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Scalĭger

The Latinized form of a family name originally Italian (della Scala) and afterwards French (de l'Escale), made famous as that of two great classical scholars.


1.

Iulius Caesar Scalĭger, born in 1484 and claiming descent from an illustrious family of Verona, but by his enemies said to be the son of a sign-painter. After serving in the army under the emperor Maximilian, he entered the University of Bologna, where he remained a short time, and then took service in the French armies in Italy, winning the approval of King Francis for gallantry and remarkable feats of strength. He became naturalized as a French subject in 1528, when he settled at Agen and began practice as a physician. He had learned some Greek and prided himself on his Latin style, so that he felt called upon to attack Erasmus with bitter invectives for his satire on the stylists of Italy entitled Ciceronianus, a satire which Scaliger interpreted as an attack on Cicero himself. Scaliger died in 1558. His chief works were a grammar, De Causis Linguae Latinae, in thirteen books and of much value; a commentary on Theophrastus; an edition of Aristotle, De Animalibus, with notes; commentaries on Hippocrates, De Insomniis; and some Latin poems of considerable merit. Scaliger was a man of fine natural gifts but of a coarse and jealous nature, and with an education too unsystematic to enable his powers to appear in their true greatness. See Nisard, Les Gladiateurs de la République des Lettres (Paris, 1860); Bourousse de Laffore, Jules César de l'Escale (Agen, 1860); Magen, Documents sur Julius Caesar Scaliger et sa Famille (Agen, 1873).


2.

Joseph Justus Scalĭger. The tenth child of Julius Caesar Scaliger, born at Agen in 1540. He studied as a boy at the Collège de Guyenne in Bordeaux, and was also trained by his father, who made him copy from eighty to two hundred lines of Latin verse every day, besides writing an original Latin theme. After his father's death, the young man went to Paris, where he studied at the University under Adrian Turnebus, from whom he learned Greek, reading all Homer in twenty-one days and the whole body of Greek poetry in four months. His linguistic studies advanced, until at last he boasted of being able to speak thirteen languages, ancient and modern. After travelling in Italy, England, and even Scotland, he settled at Valence in France (1570), and pursued a course of study under the jurist Cujacius; and from 1572 to 1574 was professor in the academy at Geneva founded by Calvin. About this time he began producing the great works that secured him the primacy among the classical scholars of Europe. Among these productions are to be mentioned his Coniectanea to Varro's Lingua Latina (1565); his Catalecta Vergilii, etc. (1572); his editions of Festus (1575), Catullus, Tibullus, and Propertius (1577); Manilius (1579); and especially a remarkable treatise on the Eusebian chronology, De Emendatione Temporum (1583); a Thesaurus Temporum (1606); twenty-four indices to Gruter's Thesaurus Inscriptionum Latinarum (1601); a numismatical treatise, De Re Nummaria (1616); besides Opuscula (1610), and De Arte Critica (1619).

In 1583 Scaliger was called to Leyden to succeed Justus Lipsius (q.v.), and at this university he spent the rest of his life. To his influence and example Holland owes the long line of illustrious scholars that follow one another so closely in the seventeenth century and whose memory is still cherished. His later years were made unhappy by the numerous controversies in which he became engaged, and whose motives sprang largely from the odium theologicum. An outrageous but immensely able attack made upon him by the Jesuit scholar Gaspar Scioppius is believed to have actually hastened Scaliger's death. This attack was contained in a treatise styled Scaliger Hypobolimaeus, and ridiculed Scaliger's pretensions to aristocratic descent, holding him up to the scorn of all Europe as a base-born impostor and an atheist. Scaliger died in 1609. His great learning, keen critical faculty, and rare achievements have led men to regard him as, on the whole, the first scholar of all time. Niebuhr spoke of him as standing “on the summit of real and universal knowledge, as no one after him has done.” Pattison calls his “the most richly stored intellect that ever spent itself in acquiring knowledge.”

See Bernays, Joseph Justus Scaliger (Berlin, 1855); Nisard, Les Gladiateurs de la République des Lettres (Paris, 1860); id. Juste Lipse, Joseph Scaliger, et Isaac Casaubon (Paris, 1852); and Pattison, Essays, vol. i. (Oxford, 1889). A bibliography of the writings of Scaliger in their different editions is given by Bernays.

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