Scaliger, Josephus Justus

Scaliger, Josephus Justus
(1540-1609)
   French literary and linguistic scholar. The son of an expatriate Italian humanist, Julius Caesar Scaliger, he seems to have believed his father's false claim of descent from the della Scala dynasty that had ruled Verona. He stud-ied at Paris under some of the most famous French scholars of his time, Adrien Turnèbe and Denys Lambin, both of whom became royal readers in Greek, and the legal scholar Jacques Cujas. In 1562 he became a Calvinist, and in 1593 he accepted an appointment to the faculty of the University of Leiden, where he spent the rest of his life. Scaliger's early work as a textual scholar focused on Latin poets such as Catullus, Tibullus, and Propertius, and especially the astronomical poet Manilius. His edition of the surviving fragments of the lexicog-rapher Festus (1575) introduced him to the study of archaic Latin.
   Perhaps because his Protestant faith made him less inclined to spare the works of Christian saints from critical inspection, he proved beyond a doubt (though it was doubted by conservatives) that the treatises of the Christian author known as Dionysius the Areopagite could not possibly be the work of a first-century Athenian philoso-pher converted to Christianity by St. Paul himself, as the medieval church believed, but was an author of the sixth century. Thus he transformed pseudo-Dionysius from a major witness to the beliefs and practices of the apostolic age into a minor and late patristic au-thor whose authority on issues of theology and hierarchical organiza-tion deserved little weight. Scaliger also did important work on his-torical chronology that involved reconciling the various dating systems of ancient societies so that the chronological relationships between those societies could be established accurately.

Historical Dictionary of Renaissance. . 2004.


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