CECILIA MARY ADY (1881–1958)
A History Of Milan Under The Sforza (1907)
"A HISTORY of Milan, under the House of Sforza, can hardly incur the charge of being superfluous. While Rome, Florence and Venice have each found English historians, and while fresh books on Renaissance Italy Appear every day, no English writer has told the story of the Sforza as a whole. The scant attention which has been given to the history of Milan may be compared with the brief visit which the traveller pays to the capital of Lombardy before he presses on to other Italian cities. Yet those who pause to look will find, hidden under the bustle of a modern commercial town, numerous relics of an age when the Duchy of Milan was deemed the first State in Italy. To the student of history the rule of the Sforza presents one of the most characteristic examples of an Italian tyranny at the time of the Renaissance.
Only eighty-five years elapsed between the day when Francesco I. made himself master of Milan and that on which his grandson and namesake died childless. Those years, however, are among the most vivid in the world's history. Six Sforza Dukes in all wielded the sceptre of Milan. Of them two, if not three, might be taken as representative types of the many-sided Renaissance despot. Francesco I., the greatest soldier of his day, forms the pre-eminent example of the despot skilled in the arts of war, uniting in his person all those qualities which make the founder of a State. Lodovico II Moro is no less remarkable in his own sphere. As a diplomatist, as an economist and as a patron he proved himself supreme in those arts of peace which have won for the Italian prince his peculiar place in history. If the peasant condottiere's son created the Sforza dynasty, II Moro made the Court of Milan famous for all time as the home of splendour and of genius. For those, moreover, who would not consider the portrait gallery complete if it did not include a typical villain, there is Galeazzo Maria Sforza. Round his neck contemporary writers have hung as sensational a list of crimes as could well be devised.
My task in tracing the history of the House of Sforza has consisted chiefly in weaving together masses of scattered material." (Preface)
Pius II (Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini): The Humanist Pope (1913)
"IN every period of the world's history it is the intellectual and spiritual ideals which give character to the age. This is profoundly true of the Renaissance. The contrast between the mediaeval and the modem world has often been too sharply drawn, but nevertheless the fact remains that Italy in the fifteenth century was the exponent of a new intellectual ideal. Humanism is the child of the Renaissance, although the causes which brought it into being have their root far back in the Middle Ages. Humanism, moreover, is the controlling force which lies behind every aspect of Renaissance life. The highly civilised society, the political aspirations, the artistic and literary development of that marvellous age alike find their source in the humanist spirit. Many gloried in the name of humanist—great educators such as Guarino and Vittortno da Feltre, scholars such as Poggio and Aretino, Filelfo and Aurispa, to say nothing of the countless men of action, princes, warriors, and statesmen who were at once the pupils and the patrons of the men of letters. Yet among all that goodly company there is no fuller manifestation of humanism than that presented by Æneas Silvius Piccolomini. There were greater scholars than he, and more brilliant statesmen ; but he belonged both to the intellectuals and to the men of action. He was the exponent of the good life, as conceived by the humanists and he was also able to realise it in his own career. For the ideal of these Renaissance philosophers was no scholar's Utopia. The chosen test of their system was its value in practical life, and its object was the training of the statesman, the perfect adaptation of the individual to the great society in which he must play his part.
Thus the story of Æneas Silvius affords unique insight into the phase of thought which we call humanism. It provides at once a clue to its meaning and an opportunity of estimating its value in the history of civilisation. From the day when the eager lad of eighteen left his home among the hills of Southern Tuscany to become a student at the University of Siena the gleaming banner of humanism was ever before his eyes. A ready pen and a persuasive tongue formed his chief equipment for the battle of life, and his rise by these means to the Papal throne is one of the most conspicuous triumphs of the new learning. The six years of his pontificate give us a practical example of the application of Renaissance ideals to politics. In Pius ii's wise government of the States of the Church, and in his handling of the ecclesiastical problems of the day, we see the strength of humanism. His death at Ancona, on the eve of his departure for the East, and the shattering of his great crusading schemes show the limitations of humanism,
which could not rekindle the vanished enthusiasms of Europe." (Preface)
Lorenzo Dei Medici And Renaissance Italy (1955)
"Lorenzo was a child of his age alike in his deep love of beauty and learning and in his refusal to allow moral considerations to stand in the way of political and personal aims. Any action was justified in his eyes, which served the interests of Florence and the Medici. . . . As an enemy he was unforgiving, but he was a good friend. He was unremitting in furthering the interests of those who won his affection, and showed generous recognition of services rendered to him. . . . Perhaps his greatest gift is best expressed in the word civiltà, the capacity to live as a citizen among citizens. . . . When in company with a citizen older than himself, he was careful to give him the place of honour on his right hand. During his ascendancy, Florentine society remained republican in spirit and united. Politics, big business, learning and the arts were not separate worlds, but a single whole, through which Lorenzo moved as one who shared in its every aspect. The stimulating effect of such an environment on men of talent and enterprise cannot easily be over-estimated. Common ideals, criticism both outspoken and intelligent, fierce competition and boundless opportunity bore fruit in great creative work. The most brilliant period of Florentine history is that which bears the name of the Laurentian age." (Chapter 14)
Suggest and discuss books to read (all languages welcome!)
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