Ascoli Graziadio Isaia (1829 - 1907)

29/02/2020

On 16 July 1829 he was born in the family home, the "casa Ascoli", a child who would become one of the most illustrious citizens of Gorizia and who would make known, through his person, the name of his hometown in Italy and in the world: the future glottologist Graziadio Isaia Ascoli. 

Ascolilived far from Gorizia since 1861, when he was called, little more than thirty years old, to teach at the Scientific-Literary Academy of Milan. He had already published several essays on glottological subjects: the first, Sull'idioma friulano e sulla sua affinità col lingua valaca, when he was only seventeen, but above all the most recent Studi orientali e linguistici published between 1854 and 1861. His academic life therefore took place entirely far from his city, which followed, at a distance, the most significant stages. In Milan he devoted himself not only to teaching, but also to writing works and articles on linguistics that were published in Italian and European magazines. In 1873 Ascoli founded the periodical "Archivio glottologico italiano" (Italian Glottological Archive), of which he was the director and which continues its publications to this day. However, he is more frequently remembered for a work that had little or nothing to do with the scope of his studies, the small volume Gorizia italiana tolerante, concorde. Truth and Hope in Austria in 1848, written and published at the time of the awakening of national identities in the states of the Habsburg Empire. In that youthful work (at that time he was nineteen years old) as in the writings in which he later dealt with the subject, Ascoli took a position that, while unequivocally affirming the Italian language and feelings of the city, did not reach the conclusions of a "radical" irredentism that necessarily aimed at political unity with the Kingdom of Italy. In fact, his was defined as a "cultural irredentism", marked by a national spirit, but not nationalistic, and in 1863 he coined the term "Venezia Giulia" to be used as an alternative to "Litorale Austriaco" and "Venezia Tridentina" instead of "Tirolo italiano". In 1886 he celebrated, among the congratulations of the scientific and academic world, his "Professor Jubilee", twenty-five years after the first lesson held in Milan. The "Corriere di Gorizia" of 25 November was dedicated almost exclusively to this anniversary. In 1889 he was appointed senator of the Kingdom of Italy. On 21 January 1907 Graziadio Isaia Ascoli died in Milan at the age of ninety-one. Ascoli's tomb is at the Monumental Cemetery in Milan, but Gorizia remembers his fellow citizen with a herm at the Giardini Pubblici, a plaque on his birthplace, the name of the street that crosses the old ghetto and leads from his house to the synagogue. The "Ascoli" middle school and the Friulian Philological Society also bear his name.