Cover

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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-vi

Contents

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p. vii

Figures

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p. viii

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Preface

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pp. ix-x

This book describes in detail how Renaissance scholars brought together two associated endeavors: a humanist endeavor, to reconstruct the world of antiquity, and an archaeological endeavor, to examine the material remains of ancient ships. In the process, Renaissance scholars wrote the first systematic treatises on ancient seafaring and conceptualized the arts of swimming and diving, while their engineering compatriots explored ways to allow humans to work more efficiently under water. Nonetheless, after Renaissance fishermen found clues that two ancient ships were sunk in lago di Nemi, an inland lake in the crater of a volcano just...

Abbreviations

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pp. xi-xiv

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Introduction

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pp. 1-4

After the assassination of Gaius Caligula in 41 CE, the Roman government had to decide how to deal with the embarrassment of his brief four-year tenure as “first citizen” (princeps). Eric Varner has analyzed that decision in the broader context of Roman imperial policy on “erasing public memory” (damnatio memoriae). The first Roman emperor to suffer political assassination would likewise be the first to suffer posthumous public infamy.1 Caligula’s successor, Claudius, soon reached an accommodation with the Senate on the matter: the government would not publish the official sanction that the Senate wanted. The government did, however, approve an...

Part I: From Salvage to Archaeology

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pp. 5-6

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Chapter 1: The Humanist Salvor

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pp. 7-22

In a systematic treatise on the art of building, Battista Alberti (1404–72) included a reference to his guiding role in the recovery and study of pieces salvaged from a Roman ship sunk in lago di Nemi, some thirty kilometers (eighteen miles) southeast of the city of Rome. His laconic notice engenders a number of questions related to that pioneering mid‑fifteenth‑century endeavor. How was the ship found? How were the fragments raised from their underwater resting place? On what basis was the ship ascribed to the emperor Trajan as commissioner? How did Alberti identify the tree species whose wood was used to build the ship? What implications...

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Chapter 2: The Humanist Intermediary

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pp. 23-34

In a work on the topography and institutions of ancient Rome, Biondo Flavio (1392–1463) betrayed his excitement to have come from Forlì, a city of Roman foundation, and to live now in Rome itself. In fact, Biondo permitted himself a brief aside on a curious coincidence. He could not say for certain that the Via Flaminia and the region formerly known as Flaminia and then the Romagna were so named for the same reasons the Circus in ancient Rome was called Flaminius. Still, Biondo reveled in having been born in the most splendid city of the region of Flaminia. And Biondo, as a humanist employee of the pope, now found himself living in Rome on the Via Flaminia just below Montecitorio.1...

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Chapter 3: The Humanist Commentator

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pp. 35-40

In September 1461, Biondo Flavio wrote to Gregorio Loli to describe an archaeological outing to Tivoli in the company of Pope Pius II (Enea Silvio Piccolomini, 1405–64).1 In addition to supplying information on Roman aqueducts in that letter, Biondo correctly identified the ruins on the plain below Tivoli as the emperor Hadrian’s villa, not the ancient city of Tibur itself, as the locals believed. Pius II valued the scholarly work of Biondo on Roman history and archaeology, as the pope indicated in his Commentaries, which he wrote after Biondo’s death in June 1463. With his perspicacious reading of human personality and characteristic candor, Pius also...

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Chapter 4: Quattrocento Humanist Archaeology

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pp. 41-50

Seven months after the death of Prospero Colonna in March 1463, his nephew Giordano hosted on his properties south of Rome the powerful young cardinal from Mantua, Francesco Gonzaga (1444–83). During his lifetime, Prospero had corresponded regularly with Francesco’s father, the marquis Ludovico, and he had become a patron to the young Cardinal Gonzaga. Francesco Gonzaga’s sister Vittoria had married into the Colonna family, and Francesco, upon arriving in Rome in 1462, first moved into a house that he rented from Prospero. The dutiful courtier and relentless correspondent Bartolomeo Marasca (d. 1487) kept Francesco’s mother,...

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Chapter 5: Cinquecento Engineers and a Diving Bell

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pp. 51-60

In 1535 the military architect Francesco De Marchi teamed up with the French engineer Guillaume de Lorraine, two of Guillaume’s servants, the surveyor Leonardo Bufalini from Udine, Leonardo’s musician son Tisifonte, and the patrician lutist Ippolito Mataleno to test a device that Guillaume de Lorraine had invented for underwater salvage. They used the device to visit the Roman vessel that Battista Alberti had tried to raise from lago di Nemi. The composition of that motley crew suggests that plans for an outing, complete with food and music, to the gardens along the northern shore of lago di Nemi evolved into a groundbreaking enterprise...

Part II: The Social World

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pp. 61-62

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Chapter 6: The Proprietor Cardinal

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pp. 63-84

Immediately after Prospero Colonna succumbed to gout on March 24, 1463, Roman humanists commemorated his life in various eulogistic genres. Giovanni Antonio Campano (1429–77) offered an epitaph for the cardinal’s tomb in the church of the Santi Apostoli.1 Niccolò Della Valle (1444–73) composed a poetic lament, and the Agostinian Niccolò Palmieri (1402–67) delivered a funeral sermon.2 Likewise, the humanist bishop Giovanni Andrea Bussi (1417–75) wrote verses entitled Cenotaphium to commemorate Prospero Colonna shortly after his death, and Lippo Platesio, a student of Guarino da Verona and later magistrate in offices such as podestà of Bologna, may have added to the chorus of poetic praise.3...

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Chapter 7: Dependent Workers

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pp. 85-102

Several groups of dependent laborers played an integral role in Alberti’s attempt to salvage the Nemi vessel. A short list would include fishermen, coopers, carpenters, blacksmiths, and divers. Alberti had some knowledge of the physical strength and specialized training of divers from his birthplace of Genoa. Those divers had regular work keeping the harbor in good repair, for it served as the lifeline of commercial trade. And rumor had it that at least one of the divers was capable of superhuman feats, remaining under water on a single breath for the better part of an hour. Alberti was justified in his skepticism. The claim is preposterous. In the early...

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Chapter 8: Inventive Professionals

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pp. 103-118

In an effort to win the patronage of rulers, a select group of Renaissance professionals put together illustrated manuscripts to demonstrate their engineering ingenuity. Unlike their anonymous medieval counterparts and more like their ancient hero Archimedes, those Renaissance scholars attained a measure of celebrity. We do know some of their names: Guido da Vigevano, Conrad Kyeser aus Eichstätt, Konrad Gruter von Werden, Giovanni Fontana, and Mariano di Iacopo, whose contemporaries nicknamed him Taccola but who styled himself the “Archimedes of Siena.”1 In the years...

Part III: Contextualization and Conceptualization

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pp. 119-120

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Chapter 9: Ancient Ship Types Analyzed and Reborn

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pp. 121-134

Renaissance scholarship on ancient seafaring quickly focused on identifying the various types of ships named in the ancient sources that the humanists were carefully perusing. Biondo Flavio in the fifteenth century and the scholars who succeeded him in the sixteenth century logically began that research into ship names with the ancient lexicographers. Biondo quickly acquired a sense of the slippery nature of that research because names evolved to reflect the changes in shipbuilding and ship technology. Like his humanist confreres, however, he did not have a concomitant sense of the slippery quality of data in the lexicographers’ work. Writing...

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Chapter 10: Ferrara’s Moment, 1533–1568

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pp. 135-148

Francesco De Marchi’s return to the shipwreck in lago di Nemi spurred interest in ancient seafaring among Italian scholars, including a pair of professors at the University of Ferrara and the court archaeologist of the Este family. Lilio Gregorio Giraldi (1479–1552) was the first of the Ferrarese professors to write a treatise on ancient seafaring, De re nautica.1 Giraldi was educated in the humanities by Battista Guarini and in law at his hometown university. While a student, he got to know future colleagues such as Alessandro Guarini, Giovanni Mainardi, and Celio Calcagnini. After his studies, he went to Mirandola, where he met Giovanfrancesco Pico...

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Chapter 11: New Arts and New Opportunities

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pp. 149-164

The Adages of Erasmus, first published in 1500, included popular maxims that disclosed attitudes toward swimming and diving in antiquity. Those proverbs indicated that the Greeks and Romans thought that all humans should learn to swim, that they should do so at the same age that they learn grammar, that some native ability was prerequisite (you can’t teach iron to swim), and that most ancient swimming took place in rivers, where it was futile to swim against the current.1 Ancient learners might begin with a float as a swim aid but eventually progressed to swimming without...

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Conclusion

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pp. 165-184

Of all the sunken Roman vessels from which to begin to study ancient seafaring through nautical archaeology, the Nemi ships rank among the oddest. Gigantic, outfitted with buildings, richly decorated, and propelled in ways that are still not altogether clear, the ships received no mention in ancient texts, perhaps as part of the unofficial effort to wipe out the memory of Caligula. Everything that can be known about those ships has had to be learned through archaeology. The effort to salvage and study the remains of one of the ships became a matrix for the study of ancient seafaring during the European Renaissance....

Notes

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pp. 185-232

Bibliography

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pp. 233-258

Index

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pp. 259-271