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Friends Hold All Things in Common

Friends Hold All Things in Common: Tradition, Intellectual Property, and the Adages of Erasmus

Kathy Eden
Copyright Date: 2001
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    Friends Hold All Things in Common
    Book Description:

    Erasmus'Adages-a vast collection of the proverbial wisdom of Greek and Roman antiquity-was published in 1508 and became one of the most influential works of the Renaissance. It also marked a turning point in the history of Western thinking about literary property. At once a singularly successful commercial product of the new printing industry and a repository of intellectual wealth, theAdageslooks ahead to the development of copyright and back to an ancient philosophical tradition that ideas should be universally shared in the spirit of friendship.In this elegant and tightly argued book, Kathy Eden focuses on both the commitment to friendship and common property that Erasmus shares with his favorite philosophers-Pythagoras, Plato, and Christ-and the early history of private property that gradually transforms European attitudes concerning the right to copy. In the process she accounts for the peculiar shape of Erasmus' collection of more than 3,000 proverbs and provides insightful readings of such ancient philosophical and religious thinkers as Pythagoras, Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Iamblichus, Tertullian, Basil, Jerome, and Augustine.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-13364-6
    Subjects: Law

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-7)

    Responding in 1523 to a request from his friend John Botzheim, then Canon of Constance, to provide a catalogue of his works, Erasmus recalls among many other things the unfortunate events that occasioned his making a collection of Greek and Roman proverbs—the project that secured his literary fame throughout Europe and that has come down to us as theAdages. Leaving England for the Continent by way of Dover in January of 1500, Erasmus, as he remembers, found himself at odds with an English customs officer. Having trusted the assurances of his two English friends Thomas More and William...

  5. 1 What Do a Spoiled Egyptian, a Captive Woman, and a Pythagorean Have in Common?: Erasmus on Tradition
    (pp. 8-32)

    In one of his longest and most widely circulated adages, the “Sileni Alcibiadis,” Erasmus rehearses his cultural program for cooperation between the classical and Christian traditions by situating Jesus in a long line of silenus-like figures: modest, even ridiculous on the outside; profoundly beautiful, even beatific on the inside. Beginning with Socrates, Erasmus traces this pedigree to include other ancient lovers of wisdom such as Antisthenes, Diogenes, Epictetus, the Hebrew prophets, and John the Baptist (III. iii. 1; LB, II, 771B–772D; CWE, 34, 263–65) . As he delineates this genealogy, he also briefly outlines its intellectual charter. And...

  6. 2 Friends and Lovers in the Symposium: Plato on Tradition
    (pp. 33-55)

    Fully in keeping with the literary agenda of theAdagesto make available to Christian readers the common store of classical learning, Erasmus reconfigures the relation between the classical and Christian traditions from one between enemies to one between friends, not inappropriately replacing the patristic figure from Scripture of the Israelites despoiling the Egyptians with one from ancient philosophy as part of the newly reembraced classical past. As we have seen in the previous chapter, Erasmus’ source for this replacement is first and foremost Pythagoras, father of both the saying that friends hold all things in common and the way...

  7. 3 Plato on Proverbial Wisdom and the Philosophical Life
    (pp. 56-77)

    With theSymposium,as we have seen in the previous chapter, Plato both gives the question of traditionality philosophical attention and makes his case for the philosophical tradition as the best means of education. Grounded in friendship orphilia,this tradition moreover owes its genesis to its adversarial relation with poetry and sophistry. Prevailing over poet and sophist, Plato’s philosopher, as characterized in this dialogue, passes on to his students not just an education but an educated way of life. The value of this way of life, the philosopher’s role in passing it on and its compatibility withphilosophia Christi...

  8. 4 Property, Pythagoras, and Ancient Political Philosophy
    (pp. 78-108)

    Advocating a life at once philosophical and Christian in the “Sileni Alcibiadis,” Erasmus skillfully anticipates his reader’s objection that European princes cannot possibly take Plato’s guardians from theRepublicas their models. In response, Erasmus insists that far from trying to deprive these princes of their wealth, he is rather recommending that they pay more attention to property of another, more valuable kind (LB, II, 777B; CWE, 34, 273) . In previous chapters, we have already seen that Erasmus inherits his understanding of both friendship and friendship’s relation to tradition from a philosophical tradition that goes back to Pythagoras and...

  9. 5 Pythagoreans and Christians on Traditioning the Common Life
    (pp. 109-141)

    While mining the texts of the ancient philosophers for their proverbial riches, Erasmus discovers in these same texts just how central a role property played in ancient political theory. At the same time, he also discovers the commonalities between the political philosophy traditionally associated with Pythagoras and his followers (including Plato) and the earliest forms of cenobitic monasticism. These commonalities must in turn have reinforced Erasmus’ commitment tophilosophia Christi;for they speak most eloquently to just those traditions shared by the ancients and early Christians.¹ Not surprisingly, these commonalities also find their way back into his treatment of more...

  10. 6 Intellectual Property and the Adages
    (pp. 142-163)

    Arguably the single hottest literary property of the first quarter of the sixteenth century, Erasmus’Adagiorum chiliadeshelped to secure the fame and fortune of Europe’s two most powerful printing houses during this time, that of Aldo Manuzio in Venice and Johann Froben in Basel. The Aldine edition of theAdages,by Erasmus’ own account the product of friendship and close collaboration, appeared under its newt itle in 1508, vastly expanding and revising the ParisCollectaneaof 1500. Seven years later, the second edition, again revised and expanded, launched the longstanding friendship and commercial partnership between Erasmus and Froben, his...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 164-174)

    Looking back in 1523 on anAdagesnow in the prime of life, Erasmus, as we saw in the introduction, recalled for his friend Botzheim its birth and gradual development.¹ As we have just seen in the preceding chapter, the earliest phase of this development from the 1500Collectaneato the AldineAdagesof 1508 was far from haphazard. Erasmus, we learned, used a chiliastic organization to drawhis readers’ attention to the deeply embedded but shifting issues of property that form the substrate of an apparently disorganized collection.² By tradition, as we also learned, these issues are linked with notions...

  12. Bibliography of Secondary Sources
    (pp. 175-188)
  13. Index
    (pp. 189-194)