Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Pius II : Education for a Young Prince

Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini: De Librorum Educatione (1450)
W.H. Woodward, ed., Vittorino da Feltre and Other Humanist Educators (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1912), 134-158.
Hanover Historical Texts Project: Scanned, proof read, and posted by Baljitsingh Kalsi, Divya Rao, Shiv Singh, and Ilamaren Sivarajah in January 2001.

"LIKE the Treatise of P. P. Vergerius, this Tractate of Aeneas Sylvius was primarily addressed to the scion of a ruling House. Ladislas, the young King of Bohemia, was born after the death (1439) of his father, Albert II, and his ward-ship was one of the many responsibilities which awaited the new Emperor, Frederick III, on his election in the following year.

Ladislas remained in the charge of the Emperor until 1452, and died at the age of 18 in November 1457. It may be said that his short life hardly gave promise of much capacity or strength of character.Aeneas Sylvius, after his experiences at the Council of Basel, had entered the service of the Emperor, as Secretary, in 1442. He was thus thrown into close contact with the child, who for political reasons was never allowed to be far from the Court.

In 1446 Aeneas took Holy Orders and next year was preferred to the Bishopric of Trieste. His many gifts led to his employment upon missions demanding delicacy of touch, and he thus attained a position of trust and authority in the household and Chancellery of the Emperor. His relations with Ladislas seem to have been inspired by a genuine interest in the boy; and when he had reached the age of ten years the Bishop addressed to him, in formal shape, his general views upon the education desirable in a Prince.

Aeneas SyIvius, as an Italian of good circumstances, had been brought up in the atmosphere of Humanism. He regarded it as his function to prepare a way by which the new light might reach even the barbarous people amongst whom his career now lay.

But he was not a scholar in the strict sense; his Latinity was fluent rather than 'elegant'; he knew very little Greek. Translations, however, already supplied, in part, the needs of the superficial student of Greek thought and letters.

Moreover, Aeneas was naturally of active tastes, life rather than study was his main interest; and lie was of too practical bent and too clear-headed to be misled by the affectations and self-conceit which disfigured some even of the abler humanists of his time.

It is therefore evidence of the hold which the new educational ideal had already secured that a man whose interests lay in practical life, and who had few illusions as to the ultimate power of literature, should yet treat Letters as the indispensable foundation of Education.

We may wonder that one who showed elsewhere so broad and rational a concern in history and geography should have dwelt so briefly on these subjects; his main purpose seems to be to warn his correspondent, for reasons of style', against the study of the history of his own country.

[The first edition known to bibliographers is that of W.Zell, Colon. s. a., but CirC. 1475. No other is noted as of the fifteenth century. It was included in the collected edition of the works of Pius II printed at Basel 1551. This was reissued with additions in 1571 the Tract on Educatione has never been since reprinted.]


The Importance of Disposition and Nature of the Child
1. IN addressing ourselves to the question of the education of a boy in whom we are interested, we must first of all satisfy ourselves that he is endowed by Nature with a good and a teachable disposition.

Now this is a gift, not an acquirement; although a gift which has been not sparingly granted.

For, as Quintilian rightly says, if flying is instinctive with birds, or galloping with horses, so an eager and forward temper is the natural mark of a child.

The educator, therefore, is generally entitled to assume a native bent towards mental activity on part of his charge, although, to be productive of real progress, this innate energy needs to be developed by methodical training and experience; nature, training, practice-these seem to be the three factors of all education.

Now both mind and body, the two elements of which we are constituted, must be developed side by side. At what age intellectual education should be definitely begun need not here be discussed.

You have already reached boyhood, and the instruction I now offer has regard to your own particular case. Yet I have not yourself only in mind, but your Masters also may with profit heed what I here lay down. Socrates, indeed, is said to have visited the negligence of a pupil upon the head of his teacher; Seneca is blamed by some for the crimes of Nero; Plutarch records the public reprimand of schoolmasters for faults of their scholars.

Choice of Teacher: the Qualities of a Good Teacher

So important a matter, even in the earliest stages of education, is the choice of Teachers that we stand amazed at the carelessness which is daily exhibited in their selection. The example of Philip of Macedon, in committing Alexander to the care of Aristotle, not to mention the ancient story of Peleus and Phoenix may serve as sufficient rebuke to such indifference.

A conceit of knowledge in a master is only less injurious to his efficiency than looseness of character. Bad example may easily lead to habits which no efforts in later life will enable a man to shake off. The master, therefore, must be intellectually able and sincere, of wide experience, and of sound morals. In demeanour lie should avoid austerity without falling into vulgar familiarity. A master thus qualified will be competent to fulfil his duty, which is to fence in the growing mind with wise and noble precept and example, as a careful gardener hedges round a newly-planted tree.

For in fight training of the boy lies the secret of the integrity of the man. But this training must be enforced by friendly but effective authority, and should require no recourse to the rod. For, as Quintilian and Plutarch taught, a boy must be won to learning by persuasive earnestness, and not be driven to it like a slave.

For whilst praise must never degenerate into flattery, so on the other hand correction which takes the form of personal indignity gives rise to hatred for teacher and subject alike.

In fine, the master, as Juvenal says, does in reality exercise a parental function towards his pupil and should not be satisfied unless he attract a corresponding filial affection.?

Physical Training or Education

2. As regards a boy's physical training, we must bear in mind that we aim at implanting habits which will prove beneficial through life.

So let him cultivate a certain hardness which rejects excess of sleep and idleness in all its forms. Habits of indulgence-such as the luxury of soft beds, or the wearing of silk instead of linen next the skin-tend to enervate both body and mind.

Too much importance can hardly be attached to right bearing and gesture. Childish habits of playing with the lips and features should be early controlled. A boy should be taught to hold his head erect, to look straight and fearlessly before him and to bear himself with dignity whether walking, standing, or sitting.

In ancient Greece we find that both philosophers and men of affairs-Socrates, for instance, and Chrysippus, or Philip of Macedon-deemed this matter worthy of their concern, and therefore it may well be thought deserving of ours.

Games and exercises which develope the muscular activities and the general carriage of the person should be encouraged by every Teacher. For such physical training not only cultivates grace of attitude but secures the healthy play of our bodily organs and establishes the constitution.

Military Exercises

Every youth destined to exalted position should further be trained in military exercises. It will be your destiny to defend Christendom against the Turk. It will thus be an essential part of Your education that you be early taught the use of the bow, of the sling, and of the spear; that you drive, ride, leap and swine. These are honourable accomplishments in everyone, and therefore not unworthy of the educator's care. Ponder the picture which Vergil gives of the youth of the Itali, skilled in all the warlike exercises of their time.

Games, too, should be encouraged for young children - the ball, the hoop - but these must not be rough and coarse, but have in them an element of skill. Such relaxations should form an integral part of each day's occupations if learning is not to be an object of disgust. Just as Nature and the life of man present us with alternations of effort and repose - toil and sleep, winter and summer - so we may hold, with Plato, that it is a law of our being that rest from work is a needful condition of further work. To observe this truth is a chief duty of the Master.

Eating and Drinking

In respect of eating and drinking the rule of moderation consists in rejecting everything which needlessly taxes digestion and so impairs mental activity. At the same time fastidiousness must not be humoured. A boy, for instance, whose lot it may be to face life in the camp, or in the forest, should so discipline his appetite that he may eat even beef. The aim of eating is to strengthen the frame; so let vigorous health reject cakes or sweets, elaborate dishes of small birds or eels, which are for the delicate and the weakly. Your own countrymen, like all northern peoples, are, I know, sore offenders in this matter of eating and drinking. But I count upon your own innate self-respect to preserve you from such bad example, and to enable you to despise the sneers and complaints of those around you.

What but disease and decay can result from appetite habitually over-indulged? Such concession to the flesh stands condemned by all the great spirits of the past. In Augustus Caesar, in Socrates, we have instances of entire indifference in choice of food. Caligula, Nero and Vitellius serve as sufficient examples of grossly sensual tastes. To the Greeks of the best age eating and drinking were only means to living-not the chief end and aim of it. For they recognized, with Aristotle, that in this capacity for bodily pleasures we are on the same level with the lower creatures.

As regards the use of wine, remember that we drink to quench thirst, and that the limit of moderation is reached when the edge of the intellect is dulled. A boy should be brought up to avoid wine; for he possesses a store of natural moisture in the blood and so rarely experiences thirst. Hence highly diluted wine alone can be allowed to children, whilst women are perhaps better without it altogether, as was the custom in Rome.

The abuse of wine is more common amongst Northern peoples than in Italy. Plato allowed its moderate enjoyment as tending to mental relaxation, and, indeed, temperance in the true sense is hardly consistent with the absolute prohibition of all that might seduce us from our virtuous resolutions. So that a young man's best security against excess may be found to lie in a cautious use of wine, safeguarded by innate strength of will and a watchful temper.

There is no reason why social feastings should not be dignified by serious conversation and yet be bright and gay withal. But the body, after all, is but a framework for the activities of the mind; and so we hold fast to the dictum of Pythagoras - that he who pampers the body is devising a prison for himself. Even if we had not the support of the Ancients, it is evident to the serious mind that food and clothing are.worthy of regard only so far as they are indispensable to the vigorous activity of body and spirit: all beyond that is triviality or effeminacy.

But this is not to exclude that care for the outward person which is, indeed, demanded from everyone by self-respect, but is peculiarly needful in a prince.?

The Mind and Character

3. We must now hasten on to the larger and more important division of our subject, that which treats of the most precious of all human endowments, the Mind.

Birth, wealth, fame, health, vigour and beauty are, indeed, highly prized by mankind, but they are one and all of the nature of accidents; they come and they go. But the riches of the mind are a stable possession unassailable by fortune, calumny, or time.

Our material wealth lies at the mercy of a successful foe, but, as Stilpho said, 'war can exact no requisition from personal worth.' So too, you will remember the reply of Socrates to Gorgias, applying, it to your own case: 'How can I adjudge the Great King happy, until I know to what be can truly lay claim in character and in wisdom?'

Lay to heart the truth here conveyed: our one sure possession is character: the place and fortune of men change, it may be suddenly, profoundly; nor may we, by taking thought, cunningly hedge ourselves round against all the chances of life.

As Solon long ago declared, no sane man dare barter excellence for money. Nay rather, it is a function of true wisdom, as the Tyrants found by their experience, to enable us to bear variations of fortune.

Philosophy and Literature/History

Philosophy, or, in other words, the enquiry into the nature of Virtue, is indeed a study specially meet for princes. For they are in a sense the arbitrary embodiment of Law; a responsibility which may well weigh heavily upon them. Truly has it been said that no one has greater need of a well-stored mind than he whose will counts for the happiness or misery of thousands. Like Solomon he will rightly pray for wisdom in the guidance of the State.

Need I, then, impress upon you the importance of the study of Philosophy, and of Letters, without which indeed philosophy itself is barely intelligible? By this twofold wisdom a Prince is trained to understand the laws of God and of man, by it we are, one and all, enlightened to see the realities of the world around us.

Literature is our guide to the true meaning of the past, to a right estimate of the present, to a sound forecast of the future. Where Letters cease darkness covers the land; and a Prince who cannot read the lessons of history is a helpless prey of flattery and intrigue.

Next we ask, at what age should a boy begin the study of Letters? Theodosius and Eratosthenes regarded the seventh year as the earliest reasonable period. But Aristophanes, followed by Chrysippus and Quintilian, would have children from the very cradle begin their training under nurses of skilled- intelligence.

In this matter of nurses the greatest care is necessary, so subtle are the influences which affect the growing mind. But above all other safeguards stands the unconscious guidance of the mother, who, like Cornelia of old, must instil by example a refined habit of speech and bearing.


In Religion, I may assume from your Christian nurture that you have learnt the Lord's Prayer, the Salutation of the Blessed Virgin, the Creed, the Gospel of St John, and certain Collects. You have been taught in what consist the chief Commandments of God, the Gifts of the Spirit, the Deadly Sins; the Way of Salvation and the doctrine of the Life of the world to come.

This latter truth was, indeed, taught by Socrates, as we know from Cicero. Nor can any earthly interest have so urgent a claim upon us. We shall not value this human existence which has been bestowed upon us except in so far as it prepares us for the future State.

The fuller truth concerning this great doctrine is beyond your years: but you may, as time goes on, refer to what has been laid down by the great Doctors of the Church; and not only by them, for, as Basil allows, the poets and other authors of antiquity are saturated with the same faith, and for this reason deserve our study.

Literature, indeed, is ever holding forth to us the lesson 'God before all else.' As a Prince, moreover, your whole life, and character should be marked by gratitude for favours showered upon you for no merit of your own, and by reverence, which, in all that concerns the services, the faith, and the authority of the Church, will lead you to emulate the filial obedience of Constantine and Theodosius.

For although the priesthood is committed to the protection of kings, it is not under their authority.


In the choice of companions be careful to seek the society of those only whose example is worthy of your imitation. This is indeed a matter which closely concerns your future welfare.

We are all, in youth especially, in danger of yielding to the influence of evil example. Above all, I trust that your, Tutors will keep you clear of that insidious form of flattery which consists in agreeing with everything we may affirm or propose. Extend your intimacy only to those of your own years who are frank and truthful, pure in word and act, modest in manner, temperate and peaceful.

Seize every opportunity of learning to converse in the vulgar tongues spoken in your realm. It is unworthy of a prince to be unable without an interpreter to hold intercourse with his people. Mithridates could speak with his subjects of whatever province in their own language; whilst neglect of this plain duty lost to the Empire and its German sovereigns its fair province of Italy.

The ties that bind monarch and people should be woven of mutual affection, and how is this possible where free and intelligible communication cannot exist? As Homer says, silence is becoming in a woman, but in a man, and that man a king standing before his people, it is rather a shame and a disgrace. ?

Eloquence and Oratory

4. But further: we must learn to express ourselves with distinction, with style and manner worthy of our Subject.

In a word, Eloquence is a prime accomplishment in one immersed in affairs. Ulysses, though a poor warrior, was adjudged worthy of the arms of Achilles by virtue of his persuasive speech. Cicero, too, admonishes us to the same effect: "let arms to the toga yield".

But speech should ever follow upon reflection; without that let a boy, nay, a man also, be assured that silence is his wiser part. Such orators as Pericles or Demosthenes refused to address the Assembly without opportunity for careful preparation.

A facile orator speaks from his lips, not from his heart or his understanding and forgets that loquacity is not the same, as eloquence. How often have men cause to regret the gift of too ready speech and 'the irrevocable word' of which Horace warns us.

Still there is a middle course; a moderation in speech, which avoids alike a Pythagorean silence and the chatter of a Thersites; and at this we should aim. For without reasonable practice the faculty of public speech may be found altogether wanting when the need arises.

The actual delivery of our utterances calls for methodical training. The shrill tremulous tone of a girl must be rigidly forbidden, as on the other hand must any tendency to shout. The entire word must in every case be uttered, the proper value given to each syllable and each letter, with especial attention to the final sound. Words must not, as it were, linger in the throat, but be clearly emitted, both tongue and lips taking duly their respective parts. Your master will arrange as exercises words in which the form or connexion of syllables demands peculiar care in their enunciation. You remember the device by which Demosthenes trained his voice to reach a crowded assembly.

To express yourself, then, with grace and distinction is a proper object of your ambition; and without ambition excellence, in this or other studies, is rarely attained. But if speech be, as Democritus said, the shadow, of which thought and conduct are the reality, you will be warned by corrupt conversation, to avoid the corrupt nature from which it proceeds. We know that Ulysses cunningly guarded his comrades from the song of the Sirens; and that St Paul quotes Menander upon the mischief wrought by 'evil communications.'

But this by no means implies that, we must be always at the extreme of seriousness in social intercourse. In conversation, kindliness and courtesy are always attractive: pertinacity or pretentiousness are odious: a turgid affected style arouses contempt. Insincerity or malice are, of course, not mere defects in form but positive sins. So let your address be frank outspoken, self-respecting, manly.

Nature and circumstances thus provide us with the general material of speech, its topics, and the broader conditions of their treatment.

When, however, speech is considered as an art, we find that it is the function of Grammar to order its expression; of Dialectic to give it point; of Rhetoric to illustrate it; of Philosophy to perfect it. But before entering upon this in detail we must first insist upon the overwhelming importance of Memory, which is in truth the first condition of capacity for Letters.


A boy should learn without effort, retain with accuracy, and reproduce easily. Rightly is memory called 'the nursing mother of learning.' It needs cultivation, however, whether a boy be gifted with retentiveness or not. Therefore let some passage from poet or moralist be committed to memory every day.?


5. Grammar, it is allowed, is the portal to all knowledge whatsoever. As a subject of study it is more complex and profit only to such as enter early and zealously upon its more fruitful than its name would imply, and it yields its full pursuit.

The greatest minds have not been ashamed to shew themselves earnest in the study of Grammar. Tully, Consul and defender of the state, Julius Caesar, the mighty Emperor, and Augustus his successor, gave evidence in their writings of skill in this fundamental branch of learning, and no prince need feel it unworthy of him to walk in the steps of so great exemplars.

I have already said that learning is a necessary equipment of Kings, and this the Royal Prophet of old enforces, when he declares:'Be wise now therefore, 0 ye Kings; be learned, ye that are judges of the earth.'But bow, in our day, can a man be learned and acquire wisdom unless first he master that which is the very foundation of all knowledge, viz. Grammar ?

Now the term Grammar, as Quintilian says, is identical with Literature (?????a i.e. litera), and this art of grammar falls naturally into three parts, the first being the art of right speech, or eloquence, the second that of composition in prose and verse, the third that of the epistolary style.

Grammatical correctness in speaking signifies the right choice both of vocabulary and of construction. As regards the former point, the usage of words and the source from which they are derived have to be carefully noted. For words are either of native or of foreign origin; they are either simple or compound; they may bear a natural and direct, or a metaphorical and transferred, sense; or, once more, we may distinguish between words of accepted usage and invented words.

For instance, all words of Italian origin are native; foreign, words have many sources, as Gaul (e.g. reda), Spain (e.g. gurdi, i.e. stolidi), Germany (marchio); but, of course, Greece provides us with far the greater number. In the use of words of Greek origin it is right to choose the Latin form of inflexion, though Vergil's usage justifies the preference of the Greek form in verse.

Of simple words I 'amo,' 'lego,' are sufficient instances;' per-lego,' 'im-probus' we call compound: and there are, again, more complex forms, 'im-per-territus,' 'male-volus,' 'Anti-christus`)

By a word in its natural sense we mean one which retains its original direct application: 'flumen' (fluo), for instance, is simply a 'flowing body of water'; but 'durus' as referring to a man's disposition is obviously used in a metaphorical sense.

As a literary artifice this use of words in a transferred sense is common enough, as we speak of 'lumenorationis,' 'contentionum procellae,' or say of a parrot, `monetare voces,' when he imitates the human voice.

But when such employment of metaphor obscures the plain meaning of discourse, it ceases to be an ornament and becomes a weariness. If long drawn out, this affectation of figure tends to allegory or to mere verbal puzzles.

By accepted words we mean those which form the recognised vocabulary of the language, and upon these only ought we to rely. To very few, the great creators of a tongue, is it given to coin new words with impunity.

But in all composition one controlling rule must be observed. Secure euphony, indeed, and grace, wherever you may be able, but first and foremost choose the word which will most exactly express the sense you wish to convey.

Having thus grasped the characteristics of words generally, you will go on to study inflexions, diminutives and other derived forms; examples of the latter are 'scabellum,' 'bipennis,' `excido.'

Inflexional changes expressing the modifications of case mood, or tense are sufficiently exhibited in the Grammars and must be carefully learnt; so too the distinctions of gender, and the forms by which they are expressed.

The right order of words in the sentence and the methods of connecting subordinate clauses are of even greater importance. In speaking Latin, barbarisms of all kinds need to be avoided with great care.

The term 'barbarism' includes a variety of faults, partly against taste, partly against the standard usage of the best writers. It is, for example, a 'barbarism' to employ foreign words not recognised in Roman speech, such as German importations. Again, exaggerated or violent delivery comes under the same heading.

Ignorant or perverse changes in the usual forms of words or inflexions, pardonable, perhaps, in verse, if metre requires, disfigure prose.

A false quantity in the same way is a decided 'barbarism.'

Solecism is another, but closely-allied, type of grammatical error; such as the mis-use of gender, or of case the wrong force of the preposition; the confusion of 'an,' ' ne,' and 'non'; the employment of such forms as 'nex,' 'mortes,' and others unknown to the best writers. Care must be taken to distinguish apparent solecisms; 'equulus grandis' is to be avoided but it is not a solecism. So 'Ludi floralia'; 'Catalina,' 'Galba,' and other masculine names in -a, and 'Glycerium' and others in -um, though they seem incorrect, are all in order.

Real may be distinguished from apparent solecisms by falling back upon four canons: Reason, Antiquity, Authority, Usage.


By Reason we may mean, first, analogy, and analogy 'implies comparison of similars. So we compare a word whose use is doubtful with another, parallel in certain respects, whose use is definitely settled.

Secondly, reason rests upon etymology, but neither derivation nor analogy may determine the form of a word in contradiction to fixed Usage; thus we do not say 'audaciter,' nor 'conire': and indeed analogy alone will often lead us astray, as we may see from the declension of 'domus.'

Antiquity and Authority

Etymology is the enquiry into the origin of words, but too ingenious guesses tend to brine, the science into contempt: such an one as that which derives 'homo' from 'humus' (as a being sprung from the ground), 'stella' from 'stilla' (a drop of light); 'caelebs' from 'caelum' (as one who is free from the heaviest burden of existence, i.e. a wife). Even the great Varro errs in connecting 'ager' with 'ago' (as a place where work is done). Nor should etymology, even when sound in itself, induce you to tamper pedantically with the spelling accepted by the best writers.

Antiquity and Authority demand our respect, for they carry with them a certain dignity of their own not to be lightly regarded.

At the same time, nothing is worse in a young writer than affectation; beware, therefore, of the forced imitation of an older style, and abstain from introducing words and expressions, now obsolete, into speech whose cast is of today. As said Phavorinus to a pupil-you will find the anecdote in Aulus Gellius-'Copy the virtues of the great men of old, but let their archaisms die with them.'

Speech should above all things be intelligible, and without pretension. Who would now use 'nox' as an ablative, or 'im' as an accusative for 'eum'? Yet the 'Twelve Tables' exhibit both.The Authority to which we appeal must be that of orators and historians, in the first place; of poets, only in the second, owing to their dependence upon metrical limitations. But one and all must be drawn from the best age, when oratory was marked by perspicuity of matter and style.

Authoritative usage, then, affords the final canon to be obeyed in all composition; and no argument from analogy, from venerable antiquity, or from opinion can set this aside. Now, to determine this usage is not so simple a matter as it may seem.

For in style as in more important matters we may not take usage to be merely the practice of the majority, as Quintilian warns us.

Eloquence, like wisdom, like nobleness of life, is a gift of the minority. The usage of the commonalty degrades Latin 'erit cito venire' would be a popular version of 'he will come.' So we must look for a higher standard for, Our usage, and we shall find it.

For as in Conduct we agree to take as our norm the customary motive and action of good men so by usages in style we mean only such as are exhibited in the uniform practice of scholars and men of education.?


6. Let this stand as a sketch or suggestion-it is nothing more-of the first of the three functions of Grammar above alluded to, viz., that which concerns correct speech and eloquence.

But, as the study of Letters forms in reality one complete whole, the second function of grammar, as the art of written composition in prose and verse, is illustrated by what has been written above upon the spoken language. So I repeat that skill in composition can only be attained by close and copious reading of the standard authors in oratory, history and poetry, in which you must direct your attention not only to the vocabulary employed by them, but also to their method of handling their subject-matter.

Following ancient precedent, Homer and Vergil, the masters of the Heroic style, should be your first choice in poetry. The loftiness of theme and the romantic spirit of the Iliad and the Aeneid mark them out, as Augustine held, as an inspiring training for boys. But this advice implies the study of Greek in which you are unlikely to find a competent tutor.

Still, the immense advantage of this branch of Letters should urge you to seek for one if opportunity offers: for, as King of Hungary, you will reign over not a few descendants of that ancient race.

Moreover, true freedom in the use of the Latin tongue can only be assured by a simultaneous study of the older language. I cannot forget the authority of Cato in this respect, although I feel I am offering a counsel of perfection to one living in remote Pannonia. Meanwhile we will confine ourselves to the speech and literature of Rome.

Now I meet an objection. You will be confronted by the opposition of the shallow Churchman. 'Why waste precious time in studying such sources of corruption, that is the pagan poets?' They will quote Cicero and Plato, Jerome and Boethius, and will cry out for the banishment of the very names of the ancient poets from the soil of your country.

To this your answer can only be: 'If this tirade indeed represents the serious opinion of my people, I can but shake off the dust from my feet and bid farewell to a land shrouded in darkness so appalling.' Happily, however, there are in Hungary not a few to whom the poets of antiquity are a precious possession. You will have no difficulty in quoting classical precedent for honouring them, as they deserve.

Nay the Fathers themselves, Jerome, Augustine, Cyprian, did not hesitate to draw illustrations from heathen poetry and so sanctioned its study.

Further, if we are to reject the great writers of antiquity for the errors they contain, how shall we treat the masters of theology ? From them proceeded the heresies. Shall we, then, expel them and their writings, as once the Romans banished doctors because they made mistakes?

Finally, it is enough to remember that Paul the Apostle availed himself of Epimenides or Menander to enforce a doctrine. Is not this a sufficiently strong position you despise Paul's authority; can you ask us then to respect yours'?

But I do not assert that all the poets are suited to the youthful mind; nor, I would add, are all the theologians suited to the Christian student. The crucial question is: how do you use your authors ?

Basil has left us a clear guidance on the matter: we leave on one side their beliefs and superstitions, their false ideas of happiness, their defective standard of morals; we welcome all that they can render in praise of integrity and in condemnation of vice.

Consider the habits of the bees. Other creatures enjoy the colour, or the scent, of the flower; they, however, are wise to extract its lurking sweetness. Thus they choose where they will settle, and are content with just that fruition of their choice which serves their end. So, as Jerome says, in reading the ancient poets we absorb the thins of life and beauty, leaving that which is but idolatry, error, or lust, to pass to its natural decay. Herein is laid down an admirable principle by which we may be guided in reading all authors of antiquity.

Wherever excellence is commended, whether by poet, historian or philosopher, we may safely welcome their aid in building up the character. For with the young the early impressions of moral worthiness are usually the most enduring. To quote Horace:'After long years the scent will still imbue The jar of that which seasoned it when new.'

Thus morals and learning are alike forwarded by the judicious use of Literature in education.In making our selection of individual authors, we must consider not poets only, but historians, philosophers and orators. Christian writers I leave for the present.

As regards the poets, amongst the Latins the first place belongs of perpetual right to Vergil. So noble is the music of his language, so enduring his fame, that here, at least, praise can no further exalt, nor criticism detract. Let the scholar observe his varying style, now terse, now abounding, now severe, now luxuriant.

Lucan dignifies his historical theme and Status, less impressive, is yet worthy of a place beside him. Ovid, pathetic, appealing, wanton, is best read in his Metamorphoses. Of other poets of the heroic vein, scarcely fit to rank as poets, Claudian and the poet of the Argonauts may be preferred. Horace holds a place only next to Vergil: the charm of style and of subject graces each variety of his work. But here, once more, we must choose what is fit for youthful study. This is even more necessary in the case of the other great Satirist, Juvenal, in spite of his moral earnestness and severity of judgment. In handling Martial one cannot gather the roses for the thorns. Persius is helpful only to one who can master his obscurities.The Elegiac poets are one and all unsuited for boys' reading: all are enervating. Plautus and Terence must be studied for diction; in Tragedy, a most valuable discipline, we have Seneca alone.

In Speech we aim at dignity and grace. Tragedy presents us with the one, Comedy with the other. Moreover in reading the Dramatists let the master win his pupil to judge characters and situations, with grave warnings against all pleadings in favour of wrong-doing.

Of Orators, with Cicero at their head, there is no small choice. Frank and straightforward in style be it always intelligible. To read his book De Officiis is not merely a useful exercise but an absolutely necessary one.

St Ambrose wrote, in imitation of it, a work which may be wisely read to supplement his model, and so Cicero's teaching made good on the Christian side.

Lactantius, Augustine and Jerome have each a polished style; and Gregory may be profitably used. Of our own contemporaries, Leonardo Aretino, Guarino, Poggio and Ambrogio exhibit a chaste diction which is valuable for study.

Among historians, Livy and SaIlust take the first rank; though Justin, Quintus Curtius, Valerius Maximus, and Arrian, in a translation, may be read by boys; Suetonius I exclude.

Under this same head of history I strongly urge that portions of the Old and New Testaments, such as extracts from the books of Genesis, the Kings, the Maccabees, Judith, Esdras and Esther; and parts of the Gospels and Acts of the Apostles be taught.

History, as Cicero says, is the living witness of the past, the lamp of truth; it is our guide to the days that are now, because it exhibits those that are gone.

It is most important, therefore, to be thoroughly versed in the works of the chief historians and from their study learn practical wisdom in affairs.

But I Would add here a most serious caution. Beware of wasting time over such a subject as the history of Bohemia or the history of Hungary. For such would be but the productions of mere ignorant Chroniclers, a farrago of nonsense and lies, destitute of attraction in form, in style, or in grave reflections.

For boys must from the earliest be made familiar only with, the best, if we look for them to develope a sound judgment in their later years.?


7. The third part of Grammar is concerned with the art of Letter -writing. This, too, is an art which a Prince may by no means regard as beneath his attention. Apart from the fact that correspondence is to him a duty of importance, a regular habit of composing in this style is helpful to the study of authors.

Several of the great Caesars of the early Empire were conspicuous for their powers as letter-writers. So too were the late Pontiff Nicolas V. and his predecessor.

Further, a Prince may, perhaps, not write very often, but let him learn to write legibly. It was 'no credit to the great Alfonso that his signature was most like the traces of a worm crawling over the paper`.

It is worthwhile to be careful over so small a thing as the, shape of the letters; let round letters be round, looped letters shew their loops, and so on.

Both neatness and accuracy in writing should be cultivated. The ancient style of handwriting was neater more legible, than ours, and was more like that of the Greeks, from whom indeed it was derived.

But whatever be the style adopted care must be taken to provide good models.

Moreover, in choosing writing copies select useful and elevating subjects, for instance moral maxims from famous prose writers or poets, so that unconsciously the scholar absorb ennobling thoughts.

As to spelling, rules may indeed be laid down but the real method is that of practice in writing combined with observant reading of good authors; in the case of poetry prosody aids the spelling.

I will now add a few words on orthography in dealing; with compound words (e.g. those with, 'ad-' as prefix) usage will be the safest guide, as the same -compound may be differently written with equal authority.

The rules for doubling the consonant in composition need attention. For since x is equivalent to cs, or gs 'ex-surgo' should be written 'exurgo,' 'ex-sanguis,' 'exanguis.' Notice the usage as to compounds of 'iacio'; and the more important modifications of prepositions in composition. In a word borrowed from the Greek retain the spelling ph for F.

With Quintilian, distinguish `cum` the preposition from `quum` the conjunction. Purists write 'Caius 'but pronounce 'Gaius.' From this we observe that the written form has not always preserved for us the true phonetic value: though Quintilian tells us that 'Caius' is a man, 'Gaius' a woman. Other doubtful cases are 'quidquid' or 'quicquid,' 'id-circo' or 'icirco.' Consonants are sometimes inserted for euphony, e.g. 'si-c-ubi'; 'em- p-tum';'am-b-io'; 'ob-s-curus'; 'ob-l-iquus.'. K is a redundant letter, Always to be replaced by c, in spite of usage which supports Kalendas,' 'Karolus.' Usage, indeed, has practically determined spelling in the majority of cases and we must be careful in our own practice to abide by the standard of the best scholars and writers of the past.

The use of the aspirate in the two words containing the Greek letter Rhenus and Rhodanus, indicates that in earliest times both Germans and Gauls made use, of Greek letters and that these rivers derived their names from the Greeks. In other adopted words the right rule of the aspirate must be observed. No Latin consonant is aspirated, unless with Servius we except "ptilcher." Hence we should write 'Mihi,' ' nihil,' and probably 'incoo,' 'sepulcro.' Other aspirated consonants met with in Latin are Greek derivatives: 'rhetor,' 'archiepiscopus,' 'monarcha'; and so we correctly write 'Phoebus,' 'Orpheus.' We note as an exception 'fama' from 'F???,' 'filius' from 'F????,' 'fero' from 'F???.' Yerusalem' is wrongly spelt: the first syllable consists of the simple vowel sound I. So too are 'autumpnus,' 'contempno,' where euphony does not require ?: but we write 'contempsi.'

Latin superlatives are written regularly in -ssimus: not -ximus. 'Nixus' (from nitor) implies physical, 'nisus' mental, effort.

So far for general rules of orthography; the spelling of individual words can only be learnt, as already said, by observation of usages in your own reading.?

Rhetoric, Dialectic, Logic, Music and Geometry

8. Between Grammar and Rhetoric there is of necessity the closest connection; for it is by means of Rhetoric that the author, whether historian or poet, displays his literary style and artifice, and derives the form in which he casts his judgments of men and things, or the Orator exhibits his appeals and his conclusions.

Both poet and historian have habitual recourse to the rules of Rhetoric, for which you will do wisely to betake yourself exclusively to the great authorities, to Cicero, Quintilian and Aristotle, whose Rhetoric has lately appeared in a translation.

You, indeed, are not destined to the career of an orator, but to the responsibilities of Kingship; yet a sound knowledge of the usages of Rhetoric will be of no small gain to you, even though in actual life a moderate skill in oratory is all that circumstances may require or admit of.

Nor can you neglect Dialectic, which in its turn has so near relation with Rhetoric ; for both alike aim at convincing the reason.

Logic, indeed, has no profit except it serve as a direct aid to clear and precise thinking and expression, enabling us to recognise in our reasonings the fundamental difference between certain, probable, and manifestly false steps in argument. But beware of logicians who waste time and ingenuity in mere verbal subtleties, in whose hands Logic is a thing, not of living use, but of intellectual death.

You will remember that Cicero reproached Sextus Pompey for too great devotion to Geometry, and affirmed that far too much time was spent in his day upon Civil Law and Dialectic.

His reason was that the true praise of men lies in doing, and that consequently all ingenious trifling, however harmless in itself, which withdraws our energies from fruitful activity, is unworthy of the true Citizen.

If that be so, we must ask whether we are to include Music amongst pursuits unsuited to a Prince? The Romans of the later age seem to have deprecated attention to this Art in their Emperors. It was, on the other hand, held a marked defect in Themistocles that be could not tune, the lyre.

The armies of Lacedaemon marched to victory under the inspiration of song, although Lycurgus could not have admitted the practice had it seemed to him unworthy of the sternest manhood. The Hebrew poet-king need be but alluded to, and Cicero is on his side also. So amidst some diversity of opinion our judgement inclines to the inclusion of Music, as a subject to be pursued in moderation under instructors only of serious character, who will rigorously disallow all melodies of a sensuous nature.

Under these conditions we may accept the Pythagorean opinion that Music exerts a soothing and refreshing influence upon the mind.

Geometry is peculiarly fitted to tile earlier stages of a boy's education. For it quickens alike the perceptive faculty and the reasoning powers. Combining with this subject Arithmetic your Masters will certainly include the two in your course of training.

The value of Geometry may be proved by the case of Syracuse, which city prolonged its defence simply by virtue of the skill of the geometrician Archimedes. Further tile study of Geometry provides us with a more exact method of reasoning than is always supplied by Dialectic; for many apparently just assumptions are corrected by the strict observation of the truths of Geometry.

For instance, the most perfect form of the line, which is the circle, is that which encloses the largest space: and the equilateral triangle contains more than the scalene: although reason apart from the aid of geometrical method, would not suggest these truths.

At the same time, though an attractive study, Geometry should not be allowed to become too absorbing.


A prince must not be ignorant of Astronomy, which unfolds the skies and by that means interprets the secrets of Heaven to mortal men. Did not the greatest rulers of antiquity hold this wisdom in high esteem ?

Pericles and Sulpicius both alike restored the day in a crisis in the field by their ready use of this lore. Dion and Nicias are examples of the gain and the loss, which may be involved, in the right or wrong study of eclipses. And one may fairly ask how without a knowledge of astronomy we can understand the man allusions to the Heavens contained in the ancient Poets. On these grounds let the young Prince include this science in his courses.

But we must here interpose a caution. There is a danger lest in our interest in natural, or external, objects we find but a lower place for those weightier things which concern character and action.

Two difficulties confront us, that of the choice of subjects and methods of instruction, and that of the risk we run of overburdening the learner's mind by too great a variety of study.

But we must bear in mind that the thinking faculties find relief from strain in this very variety, just as the digestion is aided by succession in diet. So that I have no fear lest your mind should suffer from alternations in subjects or change of masters.

Therefore let grammar, dialectic and other subjects occupy you in turn, due regard also being had to the place which physical training must occupy in your education.?


9. So far we have touched upon studies by which we may attain enlightenment of the mind. We have not yet however directly considered how we may most surely distinguish the true and the just from the base and degrading in our Reading and in Life: and what as a consequence must be imitated and what avoided.

The poets, the orators and the historians, suggest, perhaps, rather than enforce, the Virtues: hence we must look for final guidance to a higher source, viz. to Philosophy.

Now Philosophy signifies desire for wisdom; and wisdom includes more than is contained within the limit of the seven Liberal arts, for it enquires into the causes of all things human and divine.

To Thales philosophy meant Natural Science; Socrates followed, and brought the divine laws of morality from heaven to man: Plato completed Philosophy by adding the science of mind.

For the truths of conduct, then, we send our scholar to Moral Philosophy, a truly indispensable study. For here he will more exactly learn the duty he owes, in the first place, to the Deity to his parents, to his elders, to strangers ; to the civil and military powers, and to his fellow-citizens; he will learn what becomes him towards wife, towards friend, towards tenant and slave.

Moreover Philosophy will teach you to despise avarice - that lust for wealth which Sallust tells us the truly wise never feel. Respect towards women, affection for children and for home; pity for the distressed, justice towards all; self-control in anger, restraint in indulgence, forbearance in success contentment, courage, duty-these are some of the virtues to which philosophy will lead you.

In order that from early youth this true wisdom may be duly inculcated I would prescribe the study of books, carefully prepared and attractive in style, specially adapted to this end.

I have already alluded to one or two works suited to this purpose; to them I would add all the writings of Cicero which touch upon moral duty, as the treatises on Old Age, Friendship and others ; the Letters of Seneca, Boethius upon Consolation; others of later date may be advised, provided always that the Master restrict the choice to works recognised by good judges as sound both in matter and in style. "

Pius II : The Early Years

Pienza and surroundings

Aeneas was born at Corsignano on 18th October 1405. He was the eldest of eighteen children born to Silvio de' Piccolomini and Vittoria Forteguerra.

He was of noble birth. However circumstances forced him to help his father in the cultivation of the estate which the family owned at Corsignano.

Having received some elementary instruction from a priest, he entered, at the age of eighteen, the University of Siena. Here he gave himself up to diligent study and the free enjoyment of sensual pleasures.

In 1425, the preaching of St. Bernardine of Siena sparked in him the desire of embracing a monastic life, but he was dissuaded from his purpose by his friends. Attracted by the fame of the celebrated Filelfo, he shortly after spent two years in the study of the classics and poetry in Florence.

He returned to Siena at the urgent request of his relatives, to devote his time to the study of jurisprudence.

Passing through Siena on his way to the Council of Basle, Capranica, Bishop of Fermo, invited Aeneas to accompany him as his secretary. They arrived there in 1432, and joined the opposition to Pope Eugene IV.

Historical Context

Taken from

1315 - Bad weather and crop failure result in famine across northwestern Europe. Unsanitary conditions and malnutrition increase the death rate. Even after the revival of agricultural conditions, weather disasters reappear. A mixture of war, famine and plague in the Late Middle Ages reduces the population by one-half.

1327 - Born in 1260, German Dominican Master Eckhart defines the individual soul as a "spark" of the divine at its most basic element. By renouncing all knowledge of the self, one is able to retreat into that "spark" and reach God. Most of his teachings are condemned by the papacy. Two bands of mysticism arise from Eckhart's theories: heterodox, the belief in the unification of God and man on earth without the aid of priests as intermediaries, and orthodox, the belief in the possibility of joining the soul with God and the awareness of divine presence in everyday life.

1328 - England attempts to claim the French crown.

1330 - Oxford theologian John Wyclif is born. He later becomes the leader of a heretical movement: finding the Church extravagant, he condemns most Church officials and begins a reform movement. He dies in 1384, before the death penalty for heresy emerges in England. The use of heavy cannons in warfare begins.

1337 - The French retaliate against the English and initiate the Hundred Years' War, a series of battles lasting until 1453 CE. The three greatest battles of the war are fought at Crecy (1346), Poitiers (1356) and Agincourt (1415). Due to the military superiority of the English, the French are defeated in most of the battles.

1340 - Geoffrey Chaucer is born. He later begins the literary tradition with his Canterbury Tales.

1342 - The reign of Avignonese Pope Clement VI exemplifies the French takeover of the Church. Clement offers spiritual benefits for money, appoints Church leaders for economic gains and commits sexual acts on "doctors' orders." The French Church based in Avignon rises in power, centralizes the Church government and establishes a system of papal finance.

1347 - The Black Death appears during a time of economic depression in Western Europe and reoccurs frequently until the fifteenth century. The population of Siena falls by over one half. Religious flagellation appears among lay groups in order to appease the divine wrath.

English Franciscan William of Ockham dies. He teaches that God is free to do good and bad on earth as He wishes and developes the philosophical position known as "nominalism." His quest for certainty in human knowledge is one of the foundations of the scientific method.

1348 - Italian Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-1375 CE) begins writing the Decameron, a collection of stories about love, sex, adventure and trickery told by seven ladies and three men on a journey into the country to escape the Black Death. Boccaccio's work is the first literature written in narrative prose.

1356 - A war begins between the English and the French directly following an occurrence of the Black Death in France. French peasants suffer the most economically, as is usual in medieval times during war, and physically -- their homes are pillaged and burned. The English defeat the French king, John II, at the Battle of Poitiers, and the peasants again are asked to bear the weight of the upper class.

1358 - Economic hardship in France results in an uprising of the lower-class, called the Jacquerie (taken from the French peasant "Jacques Bonhomme"). The peasants revolt during the king's captivity in England. Also, during this time, an aristocratic group plans the takeover of power. A brief revolt is put to an end when this group restores order by the massacre of the rebels.

1360 - With the introduction of oil painting into western Europe, the earliest naturalistic painting is created. Its subject is the French king, John the Good. After this, naturalistic portraitures become prominent in European art.

1367 - Catherine of Siena is successful in returning the Pope to Rome. However, Pope Gregory XI dies in 1368. Because the papacy is now in Rome, an Italian pope, Urban VI, is elected and begins quarreling with the French cardinals. The French cardinals cancel the previous election and elect a French pope, Clement VII.

1378 - The second phase of the Church's institutional crisis is the Great Schism. The French papacy leaves Rome due to the uprising of Urban VI and his group of newly founded cardinals. The split of the two groups causes confusion in Europe. French territories recognize Clement VII as pope, and the rest of Europe recognizes Urban VI as pope. The schism survives the death of both popes.

1381 - The presence of the Black Death in England works to the advantage of English peasants, causing a shortage of labor, a freeing of serfs, a rise in salary and a decrease in rent. The aristocratic class, however, passes legislation that lowers wages to the amount before the plague and that requires lower wages for laborers without land. The peasants rise against this oppression in what is called the English Peasants' Revolt when a national tax is levied for every individual in England. The peasants march into London, murder the lord chancellor and treasurer and are met by Richard II. Richard promises the abolition of serfdom and a lower of rent. After the peasants leave, Richard has the peasant groups followed and murdered.

1385 - The first German university is opened in Heidelberg.

1386 - The queen of Poland, Jadwiga, marries grand duke of Lithuania, Jagiello. The marriage creates a state double the size of Poland's previous size.

1399 - In England, the death penalty becomes the punishment for heresy, and many Lollards, Wyclif's lay followers, convert.

1400 - Czech students of John Wyclif bring Wyclifism to the Bohemian capital of Prague. Preacher John Hus (1373-1415 CE) adopts Wyclif's theories to support his own claims against ecclesiastical extravagance.

The Northern provinces of Italy devise their own systems of government. The government of Venice becomes a merchant oligarchy; Milan is ruled by dynastic despotism; and Florence becomes a republic, ruled by the rich. The three cities expand and conquer most of Northern Italy.

1409 - A council of prelates from both sides of the Great Schism meet at Pisa and decide to rename a new pope in place of the two. However, both popes enjoy great political power and refuse the deposition, causing three rivals to the papacy instead of two.

1410 - Polish-Lithuanian forces defeat the German Teutonic Knights and extend rule eastward, almost into Russia. Eastern Orthodox Moscow begins a campaign of resistance to Roman Catholic Poland-Lithuania.

1414 - A Lollard uprising in England fails. Some Lollards retreat underground and aid the Protestant Reformation in the sixteenth century.

1415 - John Hus travels to the Council of Constance to propose his reforms for the Church. Upon his arrival at the Council, Hus is tried for heresy and burned. His death encourages futher revolt by his followers.

1417 - The Council of Constance, the largest Church meeting in medieval history, ends the Great Schism. The council gains secular support and elects Martin V as pope. It replaces papal monarchy with a conciliar government, which recognizes a council of prelates as the pope's authority, and mandates the frequent meeting of the council. This new period is known as the Italian territorial papacy, which lasts until 1517 CE.

1419 - The province of Burgundy breaks from France and allies with the English during the Hundred Years' War.

1420 - Hus' supporters defeat German "crusaders." The lower-class Hussites are led by general John Zizka.

1427 - Thomas a Kempis writes The Imitation of Christ, a manual directing the individual through Orthodox mysticism. Originally in Latin, it is translated into European languages for the lay audience. Its major themes concern the path of Christian piety for those active in everyday life, communion with Christ, biblical meditation and a moral life. The only sacrament suggested to its reader is the Eucharist.

1429 - Joan of Arc, a peasant girl in France, seeks out the French leader and relates her divinely-inspired mission to drive the English out of France. She takes control of the French troops and liberates most of central France.

1430 - Joan of Arc is captured and taken to England. The English accuse her of being a witch and condemn her for heresy. Joan is publicly burned in the city of Rouen.

1434 - Aristocratic Hussites end the revolt of Hus' supporters and their attempts of social and religious reform. Bohemia does not return to Catholic Orthodoxy until the Catholic Reformation of the seventeenth century.

1434 - The Medici banking family dominates the government of Florence.

1453 - Ottoman Turks take Constantinople and end Byzantine civilization.

The French king Charles VII captures Bordeaux in the southwest and ends the Hundred Years' War, during the reign of English King Henry VI and after the withdrawal of Burgandy from English alliance. The French monarchy reestablishes rule and returns to collecting national taxes and maintaining a standing army in times of peace. The monarchy becomes even stronger during the reigns of Louis XI (1461-1483) and Louis XII (1498-1515).

1454 - Italy is divided into five major regions: Venice, Milan, Florence, the Papal States and the southern kingdom of Naples.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Pius II

Portrait of Pius II by Il Sodoma
within The Palazzo Piccolomini, Pienza

The life of Pius II was full and eventful. Courtier, poet, author, diplomat, politician and statesman.

His biographical details are here and at here .

The main events of his life are depicted in a fresco cycle by Bernadino di Betto, called Pinturicchio, (c.1454 - 1513) within the Piccolomini Library in the Duomo in Siena. The cycle was commissioned as a tribute to his uncle by Pius`s nephew, Francesco Cardinal Piccolomini (later to be the short reigned pontiff, Pope Pius III).

The first fresco shows the birth of Pius II, with his parents, Silvio Piccolomini and Vittoria, in 1405, in Valdorcia, in the district of Corsignano (now called Pienza) and his being called Aeneas.

The second scene represents the missions on which Aeneas was sent by the Council of Basle: to Strasburg thrice, to Trent, Constance, Frankfurt and Savoy.

In the third, Aeneas is sent as ambassador by the anti-Pope Felix to the Emperor Frederick III., who was so much struck by his dexterity, ability, eloquence and grace that he caused him to be crowned with laurel as a poet, after which he is made protonotary, received among his friends, and appointed chief secretary.

The fourth shows him being sent by Frederick to Pope Eugenius IV who made him Bishop of Trieste, and subsequently Aeneas being made Archbishop of Siena by Pope Nicholas V.

In the fifth, the emperor, who is anxious to come to Italy to receive the Imperial crown, sends Aeneas to Telamone, a port of the Sienese, to meet his wife Leonora, who is coming from Portugal.

In the sixth, Aeneas is sent by the emperor to Pope Calixtus IV to persuade him to make war on the Turks; and, as Siena has been harassed by the Count of Pitigliano and others, at the instigation of King Alfonso of Naples, the Pope is sending Aeneas to treat for peace. This done, a war is planned against the Orientals, and, on returning to Rome, Aeneas is created cardinal by the Pope.

The seventh shows the death of Calixtus and the election of Aeneas to be Pope as Pius II.

In the eighth the Pope is going to the council at Mantua for the expedition against the Turks, where the Marquis Ludovico receives him with great pomp and extraordinary magnificence.

In the ninth the Pope is canonising Saint Catherine of Siena.

In the tenth and last the Pope, while preparing a great fleet against the Turks dies at Ancona, and a holy hermit of Camaldoli sees his soul carried to heaven by angels at the moment of his death. The same picture shows the body brought from Ancona to Rome, accompanied by a crowd of lords and prelates weeping for the death of such a man.

This work is full of portraits of the great figures of the time. It is filled with scenes shoiwng the extensive travels of Pius - including once on a secret mission even as far as the wilds of Scotland at the instance of Cardinal Albergati, the Pope`s legate. The colouring is fine and vigorous. It is enriched with gold ornaments, while the ceiling decoration is admirably devised. Under each scene is a Latin inscription describing its nature. The approach is hagiographical. It is designed to impress and fill with wonder. It does.

However it does not tell the whole story of this remarkable man who lived in remarkable times. It would be surprising if it did.

Aeneas was no stranger to love. He fathered at least two children outside of marriage - one in Scotland.

He published romantic novels and poetry such as The Tale of Two Lovers. Piccolomini composed the story in Latin in 1444 but it was soon translated into the vernacular. When as Pope Pius II he later tried to suppress this reminder of his past, it proved impossible. The book had become a best seller. This love story, written at the request of a Sienese friend, is said to be based on the affair that took place between a young married noblewoman of Siena and a visiting German in the service of the emperor Sigismondo. Although the tale is juicy and comic by turns, it cannot be called an incitement to adultery, for it ends with the death of the unhappy woman, abandoned when her lover has to follow the emperor to another town.

He also wrote Eurialus and Lucretia and the recently discovered comedy Chrysis, as well as the following historical works: Libellus dialogorum de generalis concilii auctoritate et gestis Basileensium; Commentarius de rebus Basileae gestis; Historia rerum Frederici III imperatoris; Historia Bohemica.

During his Pontificate, he did not stop his literary output. Two important works of his were either entirely or partly written during this period: his geographical and ethnographical description of Asia and Europe; and his Memoirs, which are the only autobiography left by a pope. They are entitled Pii II Commentarii rerum memorabilium, quae temporibus suis contigerunt.

The Commentaries are written in the third person in Latin. It is not only autobiography but a frank account of his own life and immediate thoughts. His training as a topographer enabled him to express his delight in towns and countryside, and his depiction of individuals and political situations also owed much to his earlier interests. He veils nothing (it seems) of his ambitions and indiscretions, and produces a startling inside picture of the Church. Thanks to this work he is of all Renaissance popes the one who can best be known and, perhaps in part for this reason, is not among those who are most admired.

The Commentaries include:
  • the inside story of the Conclave which elected Aeneas as Pius II;
  • his running battle with Sigismundo Malatesta of Rimini;
  • his attempts to aggrandise his family in the City of Siena and its governance;
  • the idea of the transformation of Corsignano to Pienza and how the idea became reality;
  • the Canonisation of St Catherine of Siena;
  • his attempt to establish peace within the Christian states and start a new Crusade against the Turks;
  • his bringing of the head of St Andrew to the City of Rome after the Fall of Constantinople;
  • his final days trying to lead a Crusade from the city of Ancona.


Pienza is regarded as a unique example of a city designed and constructed according to the canons of the Italian Renaissance. The town has preserved its unique characteristics throughout the centuries.

Its idea originated with the humanist Pope, Pius II (otherwise Enea Sylvio Piccolomini).He was born in the town in 1405. The town was then called Corsignano.

In February 1459, when Pope, he visited his birthplace. He was struck by the misery of the inhabitants. He decided that he would reconstruct the town and make it his Summer Court.

He instructed the architect Bernardo Rossellini to design and construct the new town. Rossellino had been ingegnere di palazzo to Pope Nicholas V in Rome. Rossellino began work on the project in 1459.

Around the Central Square stands the Cathedral, the Piccolomini Palace and the Episcopal Palace. Palaces of the various Cardinals stand adjacent. The hospital and the inn were also built on the orders of Pius. Rossellino also planned the overall layout of the town.