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Literary Epochs

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    Available in PDF Format | Literary Epochs.pdf | Unknown
    George Frederick Underhill
Excerpt from book: III. MEDIAEVAL ITALY. Italy was the first European nation which dispelled the darkness of the Middle Ages by recognising that the true political philosophy of government was the science of governing men for their advantage, of developing their individual faculties, both intellectual, moral, and physical, for their greater happiness. Thus it came to pass that after the destruction of the Roman Empire, the Italians were the first nation to revive the study of literature and the fine arts. It was in Italy that liberty first secured the full enjoyment of intellectual existence, inasmuch as the fusion between the conquerors and the conquered had taken place earlier than it did in France, Spain, England, or Germany. So while the other powers of Europe knew of no policy but that of aggrandizement, while they were expending their energies in ambitious warfare, Italy was making vast progress in commerce, the arts, and science. Even now it is impossible to overestimate the debt of gratitude which we owe to the learned Italians of the fourteenth century. They rescued from oblivion the belles lettres of antiquity. Florence in 1360 founded the first chair of Grecian literature in the West. A passion for erudition seems to have spread throughout the whole of Italy, which received its crowning impulse by the taking of Constantinople in 1453, when so many of the learned Greeks came south ofthe Alps in search of a new and congenial home. The work which had been begun by Petrarch and Boccaccio was carried on by Laurentius Valla— of whom Erasmus said that he rescued literature from the grave, and restored to Italy the splendour of her ancient eloquence—and byPontano, Sanazzaro, Baptista, and a host of others. Doubtless the bias of these men was too exclusive towards erudition, so that imaginat...  
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