Now all the disciplines have been restored, languages revived: Greek, without which it is shameful for a person to call himself learned: Hebrew, Chaldean (4), and Latin. Elegant and correct printed editions are available, the result of a divinely-inspired invention of my time, as are in contrast guns--the product of diabolical suggestion. The world is full of learned men, fine teachers, ample libraries; and it is my opinion that neither in the time of Plato (5), nor of Cicero (6), nor of Papinian (7) were there such opportunities for study as we see today; and no one should now go out in public who has not been well polished in Minerva's workshop (8). I see the robbers, hangmen, freebooters and grooms of today more learned than the theologians and preachers of my day. What can I say? Even women and girls (9) aspire to the honor and celestial manna of good learning. Things have changed so much that at my advanced age I have had to learn Greek, which I had not rejected like Cato, but which I had not had the leisure to learn in my youth; and I delight in reading the Morals of Plutarch, the beautiful Dialogues of Plato, the Monuments of Pausanias, and the Antiquities of Athenaeus as I await the hour at which it may please God, my Creator, to summon and order me to leave this world.
Translated by Paul Brians
(1) The Humanists were fond of referring to the Middle Ages as dark, but this must not be confused with later definitions of the Dark Ages which ended centuries before the Renaissance.
(2) The Goths, headed by Alaric, sacked Rome in 410. This invasion is often considered to have marked the end of the classical world and the beginning of the Dark Ages (although many historians reject this latter term). The Humanists used the term broadly to mean barbaric, and considered the artistic styles which sprung up in their wake barbaric as well, calling the great cathedrals of the High Middle Ages Gothic as an insult.
(3) Like the other Humanists, Rabelais delights in making references to ancient Latin works.
(4) The language of the Biblical Babylonians, famed for their astronomical and astrological studies.
(5) 5th Century BCE, Greece.
(6) 1st Century BCE, Rome.
(7) 3rd Century CE, Rome. Papinian was a great authority on Roman law.
(8) Minerva (Greek Athena) was the goddess of wisdom, so her workshop is scholarship.
(9) Rabelais was a great friend and admirer of the queen and writer, Marguerite de Navarre, to whom he dedicated one of his books.
This is an excerpt from Reading
About the World, Volume 2, edited by Paul Brians, Mary Gallwey, Douglas Hughes, Michael Myers, Michael Neville, Roger Schlesinger, Alice Spitzer, and Susan Swan and published by American Heritage Custom Books.
The reader was created for use in the World Civilization course at Washington State University, but material on this page may be used for educational purposes by permission of the editor-in-chief:
Department of English
Washington State University
This is just a sample of Reading About the World, Volume 2.
http://www.chambal.com/csin/9780155674257/ (vol. 1)
http://www.chambal.com/csin/9780155128262/ (vol. 2)
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