Politian, Angelus

, a most ingenious and learned Italian, was born July 14, 1454, at Monte Pulciano in Tuscany and from the name of this town, in Latin Mons Politianus, he derived the surname of Politian. His father was a doctor of the civil law. His name, according to M. Baillet, was Benedictus de Cinis, or, de Ambroginis, for he considers the former as a corruption of the latter. Politian, who gave early proofs of an extraordinary genius; had the advantage of Christophero Landino’s instructions in the Latin language. His preceptors in the Greek were Andronicus of Thessalonica and John Argyropylus. His abilities, at a very early period of his life, attracted the notice of Lorenzo and Julius de Medici. An Italian poem, the production of his juvenile pen, in which he celebrated an equestrian spectacle, or Giostra, wherein the latter bore away the prize, greatly contributed to establish his reputation. He was thence honoured with the peculiar patronage of the Medicean family; and, among other persons remarkable for genius and learning, whom the munificence of Lorenzo attracted to Florence, Politian was seen to shinq as a star of the first magnitude. Lorenzo confided to him the education of his own children and in this | honourable employment he passed a great part of his life, favoured with the peculiar friendship of his patron, and the society and correspondence of men of letters. Among the more intimate associates of Poiitian, was Picus of Mi ran ­dula, and between these eminent scholars there was a strict attachment, and a friendly communication of studies. The Platonic philosopher, Marsilius Ficinus, completed this literary triumvirate.

Poiitian had been indebted for his education to Lorenzo, who had early procured for him the citizenship of Florence placed him in easy and affluent circumstances; probably conferred on him the secular priory of the college of S. Giovanni, which he held and on his entrance into clerical orders, appointed him a canon of the cathedral of Florence. It was at this period that the arts and sciences began gradually to revive and flourish; philosophy “to be freed,” to use the expression of antiquaries, “from the dust of barbarism,” and criticism to assume a manly and rational appearance. The more immediate causes which brought about these desirable events, were, the arrival of the illustrious Grecian exiles in Italy the discovery of antient manuscripts; establishment of public libraries, and seminaries of education; and especially the invention of printing. No branch of science was cultivated with greater ardour than classical literature: under the peculiar patronage of Lorenzo, and of some of the chief of other states in Italy, who imitated his liberality, eminent scholars engaged with incredible ardour and diligence, in collating manuscripts, and ascertaining the genuine text ‘of Greek and Latin authors: explaining their obscurities, illustrating them with commentaries, translating them into various languages, and imitating their beauties.

The-“Miscellanea” of Poiitian were first published at Florence, in 1489, and were every where received with the greatest applause, and compared by the learned to the “Noctes Atticas” of Aulus Gellius. His Latin version of Heroclian is universally allowed to be a masterly performance, and perhaps no other translation of any Greek author has been so much and so generally admired. Some critics have declared, that if the Greek of Heroclian could have been suppressed, this work might have passed among the learned for the classical and finished’ production of some original pen of antiquity. Yet amidst such general approbation, there were not wanting others who accused | him of having published as his own, a version previously made by Gregorius of Tiphernum M. de la Monnoye maintains that Omnibuono, a native of Lunigo, nearVicenza, commonly denominated Omnibonus Vicentinus, was the author of this prior version and endeavours to prove from a fragment of it, that Politian had seen and availed himself of it. These detractions, however, have not been generally admitted. Politian inscribed this version to Pope Innocent VIII. in a dedication which is prefixe*d to most of the ancient editions of the work, and which procured him a present from his holiness of two hundred gold crowns. Politian returned thanks i a courtly and somewhat adulatory epistle, in which he/ extols the pope’s bounty, and promises to redouble his efforts to produce something more worthy of so exalted a patron.

The“Greek Epigrams” of Politian were written, for the most part, when he was very young, but from the address to the reader prefixed to them, in the volume of his works, they appear to have been published after his death, from the original manuscript, by Zenobius Acciajolus, who did not consider them as adding much to the fame of the author, 'and some of them might have been suppressed, without injury to literature, and certainly with advantage to the moral reputation of the author. He is supposed to have written a translation of Homer, but no part of it is nowknown to exist. Of his other Latin poems, the “Manto,” “Rusticus,” and probably the “Ambra,” were occasional, and intended for public recitation and appear to have been published at the instance of some of his pupils. Perhaps his most laboured production is the “Nutricia,” which seems to be the poem sent by him to Matthias king of Hungary, as a specimen of his talents.

The labours of Politian on the pandects of Justinian: his collations and corrections of classic authors, and the less voluminous pieces that are contained in his works, are lasting monuments of his erudition and industry; but such was his confidence in his powers, that he affected to consider all his past works, merely as preludes to others of greater magnitude. These, however, he did not live to execute.

Serious charges have been alleged against the purity of his morals but these are, for the most part, allowed to rest on the very questionable authority of Paulus Jovius of whom it is said, that prejudice, resentment, or interest, | generally guided his pen. Politian has found able advocates in Pierius Valerian us “De Infelicitate Literatorum,” in Barthius’ “Adversaria,” and in Mr. Roscoe. It must be acknowledged, however, says his late biographer, Mr. Gresswell, that the youthful muse of Politian did not always adhere to the strictness of decorum, a fault too common amongst the poetical writers of his age. A few of his Greek epigrams, as well as of his Latin verses, are very exceptionable.

The only probable account of the death of this distinguished scholar is, that it was prematurely occasioned by his grief for the misfortunes of the Medicean family, from whom he had received so many favours, and with whose prosperity and happiness, his own were so intimately connected. This event took place September 24, 1494, in the forty-first year of his age. His “Letters,” which serve to illustrate his life and literary labours, were prepared for the press by himself, a very short time before his death, at the particular request of the son and successor of Lorenzo. The letters of Politian and his friends, in the earlier editions, at least in that printed by Jo. Badius Ascensius at Paris, 1512, are entitled “Angeli Politiani Epistolae,” but in a subsequent edition of 1519 from the same press, more properly “Virorum Illustrium Epistolae.1

1 Gresswell’s Memoirs of Politian. Roscoe’s Lorenzo and Leo.