SCALIGER, Joseph Justus

(1540-1609)
A French philologist and historian, Joseph Justus Scaliger reformed historical and classical studies during the Renaissance through his careful correction of various ancient chronologies and by a rigorous approach to textual criticism. The son of the French classical scholar Julius Caesar Scaliger,* Joseph began his studies in Bordeaux, moving to Paris in 1559 to study classical Greek and Latin. There he also learned Hebrew, Arabic, Syrian, and Persian, as well as modern languages. Although he claimed to have taught himself these languages, these claims now appear overstated. Nevertheless, his mastery of philology en­abled him to eventually classify European languages with remarkable accuracy, positing the existence of eleven mother languages, unrelated to each other, and thereby undermining a widespread belief that all languages had evolved from Hebrew. Related to his linguistic endeavors was his work as a literary critic. However, unlike his father, who promoted a broad Aristotelian view of criticism as judging the merits of literary works, Joseph Scaliger defined criticism as a subdivision of grammar, in which the critic's primary goal was to distinguish between genuine and corrupt versions of classical texts. In 1562 he converted to Protestantism and traveled to Germany, Italy, and France. In 1572, when Protestants were being persecuted in France, he traveled to Geneva, where he taught until he returned to France in 1574. As reports from the New World and the Far East reached him, Scaliger understood that the sophisticated calendars of the Meso-Americans and Chinese provided evidence of civilizations in some ways more advanced than Europe. In 1593 he traveled to the University of Leiden, where he stayed until his death.
Scaliger is best known for his 1583 Opus novum De emendatione temporum (Study on the Improvement of Time), in which he compares and corrects the chronologies of various ancient authors, endeavoring to create an accurate and universal system of dating ancient events. His calculations and polemical style got him into trouble with Johannes Kepler* and Tycho Brahe,* and his schol­arship was frequently attacked by contemporary Jesuits, due to a mixture of theological partisanship and disagreements over the controversial Gregorian cal­endar. In the process of editing and commenting upon the writers of antiquity, he came to doubt the widely held belief in a former golden age, believing instead that modern scholars could do better than their ancient counterparts. Another major work is his 1606 Thesaurus temporum (Thesaurus of Time), in which he reconstructs the chronicles of Eusebius and combines them with a collection of Greek and Latin remnants placed in chronological order. He also wrote two treatises that established numismatics, the study of coins, as a new and reliable tool in historical research. In the course of his work, Scaliger created powerful tools for understanding manuscript traditions and retrieving accurate information from ancient texts, tools that critics and historians depended upon for the next four centuries.
Bibliography
A. Grafton, Joseph Scaliger: A Study in the History ofClassical Scholarship, 2 vols., 1983-98.
Tim McGee

Renaissance and Reformation 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary. . 2001.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • SCALIGER, JOSEPH JUSTUS° — (1540–1609), French scholar and philologist. Scaliger was the tenth child of Julius Caesar Scaliger (Giulio Cesare Della Scala, 1484–1558), who was an outstanding humanist, well known for his controversies with Erasmus and Rabelais. He became a… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • Scaliger, Joseph Justus — ▪ Dutch philologist and historian born Aug. 5, 1540, Agen, Fr. died Jan. 21, 1609, Leiden, Holland [now in Neth.]  Dutch philologist and historian whose works on chronology were among the greatest contributions of Renaissance scholars to… …   Universalium

  • SCALIGER, JOSEPH JUSTUS —    eminent scholar, son of the following, born at Agen; educated by his father; followed in his father s footsteps, and far surpassed him in scholarship; travelled over Europe, and became a zealous Protestant; accepted the chair of belles lettres …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

  • Scaliger, Julius Caesar, and Scaliger, Joseph Justus — born April 23, 1484, Riva, Republic of Venice died Oct. 21, 1558, Agen, France born Aug. 5, 1540, Agen, France died Jan. 21, 1609, Leiden, Holland Classical scholars. Julius worked in botany, zoology, and grammar but was chiefly interested in… …   Universalium

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  • Joseph Justus Scaliger — (August 5, 1540, Agen – January 21, 1609, Leiden) was a French religious leader and scholar, known for expanding the notion of classical history from Greek and Ancient Roman history to include Persian, Babylonian …   Wikipedia

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  • Joseph Scaliger — Joseph Justus Scaliger (* 5. August 1540 in Agen, Lot et Garonne; † 21. Januar 1609 in Leiden) war das zehnte Kind und der dritte Sohn von Julius Caesar Scaliger und Andiette de Roques Lobejac und einer der größten Gelehrten der zweiten Hälfte… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Joseph — /joh zeuhf, seuhf/, n. 1. Jacob s eleventh son, the first of Jacob and his second wife, Rachel: sold into slavery by his brothers. Gen. 30:22 24; 37. 2. the husband of Mary who was the mother of Jesus. Matt. 1:16 25. 3. (Hinmaton yalaktit), c1840 …   Universalium

  • Justus Lipsius — (eigentlich Joest Lips; * 18. Oktober 1547 in Overijse (Flämisch Brabant); † 23. März 1606 in Löwen) war ein niederländischer Rechtsphilosoph und Philologe …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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