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Latin philosophy and European intellectual lexicon


Milanese G.

Course director


General Part

Roman philosophy of the republican era and the Empire is as a rule neglected not only by manuals, but also by overall intellectual consideration. Roman philosophers, from Cicero to Boethius, are often judged to be mere compilers of Greek sources, representatives of a feeble eclecticism that contributes little to the history of European philosophy and even less can speak to the man of the 21st century. Martin Heidegger's well-known, scornful judgement of Roman philosophical thought has certainly contributed to this negative assessment -- as if a break in silence lasted almost a millennium between classical and Hellenistic Greek thought and the Middle Ages. The proposal of this course is instead rooted in the legacy of Pierre Hadot and more recently of Rémi Brague: the 'secondary nature' of Roman culture is precisely that which represents, for the West in crisis, a emodel of reference.

Roman philosophy features distinctive characteristics that make its study fascinating for those interested in the history of European culture, and is professionally necessary for the philosopher. The Romans undertook a work of mediation between Greek thought and the intellectual categories inherited from the tradition of a people that in a short time had become the sole superpower of the ancient world: categories such as 'person', 'freedom', 'action', 'will', found in Roman times their own (re)formulation that forms the basis of the subsequent developments of European culture. The assimilation of the new Christian categories by the philosophers of Late Antiquity led to the development of medieval thought. To Roman philosophical Latin we owe the creation of a large part of the European intellectual lexicon, that common linguistic basis that made possible for centuries the internal communication of European culture despite its linguistic multiplicity.

Special course
The topic proposed for this year's Master's course allows us to address one of the basic structures of ancient culture, namely the relationship between nature and culture, both from an anthropological perspective (Lucretius Book V) and political philosophy one (Cicero). Obviously, the development of late antique Roman culture, incorporating a creationist dimension, radically changes this relationship, which slowly leads to the Mediaeval model.


  • Understanding of the role of philosophical culture in Latin (ancient and late antique) in the shaping of European culture.
  • Acquisition of a clear historical framework.
  • Intellectual lexicon in Latin and the formation of the European intellectual lexicon: examples from various languages.

Teaching mode

In presence

Learning methods

Lectures, with seminar elements mainly in the last two weeks.
Intensive use of the platform for text deposit and correction of papers during the course.

Prerequisites: (1) textbook-level knowledge of the great seasons of ancient philosophy; (2) for reading texts: basic knowledge of Latin.

Examination information

Final written examination. If it would seem appropriate, two partial examinations may be conducted during the course, worth 25% of the final grade. In addition to the suggested bibliography, other bibliography will be indicated during the course and made available on the iCorsi platform