The articles in this collection were born at a convention in Como (2002) dedicated to discussing the most pressing issues surrounding the sixteenth-century Italian humanist Paolo Giovio. Taken together, these articles investigate the main [End Page 1215] interpretive issues concerning Giovio, both to provide a modern evaluation of the work of this important humanist, and to show how multidisciplinary his interests were.
Carla Sodini's article particularly addresses modern scholarly interests. The treatise analyzed by Sodini (Il Commentario delle cose de' Turchi), dedicated to the Emperor Charles V, was written in 1532, a crucial time in the Ottoman-European relationship. Sodini notes that Giovio writes with a full understanding of Italy's changed geopolitical situation and presses his audience to recognize the need for Christian religious unity to eliminate the Turkish threat. Giovio first provides a history of the Ottoman Empire from the fourteenth century to the present that is unique in its positive portrayal of aspects of Turkish rule. Less innovative is Giovio's discussion of Ottoman military customs. Sodini highlights the fact that Giovio writes that the Turks are a European, not just a Balkan, problem. Furthermore, Giovio writes, Charles must take the lead in transforming his armies into a force capable of defeating the Ottomans to eventually drive them from Europe.
The other articles in this collection display Giovio's intellectual versatility and contemporary influence. Sonia Maffei's article shows the geographical extent of the humanist's influence during his lifetime and analyzes Giovio's corpus to determine to what extent his works were innovative versus traditional. This investigation shows that Giovio used his skills as a humanist to blend antique depictions with recent observations to create an innovative approach to history. This fusion of past and present is noticeable in his biographies and contemporary history, which, while participating in a long tradition, are used by Giovio to emphasize the importance of his own time. Giovio maintained an impressive collection of works of art, especially portraits, which he displayed and organized in his personal museum. Maffei concludes that Giovio wished to place himself at the intersection of tradition and innovation; he wanted to attach to his work the authority of the ancients, but also the sensibilities of the modern day.
Lara Muchelacci's article examines Giovio's accounts of his travels, specifically exploring the ways in which the humanist perceives and describes the world, its peoples, and its customs. Muchelacci highlights Giovio's insatiable curiosity about the natural world, which extended to investigating foreign lands. Like earlier writers on geography, Giovio included accounts of Europe, Asia, and Africa. He emphasized the importance of correct information, which is especially true regarding Asia, where accuracy about the Ottoman Turks is necessary to teach Europeans about their nemesis. Even more intriguing than these comments about the Turks, Giovio discusses the New World, giving valuable insight into one humanist's attitude towards these recent discoveries, which he compares to the society and histories of the Old World. Specifically, he contrasts European expansion into the New World with the idea of a triumphant return to the land of Christianity's origins and evaluates the benefits of new conquests with the old dream of reconquest in the Levant.
The lengthiest of the articles in this collection is that by Franco Minonzio. Although Giovio is primarily known for his historical writings, Minonzio shows [End Page 1216] that the humanist was involved in contemporary debates concerning medicine and the natural sciences. Giovio displayed his intellectual diversity by writing about such topics as natural history, astrology, philosophy, medicine, and healthy living. According to Minonzio, Giovio can be considered an innovative scientific figure in so far as his works contributed to the dynamic tension of early sixteenth-century science that would culminate in breakthroughs a few decades later. Giovio was also an active participant in Italian literary culture, as discussed in Guido Arbizzoni's article "Jovius pater artis. " Arbizzoni argues that Giovio was an instrumental figure in the formulation of the genre of...