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1911 Encyclopedia Britannica

Justus Lipsius

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JUSTUS LIPSIUS (1547-1606), the Latinized name of Joest (Juste or Josse) Lips, Belgian scholar, born on the ,8th of October (15th of November, according to Amiel) 1547 at Overyssche, a small village in Brabant, near Brussels. Sent early to the Jesuit college in Cologne, he was removed at the age of sixteen to the university of Louvain by his parents, who feared that he might be induced to become a member of the Society of Jesus. The publication of his Variarum Lectionum Libri Tres (1567), dedicated to Cardinal Granvella, procured him an appointment as Latin secretary and a visit to Rome in the retinue of the cardinal. Here Lipsius remained two years, devoting his spare time to the study of the Latin classics, collecting inscriptions and examining MSS. in the Vatican. A second volume of miscellaneous criticism ( Antiquarum Lectionum Libri Quinque, 1575), published after his return from Rome, compared with the Variae Lectiones of eight years earlier, shows that he had advanced from the notion of purely conjectural emendation to that of emending by collation. In 1570 he wandered over Burgundy, Germany, Austria, Bohemia, and was engaged for more than a year as teacher in the university of Jena, a position which implied an outward conformity to the Lutheran Church. On his way back to Louvain, he stopped some time at Cologne, where he must have comported himself as a Catholic. He then returned to Louvian, but was soon driven by the Civil War to take refuge in Antwerp, where he received, in 1579, a call to the newly founded university of Leiden, as professor of history. At Leiden, where he must have passed as a Calvinist, Lipsius remained eleven years, the period of his greatest productivity. It was now that he prepared his Seneca, perfected, in successive editions, his Tacitus and brought out a series of works, some of pure scholarship, others collections from classical authors, others again of general interest. Of this latter class was a treatise on politics ( Politicorum Libri Sex, 1589), in which he showed that, though a public teacher in a country which professed toleration, he had not departed from the state maxims of Alva and Philip II. He lays it down that a government should recognize only one religion, and that dissent should be extirpated by fire and sword. From the attacks to which this avowal exposed him, he was saved by the prudence of the authorities of Leiden, who prevailed upon him to publish a declaration that his expression, Ure, seta, was a metaphor for a vigorous treatment. In the spring of 1590, leaving Leiden under pretext of taking the waters at Spa, he went to Mainz, where he was reconciled to the Roman Catholic Church. The event deeply interested the Catholic world, and invitations poured in on Lipsius from the courts and universities of Italy, Austria and Spain. But he preferred to remain in his own country, and finally settled at Louvain, as professor of Latin in the Collegium Buslidianum. He was not expected to teach, and his trifling stipend was eked out by the appointments of privy councillor and historiographer to the king of Spain. He continued to publish dissertations as before, the chief being his De militia romana (Antwerp, 1595) and Lovanium (Antwerp, 1605; 4th ed., Wesel, 1671), intended as an introduction to a general history of Brabant. He died at Louvian on the 23rd of March (some give 24th of April) 1606.

Lipsius's knowledge of classical antiquity was extremely limited. He had but slight acquaintance with Greek, and in Latin literature the poets and Cicero lay outside his range. His greatest work was his edition of Tacitus. This author he had so completely made his own that he could repeat the whole, and offered to be tested in any part of the text, with a poniard held to his breast, to be used against him if he should fail. His Tacitus first appeared in 1575, and was five times revised and corrected - the last time in 1606, shortly before his death. His Opera Omnia appeared in 8 vols. at Antwerp (1585, 2nd ed., 1637).

A full list of his publications will be found in van der Aa, Biographisch Woordenboek der Nederlanden (1865), and in Bibliographie Lipsienne (Ghent, 1886-1888). In addition to the biography by A. le Mire (Aubertus Miraeus) (1609), the only original account of his life, see M. E. C. Nisard, Le Triumvirat litteraire au X VJ e siècle (1852); A. Rass, Die Convertiten seit der Reformation '(1867); P. Bergman's Autobiographie de J. Lipse (1889); L. Galesloot, Particularite's sur la vie de J. Lipse (1877); E. Amiel, Un Publiciste du X VJ e siecle. Juste Lipse (1884); and L. Muller, Geschichte der klassischen Philologie in den Niederlanden. The articles by J. J. Thonissen of Louvain in the Nouvelle Biographie generate, and L. Roersch in Biographie nationale de Belgique, may also be consulted.

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Bibliography Information
Chisholm, Hugh, General Editor. Entry for 'Justus Lipsius'. 1911 Encyclopedia Britanica. 1910.

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