APT Basilicata

APT Basilicata

Basilicata turistica

Ascanio Persio

a cura di Giovanni Caserta

Also the Lucania-Basilicata felt the language problem during the sixteenth century. Thanks to the print invention and Bembo’s doctrine, Boccaccio and Petrarch works reached the farthest countries, even if few families or few places. People imitated Petrarch in Valsinni, in Senise, in Matera and Venosa. But we are not sure if people in this region discussed about the language or about some alternative or integrative proposal as they did in the Centre and North of Italy between Florence and Bologna, Ferrara and Venice. In fact in this region there weren’t any cultural processing centres. However, Lucania-Basilicata and in particular Matera, got involved in this problem with the Materano (from Matera) Ascanio Persio, who was at that moment in Bologna.

The great news brought about by Ascanio Persio, was on the role the South of Italy should have in this new National language creation. And this news was absolutely new for those years in which linguistic unification meant a process to extend the Florentine language to the whole peninsula. Ascanio Persio spoke about the rights of the South of Italy to express its own opinion and to haveits own role. The thesis is important on the politic point of view as well, because it meant a proud awareness and the demand for extending the Italianness to the South, which really aimed at being part of a sole country, much more than the North and the Centre, which never thought of expanding themselves to the South.

All this had an explanation in the fact that, yesterday like today, the South has an economical, social and cultural inferiority if compared to the North and the Centre. It was a land of emigration, but not for the simple craftsman, the shepherd and farmer as they only aimed at their material outliving. For them there only was the seasonal emigration and only towards the nearby countries. They, who wanted a degree in physics or utroque iure, or arts or culture, they had to go to Naples, Rome, Bologna, Florence, Padua, Venice.

This was the case of Ascanio Persio, who was born in Matera the 9th March 1554 and was child of the profession.Antonello Persi, his father, works as sculptor. He was a good draftsman in Matera, he married Beatrice Goffredo and with her he joined the aristocracy. So his sons could attend the private school of their uncle, Leonardo Goffredo, and reaching so a very high cultural level. Among them, Giulio became sculptor like his father; Domizio became painter; Antonio became philosopher; Ascanio became humanist and hellenist. Giulio and Domizio, “craftsmen”, needn’t to emigrate because they could work in their town and province as well; on the contrary Antonio and Ascanio to improve their studies had to leave their hometown. Antonio was born in 1542, he was a priest, he lived first in Naples, then in Perugia and finally in Padua, where his brother Ascanio, twelve years younger than Antonio, joined him. Antonio was a student of Aristotele and classic languages. In 1586 he moved to Bologna, where he tought Greek and where he could read Aristotele in his own language. However, in Bologna, he was considered an alienigena , that is to say a foreign, almost of another nationality. He regretted for this. And really in the sphere of Bologna, hostile to the use of Tuscanian language, he could fight against Bembo’s doctrine and at the same time he fought for the Italianness right of his vernacular, of his hometown, “his districts” and the whole South. He expressed all this in Discorso intorno alla conformità della lingua italiana con le più notabili lingue, e principalmente con la greca (1592).

Persio stated that Italian language is not only Fiorentine, even though it has excellent qualities.What we do not accept is that people don’t know the existence and potentiality of other Italic vernaculars and their noble origins. So, when there is a lack of terms in Florentine, we often borrow them from foreign languages. The South of Italy with its dialects is instead a very interesting and noble linguistic basin, because Southern vernaculars came from Latin, Greek, Hebrew just like Florentine. So the Southern vernaculars have the same dignity of Florentine and they are quite entitled to meet the National language with very original and efficient terms and however, as we said before, always of noble origins. For example the Southern and Materane (from Matera) words like incegnare, cotizzi (rocks), Murgia and Murge, camastra, stregnare, vervolare, cercolare, etc. Such terms, according to Ascanio Persio should be “improved…in written language and pronounced as better as possible”, And however they don’t have to be prejudicially refused as barbarous terms. Ascanio Persio suggested to collect all the Italia dialect terms, as he had already done moving from one town to another. In this way he went beyond Bembo and Manzoni towards Isaia Ascoli and doing so he anticipated the television and newspaper revolution of the last fifty years. That collection, says Persio, could be usefull “as treasure for our universal language, and in this way every single language of Italy could have its own role in writing name and could pass with some honour and praise the coming centuries”, thanks to the printing invention too.

All this could remind us of the similar battle which, few decades later, in seventeenth century, would have led the cardinal Giovan Battista De Luca, born in Venosa, when the National conscience was already spread in the Centre and North of Italy, Italy was submitted to Spain and culture aimed to a kind of communication more popular and larger than life court culture.

Ascanio persio died in Bologna the 1st February 1610.

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