Neo-Latin literature

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Neo-Latin literature is the literature of Renaissance humanism and the subsequent epochs from modern times to the present , written in Latin . It begins with the works of early humanism in the first half of the 14th century, but works (especially poems) that belong to Middle Latin literature were also written into the late 15th century . In the 14th and 15th centuries, Middle Latin and Neo-Latin literature coexisted; the neo-Latin literature of this period includes those works whose authors consider themselves humanists.

Neo-Latin literature differs from Middle Latin literature in that it is strictly based on ancient models, which are regarded as classic, in particular on the literature from the golden latin era . The humanists elevated the vocabulary and syntax of these models to a binding norm. Therefore, unlike Middle Latin, Neo-Latin does not have any language development, but is fixed. The term “neo-Latin” is therefore misleading, because it is not a “new” Latin, but a consistent return to a certain level of ancient Latin. This means a conscious restriction to the literary possibilities of expression that exist within the given limits, and thus largely also to materials that are suitable for representation in such a framework. The catchphrase refers to the “dead” language , a language that no longer develops and adapts to new needs.

The early printing was determined by Latin works, the vernacular languages ​​played only a subordinate role.

In terms of volume and number of books published, neo-Latin literature outperformed the literatures of all other European languages ​​by the 18th century. 21,123 of 30,000 incunabula , ie about 70%, appeared in Latin (for comparison, the next largest languages: 3303 German, 2433 Italian, 1782 in French, 571 Dutch, 437 in Spanish, 240 in English, 154 in Hebrew) . "It would take centuries before this relationship was balanced and finally reversed."

Latin Literature of the Renaissance

In the literary field, the Renaissance is a rebirth of ancient Latinity. Deliberately turning away from Middle Latin, which is perceived as inelegant, especially from the technical language of scholasticism , the first humanists, Petrarch and Boccaccio , orientate themselves on the classics of Roman literature, above all on Cicero . The style of the classics also prevailed north of the Alps in the course of the Renaissance, with Erasmus of Rotterdam with his elegant Latin playing an important role. The problem of an imitative literature fixated on the model of Cicero is thematized in the controversy over Ciceronianism , in which the humanists reflect on the meaning and limits of imitating models.

The Reformation and Counter-Reformation promoted Latin. Luther's friend Philipp Melanchthon wrote textbooks and curricula for the newly established Protestant grammar schools, the main goal of which was an active mastery of Latin.

In letters to Nicolaus Copernicus , a transition to neo-Latin scholarly language can be traced in the 1920s and 1930s. The Heidelberg professor and rector Johannes Sculteti (around 1450–1526) used a relatively clumsy medieval Latin in 1521; Gemma R. Frisius (1508–1555) wrote a clear and vivid new Latin in 1541.

Latin literature from the 17th to the 19th centuries

The Jesuits also inspire the common people with their Latin school theater. A Jesuit, Jakob Balde (1604–1668), is considered the greatest among the German Baroque poets who write in Latin . Generations of children have been learning Latin since 1658 with the Orbis sensualium pictus , the famous German-Latin picture book by the great pedagogue Comenius .

With the strengthening of the national languages ​​since the 17th century, Latin lost more and more of its ground. In Germany in 1681, for the first time, more books appeared in German than in Latin. Latin fiction like the novel Nikolai Klimii iter subterraneum by the Dane Ludvig Holberg , published in 1741, was now the exception. Also important was Latin but as an international means in the sciences: Nicolaus Copernicus , Johannes Kepler and Galileo Galilei published their groundbreaking astronomical findings in Latin, the Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica by Isaac Newton still appeared in 1687 in Latin. The philosopher René Descartes became famous with his sentence Cogito ergo sum from his principia philosophiae , and Arthur Schopenhauer wrote his Theoria colorum physiologica in Latin in 1830 . The method developed by the Swede Carl von Linné in his Systema naturae in 1735 to classify living beings in Latin is still in use today. In the Netherlands in particular, quite a few authors such as Hieronymus de Bosch wrote extensive carmina in Latin up to the threshold of the 19th century.

20th and 21st centuries

Latin literature emerged and continues to emerge in the 20th and 21st centuries. The grammar school teacher and Tübingen indologist Hermann Weller wrote numerous award-winning poems in classical meters, which were collected in 1938 and 1946 respectively. Josef Eberle , the long-time editor of the Stuttgarter Zeitung, wrote Latin poems primarily for the Sunday supplement of his paper. Eberle was crowned with the laurel in 1962 by the University of Tübingen based on the tradition of the early modern era. The satires and epigrams of the Berlin-born American Harry C. Schnur (C. Arrius Nurus) are also known. In Göttingen, Fidel Rädle wrote Latin poems. The satirical utopian novel "Memoirs of a Monkey" was published in Latin by the Heidelberg Latinist Michael von Albrecht in 1989. Anna Elissa Radke is known for her soulful poems as Sappho von Marburg .

Numerous Latin magazines are still published. The Societas Latina , based in Saarbrücken, publishes the Latin magazine Vox Latina five times a year . Its best-known representative was Caelestis Eichenseer , who did a great job of cultivating Latin. The neo-Latin magazines Rumor Varius and Tiro - magazine for Latin (Bad Dürkheim) are also published. The Vatican has been publishing the Latinitas magazine since 1976, including the latest news. Radio Bremen broadcast Latin news via radio and the Internet for 16 years, but this has not been continued since the end of 2017. There is also a Latin-language Wikipedia .

See also

Text collections


  • Michael von Albrecht (Ed.): Scripta Latina. Accedunt variorum carmina Heidelbergensia, dissertatiunculae, colloquia. Peter Lang, Frankfurt a. M. 1989, ISBN 3-8204-9938-5 (contains numerous neo-Latin poems from the 20th century)


  • Josef Eberle (Ed.): Viva Camena. Latina huius aetatis carmina. Artemis, Zurich 1961.
  • Vito R. Giustiniani: Neo-Latin poetry in Italy 1850–1950. An unexplored chapter of Italian literary and intellectual history. Niemeyer, Tübingen 1979, ISBN 3-484-52079-5 .
  • Leo M. Kaiser: Early American Latin Verse, 1625–1825. An Anthology. Bolchazy-Carducci, Chicago 1984, ISBN 0-86516-029-5 .
  • James J. Mertz and John P. Murphy: Jesuit Latin Poets of the 17th and 18th Centuries. An Anthology of Neo-Latin Poetry. Bolchazy-Carducci, Wauconda (Illinois) 1989, ISBN 0-86516-214-X .
  • Fred J. Nichols (Ed.): An Anthology of Neo-Latin Poetry. Yale University Press, New Haven 1979, ISBN 0-300-02365-0 .


  • Fidel Rädle (ed.): Latin order dramas of the XVI. Century with German translations. De Gruyter, Berlin 1979, ISBN 3-11-003383-6 .

Usage prose

  • Alfons Fitzek (ed.): Latin in our time. European cultural history as reflected in certificates of honor. Naumann, Würzburg 1990, ISBN 3-88567-060-7 (41 Latin certificates of honor from the 20th century with German translation).


Overview representations

  • Martin Korenjak : History of the New Latin Literature. From humanism to the present. CH Beck, Munich 2016, ISBN 978-3-406-69032-7 .
  • Walther Ludwig : Modern Latin literature since the Renaissance. In: Fritz Graf (ed.): Introduction to Latin Philology. Stuttgart and Leipzig, BG Teubner 1997, 323–356.
  • Terence Tunberg: Neo-Latin Literature and Language. In: Paul F. Gendler (Ed.): Encyclopedia of the Renaissance. Volume 4, Charles Scribner's Sons, New York 1999, ISBN 0-684-80511-1 , pp. 289-294.


Collections of articles

  • Walther Ludwig : Litterae neolatinae. Writings on neo-Latin literature. Edited by Ludwig Braun . Munich 1989 (Humanist Library. Texts and Treatises, Series 1, Volume 35).
  • Gerhard Petersmann , Veronika Oberparleiter (eds.): The Role of Latin in Early Modern Europe: texts and contexts (= Grazer contributions. Supplement 9). Berger, Salzburg-Horn 2005.

Individual regions

  • Minna Skafte Jensen: A History of Nordic Neo-Latin Literature. Odense University Press, Odense 1995, ISBN 87-7492-961-5 .


  • Volker Janning: The choir in neo-Latin drama - forms and functions. Rhema-Verlag, Münster 2005, ISBN 978-3-930454-54-9 .
  • Jan Bloemendal, Philip Ford (Eds.): Neo-Latin Drama. Forms, functions, receptions. Olms, Hildesheim 2008, ISBN 978-3-487-13839-8 .


  • Ludwig Braun: Ancilla Calliopeae. A repertory of the neo-Latin epic of France (1500–1700). Brill, Leiden 2007, ISBN 978-90-04-16242-6 (overview showing the course of action in the epics).



  • René Hoven: Lexique de la prose latine de la Renaissance. Dictionary of Renaissance Latin from prose sources. 2nd edition, Brill, Leiden 2006, ISBN 978-90-04-13984-8 .

Initial directories

  • Ludwig Bertalot : Initia humanistica Latina. Initials list of Latin prose and poetry from the 14th to 16th centuries. 3 volumes, Niemeyer, Tübingen 1985-2004.


Web links




  1. ^ British Library: Incunabula Short Title Catalog ( online , accessed August 22, 2016).
  2. Martin Korenjak: History of the neo-Latin literature. From humanism to the present. CH Beck, Munich 2016, p. 19.
  3. ^ Andreas Kühne: The edition of letters, documents and files in the Munich Nicolaus-Copernicus-Gesamtausgabe , p. 151 , in: Hans-Gert Roloff, Renate Meincke: Editionsdesiderate zur Early Modern Age: Contributions to the conference of the Commission for the Edition of Texts of the early modern period , Working Group for German Edition. Commission for the Edition of Texts from the Early Modern Period. Workshop, Rodopi, 1997.
  4. ^ C. Arrius Nurus (Harry C. Schnur): Pegasus claudus (= Vox Latina , Supplementary Volume 1), Saarbrücken 1977.
  5. ^ Fidelis Rädle: De condicione bestiali vel humana. Carmina Latina. Of animals and people. Latin poems with German translations , Sigmaringen 1993.
  6. ^ Michael von Albrecht: L. Simii Liberatoris commentariorum libri VII . In: Michael von Albrecht: Scripta Latina , Frankfurt a. M. 1989, pp. 91-124.
  7. ^ Collections of poems by Radke: Musa exsul. Latina huius aetatis carmina , Würzburg 1982; Harmonica vitrea , Frankfurt a. M. 1992; In reliquiis Troiae. On the ruins of Troy , Heidelberg 1995; Ars paedagogica. Art of education. Latin-German poems and prose texts for pupils, teachers and lessons , Würzburg 1998 (contains mainly Radke's poems with German translation).
  8. Radio Cicero no longer transmits - Finito. Retrieved June 11, 2018 .