Comments: Casaubon & Qur'an

I suppose one of the most famous examples of philology being used to demolish received history is the case of Lorenzo Valla, the fifteenth century humanist who showed that the famous Donation of Constantine. This was a document, allegedly from the 4th century, in which the Emperor Constantine was said to have given Pope Sylvester and his successors temporal power over the Western Roman Empire. Valla proved on linguistic grounds that the Latin in the document could not have come from the time it was said to be composed. He also pointed to the lack of coins celebrating the event, which the Papacy would surely have struck, and the lack of any mention of such a momentous event in contemporary historians. My old "History of Europe" by Fisher says: "It is a remarkable evidence of the toleration which then prevailed in Italy that the author of this audacious attack upon one of the cherished privileges of the Papacy himself became the secretary of Pope Nicholas V."

Posted by C.Bloggerfeller at July 27, 2003 01:32 PM