This study is the first to examine the important political role played by astrology in Italian court culture. Reconstructing the powerful dynamics existing between astrologers and their prospective or existing patrons, The Duke and the Stars illustrates how the “predictive art” of astrology was a critical source of information for Italian Renaissance rulers, particularly in times of crisis. Astrological “intelligence” was often treated as sensitive, and astrologers and astrologer-physicians were often trusted with intimate secrets and delicate tasks that required profound knowledge not only of astrology but also of the political and personal situation of their clients. Two types of astrological predictions, medical and political, were taken into the most serious consideration. Focusing on Milan, Monica Azzolini describes the various ways in which the Sforza dukes (and Italian rulers more broadly) used astrology as a political and dynastic tool, guiding them as they contracted alliances, made political decisions, waged war, planned weddings, and navigated health crises.
The Duke and the Stars explores science and medicine as studied and practiced in fifteenth-century Italy, including how astrology was taught in relation to astronomy.
This book, as erudite as it is elegant, takes the reader deep into the court life of Renaissance Milan. Using a vast range of sources with great care and artistry, Monica Azzolini recreates the lost discipline of astrology. The Duke and the Stars restores and illuminates a lost world, as colorful, as complex and as full of vividly portrayed individuals as a great Renaissance fresco.
Azzolini's impressive study adds a startling new dimension to our picture of Renaissance Milan. Taking us behind the scenes at the Sforza court, her book introduces us to the actual workings of astrology as a determinant of daily behavior. Her central argument—that Renaissance rulers took astrological calculations into serious account when making key policy decisions—is sure to spark lively debate.
This book skillfully traces a history of [astrology] from the beginning of the Sforza dynasty in 1450 until its demise in 1499, interpreting astrology’s role in learning, medicine, diet, and especially politics…The results of Azzolini’s research are exciting for how they sweep away cobwebs from episodes of Milanese history that have become dusty, either from lack of scholarly attention or from satisfied consensus…Azzolini’s book…[is] part of a new wave of English-language historiography offering fresh visions of how the Sforza consolidated and exercised their power…Readers will find in this volume not just a compelling account of the rise and fall of the house of Sforza, but new and important reflections on astrology’s role in fifteenth-century politics.
[A] finely crafted book…Utilizing a vast range of archival and published sources, Azzolini ventures deep into the culture of the Renaissance court. Weaving together the methods and interests of the history of science and of Renaissance political and cultural history, Azzolini has produced a sophisticated, interdisciplinary analysis of a science and a profession that played a key role in the political life of the Renaissance, challenging current assumptions about Renaissance politics and making important contributions both to the history of science and to early modern political and cultural history.
- 392 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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