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Home > Mezzofanti > Eminent linguists > Ancient period > Ciceroni

Many similar instances might, without much difficulty, be collected ; nor can it be doubted that, among the numerous generations which have thus flourished and passed away in the East, there may have been rivals for Genus Bey, or even for " the Serpent" himself. But unhappily their fame has been local and transitory. They were admired during their brief day of success, but are long since forgotten; nor is it possible any longer to recover a trace of their history. They are unknown, Carent quia vate sacro. It would be a great injustice, however, to represent this as the universal character of the Eastern linguists. On the contrary, it has only needed intercourse with the scholars of the West in order to draw out what appears to be the very remarkable aptitude of the native Orientals for the scientific study of languages. Thus the learned Portuguese Jew, Rabbi Menasseh Ben Israel (1604-1657), was not only a thorough master of the Oriental languages, but was able to write with ease and exactness several of the languages of the West, and published almost indifferently in Hebrew, Latin, Spanish, and English. I allude more particularly, however, to those bodies of Eastern Christians, which, from their community of creed with the Roman Church, have, for several centuries, possessed ecclesiastical establishments in Rome and other cities of Europe.

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