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A literary duel between Christians and pagans

· In the margins of the classical yellows and oranges ·

If there is no student of classical literature who is not acquainted with the two praiseworthy series (Greek and Latin) of  “Belles Lettres”, bearing respectively the unmistakeable stylized owl on a yellow ground and the she-wolf on an orange ground, this publishing house in various contexts from the Middle Ages to the modern and contemporary classics and its virtually unlimited expansion in the past 30 years, is less well known outside France. The orange and yellow Budés were launched immediately after the First World War by the Guillaume Budé Association – called after the extremely erudite humanist that Erasmus nicknamed “France's Miracle” – in order to enable readers not to have recourse to the leading German critical editions, unrivalled in the second half of the 19th century et ultra. Thus in the post-war euphoria the press of the time welcomed the classics series, presented at last in the original with parallel text translations, even after Germany's second defeat. Among the millions of classics sold Cicero stands out; on his own he fills 50 volumes, and the best sellers are Hesiod for Greek and Ovid for Latin. Yet the excellent edition of Photius's The Library, published by René Henry in nine volumes is fundamental. And, in the historical series, new light has been cast by Stéphane Ratti on the culture of late antiquity with the collection of studies, Polémiques entre païens et chrétiens (Paris, “Les Belles Lettres”, 2012, 289 pages,  € 25), on controversies in which both parties made use of refined literary forms to defend their own religious convictions.

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Sept. 22, 2018

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