Mutianus Rufus
(1470-1527)
   German humanist, born as Kon-rad Mut at Homburg in Hesse, son of a prosperous merchant. He studied at the famous Latin grammar school of St. Lebwin in Deven-ter, where the headmaster, Alexander Hegius, had introduced a strong element of classical humanism into the curriculum. In 1486 he entered the University of Erfurt (B.A. 1488, M.A. 1492) and then spent two years teaching in the faculty of arts while beginning the study of law. During his period at Erfurt he studied under Conrad Celtis, one of the first humanists to gain a broad following among German students. In 1494 he left to travel and study in Italy, where he met the Latin poet Baptista Mantuanus, popularly hailed as "the Christian Vergil," and one of the leading Venetian humanists, Filippo Beroaldo. Mutianus was strongly attracted by the Neoplatonism that was becoming influential among Italian intellectuals at this time, but he also studied law at the University of Bologna and received a doc-torate at Ferrara in 1501.
   After his return to Germany in 1502, Mutianus worked briefly un-der his brother, who was chancellor of the county of Hesse. In 1503 he accepted a sinecure as canon of an endowed collegiate church in Gotha near Erfurt, where he spent the rest of his life. This position brought him a secure income and a sheltered existence devoted to study of ancient literature and philosophy, at the expense of a mod-erate amount of routine liturgical service and a hard-won ability to tolerate the crassly anti-intellectual attitude of his fellow canons. Al-though located near Erfurt, Mutianus did not participate personally in academic matters, not even when a serious effort to introduce hu-manistic curricular reforms took place in 1518-1519. But he had ac-quired a band of young admirers at Erfurt, and many of them looked to him for inspiration and visited him in Gotha. Mutianus thought of himself as a searcher for philosophical truth and was critical of the scholastic philosophy and theology of the universities. He also criti-cized the worldliness and immorality of many of the clergy and ridiculed the church's emphasis on external rituals of the sort that he himself conducted in performing his liturgical duties.
   The attack on Johann Reuchlin by the theologians of Cologne in-furiated Mutianus, and he encouraged his young humanist disciples at Erfurt to support Reuchlin. He probably was privy to the secret composition and publication of the scandalous anticlerical satire, Let-ters of Obscure Men, published anonymously in 1515 by his young ad-mirers Crotus Rubianus, Ulrich von Hutten, and Hermann von dem Busche. Yet while he endorsed the attack on the Cologne theologians in private letters, Mutianus was temperamentally a non-participant. He seems to have been put off by Reuchlin's positive attitude toward the Jews, and he played no active role in the defense of Reuchlin, pre-ferring to criticize from the sidelines. The same was true of his criti-cisms of the church. He complained but took no action. Likewise in the case of Martin Luther and the early Reformation, he expressed sympathy at first but drew back as the break with Rome became irre-versible. Mutianus was one of the most widely respected older hu-manists of the early 16th century, largely on the basis of the many let-ters that he exchanged with other German humanists. Aside from the letters, which were not published until the 19th century, he left no written works at all.

Historical Dictionary of Renaissance. . 2004.

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