Renæssanceforum 6 • 2010

Marc Laureys
A Little Known Plea in Defense of Latin: Gabriel Barrius's Pro Lingua Latina

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To date, Gabriel Barrius has been remembered almost exclusively as historian of his native region Calabria. In his De antiquitate et situ Calabriae, published in 1571, he produced the first full-fledged historical-geographical study of this area of Italy, which in Barrius' eyes had received insufficient attention from his great predecessors in the field of historical geography, Biondo Flavio and Leandro Alberti. Barrius, however, also raised his voice in an entirely different discussion, namely the defense of Latin against the growing importance of the volgare in sixteenth-century Italy. After Romolo Amaseo had set the tone in two orations De Latinae linguae usu retinendo, held at Bologna in 1529, many others followed suit and tried to maintain a privileged status for the Latin language against what they perceived as the threat of the vernacular tongue. In his treatise Pro lingua Latina (published first in 1554 and again in 1571), Barrius too develops a long and sustained plea in favor of Latin. Although he does not belong to the most important and best known supporters of Latin, his work merits nonetheless attention on account of the broad range and variety of his arguments, in which not only linguistic and literary, but also historical, educational, and religious facets are taken into consideration.