From Academia Istropolitana to the Jagiellonian University. History of Rhetoric in Hungary, Slovakia, Bohemia and Poland in the 14th and 15th century
Jakub Z. Lichański
Rhetoric is the part of linguistics and cultural science, taken from the ancient and Byzantine traditions, which, although always having some national characteristics, is an universal, supranational science. To examine it is not only to inquire into how the classical schools of rhetoric were received especially in Central Europe but also to attempt to determine the specific of a given national culture in a broader pan-European, or rather pan-Mediterranean, context. This is the viewpoint from which the author will now try to give an account of the history of rhetoric in Central Europe. The rhetorical perspective from which to view cultural or literary phenomena prevents the classification of cultures as “superior” and “inferior” other cultures. Rhetoric sets out one plane of description, common to all who rely on it. The analysis of the history of rhetoric helps identify not only mutual relationships between cultures of various parts of Europe but also indicates a new perspective from which to describe the history of the literature of the countries in this, the eastern part, of our continent.
Introduction. Humanism in Eastern Europe
Rhetoric is the part of linguistics and cultural science, taken from the ancient and Byzantine traditions, which, although always having some national characteristics, is a universal, supranational science. To examine it is not only to inquire into how the classical schools of rhetoric were received, e.g. in Central Europe, but also to attempt to determine the specific characteristics of a given national culture in a broader European, or rather pan-Mediterranean, context. This is the viewpoint from which I will now try to give an account of the history of rhetoric in Central Europe.
Let me begin with a fundamental assumption. The rhetorical perspective from which to view cultural or literary phenomena prevents the classification of cultures as “superior” and “inferior” others. Rhetoric sets out one plane of description, common to all who rely on it. The analysis of the history of rhetoric helps identify not only mutual relationships between cultures of various parts of Europe but also indicates a new perspective from which to describe the history of the literature of the countries in this part of our continent. This research also provides grounds for a better insight into how the Greco-Roman and Byzantine traditions were incorporated into the particular cultures, and what traces we can find of them. Before we inquire into our main issue, let me say a few words about the history of humanism in Eastern Europe. It developed differently than in Italy and Western European countries and is closely linked with the Renaissance. Humanism started first in Hungary, Bohemia and Poland, in the 14th century, arriving to Russia as late as the second half of the 16th century. Its decline is not concurrent in all those countries, either; in the Commonwealth of Two Nations, it is observed in the 1580s. In rhetorical research it should be brought forward to the time of Bartholomeus Keckermann, 1572-1609, in the Gdańsk Grammar School, 1602-1609. It arrived at about the same time in Bohemia and Slovakia; in this case, the end was marked by the Battle of the White Mountain in 1620. The most difficult task is to determine the decline of humanism in Belorussia, Ukraine and Russia; basically, it arrived in the middle of the 17th century, and, in Belorussia and Ukraine, was marked by the founding of the Mohylev-Kiev Academy in 1632, and, in Russia – by the founding of the Romanov dynasty in 1613. Insofar as Poland, Lithuania, Livonia, Bohemia, Slovakia, and Hungary are concerned, the factor of material importance for the development of humanism was the relationships with Italy and Western Europe; for Belorussia, Ukraine, and Russia, it was the relationships with Byzantium and subsequently with Western and Southern Europe, often through other East European countries. Other factors affecting rhetorical research in Eastern Europe are the libraries and the development of schools (studia humanitatis). These were, in Bohemia, the University of Prague founded in 1347, modeled on the University of Paris, and, in Poland, the University of Cracow founded in 1364, modeled on Italian universities in Bologna, and Padua. What was of primary relevance to the development of rhetorical research in Slovakia was Academia Istropolitana, founded by Johannes Vitéz of Sredno (1410-1472) on the model of the Bologna university; Academia continued in operation from 1467 to 1490.
Humanism and rhetoric – introductory considerations. Definition, theory and practice
In Eastern Europe rhetoric, an element of artes liberales, was, which is only natural, a discipline of traditional education and acquired academic knowledge. According to Aristotelian tradition, rhetoric was included in practical philosophical sciences. This view, formulated in the 15th century in both Prague and Cracow, persisted until the decline of humanism. In the 14th and 15th centuries, the development of rhetoric in this part of Europe showed influences of artes dictaminis and other manuals of medieval rhetoric. Later, other concepts played their roles, among them were those influenced by the handbooks of Antonio Mancinelli (1452-1505), Guillaume Tardif (1440-1500), and Georgios Trapezuntius (1395-1486). In the 15th century rhetoric was treated mainly as ars ornandi. However, please note that at the time, Callimachus Experiens (1437-1496) already treated rhetoric as a unity of thought and word: Omnis sermo, quo voluntas atuque enuntiatur habeat, in se necesse est res et verba (Callimachus Experiens, Rhetorica, ca 1476, f. 1r.). What is noteworthy is the tradition of rhetorica antiqua and rhetorica nova.
Sources of rhetorical research in Eastern Europe include medieval rhetoric, classical rhetoric, Byzantine rhetoric and from the 16th century new proposals were put forth by Erasmus od Rotterdam (1467-1536), Johannes Sturm (1507-1589), Peter Ramus (1515-1572), and others. The practical role of rhetoric in education was pointed out by a Pole, Simon Marycki (De Scholis, 1551). Similar views were expressed by other theorists of rhetoric and education in Eastern Europe such as J. Willich, De formando studio in quolibet atrium (1588).
The development of rhetorical theory in Eastern Europe owed much to orators such as Jan of Středa (1310-1380), Nicolaus Dybin (1330-1387), Jakób Górski (1525-1585), Benedykt Herbest (1531-1598), Stanisław Iłowski (+1509), A. Romer (1566-1608), B. Keckermann, and Makarij, Bishop of Wołogda (17th century). Research done by Jan of Středa and N. Dybin, known not only in Bohemia, focused on the issues relating to ars dictaminis and draws on similar research in Italy. However, the 14th and 15th century research was not at all innovative; the exception is Rhetorica of Callimachus Experiens. Development of research in the field can be seen in the 16th century.
Another issue in Eastern Europe is the reception of Greek and Byzantine rhetoric. This rhetoric influenced the research in three ways: (1) directly – through analyses of Greek originals, (2) through Latin translations and analyses of Greek originals and (3) through Slavic translations and analyses of Greek originals. We cannot underestimate the importance of the 16th century philological studies of Andreas Patrycy-Nidecki, among others, to rhetorical research, particularly in Poland.
Unlike rhetorical theory, rhetorical practice is ample and heterogeneous. Its most important part is preaching, which draws on three sources: (1) Byzantine, which exerted strong influence on Eastern Orthodox preaching, in Russia, Belorussia, Ukraine, and partially in Poland and Lithuania, (2) Catholic, in Poland, Lithuania, Livonia, Bohemia, Slovakia, Hungary and to a negligible extent, Ukraine and Belarus, (3) Protestant, in Poland, Lithuania, Livonia, and Bohemia. The theory of preaching stems from two roots: (1) artes praedicandi and (2) humanistic traditions. The latter is affected by the Protestant reformation, after 1517, and the Catholic reforms, after 1545. In Poland of great importance are the Arian influences and in Bohemia – the Hussite tradition. We cannot underestimate the united church tradition.
The other source of rhetorical practice is the tradition of official style of the diplomatic documents/correspondence, drawing on artes dictaminis and formularze (form letters). In the 14th and 15th century its special feature was a close link between the countries of Eastern Europe in this respect. The 16th century had already seen the emergence of specific styles in the individual countries.
In the 14th century university rhetoric developed, particularly at the University of Prague, and inspired other Eastern European countries. Its typical feature was a purely practical approach, heavy reliance on ars dictaminis and easy absorption of new ideas.
In early humanism, in the latter part of the 15th century, the first attempts were made to analyze artes epistolandi (J. Ursyn, Modus epistolandi, 1491). Those works drew on the ars dictaminis tradition and adapted humanistic patterns. Persistency of the early humanistic tradition is evidenced by an analysis of the Library of the Collegium Societatis Iesu in Braniewo, among others institutions, where students at the end of the 16th century copied the handbook by Aegidius Suchtelensis, Elegentarium viginti praecepta, 1499.
Humanism and rhetoric – Central Europe. Bohemia. Slovakia. Hungary
As noted earlier, the event that was important to the development of rhetorical research in Bohemia was the foundation of the Prague university in 1347. In its early stage rhetoric was largely the tradition of artes dictaminis. This shaped university rhetoric, although its sources are earlier, dating back to the 13th century. In the 14th century two orators contributed the most to rhetorical research: Jan of Středa (1310-1380) and Nikolaus Dybin (1300? – 1387). The latter authored works about ars dictaminis, i.e. Viaticus dictandi, De dictando tractatulus, and Sporta florum rhetoricalium. Dybin’s influence was strong, as his works inspired scholars in Poland, Belorussia and Ukraine. At the turn of the 16th century Roderik Raček of Dubrava, who was also popular in Poland, created Modus epistolandi (1523). The development of rhetorical research in the 16th century was marked by two traditions, thpse of Johann Sturm, Peter Ramus, and Audomar Taleus. Sturm’s student Jan Kocín (Coccinus) of Kocinet (1534-1610) published translations and commentaries on Hermogenes and translations and a commentary on Aristotle, his master in 1570-1571; he also issued commentaries on Marcus Tullius Cicero, to be used in schools. Ramus’ thought was developed by Simon Gelenius Sušickỳ (1500? – 1599); he prepared an excerpt from Taleus’ rhetoric and wrote a treatise around 1590 (mps. Rhetorického umění kniha první). Should be mentioned yet of research conducted by Jan Blahoslav (1523), author of Vitia concionatorum and Ioannes Wierus, author of Assertiones rhetoricae, (1577).
As previously noted, the development of rhetorical research in Slovakia was influenced by the functioning of Academia Istropolitana in Bratislava in the period 1467-1490. The dominant areas of rhetorical research in Slovakia are ars notaria and ars praedicandi. Of some importance is Laudes artes poeticae of Krištof Petzschmessinger of Levoče (1451). The work of greater importance is the dissertation written when humanism was on the decline O rečnictvie a rečnikovi Vavřinec Bendikt z Nudožer (1555-1615), the author who drew on Melanchthon and Ramus.
In Hungary, the development of rhetorical practice was influenced by several factors. The first one was the school at Pécs, open from 1367-1382. The second factor was the influence of the royal circles, those of Ludwig I (1342-1382), Sigismund Luxembourgian (1411-1437), and Matthias Corvinus (1458-1490).
Jan of Středa came into contact with Janos Küküllei, secretary to Ludwig I, and influenced the chancellery style. An important contribution came from Johannes Vitez, who attracted outstanding humanists to his court and supported the development of studia humanitatis. Also of major importance were the visits of Italian and German humanists such as P.P. Vergerio, C. Calcagnini, G. Balbo, and K. Celtis who travelled all across Eastern Europe. It is not until the 16th century that major rhetorical scholars appear such as Johannes Sambucus (Janos Zsamboki, 1533-1584), publisher of Horace’s Poetica, Janos Sylvester Erdös, the author of Grammatica (1539) and Puerillum colloquiorum formulae (1527). However, theirs is a purely practical approach.
Poland, Lithuania, Livonia
What was relevant to the development of humanism and rhetorical research was the development of school education, studia humanitatis. Note, for example, the University of Cracow (1364). The first faculty of rhetoric opened in 1406 in Cracow, the program of rhetorica vetus, and was reformed twice, in 1449 and 1476, according to the rules of rhetorica nova; in 1476, Quintilianus was a compulsory study. An important innovation was the introduction in the years 1428-1432 of the analysis of Wincenty Kadłubek’s Chronicles as a basis of lectures on rhetoric. What played an important role in the development of the rhetoric were the chancelleries, primarily those of the kings from Vladislav Jagiello, 1385-1434, to Sigismund Augustus, 1548-1574, and university oratory. Frequent interactions with Bohemia and Hungary led to the development of the rhetorical theory and practice. In the 15th century, the tradition of medieval rhetoric exerted strong influence. Despite the educational reform no independent rhetorical treatises were written until the time of Callimachus Experiens’ Rhetorica. This work is modeled on Marcus Tullius Cicero’s and Georgios Trapezuntius’ works. The end of the century produced several works embodying new ideas. These include Jan Ursyn’s Modus epistolandi (1491), W. Korwin’s Carminum structura (1496) and Hortulus elegantiorum (1502) by the same author. The first commentaries on Aristotle’s Rhetoric were seen in the 15th century, from the pen of the Jagiellonian University scholars.
It can be said that rhetoric in our part of Europe developed along with the development of universities and courts; royal, bishops, and others. As previously noted, the development of rhetorical research in Hungary, Slovakia, Bohemia, and Poland in the 14th, 15th, and 16th century, had its roots in ancient, Byzantine, and humanistic tradition. This development had also specific characteristic, but the dominant were similar features. Thesis that the rhetorical perspective from which to view cultural or literary phenomena prevents the classification of cultures as “superior” and “inferior” other cultures was confirmed.
Lichański, Jakub Z. Humanism und Rhetorik in Osteuropa. In: Historisches Wörterbuch der Rhetorik, ed. G. Ueding, , Stuttgart 1998, vol. 4, col. 32-37.
Lichański, Jakub Z. Klassicizmus/Klassik und Rhetorik in Osteuropa. In: ibid., vol. 4, col. 1055-1060.
FAR 2011 No. 4 (27) October-December