7 Chapter Five Constructions of Authorship in Valla’s Iliad

Beatrice Bradley

Lorenzo Valla begins his fifteenth-century translation of the Iliad with an assertion of the text’s literary intent; he informs the reader, “Scripturus ego quantam exercitibus Graiis cladem excitauerit Achillis furens indignatio.”[1] From this first sentence, Valla insists that his prose rendition of Homer will be a written (scripturus) work of his own creation. The inclusion of ego, the first-person narrator in the form of Valla, immediately constitutes a departure in the Latin translation from the original Greek text. Early modern conceptions of authorship understood translation as a fluid and shared endeavor in which the translator should drastically revise the original text, and Valla thus follows the practices of his day to present a thorough reworking of the Homeric epic. First published in 1474, his book achieved considerable popularity, and in 1522 printed marginalia and an index were added, increasing the translation’s didactic value. Composed by an unknown editor many decades after Valla’s death, the paratextual materials emphasize the translator’s authorial presence and in fact suppress the traditional Homeric reading. Providing their own interpretational lens, the printed marginalia and index at once underscore the Latinity of the translation and elucidate tensions in the Italian humanist’s reception of pagan myth. Although Valla’s translation is often dismissed as inaccurate or flawed, I posit that we should read it not as a careful rendition of the original Greek but rather as the paratexts direct us: as an active reinterpretation of the epic, at once the work of Homer, Valla, and the editor.[2]

Valla (ca. 1406-57) began his prominent career at the University of Pavia in 1431, where he taught rhetoric.[3] His employment at the University, however, was short-lived, and he left two years later following a series of conflicts with his fellow professors. Throughout his life, Valla maintained a combative approach to humanist study, and his willingness to critique the ancients enraged his peers. Most famously, he engaged in a longstanding and bitter feud with another well-known humanist, Poggio Bracciolini. Valla’s readiness to find shortcomings in the poets of antiquity greatly informs his translation style.[4] He shows little reverence for the original text and often eliminates entire passages or alters them beyond recognition. In 1435, Valla found employment as secretary to Alfonso V of Aragon, and under the king’s patronage, he began his translation of the Iliad. The king commissioned Valla to translate the Greek text in hopes that a more accessible edition of Homer would better educate the Italian people regarding the Trojan war.[5] Valla translated the first sixteen books and left the remaining eight to his pupil, Francesco Griffolini. Although Valla died in 1457, he had already finished his portion of the translation nearly a decade earlier, for he promises Giovanni Aurispa in a letter dated 1443, “Feram ad te preterea sedecim Iliados libros a me prosa oratione traductos.”[6] He does not explain in this correspondence, however, why he did not finish the translation—perhaps a new project diverted him. The following years were busy: Valla left the Aragonese court as of 1447 to begin his job at the Curia, and in 1455 he was appointed papal secretary.[7]

All printed editions were published after Valla’s death, thus without his authorial input and under the direction of the editors who produced them. Immediately popular, the text was published in eight editions between 1474 and 1550.[8] In 1522, the translation was printed with marginalia and an index at the printing house of Hero Alopecius in Cologne. The press appears to have specialized in books for the University of Cologne: other books it printed include the works of Erasmus and Augustine, as well as histories, classical texts, and rhetoric manuals.[9] Valla’s translation, published in an octavo, would have appealed to students for it was both inexpensive and small enough to carry with ease.

The fact that the edition does not have an introduction, a dedicatory epistle, or even a prefatory letter to the reader suggests that the printer was trying to cut down on costs by using less paper, and therefore the index and printed marginalia alone frame the text. The index, however, is by no means brief or truncated: it contains 611 entries.[10] The creation of such an apparatus requires an intimate knowledge of the text and, in the case of Valla’s translation, an understanding of Latin. Moreover, the anonymous editor encourages a sense of familiarity in that he refers to Valla by his first name, Laurentius (Lorenzo). Although the identity of the editor is unknown, it is likely that he was German, perhaps even associated with the University given his skill in Latin, and that he was editing the text and index primarily for a well-educated audience of students.[11] As the printed marginalia frequently—though by no means entirely—repeat phrases from the index, it seems that the same person was responsible for both of the paratextual materials. Moreover, the edition appears to have been respected by other printing houses: although the index grows more extensive in the later editions, the 1522 text was likely the basis of subsequent printings, for entries and phrases repeat.[12] The long-term authority of the paratextual materials—in that they shaped decades and perhaps generations of readers—is indicative of the editor’s influence in composing the printed marginalia and index. As Valla manipulates his source material to provide a reinterpretation of the epic, so the unknown editor produces his own version of the Iliad. Although the editor primarily works in concert with Valla’s intentions—that is, he emphasizes the by then very famous humanist’s interventions—he nevertheless at times subtly undercuts the translation to provide his own gloss of the epic.


Reading Valla in the Context of the 1522 Paratexts

The title as it appears inside the 1522 edition, Homeri Poetae Ilias per Laurentium Vallensem in Latinum Sermonem Traducta, immediately indicates the paratextual insistence on Valla’s authorial presence.[13] Not only is his name included in the title, but also the very language suggests sensitivity to Valla’s intentions and knowledge of his corpus, for the word sermo (meaning “speech” or “talk”) carries immense significance in his work. As Valla writes:

Nam et λόγος prius orationem sive sermonem significavit quam rationem. Quod nisi nollem essse prolixus, plurimis testimoniis confirmarem, contentus hoc solo argumento quod λόγος a verbo venit λέγω, quod significat dico seu loquor, non autem cogito seu ratiocinor.[14]

Brian P. Copenhaver expands upon Valla’s assertions, saying of the humanist, “Valla’s view was that philosophy always philologizes and philology always philosophizes because sermo and res, language and the world, cannot be pried apart” (515). With the word sermonem in the title—rather than another Latin word meaning speech or language, such as the obvious choice of lingua—the 1522 edition immediately situates itself within the context of Valla’s larger philosophical enterprise.

The index, as well, carefully attends to the intentions of the translator. One of the longest entries is comparatio or “comparisons”—that is, epic similes—an entry which would allow the reader to browse among various instances of rhetorical device with little attention to the narrative overall. Such an emphasis on metaphor demonstrates a similar intention in the editor as in Valla, who writes Giovanni Tortelli that he is translating Homer “in a rhetorical style” (ad characterem oratorium).[15] The inclusion of such rhetorical devices in the index supports the book’s usage as a reference tool, for it facilitates a reader’s non-contextual quotation. This popular practice in the early modern era encouraged readers to approach the text at intervals and in a nonlinear fashion. For example, Erasmus suggests in his De Copia that the reader should “flit like a busy bee through the entire garden of literature” so that he will “acquire an ample supply of examples . . . ready in . . . pocket.”[16] Through the index, as well as the printed marginalia that allowed a similar form of browsing, the author of the paratextual materials is able to draw the reader’s attention both to passages that he as editor believes to be important and to those instances that would most appeal to the presumed readership.

The editor is clearly catering to the reader’s interests, and thus his interventions serve not only to assert Valla’s authorial primacy but also as a marketing tool. The index emphasizes the Latinity of Valla’s translation in a seeming attempt to appeal to an audience raised on Virgil’s Aeneid and already familiar with the characters of the epic. Despite his minor role in the Iliad, Aeneas is cited twenty-one times in the 1522 index. Although this may not sound substantial, Agamemnon, a figure who plays a far larger role in the epic, is mentioned in only twenty-nine citations. This suggests that the editor prioritized Aeneas in the belief that the book’s readership would be more interested in the legendary founder of Rome—a subject of perceived importance to an early modern Latinate population—than in Homer’s Greek king.

The index and printed marginalia thus do not function to better reveal the Greek text to its reader but instead to obscure it in favor of Valla’s mediating presence—both explicitly through references to Laurentius, and more subtly in directing the reader to passages expanded upon by the Italian humanist. Where modern audiences might expect editorial practices to discourage liberties in translation, the 1522 edition in fact emphasizes and highlights Valla’s reworking of the original text. We must keep in mind that creative forms of translation were less unusual in the early modern period, where the translator’s job was to improve upon the original.[17] Renaissance thought distinguished between ad verbum—a word-by-word translation—and a more paraphrastic form of translation, ad sensum, and in fact by and large preferred the latter.[18] Quintilian, whom Valla claims to “exalt . . . above Cicero” (preposui…Quintilianum Ciceroni),[19] writes on his own adaptation of Greek texts, “Sed et ipsis sententiis adicere licet oratorium robur, et omissa supplere, effusa substringere. Neque ego paraphrasin esse interpretationem tantum volo, sed circa eosdem sensus certamen atque aemulationem.”[20] Given Valla’s praise of Quintilian, it is not surprising that he adopts a similar approach to translation; however, it is revealing in regard to early modern conceptions of authorship that a German editor, long after Valla died, would treat the text with a similar liberty. Not only does Valla transform the Homeric epic in his ad sensum translation, but the index and printed marginalia work in conjunction with the text to revise and reshape the readership’s relation to the epic.

Book 1 as Introduction

As previously mentioned, the 1522 edition contains no introductory material. For this reason, Book 1 functions in many ways as an introduction, and the translation’s initial passages underscore the authorial primacy implicit in Valla’s stance and in the choices of the paratextual editor. The first sentence at once presents Valla as author and demonstrates that his rendition of the epic will break from the oral tradition and focus on the written (scripturus) word. The original Homeric text begins not with an assertion of authorship but with an invocation to the muses asking them to sing: “Rage—Goddess, sing the rage of Peleus’ son Achilles, / murderous, doomed, that cost the Achaeans countless losses.”[21] Although Valla eventually calls upon Calliope and “the other sisters of the muses” (aliae sorores . . . musarum), his repeated attention to literary authorship reveals his own translation practices (A2 R). In the first book’s immediate employment of the first person, we can clearly observe Valla’s method of engagement with the Greek text.

Valla repurposes the orality of Homer to appeal to the Latinate audience of the Renaissance, who would likely view themselves as descendants of ancient Rome and thus of Troy. To this end, not only does he encourage a reading sympathetic to the Trojans, but he also diminishes the role of the Greek heroes. Within the first few pages of his translation, Valla interpolates an entirely new passage, and the margins direct our attention to it (A2 R). Instead of beginning the epic as Homer does with Chryseis already in the possession of Agamemnon, Valla describes her capture on an island near Troy and her allotment as a war prize. He writes:

Erat euisdem dei sacerdos quidam ex Chrysa insula, & ipse Chryses nomine, unicae iam adultae pater: quam & patriae & patris nomine, Chryseidam apellauit. Hanc Graeci, cum Thebas euerterent, finitimasque; loca diriperent, captam, Agamemnoni, ut summo rege dignam, uel dono uel in suam portionem obtulerunt.[22]

Valla’s amendment to the book is brief, and he quickly returns to a closer rendition of the Homeric text. He outlines the scene in which Chryses approaches the Greek camp and describes the priest as loaded with gifts that he hopes to exchange for his daughter. In detailing the appearance of Chryses, Valla is uncharacteristically faithful to the Greek, for like Homer he mentions the priest’s golden scepter (aureum sceptrum) and describes him as crowned with the wreath of Phoebus Apollo (coronis Phoebi uittis; A2 V).

In fact, Valla’s expansion upon Chryseis’ capture could be easily missed were it not that the editor pointedly draws attention to it. In the index, an entry explicitly refers to Valla, saying of his intervention, “Chryseis siue (ut Laurentius inflexisse uidetur) Chryseida capitur, & Agamemnoni datur.”[23] Although the parenthetical aside—ut Laurentius inflexisse uidetur—syntactically refers to the fact that Valla has changed the name of Homer’s Chryseis to Chryseida, it could also apply to the entire entry. As mentioned, the reference to Laurentius suggests a familiarity in the use of the Italian humanist’s first name, and it also emphatically positions the translator as distinct from the author of the paratextual materials. Likewise, the passive use of uidetur produces a tension between the editorial voice and that of the translator: the third person passive of the verb uideo, uidere can mean both “is seen” and “seems.” The statement “Laurentius seems to have changed” is considerably less assertive than “Laurentius is seen to have changed.” The author of the index allows for uncertainty in his use of uidetur and alerts the reader to Valla’s mode of translation, in that the clause underscores the humanist’s willingness to change (inflexisse) the original epic. Not only does the editor draw our attention to the passage in the index, he also emphasizes Valla’s intervention in the printed marginalia. The marginalia reads “Chryseis is captured” (Chryseis capitur), and the present tense immediately indicates a revision of the Homeric text that begins with her already in the Greek camp (A2 V). The annotation supports Valla’s interpolation, and at the very least it demonstrates the annotator’s belief that the passage would be noteworthy—if not outright beneficial—to the reader.

There are thirty-one instances of printed marginalia in Book 1, a large number of which—thirteen annotations—refer to women. The female characters, however, are rarely identified alone but instead usually appear modified by a passive verb and thus defined by their interaction with men. For example, Bryseis is repeatedly referred to in the phrase, Aufertur ab Achille Bryseis (“Bryseis is taken from Achilles”), and although her name is the subject of the clause, it does not appear until after Achille (B1 R, B2 R). Even Thetis, a goddess, is only cited in the marginalia as the mother of Achilles. In the scene in which her son informs her of his grief over Bryseis, the printed marginalia describes their conversation in three annotations: Achilles matri (“Achilles to his mother”); Thetis Achilli (“Thetis to Achilles”); and Achilles matri (“Achilles to his mother”; B1 V). In part, the editor’s attention to the female characters as in relation to other male figures constitutes an appeal to the book’s predominantly male readership. The women, often depicted as defenseless and passive in the marginalia, subtly emphasize the sexual violence inherent in Homer’s war and thus produce erotic overtones.

Nevertheless, despite her passive status as one captured (capitur), Chryseis is the first name to appear in the printed marginalia, and in many ways Chryseis capitur functions as a chapter heading for the otherwise untitled Book 1. This stands in marked contrast to modern editions of the text that do provide such a chapter heading, such as Robert Fagles’ translation, which titles Book 1, “The Rage of Achilles.” In extending Chryseis’ backstory—and in the paratextual editor’s interest in the backstory—Valla’s translation delays the introduction of the Greek hero and diminishes the vocalization of his rage. There is no mention of his anger anywhere in the index or marginalia, and instead the author of these materials focuses on Achilles’ conversations, whether with his mother or other epic figures. This editorial choice mirrors Valla’s own translation: when the Italian humanist does refer to the soldier’s rage he uses the word indignatio, a word closer to “indignation” than the vivid Greek word μῆνιν (“wrath”). It is significant that indignatio stands as the tenth word in Valla’s text whereas μῆνιν is the first word in Homer’s. Modern translations tend to follow the Greek precedent: Fagles begins his translation “Rage,” and A.T. Murray similarly begins the Loeb edition, “The wrath.” [24] In his deferment of indignatio, Valla in fact reduces Achilles’ role in the first book and in the epic as a whole.

Working to emphasize the role of the translator, the editor likewise downplays Achilles in that he avoids drawing the reader’s attention to the Greek hero. Achilles is referenced thirty-three times under his own heading and fifty-eight times elsewhere in the index. In these citations, his name appears only twenty-two times in the nominative case, i.e. as a protagonist committing an action. Furthermore, other, lesser characters are indexed far more thoroughly. I have already mentioned the frequency with which Aeneas is cited despite the fact he appears very briefly in the Homeric epic. Hector, the Trojan hero, is definitely a major figure in the Iliad, but the index exaggerates his role and even implies that he is of greater importance than Achilles. The Trojan hero appears in thirty-five entries under his own heading and in thirty-seven instances elsewhere in the index. Thirty-two of these are in the nominative case. The fact that both Valla and the author of the index suppress the role of Achilles and instead highlight scenes that involve the action of Hector suggests that both the translator and the editor believed their audience would be more interested in the Trojan hero and his activities than in the figure of Achilles, the hero of the entire epic.


Editorial Intention and Intervention

Although the editor often imitates the language of Valla and explicitly directs the reader to consider the translator’s authorial interventions, he also maintains a careful distinction between his notions and those of Valla. For example, in the index’s other direct reference to Valla the editor notes, “Litae Iouis filiae, quas Laurentius preces interpretatur.”[25] The annotation refers to Book 9 and Phoenix’s description of prayers for forgiveness; in the Homeric text, he tells Achilles:

We do have Prayers, you know, Prayers for forgiveness,
daughters of mighty Zeus . . . and they limp and halt,
they’re all wrinkled, drawn, they squint to the side,
can’t look you in the eyes, and always bent on duty,
trudging after Ruin, maddening, blinding Ruin.
(9.609–13, Fagles)

In the editor’s use of interpretatur—a word meaning both translation and interpretation—he both emphasizes Valla’s role as one who interprets the text and suggests that there might be a difference between Valla’s translation and that of others. Modern editions tend to translate the Homeric word λιταί as “prayers”—and the Oxford Greek dictionary defines λιταί as “prayers” or “entreaties”—and thus there seems to be nothing unusual in Valla’s word choice of preces.[26] Nevertheless, the author of the paratexts calls our attention to the usage of “prayers,” thereby positioning Valla in a Christian context.

The editor often seems to recognize a textual inaccuracy or tension in Valla’s translation, but rather than actively commenting on it, he subtly uses it for what appears to be religious purposes. For example, to look again at Book 1, we see the messengers arrive to take Bryseis from Achilles, and Achilles, as in Homer, meet them on the beach. Valla writes of the hero, “saluete inquit praecones Iouis atque; hominum angeli,” which accords with the Greek, but the word he uses for messengers (angeli) is one that calls to mind Christian angels.[27] In fact, the word angelo is a late medieval addition to the Latin language that bears the primary meaning of angel and only a secondary usage of messenger.[28] The Greek text reads, “χαίρετε, κήρυκες, ∆ιòς ἄγγελοι ἠδὲ καὶ ἀνδρῶν,” which Fagles translates as “Welcome, couriers! Good heralds of Zeus and men” (1.394), and Murray as, “Greetings, heralds, messengers of Zeus and men” (1.334). The two words that Homer uses, κήρυκες and ἄγγελοι, are essentially synonyms, meaning herald and messenger respectively. It is possible that Valla chose the word angeli to approximate the sound of ἄγγελοι. However, the Latin word angarius (“courier”) would produce a similar phonetic effect, and, in any event, such a translation practice would follow that of ad verbum, the method Valla has overwhelmingly rejected in his paraphrastic version. Furthermore, there are many other words that Valla could have chosen without such religious connotations, among them the term frequently used in classical epic, nuntius (“messenger”), or even missus (“one sent”).

The medieval word angeli stands out as odd in a text that repeatedly refers to the ancient Greek gods and is being translated by an author who has argued against attempts to make classical literature conform to Christian thought. Valla often attacks his peers for conflating the two forms of literary expression, deploring in particular their use of classical Latin in Christian contexts. He writes, “you who could be called senators of the Christian commonwealth are better pleased to hear and employ pagan speech than ecclesiastical.”[29] Valla frequently expresses such opinions: as Charles Edward Trinkaus, Jr. explains, “he consistently and comprehensively emphasized the irreconcilability of reason and faith, of philosophy and theology, of paganism and Christianity. It is important to emphasize this, despite the fact that it frequently was more of a formally reiterated position than something Valla consistently carried out in practice.”[30] Valla’s use of angeli is clearly such an instance in which he breaks from his “formally reiterated position,” and the editor appears to notice the tension and emphasize the Christian connotations in the word. In Valla’s line—“saluete inquit praecones Iouis atque; hominum angeli”—the word atque separates angeli from the earlier text, thus clearly signifying that hominum modifies angeli and produces the clause “the angeli of men.” In the index, however, the same passage is noted as, “Praecones hominum atque deorum angeli” (bb4 V). Once more the word atque separates the two appellations, but here the editor has chosen to attach deorum to angeli: “the angeli of the gods.” Although this is by no means erroneous or even a mistranslation, the passage now appears explicitly Christian to the reader.



Early modern conceptions of authorship are famously inexact: the act of composition was often understood as collective, and humanists prided themselves on “improving” original texts. However, as this paper has demonstrated, we should carefully consider the paratexts when reading early modern editions. My close attention to the first book of Valla’s Iliad and indeed to the epic’s first words was prompted by their indicative value and declaration of intent—Book 1 acts in many ways as an introduction to the entire translation—but Valla’s practice and that of his editor function similarly throughout the text and index. Not only does the author of the 1522 paratexts actively work to emphasize Valla as author, the editorial formatting of the text also softens the orality of the original Greek, diminishing the Argive heroes and downplaying the Greek epic’s violence in favor of the Roman ideal of temperance. Moreover, the paratextual editor at times subtly challenges Valla’s translation, identifying tensions in the text and calling the reader’s attention to these inconsistencies. This sort of manipulation by way of annotation was widely practiced in early modern literature and scholarship, and we therefore need to read the early modern textual apparatus with a sensitivity to ambiguity and textual tensions. In considering the authorship of this translation, we should understand Valla’s book not as a “failed” attempt to translate Homer but rather as the collaborative interpretation of myth as put forth by Homer, Valla, and the edition’s paratextual materials.


Keywords: Alfonso V of Aragon, Hero Alopecius, ambiguity, Augustine, Giovanni Aurispa, authorship, Poggio Bracciolini, George Chapman, University of Chicago, Christianity, Cicero, University of Cologne, Brian P. Copenhaver, Andreas Divus, epic similes, Desiderius Erasmus, Henri Estienne, Robert Fagles, epic genre, Cologne-Germany, Greek, Francesco Griffolini, imitation, interpretation, Italian, Pavia, Rome, Latin, Aldus Manutius, metaphor, A. T. Murray, paratext, annotation, dedicatory epistles, index, marginalia, prefatory material, patronage, philology, Quintilian, Aragon-Spain, Giovanni Tortelli, Charles Edward Trinkaus Jr., Lorenzo Valla, Virgil, Aeneid, women



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Castellion, Sébastien, and Henri Estienne, eds. and trans. Homeri Opera Graeco-latina, quae quidem nunc extant. Basel: Per haeredes Nicolai Brylingeri, 1567.

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  1. “I will write about how great the wild anger of Achilles was that caused the ruin of the Greeks.” Lorenzo Valla, trans., Homeri Poetae Clarissimi Ilias per Laurentium Vallensem Romanum latina facta (Cologne: Apud Heronem Alopecium, 1522), A2 R. Latin translations are my own unless otherwise noted.
  2. Valla’s translation was criticized as early as George Chapman’s translation of the Iliad in the late sixteenth century, in which he lambasts the Italian humanist as one who “pervert[s]” the text. See George Chapman, The Works of George Chapman: Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, ed. Algernon Charles Swinburne (New York: Chatto & Windus, 1903), 218. More recently, Robin Sowerby deemed Valla’s translation a “failure” in “Early Humanist Failure with Homer,” pts. 1 and 2, International Journal of the Classical Tradition 4, no.1 (1997): 56–62; no. 2 (1997): 168. Cf. Timothy Kircher, “Wrestling with Ulysses: Humanist Translations of Homeric Epic Around 1440,” in Neo-Latin and the Humanities: Essays in Honour of Charles E. Fantazzi (Toronto: Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies, 2014), 68.
  3. See Paul F. Grendler, The Universities of the Italian Renaissance (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2011), 209–10.
  4. See introduction to Lorenzo Valla, Dialectical Disputations, ed. and trans. Brian P. Copenhaver and Lodi Nauta, vol. 1, I Tatti Renaissance Library (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012), vii–x.
  5. Glenn W. Most and Alice Schreyer, eds., Homer in Print: A Catalogue of the Bibliotheca Homerica Langiana at the University of Chicago Library (Chicago: University of Chicago Library, 2013), 226–28.
  6. “I will . . . bring you the sixteen books of the Iliad which I have translated into prose.” Lorenzo Valla, Correspondence, trans. Brendon Cook, I Tatti Renaissance Library (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013), Letter 23, 154–55.
  7. See Brian Copenhaver and Lori Nauta’s introduction to Dialectical Disputations, x.
  8. Homeri poetarum supremi Ilias per Laurentium Vallens (Brescia: Henricus de Colonia and Statius Gallicus, 1474); Homeri poetarum supremi Ilias (Brescia: Baptista Farfengus forFranciscus Laurinus, 1497); Homeri poetae Clarissimi Ilias per Laurentium Vallensem Romanum e graeco in latinum translats (Venice: Dexteritate & impensa Ioannis Tacuini de Tridino, 1502); Homeri poetae clarissimi Ilias (Lipetsk: Per Melchiorem Lotterum, 1512); Homeri Poetae Clarissimi Ilias per Laurentium Vallensem Romanum latina facta (Cologne: Apud Heronem Alopecium, 1522); Homeri poetae clariss. Ilias (Cologne: Eucharius Ceruicornus excudebat, 1527); and Homeri poetarum omnium principis, Ilias, per Laurentium Vallam latio donata (Lyon: Apud Seb. Gryphium, 1541). Valla’s translation also appeared in an edition with Raphael Volaterranus’ translation of the Odyssey in 1528; Homeri, poetarum principis, cum Iliados, tum Odysseae XLVIII (Antwerp: Apud Io. Grapheum, 1528).
  9. For example, Augustine, Diui Aurelii Augustini de Spiritu et Litera liber unus (Cologne: Apud Heronem Alopecium, 1527); Adriano Castellesi, De sermone latino, & modis latine loquendi (Cologne: Apud Heronem Alopecium, 1524); Desiderius Erasmus, Exomologesis sive modvs confitendi (Cologne: Apud Heronem Alopecium, 1525); Desiderius Erasmus, Ratio seu methodus compendio perveniendi ad veram theologiam (Cologne: Apud Heronem Alopecium, 1523); Philipp Melanchthon, Philippi Melanchthonis De Rhetorica (Cologne: Apud Heronem Alopecium, 1520); and Silvius Bartholomeus, Aeneae Silvii (Cologne: Apud Heronem Alopecium, 1524).
  10. Such an extensive index was fairly unusual in the contemporaneous publication of epic works. More frequently, printers would not provide an index or would provide a very brief one. For examples of epic texts without indices, see Homeri Odysseae libri VIII, trans. Franciscus Sabinus Floridus (Paris: Apud Vascosanum, 1545); Homeri Opera Graeco-latina, quae quidem nunc extant, ed. and trans. Sébastien Castellion and Henri Estienne (Basel: Per haeredes Nicolai Brylingeri, 1567); and Odysseae Homeri libri XXIII, trans. Raffaello Maffei (Lyon: Apud Seb. Gryphium, 1541). For examples of brief indices, see Homeri Poetae Clarissimi, trans. Georgio Dartona, Andrea Divus, and Aldus Manutius, and (Lyon: Per Vincentium de Portonariis, 1538); and Homeri, poetarum principis, cum Iliados, tum Odysseae XLVIII, trans. Lorenzo Valla and Raphael Volaterranus (Antwerp: Io. Grapheum, 1528). For an example of another book with an extensive index, see Andrea Divus, trans., Homeri Ilias ad verbum (Paris: In officina Christiani Wecheli, 1538).
  11. Lotte Hellinga writes, “In Cologne, one of the first cities where early printers settled, a multiple of small quarto editions were printed from 1465 onward, many of them texts that were linked to the traditional curriculum of the university, prepared for publication by teachers” (214–215). It is likely that octavos were prepared similarly. Lotte Hellinga, “The Gutenberg Revolutions,” in A Companion to the History of the Book, ed. Simon Eliot and Jonathan Rose (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2007), 207–19.
  12. For example, the phrase “Iuppiter fata Graecorum & Troianorum in lancibus posita examinat” (Jupiter considers the fates of the Greeks and Romans by placing them on a scale) appears in the 1522 edition (bb1 R) and is modified in the 1541 edition to read “Iupiter fata Graecorum & Troianorum qui examinet” (Jupiter who considers the fates of the Greeks and Trojans); F5 R.
  13. “The Iliad of the Poet Homer, Translated into Latin Speech by Lorenzo Valla” (A2). This title appears on the first page of the translation. It is listed differently on the title page: Homeri Poetae Clarissimi Ilias per Laurentium Vallensem Romanum latina facta (“The Iliad of the Most Brilliant Poet Homer, Composed in Latin by the Roman Lorenzo Valla”).
  14. “For λόγος also meant ‘speech’ or ‘talk’ before it meant ‘reason.’ I would confirm this with many examples, only I want not to go on too long, so I am satisfied with just this one argument, that λόγος comes from the verb λέγω, which means ‘I say’ or ‘I speak’ but not ‘I think’ or ‘I reason.’” Lorenzo Valla, Repastinatio, vol. 1 (Padua: Antenore, 1982), 1.70–1; translated by Brian Copenhaver in “Valla Our Contemporary: Philosophy and Philology,” Journal of the History of Ideas 66, no. 4 (2005): 513–14.
  15. Valla, Correspondence, Letter 11, 68–69.
  16. Desiderius Erasmus, De Copia, in Collected Works of Erasmus: Literary and Educational Writings, vol. 2, ed. C. R. Thompson, trans. B. I. Knott (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1978), 639, 635; cf. Adam Smyth, “Commonplace Book Culture: A List of Sixteen Traits,” in Women and Writing, c.1340–c.1650: The Domestication of Print Culture, ed. Anne Lawrence-Mathers and Phillipa Hardman (York: York Medieval Press, 2010), 92–93.
  17. For a discussion of authorial practices in early modern Europe and Valla’s own approach to translation, see Hanna H. Gray, “Renaissance Humanism: The Pursuit of Eloquence,” Journal of the History of Ideas 24, no. 4 (1963): 497–514.
  18. For a more in-depth discussion of the differences between ad verbum and ad sensum in early modern literary practices, see Kircher, “Wrestling with Ulysses,” 62.
  19. Valla, Correspondence, Letter 17, 110–11.
  20. “[W]e may add the vigour of oratory to the thoughts expressed by the Greek poet, make good his omissions, and prune his diffuseness. But I would not have paraphrase restrict itself to the bare interpretation of the original: its duty is to rival and vie with the original in the expression of the same thoughts.” Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria, vol. 4, ed. and trans. H. E. Butler (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1920–22), 112–115; cf. Kircher, “Wrestling with Ulysses,” 72–73.
  21. Robert Fagles, trans., The Iliad, ed. Bernard Knox (New York: Penguin Books, 1990), 1.1–2.
  22. “There was the priest of that same god [Apollo] from the island Chrysa, and he himself was named Chryses. He was the father of one adult daughter, who by the name of her father and fatherland was called Chryseida. Here the Greeks, when they sacked Thebes, tore apart the neighboring areas, and they offered to Agamemnon, as deserving for the highest king, either the captured woman as a present or his portion [of the spoils]” (A2 V).
  23. “Chryseis or (as Laurentius is seen to have changed) Chryseida is captured and given to Agamemnon” (aa5 R).
  24. Fagles, The Iliad, 1.1–2; and A.T. Murray, ed. and trans., Iliad, vol. 1 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999), 1.1.
  25. “The befouled daughters of Jove, which Laurentius translates as prayers” (bb1 V).
  26. D. N. Stavropoulos, ed., Oxford English-Greek Learner’s Dictionary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), s.v. “λιταί.”
  27. “Greetings, he said, heralds of Jove and messengers of men” (B1 R).
  28. James Morwood, ed., Pocket Oxford Latin Dictionary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), s.v. “angelo.”
  29. Lorenzo Valla, “Dialogue on Free Will,” trans. Charles Edward Trinkaus, in The Renaissance Philosophy of Man, ed. Ernst Cassirer, Paul Oskar Kristeller, and John Herman Randall (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011), 156.
  30. Trinkaus’ introduction to Valla’s “Dialogue on Free Will,” ibid., 149.


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