Francesco Filelfo, Letter to Lorenzo Medici (Part 2)
“We know that in our own times, whatever we have either of elegant literature or of polished learning or even of eloquence itself has been summoned back into the light from the underworld, and summoned back not just so that the people of our times could yield to those most learned ancients whom we admire so much, whether poets, or orators, or philosophers.
In all of these things, one must pay thanks to your most flourishing republic, by whose munificence Manuel Chrysoloras, a man who is in no way ignorant of any elegant learning, was summoned from Constantinople here into Italy, and taught Greek with extraordinary erudition first among you in Florence, then in Milan, and skillfully both rooted out and destroyed all of that inept and inveterate barbarism of speech and judgment from our citizens.
We can see from these beginnings that it was brought about that subsequently some youths, eager to acquire some of this improved learning and eloquence, went to Greece and brought back all of the elegance of learning back to us.
Further, to return from whence we were diverted, we should discuss (and not at more length than necessary) whether literary speech and Latin are the same or entirely different.
They are not the same, nor wholly different.
Latin was common both to the learned and unlearned, who were nourished on it from infancy, and it was their mother tongue and common tongue, just as that which we see among the Greeks, from their five languages which they call dialects, one is called koine, that is common, even though one must hold on to the same thing from individual languages which applies to one’s mother/common tongue and to grammar.”
Scimus enim nostris prope temporibus quicquid habemus elegantioris aut litteraturae, aut doctrinae cuiusquam politioris, aut ipsius denique eloquentiae, tanquam ab inferis revocatum in lucem, et ita revocatum, ut non admodum multum a nostris huius tempestatis hominibus concedatur eruditissimis illis priscis, quos magis admiramur, vel poetis, vel oratoribus, vel philosophis.
Quibus quidem in rebus, tuae potissimum florentissimae reipublicae gratia est habenda, cuius munificentissimo beneficio Manuel Chrisolora, vir nullius expers elegantioris disciplinae, ex urbe Constantinopoli in Italiam accersitus, cum et apud vos primo, deinde Mediolani doceret eruditius graece, inveteratam illam omnem ineptamque barbariam, et dicendi et iudicandi, ex hominibus nostris non mediocriter eruit atque extirpavit.
Quibus initiis videmus effectum ut, cum nonnulli postea iuvenes, melioris disciplinae et eloquentiae cupidi, in Graeciam traiecissent, omnem inde ad nostros eruditionis elegantiam reportarint.
Caeterum, ut eo redeamus unde divertimus, discutiendum est, et id quidem haud pluribus quam sit opus, idemne sit sermo litteralis et latinus, an diversus omnino.
Nec idem est, nec ex omni parte alius.
Sermo latinus erat doctis indoctisque communis, qui simul cum infantia alebatur, eratque materna ipsa vernaculaque lingua qualem videmus apud Graecos eam quae ex quinque linguis quas dialektous, dialectus, vocant, koine, coene, hoc est communis, nominatur, quamquam etiam de singulis linguis idem est tenendum, quo ad maternam vulgaremque linguam atque grammaticam.