Teaching of Latin on the Periphery of Europe in the 17th Century

Raija Sarasti-Wilenius

Classical humanism reached the North with delay. In Finland, then part of the Swedish realm, it was only after the founding of the Academy of Turku (then Åbo) in 1640 that conditions for the development of a literary culture were established. The period from 1640 to 1713, until the temporary closing of the Academy, is considered a late (and modest) manifestation of humanism in this country. Latin literature inspired by ancient models flourished and ancient moral philosophy was cultivated at the same time as orthodox Lutheranism predominated at the Academy.

The aim of this paper is to present a case study of the teaching of Latin at a university of a remote, poor and very Lutheran country. The paper will examine curriculum and methods, on one hand, and goals of teaching, on the other. The the following questions will be addressed. How students were instructed to compose Latin letters, orations, poems and to converse in Latin? Did teaching of Latin and rhetoric have only just instrumental value in educating clergymen and officials for public administration? In what way the status of Latin was justified?


Raija Sarasti-Wilenius is the university lecturer responsible for the basic studies of Latin and Roman Literature at University of Helsinki (Department of Word Cultures). Her research interests include history of rhetoric, Latin letter writing, classical tradition and Neo-Latin literature, particularly in the Nordic countries. She has co-authored several interdisciplinary books on history of Greco-Roman literature, ancient culture and legacy of Antiquity. She has translated a number of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century philosophical dissertations and other texts into Finnish. Since 2012 she has been the Secretary of the International Association for Neo-Latin Studies.