Ultra-Ancient Poetic Authority

Cristoforo Landino, Preface to Vergil in a Florentine Gymnasium (Part 4)

But why should I go on about the Greeks when, among the Hebrews, the most ancient people of all (as they themselves have it and we acknowledge as true), their king David wrote the poems which they call Psalms? Nor should we deny that he is to be numbered among the ancients, since indeed he lived while Codrus ruled in Athens, more than four hundred years before the founding of Rome. Indeed, it is even agreed that both Deuteronomy and Isaiah are the products of his son Solomon – Josephus and Origen, the most serious authorities, attest to this. Indeed, in earlier times, even Moses, a man most distinguished for both war and learning, who freed the Egyptians from the Ethiopians and the Hebrews from the Egyptians, and who, since he was the first (according to the Greek author Eupolemus) to have discovered letters, was called Hermes Trismegistus by the Egyptians; Moses, I say, was hardly an ignoble poet, as is evident from his writings. He was a man so ancient that, when in his eightieth year he lead the Hebrews from captivity, Cecrops was ruling in Athens, and all of the wonderful things which are related by the Greeks of their own history happened after Cecrops. But even before Moses there was Job of Edom who, as can be gleaned from his own book, lived three ages after Israel, and wrote a consolation of hexameter and pentameter verses.

Sed quid plura de Graecis, cum apud Hebraeos populum, ut ipsi volunt et nos concedimus, omnium antiquissimum, David eorum rex quos Psalmos appellant carmine scripserit? Neque est quod in priscis hunc enumerandum negemus, siquidem, Codro Athenis regnante, supra quadringentos annos ante Romam conditam fuit. Quin, et eius filii Salomonis et Deuteronomii et Isaiae canticum versibus constare et Iosophus et Origenes gravissimi auctores testantur. Verum prioribus saeculis Moyses etiam vir et bello et doctrina praestantissimus, qui et Aegyptios ab Aethiopibus et ab Aegyptiis Hebraeos liberavit quique cum primus, ut ait E<u>pulemus Graecus scriptor, litteras adinvenisset, ab Aegyptiis Mercurius Trimegistus appellatus est; Moyses, inquam, poeta, ut ex eius scriptis apparet, haud ignobilis fuit. Vir adeo priscus ut, cum iam octoginta annos natus Hebraeos ex captivitate deduceret, Cecrops Athenis regnaret: omnia vero quae apud Graecos mira traduntur post Cecropem fuerunt. Sed et ante Moysem Idumaeus Iob qui, ut ex suo libro colligitur, tribus fere aetatibus post Israel fuit, consolationem exametro pentametroque versu scripsit.

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