Joseph Justus Scaliger - Academic Output

Academic Output

It was during this period of his life that he composed and published his books of historical criticism. His editions of the Catalecta (1575), of Festus (1575), of Catullus, Tibullus and Propertius (1577), are the work of a man determined to discover the real meaning and force of his author. He was the first to lay down and apply sound rules of criticism and emendation, and to change textual criticism from a series of haphazard guesses into a "rational procedure subject to fixed laws" (Mark Pattison).

But these works, while proving Scaliger's right to the foremost place among his contemporaries as Latin scholar and critic, did not go beyond mere scholarship. It was reserved for his edition of Manilius (1579), and his De emendatione temporum (1583), to revolutionize perceived ideas of ancient chronology—to show that ancient history is not confined to that of the Greeks and Romans, but also comprises that of the Persians, the Babylonians and the Egyptians, hitherto neglected, and that of the Jews, hitherto treated as a thing apart; and that the historical narratives and fragments of each of these, and their several systems of chronology, must be critically compared. It was this innovation that distinguished Scaliger from contemporary scholars. Neither they nor those who immediately followed seem to have appreciated his innovation. Instead, they valued his emendatory criticism and his skill in Greek. His commentary on Manilius is really a treatise on ancient astronomy, and it forms an introduction to De emendatione temporum; in this work Scaliger investigates ancient systems of determining epochs, calendars and computations of time. Applying the work of Nicolaus Copernicus and other modern scientists, he reveals the principles behind these systems.

In the remaining twenty-four years of his life he expanded on his work in the De emendatione. He succeeded in reconstructing the lost Chronicle of Eusebius—one of the most valuable ancient documents, especially valuable for ancient chronology. This he printed in 1606 in his Thesaurus temporum, in which he collected, restored, and arranged every chronological relic extant in Greek or Latin.

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