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The De Arte Poetica (1705) of Theophanes Prokopovich (1681-1736)

Albert R. Baca

Theophanes Prokopovich, the right-hand man of the Russian Tsar Peter the Great in reforming the Russian Orthodox Church, had a greater influence  on the political and ecclesiastical circles of his day than in education; nevertheless, his earlier pedagogical career in his native Ukraine was important because in his efforts to introduce the youth of his day to the fine points of the Latin language and literature he showed himself a person who looked to the west for the models he wished his students to emulate. His western outlook had been firmly established in him, we might say, by his brief conversion to Roman Catholicism which offered him the opportunity to live and study in Italy.

In this paper I explore his three books on the art of poetry, written for use in the orthodox academy in his home city of Kiev. This text provided students there and elsewhere with a survey of Latin literature based on Roman writers and neo-Latin writers (the “recentiores”).  Into the span of less than two-hundred pages he introduced his students to the basic principles of writing prose and poetry in Latin which he illustrated by citing the modern and ancient he relied on.  After a short introduction he gives, in chapter one, a historical overview of the origo poeseos,  in which he draws on the theories of interesting writers like Plutarch, Josephus, Aphthonius, Scaliger, Polydorus Vergilius, etc..  As a scholar and teacher his western oriented educational endeavors, it can be said, foreshadow his later career as an ecclesiastical reformer whose views neatly conformed to those of forward-looking Peter the Great.

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The World of Neo-Latin: Current Research

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