Helleno-Nordica

The Faculties of Humanities and Theology | Lund University

Helleno-Nordica

The Humanist Greek Heritage of the Swedish Empire

Interest in learning, reading, and writing ancient Greek was revived in Florence and other Italian cities during the Renaissance and spread across Europe aided by the new technology of printing. It spread to the Baltic Sea Region in the 16th century and assumed a specific role in the cultural and educational system. The rise of interest in ancient Greek culture and language was closely linked to the humanist movement and the Lutheran Reformation. Helleno-Nordica aims to examine this specifically northern European approach to the study and use of the ancient Greek past and its language in the early modern period, focusing mainly on Protestant areas: Great Sweden, its gymnasia and universities (Uppsala and its daughters).

While the ability to read the New Testament in the original was the most important motive for studying Greek, ancient historical, literary, medical and philosophical texts were read in Greek, too. Moreover, learning to write Greek had an important place in the curricula of grammar schools and universities, and soon scholars across the Baltic Sea region, including the Swedish Empire, also began to create and publish literary works of their own in a variety of Greek modelled on canonical works of Ancient and early Christian Greek literature. This variety can be called Humanist Greek.

Humanist Greek was used for many genres, but most often it was used to compose various occasional paratexts, such as dedicatory, gratulatory, and commemorative poems or short prose texts to mark disputations, orations, promotions, departures, weddings, funerals etc., printed either separately, in collections or in the same publication as the main texts. There are also longer texts, such as dissertations and orations written in Greek verse or prose, letters, collections of poetry as well as paraphrases, often hexametric, of biblical books and narratives as well as of didactic stories like Heracles’ choice between virtue and vice. More curious texts are applications for scholarship, chronosticha and rhectorial addresses to students and academic staff in Humanist Greek.

Humanist Greek texts are the primary source material of Helleno-Nordica.

This project has received funding from the Swedish Research Council, grant number 2016-01881.