Desiderius Erasmus

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Erasmus, Desiderius


(Erasmus Roterodamus, or Erasmus of Rotterdam). Born Oct. 28, 1469, in Rotterdam; died July 12, 1536, in Basel. Dutch humanist scholar, writer, philologist, and theologian; one of the most prominent representatives of the northern Renaissance.

Erasmus studied at the University of Paris from 1495 to 1499. He lived in France, England, Germany, Italy, and Switzerland, and he was renowned throughout Europe. He wrote in Latin, then the universal language of educated Europeans.

Erasmus was decisively influenced by Dutch mysticism and humanist education, as well as by the circle of scholars known as the Oxford reformers (of which J. Colet was one) who called for a new, deeper, and scientifically substantiated reading of the holy texts of Christianity. In 1517, Erasmus brought out the first printed edition of the New Testament in the Greek original, with his own wide-ranging commentaries; the 1519 edition was accompanied by his own Latin translation. He created an elegant new system of theology, which he called “the philosophy of Christ.” The system is chiefly concerned with man in his relation to god and with man’s moral responsibilities before god; Erasmus circumvents the questions arising in speculative theology, such as the creation of the world, original sin, and the triadic nature of the deity, which he views as having no vital significance and as being fundamentally insoluble.

Erasmus headed a humanist trend that came to be called Christian humanism. He spoke against the spread of worldly influences in the church, the veneration of relics, monastic parasitism and false piety, and empty religious rituals, and in this sense he was a precursor of the Reformation. However, he was no less consistently opposed to the fanaticism, the rigid dogmatism, and especially the limitless abasement of man before god that characterized Lutheranism; for this reason he broke with Luther, whom he had previously supported. Neither side was satisfied with Erasmus’ position, and he was forced to flee from Louvain and from Basel to escape the religious fanaticism of Louvain’s Catholics (1521) and Basel’s church reformers (1528).

Erasmus left an enormous number of works, the most famous being the Praise of Folly (1509; Russian translation, 1960) and the Colloquies (1519–35; Russian translation, 1969). The former work is a philosophical satire and the second is primarily concerned with morals and manners; they share, however, a common foundation—a strong belief in the contradictory nature of all reality and the instability of the boundary between opposites. Mistress Folly, singing her own praises, turns easily into wisdom, self-satisfied high-mindedness into obtuse baseness, and limitless power into the worst slavery; consequently the most valuable rule in life is “Nothing in excess!” This conviction represents the essence of Erasmus’ ideological position, which his other works reflect as well. His collection of proverbs (Adagia, 1500) includes ancient Greek and Roman sayings and aphorisms with commentaries.

Many of Erasmus’ pedagogical, morally instructive, and theological works were designed to promote a particular point of view—for example, the anti-Lutheran treatise On Free Will (1524) and the Liberal Education of Children (1529). Erasmus was a great master of the epistolary genre, and his voluminous correspondence has been preserved.


Opera omnia, vols. 1–4. Amsterdam, 1971–73.
Opus epistolarum, vols. 1–12. Edited by P. S. Allen. Oxford, 1906–58.


Markish, S. P. Znakomstvo s Erazmom iz Rotterdama. Moscow, 1971.
Smirin, M. M. “O politicheskoi kontseptsii Erazma Rotterdam skogo.” In the collection Ezhegodnik germanskoi istorii 1972. Moscow, 1973.
Smith, P. Erasmus. New York, 1962.
Huizinga, J. Erasmus, 5th ed. Haarlem, 1958.
Tracy, J. Erasmus—the Growth of a Mind. Geneva, 1972.
References in periodicals archive ?
18) Desiderius Erasmus, A Book Called in Latin Enchiridion Militis Christiani and in English The Manual of the Christian Knight, replenished with the most wholesome precepts made by the famous clerk Erasmus of Rotterdam, to which is added a new and marvellous profitable Preface (1503) (London: Methuen, 1905), p.
Indeed, Nock contended that Desiderius Erasmus was no game for professors or run-of-the-mill parsons and bishops and that "the less one reads about Erasmus, the better.
If this response to your questions seems vague, I can only say that in my chapter on Desiderius Erasmus I try to talk about the Either-Or and about vagueness or slipperiness or other stances (or non-stances) toward the Either-Or in a more philosophical way.
In this sense, Roy is echoing the great humanist Desiderius Erasmus (1469-1536), who wrote an eloquent tract against warmongering called Querela pacis or "The Complaint of Peace.
Friedhelm Kruger, Humanistische Evangelienauslegung: Desiderius Erasmus von Rotterdam als Ausleger der Evangelien in seinen Paraphrasen (Tubingen: J.
He focuses his study of the approach to the work of 16th-century scholars Desiderius Erasmus and Theodorus Beza, asking what kind of conjectures they made, what role conjectural emendation play in their work on the New Testament, and in what particular view of the text their conjectures can be understood.
Courtenay, "Fruits of the Harvest"; Nicolette Mout, "Pia curiositas: Desiderius Erasmus and Heiko Augustinus Oberman Between Late Middle Ages and Reformation"; Francis Oakley, "Christian virtuoso and Scholastic Tradition: Robert Boyle and the Potentia dei absoluta et ordinata"; and G.
Desiderius Erasmus, Guillaume Bude, and Cuthbert Tunstall, who can speak for themselves, elaborate their relationships with the freewheeling Ladies Poverty and Philology in an effort to distinguish their activities from those of other early modern capitalists; the lady of delicate sensibilities, the byproduct, consumer, and sometime guarantor of a luxurious culture, has spokesmen as various as Jean-Jacques Rousseau, David Hume, and the obscure M.
118] In his Adagia (1536), Desiderius Erasmus forcefully recommends Festina lente ("Make haste slowly"), a truly "royal" maxim, to contemporary rulers.
Remer provides a detailed analysis of the views on toleration of Desiderius Erasmus, Jacobus Acontius, and William Chillingworth, all of whom exemplify his central thesis.
Olin is familiar to many teachers of European survey courses of modern Europe for his widely circulated Christian Humanism and the Reformation: Selected Writings of Desiderius Erasmus (edited and translated by Olin).