Joseph Justus Scaliger

Joseph Justus Scaliger (1540-1609) is commonly known as the “father of modern chronology”. His Opus de emendatione tempore of 1583 is regarded by Britannica as being the first work that established a scientific chronology. The same article claims he established numismatics as a new and reliable tool for historical research.

“And he not only detected gaps in the historical record, but also managed to fill them by astonishing feats of historical detective work. In many cases, the works of ancient historians who offered vital testimony had been lost. Ransacking ancient glossaries and polemical treatises by the fathers of the Church, Scaliger collected and evaluated their fragments. He performed bibliographical and philological miracles, and used their results to create a coherent, solid structure – basically, the one that scholars still use.”
– Anthony Grafton (2003)[5, pp.77-78]

“…Scaliger not only devised what became the modern discipline of chronology; he also opened its ancient Pandora’s box of intractable data about the early history of the world.”
– Anthony Grafton (2003)[5, p.84]

“J. Scaliger, the founder of modern chronological science, aimed at reconstructing the work of Eusebius.”
– E. J. Bickerman (1980)[6, p.88]

A list of his works can be found here.

Scaliger’s claims are sometimes contradictory. He gives two different reports as to how he got into Oriental studies.[7, p.582]

Scaliger tried proving his father’s, and his family’s, ancient roots. Today, I think the idea is that neither him or his father were Scaligers.[7, p.583]

Scaliger’s 1594 account of his own life is not correct. However, it has been the most influential in how the public viewed him for the past 400 years. Anthony Grafton is a key scholar who pointed out the errors.[7, p.584]

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1540 – He is born in Agen, France.

1552? – Two of his brothers and him are sent to attend school at the College of Guienne, in Bordeaux.

1555 – The three brothers return home due to an outbreak of the plague.

1558 – His father, a major figure in his life, dies.

1559 – He goes to Paris to study Greek and Latin, then teaches himself Hebrew, Arabic, Syrian, Persian, and the principal modern languages.

1561 – He begins writing his correspondence, this ends upon his death.

1562 – He converts to Protestantism, and travels to French and German universities and Italy to study their antiquities.

1563 – He becomes a companion of Louis de la Rochepozay (Louis de Chasteigner, the young lord of La Roche-Posay?), a French nobleman.

1570 – He accepts Jacques Cujas invitation to study jurisprudence under the greatest living jurist, he does this for 3 years.

1572/3? – He flees to Geneva because of the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre.

1574 – He returns to France after teaching at an academy in Geneva.

1575 – His edition of the ‘Catalecta’ and and his edition of ‘Festus’ are both published.

1577 – His editions of ‘Catullus’, ‘Tibullus’, and ‘Propertius’ are published.

1579 – His edition of ‘Manilius’ is published.

1583 – His ‘Opus de emendatione tempore’ (Study on the Improvement of Time) is published.

1590 – He turns down an offer to join the University of Leiden.

1593 – He joins the University of Leiden where he becomes known as a distinguished scholar.

1594 – His ‘Epistola de vetustate et splendore gentis Scaligerae’ is published.

1601 – Gaspar Scioppius publishes his ‘Scaliger Hypobolimaeus’ (The Supposititious Scaliger), allegedly pointing out five hundred lies in Scaliger’s ‘Epistola de vetustate’. This “was crushing” to Scaliger.

1602 – He discovered George Syncellus’ work that contained the first part of Eusebius’ Chronicon. This was the first time he had reviewed this work and it impacted his views on ancient chronology.[8, pp.84-85]

1604 – His “treaty 1” is published.

1606/1609 – His ‘Eusebi Pamphili Chronicon’ (The Thesaurus of Time, Including the Chronicle of Eusebius Pamphilus) is published. This allegedly contains every chronological relic extent in Greek or Latin.

1609 – He dies in Leiden, Holland.

1610 – His works are collected and published posthumously.

1616 – His “treaty 2” is published.

1624 – A collection of his correspondence appears.

1627 – A second collection of his correspondence appears.

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[1] –

[2] –

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[5] – Grafton, Anthony. “Dating History: The Renaissance & the Reformation of Chronology.” Daedalus, vol. 132, no. 2, 2003, pp. 74–85. Accessed 18 Sept. 2020.

[6] – Bickerman, E. J. “Chronology of the ancient world” (1980). Accessed 18 Sept. 2020.

[7] – GRAFTON, ANTHONY. “SCHOLARSHIP: Close Encounters of the Learned Kind: Joseph Scaliger’s Table Talk.” The American Scholar, vol. 57, no. 4, 1988, pp. 581–588. JSTOR, Accessed 6 Nov. 2020.

[8] – Lu, Mingjun. “The Chinese Impact upon English Renaissance Literature: A Globalization and Liberal Cosmopolitan Approach to Donne and Milton” (2016). Accessed 10 Nov. 2020.

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2 Comments on “Joseph Justus Scaliger

  1. Pingback: Denis Pétau Biography – ChronologyTruth

  2. Pingback: Fathers and Founders List – ChronologyTruth

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