Alcyonius, Peter

, a learned Italian, was born at Venice, of poor parents of the lowest class, about the end of the fifteenth century. Alcyonius, or Alcyonio, was not his family name, but he is supposed to have adopted it, according to the custom of his age, to give himself an air of antiquity or classical origin. Whatever the meanness of his birth, he had the merit of applying in his youth to the learned languages with such success, as to become a very accomplished scholar. He was corrector of the press a considerable time for Aldus Manutius, and is entitled to a share in the praises given to the editions of that learned printer. He translated into Latin several treatises of Aristotle; but Sepulveda wrote against these versions, and pointed out so many errors in them, that Alcyonius had no other remedy than buying up as many copies as he could get of Sepulveda’s work, and burning them. The treatise which Alcyonius published concerning Banishment contained so many fine passages, with others quite the reverse, | that it was thought he had interwoven with somewhat of his own, several fragments of Cicero’s treatise De Gloria; and that afterwards, in order to save himself from being detected in this theft, he burnt the manuscript of Cicero, the only one extant. Paulus Manutius, in his commentary upon these words of Cicero, “Libruni tibi celeriter mittam de gloria,” has the following passage relating to this affair: “He means (says he) his two books on Glory, which were handed down to the age of our fathers; for Bernard Justinian, in the index of his books, mentions Cicero de Gloria. This treatise, however, when Bernard had left his whole library to a nunnery, could not be found, though sought after with great care, and nobody doubted but Peter Alcyonius, who, being physician to the nunnery, was intrusted with the library, had basely stolen it. And truly, in his treatise of Banishment, some things are found interspersed here and there, which seem not to savour of Alcyonius, but of some higher author.Paul Jovius repeated this accusation, and it was adopted as a fact by other writers. Alcyonius, however, has been amply vindicated by some late biographers, particularly Tiraboschi, who has proved that the charge was not only destitute of truth, but of probability.

In 1517, he aspired to the professor’s chair, which his master Marcus Musurus held, but was rejected on account of his youth. In 1521, however, he went from Venice to Florence, where he obtained, by the interest of the cardinal Julius de Medicis, the Greek professorship of that university, and, besides his’ salary, had ten ducats a month from the cardinal de Medicis, to translate GalenDe partibus animalium.” As soon as he understood that this cardinal was created pope, he asked leave of the Florentines to depart; and though he was refused, he went nevertheless to Rome, in great hopes of raising himself there. He lost all his fortune during the troubles the Columnas raised in Rome; and some time after, when the emperor’s troops took the city, in 1527, he received a wound when flying for shelter to the castle of St. Angelo: but got thither, notwithstanding he was pursued by the soldiers, and joined Clement VII. He was afterwards guilty of base ingratitude towards this pope; for, as soon as the siege was raised, he deserted him, and went over to cardinal Pompeius Colutnna, at whose house he fell sick, and died a few months after, in his fortieth year. Alcyonius might have made greater advances in learning, had he not been too much influenced | by vanity and self-conceit, which hindered him from taking the advice of his friends. He was likewise too much addicted to detraction and abuse, which raised him many enemies. Menckenius reprinted his treatise “De Exilio,” in 1707, 12mo, Leipsic, with those of Valerianus and Tollius on the misfortunes of men of letters, and other pieces on the same subject, under the title of “Analecta de calamitate Literatorum.” The treatise “De Exilio” was first printed at the Aldine press, 1522, 4to. The only other original works which he left are, his orations on the taking of Rome, and on the knights who died at the siege of Rhodes; which we cannot find to have been published, but which had merit enough to prove him capable of writing the treatise on exile. 1

1 Gen. Dict. —Moreri. P. Jov. Elog. —Saxii Onomasticon, Bio. Universelle. —Tiraboschi. Mazzuchelli Scrittori Italiani.