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Saving and Shaping the Roman Past Athanasius Kircher’s Reception of Rome’s Textual and Tangible Legacy

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Saving and Shaping the Roman Past Athanasius Kircher’s Reception of Rome’s Textual and Tangible Legacy

How to combine a deep admiration for classical antiquity with a profound adherence to Christianity and Biblical tradition? In Renaissance Europe, both classical and Christian tradition were seen as authoritative, and attempts were made to reconcile the pagan legacy with the Christian tradition (Lee et al. 2010). The city of Rome, the capital of both traditions, was marked by cultural, political and religious heritage. The uncovering and restoring of Roman antiquity, perceptible in ruined monuments and texts, was largely the result of humanists’ activities (de Beer, forthcoming). After the Tridentine Council, in the heyday of the Counter-Reformation, the Catholic Church fervently sought to re-establish itself as ultimate legislator, interpreter of Scripture and legitimate successor of ancient Roman glory. Concurrently, the first steps towards the scientific revolution were made.

Saving and Shaping the Roman Past Athanasius Kircher’s Reception of Rome’s Textual and Tangible Legacy

This research project aims to demonstrate that in this complex political, religious and scientific situation, the ancient Roman legacy could actually serve to make ideological, political and geographical claims. It will do so by focussing on the prominent seventeenth-century Jesuit scholar Athanasius Kircher (1602-1680). Kircher collected, interpreted and published on both textual and tangible remains from classical antiquity. Earlier scholars (Evans 2012) have focussed on the (in)accuracy of these descriptions and interpretations. This project instead aims to contextualize and rhetorically analyse Kircher’s reception of classical antiquity. A multidisciplinary approach, framed by Classical Reception Studies, in which literary and museum studies are combined in a critical discourse analysis model, will help to illustrate that Kircher was not only concerned with saving ancient Roman legacy, but also actively involved in shaping Roman history, creating a continuum between classical and Biblical history. A comparative analysis of Kircher’s reception of Chinese and Egyptian history will help to clarify his agenda and frame the seventeenth-century meaning and uses of Roman legacy.