Friday, 30 September 2016

Michael B. Petrovich: The Croatian Humanists: Cosmopolities or Patriots? - JCS 20




The Croatian lands, particularly Dalmatia and the whole eastern Adriatic coast, produced many Humanists. Some two hundred are known by name, just in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.[1]

A cosmopolitan spirit was an outstanding characteristic of Humanism everywhere in Europe. To be sure, the medieval Catholic world was cosmopolitan too, joined by a common loyalty to the Church of Rome and to church Latin as a universal language. However, Humanism brought to educated Europeans a new, secular cosmopolitanism based on the revival of interest in the pagan culture of ancient Greece and Rome and particularly in the literature of classical antiquity. This renaissance of learning and the arts gave the scholars and artists of Western Christendom a sense of belonging to a pan-European republic of arts and sciences which knew no political boundaries and which shared to same language, neoclassical Latin.[2] Even in our own jet age one must be impressed by the frequency with which European scholars in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries visited one another's countries and even found permanent employment there.

On the other hand, this Humanist internationalism also coincided with the rise of national states and national literatures in Europe. Conditions in the Croatian lands prevented political nationalism. The Croatian people were partitioned by three foreign powers: Croatia Proper and Slavonia were ruled by Hungarian kings since 1102 in a personal union with Hungary, and, after 1527, by the Habsburg rulers of Austria; most of the eastern Adriatic coast fell under Venetian rule between 1407 and 1420; while the remaining Croatians came increasingly under Ottoman domination after the fifteenth century. However, it was precisely the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the Age of Humanism and the flowering of a neoclassical Latin literature among the Croatians, that also saw the rise of a Croatian national literature in the popular tongue.

Thus it is useful to ask: To what degree were the Croatian Humanists cosmopolites or patriots?

The evidence on the side of cosmopolitanism is so plentiful that it might seem to the hasty observer to leave little room for any feeling of cultural nationalism.

Complete article:
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Journal of Croatian Studies, XX, 1979, – Annual Review of the Croatian Academy of America, Inc. New York, N.Y., Electronic edition by Studia Croatica, by permission. All rights reserved by the Croatian Academy of America.
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