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Abacus and humanism.

Renaissance humanism was not, and probably could never have been, permanently confined to the restricted company that had once created it. Even its most esoteric branches - Neoplatonism, magic, cabala, alchemy - had their practical side, for they had been conceived and continued to operate in a world of practical needs. By the first two decades of the early sixteenth century, fundamental concepts of Neoplatonism, though they may have retained their esoteric charm for self-conscious cognoscenti, had also become common coin, the imagery in which merchants, professionals, and technicians couched their own philosophical yearnings. At the same time, humanistic patterns of thought had come to govern actions in the political and financial sphere no less than they governed the progress of letters and art. Humanism had in effect become a social phenomenon as much as an intellectual stance. Examples of its "ripple effect" are as various as the widening circles of people who adopted classical allusion and Platonic ideas as their own. As one demonstration of a general phenomenon, the present investigation proceeds from a sermon delivered in Siena in 1511 by the Neoplatonist cleric Egidio da Viterbo (1469-1532) to trace the effects of Neoplatonic thought on a small group of Sienese citizens, from Vannoccio Biringucci (1480-1539?), a chemist who echoes Neoplatonic imagery in his writings, to an employee of the great Chigi bank who, amid the figures of business transactions, inscribes his confession. In every case, however, their lives were directly involved in one way or another with the events that had conspired to bring Egidio da Viterbo to town one unprepossessing November.

In the summer of 1510 the merchants of Siena, many of them with strong attachments to the Roman curia, took up a collection of money in order to lobby the pope.(1) Julius II had declared the year before that he intended to expel the French from Italian soil, where they had maintained a forceful presence particularly in the north since 1494. The pontiff sealed his intentions by growing a penitential beard and spent the rest of his time on plans for more substantive actions.(2) He chose as his two initial objectives the Francophile city-states of Genoa and Ferrara, and it was in order to encourage Julius's pressure on Ferrara that the merchants of Siena took up their collection in the summer of 1510. The pope's quarrels with Ferrara were more obvious than the grievances of the Sienese merchants to whom the duchy was neither a sworn enemy nor a near neighbor. In theory Ferrara was a vassal state of the papacy, whereas in practice it had possessed centuries of de facto autonomy under the d'Este family. On occasion the tension between the papacy and Ferrara escalated into warfare, as it had under the pontificate of Julius's uncle Sixtus IV. By 1510, however, Alfonso D'Este and his dukedom had fallen under the sway of French-occupied Milan, and this made Ferrarese loyalty a matter of more urgent political concern.

There were, moreover, strong economic incentives for returning this wayward duchy to St. Peter's fold: Ferrarese salt from Comacchio undersold pontifical salt from nearby Cervia with substantial damage to Vatican revenues, and this monetary drain had come under the gimlet scrutiny of Siena's greatest merchant, the curial banker Agostino Chigi (1466-1520), based in Rome since 1487 and by 1510 the head of an international operation with intricate Vatican ties. Indeed, some contemporary accounts assert that it was Chigi rather than the pope himself who had singled out Ferrara in the first place.(3) Given Chigi's involvement in the papal machinations, it is not surprising that the Sienese merchants took up their collection in 1510 with the specific object of "keeping alive [Pope] Julius's rage at Ferrara";(4) chief among these earnest lobbyists would have been Sigismondo Chigi, the formidable Agostino's youngest brother and resident agent in Siena.

After a series of futile negotiations with Ferrarese envoys about allegiances and salt prices, by late summer 1510 Julius had decided to go to war against his reluctant vassal. When he set out for the north in September, he knew that Agostino Chigi and several other Rome-based Sienese merchants would join him that winter at the papal field headquarters in Bologna. The Sienese lobbyists, then, had passed a hat that expressed something other than a spontaneous interest in papal politics; instead, Chigi's squadron of hometown henchmen had mobilized to help him quell a commercial rival.

Both sides of the Ferrara salt war, like most battles of the period, would consist of mercenary troops; to keep these soldiers of fortune intent on their assignments, ready cash was an imminent necessity. As the winter of 1510 dragged into 1511, foul weather, disease, and Ferrarese gunpowder took their toll on the papal forces - and the papal coffers. When Julius retreated from Bologna in April 1511, the outcome of his expedition was from the Sienese standpoint "most uncertain."(5) In this troubled political climate, the pope attempted to consolidate his position with Siena and her merchants through a specialized brand of ecclesiastical diplomacy: in November 1511 he dispatched the Augustinian preacher Egidio Antonini da Viterbo to deliver a pair of sermons in the city in order to "keep the Sienese loyal lest they reconsider."(6)

Egidio's arrival in Siena was narrated by, among others, an acute observer and omnivorous gossip named Sigismondo Ticci (1458-1528; also known as Tizio), a canon of the city's cathedral. 7 By 1511 this local character was already long engaged in compiling the massive chronicle of Sienese history that survives to this day in ten manuscript volumes, all in his own indefatigable hand. Yet the gossipy particulars of Ticci's Historia Senensium (History of the Sienese) bring his city and his times to life with rare vividness: alone among contemporary historians he treats merchants with as much care as he does statesmen, tracing the machinations of financiers as an essential component of politics. His is the story of the Sienese lobbying efforts in 1510, and thanks to his chronicle we know that Egidio da Viterbo's sermons of November 1511 were intended to mollify this same group in the aftermath of the Ferrara salt war. Most curious of all, however, are the sermons themselves, which Ticci records in summary form, providing our only firm clue as to their content.(8)

How would a papal envoy approach a crowd of disappointed investors? Their numbers were apparently considerable; drawn by the preacher's reputation and his timely message, they flocked to the church of S. Agostino on 10 November. There Ticci reports that "having proposed some terms of arithmetic, and then of a circular line, which he referred to God, he moved along through a brief sermon, genuinely enticing the people, promising them that on the next day he would announce some matters more specifically pertinent to the Sienese."(9)

The difference in level of detail between Ticci's reports on this sermon and the one delivered on the following day is striking. He describes the first in a single sentence, whereas his notes on the second spread across three folio pages and amount to a virtual transcript. It is not surprising that the second sermon should have captured his attention, for, as we shall see, it followed more conventional lines in applying Scripture to the problems of daily existence. Brought fresh from Rome by one of the papacy's guiding lights, its up-to-the-minute theology was bound to appeal priest to priest.

The first sermon, on the other hand, seems to have aimed successfully at Sigismondo Ticci's fellow citizens, the Sienese merchant community. His "terms of arithmetic" and the "circular line, which he referred to God," suggest that the preacher applied the language of mathematics to theology. As Egidio spoke, however, Sigismondo Ticci, apparently one of those avid readers who bristles at the very mention of numbers, stopped listening carefully. Indeed, he seems to have missed the sermon's point altogether, as well as the attendant subtleties of its language. Not every man in the Renaissance was a proverbial "Renaissance man," nor, obviously, does a split between mathematics and letters only follow upon the Industrial Revolution. Still, it is unusual to find Sigismondo Ticci so distracted and so apparently uninterested as he was in Sant' Agostino that November day in 1511.(10)

Ticci's vague phrase "some terms of arithmetic" probably means that Egidio introduced a subject that he himself would have called "number" and by which he meant his own version of Platonic, or Neoplatonic, numerology. Abstract speculation in a Platonic vein forms the usual background for his sermons under Julius's papacy; there is no reason to suppose that the two he delivered in Siena in mid-November 1511 were any different.(11)

As his preserved sermons and writings show at exhaustive length, Egidio da Viterbo was obsessed with the contemplation of number in its pure form. He reserved particular devotion for the number three, to which he paid homage on his coat of arms - three crosses on three hills.(12) His predilection for three originated in the Holy Trinity, whose triune mystery, following Augustine, he saw mirrored in the structure of the soul, but also in such disparate phenomena as the Three Fates, the three goddesses involved in the Judgment of Paris, and the surname of his friend Cardinal Trivulzio.

Finding triads in nature, the structure of the universe, and the makeup of the human soul is not, of course, an arithmetical operation. Arithmetic means computation with numbers, and in the sixteenth century a lack of algebraic notation restricted the range of possible operations fairly strictly to addition, subtraction, multiplication, and (the crowning achievement of most contemporary libri di abbaco, the practical handbooks used by merchants) long division. Proposing "terms of arithmetic" literally implies that Egidio performed calculations before his Sienese public, which seems highly improbable. More likely he began speaking about three (or one, or four, or twelve), a subject on which he could hold forth indefinitely, and sometime early into his disquisition the mind of his normally curious scribe wandered far away.

There is, needless to say, an immense gulf between the Platonic concept of number by which this Augustinian prelate was wont to describe the cosmos and the commercial arithmetic that drove the Sienese economy and enriched its merchants. In 1511, however, the two divergent "sciences" of numerology and arithmetic dwelt together in relative harmony within the heads of preacher and listeners alike. A variety of contemporary evidence suggests that to esoteric thinkers and to hardheaded businessmen, what we see as fundamentally different attitudes to number represented no more than extreme ends of a seamless continuum.

The area of interconnection between numerology and arithmetic was defined for early sixteenth-century Christians by a passage of Scripture. Cited incessantly by Egidio and his contemporaries, and understood by them with disarming literalness, Wisdom 11:21 declares of God: "You have arranged everything in terms of measure and number and weight" ("Omnia mensura et numero et pondere disposuisti"). The refined letterato Angelo Colocci (1467-1549), a friend of Egidio da Viterbo, was led by this Biblical passage to collect Roman stone ounces and foot-rulers in order to track down the precise dimensions of Godhead: "For God is immense [that is, "God is beyond measure"]. But according to the Stoics we should measure God by means of His works. Therefore in admiration one must begin thus: from the measure of the globe and other things that are in it and from them we will know just how immense God is."(11)

In another place Colocci draws the same conclusion after reading the Jewish Neoplatonist Philo of Alexandria: "Philo says: God is intelligible and incorporeal, independent of all numbers. I say, following Philo: And if His parts are corporeal and body [i.e., matter] is measurable or falls under the category of measure, then the universe, particularly because it is the greatest body of all bodies, and because in a former time it carried the sum of all other bodies in its womb as if they were its own, for this very fact it [the universe] has to be divine, and we can arrive at measuring it if we progress from small units to the measurement of the world."(14)

Contemporaries like Luca Pacioli (d. ca. 1514) and Josse Clichtove (Jodocus Clichtoveus, d. 1543) could compose treatises both on cosmic harmonies and on practical arithmetic. Pacioli's Summa de arithmetica, printed in 1494, may be the most elegant and compendious of all vernacular manuals, while the De Divina Proportione, printed in 1509, applies mathematics to the order underlying the cosmos, with particular emphasis on the Golden Section. Clichtove, author of a brief practical handbook, the Ars Supputandi, also made a study of numerology, De mystica numerorum significatione, wherein he claimed that the numerals themselves contained hidden truths (on the same order as those which the cabalists saw embedded in the letters of the Hebrew alphabet): "For God disposed all things in terms of number, weight, and measure, He who 'telleth the number of the stars and calleth them all by their names' [Ps. 147]. If the all-wise architect of the universe wished for this construction to stand in a certain numerical ratio to its Creator, can it be supposed that He Himself would have wanted for the sacred ciphers of the numbers to be revealed to humanity by his benign dispensation, and yet lack mysteries and deeply hidden secrets which might illuminate the spiritual eye and urge it upward?"(15)

In an essay "On the Utility of the Discipline of Arithmetic," published together with Clichtove's Ars Supputandi and some other short mathematical works, Jacques Lefevre d'Etaples (d. 1537) recommended the study of that art precisely because of its numerological link to the divine design of the universe: "The ancient theology relied upon numbers as a kind of stairway to divine matters."(16)

At the same time, ambitious teachers of "abacus," or computation, glorified their professional activity by praising their discipline's ability to elevate human action to a realm of higher principles. The Spanish abbacista Juan de Ortega makes such a claim in the dedicatory letter to Agostino Chigi that accompanied his Suma de Arithmetica of 1516, a slim book about calculations with Hindu-Arabic numerals:

If we consider all the arts and sciences discovered by our intellect, Magnificent Lord, their utility granted us through knowledge and practice of them, among them all we will discover that the mathematical disciplines, and especially arithmetic and geometry are preeminently necessary, that they furnish no small service, but rather bring forth prodigious fruits for our mortal existence. And this should be exceedingly plain in thinking over natural phenomena, which are accounted for either by number or measure. And truly, neither cities, nor peoples, nor whatever congregation of men you like can be ruled and governed rightly without the understanding and easy use of these, because through ignorance or disdain for such disciplines, without any doubt no small confusion would arise in human existence. For this reason, man, being rational and political, has made the effort to regulate his existence with supremely beautiful order, and for the sharpening of his intellect he has found that the two sciences aforementioned by us are useful beyond the others.(17)

Presumably the "terms of arithmetic" that Egidio da Viterbo introduced in his sermon on 10 November 1511 struck his Sienese audience somewhere between their carefully cultivated Christian piety, with its attendant number lore, and their skill at reducing the vagaries of nature and of human society to their quantitative effects on the supply and demand of the marketplace.(18) In fact, numerology had developed alongside mathematics in the ancient world under similar circumstances: then, too, number served both as the merchant's guide to survival and as a clue to the nature of a philosophical universe.(19) Plato, like Pythagoras before him, had formulated a realm of transcendent forms amid the worldly bustle of a great trading city.

Though he seems as head of the Austin Hermits to have paid careful attention to the order's finances, Egidio da Viterbo's own interest in number seems to be exclusively theoretical.(20) The same, as we shall see, can be said for his grasp of geometry.

From number (or arithmetic), his sermon on 10 November 1511 proceeded to the somewhat startling conceit of "a circular line, which he referred to God." This geometric image, like the "terms of arithmetic," is almost certainly Neoplatonic rather than scriptural in origin.(21) The same association of circles and God appears in several different contexts among Egidio's writings, always in association with Plato or Plotinus, and most importantly in the work by which he made his theological response to the papacy of Julius II. This response was an attempt to further Church reform by writing a book that would recast the standard theological text of the day, Peter Lombard's twelfth-century Sententiae (composed ca. 1148-52), in the terms of modern thought. Egidio intended to effect this modernization specifically by reconciling the Platonism of his mentor Marsilio Ficino (1433-99) with the Aristotelianism of Peter Lombard and his influential Augustinian commentator, Giles of Rome (1243-1316). The result was a work to which Egidio gave the title Sententiae ad mentem Platonis, "the Sentences according to the mind of Plato." In 1511 he had largely completed what exists of this ecumenical guidebook to contemporary theology. It seems to have circulated freely during Egidio's lifetime among a cadre of eager readers.

These Sententiae ad mentem Platonis provide a useful clue to the sermons of November 1511 because, however disparate their form, these two modes of communication served many of the same purposes. A contemporary, Raffaele Maffei (145-1522), in writing to Cardinal Raffaele Riario about the condition of the Augustinian order, notes that there has been a great change in recent sacred oratory. Alongside the Scriptures, one has been likely since the late 1490s to hear Plato and the writers of Greco-Roman antiquity: "Just before the present century the professors of the religious orders unveiled a new kind of prayer for Christendom: they were the first to join together eloquence with the sacred volumes and philosophy with theology."(22) Clearly, given the Augustinian context of the letter and its presumed date (1507), Egidio da Viterbo is uppermost in Maffei's mind.

The Sententiae, to be sure, form a manuscript of some three hundred folio pages whereas the Sienese sermons survive only in Ticci's report of them. Yet both are designed to teach the faithful (the populus christianus of Maffei's letter) how Christian doctrine accounts for their own place in the world (at a time when the world and the universe are effectively synonymous) and for their place in history. The wisdom of the Greeks and Romans (and, in Egidio's peculiar view of them as lost Israelites, the Etruscans) complements that of the Hebrews as indispensable help in unlocking an absolute, universally accepted truth.

Both the written commentary of the Sententiae and the sermons of 1511 serve in addition to justify the aggressive papacy of Julius II, who had conferred with Egidio da Viterbo before declaring the 1510 salt war in the first place and who had marched along with the papal troops into battle in the winter of 1510-11. Egidio preached willingly on behalf of this pope's many undertakings, including his several military campaigns; restless Julius repaid the favor by listening to Egidio's long, abstracted sermons with unusual care. In the furious pace of Julius's activities, it is easy to forget that this pope's headlong involvement in the vita activa was ruled by an extraordinary intellect: he had supervised the Vatican Library from its foundation by his uncle Pope Sixtus IV, counted the mathematician Luca Pacioli among his friends, and commissioned works of art whose density of meaning far outstrips those sponsored by his bookish successor Leo X. The "terms of arithmetic" and circular God of Egidio da Viterbo's sermon on 10 November 1511 were designed to interpret this formidable pontiff to a possibly skeptical public, to show through number and geometry that, however labile the fortunes of the world, Julius, as head of the Church, remained its stable center. This, at least, was the content of Egidio da Viterbo's exegetical sermon in Siena on 11 November 1511, and after hearing this second sermon Sigismondo Ticci entertained no doubts about the general purpose of the illustrious prelate's visit: "It was clear that, along with the Pope who sent him, this preacher mistrusted the Sienese.

From these passages of Ticci's chronicle and the Sententiae ad mentem Platonis, as well as some of Egidio's letters, it may be possible to reconstruct the general substance of his first Sienese sermon, that of 10 November, in greater detail. Certainly we may specify the ways in which God might be connected with a circle. More central to the essence of Egidio's homiletic activity, and to his effectiveness as a religious leader, is the more elusive question of how he could join an abstract geometric disquisition on the divine nature with the immediate problem of papal economics. How did the great conciliator of his age throw a bridge across the gulf between divine perfection and worldly necessity to convince a congregation of calculating merchants to give him more money?

In the simplest instance among the preacher's extant contemporary writings, the circle serves as an example, a means toward understanding Plato's doctrine of Ideas. Egidio, paraphrasing Plato, describes how using reason we come to understand an abstract concept like that of a circle. By an analogous exercise of the spirit one may come to know God, but Egidio emphasizes that empirical investigation alone will only bring limited results, for God, unlike the circle, remains beyond the capacities of the human mind. True knowledge of God can only be obtained with the help of an infusion of divine grace, though we may also hear about such higher knowledge from enlightened teachers who have undergone direct experience of divine revelation:

Plato in his Seventh Letter enumerates five stages [leading toward absolute understanding]: name, principle, image, judgment, understanding, and these things belong to that order of knowledge that is obtained, not through individual investigation [empirical investigation], but rather through the process of learning from teachers. For first a name is proposed for the thing that is to be put under discussion, as when one says "circle." Then comes its principle, which is nothing but the conception, or explanation, or likeness that the intellect comes to form in response to that particular name, whether it be the thing or its name, or the soul's simple conception of a circle. Plato applied the word "image" to a circle created in gold, or in wood, or created in any other material; knowledge or judgment is that which is immediately caused by the image. Understanding, though, is that knowledge that derives no longer from a material image, but rather from the essence of the thing: the Idea, the essence in intangible form reaches the soul.(24)

One can readily conjecture how Egidio might apply Plato's contention that human awareness of God depends absolutely upon teaching and revelation to the situation of 1511: the Sienese cannot know God's plan in its entirety, whereas Pope Julius, by the divine grace attendant upon his office, must needs have a better grasp of the divine agenda. If Julius has not despaired after his inconclusive campaign against Ferrara, how could the Sienese, with their strictly empirical knowledge of the situation, dare to do so? (One wonders to what extent Egidio's own evident mysticism, with its Platonic play of number and geometry, might have encouraged the Sienese to see him as an enlightened teacher in his own right.)

Later in the Sententiae Egidio cites a passage from Plotinus in which God may be conceived as the center of a series of circles and spheres (Ennead 6.9). The same Plotinian discussion inspired Egidio's mentor Marsilio Ficino to explain how both the phenomenal world and the world of Ideas could be visualized according to such a scheme (but note how Ficino is as partial to the number four as Egidio da Viterbo is to three):

Beauty is the splendor of divine goodness and God is the center of four circles.

The ancient theologians were not off the mark when they put the Good in the Center and Beauty in a circle. Goodness, I say, in a single center, and then in four circles, Beauty. For God is the one center of all things. Four circles have revolved ceaselessly around that center: Mind, Soul, Nature, and Matter . . . The center of a circle is a point: single, indivisible, stable. Thence many lines, divisible and mobile, are drawn a similar length to their circumference . . . Who will deny that God is deservedly called the center of all things, when He alone is present in all things, deep within, single, and immovable, and that even though all things produced from Him are multiple, composite, and mobile, and shed forth from Him they flow back into Him like lines from a circumference? Thus Mind, Soul, Nature, and Matter, proceeding from God, are bound to return to Him, but by their powers they are borne around him in a circle . . . thus God, the center of all things, Who is the most single unity and purest Act, grafts Himself into all things in the universe.

And the circle of the visible world is the image of those invisible circles, that is, of the mind, of the soul, and of nature.

We can plainly understand why, therefore, the theologians place the Good in the center and Beauty in the circle. For indeed, God Himself is the Goodness of all things, through Whom all good things come into being. Beauty is the ray of God, implanted in those four circles revolving in some wise about God; this sort of ray creates each phenomenon according to its kind: Ideas in Mind, Principles in Soul, Seeds in Nature, Forms in Matter. Therefore it can be seen that in these four circles there are four splendors, the splendor of Ideas in the first: of Principles in the second, in the third of Seeds, in the last of Forms.(25)

Egidio calls Plotinus to witness in the Sententiae ad mentem Platonis in order to show that inasmuch as they are discrete individuals, all creatures participate equally in divine grace. When he does so, it is certainly with Ficino's figure in mind.(26) He contends that the souls of what he calls "creative beings" all bear the imprint of the Holy Trinity; all rational souls, therefore, are structured in triads and can be analyzed in terms of the number three. Their essential equality as individuals can be visualized by conceiving God as the center of a circle, His grace radiating outward at the same rate and to the same distance, until the community of rational souls is arrayed like a circle around its sunlike center.(27) However, these individuals, all of whom to be sure mirror the Trinity in the structure of their souls, nonetheless present a great range of qualities. To the extent that they exhibit varying degrees of virtue and vice, they are not all equal, nor do they participate to an equal extent in divine goodness. In effect Egidio manages to describe how all living things are created equal, with some more equal than others:

As Plotinus bears witness [Enn. 6.9], God is the center, and all other things are the rays, shed forth as if from the Sun and shining along the circumference, but the lines from the center to the circumference are all equal. For this reason, if any trace of divinity [vestigium] appears in things, it must of necessity appear as equal . . . The trace of divinity can be examined in two different respects . . . number, and excellence. Now the number of component parts is a trace of divinity which is equal in all [living] things: the number three will be found in every single [living] thing, always the same triad, and it will always be equal to itself; nor does the trace of divinity have more parts in terms of number in the essence of our spirits and minds than it does in the natures of crabs and frogs. On the other hand, it cannot be said that there is equal participation on the part of all things in the trace of divinity when one thinks not about number, but about excellence and quality.(28)

Somehow, Egidio da Viterbo's sermon must have forged a connection between this vision of God as a "central orb of righteous love" and the need for Siena to continue its financial support for the papacy in the Ferrara salt war.(29) One method (which Julius had employed elsewhere with conspicuous success) might have been to associate the papacy with a notion of God as transcendent light, drawing upon the Gospel according to St. John to reinforce the Ficinian solar imagery described above. By focusing on the sheer beauty of this beatific vision, Julius and his Augustinian advocate might have hoped to garner loyalty by bedazzlement; certainly the forceful images of papal primacy developed for the artistic projects of Julian Rome begin with the pope's place in the universal history of salvation and rely on aesthetic force to drive the message home.(30) Egidio makes a crucial distinction in the Sententiae ad mentem Platonis when he notes the difference between the immutable triune composition of each individual soul and its mutable, unequal quality. On this basis he can judge individual creatures - or persons - as better or worse, more or less imbued with grace, and introduce the ways by which they might increase the degree of their goodness, their participation in divinity.

At its most benign, this formulation is hardly a new one for religion; for how do we reconcile our likes and dislikes with the belief that each living being carries a spark of divinity? In the aftermath of an unsuccessful war, the question takes on more ominous overtones. Preaching war was not new to Christian homiletics, nor to Egidio da Viterbo: at Julius II's instigation he had signaled initial hostilities in the 1510 salt war by delivering a sermon on crusading, making explicit the pope's militancy while concealing the papal state's actual military objective. In 1511, too, presumably he may have had something to say about obedient citizenship, in the Kingdom of God and in the papal state, and how conformity to God's plan reflected divine grace. Although Julius II seemed to have lost the 1510 salt war, pope and preacher were so inured to the authority of humanist Platonism that they could hope to pacify the Sienese merchants by referring to the orderly beauty of its cosmology in order to make that loss seem not only acceptable, but a natural part of God's plan.

In any case, Egidio's sermon seems to have referred action in the here and now to the structure of the cosmos, whose guiding principles are mathematical or well-expressed in mathematical terms. On the following day this versatile orator would make the same argument for papal primacy and Sienese patience on the basis of Scripture, this time using the instruments of philology. Even a few excerpts will show how he slips without warning from biblical text to visionary proclamation to tendering the frank advice of a powerful government official to a subject community. This operation was not entirely innocent: Egidio was able to take for granted his hearers' general familiarity with the Bible but not their access to a copy for their daily devotions. Contemporary Italian Christians, for the most part, were accustomed to receiving Scripture already interpreted for them in the sermons of priests. As a result, he could intersperse direct quotations from the Bible with his own points virtually at will, making his own opinions (and those of the pope who sent him) sound very much like Scripture themselves. As Sigismondo Ticci's transcript shows, Egidio made full use on 11 November 1511 of his ability to control the Biblical text in such a fashion:

"'Benjamin shall ravin as a wolf. In the morning he shall devour the prey and in the evening he shall divide the spoil.' This is Siena, whose insignia is a she-wolf, and she is a ravening wolf which eats the prey and divides the spoil." This is how Egidio interpreted these words: because Christ said in the Gospel, 'the Kingdom of Heaven already suffers and is ravaged by violent men,' following Paul the Apostle [Egidio] accepts these words as meaning that the Church, which is the tribe of Benjamin, snatched many souls from the demons. And in the same way he predicted that the city of Siena would do the same so long as she followed the Pope and adored Judah, which is the Church, and she would be a wolf in snatching up this Heaven which already suffered and would find salvation in the midst of present troubles. And Benjamin, who stands at his father's [Jacob/Israel's] right hand, should be interpreted as Siena, which stands with her whole territory at the right hand of the city of Rome and of the Church. "You Sienese," he said, "established to stand at the right hand, persevere at the right hand and preserve yourselves as my own, and just as surely as you are here in my presence, you shall be saved."(31)

Egidio Antonini's performance the day before had illustrated the extent to which the views of populations like the Sienese merchants were molded by a characteristic mix of Christian homiletics and humanist classicism. It was a far cry from the earthy biblical sermons of Saint Bernardino, delivered in Siena ninety years before and famous ever afterward.(32) The essence of Bernardino's art had been to strip his language of every pretense to erudition. In a sense, Egidio da Viterbo's ornate oratory is Bernardino's polar opposite, not only because of the artful intricacy of his language, but also significantly because the later preacher has elevated classical allusions and pre-Christian authors to a level of authority which Bernardino had reserved for Scripture alone. The world of 1511 was one in which the humanist emphasis on ancient texts and ancient style had become the all-pervasive style of success.

Indeed, attitudes conditioned by humanism affected the very manner in which the sermon was received. Sigismondo Ticci turned his attentive ear to a group of learned Jews who had been standing next to him throughout Egidio's second Sienese discourse and later confided in his chronicle: "It was clear that along with the Pope who sent him, this preacher distrusted the Sienese. At any rate, his sermon was thought to be well-done, nor did it depart from its sources, for it did not displease some educated Jews who had been standing next to me throughout."(33)

Himself a scholar of Hebrew, Ticci had asked his neighbors how accurately the Christian preacher had handled his biblical texts. Egidio's authority, in other words, hinged to Ticci's mind on his philology as much as on his Christian doctrine; one could not stand without the other.(34) Because the Jewish scholars had in fact pronounced themselves satisfied, Ticci was able to confide his own enthusiasm for the sermon with an added point of pride. This Sienese vignette, with its Christians and Jews exchanging opinions on matters of highly politicized religion, may not have been quite so extraordinary as it seems in the light of subsequent events in Italy and the contemporary situation of persecuted Jews in Spain.(35) In Italy of the early sixteenth century, humanist scholars turned their rigorous philological methods from classical texts to Scripture, sparking a concomitant interest in the Jewish exegetical tradition; a few years later, Egidio himself would begin close study of Cabala under the tutelage of the Jewish philologist and poet Elijah Bahur (Elias Levita).(36) For one moment at least, the grand visions of a universal Roman Church, which had found reason to draw continued sustenance from classical "paganism," as readily acknowledged a vital force in Hebrew tradition.(37)

As the humanists scrutinized the contents of their books and merchants examined the material world for guidelines to investment, the same habits of critical observation came to be trained on the Church itself; newly emended Biblical texts cried out for an echo in the emended behavior of clergy and laity alike. Indeed, such words as "castigation" or "emendation" could refer to conduct as well as to documents. Both should be pure, and as part of that purity, beautiful. And in between their contemplative raptures the humanists as a breed were eminently practical; beauty for them precipitated action by its very nature, its magnetic pull. Egidio da Viterbo himself, by nature inclined to a life of contemplation, threw himself, guided by faith, into persuasive speech on behalf of the papacy and active measures for Church reform, mindful that his mentor Marsilio Ficino's remote fourth circle, the circle of the material world, a circle of action and flux, still bore within it the rays of divine grace. That infusion of divine grace, which emanated from a transcendent realm, did more than simply endow action with dignity; like Plato's Love, it spurred action.

From all appearances, Egidio Antonini's two sermons in Siena, the Platonic and the biblical, served their purpose. As 1511 turned into 1512, the Sienese continued their support of the papal position, though of course they knew that the pope's picked Augustinian preacher represented more than a comprehensive humanistic theology brought to bear on their concerns. For although 1511 may have brought an end to the military operations of the Ferrara salt war, the pope had reserved another arrow in his quiver, a weapon, moreover, of great interest to the businessmen of Siena. This weapon was Agostino Chigi in person. By the time the papal troops slunk homeward in the spring of 1511, Chigi himself had set up splashy temporary residence in Venice. His basic mission there was to wring economic concessions from the Venetians in return for a massive loan - supplied by Chigi personally - and the political support of the papacy. With the help of Venice secured, Chigi and Pope Julius could then hope to press Ferrara again, this time in tandem with a powerful ally, which also happened to be Ferrara's neighbor. By the time Egidio da Viterbo was preaching to Siena in November, Agostino Chigi was back in Rome, possessed of a pledge in jewelry from the Venetian state treasury and having acted as the pope's chosen signatory to a Holy League with Venice. Even as Egidio preached, the papal diplomats, abetted by Chigi's hard bargaining, were striving on behalf of the Holy League to remind Ferrara of its duties as a papal vassal state, more than incidentally engaging the duchy once again in a debate over the price of salt. Propelled by economic necessities more steadfast than hired troops, this second round of pressure would bear the desired fruit: in 1512 Ferrara voluntarily destroyed the Comacchio salt works to curry favor with the pope. In the same year Julius shaved his beard, satisfied that he had held the French at bay.(38)

Agostino Chigi figures in Ticci's chronicle of Siena as a sort of new-wave hero, a man of the abacus enmeshed in the papacy's theological web like a fat spider waiting for flies.(39) Theology mattered a great deal to Agostino, whose every surviving letter begins with a cross and whose piety found cogent public expression in his patronage of art. Yet even in private, sixteenth-century merchants would formulate their religious yearnings according to philosophical or theological paradigms set by the humanists.

The curious record of one such ascesis can be found among the ledgers preserved for Agostino Chigi's massive Roman bank. Unlike Chigi's grand devotions of public pageant and exquisite architecture, the record bears only humble testimony in the pages of a small paper quaderno, similar to many others filled with the arithmetical scribblings and rosters of transactions undertaken by the firm's employees. Here, amid calculations of grain revenues from the Sienese Maremma, one of Agostino's cashiers, Giovanni di Rinaldo Tolomei, has left a laboriously tormented document of his own religious convictions, disjointed paragraphs spread across three successive pages.(40) The first page of this private outburst contains a peculiar confession, followed by what appears to be the short extract from a sermon, and lastly a second brief autograph musing before the book reverts entirely to its tables of towns and ducats. The vocabulary of the first sample vacillates between the exalted theological rhetoric of an Egidio da Viterbo and the relentlessly fiscal lexicon that characterizes Agostino Chigi himself and may have been rather typical of his class.

Unlike the forthright Chigi, Giovanni Tolomei seems to have had at least a propensity for poetic self-expression, but just as obviously this ethereal piety of his has been cultivated in the mercantile trade, as the following passage shows. Its interminable sentences typify the writing style of Tolomei's day. The awkwardness of his prose, by contrast, belongs entirely to Giovanni himself and to his earnest youth. We see, moreover, the effect that a sermon such as those preached by Egidio Antonini might make on a thoughtful, impressionable listener, for it is clearly the bit of sermon also cited in Tolomei's notebook that has given rise to his self-searching anguish:

When on occasion, removing myself from the treacherous years of this deceitful and transitory life as from my darkened lamp, and with it I review my accounts and my miserable years, it is not without the deepest consternation that I contemplate my unhappy and wretched soul, burdened with so huge and weighty a charge that it cannot raise itself to Heaven, for it is unable to recognize the ideas from which it first descended, and virtually without hope of any health it looks as if in the hour of judgment it will be the coveted booty of our common Enemy. Knowing itself to be a rebel against the heavenly homeland for its infinite faults, for its innumerable offenses, it also seems to me that, like a mother longing to restore her only son to more straightforward terms, it heartily bewails the company of this putrid, sensual flesh, whose contagion is the cause of its unbearable agony.(41)

Giovanni Tolomei, then, "reviews accounts" of his life as if his biography were simply another ledger. His soul is like a mother who wants to restore her son to "piu onesti termini," this too a frequent phrase in the banker's lexicon.(42) Yet at the same time this soul behaves like the souls of Plato's Phaedrus, winged with love and weighted with mortality, fallen into a fleshly amnesia as they sink below the plane of true awareness.(43) Once Socrates had parted these veils of human forgetfulness for an enthusiastic Phaedrus alongside an Athenian stream, pointing the way to a complete, conscious union with divine love. Some one thousand eight hundred years later, Marsilio Ficino in turn would recreate the same vision at his villa in Careggi for a group of Florentine aesthetes - but here it reappears, strangely, in the bustling bank offices of Rome's Cortile de' Chigi.(44) Tolomei is no humanist and not much of a philosopher, but his longings and to a certain extent his language derive directly, poignantly, from humanistic culture. In this sense he presents as concisely as any personality of his time the intermixing of the Christian Neoplatonic cosmic order with the culture of the abacus.

Another character in Agostino Chigi's circle illustrates still more emphatically how humanistic learning penetrated with strange effect into divers classes. The first chemical treatise to see print was published under the title Della Pirotecnia in 1540 by Vannoccio Biringucci, another Sienese, the son of a man who had served the Sienese Republic for many years as a building supervisor and general handyman ("operaio della Camera della Repubblica di Siena"), mostly under the aegis of Pandolfo Petrucci (fl. 1496-1512).(45) The younger Biringucci inherited, indeed surpassed, his father's manual dexterity, forging suits of armor, concocting ceremonial fireworks, and more than incidentally dabbling in political intrigue.(46) Vannoccio was set to work by Agostino Chigi in the alum mines of Tolfa, where he learned to process the mineral as well as to create cauldrons and heavy equipment.(47) Later, Chigi sent him to supervise the making of guns for the Sienese harbor of Porto Ercole, which had come in 1507 into the great banker's exclusive possession.(48) Vannoccio thus received a broad practical training, but he also learned along the way to write with a certain flair. His treatise breaks a succession of technical arguments with a variety of pleasant - and reliably self-serving - diversions: the beauty of the hills of La Tolfa; the number, quality, and illustrious connections of his friends; points of theology and military strategy. As for the secure profits, patriotic investment, and rosy future of mining for the Italian capitalist, Vannoccio is nothing short of eloquent.

Another variety of eloquence comes to the fore when he takes on the alchemists with the intent to destroy their authority once and for all. Vannoccio's mentality is closely related to that of a modern chemist; for him the wonder of nature is confirmed by the very intricacies of its makeup. To a grand sweep of theory Vannoccio prefers a meticulous puzzle of interlocking details. He dwells with obvious relish upon the infinitude of minute facts revealed by his investigations, upon the consummate skill of nature - and on his own skill in unmasking nature's tricks.

Proportion in the Pirotecnia may simply describe the interplay of forces that keeps a bronze cannon from shattering when fired, just as number to a merchant banker, no matter his erudition, was often more an empirical matter of survival than it was a Pythagorean theoretical construct.(49) Yet proportion also orders Vannoccio's universe. In some ways this is the same order that propels the firmament according to Egidio da Viterbo. Vannoccio, however, sees divinity in the details of the world more forcefully than in the macrocosm. He disbelieves the alchemical search for a quick source of gold because creating the noblest of all metals demands such careful labor of nature herself:

So I tell you, that with all due care, I have looked over many books on these things, and furthermore I have tried simply to converse with many of their adepts, in order to understand something more, and I have listened to them discuss the fine points of whether such things are true or rather fantastic imaginings, and all in all, taking the basic principles of alchemy and putting them up against the order of nature, and weighing the procedure of the one against the procedure of the other, I do not think that their powers are proportional to each other . . . But to be sure, I do not deceive myself about this: the mothers, by whom they want to bring their offspring to term, have glass wombs, and the materials they use for sperm are random compounds, and similarly the sources of heat that they use are inconsistent, unregulated fires, quite unlike those of nature, because they lack a certain proportion of nutritive and augmentative substance, and the same thing happens to their timing, the measures and weights necessary for such results . . . How could people ever know how to distribute elemental substances by art alone, or in the necessary quantities and proper proportions to each other, and, finally, bring it all to perfection, as Nature does, and make metals?(50)

There are two aspects to this conspicuous protest. One is a matter of self-defense in the era of the Counter-Reformation: alchemical operations verged on practices deplored by what remained after Luther of the Church Militant: black magic and heresy.(51) As an eminently practical (or, better, opportunistic) man, Biringucci navigated the muddying waters of mid-sixteenth-century Catholicism by carefully protesting his innocence of any alchemical knowledge. Early in his ninth book, whose general subject, distillation, would be guaranteed to pique his readers' curiosity about the true extent of his own alembicatory skill, he declares: "Now do not think that in this book I might want to teach you such an art [as alchemy], because I am one of those who does not know it."(52) Neither, he points out with some pride, did Plato or Aristotle.(53)

But alchemy also offends Vannoccio on a more fundamental level. Because it fails to account in full for the complexity of nature, the search for the secret of metal-making in incantations and philosopher's stones is not only inaccurate but, in modern scientific terms, inelegant. Throughout the pages of the Pirotecnia he shows forth nature's way of forging the world in tones of proud awe for its power, its intricacy, and its abundant scale. For Vannoccio Biringucci no less than for Ficino or Egidio da Viterbo, accurate appraisal of the divine order's complexities is completely tied up in aesthetics. For him, too, the heavens are brilliantly ornamented components of the machina mundi, the mechanism of the universe. Where Ficino, and particularly Egidio da Viterbo, differ from optimistic, enterprising Vannoccio is in the realm of faith. The two Neoplatonists know that the workings of that universal machine lie securely beyond the reach of human intellect. Vannoccio, who sees infinity in the inexhaustible resources of the Tolfa alum deposits, seems by contrast to admit no limit to the progress of human enterprise of any form, understanding included.

As it is with nature in the Pirotecnia, so it is with the human intellect; Vannoccio plainly enjoys showing his readers how nature's abundance has fueled the kaleidoscopic range of his expertise. Unlike the alchemists' hidden lore, jealously guarded and rarely revealed, Vannoccio's initiation into the mysteries of fire and stone gains its authority precisely because it can be explained to so wide an audience in so many particulars while he himself (presumably like most of his readers) maintains a moral stance of utterly conventional Christianity.(54) Nonetheless, metallurgy and fireworks inevitably retain an aura of dangerous power, so that Vannoccio devotes the final chapter of his treatise to a reminder that the fireworks whose terrible secrets he has unlocked are but pale images of those fires that "burn and produce no ash," inflaming the soul with love or roasting the impious in Hell.(55) Just as with Vannoccio's fellow citizen Giovanni Tolomei, metaphysics is here expressed in Platonic, even specifically Phaedran, terms, and as with Tolomei, Platonic language poses no challenge whatsoever to Christian doctrine, despite the fact that the quarter century dividing Tolomei's notebook from Biringucci's treatise was one in which the pressure of the Reformation had begun to wear away at Catholic tolerance.

Vannoccio himself may have absorbed Christian Neoplatonism as a youth in Siena. It is almost certain, for example, that he would have heard the religious fulminations of Egidio da Viterbo - everyone in Siena did, if Sigismondo Ticci is a reliable guide.(56) Moreover, the public occasions on which Egidio might have spoken were often enough illuminated by Vannoccio's fuochi artificiati, their very name conveying some of the power inherent in Vannoccio's capacity to bring about in fact what Marsilio Ficino could only invoke in metaphor: a measured release of the celestial scintilla.(57) Egidio da Viterbo's extant writings, filled with the Platonic image of winged souls inflamed with divine love, indicate that the Augustinian preacher might have been a signal exponent in Siena of this Phaedran model of the human psyche. The winged and flaming soul may just as easily, however, have been an intellectual commonplace, as intimately familiar to its own age as an elliptical solar system has been to the generations after Kepler.

Furthermore, Vannoccio's exposure to the world, and to the world of learning, had been a broad one. His talents of hand and scheming brain had never stayed put for long; scattered documents and his own book indicate that he had traveled on several occasions in Italy, Austria, and Bavaria, probing the mineral and geological riches of the Alps.(58) His work as operaio della camera for the Sienese Republic had brought him into contact with the highest echelons of power in his native city, a series of connections that continued to color the course of his eventful life.(59) In Rome in 1511 those connections would have been expanded in important new directions, through his associations with the circle of Agostino Chigi and with the architect Baldassare Peruzzi, who is mentioned as one of Vannoccio's acquaintances in the text of the Pirotecnia.(60) In this milieu, and in Siena itself, Vannoccio came to be familiar with the works of writers ranging from Pliny to Aquinas, and their wisdom leavens the pages of his treatise alongside Vannoccio's detailed accounts of the refinements of his trade.(61) It is highly unlikely, however, that Vannoccio knew any of these texts except in translation. His own Pirotecnia, classical references and all, is composed in volgare.(62)

The classical bent of this metallurgical milestone may go deeper than a smattering of ornamental references and an obvious debt to Pliny. The Platonically-conceived longing of the soul for God and the desire to approach Plato's antiquity had become ubiquitous features of Renaissance mental life. Still, whatever the contemplative raptures inspired by this Neoplatonic vision of absolute reality, the reality immediately at stake for each of these early sixteenth-century characters, not only Vannoccio but also the ethereal Egidio da Viterbo, is the here and now in which even the most enlightened soul continues to operate. In effect, Egidio da Viterbo's sermons, designed to gather in money or even to move armies, are as incendiary as Vannoccio's fireworks. In this resolute practicality, the early sixteenth-century versions of Neoplatonic thought take their own particular course, bent on manipulating the revealed structure of the universe to obtain definite results in the phenomenal world. As Frances Yates has shown in brilliant detail, Marsilio Ficino used magical stones and statues to improve his communication with the divine reality; his associate Pico della Mirandola took this type of conjuring to still more radical degrees, incorporating into the Platonic revival's Neo-Pythagorean mysticism an additional strain of mystic wisdom - the Hebraic secrets of Cabala.(63) And yet magic of this sort is only the most extreme form of human operation in the Neoplatonic universe, a variety of operation, moreover, whose ambitions and whose secrecy made it one of the less conspicuously effective of the manipulative arts. Technology and persuasive rhetoric apply the same train of reasoning from cosmic harmonies to terrestrial corporeality to obtain more certain results in the sublunary sphere, if at the price of intensive labor.(64)

Vannoccio Biringucci's disparaging comments about alchemy show that he suspects how closely his own operations may verge upon the accomplishments aimed at by these more mystically inclined colleagues and, in addition, full awareness that his operations can claim a superior record of reliable results. If Vannoccio has yet to find a philosopher's stone - in which he is actually loath to believe - he can still smelt, refine, forge, alembicate, and explode a marvelous array of compounds, privy to the secret lore of Earth's bounty as few others in his age. The similarly rigorous alchemy by which his mentor Agostino Chigi transmuted alum to gold is barely metaphorical; indeed, the man generated money far more swiftly than Nature's womb could ever bring her metals to term. Chigi operated in a world governed by the theology of Egidio da Viterbo, and this theology in turn was revealed not only in its doctrinal outlines, but also, significantly, in its suggested economic or political actions. Humble Giovanni Tolomei, reviewing the financial record left by his fallen soul, reacted not simply by recording the agonies of his contrite heart, but by continuing to tabulate the shipments of grain that swelled the Banco Chigi's account books. The consequences of one penetrating glimpse into ultimate reality were sometimes tangible and calculable.

To a certain extent this same practicality also infuses Plato's Phaedrus, which was, after all, the ultimate source for the varieties of beatific vision traced here. Both before and after narrating the dialogue's trademark myth about the soul's charioteer, Plato outlines an art of rhetoric, a mode of public speaking that, because grounded in truth, will be utterly persuasive. It is the Italian sixteenth century, however, that links the magic of persuasion so clearly to the magic of the technological arts and thus sets the stage for that beatific vision whose adepts call it science.


BAV, Archivio Chigi 362

On back cover: Giovanni di renaldo Tolomei

No pagination; the following texts appear on three successive pages.

Quando talmente

Quando talora dali ingannevole anni di questa fallace e transitoria vita toglendomi quanto da ofuschato lume mio, e chon esso vo reiterando il conto mio e li anni miseri miei, non senza gravisimo afanno contemplo la infelice e misera anima mia, e a si ingente e pondero incaricho gravvata che non puo sollevarsi al cielo, ma non e abile a ricognoscere la idea dela quale e primieramente discesa e quasi di ogni salute desperata presagha che dira in hora deve essere desiderata preda del chomune nemico Cognoscendosi dalla celeste patria rubella per le infinite colpe, per le inumere offese, e parmi che qual matte desiderosa si [sc. di] redurre illunicho figlo a piu onesti termini, Cordialissimamente si dolgha dela chomp[agni]a di questa putrida e sensuale carne, la chui chontagione e chausa del suo intolerabile afanno e pare che via piu si dolgha che, essendo anco tempo di schifare tanto naufragio insensato e cecho, non vogli ritrarsi dal perigloso viaggio: anzi chontinuamente chonresolvata chortisci la chatena chon la quale legato si dia al demonio prigione, e chome aspito per perseverare in la sua iniquita, per non udire la parte rationale, la or che che chi assorda, e se pensando si grave pietade m'assale di noi medesimi, che non so chome pare che mi chonetingino a lacrimare/

a che pensando dil [ectissi]mi fratres se non fusses si duro il cello, si per una parte di noi gia non posedesse lo 'mpio aversario nostro doverrino li ochi nostri sua vivo fonte di abundantissime la[c]rime, chonsiderando al fine ogni giorno essare piu presso, chognoscendo quanto che nichil certum mortale est. Et se gia gran tempo ormai abiamo provato quel che 'l mondo traditore puo dare altrui a che ripor piu la speranza in lui che di ogni pace e dolceza equivochese il tutto di questa vita si racogle [marginal note to the following line: non nostro] altro ci trovaremo qualiter letale inulsum inelitums que venenum e se alchun dolce pur ci si ritrovi e da tanti amari achompa che/

Quando talora fratres di[lectissi]mi in Christo Iesus sforzandomi alquanto relassare li afetti di questo fragil corpo ritorna a reit[er]are lo actione nostra non senza grave [vacat]

1 Ticci, 7:121V. Sigismondo is known to the scholarly world as "Sigismondo Tizio," an alternative rendering of his Latin name "Titius." However, it is clear from Sienese notarial documents and from his own history that "Ticci" was the name by which he went.

2 The following discussion is presented in more detail in: Gilbert, passim; Rowland, 1987; idem, 1989; idem, 1994(1).

3 So reports the Venetian merchant Leonardo da Porto in a letter to Antonio Savorgnano published by Ruscelli, 19V. See Gilbert, 89-90.

4 Ticci, 7:121V.

5 Ticci, 7:137: "Pandulphus petruccius senensis . . . non modo franchos verum et Florentinos metuebat de bello ferrariensi multum anceps."

6 Ticci, 7:163v: "Iulius interea pontifex maximus . . . Egidium viterbiensem ex divi augustini sectatoribus . . . direxit ad senenses ut illos manuteneret in fide ne deficerent."

7 See note 1 about Sigismondo Ticci's name.

8 The problems of assessing Egidio da Viterbo's preaching are brought out by Monfasani.

9 Ticci, 7: 163v: "propositis autem arithmeticae termini[bu]s quibusdam, tum circularis lineae quam referebat in deum: brevi se expedivit praedicatione populum vero alliciens die postera nunciaturum se magis ad senenses pertinentia est pollicitus." A brief sermon in Egidio's terms may still have been substantial.

10 Initially an enthusiast, Ticci came to find Egidio's oratory increasingly tiresome, eventually calling him "the bearded hypocrite" ("hipocrita barbatus," Ticci 8:102) and making snide comments in his History about Egidio's style and occasional lapses from accuracy. In 1511 he had not yet made up his mind and seems indeed to have taken the sermon of 11 November very much to heart, but he may have been wavering on November 10.

11 Egidio's interest in Plato was increasingly supplanted in later years by interest in the Kabbalah, inspired by the presence in Rome of Elijah Bahur (Elias Levita); see note 37 infra.

12 These arms led one of his most energetic detractors, the humanist Girolamo Borgia, to suggest in several different ways that "one was enough for Christ." See BAV, Cod. Barb. Lat. 3231, 342: "Monstrum hominum triplici qui cruce digna facit" ("a monster among men who does deeds deserving of triple crucifixion"); ibid. (and cf. Cod. Barb. Lat. 1903, 68): "Nil tibi cum ternis crucibus rabiose canini / Nam facit ad mores sola sinistra tuos" ("Rabid Caninus, with your three crosses, what's it to you? He's doing deeds sinister only according to your standards"); ibid. (cf. Cod. Barb. Lat. 1903, 68):

"Ad trinitatem de [Egidio Cardinale Canino]": Numina quae coelum super uno nomine trina / Incolitis, tuto vos iuvet esse loco. / Namque unum e vobis una dum moeret ademptum / Impius intentat tres tribus iste cruces. ("To the Trinity, On Egidio the Canine Cardinal": Deities threefold who live in heaven with one name among you / It's to your benefit now if you stay in a place that's secure. / For while the one of you mourns the one who's no longer among us / He, impious man, thinks to raise you three crosses against you Three.)

13 For Angelo Colocci's study of ancient weights and measures, see Lattes; Rowland, 1991; idem, 1994(1). See also the classification of the relevant part of Colocci's library, BAV, Cod. Vat. Lat. 14065, 58: "Mensura pondera numeri/Forziero bianco da doi chiave all' armario de' panni." My thanks to Rossella Bianchi for drawing my attention to this manuscript.

14 Colocci, 68: "Philon Deus / intelligibilis atque incorporeus / omnibus numeris absolutus / ego ex philone Quodsi partes eius sunt corporeae et corpus mensurabile est vel sub mensura cadit tum mundum praecipue quod corpus omnium corporum maximum est quippe quod aliorum corporum congeriem in sinu suo tamquam proprias prateter gerit. generatio ab ipso igitur incipiendum esse divinus ad quem mensurandum devieniemus si a minoris mundi mensura progrediamur."

15 Clichtove, 2: "Disposuit enim Deus omnia in numero, pondere, et mensura: qui numerat multitudinem stellarum et omnibus eis nomina vocat [Ps. 147]. Si itaque voluit sapientissimus mundi architectus hanc sui opifici fabricam certa numerorum ratione constare: an putandum est ipsum voluisse sacras litteras suo benigno indultu hominibus revelatas numerorum mysteriis abditissimis secretis carere quae spiritualem oculum illuminent sursumque promoveant?" For Clichtoveus's Ars supputandi, see the bibliography under Lefevre d'Etaples.

16 Lefevre d'Etaples, A ii v: "Et prisca theologia numeris olim ut quibusdam ad divina gradibus tota inniteabatur."

17 Ortega, 1: "Se consideramo de tutte le arte et scientie da lo intelletto nostro ritrovate Magnifico Signore: la utilita la quale a noi e data per cognitione e l'uso de quelle fra tutte ritroveremo le mathematiche discipline et de epse specialmente la arithmetica et geometria como summamente necessarie. Non picolo adiuto dare anti grandissimo fructo parturire al vivere nostro naturale: et questo sia assai manifesto discorrendo per le cose naturale: lo quale: o da numero: o da mesurare se conteneno: et in vero: ne cita: ne populi: ne qual si voglia congregatione de homini senza la intelligentia et uso de queste con facilita dirictamente se puono regere et gubernare pero che per ignorantia et disprecio de tale doctrine senza dubio alcuno ne la vita humana nasceria non poca confusione. per questo l'homo essendo rationale et politico se e forciato con bellissimo ordine regulare el vivere suo et con la exquisitione del intelecto ultra le altre scientie le due supradicte a noi utilissime ha ritrovato."

18 See esp. Baxandall, 1972; on the "merchant mentality" in general, see Bec, 1967; idem, 1981; Gies: Kedar; Origo, 19621; Sapori, 1:53-93, esp. 1:58-60; Van Egmond, 58-67.

19 For the nature of business accounting in the ancient world, see de Ste. Croix; for larger discussions of philosophy and commerce in the sixth to fourth centuries B.C., see Neugebauer, 151-52, 166-67; Sarton, 1:65-123. Specific applications of calculation to the arts are discussed with bibliography by Stevens, 44-92. My thanks to Ian Mueller for the reference to de Ste. Croix.

20 In this regard his - and the order's - association with the great banker Agostino Chigi may be of some importance; see the letter of 29 July 1507, Voci Roth, 2:46-48; cf. 1:261, 1:273-74.

21 For this contrast with the Scriptural focus of conventional Christian homiletics, see infra, 710 ff.

22 See Voci. The letter, dated by Paschini to 1507 (Paschini, 353) is cited by Voci, 482-83 from BAV, Cod. Ott. Lat. 2377, 203r-v: "Relligiosum ordinum professores prius huic seculo novum orandi genus christiano populo ostenderunt primi eloquentiam cure sacris voluminibus ac philosophiam cum theologia coniunxerunt."

23 Ticci, 7:165: "Visus itaque est Concionator iste de Senensibus una cum pontifice mictente diffidere."

24 Egidio da Viterbo, 16: "Pla[to] epistula septima, numerat quinque, nomen, rationem, simulacrum, sententiam. intellectum, et haec in eo doctrinae ordine, quae non per se vestigando: sod a praeceptoribus docendo suscipitur: Primo enim nomen rei proponitur, qua de disscrendi fuerit, ut cron dicitur 'circulus': Deinde est eius ratio, quae aliquid profecto non est, quam definitio, vel declamatio, vel similitudo, quam de eo nomine postea concipit intellectus, sive nominis, sive simplex animi de circulo cogitatio: 'Simulacrum' vocat Plato circulum in auro, vel in ligno, aut quamvis in materia ductum: Scientiam, sive opmionem quae de simulacro per cogitationem, quae non amplius a simulacro materiali, sed ab immateriali forma essentia, idea, in animam proficiscetur." For the date of this text, the Sententiae ad Mentem Platonis, ca. 1506-12, see Gionta. See also O'Malley, 15-16.

25 Marsilio Ficino, De Amore, 2.3 (Opera Omnia, 1324): "Pulchritudo splendor divinae Bonitatis et Deus centrum quatuor circulorum. Neque ab re theologi veteres, Bonitatem in centro, pulchritudinem in circulo posuerunt. Bonitatem inquam in centro uno, In circulis autem quatuor, Pulchritudinem. Centrum unum omnium Deus est. Circuli quatuor circa id adsidue revoluti, Mens, Anima, Natura, Materia . . . Centrum circuli punctum est, unum indivisible, stabile. Inde lineae multae dividuae, mobiles ad earum similem circumferentiam deducuntur . . . Quis negat Deum centrum omnium merito nominari: cum omnibus insit unus, penitus, simplex, atque immobilis: cuncta vero ab ipso producta, multa, composita, et mobilia sint, atque ab eo manant, ita in eum ins tar linearum et circumferentiae refluant? Ita mens, anima, natura, materia procedentes a deo in eundem redire nituntur: seque undique pro viribus in illum circumferunt. Atque ut centrum punctum circuli tangunt punctum: ita deus omnium centrum, qui unitas simplicissima est, actus purissimus, sese inserit universis . . . Atque illorum invisibilium circulorum, mentis scilicet, animae, naturae, visibilis mundi circulus est imago." Ibid., 1325: "Iam igitur quam ob causam bonitatem in centro, in circulo pulchritudinem, theologi collocent, aperte intelligere possumus. Bonitas si quidem rerum omnium ipse est deus, per quem cuncta sunt bona. Pulchritudo autem dei radius, quatuor illis insitus circulis circa deum quodammodo revolutis, huiusmodi radius omnes rerum omnium species in quatuor illis effingit: species illis in mente ideas, in anima rationes, in natura semina, in materia formas appellare solemus. Idcirco quatuor in circulis, quatuor splendores esse videntur. Idearum splendor in primo: Rationum in secundo: in tertio seminum: Formarum in ultimo."

26 See Egidio's letter to Ficino, probably of summer 1499, praising his work on Plato and Plotinus and declaring the eagerness with which he has read it, Voci-Roth, I:103.

27 Authors have argued that this strain in Renaissance thought, deeply influenced by Ficino's sun-worship, virtually begged for a Copernican cosmology; see Yates, 62-168; Hallyn, 127-47; Kuhn, 126-33.

28 Egidio da Viterbo, 49r-v: "Plotino denique teste, Deus centrum est, alia sunt radii, veluti a Sole manantes in circumferentiam fulgentes, sed a centro in circumferentia lineae aequales omnes sunt, quare quicquid vestigii in rebus apparet, aequale appareat necesse est . . . Vestigium bifariam comparari potest . . . Est siquidem in illis numerus, est etiam et praestantia; numerus quidem partium aeque in omnibus rebus est vestigium; ternarius numerus quascunque res numeret, semper idem ternarius, semper sibi par erit, nec plures numero partes habet vestigium in animorum et mentium essentia, quam in cancrorum, ranarumque natura . . . Non aeque tamen participari ob omnibus vestigium dici poterit si de partium non numero, sed praestantia, qualitateque pensabitur."

29 The formulation belongs to an early seventeenth-century anthem by Orlando Gibbons, "O Thou the Central Orb."

30 Stinger, 156-234.

31 Ticci, 7:163v-65. Extensive excerpts published by Rowland 1989, 258-59. "'Beniamin lupus rapax nam commedit praedam et vespere dividet spolia.' Haec est Sena vetus cuius insignia Lupa estet est lupus rapax commedens praedam et spolia dividens haec verba interpretatus est Egidius: Nam cum in evangelio Christus diserit 'Regnum celorum iam patitur et violenti rapiunt illud,' et pro Paulo apostolo huiusmodi verba accipiat ecclesia qui fuit ex tribu Beniamin rapuitque multas animas a demonum manibus. Itaque Senam urbem praedixit esse facturam cum partes pontificis sequatur et ecclesiae adoretque Iudam, eritque lupus ad rapiendum caelum quod iam patitur et in his tribulationibus salvabitur. Adens Bieniamin dextere filium interpretati: Sena vero cum agro omni ad urbis Romae et Ecclesiae dexteram consistere. Vos inquit Senenses ad dexteram constituti estis perseverate ad dexteram et vos mea conservate, quam bene statis in presentia et salvabimini."

32 For Saint Bernardino, see Origo 1962(2). For early sixteenth-century ideas of eloquence, see O'Malley 1979, 36-70; MacManamon.

33 Ticci, 7:165: "Visus itaque est Concionator iste de Senensibus una cum pontifice mictente diffidere: eius namque predicatio inconcinna non est visa nec a verbis veteris aliena: nam et Iudeis peritis qui iuxta nos aderant non displicuit."

34 See Stinger, 203-21, 306-08. Lorenzo Valla's preface to his Collatio Novi Testamenti, (Valla, 3), likens the text of the Bible in its present state to a temple with a leaky roof.

35 The Jews' expulsion from Spain in 1492 makes a particularly stark contrast with the atmosphere of tolerance that existed in the same country in the thirteenth century. Persecution of the Jews began in earnest in Italy only with the Counter-Reformation.

36 Roth, 156-57; O'Malley 1967, 84-91; Martin, 204-17, 221-22.

37 See Roth, 137-64, "The Christian Hebraists." See also the fundamental work of Secret; and Stinger, 203-21, 306-13.

38 Gilbert, 89-90.

39 This was first remarked by Piccolomini, 124-25.

40 Giovanni di Rinaldo Tolomei traced his lineage back to one of Siena's oldest and most illustrious banking houses. Typically, the young aristocrat had been sent to work in the most prestigious firm his family could arrange, in these years clearly the Roman branch of the Banco Chigi. Siena had its fair share of working wealthy.

41 Tolomei, no pagination: "Quando talora dali ingannevoli anni di questa fallace e transitoria vita toglendomi quanto da ofuschato lume mio, e chon esso vo reiterando il conto mio e li anni miseri miei, non senza gravisimo afanno contemplo la infelice e misera anima mia e a si ingente e pondero incaricho gravvata che non puo sollevarsi al cielo, ma non e abile a ricognoscere la idea de la quale e primieramente discesa: e quasi di ogni salute desperata presagha che dira in ora deve essere desiderata preda del chomune nemico. Cognoscendosi dalla celeste patria rubella per le infinite colpe per le inumere offese, e parmi che qual matre desiderosa di redurre illunicho figlo a piu onesti termini Cordialissimamente di dolgha dela chompagnia di questa putrida e sensuale carne la chui chontagione e chausa del suo intolerabile afanno." See the appendix for the entire text.

42 See, for example, Chigi, 2, 33v. Even the word "chompagnia" in the phrase "la chompagnia di questa putrida e sensuale carne" uses the standard abbreviation "chomp.a" (cf. English "Co.") as if this "company," too, were a business!

43 Plato, Phaedrus 245c-257a.

44 For the fate of the Phaedrus in Florence, see Allen, 1981; idem, 1984; Field; Hankins, 1990; idem, 1991.

45 For Vannoccio Biringucci's colorful life, see Tucci; Donati, 17-18; Pecci, 2:134n; Pepper and Adams, 175.

46 Paolo di Vannoccio Biringucci, as operaio della camera for the Sienese Republic (BAV, Archivio Chigi 413, 143) was employed in such labors as repairing the statues of the Sienese Duomo, erecting triumphal arches for the ceremonial entry of Pope Julius II into Siena in 1507, and repairing the city's streets (ibid., 143-44v). He was named maestro delle strade in the latter capacity (Tucci, 625). When he died in 1512, he was succeeded as operaio della camera by his son Vannoccio (Archivio di Stato di Siena, Balia 63, 49). Vannoccio was closely allied with Borghese Petrucci, Pandolfo's unstable son, who was deposed from the Sienese signory in 1516; at this time Vannoccio escaped to Naples along with his former patron; see Ticci 8:17v, 22v, 35, 39v, 41v. His intrigues with Alessandro Franci, a protege of the Borgia and of Agostino Chigi, are detailed in Chigi's correspondence (Chigi, 57).

47 Biringucci, 2.6. References are given to section numbers of the Pirotecnia rather than pages to allow the consultation of different editions of this oft-republished text.

48 Chigi, 57.

49 Biringucci, 6.3; cf. 10.3. Note, however, that the illustration for 6.5 is a cannon in the form of a classical column, lending a certain Vitruvian flavor to this discussion of ideal proportion.

50 Biringucci, 1.1: "Per il che, vi dico, che usando ogni diligenza, n' ho veduti piu libri di tal cose contenenti, et anco ho tentato solo di conversar con molti loro pratici, per anco piu intenderne, et sentitogli sottilmente disputare, se tali cose son vere, o pur fabulose imaginationi e in somma, pigliando tutti li fondamenti alchimici, et da fronte mettendo l'ordine della natura, et ponderando il proceder dell'una, e'l proceder dell' altra, non mi par che habbi in proportione nelle lor possanze . . . Ma certo, di questo non me inganno, ch' io non vegga in questo effectto le matri, dove vogliano contentar tal loro parto, haver li ventri d' artificial vetro, et le materie in loco di sperma, esser cose composte accidentali, et similmente li calori che adoprano, non sieno discontinui intemperati fuochi, molto dissimili alli naturali, con mancargli certa proportion di sostanza nutritiva, et augmentativa, et cosi anco interviene alli tempi, misure, et pesi, a tali effetti necessari. . . . e come anco sapprebbono mai gli huomini con l' arte quelle sostanze elementali deputare, o le quantita necessarie l' una all' altra proportionate, et al fin, come fa la natura, conducerle a perfettione, e farne metalli."

51 See Couliano, 179 ff.; Yates, 44 ff.; Heninger, 234-55; Tedeschi.

52 Biringucci, 9.1: "Hora non pensate che io quivi tal arte insegnare vi voglia, perche son uno di quelli che non la sano." Cf. ibid., 1.1 (appropriately enough, the chapter on gold).

53 Biringucci, 9.1.

54 See, for example, the way in which a mine should be opened in Biringucci, Proemio: "co'l nome di Dio, et di prospera ventura, facendo benedir dal sacerdote il monte, et tutte le altre officine et battegiar la cava, dedicandola (come si costuma) alla Santissima Trinita, o a nostra Donna, o al nome di qualche altro Santo c'habbiate in devotione, invocando la protettion sua e cosi animosamente darete principio a cavare" ("in the name of God, and of prosperous fortune, having the mountain blessed by a priest, and all the other workshops and baptizing the mine, dedicating it (as is the custom) to the Most Holy Trinity, or to Our Lady, or to the name of some other saint to whom you may have a devotion, invoking their protection and thus, you will make an energetic beginning to your mining"). The two great veins of alum at Tolfa were dedicated to the Trinity and to the Blessed Virgin, just as Vannoccio recommends.

55 Biringucci, 10.11.

56 Sigismondo Ticci, 7:52-53, faithfully records when fireworks, tormenti, are launched in Siena, as they were during the celebration of Pope Julius II's acknowledgment of Sienese citizenship in 1507 or the celebration of the election of the Sienese Pope Pius III in 1503, an occasion also marked by a sermon from Egidio da Viterbo, 6:370v.

57 Biringucci, 10.9. For the history of celestial sparks, one of which appears on the frontispiece to Ficino's Opera Omnia, Basel 1576, see Iesi.

58 In 1505 Vannoccio was sent to Palermo on behalf of Agostino Chigi's bank (Archivio di Stato di Roma, Ospedale di S. Rocco, Busta 110, 45v). His travels with Borghese Petrucci took him to Naples in 1516. In 1511 he was apparently in Rome working for the Chigi. Venice, Tolfa, and Siena are other obvious points on his various itineraries. In connection with his later work in northern Italy, he went to Austria and Bavaria; see Biringucci, 1.2: "fui a Sbozzo, a Plaiper, et in Ispruch, ad Alla, et Arottimbergh, et da poi son stato in Italia in piu lochi."

59 Association with Pandolfo and Borghese Petrucci most definitely determined the course of Vannoccio's life, but Agostino Chigi, a political schemer in his own right, determined Biringucci's movements as well. Among influential technical experts, aside from his own father, Francesco di Giorgio Martini, Baldassare Peruzzi, and Giovanni Battista Peloro (all of them Sienese) would have been particularly important.

60 Chigi, 199r-v, letter of Giulio Tegliacci to Sigismondo Chigi, 13 April 1511.

61 Pliny: Biringucci, 2.6, 2.13; Plato and Aristotle: Biringucci, 9.1.

62 Pliny the Elder's Natural History was put into volgare by Cristoforo Landino and reprinted several times; the Venice editions of 1476, 1489, 1501, 1516, and 1534, for example, all antedate the publication of the Pirotecnia in 1540.

63 Idel, 262-64; Walker; Secret; Yates, 61-116; Wirszubski. My thanks to Karen De Leon-Jones for updating my knowledge of Kabbalistic studies.

64 Furthermore, these activities are both eminently Platonic: the dialogue Phaedrus is a guide to effective rhetoric, while Vitruvius praises Plato specifically as a technological innovator! (De Architectura 9-1).


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