Today, I am resuming my series on the great scholarly heroes who were fundamental to the study of Antiquity. (For earlier instalments, go here: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.) Today’s hero is actually an anti-hero: a monk from Viterbo named Giovanni Nanni (1432-1502) or, as he wanted to be called, Annius. He illustrates how in the world of scholarship, even fraud can help to improve our knowledge of the distant past!
In 1498, several years after the death of the great Poliziano, Nanni published seventeen volumes of Commentaries on ancient texts which, he claimed, he had received from an Armenian monk. The texts themselves were completely new, although the names of their authors, like Berossus and Megasthenes, were known from other sources. Some fragments of these ancient historians were known, too. A third writer, Manetho, was another old acquaintance: several ancient authors quoted his Egyptian History.