auctores, veteribus illis laudatorum heroum titulis sese venditant:


Translation: The Greeks as if [they were] inventors of the arts, puff themselves with those ancient titles of the eulogists of heroes.

The phrase "laudatorum heroum" may suggest the ancient poets and historians, who recorded the deeds of great men. I'm thinking Folly means to deride the Greeks for laying claim to the mantle of the great authors and artists of the past.

The hard part of this for me was sorting out the ablatives and genitives.
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Re: Praise of Folly, ch. 43

Postby Hylander » Sat Mar 10, 2018 3:17 pm

I'm wondering whether laudatorum is gen. pl. of the participle laudatus agreeing with heroum. The [modern] Greeks retail themselves under those ancient labels of eulogized heroes, as if they [themselves] were the originators of [all] learning.

If laudatorum were gen. plur. of laudator, I think E. would have found a way to make that clearer. To my mind (and I could be wrong, of course), the natural reading is to take laudatorum as agreeing with the word that immediately follows, namely, heroum.

illis, I think, is slightly contemptuous: with veteribus, maybe "those well-worn labels".

But tamquam disciplinarum auctores seems a little puzzling to me in relation to what follows.
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Re: Praise of Folly, ch. 43

Postby hlawson38 » Sat Mar 10, 2018 9:40 pm

Hylander wrote:I'm wondering whether laudatorum is gen. pl. of the participle laudatus agreeing with heroum. The [modern] Greeks retail themselves under those ancient labels of eulogized heroes, as if they [themselves] were the originators of [all] learning.

If laudatorum were gen. plur. of laudator, I think E. would have found a way to make that clearer. To my mind (and I could be wrong, of course), the natural reading is to take laudatorum as agreeing with the word that immediately follows, namely, heroum.

illis, I think, is slightly contemptuous: with veteribus, maybe "those well-worn labels".

But tamquam disciplinarum auctores seems a little puzzling to me in relation to what follows.


Thanks Hylander, I find another instance of laudatorum in Praise of Folly, one that seems to support your suggestion.

23. An non omnium laudatorum facinorum seges ac fons est bellum?


Is not war the garden and fount of all the deeds being praised?

ISTM that laudatorum reads better as an adjectival participle in agreement with facinorum, but I don't know how to weigh this as evidence for reading the passage in my OP.
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Re: Praise of Folly, ch. 43

Postby hlawson38 » Sun Mar 11, 2018 8:52 pm

This is a new effort, after adopting Hylander's reading of laudatorum.

hlawson38 wrote:Context: The chapter number 43 corresponds to the division in http://www.thelatinlibrary.com/erasmus/moriae.shtml. Folly derides the foolish efforts of nations to claim for themselves distinctive possession of particular virtues. After ticking off examples of several nations, she gets to the Greeks.

Graeci tamquam disciplinarum auctores, veteribus illis laudatorum heroum titulis sese venditant:




New effort: Read auctores as appositive, with tamquam taken adverbially, to mean "allegedly"; and use a different definition of auctores.

Proposed translation: The Greeks allegedly experts in the arts, promote themselves with the time-worn labels of vaunted heroes.
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Re: Praise of Folly, ch. 43

Postby RandyGibbons » Thu Mar 15, 2018 9:20 pm

The [modern] Greeks retail themselves under those ancient labels of eulogized heroes, as if they [themselves] were the originators of [all] learning.

I think Hylander's interpretation and translation nails it. I might have translated 'as the self-proclaimed inventors of the arts' (since they were, and 'as if they were' denies that), but that's nit-picky. Not sure why you (hlawson) would change auctores from 'authors/originators' to 'experts'?

No question that laudatorum is an adjective.

Just as fyi, the Amsterdam edition compares a comment Erasmus made, in his Annotationes in Novum Testamentum, on Romans 1,14 (whose Greek text is Ἕλλησίν τε καὶ βαρβάροις, σοφοῖς τε καὶ ἀνοήτοις ὀφειλέτης εἰμί):

Image

(Note Sapientiam enim, hoc est, eruditionem sibi vendicabant Graeci.)

and also notes that Cicero applied 'heros' to illustrious non-military men such as Cato (Att. I, 17,9: heros ille noster Cato) and Plato and Aristotle (Rep. 3,8: illorum fuit heroum eam virtutem, quae ..., where editors take illorum heroum to refer to Plato and Aristotle).
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Re: Praise of Folly, ch. 43

Postby hlawson38 » Fri Mar 16, 2018 1:59 am

RandyGibbons wrote:
The [modern] Greeks retail themselves under those ancient labels of eulogized heroes, as if they [themselves] were the originators of [all] learning.

I think Hylander's interpretation and translation nails it. I might have translated 'as the self-proclaimed inventors of the arts' (since they were, and 'as if they were' denies that), but that's nit-picky. Not sure why you (hlawson) would change auctores from 'authors/originators' to 'experts'?


Good question. It's an issue I had trouble with. I'll give my thinking without making any claim to authority in these matters.

In the second version, I struggled with temporal point of view. "Venditant" is present active indicative. As I understood, Folly was mocking not the ancient Greek heroes, but rather later self-proclaimed owners of the tradition of the ancient heroes. So, my interpretation was that Folly with that "tamquam" was disparaging even the claimed ownership.

I am unsure in what time Folly's fictional speech ought to be placed, but she gives hints (I'm about half-way through) of being aware of events nearly contemporary with Erasmus. So I placed those mocked Greeks long after the foundations of Greek literature. That placement ruled out "founder" or "originator".

As for "experts", I read any number of dictionary entries, and one of them allowed that, but I don't recall which. Now that I've had time to think, "trustees" or "guardians" might be better for the interpretation I was attempting.
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Re: Praise of Folly, ch. 43

Postby RandyGibbons » Fri Mar 16, 2018 3:13 pm

I am unsure in what time Folly's fictional speech ought to be placed

All the verbs in this paragraph are present tense (Britanni sibi vindicent, Scoti sibi blandiantur, Galli sibi sumant, ...), so I think it's pretty clear Erasmus aka Folly is talking about the contemporary claims of contemporary states/peoples, which is why Hylander correctly added the qualifier "[modern]". And I think Erasmus/Folly probably concedes there is a historical germ of truth to these claims** but is poking fun at how, as he says, nature seems to have planted Philautia [Self-Love] in nations and peoples, not just individuals (Iam vero video naturam, ut singulis mortalibus suam, ita singulis nationibus ac pene civitatibus communem quandam insevisse Philautiam atque hinc fieri, ut Britanni ...).

As to auctores, you're clearly doing a deep read, and I get the impression you're intentionally and admirably and correctly trying to work out your own understanding of each sentence without resorting to a translation. But let me cheat and quote Adams' translation: "The Greeks boast they have invented the arts, ...".

As I understood, Folly was mocking not the ancient Greek heroes,

I'll just note again that, per the Amsterdam-edition citations I noted above, Erasmus means by "heroes" not the likes of Heracles or Theseus, but the giants of literature and philosophy, like Plato and Aristotle. (I'm not saying you disagree with that.)

** As I'm learning looking at the introduction in the Amsterdam edition, Erasmus anticipated and indeed received the accusation of impiety, first in a letter to himself from one Martin Dorp. I hope it is the Martin Dorps who rot in hell, as I can't abide people who lack all sense of irony :) . Anyway, this charge was answered in part by Erasmus himself in a letter back to Dorp (dated 1515) and in part in a 1515 commentary to Praise of Folly by a Gerardus Listrius. As quoted in the Amsterdam edition, here is Listrius' comment on Britanni ... mensas in chapter 43 (the underlines are mine): Vide lector ut rem per se mordacem festiviter, et citra morsum tractat. Quis nescit, ut singulis hominibus, ita et singulis nationibus sua quaedam vitia esse, de quibus vulgus etiam sua habet proverbia. At hic nihil attingit odiosum, sed tantum ridicula quaedam commemorat, ut intelligas illum candido illo Mercurii sale ludere voluisse. Nam Britannos etiam laudavit, si vindicant sibi, quod et habent, et habere pulchrum est.
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Re: Praise of Folly, ch. 43

Postby hlawson38 » Fri Mar 16, 2018 5:30 pm

Thank you Randy Gibbons for your commentary. I see nothing to disagree with, and I'm very grateful for your care and your references.

Thanks also for mentioning the matter of impiety. Because I was wondering about that myself, I recently re-read Leo Strauss's essay "Persecution and the Art of Writing" a few days ago to sharpen "reading between the lines." I'm no specialist in Renaissance Lit, so I know nothing about the scholarship on Erasmus.

And your explanation of the broader use of heros was welcome instruction.
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