Academic journal article Seventeenth-Century News

Platonis Gorgias Leonardo Aretino Interprete

Academic journal article Seventeenth-Century News

Platonis Gorgias Leonardo Aretino Interprete

Article excerpt

* Platonis Gorgias Leonardo Aretino interprete. Ed. by Matteo Venier. Edizione nazionale delle traduzioni dei testi greci in eta umanistica e rinascimentale, 7. Florence: SISMEL, Edizioni del galluzzo, 2011. VIII + 422 pp. On November 1, 1409, Leonardo Bruni sent to Niccolo Niccoli a manuscript containing his Latin translation of Plato's Gorgias, along with a brief letter encouraging his friend to have the work copied and disseminated. The appearance of this translation was important for two reasons. First, as is generally known, the mastery of Plato's oeuvre had effectively disappeared in the west during the preceding centuries. When Bruni made his translation, emigres from the east were beginning to reintroduce instruction in Greek to the west, but even into the next century, many a humanist professed a greater knowledge of Greek than he actually had. The key to the recovery of Greek literature was to have it translated, not into the vernacular, but into Latin, the language used by educated people throughout Renaissance Europe. Bruni's translation therefore filled the need of the moment and was eagerly taken up by such well-known intellectuals as Poggio Bracciolini, Leon Battista Alberti, and Matteo Palmieri, then eventually by Marsilio Ficino as well, whose translations of Plato's works became canonical in the Renaissance. The forty-five pages of section 1 of Venier's introduction survey this material.

The second reason this work is important is that, as Paul Botley has shown in-Latin Translation in the Renaissance (Cambridge, 2004), Bruni stood at the center of an important controversy over how Greek literature should be translated. An older tradition focused on word-for-word, literal translation, but Bruni argued that since the ancients were masters of rhetoric, a good translation of a Greek text should capture the sense rather than the exact words in a polished Latin that should match the elegance of the original. Accordingly his translation of the Gorgias was into a recognizably Ciceronian Latin. As section 2 of Venier's introduction shows, however, the result does not constitute an unequivocal success, with the occasional lapses being due in part to efforts to impose an alien style onto Plato's Greek, but also in part to the lack of adequate lexical resources at this time. …

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