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Paolo Giovio

Paolo Giovio: The Historian and the Crisis of Sixteenth-Century Italy

Copyright Date: 1995
Pages: 404
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    Paolo Giovio
    Book Description:

    Best-known for his sweeping narrativeHistories of His Own Timesand for his portrait museum on Lake Como, the Italian bishop and historian Paolo Giovio (1486-1552) had contact with many of the protagonists of the great events he so vividly described--the wars of France, Germany, and Spain, and the sack of Rome. He used the information he gleaned from his contacts to carry on an extensive correspondence that became a kind of proto-journalism. With his interests in history, literature, geography, exploration, medicine, and the arts, this man reflects almost the entire spectrum of High Renaissance civilization. In a biography surveying both Giovio's life and his works, T. C. Price Zimmermann examines the historian as a figure formed by fifteenth-century humanism who was caught in the changing temper of the Counter Reformation.

    Giovio'sHistoriesremained a widely used account of the wars of Italy for nearly two hundred and fifty years, although his objectivity was often questioned owing to the patronage he received. Following Burckhardt, who began to restore Giovio's reputation more than a century ago, Zimmermann reveals a conscientious, independent-minded historian and an astute commentator on the entire Mediterranean world, the first to integrate the contemporary history of the Muslim nations with that of Europe, east and west. The book also stresses the important contributions Giovio made to the ethos of the Renaissance through his biographies and famous portrait museum, both tributes to the emerging sense of individual human personality.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2183-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Abbreviations Used in the Notes and Bibliography
    (pp. xiii-2)
  5. CHAPTER ONE Origines (1486–1511)
    (pp. 3-13)

    Paolo giovio was born shortly before the outbreak of the wars that form the focus of hisHistories. The traditional date is 1483, but Giovio’s own statements seem to point to 1486.¹ His family, the Zobii, traced their origins to the small island in Lake Como, the site of a thriving community in the earlier Middle Ages and a refuge in time of war. In hisLarius, a description of the lake, Giovio boasted that his ancestors had founded the hospice and church of St. Mary Magdalen on the nearby mainland and had maintained the patronage for six hundred years.²...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Humanist Physician (1512–1527)
    (pp. 14-19)

    Giovio’s first steps in Rome are difficult to retrace. There are no letters from these early years, and the historian himself said little, save that his career had begun with considerably more service to Aesculapius than to Clio.¹ For the practice of medicine he had no real vocation; to “exit from the hospital” was his dream from the start.² Another motive for obscuring his early days in Rome was the spectacular disgrace of his first patron, the Genoese cardinal Bandinello Sauli. How Giovio became physician to Sauli is uncertain, although it may have been through the Fieschi and his Genoese...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Leonine Rome (1513–1521)
    (pp. 20-27)

    When giovio arrived in Rome sometime in 1512, the city was beginning to assume the visual and intellectual splendors of the High Renaissance, inspired—or rather, impelled—by Pope Julius II and his vision of Roman grandeur restored under the aegis of the papacy.¹ Michelangelo was finishing the Sistine ceiling and Raphael was at work on the Vaticanstanze. Bramante had begun the new St. Peter’s and thecortileof the Belvedere. Inspired by the Roman ruins and the recent uncovering of the Laocoön (1506), Roman classicism was in full spate. To Jacopo Sadoleto, whose poem on the statue had...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Leo X and the Quest for the Libertas Italiae (1513–1521)
    (pp. 28-41)

    The brilliant victory of Francis I over the new duke of Milan and his veteran Swiss troops at Marignano on September 14, 1515, had thwarted the plans of Leo X for thelibertas Italiae. A personal embarrassment for Giovio was the fact that Venice had allied itself with France and that the tide had been turned by his hero, Bartolomeo d’Alviano, who arrived on the second day of the battle with fresh Venetian forces.¹ Although a papal army was in the field to protect the newly acquired territories of the Church in Emilia and Lombardy, the pope was not eager...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE Adrian VI (1521–1523)
    (pp. 42-59)

    With the cardinal de’ Medici having departed posthaste for Rome, there would have been little for his entourage to do but pack and follow. No doubt Giovio gave what comfort he could to his family before setting out on the long journey over muddy winter roads to Rome. The conclave for electing Leo X’s successor met on December 27, 1521, and by January 4, 1522, it was totally deadlocked. As Giovio later heard from Giberti, who was acting as the cardinal’sconclavista, their patron controlled a large number of votes but not enough to secure “that honor to which he...

  10. CHAPTER SIX Clement VII and the Sack of Rome (1523–1527)
    (pp. 60-85)

    The death of Adrian VI was a severe setback but, as in 1521, the allies saved the situation by their resolution. The league had been drawn up to outlast by a year the death of any one signatory, so while the Roman populace was venting its joy at the death of its shepherd, Prospero Colonna—now so aged and ailing he had to be carried in a litter—was falling back to defend Milan. He was even prepared to abandon the city if attacked, its fortifications and defenders were so weakened, but instead of launching an assault, Bonnivet settled down...

  11. CHAPTER SEVEN Ischia (1527–1528)
    (pp. 86-105)

    While the holocaust raged in stricken Rome, Giovio remained with the pope in Castel Sant’Angelo. Clement VII was a virtual prisoner. Spanish troops guarded his chamber. His days were spent in desperate negotiations over his ransom. To help meet the soldiers’ exorbitant demands, Benvenuto Cellini was set to melting down gold and silver artifacts in an improvised furnace on the ramparts. Provisions were short and conditions grim. As the implacable heat of summer came on, plague broke out, and the stench of rotting corpses made it impossible to remain on the battlements when the wind blew from the city.¹ To...

  12. CHAPTER EIGHT Papal Courtier (1528–1534)
    (pp. 106-135)

    Giovio returned to a city in misery and a master in travail. Destruction, desolation, and poverty lay all about. There was a deep sense that the world had changed, perhaps forever. The pope’s white beard, seen in Sebastiano del Piombo’s portrait (now in Parma), told of his personal sufferings.¹ Even the artist complained, “I do not seem to be that Sebastian I was before the sack. . . . I cannot return to the same mind.”² Giovio’s own mood was scarcely expansive. Everything he had saved was lost. To increase his sense of universal catastrophe, his family was still struggling...

  13. CHAPTER NINE Transitions (1535–1538)
    (pp. 136-163)

    With the death of Clement VII, Giovio entered a new phase of his career. No longer would he rely on one patron. Although he eventually attached himself to the new pope’s grandson, Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, he began using his reputation as a historian to develop a galaxy of patrons who collectively did much better by him than the single patron of times past. The field of force that held this galaxy in place was his correspondence. To maintain relations with his patrons Giovio developed into one of the great letter writers of the age, the creator of a new genre...

  14. CHAPTER TEN Courtier of the Farnese (1539–1544)
    (pp. 164-199)

    No crowd assembled in the piazza del Popolo for Giovio’s return to Rome, but after an absence of nearly two years he was heartened to find himself welcomed and “caressed” by the pope and Cardinal Farnese.¹ Because of the increasing eminence of his new patron, now first secretary as well as vice-chancellor, he found himself the historian and oracle to an emerging statesman, a role he could scarcely expect with the pope, and the young cardinal soon developed a genuine fondness for the jovial, if ceaselessly importunate, historian.

    Giovio’s conflicting loyalties involved him almost immediately in tensions between Rome and...

  15. CHAPTER ELEVEN The Elusive Prize (1545–1549)
    (pp. 200-228)

    Giovio’s habitual candor explained why he was still willing, at the age of fifty-eight, to forsake the freedom of his delicious villa for “the customary service” in Rome. It was the hope of “some worthwhile subsidy.”¹ Although he never entirely gave up hope of the hat, there were other prizes that would complete the empty panel in the museum, such as a major bishopric. He started taking a keen interest in the health of the aging bishop of Como, Cesare Trivulzio.² He had always felt that Nocera dei Pagani was below his deserts, both in income and in prestige. Clement...

  16. CHAPTER TWELVE De Senectute (1549–1552)
    (pp. 229-262)

    If giovio’s departure from Rome was a defeat, his journey to Como was a triumph. Thanks to good mules and the luxury of wagons, he survived the rigors of the road so well he thought he might even live another seven years.¹ Host after host showered him with flattering hospitality. On the second day Captain Bartolomeo of Mirandola entertained him at lunch, probably at Viterbo, and accompanied him to Bagnaia, where Cardinal Ridolfi received him “like a Lucullus.” The cardinal had just added a pair of loggias to the governor’s castle, affording a view of the countryside around Monte Cimino...

  17. CONCLUSION Ad Sempiternam Vitam
    (pp. 263-284)

    From the moment of publication, Giovio’sHistorieswere in great demand. Four editions of the Latin text appeared in Italy and seven in northern Europe, along with twelve editions of Domenichi’s Italian translation, four of a French translation, and one each of German and Spanish versions.¹ A complete census has not been made of reprintings and translations of the biographies and minor works, but there were no fewer than thirty-two editions of theElogia.² The best-known of the biographies, the life of Leo X, served as the standard biography for two and a half centuries. Even Giovio’s harshest critics exploited...

  18. APPENDIX ONE Giovio’s Ecclesiastical Benefices
    (pp. 285-286)
  19. APPENDIX TWO Sequence of Composition of the Histories
    (pp. 287-288)
  20. APPENDIX THREE First Editions of Giovio’s Works (in order of publication)
    (pp. 289-290)
  21. Notes
    (pp. 291-372)
  22. Select Bibliography of Works Frequently Cited
    (pp. 373-382)
  23. Index
    (pp. 383-391)