All Scholars

COMPARETTI, Domenico

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  • Date of Birth: June 27, 1835
  • Born City: Rome
  • Born State/Country: Italy
  • Parents: Agostino & Barbara de Andrei C.
  • Date of Death: July 19, 1914
  • Death City: Berlin
  • Death State/Country: Germany
  • Married: Leone Raffalovich, 1863.
  • Education:

    A.B., Mathematics & Natural Sciences, La Sapienza University (Rome), 1855

  • Professional Experience:

    Professor of Greek, Pisa, 1859-72; prof Greek, Istituto di Studi Superiori Florence, 1872-87; member, Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, 1875; Founder, Museo Italiano d’antichità classica, 1884; Accademia Napolitano di archeologia, lettere e belle arti, 1889.

  • Publications:

    L’Euxenippea d’Iperide (Pisa: Nistri, 1861); Notizie ed osservazioni in proposito degli studi critici del prof. Ascoli (Pisa: Nistri, 1863); Saggi dei dialetti greci dell’Italia meridionale (Pisa: Nistri, 1866); “Virgilio nella tradizione letteraria fino a Dante, studio storico-letterario,” Nuova Antologia (31 January 1866); Edipo e la mitologia comparata, saggio critic (Pisa: Nistri, 1867); Ricerche intorno al libro di Sindibad (Milan: Bernardoni, 1869); Virgilio nel Medio Evo, 2 vols. (Livorno: Vigo, 1872; Florence: Seeber, 1896; English trans. by E.F.M. Benecke, 1895); Papire ercolanense inedite (Index Stoicorum) (1875); Novelline popolari italiane (Turin, 1875); La Commissione Omerica di Pisistrato e il Ciclo epico (Turin: Ermanno Loescher, 1881); La villa ercolanese dei Pisoni (1883); Il Kalevala o la poesia tradizionale dei Finni, studio storico critico sulle origini delle grandi epopoee nazionali (Rome: Reale Accademia dei Lincei, 1891; new ed., Milan: Guerini, 1989); Le legge di Gortyna e le altre iscrizioni arcaiche cretesi (Milan, 1893); La Guerra Gotica di Procopio di Caesarea, (ed. & trans.), 3 vols. (Rome: Forzani, 1895-8; repr. Turin: Bottega d’Erasmo, 1968-70); introduction to the facsimile of the cod. Venetus A of the Iliad (1901); La Bibliothèque de Philodème (Paris, 1910); Laminette orfiche edite ed illustrade (1910); Le imagini di Virgilio, il musaico di Hadrumentum e I primi sette versi dell’Eneide (Florence: Enrico Ariani, 1914).

  • Notes:

    While a schoolboy, Comparetti’s abilities and potential became clear to Prince Michelangelo Caetani, Duke of Sermoneta and Prince of Teano (1804-82), who advised and oversaw Comparetti’s education in Mathematics and natural science at La Sapienza University. During a brief period of working in his uncle’s pharmacy, he was able in his spare time to teach himself Greek. Within three years, he published a translation of newly discovered fragments of Hyperides in Rheinisches Museum. Comparetti was among the earliest of the Italian scholars who were influenced by the methods and materials of German Wissenschaft. Through Caetani’s influence, he was named professor of Greek at Pisa, where he provided scrupulous editions of Hyperides’ Oration for Euxenippus as well as his oration for the dead in the Lamian War and the inscriptions on the Metroon Pirense. His scholarly reach was exceptionally wide, including collections of Italian folk songs and stories (in 9 volumes (1870-91) with Italian scholar Alessandro D’Ancona (1835-1914)), a survey of Greek dialects in Southern Italy, an edition of the Laws of Gortyn and text & translation of Procopius, comparative mythology (Edipo e la mitologia comparata), the papyri of Philodemus of Gadara, which he ascribed to Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus at the Villa of the Pisos at Herculaneum, gathered in his work on the La villa ercolanese dei Pisoni and later on his book on Philodemus’s library.  He was, however, also interested in literary traditions and influences, particularly epic poetry: the Arabic Sindibad, the Finnish Kalevala, and especially the works of Virgil. Comparetti, already a great philologist, was also one of the earliest to show an interest in reception study. His preliminary study of Virgil in European thought up through the period of Dante and then Virgil’s specific reputation as magician were accomplished at Pisa, while in the year that he moved to the Istituto di Studi Superiori in Florence (1872), he expanded these articles into the two-volume study by which he is best known, translated into English as Virgil in the Middle Ages. In the course of describing how Virgil was taken as a secular saint and then a magician in the Middle Ages, he also provides as background a literary and cultural history of Europe from Roman to Medieval times.  

    Beginning in 1884, Comparetti turned to archaeology, encouraging the Italian School of Archaeology at Athens to excavate Cretan sites, particularly Gortyn, where his student Federico Halbherr (1857-1930) discovered Minoan inscriptions. Comparetti founded the Museo Italiano d’antichità classica in which Halbherr, who went on to excavate Festus, Hagia Triada, and Priniàs, published many of his findings. He ceased teaching in 1887 to devote himself to his scholarship. He collected his own findings on Cretan inscriptions in Le Leggi di Gortyna in 1893 and the Orphic laminettes in 1910. 

    At the same time, Comparetti became interested in the interwoven folk poems that made up the national epic of Finland, the Kalevala (1835). He learned Finnish, made repeated visits to Finland, and in 1891 produced a study of the structure of the poem and its relation to other mythological creation epics. In November of that year he was named a Senator. 

  • Sources:

    Sandys, 3:244; A. Chiapelli, La mente di Domenico Comparetti (1918); G. Pasquali, “Domenico Comparetti,” Aegyptus 8 (1927) 117-36; Gli anni giovanili di Domenico Comparetti, dai suoi taccuini e da altri inediti, ed. E. Frontali (Milan, Florence: Olschki, 1969) from Belfagor  24,2 (March 1969) 203-17; Domenico Comparetti tra antichità e archeologia, indivisualtà di una biblioteca, ed. M.G.Marzi (Florence: Il ponte, 1999); Domenico Comparetti, 1835-1927. Convegno internazzionale di studi. Napoli-Santa Maria Capua Vetere 6-9 giugno 2002, ed. S. Cerasuolo, M.L. Chirico, & T. Cirillo (Naples: Bibliopolis, 2006); Alessandro Capone, Babington, Comparetti e le scoperte dei papyri d’Iperide, Quaderni di Storia 72 (2010) 89-129.

  • Author: Ward Briggs