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Commentaries, Volume 1: Books I-II (The I Tatti Renaissance Library) Hardcover – November 19, 2003
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About the Author
Marcello Simonetta is Assistant Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures, Wesleyan University.
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Margaret Meserve, Marcello Simonetta, Pius II: Commentaries (Volume 1). I Tatti Renaissance Library. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004. ISBN 0-674-01164-3.
Reviewed by Dr. Dustin A. Gish, John Cabot University and The American University of Rome
"These are the labors of the night, for we have borrowed the hours owed to sleep and spent the better part of them on our writing. Another man, it is true, might have used his watch better, but I felt an obligation to my mind, which took such delight in the task."
Thus writes Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini (1405-64; Pope Pius II, r. 1458-64), in 1462, one of the tensest years of his papacy, regarding the completion of his treatise on Asia, part of an ambitious, yet unfinished Cosmographia. These lines serve as a fitting epigram for Aeneas Sylvius [hereafter, AS] and open the Introduction to the first of five projected volumes of Pius II: Commentaries from the I Tatti Renaissance Library, edited and translated by Margaret Meserve and Marcello Simonetta.
In this volume we have the first two books of AS's Commentaries: a monumental work (thirteen books in all) of literature, historiography, and autobiography, authored by one of the most intriguing characters in the humanist movement. It is the only autobiography ever written by a reigning pope, and the fitting culmination and keystone of a Renaissance career which may be called 'typical' only in the sense of being truly exemplary. AS excelled as a humanist scholar and diplomat, and was an accomplished Latin poet (crowned 'Poet Laureate' in 1442: I.11.Read more ›
Some of the more memorable scenes including his trip to Scotland where he stays the night in a hay-loft with two Scottish women.. the incredible set-piece when he is elected Pope, the drama of which is nothing short of some of the best I've read in a while, his entire life leading up to this scene: "All sat in their seats, pale and silent, thunderstruck, as if in a trance. For some time no one spoke, no one opened his lips, no one moved any part of his body except his eyes, which kept darting about." And the travel from Rome northward to meet with the Holy Roman Emperor to discuss what to do about the Turks and the recent Fall of Constantinople - in particular some of the accounts of lords and the tortures and sexual abuses they committed were really very shocking - a window on the world as it was.