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Charles du Fresne, sieur du Cange

Charles du Fresne, sieur du Cange

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Charles du Fresne, sieur du Cange or Ducange (Amiens
Amiens
Amiens is a city and commune in northern France, north of Paris and south-west of Lille. It is the capital of the Somme department in Picardy...

, December 18, 1610 – Paris
Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

, October 23, 1688) was a distinguished philologist
Philology
Philology is the study of language in written historical sources; it is a combination of literary studies, history and linguistics.Classical philology is the philology of Greek and Classical Latin...

 and historian of the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

 and Byzantium
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

.

Educated by Jesuits
Society of Jesus
The Society of Jesus is a Catholic male religious order that follows the teachings of the Catholic Church. The members are called Jesuits, and are also known colloquially as "God's Army" and as "The Company," these being references to founder Ignatius of Loyola's military background and a...

, du Cange studied law and practiced for several years before assuming the office of Treasurer of France. Du Cange was a busy, energetic man who pursued historical scholarship alongside his demanding official duties and his role as head of a large family.

Du Cange's most important work is his Glossarium mediae et infimae Latinitatis (Glossary of medieval and late Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

, Paris, 1678). This work, together with a glossary of medieval and late Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 that he published ten years later, has gone through numerous editions and revisions and is still consulted frequently by scholars today. Du Cange's pioneering work distinguished medieval Latin and Greek from their earlier classical forms, marking the beginning of the study of the historical development of languages.

Du Cange mastered languages in order to pursue his main scholarly interests, medieval and Byzantine history. He corresponded voluminously with his fellow scholars. His great historical and linguistic knowledge was complemented by equally deep learning in archaeology, geography and law. In addition to his glossaries, he produced important new editions of Byzantine historians and a number of other works. His extensive history of Illyria
Illyria
In classical antiquity, Illyria was a region in the western part of the Balkan Peninsula inhabited by the Illyrians....

 was not published until 1746 by Joseph Keglevich
House of Keglević
The House of Keglević is a Croatian noble family originally from Dalmatia, their members were pointed out in public life, also as soldiers...

, who partially corrected it.

Du Cange is one of the historians Edward Gibbon
Edward Gibbon
Edward Gibbon was an English historian and Member of Parliament...

 cites most frequently in his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire is a non-fiction history book written by English historian Edward Gibbon and published in six volumes. Volume I was published in 1776, and went through six printings. Volumes II and III were published in 1781; volumes IV, V, VI in 1788–89...

. In one footnote he calls du Cange "our sure and indefatigable guide in the Middle Ages and Byzantine history."

Works


Further reading