Altgriechische Brieftheorie in der Renaissance: Characteres Epistolici von Pseudo-Libanios in lateinischen Übersetzungen des 16. Jahrhunderts

Research output


Ancient Greek epistolary theory played an important part in the coming to be of ars epistolandi of the Renaissance. The reception of Greek letter-writing manuals in the Latin lit- erature of the 15th — 16th cc. remains largely unstudied. This paper analyses seven 16th c. Latin translations of “Epistolary Styles” of Pseudo-Libanius / Pseudo-Proclus (abbr. PL), five surviving in printed editions and two in manuscripts. The study aims at generalising on the working principles of translators and voicing possible intentions behind their work. The methods of the translators are very different: the earliest translation by Pontico Virunio is extremely literal. Other translators (e.g. Wolfgang Winthauser) treat the original more freely, sometimes transforming and supplementing the text to clarify the meaning and add rhetorical flourish. Unlike other translators, John Sambucus completely rearranges the treatise: he transforms its structure and distributes the types of letters into five genera. This classification, dating back to Aristotle, is present in some 16th c. Latin manuals, including that of Erasmus. Probably Sambucus introduces this system in order to harmonise the ancient treatise with modern epistolary theory. The classification is repeated in an additional table on letter types, where Sambucus includes 23 types absent from the main text of PL. Their origin is discussed in the article. The methods of translators and the content of 16th c. collections, which include PL translations, indicate that the ancient treatise was translated and published primarily as a school manual. It probably functioned as a link between grammar and rhetoric and introduced the student to more extensive contemporary manuals, for example, Erasmus’ treatise.
Original languageGerman
Pages (from-to)280-298
JournalPhilologia Classica
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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