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De vita Georgii Washingtonii Latina

Inquiritur in radices "Romanas" civitatum foederatarum Americae

Author: Kurt Smolak

The Life of George Washington in Latin prose, edited in 1834 by Francis Glass, is an outstanding document of how a certain intellectual élite in the United States strived for being acknowledged by European academic circles as a nation of high cultural level. The author, a Philadelphia-educated Irish immigrant, who earned his living by teaching ancient and modern languages in Ohio, intended to draw attention to the similarities which, in his opinion, linked the United States, recently independent, with the early Roman Republic, free and independent, as he believed. In doing so he imitated, apart from learned archaisms and peculiarities of expression, both Livy, the most important source of the early Rome's history, and Cesar's De Bello Gallico, thus demonstrating that his hero, George Washington, exceeded the great Romans of the Age of the Republic as well as the founder of Roman monarchism, combining in his person all possible qualities of a statesman. In praise of him the author did not refrain from fictional testimonies, starting his work with a prophecy ascribed to Cicero and enriched by a reference to Accius. However, the Vita Georgii Washingtonii Latina, highly estimated by Washington's successor, John Q. Adams, affords an insight into the 'Roman' roots of US-American pathetic patriotism sometimes so surprising for Europeans.

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It is highly probable that Latin and Greek religious hymns written in hexameters between the early 4th and the early 6th centuries under a more or less evident influence of theological concepts of neoplatonic origin, contain anti-christian polemics expressed indirectly, that ist to say by alluding to Christian terminology. In doing so, the poets make use of exactly the same apologetical method Christian authors had adopted in the period prior to 313 in order to make their own works acceptable also for pagan readers. To prove the existence of so called 'Cryptochristianisms' (a term created by Jacques Fontaine some thirty years ago) in the pagan hymns of the Late Antiquity, three pieces have been analysed, two of them written in Latin (Hymn to Sol, Anthologia Latina 385 Shackleton Bailey, and Tiberianus, poem 4, the 'Versus Platonis de deo') and one in Greek by the famous neoplatonic philosopher, Proclus (hymn 4).

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