Giovanni Pico della Mirandola was deservedly called the Phoenix, because, in addition to exalted rank, the gods above bestowed on him the rarest gifts of body and of mind. By his wonderfully lofty and subtle intellect, his handsome face, his polished manners, and his incomparable eloquence in speech and writing he easily won the admiration of all scholars of his time. In a very profound work, which he left unfinished, he attacked the astrologers and exposed the emptiness of all divination with so much learning and force that he seems to have frightened the professors of these occult sciences out of writing. In his Heptaplus; where he discloses to us with divine inspiration the mysteries of Holy Writ, and in his Apolegeticus, where he defends with weighty argu70ments drawn from all fields of knowledge the theses which he had proposed for discussion, he seems to have surpassed himself in the felicity of his learning and his memory.
He died, fit for heaven, a youth of thirty-three, on that day as famous as it afterward became tragic for Italy, when Charles VIII of France entered Florence; so that, I suppose, it might be seen that not even the rejoicings at the restoration of liberty nor the unaccustomed spectacle of the army of a foreign power entering the city in gala array with banners flying could assuage the grief for the death of such a man.
Giulio Pomponio Leto is said to have been born of the illustrious house of the Sanseverini in the Marches and to have been brought up with such extraordinary care that he was believed to be the illegitimate son of the Prince of Salerno by a mother whose only lapse from virtue was due to the seduction of that nobleman. But when war finally broke out and the fortunes of the royal house were tottering, he turned his attention to the study of letters, embracing the classics with such enthusiastic emulation of antiquity and such natural aptitude that he was pointed out as conspicuous among the brilliant geniuses of that age at Rome, where he had succeeded to the position of his teacher, Valla, whom he equalled in reputation for learning. Soon after, however, his fame was greatly increased by the injustice of Paul II, who had put to torture on the charge of impiety and mischievousness certain scholars, among them Platina and Callimachus. For when Pomponio was dragged back from Venice to plead his cause, secure in the unblemished purity of his life he could not be frightened into any confession unbecoming a spotless and steadfast soul. The fact is that these scholars, when they gathered crowned with laurel to do homage to the Muses, had taken the names of famous ancient writers, and the Pope, who was unversed in the refinements of letters and naturally suspicious, took great offense at the strangeness of these names, fearing that they might be the secret passwords of men conspiring to commit some great crime.
Finally, under the patronage of Sixtus and Innocent, Pom71ponio taught in the university with such incredible prestige and to so large an audience that, as he began to lecture before dawn, the youth of Rome began to arrive at midnight to secure seats. He used often to come down alone from the Quirinal carrying a lantern like Diogenes, since he despised wealth, and was respected for his contented frugality. He was so attached to a simple and almost rustic way of living that, as he always had crowds of visitors and not enough servants, his noble guests who arrived unexpectedly for dinner would at his playful suggestion turn their hands to cooking, a proceeding which gave rise to many clever and witty sallies.
He wrote a brief Grammar suitable for grown lads; then, in a more stately style, a History of the Roman Emperors; and finally a most delightful little book in which he identified various sites among the ruins of the ancient city. But it was on the platform that he made his greatest reputation, which is all the more remarkable because in his familiar conversation he stuttered and stammered; but when he was making a speech or reading aloud, his delivery was not marred by the slightest hesitation
He died when he was past seventy from drinking very cold wine when overheated. His body was carried reverently on the shoulders of his distinguished pupils, the college of cardinals of Pope Alexander honored his funeral with their presence, and Marso delivered the eulogy. Among the various elegies which adorned his tomb the following epigram by Pontano was unanimously given first place:
Filippo, known by the classical name of Callimachus,47 was born in the Etruscan town of San Gimignano and developed his natural talents by the study of the classics at Rome. Not long after, he suffered a calamity which his innocence did not 72 deserve, when Paul II, who had conceived an irrational hatred for the distinguished scholars of the Academy, persecuted them on the charge that they were malicious conspirators and Callimachus himself, accused of having taken a Greek name, was punished beyond the others with imprisonment and torture.
Outraged at this injustice he set out for the ends of the earth and offered his services to Casimir, King of Poland. This prince, distinguished alike for his courage and for his good fortune but an enemy of the papacy, was the father of four kings. Now at this time letters were held in high honor by foreign sovereigns and above all the rest by Matthias Corvinus, who was a most generous patron of literature and the arts. Therefore Casimir appointed Callimachus tutor to his son Albert, who, after his father's death, admitted him to his closest friendship and raised him to a position of power, an act which roused such consternation and enmity among the Poles that they drove Callimachus from court, charging him with impiety, with having caused the Moldavian disaster,48 and with having persuaded the king to a tyrannical exercise of his power. For with malicious design he had urged that the nobles, because they were opposed to the levying of a tax and the declaration of war, should be sent to face the savage enemy, so that finally no one should be left to protect the rights of their ancestral liberty.
Callimachus, unable to endure their hostility, went into semi-exile and, though Albert missed him sorely, lay hidden at the house of an old friend in the Polish town of Vilna until he died. His death was concealed, and his body, after having been dried in an oven, was laid in a chest without funeral rites. When this came to Albert's knowledge, he showed his affection by honoring him with a bronze tomb in the church of Santa Trinità at Cracow. The chief monument to his genius is his authoritative history of Ladislas, King of Poland and Hungary, who fell by the Euxine in the battle of Varna, in which he was defeated by Murad. Callimachus is thought to have met the requirements of this very difficult task with so much taste that, in my opinion, he surpassed all who have essayed this branch of literature during all the centuries since Cornelius Tacitus.73
After the Medici were expelled from Florence at the coming of the French, Gerolamo Savonarola, a Dominican monk of Ferrara, acquired such influence because of the austerity of his life, his learning, subtlety, and wonderful eloquence in the pulpit that he easily swayed at will a people given to religious revivals and at that time newly transported with joy at regaining their liberty; and he was consulted not only by his friends on private matters but by the chief magistrate on affairs of state. For they thought that he predicted the future as if inspired by Heaven and nothing contributed more to this belief than the actual sight of his piety, of which his passion for upholding liberty was a conspicuous part. But some of the shrewdest nobles, by visiting and consulting him, increased his prestige enormously and they finally reached such a pitch of mad folly in the hope of gaining reflected glory that he was sent as ambassador to King Charles at Pisa and for four whole years was undisputed master of the minds and property of the Florentines.
But this man, who was assuredly of a Christian character and deeply versed in the best literature, nevertheless, fired with a secret ambition and an excessive and fatal passion for expounding the truth, became so violent and unrestrained that by his savage denunciation he brought down the sentence of death on seven of the noblest citizens, who had fallen under suspicion, and, by bitterly assailing with his mad freedom of speech the character of Pope Alexander, he called in question the holy office. Therefore he was accused of sacrilege and, on the demand of the Pope supported by the holy senate, he was arrested after the cathedral doors had been set on fire and blood had been shed in the assault. For the citizens of the opposite faction and the kinsmen of the condemned men had rushed to arms and in that riot Francesco Valori, the chief of Savonarola's party, who had moved the immediate execution of the accused men, was murdered. But Savonarola, after he had made a confession under torture, suffered a dreadful penalty in the middle of the public square, as if he had been a common brigand, for he was hanged and his body burned at once, while men looked on with various emotions; 74 for some, on fire with hatred, shouted that he had been justly cursed and punished, while others, with lamentations, reverently gathered his ashes from the pyre, convinced that he had met an undeserved death.
Of the works of his genius the one most highly praised is his glorious Triumph of the Cross, written in Latin and directed against the philosophers and the garrulous sophists of his day. He richly deserved a reputation for both piety and impiety, if we could believe the evidence of the contradictory inscriptions on his two cenotaphs. But the one which shameful malice produced a decent shame will suppress, so that the shade of a man, who, though perhaps innocent, had endured the anguish of a wretched death, may not suffer the torture of being branded in undying verse.
When the most celebrated of the Greeks, Theodorus, Argyropoulus, and Trapezuntius, were nobly striving to outdo one another in translating Aristotle, whose works they had divided among them as if by a definite agreement, Marsilio Ficino alone among Latin scholars, fired with the love of divine philosophy, undertook the task of translating Plato; and the fertility of his gifted mind enabled him to accomplish the task with so much speed that many were astounded that such rare force of inspiration and such mastery of both languages could flourish in a puny body that scarcely reached half man's normal stature. For continuing to work with indefatigable energy he had translated into Latin the famous writers of the Platonic school, Plotinus, Iamblichus, Synesius, and Psellus, first at the instigation of Cosimo dei Medici and afterward with the encouragement of his son Piero and his grandson Lorenzo, who had inherited Cosimo's extraordinary powers.
In accordance with the generous practice of that most distinguished house he found himself enriched with a dignified establishment, a charming villa, a priesthood, annual stipends, 75 and gifts, and indeed loaded down with favors; for he disdained greater wealth, being a man by no means ambitious and desirous of a cultivated and pleasant life only as a means to virtue, coveting none but intellectual glory and never engaging in struggles for advancement, since he had renounced all luxuries except a sweetish wine, and this not from any moroseness (for he was the happiest of men), but in accordance with a very definite plan for preserving his health, as may be gathered from his books on The Triple Life. For he pampered himself so excessively in the hope of prolonging his life that he often changed his headgear in the course of the day if the air grew sultry or a breeze sprang up.
But when he had lived to mourn the grievous deaths of his close friends, Lorenzo, Ermolao, Poliziano, and Mirandola, who all died in the same year, and also of Landino, and Savonarola, he died himself of a slight fever in his villa at Careggi when more than seventy years old: a bad omen indeed, since on the same day and at the same moment the power of Fate extinguished the two brightest lights of Italy, Ficino and the Florentine general Paolo Vitelli, a man of supreme and invincible courage, who was condemned to death more probably because of the fury of his personal enemies than because of any guilt; and at the same time King Louis of France was crossing the Alps with an invading army to overthrow one by one the illustrious houses and almost every throne in Italy.
Marzio Galeotti, a native of Narni, mastered every branch of learning with his vigorous intellect. He was tutor and private secretary to Matthias Corvinus, king of Hungary; he served in his army and won many prizes for wrestling, for he was a redoubtable athlete; and all this he did with such success that the king found in him a friend and companion for every hour. He wrote a book on Man, remarkable for breadth of learning rather than for style, which was soon attacked by that most precise of scholars, Giorgio Merula. But Galeotti defended himself so stoutly that his Apologeticus 76 might with justice be thought far richer in its variety of knowledge than his earlier book.
He wrote also works on sacred and moral philosophy — to his sorrow, for, when they read in them that the eternal joys of heaven were in store for all peoples who lived upright and pure lives in accordance with the just law of nature, the monks accused and condemned him. He was, however, speedily rescued by Pope Sixtus, who in his humbler days had been Galeotti's pupil, though not before he had suffered a grievous insult; for he was taken to the tribunal beside the two columns in the square at Venice to implore pardon and confess that he had written untruths. But it happened that this trial was broken up by the laughter that burst out among the bystanders at a witty and unexpected sally of Galeotti's. For a certain Venetian noble, conspicuous for his tall, lanky figure and notorious because of his loose wife, chanced to be standing near him in the crowd and, when this man in derision called the prisoner thus exposed to public ridicule a fat swine, Galeotti instantly retorted, with a broad grin, that he would rather be a fat swine than a lean goat. Galeotti had such a huge paunch that he used to ride in a coach because even very large mounts gave out under the enormous weight of his fat body; and he finally died in old age at Mount Agnana near Este, stifled by the sheer mass of his flesh.
The muse of this semi-Apulian from the town of Amphracta was conspicuous at Naples during the rule of the house of Aragon, though even celebrated poets were his rivals. For at that time Pontano, Altilio, Gravina, and Actius, bards endowed with immortal genius, were composing their divine poems. But in Calenzio, consumed by the fires of a young man's shifting passions, the stream of poetry, as if swirled along by sudden rapids, flowed too impetuously for perfect clearness, though otherwise it was remarkable for its spontaneous abundance in various forms of verse.
Pontano loved him fondly from his boyhood and chose him as his constant companion; Altilio esteemed him highly; Actius Sincerus honored him with the praise he deserved.49 We 77 have by him elegies charming in their tenderness and a Latin poem on The Battle of the Frogs and the Mice which breathes the spirit of Homer. He dedicated these fruits of his labors to that rare and brilliant scholar, Angelo Colocci, who is today a distinguished bishop, the keenness of his intellect unimpaired by age, to whom the youth of Rome do reverence as he sits in his garden nobly expounding the principles of sound eloquence.
Calenzio was survived by a son Lucio, to whom we have a letter by Pontano, in which he tried to fire the young man to emulate his father's character and studies. But Calenzio himself, when, ruined by passion and neglectful of his property, he had long persisted in composing unprofitable elegies, realized too late that the opportunity for amassing wealth had passed him by, as he admits in the following poem:
But when he was dying, he gave these other verses to his son Lucio to be carved on his tomb:
Elisio to the Wayfarer on Himself
Pandolfo Collenuccio of Pesaro, a man of very keen intellect distinguished for his profound knowledge of all subjects, served as podestà of the proudest Italian cities and, when he discharged the heavy duties of ambassador, his brilliant eloquence and noble bearing made him the very pattern of a Latin orator. But his great genius was undisciplined, so that in no subject did he reach the height of fame. For, though he was a lawyer by profession, his insatiable ambition caused him to range continually from one field to another and he was 78 ever ready to attack, in debate or writing, the leaders of all other professions, since he could never approve anything that was not conspicuously excellent and despised everything mediocre.
With haughty scorn and impetuous display he most eloquently defended Pliny against his detractor, Leonico. He wrote a treatise on the Viper and also a very witty dialogue called the The Head and the Hat. finally he wrote a History of the Kings of Naples in Italian to please Ercole d'Este, who knew very little Latin. Many delightful works, however, which he began with great elegance, he was unable to finish, since Giovanni Sforza, tyrant of Pesaro, who he had offended in a letter which was intercepted, was more influenced by his passionate anger at this recent fault (though he concealed his resentment at the time) than by the memory of Collenuccio's earlier services. Therefore Collenuccio, who was so rash as to trust the tyrant, was imprisoned and strangled, a fate which he was far from deserving.
Gioviano Pontano, a man born to excel in every branch of eloquence, fled in terror from the Umbrian town of Cerreto where his father had been murdered by turbulent citizens, and betook himself, young and poor, to Naples; for he had heard that there, owing to the generous patronage of King Alfonso, a celebrated library had been founded and letters were held in honor. Nor did his talents fail of recognition, since Antonio Panormita, who at that time was secretary to the king and enjoyed a great reputation for learning, admired his vigorous scholarship. Fortune later smiled on these beginnings so graciously that, when Panormita died, Pontano, who had followed King Ferdinand to war, was appointed in his place. Thus he soon acquired a dignified competence, though, as he wrote, it would have been less than his loyalty and his services deserved, if the income from a profitable post had not been supplemented by the dowry of his wife, Ariadne. When he had attained this position, as if set free to pursue his studies, he cultivated the Muses in all meters with such ease and fruitfulness that the most distinguished poets and orators of 79 the day could not be mentioned in the same breath with him.
He had a severe expression and his whole countenance appeared somewhat rustic, but his writings and conversation were most polished, while even on serious subjects he was very often extremely witty. As a critic, however, he was considered, although thoroughly conscientious, unjustifiably harsh, in particular because in his writings he censured with biting frankness not only individuals known to him but the customs of all nations and cities, a habit carried to excess in his various dialogues, especially in the Charon.
Many consider his style more elegant and lofty in poetry than in prose, since in his History he may be thought to have turned aside from the true principles of that form of composition, not always maintaining the dignity of its majestic step; while afterward, breathing the sweet fragrance of the fruit of the Hesperides and borne aloft on the wings of divine poesy, he soared to the very stars which he had sung in exalted verse.
He lived seventy-seven years and died in the same month in which Pope Alexander VI departed this life. He was buried in a chapel which he had built for his tomb opposite the house of the d'Avali, and a eulogy composed by him may be seen inscribed on a marble tablet:
Marcantonio Coccio Sabellico, the son of a blacksmith of Vico Varo on the via Valeria near the Anio, applied his prodigious and (appropriately) almost iron strength of intellect to the study of letters with such success that, while still a beardless lad, he opened a school in Tivoli. With the fees earned in this way he bought a fine blue robe and betook himself to Pomponio at Rome, because he was eager for higher 80 learning. Pomponio, realizing his productive genius, admitted him with solemn rites into his Academy, where he took the name of Sabellicus; for those who were crowned with the sacred laurel on the Quirinal regularly changed their names. In that school, where letters were discussed by men of the keenest critical judgment, he is said to have rid himself of much of the unrestrained and somewhat rude luxuriance of his Latin style.
Before long he left Rome and went to Udine, a town not far from Aquileia, where he taught the young nobles of the district and finally acquired a great reputation from his delightful description of that region, so celebrated because of the prestige of antiquity, and from his poem on the burning of Carne and his lament on the disaster at the Isonzo. Therefore the people of Vicenza, stirred by his fame, ostentatiously engaged him at double the salary he was receiving. He did not, however, remain there long, because he had a call from the Venetian senate on condition that he should write a history of their city from the death of Justinian and teach in the university at a salary of three hundred gold ducats. In performing the latter function he was of the greatest service to the young students, but in the former he was thought to have obscured the facts by his extravagant flattery.
His Enneades, which embrace all history from the beginning of the world, show the inevitable consequences of committing oneself hastily to so ambitious a project, for he so thoroughly darkened by his obscure brevity famous events which deserved to be set in the most brilliant light that his readers, whose interest had been aroused by the comprehensive title, were disappointed throughout; for everything was packed together closely in a great heap and nothing was clearly outlined, but merely indicated as by little dots and dashes. He worked industriously at this task till he was nearly seventy, when he died, undoubtedly of syphilis which he had contracted in the course of his promiscuous intrigues.
While he was still alive and well, he had, however, taken timely precautions about his tomb, because he distrusted his degenerate son by one of his mistresses; and he had carved on the stone a poem which he wrote himself. The eulogy is distinguished, indeed, and well deserved, but it would cer81tainly have been more fitting if it had been inscribed by the affection of another:
Lorenzo Lorenzano, after having been for some time professor of philosophy and medicine at Florence and Pisa, applied a genius which was devoted to belles-lettres to translating Hippocrates, because he thought that Theodorus Gaza, who in other respects was a very accurate translator, had made little effort to reproduce to any great extent the laconic style of this terse author. We have also his learned labors on Galen's very obscure treatises on the "Prince of Medicine." But, while engaged on this commentary, he was most unhappily attacked by melancholia. For he had paid down a third of the price of a house he wished to buy under an agreement that, if he did not pay the whole sum in six months, his deposit should be forfeited to the owner. But, when the appointed day was approaching, since he had many unforeseen disappointments and distrusted the generosity of his friends, he was overwhelmed with grief at the prospect of his loss and in a fit of despondency threw himself into a deep well. This happened about the time that Pietro Soderini,50 after the establishment of a popular form of government at Florence, had been made perpetual gonfaloniere and was administering that republic with the greatest moderation.
Antiocho Tiburti, a well born lad of Cesena, was taken by a soldier to northern France, where his love of letters led him to settle in Paris, to the satisfaction of his master, who desired that a youth of such promise should be trained in the best literature. After some years, however, he returned to Italy and began to profess arts of divination which were very close to magic.
By his publication of an elegant book on palmistry he made such a reputation that he was consulted by a great throng 82 of persons curious and anxious about the outcome of their lives and fortunes. For he had opportunely brought to the support of this subject the reinforcements of the liberal arts with so much shrewdness and success that even very learned men, who realized perfectly the vanity of this unreliable science, confirmed the statements which were believed on the testimony of the populace. For Antiocho was the first since Pietro of Apona, a man celebrated for his skill in magic, to revive an art that had lain neglected for two centuries and had been tabooed by the clergy. This he did in three books on Physiognomy and Pyromancy, and so convincingly that he did not seem to be prophesying by an occult science the outcome of hidden things to anyone who might be eager to know the future, but to be stating a proof with brilliant reasoning based on marvelously acute conjecture.
He had made predictions by palmistry to Guido da Bagni (who was called Guerra in France because of his extraordinary energy as a soldier) and to Pandolfo Malatesta, tyrant of Rimini: that the latter would be driven from his country and throne and die an exile in extreme poverty, and that the former would be murdered by a distinguished friend on suspicion of treachery. This would indeed have been remarkable evidence that his art was far from unreliable, had he not remained in ignorance of the doom that threatened his own life (though in this case, too, he had no doubt as to the fact, but was mistaken as to the fatal hour). For Pandolfo, made savage by his own terror or by the urgings of his father-in-law, Bentivoglio, put to death a brave man whose loyalty he suspected, though he was his friend and the leader of his faction, and Tiburti himself he imprisoned, that he might be held for punishment according to what might happen. But, since the Fates were opening a secret path to ruin, Tiburti, while imprisoned and in chains, by prayers and flattery aroused such pity and love in the tender-hearted daughter of the guard of the citadel that she brought a rope by which she lowered him into the moat; but the rattle of his fetters betrayed his flight and the wretched man was dragged back and beheaded together with the girl.
However, in the case of Pandolfo the Fates did not betray their prophet for he died in an inn utterly destitute and de 83 serted by his children, a poor, miserable old man infamous for his cruelty.
Beroaldo, who holds a high place among professors of philology, lectured at Bologna with great distinction to incredibly large audiences and was extravagantly admired, especially by the youth who came from other cities, because he set forth with great charm of delivery the treasures of profound learning gathered by wide reading and stored in a ready memory, and eagerly attacked problems which others had left untouched. For he strove to shed light on obscure authors and, as appeared from his commentaries on The Golden Ass of Apuleius, to bring back into Latin speech words musty with antiquity which had been definitely rejected by sound writers. As a result of his familiarity with Apuleius he had adopted by a kind of perverse whim a rough style of writing such that refined ears were at first astounded at the harshness of this strange, unclassic Latin, though presently they were forced to accept it. But because he employed his noble and cultivated talents in skilfully seasoning these obsolete expressions which scholars found ridiculous, he got the reputation of a man who was dull and careless in choosing his field, when he might have learned and taught anything.
He died before he reached old age, shortly after Bologna was racked by an earthquake and the palace of the tyrant, Bentivoglio, was struck by ominous lightning, a remarkable portent of his downfall which soon followed.
Filippo's learning descended to his nephew of the same name, a scholar of greater elegance, who devoted himself to poetry and wrote odes that deserve to be immortal. As a result he was admitted by Pope Leo to his close intimacy and offered the post of librarian of the Vatican. But a speedy and untimely death begrudged him the enjoyment of the honors he had won.
Ercole Strozzi of Ferrara, the son of the poet Tito Strozzi, far surpassed his father in the excellence of his verse. For 84 the brilliant charm of his quick and noble genius gained for him so distinguished a position at court that, besides holding posts of a more serious character in which he showed extraordinary wisdom and resource, he was adjudged the authority on theatrical performances and good taste in general, while in attention to his person and in elegant display and splendor of living he was not a whit behind the Este princes.
But when he was at the height of his reputation for urbane magnificence and was indulging without restraint in amorous intrigues, cruel Cupid, whom legend calls the despotic lord of gods and men, brought him to the brink of ruin. He so completely lost his head in surrender to a mad passion, that he had the presumption to court somewhat too boldly with lavish and accomplished prodigality and amatory verses a married lady of high rank, an indiscretion by which he had incurred, if not the open displeasure, at least the secret ill-will of certain persons, since this one graceful intrigue betrayed his many dangerous charms and therefore men who hated and disparaged him began to fear him.
Though he was lame from a dislocated knee and besides not actually handsome or young, yet he was an object of grave suspicion to jealous husbands because once, when he was jesting with some ladies, wishing to make light of the deformity of his leg, he said with a neat allusion that Venus showed her sense when she welcomed Vulcan, who certainly was a man though he had a crooked foot.
Finally, however, he fell in love with a beautiful and noble widow named Torelli, under so ill omened a star that he made a fatal marriage with her, in order that his rival, who was the headstrong tyrant himself, might be kept away by regard for the marriage bond. But that cruel and insolent prince could not brook such treatment and before long Ercole was murdered when riding his mule home from a dinner late at night. No one brought accusation against the murderer and the magistrate took no action.
Bartolommeo Cocle was born of humble family at Bologna. With powers trained indeed by no small learning but ren85dered divine and marvelous by the gift of Heaven he cultivated with diligence and success the art of prophecy, which had recently been revived and illumined by Antiocho.51 For he practised metoscopy and palmistry, to the great chagrin of the astrologers, who very often made mistakes in their laborious casting of horoscopes. He had acquired a great reputation by a book containing a chart together with the characters and symbols of this science, so that by the very generosity with which he appeared to publish abroad the secrets of the whole subject he might delude the ignorant who were curious to know the outcome of their lives. In this he had the very powerful support of Achillini, who, in a brilliant preface directed against the slanderers of the art, had, so to speak, furnished Cocle's writings with a shining helmet. This he did so carefully and neatly, interweaving throughout sinews, as it were, of arguments based on natural philosophy, that this vain and empty profession, thus strongly established and defended, came to be generally acclaimed as one, and by no means an ignoble one, of the liberal arts and the author's prestige was greatly increased because he attacked with weighty arguments the theories of Antiocho himself and of Corvo della Mirandola as being unsound. His readers were so eager to believe, that many whose sagacity in other respects was unfailing, fooled by the delusion of this pseudo-philosophy, hung on Cocle's words and decided their private affairs in accordance with them, since through his daily predictions the future was perceived as clearly as the present.
Of these predictions we have a remarkable and very reliable catalogue written in Cocle's own hand recording those persons to whom he had foretold various dangers leading to a violent end, a list confirmed in every detail after his death by compliant Fortune. Therefore I too, an old man whom long experience here in enlightened Rome has made far from credulous, am led to believe Luca Gaurico, a person of ripe years and sound judgment, who admits frankly that Cocle gave him an explicit and friendly warning to avoid anything that might lead to extreme torture, though he himself, since through his father's carelessness he did not know the hour of his birth, could not anticipate the event from his knowledge of the stars. For Giovanni Bentivoglio had Gaurico arrested 86 and given the strappado five times for having predicted in his forecast for that year that he would be driven from his country and throne. But Cocle paid an even severer penalty for the truth of his predictions when, against his will and actually coerced, he told Ermete, the tyrant's son, that he was fated to die an exile in battle. The bloodthirsty Ermete, smitten with deadly terror, could not endure this frankness, though he had provoked it, and ordered Copono to slay Cocle as a sacrifice for his coming obsequies and an atonement for his present anguish. Cocle had foreseen the danger of death and so had protected his head with a concealed helmet and always went armed with a great sword which he was very skilful in wielding with both hands. But he could not avoid the fated ambush, for, while he was trying to insert his key in a lock that had been stopped up with a pebble, Copono, disguised as a laborer, felled him by a blow on the head with an axe; and he gave no reason for his crime except that Cocle himself had told him that he would shortly commit a foul murder.
Giovanni Cotta was born near Legnago, a town on the Adige. He was of lowly station, but he showed a lofty genius for letters, since behind that rustic countenance lay hidden noble powers that enabled him to display a marvelous felicity in speech and writing. For, by poring over the best authors of both languages with unflagging energy, he absorbed such a wealth of learning that he became famous for his astounding memory and wrote poems of classic dignity.
He had set up a school at Lodi because his aunt had married there, but after a time he went to study with Pontano at Naples. For a while he attached himself to the nobles, Sanseverino and Cavanilla; later, however, he transferred his services to the Venetian general, d'Alviano, who was a generous patron of the Muses and had founded an academy at Pordenone in the district of Treviso, where he gathered about him a company of distinguished poets, of whom Fracastoro, Navagero, and Gerolamo Borgia became, except for Cotta, by far the most famous. When d'Alviano was defeated and cap87tured by the French at the Adda, Cotta with rare devotion offered to share his prison and all his misfortunes; but the French, with inhuman cruelty, refused the wretched man not only a companion but even books and a pen and, in short, any solace for the weary leisure of his dungeon. Cotta, however, was able to do him another service by carrying a message to Pope Julius at Viterbo. There, a few days after his arrival, he died of the plague at the early age of twenty-eight.
We have his epigrams and speeches, but his famous work on geography, which he had begun in verse, and his learned commentary on Pliny are lost.
Pietro Crinito, an agreeable and cultivated youth, hated his Italian name of Riccio, which was given him because his father had curly hair, and preferred to be called Crinito. He was rightly considered the most fluent of all Poliziano's pupils; for we have, besides some poems that are not without charm, more than twenty books De Honesta Disciplina, interesting and delightful from their great variety, and also five painstaking and learned volumes of the Latin poets. On Poliziano's death, though he was inferior in rank and fortune to the young nobles who were cultivating the study of literature, he came deservedly to be their friend and teacher. For, attracted by beauty of both body and mind, like Socrates, he was wont to declare that noble youths ought to be loved and instructed at the same time. But such intimacy, kept within no fixed bounds of dignity and restraint, opened the way to disgrace and even to ruin. For after a gay dinner in Pietro Martelli's villa at Scandiano, when in the course of a playful quarrel a saucy guest drenched him with a goblet of cold water, he got a chill and died in a few days overcome with grief at the rude insult. He left his friends a feeling of deeper penitence and more bitter loss because he was not yet forty years old.
Gerolamo Donato, a patrician of Venice, was distinguished not only for the dignity of his face and figure but for the 88 extraordinary sagacity, effectively supported by sound learning and confirmed by wide experience, which becomes a senator. He seems indeed to have brought to every act that lofty character, illumined by the brilliant light of all knowledge, which enabled him later, when Julius II, enraged at the Venetians and in league with foreign sovereigns, was bent on avenging the insult to his dignity by a cruel war, not only to mollify the Pope but to induce him to withdraw after making peace and a treaty. As a result of his supreme achievement of successful genius we have seen the republic, which had been nearly uprooted, restored in seven years to its former prosperity.
Donato was not able to see the fruit of his labors, for he died of disease at Rome shortly before the dreaded French were expelled from Italy; but the matchless glory, which, in the judgment of the whole nation, he gained from that embassy, is handed down to posterity in lasting records and his country will not be so ungrateful as to fail to pay due honor to her greatest citizen by keeping alive the memory of his name. Monuments of his genius, which deserved to see the light, his sons suppressed because his public duties had not allowed him to finish them, but they published his attack of the Greeks, who were engaged in a futile dispute with the Roman pontiff as to the supremacy of the pope. There is current also his version of Alexander Aphrodisius's treatise on the Intellect, translated from the Greek into pure and appropriate Latin; and we have some Letters written in a very impressive style, especially one in which he urges the Emperor Maximilian to shake off the fetters of a French alliance, and another in which he describes the disasters and terrors of the island of Crete, which was convulsed by a great earthquake when he was governor there.
47 Callimachus Esperiens, the name taken by Filippo Buonaccorsi.
48 In 1496 the treacherous Stephen, Prince of Moldavia, ambushed and massacred some of Albert's troops.
49 Sannazaro, Eleg. 1.21: Elysiusque hedera comptus florente capillos
rara sed Aoniis concinat apta choris.
50 Perpetual gonfaloniere 1502-1512; deposed by the Medici; restored by Julius II.
51 Antiocho Tiburti. Cf. p. 81.