To Wake the Dead by Marina Belozerskaya

To Wake the Dead by Marina Belozerskaya

Author:Marina Belozerskaya
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Published: 2009-07-12T16:00:00+00:00

What a surprise and relief it must have been to be greeted with friendliness—for the most part. The great pioneer of the revival of ancient texts, Poggio Bracciolini, did not take kindly to the Anconitan, calling him “mad, arrogant, and annoying as a cicada, a verbose and inexhaustible talker, more importune than a fly, an ass on two feet.”8 Bracciolini, according to his biographer, Vespasiano, “was given to strong invective, and all stood in dread of him…he was very free of speech…and was prompt to take up his pen in vituperation of certain men of letters”—as he did against Filelfo.9 He may have lashed out against Cyriacus because he was Filelfo’s friend. He could well have been worn out by Cyriacus’s energy and voluble enthusiasm; he was certainly appalled by his language skills—“Greek mostly mixed with Latin, incorrect verbs, poor usage, clumsy constructions, no sense,” he grumbled.10 The two men also clashed ideologically. Cyriacus held Greek culture to be superior to Roman, whereas Bracciolini praised the merits of the latter and focused all his studies on it (he did not know Greek very well). And while Cyriacus admired Julius Caesar and the Roman Empire, Bracciolini championed Scipio and the Roman Republic.

Renaissance Italy consisted of both republican city-states and monarchical principalities, often in competition and at war with one another. Humanists serving different rulers defended their employers’ political philosophies and practices. But the conversation spilled beyond the courts and town halls, and regular citizens weighed in on the subject. Inspired not only by Caesar himself but also by Dante and Virgil, Cyriacus embraced the imperial model, as he wrote to Leonardo Bruni in a letter titled “Caesarea Laus” (“Caesarian Praise”):


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