Patterns of Patronage in Renaissance Rome

Francesco Sperulo: Poet, Prelate, Soldier, Spy – Volume II

by Paul Gwynne (Author)
©2015 Monographs XXVI, 704 Pages


This book is also available as a set, together with Volume I.
Please visit www.peterlang.com/view/product/84550
Patterns of Patronage in Renaissance Rome is the first full-length study of the life and works of Francesco Sperulo of Camerino (1463–1531). In a remarkable career during which the poet progressed from serving as a soldier of fortune in the service of Cesare Borgia to an Italian bishopric, Sperulo produced a significant body of Latin poetry, here presented in a critical edition for the first time. An impressive array of contemporary figures including Leonardo da Vinci, Isabella d’Este, Raphael and Baldassare Castiglione appear in his verse. By placing his work within the larger historical, literary, political and social context, this study, published in two volumes, sheds light on the role played by neo-Latin poetry at the papal court and documents the impact of classical culture in Rome during the period usually referred to as «the High Renaissance».
Volume II presents a complete critical edition of all Sperulo’s surviving Latin works in poetry and prose, with translation and commentary. This remarkable œuvre documents Cesare Borgia’s conquest of Faenza, suggests to Raphael a programme for the fresco decoration of the Villa Madama, records conversations on love with Isabella d’Este, describes the newly-discovered antiquities and reports a sensational murder. Two orations, delivered on the eve of the Sack of Rome, celebrate a treaty between Spain and France and a Polish victory in the Crimean steppes.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Acknowledgements
  • List of Abbreviations
  • List of Illustrations
  • Introduction to Both Volumes
  • PART III: Texts, Translations and Commentaries
  • Chapter 8: Francesco Sperulo and Cesare Borgia
  • BAV, Vat. lat. 5205 Book 1
  • BAV, Vat. lat. 5205 Book 2: Epigrams
  • Chapter 9: Building the Villa Medici
  • BAV, Vat. lat. 5812
  • Chapter 10: Elegies and Hymns
  • BAV, Vat. lat. 1673: Prefatory epistles
  • BAV, Vat. lat. 1673: De amore iuvenili
  • BAV, Vat. lat. 1673: De amore coniugali
  • BAV, Vat. lat. 1673: In laudem virginitatis
  • BAV, Vat. lat. 1673: In laudem Virginis
  • Chapter 11: Two Orations for Pope Clement VII
  • Oratio pro inita pace inter Augustissimum Caesarem Carolum et Franciscum regem Christianissimum (BAV, Barberini, V.VII.105 int.11)
  • Oratio […] ob memorabilem cladem quam impii Tartarii […] a Polonis nuper acceperunt (BAV, Barberini, V.VII.105 int.12)
  • Chapter 12: Miscellaneous Works
  • Poems from BCAP, MS C.61
  • Laocoön, BAV, MS Vat. lat. 1673, fol. 121r
  • Letter and poem to Angelo Colocci: BAV, Vat. lat. 5227, vol. 2, fols 573r–574v
  • The Retreat at Capranica: BAV, Regin. lat. 2019, fols 168r–169r
  • Magdalenae Luctus: BAV, Vat. lat. 1673, fols 115r–118r
  • The Christian Fasti: BAV, Vat. lat. 1673, fol. 125r
  • Poems for Johann Goritz and contributions to the Coryciana
  • Miscellaneous texts, from BAV, Vat. lat. 1673
  • Chapter 13: Catalogue of Manuscripts
  • Bibliography
  • Index of First Lines
  • Index of Proper Names
  • Series Index

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The research for this book grew from a small contribution to the on-line Neo-Latin Anthology of the Society for Neo-Latin Studies. I submitted three short epigrams which Sperulo had written for Cesare Borgia. These not only presented an interesting narrative (the discovery of an abandoned baby girl; her baptism and puns around her name) but also offered a different perspective upon one of the most notorious figures of the Italian Renaissance. This anthology also required a short biography of the poet to preface the works selected. At the time I offered only the most rudimentary outline of the poet’s life. I found Sperulo’s work for Cesare Borgia, however, to be of such interest that I decided to pursue the research. This book is the result.

There remains the pleasant duty of recording debts of thanks. My research has profited from the advice of many friends and colleagues. My thanks for answering questions, for discussion, for various kinds of help go to Albrect Burkardt, David Chambers, Tracy Cosgriff, Ann Giletti, Jeffery Glodzik, Luke Houghton, Jakub Koguciuk, John Law, Rosie Lehmann, Frances Muecke, Marianne Pade, Alessandro Pagliara, Isabel Porcu, Ellie Reeve and Bernhard Schirg. Pete Sheppard and Sarah Yates provided unbounded antipodean hospitality and access to their library. Jean Schofield, once again, admirably fulfilled the role of Gentle Reader. Franziska Wallner Romana obtained volumes and articles that would otherwise have been inaccessible. Rosa Fusco, Daniele Torri and Gianluca Ariodante of the IT department of The American University of Rome always responded promptly and politely to repeated pestering. Malissa Arras and Anna Schorch chased and cross-checked references. James Green completed the Index. Vincent Drago kindly read through some of the Latin passages and questioned Sperulo’s grammar and syntax. Kristen Hook proved a delightful companion with whom to work on the transcriptions and translations of Sperulo’s vernacular correspondence. The inclusion of her essay on the ← ix | x → language of these letters greatly enhances the quality of this research. Any infelicities of translation in the Latin and Italian texts are, needless to say, my own responsibility. Mazen Haidar used his technological skill to draw the maps and plans and make preliminary drafts of the cover and plates. Special thanks are due to Andrew Thompson, then acting-President of The American University of Rome, for his invaluable support at a critical time and to the inimitable Fabio Barry for keeping me in good spirits.

In the process of writing this book, I have frequently recalled with gratitude the lecture courses and seminars of Professor R.D. Williams who first introduced me, a raw undergraduate at the University of Reading, to the sophisticated delights of Augustan poetry. My debt is greater than I can possibly acknowledge but I hope repaid in part herein.

The series editor, Sarah Alyn Stacey, has guided my contribution to this new venture with wit and wisdom. I am, once again, in her debt. Similarly, I must thank David Rundle. His input and constructive criticism at all stages of the development of this study were of immense importance. If, despite their valiant efforts, any faults remain, they are the result of my own stubbornness. I should also like to express my warmest thanks to Jasmin Allousch, Christabel Scaife and all the staff at Peter Lang for their hard work in preparing the manuscript for press. This book could not have been completed in a timely fashion without the award of a sabbatical semester and a grant towards publication costs from The American University of Rome.

Thanks are also due to the Director, librarians and staffs of a number of archives and libraries across Europe who kindly facilitated access to Sperulo’s works and who supplied images and photocopies of his manuscripts and diplomatic correspondence, in particular, the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Città del Vaticano.

My greatest thanks, however, go to my mother Beryl Patricia Gwynne who allowed me frequently ‘to go back to Tara’, scatter books across the living room and write. The book is dedicated to her.

PAUL GARETH GWYNNE, Capo d’Africa, Rome, November 2014

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List of Abbreviations

In referring to classical authors and their works I have followed the standard abbreviations as listed by Simon Hornblower, and Antony Spawforth, eds, The Oxford Classical Dictionary, 3rd edn revd (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003) xxix–liv. All references to classical texts, unless otherwise stated, are to the Loeb Classical Library. Similarly, all translations of classical Latin are taken from the most recent Loeb editions (at times with my own adaptions), and are acknowledged accordingly.

Archives and Libraries

ASC Archivio Storico Capitolino, Rome
ASF Archivio di Stato, Florence
ASMa rchivio di Stato, Mantua
ASMo Archivio di Stato, Modena
ASV Archivio Segreto Vaticano, Città del Vaticano
BAV Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Città del Vaticano
BCAP Biblioteca Communale Augusta, Perugia
BL British Library, London
BNCF Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale, Florence
BOP Biblioteca Oliveriana, Pesaro ← xi | xii →


Burchard Burckardus, Johannes, Diarium, sive rerum urbanarum commentarii (1483–1506), ed. by Louis Thuasne, 3 vols (Paris: Ernest Leroux, 1883–85)
Liber notarum ab anno MCCCCLXXXIII usque ad annum MDVI, ed. by Enrico Celani, 2 vols (Città di Castello: Lapi, 1906–11)
Caos Giuliano Fantaguzzi, Caos, ed.by Michele Andrea Pistocchi, 2 vols (Rome: Istituto Storico Italiano per il Medio Evo, 2012)
Coryciana Jozef IJsewijn, ed., Coryciana (Rome: Herder, 1997)
Cosenza M.E. Cosenza, Biographical and Bibliographical Dictionary of the Italian Humanists and of the World of Classical Scholarship in Italy, 1300–1800, 6 vols (Boston: G.K. Hall, 1962–67)
DBI Dizionario biografico degli italiani, 80 vols to date (Rome: Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana, 1960–)
Eubel Conrad Eubel et al., Hierarchia Catholica medii aevi, sive summorum Pontificum. S.R.E. Cardinalium, ecclesiarum antistitum, etc., 2 vols (Regensberg: Monasterii, 1898–1913).
Gams Pius B. Gams, Series Episcoporum Ecclesiae Catholicae (Graz: Akademische Druck, 1957)
Hain Ludwig Friedrich Theodor Hain, Repertorium bibliographicum in quo libri omnes ab arte typographica inventa usque ad annum MD typis expressi … recensentur, 4 vols (Stuttgart and Paris: J.G. Cotta, 1826–38)
Hergenroether Joseph Hergenroether, Leonis X Pontificis Maximi Regesta (Freiburg im Breisgau: Herder, 1884–91)
Iter Paul Oskar Kristeller, Iter Italicum: a finding list of uncatalogued or incompletely catalogued humanistic manuscripts of the Renaissance in Italian and other libraries, 8 vols (Leiden: Brill, 1963–2003) ← xii | xiii →
JWCI The Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes
Lilii Camillo Lilii, Dell’historia di Camerino (Macerata: S. Paradisi et A. Grisei, 1652)
Litta Pompeo Litta, Famiglie Celebri Italiane (Milan: Giusti, 1819)
LTUR E.M. Steinby, ed., Lexicon Topographicum Urbis Romae, 6 vols (Rome, 1993–2000)
Pastor Ludwig von Pastor, The History of the Popes from the Close of the Middle Ages. Drawn from the Secret Archives of the Vatican and Other Original Sources, trans. by Frederick I. Antrobus et al., 14 vols (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner, 1891–1953)
Platner Samuel Ball Platner, A Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome, completed and revised by Thomas Ashby (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1926)
Roscoe William Roscoe, The Life and Pontificate of Leo X, ed. by Luigi Bossi, Vita e pontificato di Leone X di Guglielmo Roscoe tradotta e corredata di annotazioni e di alcuni documenti inediti, 12 vols (Milan: Sonzogno, 1816–17)
Sanuto Marino Sanuto [Marin Sanudo], I diarii, ed. by Nicolò Barozzi, Rinaldo Fulin and others, 58 vols (Venice: Visentini, 1879–1903; repr. Bologna: Forni, 1969–70)
Shearman John Shearman, Raphael in Early Modern Sources (1483–1602), 2 vols (London and New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003) ← xiii | xiv →

Abbreviations for the Citation of Archival and Manuscript Sources

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List of Illustrations

Black and White Figures

1. Map of Italy showing Cesare’s second campaign in the Romagna, 1500 (after Bradford)

2. Pietro Santi Bartoli, Scenes from the Life of Pope Leo X, engravings taken from Raphael’s tapestries for the Sistine Chapel: Cardinal Giovanni de’ Medici at the Battle of Ravenna

3. Pietro Santi Bartoli, Scenes from the Life of Pope Leo X, engravings taken from Raphael’s tapestries for the Sistine Chapel: Cardinal Giovanni de’ Medici’s return to Rome for the Conclave

4. Reconstruction of Sangallo’s plan of the Villa Madama (redrawn from Dewer, fig. 44 GD)

5. Dedicatory epistle to Cardinal Luigi de’ Rossi. Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Vat. lat. 1673, fol. 2r. © Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican)

6. Elegia nona. Ad Leucam canentem ‘dulces exuviae’. Manuscript for Cardinal Luigi de’ Rossi. Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Vat. lat. 1673, fol. 51r. © Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican) ← xv | xvi →

7. Ad Reverendissimum Cardinalem Rangonum. Manuscript for Cardinal Luigi de’ Rossi. Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Vat. lat. 1673, fol. 93r. © Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican)

8. Lines with corrections from the elegy Nativitas Virginis et Matris Dei. Manuscript for Cardinal Luigi de’ Rossi. Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Vat. lat. 1673, fol. 106r. © Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican)

9. Map of Poland, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Khanate of the Crimea with the Battle of Olszanica, 1527

10. Letter and elegy addressed to Angelo Colocci. Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Vat. lat. 5227, vol. 2, fol. 573r. © Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican)

11. Elegy for Cardinal Ercole Rangone. Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Regin. lat. 2019, fol. 168r. © Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican)

12. Poem for Johann Goritz. Universität Bern, Zentralbibliothek, ZB Artopoeus 33, fly-leaf

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Introduction to Both Volumes

Many of the neo-Latin poets who frequented the literary circles of early sixteenth-century Rome are shadowy figures. Most are known only by their name or, at best, a solitary poem often found in a single manuscript or rare, early printed anthologies. With the exception of Poliziano, for example, most of the poets who contributed verses to the deluxe manuscript on the death of Orsini Lanfredini († 1488), the son of the Florentine representative in Rome, are unknown elsewhere, while few of the 120 contributors to the printed anthology, known as the Coryciana, are well-known (see below, Chapters 2 and 12).1 Occasionally a whole volume of verse survives from a poet, for example, the elegies written on a variety of themes by Guido Posthumo Silvestri (1479–1521).2

Francesco Sperulo (1463–1531), however, is particularly fortunate for three manuscripts of his Latin poetry have survived and are now preserved in the Vatican Library.3 Two are deluxe presentation copies written on fine ← xvii | xviii → parchment in coloured inks: BAV, Vat. lat. 5205, a brief epic on the siege of Faenza and a series of epigrams addressed to Cesare Borgia in 1501 (Colour Plates 1–2); BAV, Vat. lat. 5812, an extended description of the building of a suburban villa on the slopes of Monte Mario (now the Villa Madama) presented in 1519 to Cardinal Giulio de’ Medici (afterwards Pope Clement VII; Colour Plates 3–4). The third manuscript is a collection of four books of elegiac verse (BAV, Vat. lat. 1673; Figures 14–17). Unlike the manuscripts for Cesare Borgia and Cardinal de’ Medici, this is a large paper volume that was originally intended for Cardinal Luigi de’ Rossi, but reworked, after the Cardinal’s untimely death, to solicit patronage from Cardinal Ercole Rangone, and, to judge from the revisions and additions to the verse, this manuscript ultimately became the poet’s taccuino [composition book]. Other poems ascribed to the poet can be found in various manuscript anthologies in libraries across Europe. Two public orations, dated 1526 and 1527, were later published, at Rome and Kraków respectively.

Besides the poet’s literary output, a cache of letters, mainly addressed to Francesco Maria della Rovere (1490–1538), Duke of Urbino, and mention in two papal briefs, written during the pontificate of Adrian VI (1522–23), indicate that Sperulo also enjoyed a minor diplomatic role at the papal court.

Hitherto merely a footnote in Erasmus studies, this remarkable œuvre is here published for the first time, with translation and commentary. Supplemented by a detailed biography of the poet constructed from contemporary documents, letters and the poet’s own writings, these sources reveal a literary figure who frequented the highest social and intellectual circles in early sixteenth-century Rome. The roll call of associates, clients, and dedicatees numbers, among Cardinals and various lords: Cesare Borgia, ← xviii | xix → Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Baldassare Castiglione and Isabella d’Este. His poetry ranges through all the genres from epigram to epic; in subject matter from impassioned love lyric to brutal murder; geographically from contemporary Rome to the Crimean Steppes. Sperulo’s poetry, letters and orations document his progression from a soldier of fortune in the employ of Cesare Borgia, through a career at the Curia, to his elevation to the bishopric of San Leone in Calabria. We see that in the tumultuous world of shifting papal politics Sperulo was forced throughout his career to re-forge patron-client bonds and use his literary skills to do so. His œuvre thus makes an important contribution to our understanding of the political role of neo-Latin poetry at the papal court during the period 1500–27 and offers a rare opportunity for studying the manner in which a poet negotiated the straits and narrows within that patronage system.

Although his contemporaries (including Erasmus and Lilio Gregorio Giraldi) admired Sperulo’s poetry, his modern reputation has been in constant decline. While in the early nineteenth century the literary historian Count Luigi Bossi dubbed Sperulo un buon poeta latino and remarked that his manuscripts would merit publication,4 nowadays most scholars group him among those followers of Cesare Borgia, who have been unfairly dismissed as ‘mediocrities and nullities’, or ‘adulatory poetasters and adventurers’.5 The current work redresses the imbalance.

To do so, however, requires much historical contextualization. The first chapter of Volume I reconstructs the poet’s life and circle of contacts. Placing the poet’s works in a chronological order and setting the manuscripts within the political and social circumstances of their composition, a picture of his life, education and career emerges. Archival documents scattered across Italy, penitentiary records from the Vatican Archives and a voluminous correspondence with the Duke of Urbino further supplement these references allowing his biography to be pieced together in some detail. ← xix | xx →

Sperulo’s verse was written for the educated élite that frequented the papal court. Chapter 2 thus culturally situates the poet’s work in the pontificates of four Popes: Alexander VI (1492–1503), Julius II (1503–13), Leo X (1513–21), and Clement VII (1523–34). This chapter also describes the other venues in Rome, beyond the papal court, where neo-Latin poetry was declaimed and appreciated: the academies and various literary sodalities. The importance of these gatherings for the development of intellectual life in Rome cannot be underestimated, for they fostered personal contact between members of the Curia, poets, and artists, and the free exchange of ideas in a convivial setting. The circles of Pomponius Laetus, Angelo Colocci and Johann Goritz are given special attention.

The subsequent chapters in Volume I present Sperulo’s works in chronological order. Chapter 3 focuses on the manuscript presented to Cesare Borgia in late 1501. This is divided in two books: Book One is an epic account of 750 hexameters describing Cesare’s second campaign in the Romagna, the central portion of which describes the long winter siege of Faenza; Book Two is a collection of twenty-one epigrams, six of which were composed (and rewarded) in situ. (The poet claims that Cesare asked for a copy of the poems which the poet here presents to him, supplemented with others composed during the campaign, or which take the campaign as its theme.) As Sperulo fought in the very campaign he celebrated, his poetry is just as important a primary source for historians as it is for literary critics. Not only does the text offer uniquely first-hand observation of Cesare, both on and off the battlefield, including his less martial character and devotion to the Humanities, but also a close quarters’ description of contemporary warfare as it was being reshaped by the development of firearms and artillery. Although the Latin text of Book One was published by William Harrison Woodward in 1914, it is here re-presented in a critical edition accompanied by a full commentary and translation. The second book consisting of twenty-one epigrams is printed for the first time.

Chapter 4 examines the slim volume of verse presented to Giulio de’ Medici (later Pope Clement VII) in early March 1519 on the building of his suburban villa, now known as the Villa Madama, to the design of Raphael. Having made an excursion to Monte Mario to visit the building site, the poet returns excited to compose a poem in which he creatively imagines ← xx | xxi → the future villa complete in all its splendour. David Rijser has recently argued for a much closer relationship between visual and literary culture at the papal court, particularly in the circles frequented by Raphael.6 This poem, which devises programs for sculptural decoration and fresco cycles, provides further evidence for this strong link. John Shearman included the text in his collection of sources contemporary to Raphael, but with several errors of transcription and translation and a withering dismissal.7 The poem has been transcribed anew, re-edited, and translated in a full critical edition with commentary.

Chapter 5 explores the poet’s working method through a manuscript, hitherto unpublished, that was originally intended for Pope Leo X’s cousin Cardinal Luigi de’ Rossi, but then reworked. It contains a cycle of four books of elegiac poetry, arranged thematically. Books One ( De amore iuvenili, fols 5v–38v) and Two ( De amore coniugali, fols 39v–72v) conventionally chronicle the poet’s infatuation with a girl named Leuca. In Book Three ( In laudem virginitatis, fols 73r–103r) Sperulo moves away from the celebration of this ‘mistress’ to include other themes, such as an exchange of verse epistles between separated lovers; (from antiquity: Massinissa and Sophonisba; and contemporary history: Venanzio da Varano and Maria della Rovere) as well as encomiastic verses addressed to Pope Leo X and members of the Colonna, Medici and Rangone families. The series concludes in Book Four with seven hymns on the feast days of the Virgin Mary ( In laudem Virginis et Matris Dei Mariae, fols 103v–114v). As the titles show (love, marriage, celibacy, virginity), these four books were clearly intended to form a literary unit, and, progressing from the physical world (Books One and Two) through the intellectual (Book Three) to the spiritual and divine (Book Four), explore the successive grades of love culminating in pure devotion to the Virgin. As it was from these poems that Sperulo hoped to attain some favour or appointment from Pope Leo X, each poem ← xxi | xxii → is presented with a brief commentary which highlights the literary themes and the ways in which these connect within the sequence.

Chapter 6 reviews two orations that the poet gave in his capacity as Bishop of San Leone. The first was delivered on 10 March 1526 in Saint Peter’s, and again later the same day in Santa Maria del Popolo, and celebrates the reconciliation between Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and King Francis I of France after the battle of Pavia (24 February 1525) and the subsequent Treaty of Madrid (14 January 1526). A year later, on 18 March 1527, Sperulo gave an impromptu oration at the papal court to mark the victory of King Zygmunt I of Poland over the Crimean Tatars. This oration is Sperulo’s last datable work and is interesting both for its unusual theme and the momentary glimpse it offers of the confusion and anxiety at the papal court on the eve of the Sack of Rome (May 1527).

Contemporary aesthetic appreciation of Sperulo’s poetry was dependent upon a thorough knowledge of both the classical canon and Roman civilization in general. It could be expected that his learned audience would notice graceful variations upon common themes and familiar expressions culled from the classics and applaud the poet’s skill in adapting them to his current purpose and situation. This section, therefore, concludes with some observations on the poet’s style, sources and the place of imitatio in his works.

Volume II presents a complete critical edition of all Sperulo’s surviving Latin works in poetry and prose. With the exception of the poem on the Villa Medici (BAV, Vat. lat. 5213), I have provided the first English translation of Sperulo’s work on facing pages, followed by a commentary highlighting points of literary, linguistic and historical interest. In editing the texts and providing a commentary upon them, I have been mindful of Ian McFarlane’s comment, over thirty years ago, that a balanced view of neo-Latin poetry would not ‘be possible until scholars embark on critical editions of the more important figures, examine the conditions in which their work took shape, and in this context take a look at the pedagogic background as well as the poetic antecedents’.8 It has not ← xxii | xxiii → been my intention merely to collect and catalogue Sperulo’s sources, but, wherever possible, to show how the poet relied upon Renaissance commentaries on the classical poets to compose his own verse, and how the use of these commentaries sheds light on the composition and reception of Latin poetry in Renaissance Italy, and at the papal court in particular. A catalogue of the poet’s three main manuscripts, arranged in the chronological order in which they appear in the text, then follows together with an index of incipits.

A Note on the Transcription and Translations

As the three manuscripts appear to have been written by Sperulo himself I have respected his orthography throughout. For the sake of consistency and clarity, however, I distinguish u and v when it occurs as a consonant (as between alui ‘to be nourished’ and alvi ‘of a womb’, BAV, Vat. lat. 1673, fol. 112v). To avoid confusion an h has sometimes been removed (hymn 7. 17, hostia ‘sacrifice’ for ostia ‘door’, ‘entrance’). Such changes have been noted in the commentaries. Capital letters have been used for all proper names to conform to modern usage, while titles such as Dux, Cardinalis, etc., and expressions of deference, such as Tua Amplitudo, Vostra Excellentia, etc., have been capitalized. The standard palaeographical abbreviations, suspensions (e.g. the horizontal stroke for m and n) and contractions have been written out in full. The contraction - qz, for the conjunction - que, has been silently expanded. Sperulo uses the cedilla ę to indicate both the diphthong æ and to emphasize a long ē (e.g. cęperunt for cēperunt, De Amore coniugali, 2, 16, 1; cępit for cēpit, De Amore coniugali, 2, 17, 48). This can potentially lead to confusion. There are numerous examples throughout Vat. lat. 1673, for example, 1. 20. 26 where the poet writes the word for ‘a bawd’ lēna with a diphthong læna (meaning ‘a military cloak’). Therefore only the genuine diphthongs have been expanded and ę for long ē has been ignored. Otherwise the orthography of the manuscripts has been preserved, again except when confusion may occur (e.g. otior ‘I am at ease’ ← xxiii | xxiv → replaces ocior ‘swifter’, BAV, Vat. lat. 1673, fol. 122r). The poet indicates all vocatives by a superscript Greek particle above the word; these have been omitted in the transcriptions. Paragraph divisions have been inserted in the longer prose texts to facilitate reading.

In the manuscript for Cardinal de’ Rossi (BAV, Vat. lat. 1673) words, phrases and verses in italics indicate the poet’s additions, corrections and pentimenti. The deleted texts are included in the footnotes and the manner of erasure (expunctuation, crossing out, underlining etc.) indicated wherever typography would allow. When a second correction occurs within an italicized passage, the italics have been removed.

Most of Sperulo’s poems are only preserved in one manuscript. This means that some textual problems are insoluble. The translations are meant simply as aids to reading and, therefore, tend towards the literal rather than the literary. In the presence of intractable Latin, I have resorted to freer expression which I hope conveys the meaning. Sperulo’s poetry is highly rhetorical, resonating with intertextual allusions to contemporary neo-Latin authors, to epic and other classics of the ancient literary poetic canon as well as the Bible.

Sperulo wrote occasional verse for an audience fully conversant with both classical literature and the contemporary events he describes. As many of his references are perhaps lost on the modern reader, I have aimed to produce commentaries that are broad and full, but certainly not exhaustive. Following Josef IJsewijn, I have also tried to limit the echoes of classical authors ‘to very popular classical models (passages which everybody had to study at school), and texts more than half a verse long’.9 Longer passages, where Sperulo offers a rifacimento [very close paraphrase] of his classical source, have been included for comparison. Sperulo’s own marginal annotations in the manuscript for Cesare Borgia have been translated in the commentary. I rarely comment on points of grammar or syntax. ← xxiv | xxv →

Pace Fred Nichols, in the interests of clarity, I have chosen to modernize the punctuation, following the principles laid down by Jozef IJsewijn and Dirk Sacré.10 Line numbers have been added and quotation marks to speeches. Unless otherwise noted, all translations are my own.

1 BL, Add MS 22805; see Roberto Weiss, ‘In obitu Ursini Lanfredini: a Footnote to the Literary History of Rome under Pope Innocent VIII’, Italia medioevale e umanistica, 2 (1959), 353–66. For a short list of similar anthologies see John F. D’Amico, Renaissance Humanism in Papal Rome. Humanists and Churchmen on the Eve of the Reformation (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1983), 98. For the Coryciana, see the edition by Jozef IJsewijn (Rome: Herder, 1997); also Vincenzo de Caprio, ‘L’area umanistica Romana (1513–1527)’, Studi Romani, 29 (1981), 321–35; Julia Haig Gaisser, Pierio Valeriano on the Ill Fortune of Learned Men: A Renaissance Humanist and His World (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1999).

2 BAV, Vat. lat. 5810. The manuscript is dedicated to Cardinal Giulio de’ Medici and contains poems addressed to Pope Leo X, Cardinals Ercole Rangone and Agostino Trivulzio, and the papal treasurer Serapica among others.

3 This work completely supersedes the short bibliography in M.E. Cosenza, Biographical and Bibliographical Dictionary of the Italian Humanists and of the World of Classical Scholarship in Italy, 1300–1800, 6 vols (Boston: G.K. Hall, 1962–67), 4, no. 3307 and Paolo Pissavino in Peter G. Bietenholz, and Thomas B. Deutscher, eds, Contemporaries of Erasmus, a Biographical Register, 3 vols (Toronto: Toronto University Press, 1985–87), 3, 270. A brief (and garbled) biography, largely derived from Arsilli (see below, Chapter 1) can be found in Giovanni M. Claudi, and Liana Catri, eds, Dizionario Biografico dei Marchigiani (Ancona: il lavoro editoriale, 2002), 467 and repeated by Donatella Manzoli, ‘Ville e palazzo di Roma nelle descrizioni Latine tra rinascimento e barocco’, Studi Romani, 56 (2008), 109–66; 127–30.

4 Luigi Bossi, Vita e pontificato di Leone X di Guglielmo Roscoe tradotta e corredata di annotazioni e di alcuni documenti inediti, 12 vols (Milan: Sonzogno, 1816–17), 7, 248.

5 Vittorio Cian, in a review of Pastor, Giornale storico della letteratura italiana, 19 (1897), 432; cited in Michael Mallett, The Borgias. The Rise and Fall of a Renaissance Dynasty (Oxford: Bodley Head, 1969), 226.

6 David Risjer, Raphael’s Poetics. Art and Poetry in High Renaissance Rome (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2012).


XXVI, 704
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2015 (July)
neo-Latin - poetry Renaissance Ital court culture
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Wien, 2015. XXVI, 704 pp., 12 b/w ill.

Biographical notes

Paul Gwynne (Author)

Paul Gwynne obtained his doctorate from the Warburg Institute, University of London. For the past twenty years he has lived and worked in Rome, where he is Associate Professor of Classics and Director of Interdisciplinary Studies at the American University in Rome.


Title: Patterns of Patronage in Renaissance Rome
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