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Claudius Salmasius is the Latin name of Claude Saumaise (April 15, 1588 - September 3, 1653), a Frenchmarker classical scholar.


Claudius Salmasius

He was born at Semur-en-Auxoismarker in Burgundy. His father, a counsellor of the parlement of Dijonmarker, sent him, at the age of sixteen, to Paris, where he became intimate with Isaac Casaubon. In 1606, he went to the University of Heidelbergmarker, where he studied under the jurist Denis Godefroy, and devoted himself to the classics, influenced by the librarian Jan Gruter. Here he embraced Protestantism, the religion of his mother.

Returning to Burgundy, Salmasius qualified for the succession to his father's post, which he eventually lost on account of his religion. In 1623 he married Anne Mercier, a Protestant lady of a distinguished family. After declining overtures from Oxfordmarker, Padua and Bolognamarker, in 1631 he accepted the professorship formerly held by Joseph Scaliger at Leiden. Although the appointment in many ways suited him, he found the climate trying. He became involved in a vicious controversy, over the Greek of the New Testament, with Daniel Heinsius. The quarrel became both highly personal and widely known, and Heinsius as university librarian refused him access to the books he wished to consult. Salmasius had an ally in Gerardus Vossius, on religious grounds.

A flattering invitation from Queen Christina induced him to visit Swedenmarker in 1650. Christina loaded him with gifts and distinctions. It followed his polemical Defensio Regis of 1649. Salmasius had enemies there: Nikolaes Heinsius, son of his foe Daniel, but also Isaac Vossius (son of Gerardus) with whom he had fallen out. They circulated gossip about him. Salmasius withdrew from Sweden in 1651; Christina sent warm letters and pressed him to return.

His death took place on September 3, 1653, at Spamarker.


He was a prolific author and textual critic. His first publication (1608) was an edition of a work by Nilus Cabasilas, archbishop of Thessalonicamarker, in the 14th century, against the primacy of the pope (De primatu Papae), and of a similar tract by the Calabrian monk Barlaam of Seminara. In 1609 he brought out an edition of Florus; a later edition (1638) included also the editio princeps of the Liber Memorialis of Lucius Ampelius.

In 1606 or 1607 Salmasius had discovered, in the library of the Counts Palatine in Heidelbergmarker, the only surviving copy of Cephalas's early unexpurgated copy of the Greek Anthology, including the 258-poem anthology of homoerotic poems by Straton of Sardis that would eventually become known as the notorious Book 12 of the Greek Anthology. The newly discovered poems in the Palatine version were copied out by Salmasius, and he began to circulate clandestine manuscript copies of them as the Anthologia Inedita. His copy was later published: first in 1776 when Richard François Philippe Brunck included it in his Analecta; and then the full Palatine Anthology was published by Friedrich Jacobs as the Anthologia Graeca (13 vols. 1794-1803; revised 1813-1817). The remains of Straton's anthology became Book 12 in Jacob's standard critical Anthologia Graeca edition. It was only in 2001 that a full Greek-to-English translation of Book 12 was issued, by Princeton University Press.

In 1620 he published Casaubon's notes on the Augustan History, with copious additions of his own. In 1629 Salmasius produced his magnum opus as a critic, his commentary on Gaius Julius Solinus's Polyhistor, or rather on Pliny the Elder, to whom Solinus is indebted for the most important part of his work. Greatly as this commentary may have been overrated by his contemporaries, it is a monument of learning and industry. Salmasius learned Arabic to qualify himself for the botanical part of his task.

Shortly after his removal to the Netherlandsmarker, he composed at the request of Prince Frederick Henry of Nassau, his treatise on the military system of the Romans (De re militari Romanorum), which was not published until 1657. Other works followed, mostly philological, but including a denunciation of wigs and hair-powder, and a vindication of moderate and lawful interest for money, which, although it drew down upon him many expostulations from lawyers and theologian, induced the Dutch Reformed Church to admit money-lenders to the sacrament. His treatise De primatu Papae (1645), accompanying a republication of the tract of Nilus Cabasilas, excited a warm controversy in France, but the government declined to suppress it.

In 1643 he published De Hellenistica Commentarius, including linguistic theorries of Johann Elichmann on the origins of the Greek language. In 1649, in November, appeared the work by which Salmasius is best remembered, his royalist tract Defensio regia pro Carolo I provoked by the execution of Charles I.

His advice had already been sought on English and Scottish affairs, and, inclining to Presbyterianism or a modified Episcopacy, he had written against the English religious Independents. It does not appear by whose influence he was induced to undertake the Defensio regia, but Charles II defrayed the expense of printing, and presented the author with £100. The first edition was anonymous, but the author was universally known. A French translation which speedily appeared under the name of Claude Le Gros was the work of Salmasius himself. This celebrated work provoked from John Milton the Pro Populo Anglicano Defensio, including attacks on his wife along with much other vituperation. His reply to Milton was left unfinished at his death, and was published by his son in 1660.


The life of Salmasius was written at great length by Philibert de la Mare, counsellor of the parlement of Dijonmarker, who inherited his manuscripts from his son. Papillon says that this biography left nothing to desire, but it has never been printed. It was, however, used by Papillon himself, whose account of Salmasius in his Bibliothèque des auteurs de Bourgogne (Dijon, 1745) is by far the best extant, and contains an exhaustive list of his works, both printed and in manuscript.

There is an éloge by Antoine Clement prefixed to his edition of Salmasius's Letters (Leiden, 1656), and another by C. B. Morisot, inserted in his own Letters (Dijon, 1656). See also E. Haag, La France protestante, (ix. 149-x73); and, for the Defensio regia, David Masson's Life of Milton.


  • Christopher Baker, Absolutism and the Scientific Revolution, 1600-1720: A Biographical Dictionary (2002), biography pp. 336-7.


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