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History Reinterpreted: The Uses of Greek Historiography in Swedish Humanist Poetry

Fri, March 23, 4:00 to 5:30pm, Hilton Riverside Complex, Port Room


In his Strategema Gothici exercitus adversus Darium (1559), the Swedish Neo-Latin poet Laurentius Petri Gothus used the Histories of Herodotus and the Historia de omnibus Gothorum Sueonumque regibus of Johannes Magnus. In the dedication, Gothus argues that the Goths originated from Sweden, and that Herodotus, who did distinguish the Goths from the Scythians, nevertheless mistakenly ascribed most Gothic deeds to the Scythians. After identifying the Swedes with the Scythians/Goths who had fearlessly faced the Persian invasion in Herodotus’ Histories, Gothus confirms in a Greek prefatory poem that the story in the Latin carmen is to be read as a paradigm of what awaits unjust aggressors. Departing from this piece of propaganda (directed at Denmark) by a scholar sponsored by the Vasa dynasty, this paper considers similar uses of topoi from Greek historiography employed in humanist poetry by Swedes in order to reinterpret their history and to enhance the Swedish self-image.