Erasmus of Rotterdam


Erasmus of Rotterdam was considered one of the leading activists and thinkers to emerge during the European Renaissance period . His main activity was writing letters to the leading statesmen, humanists, printers, and theologians of the first three and a half decades of the 16th century. Erasmus was a tireless, controversial correspondent , publicist, satirist, translator, commentator, editor, and provocateur of Renaissance culture . He was probably recognized and disowned for his work done in the Christian New Testament . He was not considered a systematic thinker .

  • When was he born:  10/28/1466
  • Where he was born:  Rotterdam, The Netherlands
  • When he died:  07/12/1536
  • Where he died:  Basel, Switzerland

Who was Erasmus of Rotterdam?

Erasmus of Rotterdam was a renowned philosopher , theologian and humanist of Dutch origin who had a great influence on Renaissance thought and work that stood out for his contributions as a humanist and for his theological criticisms .

  • Biography of Erasmus of Rotterdam
  • Thought of Erasmus of Rotterdam
  • Contributions
  • Importance
  • Plays
  • Erasmus of Rotterdam quotes

Biography of Erasmus of Rotterdam

Erasmus was born in the city of Rotterdam in the late 1460s and was educated by the Brothers of Common Life as he was orphaned at a very young age, took monastic vows and entered the Augustinian monastery at Steyn in 1486. In 1492 he was ordained a priest and in 1493 he entered the service of Hendrik van Bergen . The work he had to do as secretary to a prelate freed him from the tedium of monastic life and offered him the possibility of traveling and progressing. When the bishop’s career stalled, Erasmus went to study theology at the University of Parisin 1495, where he remained long enough to learn to hate the study of theology and to develop his addiction to dialectics .


In Paris he joined William Blount , Lord Mountjoy , whom he accompanied to England as tutor in 1499. This first stay in England was crucial to Erasmus of Rotterdam’s later career, as he met Thomas More and John Colet, founder of St Paul’s School in London.

Erasmus returned to Paris in 1500 and published his first collection of proverbs , Adagiorum Collectanea, whose dedicatory epistle, addressed to Mountjoy, remains a crucial statement of Erasmian poetry . In 1506 he traveled to Italy where he worked with the humanist printer Aldus Manutius to publish the first great collection of adages , the Adagiorum Chiliades in 1508.

He returned to Europe in 1514 and was associated with the Swiss printer Johann Froben, for whom he prepared an enlarged version of the sayings in 1515. The following year his masterpieces appeared in the press. First the Instrumentum Novum , a Greek text and the Latin translation of the New Testament , and then in nine volumes, the complete works of Saint Jerome .

Erasmus of Rotterdam lived for several years in Freiburg where he published his last work ” Preparation for death “. He died in 1536 , in Basel , in what he considered his home, leaving an incomparable legacy that caused an intellectual revolution in Europe.

Thought of Erasmus of Rotterdam

In his thought the philosophy of Christ was the main axis. With this name called, his theory was based on the only philosophy that seeks to achieve what the world seeks, which is happiness , a goal that can only be achieved through a spiritual struggle . He was against the austerity of the cloister , fasting and abstinence because he believed that true perfection was found in the inner impulses of the soul, and not in the genre of life, food or clothing.

Erasmus of Rotterdam sought to achieve a religion that did not have dogmas , ceremonies and rules . He defended an internal reform that included Christianity . He was interested in the formation of a new Christian, away from the formalism imposed by tradition. He wanted people to return to the early Christianity of Jesus Christ, the apostles and the Gospels which led him to a return to the primitive sources of Scripture, his thinking was Christian humanist .

He was in favor of the marriage of priests although he preferred celibacy . He did not agree with the image of the Church as a hierarchical society , because for him, it had to be formed by the people of God . His thinking was similar to that of Luther although he did not believe in the sovereign authority of the private sense in the interpretation of the Scriptures, and justification by faith, regardless of works. He was an absolute pacifist and was the first literary theorist of pacifism , on which his political ideas are based.


Probably the most important role played by Erasmus of Rotterdam in the history of philosophy was that of challenging and expanding the disciplinary limits of the field. He did so by proposing his philosophy of Christ, which shows some affinities towards some earlier traditions , including Platonism and Epicureanism , but which depends mainly on the understanding that philosophy is not an exclusive university discipline, but a moral obligation thatit concerns all believers. In this context, he founded an ethic of speech so that he could guide himself and others to what he considered to be true love for and towards wisdom .

He defended individual freedom , the application of reason over any other type of doctrine. He fought for the church to have a gradual and peaceful reform in order to create a more humane society where the human being had the ability to function to the fullest. He made many of his works based on a criticism against the Church , which he always considered immoral.


Its importance lies in the fact that it was an instrument to achieve the advancement of the reforming principles, which include the basic documents to prepare the New Testament of the Reina-Valera Protestant Bible . Also because through its current known as Erasmism which was 100% humanist , it was possible to defend inner spirituality and through it sought greater pacifism , contrary to any type of religious warfare .


Among the most important works of Erasmus of Rotterdam we can mention the following:

In Praise of Insanity

It is an essay inspired by De triumpho stultitiae by the Italian Faustino Perisauli. This work is considered one of the most influential works in Western literature and one of the main promoters of the Protestant Reformation .


In this book he kept rules or principles as a guide for good living or to dignify and embellish the speech. Related to sentences , apologues , short and ingenious sayings , and equivocal expressions , adages or proverbs are widely known sayings that are distinguished by having a certain ingenuity and originality .

Christian prince education

A Renaissance work called the mirror of princes, dedicated to Prince Charles , future Emperor Charles V. In the work, he points out that teachers must have a good disposition and impeccable morals , and that education to be good must include all the liberal arts. It encourages the student to be treated as an individual.

Erasmus of Rotterdam quotes

Among his most important phrases we can mention the following:

  • I have no patience with those who say that sexual arousal is shameful and that venereal stimuli do not originate from nature , but from sin. Nothing is further from the truth.
  • The most disadvantageous peace is better than the most just war .
  • In the land of the blind , the one-eyed man is king.
  • No man is wise at all times, or without his blind side.
  • Prevention is better than cure .
  • What is life but a play in which everyone does an act until the curtain falls?

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