All Scholars


  • Image
  • Date of Birth: April 29, 1885
  • Born City: Rome
  • Born State/Country: Italy
  • Parents: Gustavo, a lawyer for the German and Austrian Embassy, & Anna Marianna Lasagni P.
  • Date of Death: July 09, 1952
  • Death City: Belluno
  • Death State/Country: Italy
  • Married: Mara Nosei, 1921
  • Education:

    B.A., La Sapienza University at Rome, 1907; Study in Basel and Göttingen, 1908-9; Berlin, 1909; liera docenza, University of Rome, 1910;guest professor, Kiel, 1928; LL.D. (hon.), Göttingen, 1937;

  • Dissertation:

    Sulla commedia mitologica e i suoi precedenti nella letteratura greca (Rome, 1907)

  • Professional Experience:

    Free lectr., Rome, 1910; Prof. Greek, Messina, 1911-12; Göttingen, 1912-14; Assistant, Berlin, 1914-15; Institute of Higher Studies, Florence, 1915-20; Messina, 1920-1; professor, 1924-52; Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa, 1931-52; memb,. Academy of Munich, 1928; Academy of Göttingen, 1928; Royal Academy of Italy, 1942. 

  • Notes:

    The lesson that Giorgio Pasquali taught Italian classical philology (a lesson heard far outside the boundaries of that field) was to think about every scholarly problem, whether textual, literary, or historical, in terms of the history of tradition. His teaching has been important not only for students of texts but also for students of history. Since this forma mentis came to Pasquali from his congenial understanding of the work of Eduard Schwartz (1858-1940), Wilamowitz (1848-1931), and Friedrich Leo (1851-1914), and from a fruitful contact with these teachers’ students, we can say in a certain sense—even though the expression might appear reductionist—that Pasquali was an important intermediary between German philology and Italian culture. He brought the seed of renewal. Those aspects of Italian philology that have not undergone his influence bear the unmistakable mark of backwardness.

    Bom to a family of the Roman buona borghesia, he grew up “in the gentlemanly environment of the learned professions,” as he himself put it (Storia dello spirito tedesco: 8). (His father, Gustavo Pasquali, was a lawyer, as was his brother Alberto.) Pasquali describes his own origins in a curriculum vitae penned 15 December 1911, in support of a request of a venia Iegendi at the University of Göttingen, which has recently been published (Belfagor 39 [1984] 686-7). It furnishes the following facts: 27 June 1907, degree in Greek Literature from the University of Rome with a thesis, Sulla commedia mitologica e i suoi precedenti nella letteratura greca; 1908-1909, two semesters of study in Germany (Winter-semester at Berlin, Summer-semester at Gottingen); April 1910, libera docenza (officially approved tutor) in Greek Literature at the University of Rome. While at Rome he was the student of Nicola Festa (1866-1940), who had himself studied under Girolamo Vitelli (1849-1935), but Pasquali felt no true affinity with Festa’s temperament. In his curriculum Pasquali announces his desire to live in Germany, at Göttingen, the city he called “the scholarly capital of Europe.” It was a statement about the kind of life he wanted and a symptom of his intolerance of the intellectual climate of the Italian university, from which he had received some initial disappointments. In 1908 he had emerged from a competition for a position as Extraordinarius with words of praise that were strong, but for the very purpose useless. (Among the members of the committee were Girolamo Vitelli and Ettore Romagnoli.) After another failure, he became Professor of Greek Literature in 1920 and taught first at Messina and, from 1921, at Florence.

    Before that came the year that Europe broke apart spiritually, 1914. That year also decided, definitively, the individual fate of Pasquali, who was “restored” to Italy in the spring of 1915 following Italy’s unexpected declaration of war on Austria and Germany. (On 11 July 1915 Kurt Sethe, Dean of Göttingen’s Philosophical Faculty, annulled Pasquali’s venia legendi on the grounds that he was the citizen of a hostile country.) “Restored” against his will, he was by no means happy with the turn of events, since his own stance was favorable to Italian neutrality. (The evidence includes his letter to the “Giornale d’ltalia” of 17 September 1914 and the articles from Berlin for Cesare De Lollis’s magazine, Italia Nostra, in the early months of 1915.) He returned to Italy for good, since renewed contact with his old adopted fatherland after the war never achieved a complete restoration of the original harmony. A kind of veto against calling Pasquali to a German university was posted at least twice by Wilamowitz, in February 1914 (Calder, MH 43 [1986] 259) and January 1931 (Wilamowitz, Selected Correspondence, ed. W. M. Calder III [Naples 1983] 110-111). In his private correspondence Wilamowitz demonstrated intolerance towards Pasquali (Ibid.,171,193); in January 1931 he wrote to Eduard Fraenkel (1888-1970): “To call Pasquali to a chair in Germany would be really unforgivable” (Ibid., 110-111). The years 1908-1914 constitute Pasquali’s “German Period.” He works and expresses himself in German, in German presses and reviews: in 1908 a Teubner text of Proclus’s commentary on Plato’s Cratylus, long articles in Hermes—the prestigious review founded by Theodor Mommsen (1807-1903) and Gustav Kirchhoff (1824-87) and directed in Pasquali’s German years by Carl Robert (1850-1922) and Friedrich Leo—as well as in Göttingen’s Nachrichten and Gelehrten Anzeigen, and finally his first real book, published by the Göttingen university press, Quaestiones Callimacheae.

    The first books that Pasquali published in Italy all came out in 1920. All three can be seen as the final issue of all his previous experience: Socialisti tedeschi, Orazio lirico, Filologia e storia. The first came out in a tentative edition at the end of 1919, and in a complete edition in 1920. Well-informed, based on a wide use of the daily prints, it attempts, among other things, to be a true history of the majoritarian Socialist Party (SPD). It demonstrates Pasquali’s lively interest in German politics. Even in this area Germany is the country to follow. The book also shows that at this time his sympathies are with the moderate Socialists: such was, in his youth, Pasquali’s friend, Ludwig Curtius (1874-1954), archaeologist and later director of the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut in Rome. In the Germany of the years before 1914, home of the largest, most authoritative, and most academic Socialist party, Pasquali must have liked and been acquainted with some men who, as old as he, were sympathizers of the Socialist movement. (This attitude certainly would not have increased Wilamowitz’s sympathies for him.) Pasquali’s judgment of 1920 on German affairs is relevant: “The Socialists are not the majority and do not have the power to impose themselves on the other parties. I am convinced that, despite multiple attempts, the parties of the right will not succeed in bringing back the Hohenzollern to the throne. I am just as certain that the republic, even with Socialist leadership, even adopting certain reforms that could certainly be called Socialist, will remain for now bourgeois and will continue the traditions of the Empire” {Socialisti tedeschi, Appendix, dated 13 March 1920). Pasquali wrote this with political acumen, while his teachers (Schwartz, Wilamowitz, etc.) were maintaining an attitude of prejudice and negativity toward the Weimar republic.

    Orazio lirico is Pasquali’s first book of substantial length on antiquity. It arises happily from an area of research very much alive in German Altertumswissenschaft: the unity of Hellenistic-Roman literature, according to the teachings of Wilamowitz in the last pages of his Geschichte der Philologie. In that sense Pasquali’s book has a “parallel” in Plautinisches im Plautus (1922) by his contemporary and friend, Eduard Fraenkel. Two central themes of Orazio lirico deserve to be emphasized. One is the notion of aemulatio in respect of Greek models. The Greek poems taken as models by Horace represent for him only the starting point. They are assumed as an initial “motto” rather than as the object of pedantic transposition. This concept of aemulatio would have its own original and autonomous development in the 1942 article, “Arte allusiva,” which refers back explicitly to Orazio lirico. The second theme of Orazio lirico is the determining influence of Hellenistic poetry (as opposed to archaic lyric) as the source of the inspiration of Horace’s lyric poetry. The book also contains an analysis of the genuinely Roman elements in Horace, that is, the “Roman Odes,” but without the conservatism and nationalism with which scholars such as Heinze and Reitzenstein approached those difficult texts. Unluckily, the book appeared in Italy in the middle of a polemic between philologists and antiphilologists, which had already begun during the war but had grown more fierce later on. The philologists were represented by Vitelli (a polemicist free from incivility); their opponents by Ettore Romagnoli (1871-1938) (a virulent anti-German nationalist, despiser of the philological method with which he had no familiarity, a crude and insolent polemicist, in that respect truly anima naturaliter fascist). It was a polemic in which hatred of philology and venomous hatred of Germany were, and were intended to be, synonymous. In that climate, Orazio lirico could only appear German par excellence. The most violent attack came from Corrado Barbagallo (1877-1952) (“Un libro sbagliato sulla poesia di Orazio,” [“A Mistaken Book on Horace’s Poetry”], Nuova rivista storica 6 [1922] 479-485); La Penna (b. 1925) properly called it “a horrifying hodge-podge of Crocean idealism and anti-German hatred” (preface to the new edition of Orazio Lirico: xvii). The historian Adolfo Omodeo (1889-1946) wrote in defense of Pasquali in Giovanni Gentile’s (1875-1944) journal (Giornale critico della filosofia italiana 3 [1922] 417-20). Gentile had himself reviewed the volume on its appearance. The situation in Germany was completely different. There, along with important praise, the criticism expressed reservations on the merit of the research, especially the failure to establish Horace’s place in the development of Latin poetry (F. Jacoby, DLZ 42 [1921] 48).

    With the small volume Filologia e storia, Pasquali entered directly into the contemporary polemic and faced the encounter with intellectual honesty and a desire to be understood. He was fighting at its roots the fallacious reasonings with which the antiphilologists confused critical editions with diplomatic editions or placed translation above every other critical and exegetical activity. Above specific arguments, however, there is, in the preface and reappearing here and there in the text, an antiracist position that deserves reflection. Pasquali understood that idolatry for the “Latin Genius” and hatred of Germany are in reality forms of racism, and for that reason he takes a position against racial prejudice. He will return to this theme with some difficulty in the Fascist era. Admittedly, the antiphilologists had no intention of debating but of rioting, and the pointless insults continued, until, years later, the narrow-minded nationalists like Romagnoli, turned into Fascists in the meantime, found themselves facing the embarrassing philo-German policy of the Fascist regime.

    With the March on Rome (28 October 1922) and the formation of Mussolini’s first government, Giovanni Gentile became Minister of Public Instruction. He nominated Giorgio Pasquali, for whom he nourished a deep esteem and authentic admiration, for membership in the Consiglio Superiore della Pubblica Istruzione. There is evidence for the seriousness with which Pasquali took the problems of schooling in the pamphlet L’universita di domani, written in collaboration with Piero Calamandrei. The theme of the politics of school and university is one to which Pasquali will return in the coming years, even after the Second World War. On the personal level the nomination by Gentile was an important recognition, but in the political and cultural area it was no small embarrassment. Pasquali soon (spring 1925) found himself in a striking contradiction. He enjoyed Gentile’s support (who, among other things, hoped for his full involvement in the Encyclopedia Italiana), but meanwhile he signed the “Manifesto” of the anti-Fascist intellectuals who had gathered around Benedetto Croce. That gesture did not fail to have some effect on the future public career of Pasquali, whose march toward Fascism was slow and winding, never amounting to a profound commitment, and was crowned much later with his promotion to membership in the Accademia d’ltalia almost on the eve of the fall of Fascism.

    In the years to come Pasquali moved from the study of important moments and forms of literary tradition to the full study of tradition as an historical problem. This phase of his research culminated in 1934 in the book that is justly his most famous and still without an equal, Storia della tradizione e critica del testo. Pasquali’s own expression is often repeated: “This book is born from a book review” (Storia della tradizione: ix). It was a book review of the first edition of Paul Maas’s Textkritik (Leipzig, 1927), which appeared in the German journal Gnomon 5 (1929) 417-35, 498-521. The fact is interesting not only as a paradoxical curiosity (the review is forty-two pages long, while the book under review had only eighteen pages) but above all as an aid to chronology. (The seven years from 1927 to 1934 were almost exclusively consecrated by Pasquali to the maturing of Storia.) It also helps to measure the difference between the abstract undertaking codified in Maas’s pamphlet and the effort of historical reconstruction poured out by Pasquali, generally with success. The Textkritik, in its original form to which Pasquali’s review refers, omits completely one essential preliminary part, what is known as “stemmatics” (the theory that helps individualize the genealogical connections between manuscripts). Paradoxically, that missing part, developed later by Maas in the form of an article (ByzZ 37 [1937] 289-94), was added by him as an appendix to the second edition (1950), a disturbing and illogical juxtaposition. Pasquali’s book, on the other hand, represents an imposing exemplification of concrete stemmatics, a series of histories of individual texts. The analysis in each case tends to include, on the one hand, the oldest phases and the oldest testimonies on the history of the text and, on the other, the most recent witnesses, in the documented conviction that the latter might preserve, especially in the Latin tradition, good independent tradition (“recentiores non deteriores").

    It is difficult to estimate the value of so rich a book. Pasquali himself tried in the “dodecalogue” that introduced the first (1934) and second editions (1952). Let us note here three formulations of innovative importance for method: a) “It is a prejudice to believe that the tradition of ancient authors is always mechanical; it is only mechanical when the scribe resigns himself to not understanding”; b) “It is a prejudice to believe that the transmission of texts is uniquely vertical; it is often horizontal or transversal, and in texts that are much read and in school texts one can say always so”; c) “As in linguistics ... so also coincidence of a reading in manuscript copies in areas far from the center of the culture and far from one another constitutes a presumption for the genuineness of that reading. . . . Often there is formed from much-read texts, whether in antiquity or the Middle Ages, a vulgate that, as with a fashion, progresses from a center towards the periphery” (Storia della tradizione: xvii).

    As is clear, a text-critical problem for Pasquali always becomes an historical and cultural problem. This way of viewing tradition was extended by Pasquali to what is apparently the most technical discipline, paleography, in an essay contemporary with the Storia della tradizione: “Paleografia come scienza dello spirito,” an essay in which, in the wake of Traube (1861-1907) and Ernesto Schiaparelli (1856-1928), the problem of writing and the problem of culture blend together. From this nonmechanical vision of the acts of writing and of copying follows a proper devaluation of the so-called criterion of “paleographical probability,” about which Pasquali talks in the second appendix of the Storia della tradizione. 

    We can ask ourselves whether Pasquali’s teaching in this field might have or has had paralyzing effects on the text-critical activity: that is, whether the effort spent on reconstructing the history of a tradition, pushed to the extreme, does not put off sine die the attempt to give a critical edition. Sebastiano Timpanaro (1923-2000) objected to Pasquali (La genesi del metodo del Lachmann [Florence, 1963] 91 = [Padua, 1985] 102): “There is still the practical need not to put off forever certain critical editions in order to study the history of the tradition in all its smallest details, not to immerse oneself so deeply in the study of medieval and humanist culture so as to forget to return to textual criticism.” The objection does not appear completely convincing. The imperative, nevertheless, is not to get up new critical editions but rather to produce them now only when they will be truly innovative (in those cases the complete reconsideration of the history of the text is essential) and then to publish real progress. The impact of the Storia della tradizione has not been equal to its admittedly great prestige. (One finds it now present in the bibliographies of many critical editions.) In the postilla to the third edition of his Textkritik (1957), Maas thinks he can liquidate with a summary polemic Pasquali’s reflections on the attention that needs to be paid to “deteriores” and concludes with an angry outburst, recalling Cobet (1813-89): “comburendi [recentiores], non confer endil”

    That the most important theme of Pasquali’s thinking concerned the history of texts is shown by the fact that after the difficult parenthesis of the years 1943-1947, characterized by powerful political and existential traumas, Pasquali picked up the thread of his own work with the “Preghiera” of 1947 (SIFC 22 [1947] 261), where he asked scholars for proposals and objections to consider while writing a new, completely recast edition of the Storia della tradizione. That edition never appeared. The edition of 1952 was furnished with new appendices, one of which was a review from Gnomon 1951 (=Storia della tradizione, 469-480) that demonstrates appreciation for the work of Alphonse Dain (1896-1964) and his teacher Desrousseaux. It was a recognition, admittedly somewhat belated, of the validity of the orientation of French classical studies. Pasquali’s positive evaluation was in clear distinction from the studied contempt for French scholarship exhibited by Wilamowitz and his orthodox students. It was only natural that Pasquali, with his positive attitude toward “recentiores,” had much in common with Dain, a student of manuscripts as concrete realities, which had their own trials and tribulations, but who was also alert to the most remote phases of the history of their texts.

    After the conclusion of the long work on the Storia della tradizione (1934), the second half of the thirties was characterized by the reemergence in Pasquali of interests in the Roman world on the one hand, and by a laborious reconsideration of the Platonic Epistles on the other.

    Pasquali had already shown some interest in archaic Rome, for example, in the introductory essay for an Italian translation of Fustel de Coulanges’s (1830-89) Cité antique (1924), where among other things, he recognized the importance of Arthur Rosenberg’s (1889-1943) research on the government of the early Italici, as well as in a review of Meillet’s (1866-1936) Esquisse d'une histoire de la langue latine (Pegaso 2 [1930]). His most important work in this area, however, is Preistoria della poesia romana (1936), along with the contemporary essay on La grande Roma dei Tarquini. The book develops a theory according to which the Saturnian is the fruit of an “original Roman synthesis” of Greek cola. “But the book’s value is not tied to that hypothesis. Linguistics, archaeology and history compete to reconstruct the culture of archaic Rome and the Greek influences on it” (Gennaro Perrotta, “Intelligenza di Giorgio Pasquali,” Primato 1 [1943] 6). S. Timpanaro, in the introduction to the new edition of 1981, page 59, went along with that judgment: “The historical and cultural part of the volume . . . has turned out to be truer and more vital than the strictly, technically metrical part.” When he collected his “Roman” writings of 1936-1941, Pasquali announced, “I have not lost all hope of being able to finish, before my death, a history of the idea of Rome in antiquity, to which these essays are preliminary sketches.” The project, however, never developed beyond the article “Idea di Roma” in the Enciclopedia Italiana (39 [1936] 906-16).

    The book on Plato’s Letters began as seminars held at Florence and at the Scuola Normale at Pisa in 1931-1932. Pasquali was following in the footsteps of Eduard Meyer (1855-1930), who had argued for the authenticity of the Epistles against a scholarly consensus that had denied their authenticity. Unlike Meyer, Pasquali accepted only VII and VIII as genuine. In the “Preghiera” of 1947, where he also says he would get up a new edition of the Letters, Pasquali criticized himself: “I think I know now that there are quite a few other letters which are genuine besides the two I defended fourteen years ago.” As had happened to Wilamowitz’s book on Plato, Pasquali’s book found less success than he had hoped for. G. Pugliese Carratelli (1911-2010) wrote in the introduction to the reprint of 1967, “Today the debate on the authenticity has begun again, even for the Seventh Epistle.” More recently Jaap Mansfeld (b. 1936) denies the authenticity of the entire corpus.

    In his last years (1948-1952) Pasquali felt called upon to intervene again in the problems of school and university. This renewed engagement was brought about by the new political situation in Italy, characterized by conservative drives of a clerical nature, to which Pasquali’s laicismo reacted critically. His research turned toward an interest in Italian linguistics, even though he still wrote admirable essays on the ancient world, such as “Il proemio dell’ Odissea” (1951). His last work (Storia della spirito tedesco) was a long reflection on the memoirs of his old friend, Ludwig Curtius, which appeared in 1950 (Deutsche undantike Welt). Pasquali reveals the desire to write his own autobiography. “I will explain this better,” he writes at a certain point, “if my life should last long enough to allow me to write my own memoirs, which ought to prove of some interest for the history and the culture of the Roman middle class of the end of the last century.” The title was in no way pretentious. Pasquali really was an historian of the German “Geist,” since he composed “portraits" of the greatest figures of a crucial discipline, classical philology. He wrote of Wackernagel, Hulsen, Warburg, Wilamowitz, etc. The high point of his reflections is perhaps his essay on “Theodore Mommsen’s Will,” which concentrated on the self-critical torment, the anguish of “seeming rather than being,” that undermined the apparent arrogance of the great historian.

    When Pasquali was named to the Italian Academy, Gennaro Perrotta (1900-62) wrote for the journal Pegaso the portrait we mentioned above. It begins with the aspect that seemed to Perrotta most important in Pasquali’s personality: that of the teacher. Pasquali was an innovator in Italian university instruction. He introduced into Italy the German-style seminar. The place from which his instruction spread its influence was the Seminar for Classical Philology of the Scuola Normale at Pisa (which today bears his name). It was Giovanni Gentile, for many years the school’s diligent director, who brought Pasquali there. There Pasquali’s influence was felt not only by the most important figures of the next generation of Italian classical philology but alsoby students of the Renaissance, Italian language and literature, and by modern historians.

    Translated by E. Christian Kopff