Vergil and vergilianism in high Renaissance Rome
Glodzik, Jeffrey A.
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This project will explore the fundamental influence of Vergil, regarded in the Renaissance as the greatest of poets, in early sixteenth century Rome. He was not only the epic poet, but also the master of pastoral poetry in the Renaissance. It was Vergil, not Homer, who was consistently imitated throughout the Middle Ages and Renaissance, even though the Renaissance humanist revival of Greek studies meant that the Homeric epics were again read and studied. It was Vergil, for instance, who guided Dante through the Inferno, and Petrarch sought in his epic Africa to create the heir to the Aeneid, specifically molding his moral hero Scipio in the image of Vergil's Aeneas. Vergil, as the most esteemed classical Latin poet, was central to Renaissance cultural life and thought as a whole, since the intellectual program of the Renaissance humanists regarded the classics as the key sources for human wisdom and virtue. Yet ubiquitous as Vergilian references were in Renaissance writings the specifics of his influence in Rome remain to be investigated. The main vehicle in which to study the over-arching influence of Vergil is to examine the extensive body of Latin literature directly inspired by Vergil or incorporating Vergilian themes in the period of instauratio (renewal) often described as "High Renaissance Rome", roughly the first two decades of the sixteenth century. By considering this Renaissance Latin poetry in Rome, that is, thoroughly examining the primary source texts of a large number of humanists and placing them within their social and cultural context, one can discern the renewal of Roman thought and Latin literature at its apex. Specifically, I examine the Latin poetry of Roman humanists and determine the Vergilian influence in their works. This influence will be evident in terms of Vergilian-style language as well as the reworking of Vergilian themes and episodes from Vergil's Aeneid or Eclogues (prophecies, visits to the underworld, pastoral themes). These themes and episodes generally follow the notion of renewal, which fits the character of papal ideology in the early sixteenth century. Since Roman humanists were in the service of the papacy the Vergilian themes of renewal, Golden Age, an imperial Rome reborn, and Roman destiny in their works perfectly fit - and even became the language of - the prevailing discourse of papal Rome. A major topic of investigation of this project, therefore, is the understanding of the religious, cultural, and even political uses of Vergil in the papal-influenced humanist literature of Renaissance Rome. This literature, in which the typical Roman cultural outlook is evident, was based in the papal court and the Roman intellectual circles linked to it. What I term Vergilianism, therefore, is crucial to understanding the cultural outlook of Renaissance Rome. Vergilianism, I argue, was just as central to understanding the cultural and intellectual outlook of Renaissance Rome as was Ciceronianism, which provided the model for prose composition, as described by John D'Amico (1983). D'Amico argued that Ciceronianism, the style and language of Curial humanism that was well-suited to sacred oratory and composition, was key in deciphering the intellectual and cultural world of papal Rome. Similarly, I contend that Vergilianism must be viewed beyond the scholarly interpretations of Vergil during the period and placed into a cultural context. This dissertation explores the centrality of Vergilianism in Renaissance Rome, thus bringing to light another aspect of Vergil's influence in the larger Renaissance world.