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Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam
(1466 - 1536) Holland


Scholar and humanist


ErasmusBorn at Rotterdam, Geert Geertsz, the illegitimate son of Roger Geertsz, he adopted the humanist Latin-Greek name which means "desired beloved". As a youth he was a monk in an Augustinian monastery near Gouda, but in 1495 after becoming a priest, he went to study at Paris and in 1499 paid the first of a number of visits to England. Here he met Linacre, More, and Colet, and for a time he was professorof Divinity and of Greek at Cambridge University.

In 1506 he traveled Italy for three years, and at Turin he got a degree in theology. Then he was received with great honors at Bologna and Rome. In 1511 he wrote Encomium moriae (The Praise of Folly) a satire principally directed against theologians and Church dignitaries.

ErasmusHis pioneer edition of the Greek New Testament was published in 1516, and an edition of the writings of St. Jerome and his own Colloquia, dialogues on contemporary subjects, in 1519. In 1521 he went to Basle, where he edited the writings of the early Christian leaders. His Biblical criticism contributed to the European Reformation.

ErasmusAt first he sympathized with the Reformation movement, but refused to intervene either for or against Luther at the time of the Diet of Worms, although invoked by both sides. He urged moderation on both and disclaimed sympathy with Luther's violence and extreme conclusion, and at a later stage (1524, in his tract on "Free Will") entred into harsh controversy with him.

His known lovers where Servatius Roger and William Blount, Fourth Lord Mountjoy. In a letter to a beloved male friend, he writes:

"Do not be so reserved; I have become yours so completely that nothing of myself is left. You know my weakness; when it has no one to lean upon, it drives me to despair of life."
Erasmus had a thing also for heterosexual young English aristocrats, falling for the twenty-one year old Thomas Grey, later Marquis of Dorset.


The Erasmus Prize is awarded annually, from 1958, to outstanding contributors to international understanding, usually in social or cultural fields.


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