Or Claude de Saumaise, French Huguenot scholar; b. Semur in Burgundy, April 15, 1588; d. Spa, Belgium, Sept. 3, 1653. As a youth, under the direction of his father, he began to study Greek and Latin. At the age of 16 he went to Paris for further studies and was greatly influenced by I. Casaubon, who was in turn impressed by the youth's erudition. In 1606 Salmasius went to Heidelberg, where his diligent work in the Palatine library led to the discovery of the anthology compiled by Cephalas under Constantine VII, from which he transcribed some epigrams for J. J. Scaliger. In deference to his father's wishes he returned home and served for a time as counselor to the parliament of Dijon. In 1632 he went to the university of Leyden as Scaliger's successor. As a scholar Salmasius is known chiefly as the editor of classical texts and the author of treatises with theological, canonical, and political implications.
In Greek and Latin studies his most important works are an annotated edition of the Historia Augusta, which established Salmasius' reputation as a learned commentator, and his impressive Plinianae exercitationes, a work still useful, which explains the excerpts from Pliny that Gaius Julius Solinus incorporated in his Collectanea rerum memorabilium. Of his numerous treatises the following are examples of their wide range: De usuris and De modo usurarum defend the licitness of interest taking for both clergy and laity. In 1645 he published De primatu papae, to which he added those writings of Nilus cabasilas and barlaam of calabria attacking papal primacy that he had published earlier at Heidelberg in his student days. This work stirred up opposition and controversy in France. The Defensio regia pro Carolo I, written at the request of charles ii, then in exile, aims to vindicate Charles I and the claims of absolute monarchy. This treatise is known for the feud it started rather than for the quality of its contents. John Milton replied with his Pro populo anglicano defensio, which refers to the "outlandish rhetorician's wanton lies" and takes Salmasius to task for poor latinity. The Ad Miltonern responsio levels similar charges at Milton. While Salmasius' learning was indeed encyclopedic, his writings show a lack of critical revision and his numerous controversies betray his penchant for invective.
Bibliography: j. t. foisset in Biographie universelle, ed. l. g. michaud, 45 v. (Paris 1843–65) 38:51–53. j. e. sandys, History of Classical Scholarship, 3 v. (Cambridge, Eng.) v. 1 (3d ed. 1921),v. 2, 3 (2d ed. 1906–08); repr. (New York 1958) 2:285–286. g. cohen, Écrivains français en Hollande (Paris 1920). e. de waele and d. nauta, De Katholieke Encyclopaedie, ed. p. e. van der meer et al., 25 v. (Amsterdam 1949–55) 21:418. h. r. guggisberg, Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart 7 v. (3d ed. Tü bingen 1975–65) 5:1335–36. j. h. zedler, Grosses vollständiges Universal-Lexikon, 68 v. (Leipzig 1732–54; repr. Graz 1961) 33:99.7–1000.