Biography of Elio Antonio de Nebrija (1444-1522)

Humanist and Spanish polygraph, real name Antonio Martínez de Cala and Jarava, born in Lebrija (Seville) in 1444 and died 2 July 1522 in Alcalá de Henares (Madrid). He/She was author, among many other works, of the first grammar of the Spanish language.

Grammar of the Castilian language of Nebrija. Bishops of Barcelona public library.


There are many data that left us Nebrija, collected in the prologues and the preliminary cards of some of his works on his own life. Thus, in the dedicatory letter with which opens the Español vocabulary (1495), the humanist Juan de Zúñiga - master of the order of Alcántara, addresses at the same time as protector and friend, trace a brief sketch of his person. He/She evokes her childhood, after in lands of Lebrija, and to remember their adolescence, devoted entirely to the study: first, in Salamanca; later, in Italy. In this way, we know that he/she was born in the year 1444, although fit certain doubts in this regard, as there are documents bearing the date of his birth to 1441. However, respond to their testimony, there is no doubt about the first dating:

"But even though cleaveth me already the year fifty-one of my age because I was born a year before that in time of the King Don Juan the second was the successful battle of Olmedo (which had logar in 1445)". Español vocabulary.

His childhood is drawn with strokes more emotional and delicate in the poems he/she wrote in honor of his land and his parents returned from Italy. They are your Antonii Nebrissensis salutatio ad patriam multis annis non before visa et memorata infantia sua, and the titled homeland antiquitate fertilitateque eius et parentibus auctoris, remembers where his house, his first steps and even the songs of her mother. Thanks to these panegíricas compositions of remarkable brevity, we know something about his brothers and sisters (died very young) and their parents, who said were medium condition.

In that way, is known that Antonio Martínez de Cala and Jarava learned the first rudiments of Latin letters in his hometown. This memory remains in the letter that he/she wrote to the Catholic King on the occasion of his appointment as Royal historian in 1509:

"Although I've not learnt latin in Lazio even in Sarmacia, but in the Bética, which, says Strabo, was the first among all Hispanic peoples became the Roman language and customs".

Subsequently, and in accordance with other news that the own Nebrija gives of itself, we know that he/she completed his curriculum studiorum through journeys within and outside Spain, as well as many other scholars of the time:

"So in ten and nine years old I went to Italy, not because others are, or to earn income from church or to bring civil and canonical law formulas, more so, by the law of the tornada, after luengo time it restituyese in the possession of its lost ground from latin authors, who were already many centuries there were exiles from Spain." Español vocabulary.

It was precisely that stay in Bologna, as a fellow of the Spanish College of San Clemente, who had to mark their further steps. In fact, this Italian journey was determined that, in Spain, Nebrija was the main defender of many of the fundamentals of humanism, which Petrarchhad breathed not few powers in the 14th century. Nicolás Antonio, in the biography of inserts in your library Hispana Nova Nebrija, sheds light on some aspects of this stage of training. It reminds us that he/she visited numerous centres of study and that it could bring "the great fruits of the languages Latin, Greek, and helena and the erudition of all the Liberal Arts". All this was made possible by teachers of the stature of the Grammarian Martino Galeoto. Similarly, Nicolás Antonio recalls that you penetrated the secrets of theology, the two rights (utriusque iuris) and the art of medicine.

The first years in Salamanca.

To such an extent was imbued with the atmosphere of cultural renewal and emulation of classical antiquity which decided to change its name, according to the fashion of those times (suffice it to recall as illustrious as Pomponio Leto or Jovian Pontano), in order to evoke the glorious past of their ancestors. That was the reason that prompted him to adopt the nickname of Elio, in correspondence with the Spanish of yesteryear, such as Adriano or Trajan. Of course, it loaded so inks on the old Bética, his beloved Andalusian country. At the same time, Martínez dropped the surname and replaced it by Nebrija, in accordance with the Latin name of his native Lebrija: Nebrissa Veneria, of which we find first mention in the poet Silius Italicus.

But this man, restless and innovative spirit, could not be content with the simple accumulation of knowledge. For that reason, equipped with such background, he/she decided to return to Spain willing to strengthen here some of the features of Italian humanism trends. His first fautor was none other than Alonso de Fonseca, Archbishop of Seville, who entrusted the formation of his nephew Juan de Fonseca, the future Bishop of Burgos. Anyway, his ambitious project not could be if only was dedicated to special education with a small group of students, task which was then played some Italian humanists in families of the nobility or the Court itself. At the death of the Archbishop, three years after his arrival in Italy, Nebrija moved to Salamanca, Spanish University for excellence, in order that its doctrine could be deployed more easily:

"So I, to uproot the barbarity of the men of our nation, not started on the other hand but by the study of Salamanca, which, as a fortress, taken by combat, not doubted me that all the other peoples of Spain would then come to is surrender". Español vocabulary.

Driven by this desire of propalar his knowledge, 4 July 1475 signed a contract with the University by which it agreed to give two lessons a day for five years: of eloquence and poetry. However, to the vacant Chair of grammar in 1476, it opositó to it and won the contest. Thus achieved one of its highest aspirations: the be considered a Grammarian, trade that had been claimed by Angelo Poliziano in Italy. For these humanists, the grammar was the art basic and fundamental to access other fields of knowledge. The Grammarian, with the domain of this discipline and, therefore, Latin language, could enter into the silva of legal, medical or theological texts. In fact, so it was, because there is no doubt that Nebrija throughout his life showed more than its competition in all of these areas, as evidenced by the diverse set of his works and reviews. As an example, suffice it to quote their Aenigmata iuris civilis, also known as Lexicon Iuris Civilis, published in Salamanca in 1506, or rich reviews to the lexicon of Dioscorides, appeared in Alcalá de Henares in 1518; for this last work, Nebrija departed from the Latin version of Jean de la Ruel.

Let's go back to your life to add to that he/she held the Chair of grammar for twelve years, period in which contracted marriage with Isabel Solís, which had six sons and a daughter. Long family was too much load for Nebrija; However, this was a very fruitful time in publications. The Introductiones latinae saw the light in 1481, with an enormous publishing success, since they were erected as the first grammatical method in Spain for the teaching of latin in accordance with the new canons marked by Lorenzo Valla in their Elegantiarum linguae latinae libri Vl. In 1485, Nebrija read his first repetitio membris et Guggenheim grammaticae, and in June 1486, entitled the Repetitio secunda: corruptis Hispanorum ignorantia litteratam vocibus quarumdam, which is the way to correctly pronounce latin. By then, Nebrija came into contact with fray Hernando de Talavera, who, on the occasion of the pilgrimage of the Catholic Kings to Santiago, commissioned a commemorative poem: Ferdinandi is ac Helisabethae Hispaniae regum clarissimorum profectio ad lacobum, which was also included in the collection of the poetry of Nebrija in 1491.

It was the Talavera, then confessor of the Queen, who told Nebrija desire that Doña Isabel had the Introductiones is editasen together with a version in Spanish. Finally, this latino-espanola version, appeared in 1486 (although there are critics who prefer to date it in 1488), is a rare bird, as this was the only occasion in which the opposed the Introductiones Edition saw the light. Over time, this work, enlarged with countless reviews and even the inclusion of hexametros to the Villa Dei manual mode (widely criticized for the rest), it became a ragbag encyclopedia, full of rules and exceptions and far removed from the initial will of Nebrija. The most famous critiques found them in contemporary authors, such as Lucio Marineo Sículoor some later, as Juan de Maldonado in his Paraenesis ad litteras or Juan Valdés by means of their dialogue of the language.

The patronage of Juan de Zúñiga (1487-1504). The grammar of the Castilian language.

The desire of Nebrija's devote himself to his own research, away from the classroom, was satisfied with the help of Juan de Zúñiga, who provided the financial support needed to leave the University. It was a period of feverish activity, in which he/she published the dictionary maker (1492), the Español vocabulary (ca. 1495), or the grammar of the Castilian language (1492), also defended before the Queen by fray Hernando de Talavera, who recognized the utility of this instrument for disseminating the Castilian language in the new lands of the Empire:

"When in Salamanca di sample of this work to your Majesty asked me to what could take advantage, the very Reverend Father Bishop of Ávila snatched me the answer and answered by me and said that, after that your Highness poking under his yoke many barbarian peoples and Pilgrim languages and with the maturity of those Nations should need laws that Victor to the vanquished and with them our language"then by my art could come in the knowledge of it as we now deprendemos art of Latin grammar to deprender latin."

Let's take a moment to calibrate the extreme importance of this work, which has already five centuries. It is well known that one of the basic demands of Italian humanism had been latin debugging: now, do not forget that another equally important front opened in favour of the vernacular: it was dignifying the Spanish as he/she was doing with the Italian language that Petrarch identified with latin. Antonio de Nebrija was the first collect witness and prepare the first modern grammar of a vernacular (far left dense grammatical notes Occitan poetry arts and experiments of a similar nature in other areas of the Romania). Thirty-seven years were missing that appeared the first Italian grammar of Trissino, fifty-eight that saw light the French Louis Miegret and close to fifty for the Portuguese Fernando de Oliveira of 1536.

In this way, could be "fix and reduce artifice homeland language up to our old went loose and out rule and this cause has received few centuries many adventures, because, if we want it to compare with today's five hundred years, we will find such a difference and diversity there can be between two languages". On the other hand, Nebrija glimpse the fundamental role that would correspond to a Castilian regularized within the expansionist and unifying policy of the Catholic monarchs, because "the language was always companion of the Empire and so followed it that together they started, grew and flourished". Spanish was, thus, an instrument at the service of the new nation, forged after the expulsion of the Arabs from their last stronghold in the Kingdom of Granada:

"And certain so that not only the enemies of our faith have already need to know Spanish language over the inhabitants, Navarre, French, Italian, and all the others who have some treatment and conversation in Spain and need of our language if they do not come from children to the deprender by use, more aina podranla know my work by this".

Despite its extraordinary importance, grammar did not return to editing in the life of the author; in fact, he/she had to wait until the 18th century a second edition at the hands of Francisco Miguel Goyoneche, count of Saceda.

To resume the thread of the works of this period of otium, composed together to the maestre of Alcantara, note your sample Antiquities of Spain (1499), which constitutes a clear example of humanistic interest that aroused the archaeological remains, which was witness of a glorious cultural past; at the bottom of this preoccupation with the vestiges of antiquity was beating a clear nationalist sentiment that Nebrija had not hesitated to declare any other occasion, as in the prologue to his grammar (and because my thought and wins always was to enlarge the things of our nation [.]").

Other signs of this humanist interest in the ruins are several poemillas dedicated to certain Roman monuments, composed by those same dates: the Emerita restituta, its Traiani Caesaris Ponte and De statua Amaltheae, including everyone in the edition of his poems of 1491. Finally, have to remember a new piece dedicated to Zúñiga: his Cosmographiae Isagoge (ca. 1498), who, as they have reminded some critics, responds to the interest raised by the geographical and astronomical matters in an era marked by the great voyages and discoveries.

To this time also belongs the third edition of the Introductiones (1495), also known as a Recognitio, in which the grammatical text was accompanied by an extensive gloss; Since that time, there were two distinct forms of print work: an extensive, consisting of text and commentary, in size folio, and one shorter in size of room.

For these years, also shone with special glare the Nebrija polygraph, delivered to scientific subjects such as astronomy; in fact, his contribution was decisive for the recovery of the figure and the work of Ptolemy, with the exact indication of latitudes and lengths for each place of the world. In this regard, Nebrija offered the epitome In Cosmographiae books introductorium (1499), works in which the starting point is in the sign of aries in the celestial sphere and the island of iron in the Earth. This work refers to the discoveries in the new world, which gives it an added value.

Nebrija returns to Salamanca (1505-1513).

Even under the protection of Zúñiga, Nebrija opositó to the Chair that had been vacant in Salamanca to the death of Pedro Gomiel in 1503, although it never went to occupy it. Only on the death of his protector, in 1504, Nebrija returned their steps towards the Salamanca city, where in 1505 took possession of a new Chair, also won by the opposition. At the end of this course, read the Repetitio tertia: peregrinum dictionum accentu and, in that same year of 1506, published his Lexicon iuris civilis. In 1507, brings to light its Repetitio quarta: De Litteris Hebraicis cum quibusdam annotationibus in Scripturam sacra; also that year is his fifth Repetitio: analogy, hoc est de proportione. His literary and research activity absorbed it all the time, so, gradually began to neglect their attendance at school. This situation, in 1509, the University staff decided to vacate his chair to the not have stepped on by class for more than four months. We have to assume that that was a hard blow for the master, who had no other means of subsistence than his salary as a teacher.

The King, it is said that advised by his Secretary Miguel de Almazán, appointed him Royal chronicler so you write the history of his reign. Thus began the historical activity of Nebrija, who exposed their ideas about such a noble profession in the letter addressed to the monarch, insert at the beginning of the history of the Catholic Kings, known with the title of Divinatio in scribenda story. In that place, Nebrija welcomes the fact that Fernando el Católico had selected a Spanish to carry out such work, instead opting to other foreign writers. With those words, he/she clearly referred to other two historians of Italian origin present in the Court, the famous Lucio Marineo Siculo and Pedro Mártir de Anglería:

"Non non possum magni facere tuum of me iudicium, clarissime Princeps, quod, former so doctissimorum virorum qui per omne ditionis tuæ imperium luxury sunt, copy me potissimum delegeris, cui immortalia tua gesta latino sermone describenda mandares". ("I can not estimate much judgement of me you have, very clear Prince, because among so many doctisimos males are dispersed for your Kingdom I have chosen me as best suited to write in latin your immortal exploits").

While in the same epistle, Nebrija said to have been collecting documents and news related to the time that had to historicise, other contemporary authors tell us that their work was limited to the translator grouper of the work of Hernando del Pulgar , written in Spanish. The work was published posthumously in 1545 thanks to his son Sancho, who, abandoned his dedication to law, founded a printing press in Granada with the desire to publish reliable versions of the works of his father, in particular of the dictionary, which, in his words, "was extremely depraved". Thus, saw the light the Rerum Fernando Elisabe Hispaniarum et foelicissimis regibus gestarum decades duas, along with two other books on the war of Navarre composed the humanist. The rugged work of Nebrija as historiographer was you reserved some additional setback, as the whacked by a comment from Andreas Scoto, which defined his style of humilis ('low'), "either because commissioned to write the story, was already old because because interrupted by death could not Polish it".

In August of that same year 1509, Nebrija returned to opositar to a professorship at Salamanca, of rhetoric, which obtained not presented anyone more. Works closely related to this new stage in the womb in the salmantina Academy are the sixth Repetitio: Mensuris, 1510, where is the metric units of capacity and length used by the ancients; the Repetitio seventh: De Ponderibus of 1511, which deals with the old units of weight and capacity with the inclusion of an interesting glossary of terms related to these concepts; and the Repetitio eighth: de Numeris of 1512, where it picks up the different denominations that the classics were for ordinal and cardinal numbers. Later, the three were printed together under the title of Repetitio seventh: De Ponderibus in 1527. As J. M. López Piñero with respect to these matters, "on the other hand, it is not demonstrated [Nebrija] measuring a degree of the Meridian in terrestrial, as several historians apologetics guidance from Fernández de Navarrete." The only ground is a vague testimony of the various lesson (1542) of Pedro MexíaSilva "."

The environment at the University was becoming more heated. With his combative attitude, Nebrija had managed to return against the spirits of many eminent representatives of the University life of the moment. He/She directed a steel taunt against the passive attitude of the Salamanca faculty in the prologue to his Repetitio octave: in its way of seeing things, the publication of repetitions as theirs could be a good way to demonstrate the knowledge of university teachers. In his attack, Nebrija resorted to an anecdote in which showed the surprised Pope before the Spanish University system, in which teachers had lifetime jobs, which carries also an additional retirement, with the consequent detriment of its research activity.

This was the straw that broke the camel. Their last academic ceremony in Salamanca was reading his Relectio Latin accentu donato latinitate aut nona, in 1513. When that same year wanted to occupy the Chair of grammar, which interestingly enough the textbook was none other than their Introductiones, only managed to stay in second place, because square was granted the Bachelor Castillo García.

Nebrija in the University of Alcalá de Henares (1514-1522).

At the beginning of the 16th century, the Cardinal Cisneros undertook the creation of the new University of Alcalá de Henares, which would be born with a spirit fully in keeping with the new times. At the heart of this new Academy, with a select roster of scholars of the Hebrew, Greek, and Latin languages, undertook the work of editing the Bible, which adopted some of the methods of the new humanistic Philology. As you might suspect, Nebrija had followed closely the activity of the cardinal. Much earlier, he/she had felt attracted to the study of the Scriptures. 1501 was its Hymnorum recognitio cum expositione occurrit aurea, which was nothing more than an edition of a collection of hymns very famous at that time. Some of his works on biblical Philology led him even to deal with the Grand Inquisitor, Fray Diego de Deza, on the occasion of their first Quinquagena, a porqué in which fifty places of Sacred Scripture is explained. To defend themselves, Nebrija wrote his apology, indicating that it has chosen as a judge in the process to the own Cisneros. Finally this work of Nebrija could see light in a third version, the Tertia Quinquagena (1516), once Cisneros was appointed Grand Inquisitor in 1507. Thus, it is possible to check that the friendship between Nebrija and Cisneros came from far behind.

When Nebrija had to leave the University of Salamanca after the shame of being defeated at the Chair of grammar, it is directed towards Alcalá de Henares to seek asylum with the great Cardinal. This, according to his biographer Alvar Gómez de Castro, welcomed him gladly. Thus began the last stage of his life, which was linked in a very flexible way to College, because the own Cisneros had given him permission to "read what he/she wanted and, if not wanted to read, not to read it". Anyway, against the first wishes of the cardinal that Nebrija was part of the team responsible for editing the Bible, soon emerged the dissensions. Cisneros, in fact, not intended to prepare a new edition of the Bible, but rather a good Edition of the Vulgate; for this reason, Cardinal had no qualms about altering the texts in Greek or Hebrew in order to accommodate the Latin tradition. On the other hand, Nebrija, supporter of the Latin text according to the testimonies change older works biblical languages (Hebrew, the heating or Greek), did not feel comfortable with the method. For this cause he/she finally abandoned the project and explained his motives in a letter to the cardinal:

"When I came from Salamanca, I stopped there published coming to Alcalá to understand in the correction of the latin, which is commonly corrupted in all Latin Bibles, comparing it with the Hebraic, Greek and caldaico." And now, if something or lack of it is found, that all would load the blame on me and would say that ignorance was mine as that realized so bad cargo that was sent to me. Then V. S. told me to do that same which others had commanded, to not do any moving from what is commonly found in old books [...] "."

Anyway, Nebrija remained in Alcalá de Henares and continued to maintain a good relationship with the cardinal. Juan Huarte de San Juan, to remember the figure of Nebrija, says that in recent times had lost her memory, by what needed to take lessons in writing to find out what he/she had to tell. It is worth a last curiosity. With regard to the physical appearance of the Andalusian master, have with the description of it left to us by Nicolás Antonio, which, according to numerous accounts, notes that it was "medium, but compact in stature and with a face that reflected Majesty and hinted a man dedicated to the study;" nice voice, thin legs eyes small, similar to Aristotle (in accordance with what counts Laércio) "." We do or not case the interpretation that bodily characteristics made the treaties of physiognomy, those were the traces of one of the most important characters in the cultural history of Spain: a debelador of barbarism, as he/she himself liked to call, which opened a new era in the history of our lyrics that culminated with the fruits of our splendid golden age.

Latest works.

Some of the works of this last period in the life of Nebrija are the table of the diversity of the days and hours of 1517, which included a few pictures that could find the hours and part time in the cities of Spain and the rest of Europe. Unpublished would be his De ratione calendarii, whose starting point was a query that Pope Leo X had made to the University of Salamanca in 1515; In addition, on this subject gave light twenty-six axioms, Carmina titled ex diversis aucthoribus in calendarii rationem collection. On the chronology is also the table of the diversity of the days and hours parts of hour in cities, towns and places of Spain and others in Europe, responding to them by their parallel (1517), based on the famous Almanac or Abraham ZacutAlmanac. His disciple was Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda, whose De correctione anni et mensium romanorum, written around 1535, enjoyed a long publishing success.

Also in 1517 appeared his Orthographia rules in the Castilian language, in its last attempt to give certain rules to the Spanish after the resounding failure of its grammar in this regard. Already sick, as el Brocense tells us in the preface of his Minerva, had given some tweaks and joined some materials their Introductiones, although he/she complained that his weakness not allowed leave them concluded. The revised edition was already posthumous: published at Alcalá in 1523, when we know that Nebrija died 2 July 1522.

Next to these works, which we call creation, there were some that were inspired by his teaching; We refer to their work as editor of Latin, especially poetic texts. We must quote their editions with more or less broad Persio, Sedulius, Prudencio comments; posthumously, his commentary appeared to Virgil. Along with these texts, whose mood is clearly school, there are others like her Artis Rhetoricae compendiosa coaptatio ex Aristotele, written on behalf of Cisneros, also possessed an introductory purpose, and a short treatise on the education of the children, of liberis rappresentazione, composed for Miguel de Almazán.


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