Valla Grammaticus, Agostino Steuco, and the Donation of Constantine

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History and Philosophy


Lorenzo Valla's treatise on the Donation of Constantine was an application of the principles of rhetoric set forth by Quintlian. The latter's critical philological tools were fundamental to Valla's exposure of that document's falsity. Yet one scholar of the Renaissance, Agostino Steuco (1497-1548), raised doubts about Valla's scholarship and methodology. Steuco wrote numerous works in the spirit of the Counter-Reformation in which he defended the medieval Church's doctrines and practices. He characterized Valla as being nothing more than a grammarian. Yet in launching this attack, Steuco relied upon the most advanced textual criticism developed in the early 16th century. While he did not save the authenticity of the Donation, he did cast doubt on Valla's procedures. [Article abstract]

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