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Reviewed by:
  • Opere storiche
  • William J. Connell
Antonio Ivani da Sarzana . Opere storiche. Eds. Paolo Pontari and Silvia Marcucci. Il ritorno dei classici nell'umanesimo 4. Edizione nazionale dei testi della Storiografia umanistica 1. Florence: SISMEL Edizioni del Galluzzo, 2006. xviii + 542 pp. + 8 color pls. index. append. illus. bibl. €77. ISBN: 978-88-8450-231-5.

Antonio Ivani was one of those major-minor Italian humanists of the fifteenth century who are as important for what their careers tell us as for what is said in their formal writings. Ivani was born ca. 1430, the son of a notary in Sarzana, a town whose territory was frequently contested by Genoa, Lucca, Florence, and Milan. There was a strong tradition of Latin schooling at Sarzana, which was also the home of the humanist Pope Nicholas V (Tommaso Parentucelli). During his youth Ivani is likely in addition to have come into contact with the court of the deposed Genoese doge, Tommaso Fregoso, then situated above Sarzana in the fortress of Sarzanello. At the age of sixteen Ivani left his hometown to travel through Italy, and at eighteen he was appointed chancellor of the town of Narni by its papal governor, a cousin of Pope Nicholas. When Ivani left Narni after two years, he returned to Sarzana on mission from the pope to another deposed Fregoso doge, Ludovico, in whose service he traveled in 1452 to Ferrara, where he attended the lessons of the Guarino. During his stay in Ferrara, which lasted until 1454, Ivani wrote the first two of his several historical compositions: an account of the sack of Constantinople by the Turks and a History of the Destruction of Luni —a major city near Sarzana that was reduced to ruins in the ninth century by Vikings who (as tradition has it) mistook it for Rome. From this point on, Ivani became something of a specialist in catastrophes of human (not divine) origin. Thus the new critical edition of his historical writings includes not only Ivani's works on Constantinople and Luni, but also his Fall of Negroponte, an epitome of Biondo Flavio's Roma instaurata (in which the decline of Rome looms in the background), and the work for which Ivani is most famous, his History of the Volterran Calamity, written in defense of Lorenzo de'Medici in the wake of the horrific sack of Volterra.

Ivani's histories are Sallustian: brief treatises focused on particular events. Unlike Leonardo Bruni, whom he cites with respect, Ivani does not favor artificial orations, which appear in none of these works save the account of the fall of Luni. Ironic detail is used to effect, as at the end of the Volterran history where, after recounting the horrors of the sack, Ivani concludes with the image of an old man amid the commotion (in tanta rerum iactura) looking for his geese and the crocks containing his olive oil.

Additional works published in the volume include two accounts of Genoa as well as Ivani's Annalia of the events in Italy in 1478 and 1479, a work that was dedicated to Lorenzo the Magnificent. It occurs to this reviewer that Ivani's annals offered a near precedent for Lorenzo's project to assign a chancery secretary to write the annales of Florentine events, an initiative approved by the Signoria in 1483. Why Ivani's annals never got past 1479 is not clear, but Lorenzo's later plan [End Page 1219] may have been connected with Ivani's death in 1482, since from that point any desired annals would have had to come from another source.

As Riccardo Fubini once pointed out in an elegant essay (reprinted in his Italia quattrocentesca [1994]), Ivani's correspondence (much of which remains unpublished) and his history of the Volterran episode offer instructive insights into the process by which Italian humanists adapted to the realities of the rise of the peninsula's territorial states. Unlike some members of the Florentine elite —Giannozzo Manetti and Donato Acciaiuoli come to mind —humanists from borderland areas or subject towns, men like Leonardo Bruni of Arezzo and Benedetto Colucci of Pistoia, as well as Ivani, tended to be better attuned to the new...


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