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INTRODUCTORY

T

HE Donation of Constantine—the most famous forgery in European history; papal authority—since the triumph

of Christianity the most perennial question of European society; historical criticism—one of the most comprehensive, most alluring, and most baffling enterprises of the modern mind; Lorenzo Valla—the greatest of the professional Italian humanists; these lines of study have converged, accidentally perhaps, to call forth the following pages. Much of the subject matter which might properly form their introduction I have already treated more fully in an earlier work, and a brief statement will suffice here.

The Donation of Constantine (Constitutum Constantini), written probably not long after the middle of the eighth century, became widely known through its incorporation in the PseudoIsidorian Decretals (about 847-853). Parts of it were included in most of the medieval collections of canon law; Anselm's, Deusdedit's, and Gratian's great work (the Decretum, or Concordia discordantium canonum). It purports to reproduce a legal document in which the Emperor Constantine the Great, reciting his baptism and the cure of his leprosy at the hands of Sylvester, Bishop of Rome 314-336, confirmed the privilege of that pontiff as head of all the clergy and supreme over the other four patriarchates; conferred upon him extensive imperial property in various parts of the world, especially the imperial Lateran palace, and the imperial diadem and tiara, and other imperial insignia; granted the Roman clergy the rank of the highest Roman orders and their

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privileges; gave Sylvester and his successors freedom in conse-
crating men for certain orders of the clergy; it tells how he, Con-
stantine, recognized the superior dignity of the Pope by holding
the bridle of his horse; grants Sylvester Rome, all of Italy, and
the western provinces, to remain forever under the control of the
Roman See; and states his own determination to retire to Byzan-
tium in order that the presence of an earthly emperor may not
embarrass ecclesiastical authority. This remarkable document was
almost universally accepted as genuine from the ninth to the
fifteenth century.

The question of the position of the bishop of Rome in the Chris-
tian Church lacks but a few generations of being as old as
Christianity itself. His relation to secular governments became an
acute problem as soon as the imperial government broke down in
Italy, and has remained so to the present moment. For centuries
the Papacy was the strongest institution in western Europe. While
its control at any one time rested principally on the power it ac-
tually possessed and on the ability of its representatives, legal
theories and historical documents played a not inconsiderable part
in its rise and decline. Of these documents the Donation of Con-
stantine was perhaps the most spectacular, even though it was not
the most important. It was cited by no less than ten Popes of
whom we know, to mention no lesser writers, in contentions for
the recognition of papal control, and contributed not a little to
the prestige of the Papacy. On the other hand, when its spurious-
ness became known, the reaction against it, as in Luther's case,
contributed powerfully to the revolt from Rome. Its century-long
influence entitles it to a respect difficult for any one who now reads
it to feel. And Valla's discussion of it contains many interesting
reflections on the secular power of the Papacy, perhaps the most
interesting expression in this connection of fifteenth century
Italian humanism.

Among the achievements of modern historical criticism Valla's work was a conspicuous pioneer. Its quality and its importance have often been exaggerated, and as often underestimated. It is

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nal text and translation, so that the reader may judge for himself. A critical appraisal would have to take into account that Nicholas Cusanus some seven years earlier in his De concordantia catholica covered part of the same ground even better than Valla did, and anticipated some of his arguments. But Valla's treatise is more exhaustive, is in more finished and effective literary form, and in effect established for the world generally the proof of the falsity of the Donation. Moreover, for the first time, he used effectively the method of studying the usage of words in the variations of their meaning and application, and other devices of internal criticism which are the tools of historical criticism to-day. So, while Valla's little book may seem slight beside later masterpieces of investigation and beside systematic treatises in larger fields, it is none the less a landmark in the rise of a new science. I speak from personal experience in adding that it is still useful in college classes in promoting respect for, and development in, critical scholarship

As to Valla himself the words of Erasmus will bear repetition; “Valla, a man who with so much energy, zeal and labor, refuted the stupidities of the barbarians, saved half-buried letters from extinction, restored Italy to her ancient splendor of eloquence, and forced even the learned to express themselves henceforth with more circumspection.". The Italian Renaissance is much extolled among us,—and so little known. A short time ago diligent search revealed no copy of Valla's works in the United States, and many of the larger libraries had none of his separate writings. The same is doubtless true in the case of other great names in the Renaissance. Meanwhile, there are those whose profession it is to teach European history and who are utterly unacquainted with medieval and later Latin.

The best life of Valla is that by Girolamo Mancini.? There is no satisfactory account of him in English.

Voll wrote his nice an be Tarrafhallod Dono

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tion of Constantine (Declamatio de falso credita et ementita dona-
tione Constantini, also referred to as Libellus, and Oratio) in
1440, when he was secretary to Alfonso, king of Aragon, Sicily,
and Naples. It may well be considered as part of the campaign
which that king was conducting against Pope Eugenius IV in
furtherance of his claims to Italian territories.

There has hitherto been no satisfactory text of this treatise. The
first printed edition, that of Ulrich von Hutten, in 1517, is ex-

cessively rare, and it, as well as its numerous reprints, is defective
& in places. The same is true of the text in the collected works of

Valla, the Opera, printed at Basle, 1540, 1543 (?). The only
English edition, by Thomas Godfray (London, 1525 ?), is rare
and of no great merit. A modern French edition by Alcide Bon-
neau (La Donation de Constantin, Paris, 1879) gives the text
with a French translation and a long introduction. It is based on
the 1520 reprint of Hutten's edition, is polemical, uncritical, and
admittedly imperfect. A modern edition with translation into
Italian (La dissertazione di Lorenzo Valla su la falsa e manzo-
gnera donazione di Costantino tradotta in Italiano da G. Vincenti,
Naples, 1895) is out of print.

My text is based on the manuscript Codex Vaticanus 5314,
dated December 7, 1451, the only complete manuscript of the
treatise I have been able to find. I have collated this with
Hutten's text as found in one of the earliest, if not the earliest,
reprint (contained in the little volume De Donatione Constantini
quid veri habeat, etc., dated 1520 in the Union Theological Semi-
nary library copy, but corresponding closely to the one dated 1518
in E. Böcking's edition of the works of Ulrich von Hutten, vol. I,
p. 18), and have occasionally used readings from Hutten's text or
later ones, such as that of Simon Schard, but in every instance
I have indicated the MS. reading. I have used uniform, current
spelling and punctuation, and have used my own judgment in
paragraphing

Preceding Valla's treatise I reprint, with a translation, the text

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