The Godfather of Erasmus University, Desiderius himself, has his name all over the city. There’s a Hotel Erasmus, an Erasmus Funeral Home, an Erasmus Law Firm, and of course, the Erasmus Bridge. There was even an Erasmus metro line in Rotterdam for many years until his birth city decided to reduce the name of it to simply Line E.

The point is that the Erasmus name is referenced daily by most everyone in the city, but seeing that he was living more than half a millennium ago, how much do people really know about the guy? Before the start of a lecture titled Erasmus For Dummies, delivered by Professor Han Van Ruler, EM took a trip around campus to see what students knew about one of Rotterdam’s most iconic figures.

Who is Erasmus?

“I know nothing about Erasmus,” said International Business student Thomas Carrillo, before Gemma Huins chimed in.

“Erasmus was a humanist,” mentioned Huins, who studies Media and Communication. “I also know he wrote some books.”

True, Adagia and In Praise of Folly to name a couple, but what else did he do?

“Other than that he didn’t live in Rotterdam very long, I don’t know much,” said Kim Kuijpers, who studies History. “Since I’m a history student, that sounds pretty bad. But that’s also why I’m going to this lecture.”

Kuijpers did get one thing right. Other than being born in the city of Rotterdam to an unmarried priest, which means he was an illegitimate child at that time in more than one way, Erasmus only lived in Rotterdam for the first four years of his life. Could anyone name something specific about him though?

“I know he didn’t build the Erasmus Bridge,” added Luis Artavia, a Masters student in Economics.

Han Van Ruler Erasmus lecture foto Laanen
Honorary Professor Han Van Ruler knows every detail out there about the life of Erasmus. Image credit: Ivar Laanen


Erasmus preached the importance of education, so he probably would have been disappointed to find out how little students know about him. Without any new findings about Erasmus, EM stopped by the lecture to pick up some knowledge, but since everything you need to enlighten yourself about the famous theologian can be found on Wikipedia, we decided to include some of the lesser-known facts revealed by Van Ruler, like that Erasmus was most likely queer.

Indeed, the famous humanist loved more than just Plato and Latin proverbs, he loved a monk whom he sent a series of passionate love letters to. Seeing that the University will be flying the rainbow flag from the 21 to the 24 of September, it’s actually quite fitting.

“It always makes me mad that people try to prove that Erasmus’s love letters were not real but were merely writing exercises,” said Van Ruler, who recently authored a book on Erasmus. “Just because they were male-male love letters doesn’t mean they weren’t real. What does it matter anyway.”

The one who is desired

Another unbeknownst fact to many is that Erasmus wasn’t born with the name Desiderius. He gave it to himself later in life, and it translates to “the one who is desired” in Latin.

“Many people think his birthname was Gerhard Gerhards, but that’s not true,” said Van Ruler. “It’s a good thing too, Desiderius sounds better.”