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Journal > Volumes > 40 (2009) / 4 (Winter)
Creating a Usable Past: Vernacular Roman Histories in Renaissance Germany
Christine R. Johnson
Washington University in St. Louis

German humanism’s contribution to national consciousness in the Renaissance has generally been sought in its supposed celebration of ancient German virtues, not least of which was a steadfast opposition to Rome. However, an examination of sixteenth-century translations of classical Roman histories into German reveals the lengths to which German humanists would go to connect, rather than contrast, Germany with Rome. Because humanist techniques also demanded the purge of medieval histories and legends through which such linkages had previously been claimed, the translators had to strain to accommodate these authorized ancient texts to the political and cultural needs of the German present. They failed, and their failure confirms that the humanist agenda based on a rebirth of the modern period through the recovery of the ancient one was inherently fraught with tension.

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