Latin vs. Philology: Part XIII

Francesco Filelfo, Letter to Lorenzo Medici (Part 13)

“Should we think then that the Romans had a habit in the theater differing from what we find among the Athenians? One time, they were putting on that play of Aeschylus, in which these verses were composed about Amphiaraus: ‘For he wishes to be noble, not merely to seem so, and harvesting the fertile field of his deep mind wisely sows the surest counsels.’ When they heard this, the whole population turned its eyes to Aristides, as being the wisest and most just man among them.

That tragedy was written in Attic Greek, a language which was equally well-known to the Athenians, both educated and not, just as Latin was to the Romans.

The Attic Greek which the poets used in writing is the same which you will find not just among the orators who were held in high esteem, but even among those philosophers who came after Socrates, especially Plato and Aristotle. If their books seem to us inept or composed with a certain harshness, that should be imputed to their translators: for they both wrote elegantly and with perfect clearness.”

Putemusne aliam Romanis fuisse consuetudinem in theatro quam Atheniensibus reperimus? Agebatur ea Aeschyli tragoedia, ubi hi sunt versus in Amphiaraum: “Nam vult vir esse, non videri hic optimus. Qui mentis altae fertilem sulcans segetem Consulta callens germinat gravissima”. Quibus auditis populus universus in unum Aristiden, ut in virum sapientissimum ac iustissimum, oculos coniecit.

At ea tragoedia attice scripta est: quae lingua Atheniensibus omnibus aeque indoctis erat doctisque communis, ut Romanis latina.

Et qua ii poetae in scribendo sunt usi, hoc est attica, eandem invenias non apud oratores modo qui habentur in pretio, sed etiam apud eos omnis philosophos qui fluxerunt a Socrate, praecipueque apud Platonem et Aristotelen, quorum libri si qui apud nostros reperiantur aut inepta aut duriore scripti oratione, id quicquid fuerit vitii dandum est interpretibus: nam ii eleganter dilucideque scripserunt.

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