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Commentaries, Volume 1: Books I–II

Commentaries, Volume 1: Books I–II

Pius II

Edited by Margaret Meserve and Marcello Simonetta

ISBN 9780674011649

Publication date: 02/17/2004

The Renaissance popes were among the most enlightened and generous patrons of arts and letters in the Europe of their day. The diaries of Pius II give us an intimate glimpse of the life and thought of one of the greatest of the Renaissance popes. Pius II (1405-1464) began life as Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini in a small town near Siena, and became a famous Latin poet and diplomat. Originally an opponent of the papacy as well as something of a libertine, Aeneas eventually reconciled himself with the Roman church and became a priest, then a cardinal. Finally he was elected Pope Pius II (1458) and dedicated his pontificate to organizing a pan-European crusade against the Ottoman Empire. Pius's Commentaries, the only autobiography ever written by a pope, was composed in elegant humanistic Latin modeled on Caesar and Cicero. This edition contains a fresh Latin text based on the last manuscript written in Pius's lifetime and an updated and corrected version of the 1937 translation by Florence Alden Gragg.

Praise

  • Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini, the Sienese humanist who became Pope Pius II, describes the election that brought him to the papal throne in a cold, mordant key that anticipates the Italian styles of Machiavelli and Guicciardini...For all his severity, Pius had a delightful way of describing cities and countryside. He could mock himself charmingly, as when he described his stay among the barbarian inhabitants of the British borders, who had never seen wine or white bread, and whose eager young women he refused to sleep with, as he stayed up all night for fear of bandits "among the heifers and nanny goats, who kept him from sleeping a wink by stealthily pulling the straw from his pallet." Pius's Commentaries, presented in a most elegant and informative way by Margaret Meserve and Marcello Simonetta, may well be the most entertaining work in the whole [I Tatti Renaissance Library] series.

    —Anthony T. Grafton, New York Review of Books

Authors

  • Margaret Meserve is Associate Professor of History and Associate Dean for Humanities and Faculty Affairs at the University of Notre Dame.
  • Marcello Simonetta is Assistant Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures, Wesleyan University.

Book Details

  • 448 pages
  • 5-1/4 x 8 inches
  • Harvard University Press

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