Epistolae Obscurorum Virorum

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Epistolae Obscurorum Virorum


(Letters of Obscure Men), an early 16th-century German satire written in Latin by the humanists C. Rubeanus, H. von dem Busche, and U. von Hutten. It was published anonymously in two volumes (1515–17).

These parodic letters, written as if by churchmen, ridicule the ignorance, stupidity, religious fanaticism, and moral wretchedness of scholastics. They also expose the vices of papal Rome and the parasitism and profligacy of monks. The lively and witty satire of the Epistolae obscurorum virorum dealt a heavy blow to obscurantists on the eve of the Reformation.


Epistolae obscurorum virorum, vols. 1–2. Edited by A. Bömer. Heidelberg, 1924.
In Russian translation:
Pis’ma temnykh liudei. Moscow-Leningrad, 1935.


Istoriia nemetskoi literatury, vol. 1. Moscow, 1962.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Enekel on "Die Grundlegung humanistischer Selbstprasentation im Brief-Corpus: Francesco Petrarcas Familiarium return libri XXIV," Lisa Jardine on "Before Clarissa: Erasmus, 'Letters of Obscure Men,' and Epistolary Fictions," Edward V.
He was the main contributor to the second volume of the Epistolae obscurorum virorum (1515-17; "Letters of Obscure Men"), a famous attack on monkish life and letters.
Not until the concluding chapter does one learn that it is taken from The Letters of Obscure Men (whose authors observed that "Erasmus taketh his own part').
This book on stylistic virtues and--especially--stylistic vices focuses on the Letters of Obscure Men (Epistolae obscurorum virorum), an anonymously published work in two parts (1515-17) that contains more than 100 letters.
The phenomenon of loquacity is discussed: the Letters of Obscure Men are extremely prolix in matters which would hardly deserve any detailed attention.
Although abundant quotations of the Letters of Obscure Men are incorporated in this study to illustrate the various vices, they never become more than illustrations.
Enenkel, "Die Grundlegung humanistischer Selbstprasentation in Brief-Corpus: Francesco Petrarcas Familiarium rerum libri XXIV"; Lisa Jardine, "Before Clarissa: Erasmus, 'Letters of Obscure Men,' and Epistolary Fictions"; Edward V.
In the first quarter of the sixteenth century the humanists tend to take a moderate position, on occasion even ridiculing a belief in the efficacy of witchcraft as in the satires, Epistolae Obscurorum Virorum (Letters of obscure men), Eccius dedolatus, and Erasmus's Moriae Encomium (Praise of Folly).
The satire, Epistolae Obseurorum Virorum (Letters of obscure men), is extreme in the degree to which it polarizes positions, contrasting new and old, "Poets" versus the "Schoolmen," but in general it accords with the humanist tendency in the early years of the century to exaggerate the differences.
The Letters of Obscure Men (Epistolae obscurorum virorum, usually abbreviated as EOV) is a virulent satire that may well qualify as the century's most comic book after Rabelais.
While neither the De asse or the Letters of Obscure Men makes easy reading, even for competent Latinists (the first because its language is so sophisticated and the second because it is so colloquial), both can be read and understood by Renaissance specialists in literature and history.