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("The Desired One") Erasmus
Life Span: Born
27th October 1466, the Netherlands; died 12th July
Star Sign: Scorpio
Famous As: Dutch philosopher and humanist.
Born in Gouda, Holland, he was the illegitimate
son of Roger Gerard, an educated priest, and Margaret,
a washerwoman. Erasmus later tried to hide his
origins by claiming to have been born in Rotterdam
where his grandparents lived. He never used his
father's name and called himself Desiderius meaning
"the desired one" in Latin.
In 1478 Margaret left Gouda, taking her children
with her, to live in Deventer where Erasmus was
educated by the Brethren of the Common Life. When
he was about fifteen both of Erasmus's parents
died of the plague, and his guardians persuaded
him to join an Augustinian monestery at Steyn
near Gouda in 1487. He was ordained as a priest
He left the monastery to be the secretary
to the Bishop of Cambrai. This led to a life in
which he was effectively free to rome Europe to
study and teach. He was in fact officially subject
to being recalled to the monestery at any time,
but he eventually received papal dispensation
from even that commitment.
He studied and taught in Paris, and later in most
of the cultural centres in Europe, including Oxford
(1499) and Cambridge (1509-14) where he was Professor
of Divinity and of Greek.
At the time of the Reformation Erasmus provided
a voice of consensus in a divided Europe. His
Colloquia familiaria helped to prepare the way
for Martin Luther and his De servo arbitrio on
the subjugation of the will, but Erasmus opposed
his dogmaticism and responded with De Libero Arbitrio
on the freedom of the will.
Erasmus's new translation into Latin of the New
Testament from early Greek texts showed up mistakes
in the Vulgate edition. William Tyndale used Erasmus's
edition to produce his translation into English
which became the basis for the later King James
Version. Martin Luther also used Erasmus's version
for his own translation into German.
Adagia, (Adages), 1500, 1508. Enchiridion Militis
Christiani, (Handbook of a Christian Soldier),
1503. Encomium Moriae, (In Praise of Folly), 1509.
Julius Shut Out, 1513. New translation of the
New Testament into Latin from Greek, 1516. Colloquia
familiaria, 1518. De Libero Arbitrio, 1523.
relationships: Erasmus fell madly
in love with a tall young monk Servatius Roger
and took to writing passionate love letters to
which Roger reacted by asking him to moderate
his language for fear of an indiscretion. While
in Paris he took two English pupils. One was Thomas
Grey, later Marquis of Dorset, and Erasmus got
into trouble for making advances towards him.
The other was William Blount, Fourth Lord Mountjoy,
who became a friend for years, although Erasmus's
interest in him was intellectual rather than physical.
In 1499 William Blount arranged for Erasmus to
visit England where he became a friend of Thomas
More with whom he stayed on several occasions.
The site of Thomas More's house is 15 Cheyne Walk,
London, SW3, upon which there is a medallion showing
Erasmus facing Thomas More. The site of another
of Thomas More's houses is Bucklersbury, London
EC4, where Erasmus wrote Moriae Encomium in 1509.
Erasmus also got to know several of the English
humanists, especially John Colet.
Although ill in his last years Ersmus travelled
Europe teaching and writing and died in Basle,
where he is buried.
The introduction of Greek as a subject
at Cambridge University.
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