Desiderius Erasmus - "Prince of the Humanists"

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  • Topic: Desiderius Erasmus, Basel, Hans Holbein the Younger
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  • Published : October 8, 1999
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A date that may have little connotation in the minds of history students everywhere was, in fact, the date that gave birth to a man more brave than any comic book could ever illustrate. On October 28, 1466, Desiderius Erasmus was born the illegitimate son of Margaretha Rogers and Gerard in Rotterdam, Holland. Despite such a dull and seemingly trite birth, Erasmus would grow to be a great influence in the Renaissance era. Through the questioning of established people and institutions, such as modern theologians and education systems, Erasmus became known as the "Prince of the Humanists" and a great revolutionary known throughout the world.

Erasmus was raised by his mother through boyhood and, at the age of nine, attended the school of the famous humanist Hegius at Deventer. At the age of 13, his mother died; soon after, his father followed in her footsteps. Left orphaned, the boy's guardians sent him to the monastery school of Hertogenbosch for two years. As a youth, he demonstrated anticipation in the learning of Latin, theology, and elegant writing styles, though he later called his time at Hertogenbosch "two wasted years."

In 1486, Erasmus continued his schooling at monasteries at Emmaus, where he devoted his studies to the ancient classics. He also had religious training while studying at Saint Jerome and Lorenzo Valla. His devotion to studies resulted in the opportunity of a lifetime. In 1491, the Bishop of Cambrai chose Erasmus to accompany him as both his secretary and traveling companion. In 1492, he ordained priesthood, but this still was not enough to fulfill him. Erasmus had a desire to continue his education.

In 1496, the bishop sent Erasmus to continue his studies at the University of Paris. It was here that he befriended the humanists Colet and Thomas Moore. Disappointed by the educational techniques that he found in Paris, the aspiring prodigy of humanism learned only to abandon the scholastic method and study the...
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