- Girolamo Rorario: Un umanista diplomatico del Cinquecento e i suoi Dialoghi
Girolamo Rorario's forgotten works from the early sixteenth century, argues Riccardo Fubini in the introduction to this book, covertly convey philosophical [End Page 587] ideas typical of the Quattrocento. More specifically, Rorario's Dialogi seem to find their structural and stylistical roots in Alberti's Intercenales, still unpublished then — a Lucianesque and pre-libertine satire of which Fubini traces the esoteric and mysterious circulation among selected and secretive intellectuals between Rome and Florence.
Rorario was an apostolic nuncio under popes Clement VII and Paul III, and knew all the ways of the curia. He was sent on several diplomatic missions throughout Europe. In his leisurely time (and later in his frescoed retirement villa in Pordenone) he authored a range of provocative writings, like the paradoxical pamphlet Quod animalia bruta saepe ratione utantur melius homine (That Brute Animals Often Use Reason Better than Man), which was published only in 1648 and discussed by Pierre Bayle in his Dictionnaire historique et critique.
The present book offers the first edition of Rorario's rather quixotic Dialogi. Composed in 1513–20 but reworked in the 1540s, they were dedicated to Cardinal Adriano Castellesi, a powerful clergyman close to the empire's sphere of influence. The opening dialogue, Medices sive Virtus, celebrates the peaceful and hopeful renovation under Leo X, the first Medici pope. (Rorario's Iulius, a text on Julius II's wartime papacy, was excluded by its author on the grounds that "it is not generous to write against the dead.") The second dialogue, Fortuna, is dedicated to Giovanni Pico della Mirandola; it continues and completes the reflection upon Fortune topically opposed to Virtue, with subtle Stoicist, Albertian, and political-allegorical undertones.
In Cupido, dedicated to Paul Oberstainer, secretary of Emperor Charles V, one can detect the presence of Ficino's ideas about platonic love, although, as the editor points out, this does not necessarily mean that the author subscribed to their content. Democritus, diplomatically readdressed in the 1540s to Cardinal Marcello Cervini (who was to be the shortest-lived pope, Marcellus II), deals with the frail and transient nature of human life, once again drawing on Alberti's whimsical treatment of the theme.
It is in the following Venus that Rorario's covert defense of works by Poggio Bracciolini and Lorenzo Valla reveals most strikingly his use of fifteenth-century topoi. By evoking the torments of the tyrants and the pleasures of the wise, he seems to refer to powerful thoughts and images taken from De infelicitate principum and De voluptate. The sixth dialogue is devoted to the last of the three Fates presiding over human's destiny, Atropos (she is the one who cuts the thin thread of life). The concept of death as the end of pain and the pessimistic and discomfited tone of the piece seem to be a reflection on Rorario's personal failures in addressing the messy political and ideological reality of Europe around 1518. In Mercurius I and II, while treating the wars among gods, the author openly expresses his disappointment in Pope Leo X, once celebrated for his great promise; he now condemns him for his unreliable behavior (including his betrayal of his former friend Francesco Maria della Rovere, Duke of Urbino) and bemoans the intrigues of princely courts. The last two brief dialogues, Amator and Cuculus, function as playfully dialectic counterarguments to the third and fourth, Cupido and Venus. [End Page 588]
The accurate critical edition of these texts is by a promising young scholar, Aidée Scala, who also provides a detailed biography of the author. Moreover, she offers a thorough commentary and contextualization of the Dialogi and of the other works by Rorario, including the oration in Defense of the Rats Infesting Cardinal Campeggi's Garden (rich in burlesque references). The tract, mentioned above, on the ratiocinative capacities of animals is also studied through its philosophical...