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"Empire, classical history and world discoveries. Uses of classical scholarship in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Portuguese expansion."

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New understanding of classical worldviews

Examining the role of classical models within various contexts provides insight into misunderstandings and shortcomings of European worldviews.

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Having a better understanding of overseas European expansion is in part due to the role of classical history. Geographers, philosophers, military leaders and historians alike have been influenced by the classical history of Greek and Roman times. Yet, early modern uses of classical scholarship have had their share of contradictions, paradoxes and over-interpretation. This is especially true in the case of how soldiers, sailors and rulers have been represented. An EU-funded project, EMPIRECLASICS, took a different approach to examining early modern uses of classical scholarship in order to explore such disparities. The main sources were chronicles, histories and travel accounts from the period 1500 to 1700, together with the translations, editions and commentaries on classical authors. The project focused on the Portuguese expansion specifically at a time when a broader world was in discovery. Using a layered approach to examine the ways in which Europeans perceived their world, the project sought to uncover misconceptions, stereotypes and fallacies that predominate in modern cultural communication. As a result of emphasising the centrality of military activity in early modern empires, the notion of the Portuguese monarchy can be better understood. Additionally, early modern uses of Greek and Roman ethnography were analysed to draw conclusions on the narratives of Portuguese authors. The work provides a better understanding for past as well as current modes of cultural communication across Europe.

Keywords

European expansion, classical history, classical scholarship, Portuguese expansion

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