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Rhetoric and humanism in Quattrocento Venice.


Of the endless variations Italian Renaissance writings have to offer on that hoariest of humanistic themes, the qualities of the ideal orator, one of the most distinctive is found in a letter of 1489 from Ermolao Barbaro (1454-93) to his fellow Venetian patrician Marco Dandolo (1458-1535). The letter is one of condolence, following the death of Dandolo's maternal grandfather, the venerable statesman and humanist Bernardo Giustinian (1408-89), and opens by expressing regret that such a distinguished figure should have passed without adequate public tribute. (1) In compensation for the modest character that Giustinian's exequies had assumed, Barbaro's letter constitutes itself as a kind of funeral oration manque and evinces the idealizing tendencies conventional in that genre. Barbaro portrays the dead man as the perfect type of the Quattrocento Venetian patrician: a man who has devoted his talents and learning wholeheartedly to the service of his country, a beacon of justice and integrity in the conduct of his magistracies, a model of prudence in the councils of state. Above all, Giustinian is praised for the matchless eloquence for which he was celebrated in his lifetime, and which is testified in his diplomatic orations, a selection of which were published after his death. (2) Interestingly, however, more than on this formal Latin oratory, Barbaro's emphasis in this letter falls on Giustinian's vernacular performances in the Venetian Senate, which he describes at length, lauding the dead man's powers of persuasion in this context as unrivalled by any statesman of his age. (3)

Barbaro's praises of Giustinian's performance as Senate orator merit our attention for a number of reasons. One is, simply, that this brief but suggestive passage offers a rare window on an area of Renaissance rhetorical practice for which little documentation survives. A distinctive feature of the civic culture of the few surviving republics of fifteenth-century Italy--outside Tuscany, in this period practically limited to Venice and Genoa--was that "primary," political oratory continued to be practiced in their councils of state, as it had been in the medieval Italian communes and the city-states of classical antiquity. Frustratingly, however, this tradition of deliberative oratory remains largely closed to us in the concrete details of its practice: while the diplomatic and ceremonial oratory of Italian humanism is well documented to the point of, perhaps, embarrassing us with its riches, the jealously "private" practice of political debate is for the most part known to us only through indirect and necessarily unreliable testimonies, such as the occasional summaries or reconstructions of council speeches we find in diaries and histories of the period. This is particularly so in the case of Venice; less in the exceptional case of Florence, of whose ad hoc consultative committees--the so-called consulte and pratiche--extraordinarily detailed records survive. (4) In the light of this absence of documentary evidence, Barbaro's description of Giustinian's Senate eloquence acquires an undoubted historical interest: while it can hardly be claimed to fill the void just noted, it is valuable as an insider's view--and an unaccustomedly vivid one--of this quintessentially "insider" practice.

Besides this general interest, moreover, the passage under discussion acquires a more particular significance if we scrutinize more closely what Barbaro actually says--and, perhaps more revealing, what he does not say --about Giustinian's skills as political orator. As hardly needs to be noted, a near-universal feature of Italian humanists' writings on rhetoric and the figure of the orator is their emphasis on the need for eloquence to be anchored in wisdom and truth. This commitment to an ethicized rhetoric has been identified by Vittore Branca as particularly deeply rooted within Venetian humanistic culture, and Barbaro is frequently cited, again by Branca, as one of the most eloquent proponents of this ideal. (5) Given this--and given the commemorative and celebratory nature of the literary context in which it occurs--we might have expected Barbaro's characterization of Giustinian's Senate oratory to center on his moral qualities as speaker, on his championing of truth and virtue, and on his opposition to falsehood and vice. Instead, Barbaro's description of Giustinian's eloquence is noteworthy for the exclusivity, or near-exclusivity, of its focus on his subject's technical skill in persuasion. As Senate orator, Giustinian is praised for his convincing delivery, the refinement of his style, and his miraculous ascendancy over his listeners' passions, demonstrated by his ability to win round an audience that was hostile or wearied by lengthy debate. Virtually no mention is made, by contrast, of the ethical dimension or the truth-values of his oratory; though these may be assumed, it is noteworthy that they are not mentioned explicitly, given their attractiveness as loci of praise. (6) A clear difference in focus is apparent with respect to Barbaro's account earlier in the letter of Giustinian's conduct as magistrate, which lays much stress on the moral qualities of equity and integrity he displayed in this role. Where Giustinian's performance in the Senate is concerned, no such ethical emphasis is registered; rather than as vir bonus, to cite Quintilian's famous formula, it is his status as peritus dicendi that is stressed.

The pragmatic character of the rhetorical ideal presented in Barbaro's description of Giustinian becomes especially evident if we turn our attention to the most technical segment of that description, in which Barbaro lists a set of three particular rhetorical skills in which he regards the deceased senator as having excelled. These skills, which Barbaro identifies with considerable emphasis as "crucial to the orator" (in orator capitalia), are insinuatio, consilium, and ductus: (7) three terms all relating, as we shall see in a moment, to the strategic domain of the orator's practice. There is much that is intriguing about this improbable conjunction of terms, but the first thing to note is, precisely, its unexpectedness: with one exception, which will be discussed below, it is difficult to think of another text within the entire corpus of classical and humanistic rhetorical theory that brings this unlikely triad of rhetorical competences into juxtaposition, still less one that defines them, as Barbaro does here, as central to the orator's art. Whatever point Barbaro is making about deliberative oratory, here, then, clearly goes well beyond the commonplaces of the preceptive tradition. Indeed, this is underlined shortly after when Barbaro notes that, precisely in these three "capital" areas of competence, he has learned more from watching Giustinian in practice than from all the rhetorical textbooks he ever studied at school. (8)

What is the significance of these three terms, insinuatio, consilium, and ductus, as Barbaro uses them in this letter? Of the three, insinuatio is perhaps the most familiar, featuring prominently in Ciceronian theory, where it is defined as an "oblique" style of exordium, or speech opening, to be used where a straightforward captatio benevolentiae would be inadequate. (9) Instances where insinuatio should be used are those where a degree of resistance or hostility is to be anticipated on the part of the audience, as when the listeners are bored or restive, or have been swayed by a previous speaker, or are likely to be repulsed by the "turpitude" of the case. The techniques to be used on such occasions vary, ranging from the deployment of humor (particularly recommended in cases of audience boredom), to a finessing of aspects of the forthcoming speech considered to be morally reprehensible. The rationale for Barbaro's privileging of this area of rhetorical competence as "capital" in the Senate orator should be clear from this description. As taught by Cicero, insinuatio epitomizes a range of skills particularly crucial in "live," adversarial oratory, such as alertness to circumstances, psychological acuity, and flexibility of response.

Of the other two "capital skills" Barbaro identifies in Senate oratory, the second, consilium, could have a number of meanings, of which the most obvious might be simply the political "counsel" it was the object of deliberative oratory to supply. For reasons that will be made clear below, however, it seems most likely that the meaning of the term in this context is rather that given to it by Quintilian in the sixth book of the Institutio oratoria, where it designates the faculty of judgment which enables the orator to gauge and respond successfully to the circumstances in which he is speaking. (10) Quintilian attributes to this semi-instinctive faculty of judgment--clearly differentiated from a learnable doctrine that can be conveyed in a body of rules--a crucial generative role in determining the formal strategies to be adopted in a case. "For it is the duty of consilium to decide what we should say and what we should rather pass by in silence, whether it is better to deny an act or to defend it, when we should employ an exordium and what type of exordium to use.... And it must also decide on all the nuances of style, and on the tone it is most expedient for us to adopt in speaking, whether harsh or more conciliatory or positively meek." (11) Consilium, then, in this broad sense, for Quintilian, becomes a virtual synonym for "judgment" (iudicium), except that iudicium is regarded as capable of a higher degree of certainty, working as it does with established facts. Consilium, by contrast, deals with more contingent realities and is thus intrinsically more probabilistic and negotiable: something that clearly motivates the central role Barbaro allots it in the practice of political debate. (12)

Ductus, the third term employed by Barbaro in his characterization of the key skills of Venetian Senate oratory, derives from a notably more recondite reach of rhetorical theory than either insinuatio or consilium. The doctrine of ductus is not found in Roman theory of the classical period, at least under that description, although clear substantive anticipations may be found in Quintilian's treatment of figurate controversiae (IO, IX ii 66). Ductus as a rhetorical term is first encountered in the late antique arts of rhetoric of Fortunatianus (early fifth century) and Martianus Capella (active ca. 410-27), where it designates the overall strategic direction an orator gives to his speech. (13) As such, it is clearly related to consilium, in its broad, Quintilianesque sense, discussed in the previous paragraph. Ductus is, however, a narrower term, signifying not a general strategic faculty but something more like a discrete "device"; in this, it resembles insinuatio, though, rather than simply the exordium, it informs the whole construction of the speech. In the typologies of Fortunatianus and Martianus Capella, the most basic form of ductus, a ductus simplex, consists of the orator's simply stating what he believes to be the case. Other types envisaged are a ductus subtilis, when the orator insinuates something quite other than he is ostensibly arguing for, and a ductus figuratus or oblicus, when considerations of shame or fear hold him back from openly arguing his case. (14) More complex and articulated than the versions of Fortunatianus or Martianus Capella is the Renaissance reworking of ductus theory by the Cretan humanist George of Trebizond (1395/96-1472/73), who appears to have been responsible for reintroducing this doctrine in the West. (15) In George's version of the doctrine, largely based on Fortunatianus but incorporating material from other Greek and Latin sources, (16) a basic distinction is still made between ductus simplex and ductus figuratus, but the former is subdivided into ductus rectus, in which the orator states what he means without simulation, and ductus simulatus, when he argues for what he appears to be arguing for, but not for the reasons stated. Ductus figuratus, meanwhile, has three subdivisions: ductus contrarius, in which the orator seeks subtly to persuade his listeners of quite the opposite of what he appears to be arguing for; ductus oblicus, when he wants to persuade them of the opposite of what he is saying, and at the same time adopts an oblique approach to his ostensible case; and ductus per subiectionem, in which he is prevented by shame or fear from stating openly the case he wishes to argue for, but wants nonetheless to hint at it in such a way that it is understood by his audience.

As will be clear from this exposition, the three skills identified by Barbaro as crucial to the Venetian Senate orator all inhabit the same strategic territory within the field of rhetorical doctrine. Consilium--"discretion," or, archaically, "good counsel," as the term might perhaps be best rendered in English--signifies the orator's general ability to anticipate correctly what will play best with a given audience in a given set of circumstances. The more technical terms insinuatio and ductus relate to the same basic strategic sense, but focus in particular on the challenges presented by difficult or delicate cases; anachronistically, they might be said to designate an orator's mastery of "spin." Taken together, these three terms characterize with great deftness and economy a particular, pragmatic, and tendentially sophistic conception of the role of the orator, whose successful agency is implicitly divorced from the truth-value and moral "rightness" of his case. It is noteworthy, indeed, that the doctrines of both insinuatio and ductus presuppose that the orator may find himself arguing for cases that would be morally unpalatable if presented directly, and both devote considerable attention to how he should proceed in such circumstances. This does not mean to say, of course, that these techniques are of use exclusively in such morally equivocal contexts. Both Guarino da Verona (1374-1460) in his rhetorical teaching and Barbaro himself in his rhetorical practice, show themselves aware that the sleights of hand that classical rhetoricians had taught under the headings of insinuatio or ductus could be used as readily to defend the truth before a corrupt or misguided audience as to place a favorable spin on a morally dubious case. (17) Nonetheless, even if we discount the possible "proto-Machiavellian" implications of Barbaro's evocation of Venetian political debate in this letter, it is still striking that he places such emphasis on qualities of strategy and psychological gamesmanship, especially within a context--a literary elegy for a recently deceased elder statesman--that would lead us to expect something far more bland.

What should we make of this unexpected and idiosyncratic fragment of humanistic rhetorical discourse, with its almost caricatural--and surely ironic--characterization of the wiliness of Venetian political debate? One possible approach to the passage might be to regard it as a reflection of Barbaro's own conflicted attitude to the Venetian patrician culture of public service to which he had been destined by his background and upbringing. It should not escape our notice, in this regard, that this letter to Dandolo, though written in the confident dawn of Barbaro's brief but distinguished diplomatic career, nonetheless predates by only two years his dramatic jettisoning of that career through his acceptance of the patriarchate of Aquileia at the hands of Pope Innocent VIII. (18) As Patricia Labalme has noted, hindsight lends a degree of poignancy to Barbaro's celebration of Bernardo Giustinian in this letter as a model Venetian statesman, laudable, above all, for his unequivocal subordination of his private interests and impulses to the service of his country. (19) Admiring though this portrait undoubtedly is, Labalme suggests that, given Barbaro's own subsequent choices, we may be justified in detecting in it an undercurrent of ambiguity, a lurking consciousness of the moral and psychological sacrifices such a devotion to public duty must involve. These same reservations might be perceived as underlying the letter's equivocal evocation of the model of eloquence required of a senator of the republic: admirably ductile, but requiring a moral flexibility Barbaro himself perhaps felt reluctant to embrace.

Persuasive though this reading may be, however, it would be reductive to interpret Barbaro's reflections on rhetoric in this letter in this purely personal and biographical key. The tribute to Giustinian contained in Barbaro's letter to Dandolo was composed at a transitional period in the history of Venetian humanism, and one in which rhetoric in particular, and its cultural and social role, had become a keen source of debate. To understand in full the implications of Barbaro's remarks on rhetoric in this letter, we need to place them within this broader cultural-historical context. It is to this task--a relatively intricate one, given the complexity of the material--that the remainder of the present study will be devoted.



The best starting point for an investigation of the intellectual context of Barbaro's remarks on rhetoric in his letter to Dandolo is his mention of ductus, which, as we saw, was one of the three "capital skills" Barbaro required in the ideal Senate orator. As noted above, the doctrine of ductus is a relatively recondite component of classical rhetorical theory: sufficiently so, in fact, that it might initially seem a matter of note that Barbaro should have felt himself able to introduce it casually and without gloss into a letter to someone like Marco Dandolo, who, while undoubtedly erudite and with a proven interest in rhetoric, was not a particular specialist in the field. (20) Any surprise we might feel on this count is dissipated, however, when it is noted that ductus theory features prominently in a work on rhetoric produced in Venice in the 1470s, at a time when both Barbaro and Dandolo were completing their education between Padua and Venice. The work in question is a commentary on Cicero's oration Pro Ligario by the distinguished Piedmontese humanist Giorgio Merula (1431-94), a lifelong friend and mentor of Barbaro's and, at this time, the holder of a chair of rhetoric at the prestigious school of the humanities at San Marco in Venice. (21) First published in 1478, the commentary is based on a course of lectures seemingly first delivered as part of Merula's teaching at San Marco in 1473, and repeated--he claims, in response to public demand--shortly before the written version was published. (22) It is quite possible that Barbaro and/or Dandolo may have attended Merula's course on one or other of the occasions of its oral delivery, and highly likely that both will have been acquainted with the later, published version of the commentary. The likelihood is enhanced not only by the two men's personal acquaintance with Merula, but also by the polemical character of the work, which, as we shall see, appears to have excited quite a degree of controversy in humanistic circles at the time.

In order to appreciate the place that ductus theory assumes in Merula's commentary on Pro Ligario, it will be necessary first to reconstruct something of the context in which this was originally composed and delivered. Merula narrates its genesis in the following manner in the dedicatory letter to the published version of the commentary:
 When, some four years ago now, I was lecturing ... on the oration
 known as Pro Ligario, and attempting to analyze the quality of the
 case in as thorough and refined a manner as I knew how, I happened
 on the commentaries [on that same speech] by George of Trebizond.
 These I read not just diligently but eagerly, since some of his
 observations seemed me quite striking and original, even though he
 dissented from the interpretation of Quintilian, that supreme
 authority on the art of oratory. (23)

As Merula goes on to recount, the initial enthusiasm excited in him by Trebizond's commentary was short-lived; on scrutinizing it more thoroughly, he realized that, beneath its originality and surface brilliance, its analysis was meretricious and jejune. (24) The published version of his own commentary is explicitly presented as a corrective to the botched job of his predecessor and, more generally, as an expose of Trebizond's deficiencies as an authority on rhetoric. In his dedicatory letter, Merula presents a global assessment of George's capacities, concluding that the Greek was more notable for his native ingenium than his learning, and that his knowledge of Roman history and culture was particularly deficient. (25) This negative judgment is fleshed out in the body of Merula's commentary, which gleefully marshals evidence of George's errors and misapprehensions, dismissing his analysis in one particularly scornful passage as "the ravings of a sick old man." (26)

As we have seen, in his dedicatory letter, Merula presents his encounter with George of Trebizond's Pro Ligario commentary as fortuitous: having already decided to deliver a course of lectures on the oration, he stumbled across George's earlier work in the course of his research. The virulence of his attacks on Trebizond in his own gloss, however, might induce us to suspect the sincerity of this account, as might a consideration of Merula's circumstances at the time his lectures on Pro Ligario were delivered. In 1473, Merula was still relatively new to Venice and to his rhetoric post at San Marco, and plausibly yet to establish himself securely within the venomously competitive world of humanistic teaching in the city. (27) It seems likely, in these circumstances, that his very choice of Pro Ligario as a subject for commentary may have been motivated by a desire to measure himself against George of Trebizond who, though recently deceased, still appears to have enjoyed an exalted standing in Venice as a rhetorical authority. (28) George had taught for a period in Venice at the start of his career, and again, briefly, in the early 1460s, when he was called back to the city to occupy the newly-founded chair of rhetoric at San Marco. (29) In 1472, only a few years after the introduction of printing to the city, a printed edition had appeared in Venice of George's magnum opus, the Rhetoricorum libri quinque, with editorial input from Benedetto Brognoli (1427-1502), Merula's colleague at the school of San Marco. (30) Publicly to belittle the academic competence of this praestantissimus rhetor, as one contemporary called him, (31) was bound to be an incendiary gesture, and it is clear from Merula's dedicatory letter that his attack aroused a predictably outraged response. Merula notes, in fact, that, when he ventured in his lectures on Pro Ligario to criticize the interpretation of his predecessor, "there were not lacking those who most concertedly denied the basis of my comments, the authority of that teacher [i.e., Trebizond] having imprinted itself on their minds to such an extent that neither reasoned argument nor the authority of the ancients was sufficient to moderate their judgment." (32)

It seems legitimate to conjecture, in these circumstances, that Merula's decision to repeat his Pro Ligario lectures in 1478, and to produce a published version of his commentary, was motivated primarily by a desire to respond to the machinations of George's defenders in Venice. Specifically, this decision may well have been prompted by the appearance in 1477 of a publication which, while not explicitly attacking Merula's competence as a Ciceronian commentator, is clearly intended as a calculated snub to his pretensions in this field. The publication in question is an elegantly produced collection of classical and humanistic glosses on Cicero's orations, edited by the minor Piedmontese humanist Girolamo Squarzafico (active 1471-1503), and featuring commentators ranging from the rediscovered Asconius Pedianus to Antonio Loschi (1365/8-1441) and Sicco Polenton (1375/6-ca. 1447). The last in this august company is none other than Trebizond, represented by his commentary on Pro Ligario, to which Squarzafico claims he was introduced, with the warmest possible commendations, by the Patriarch of Aquileia, Cardinal Marco Barbo (1420-91). (33) That Merula's omission from the canon of Ciceronian commentators assembled in this volume was intended as a deliberate slight can hardly be doubted, and it seems plausible that his publication of his own commentary, with its demolition of Trebizond, should be seen as a response to this provocation. (34) It is worth noting in this regard that, where Squarzafico had cited Barbo, Merula counters by advertising his own distinguished contacts within the Venetian patriciate, dedicating his work to Bernardo Bembo (1433-1519), at this time Venetian ambassador to Florence and one of the most eminent patrician humanists of his age. (35)

Having examined the delicate and combustible circumstances in which Merula's Pro Ligario commentary was produced, we are now in a position to return to the question of his allusions to the theory of ductus in that work. As was noted above, the fifteenth-century "rediscovery" of this abstruse late classical doctrine was the work of Merula's rival George of Trebizond, who accorded a prominent place to this novelty in his Rhetoricorum libri quinque, composed in the 1430s in Venice. Following this theoretical exposition, George went on to illustrate the hermeneutical merits of the doctrine of ductus in his commentary on Pro Ligario (ca. 1438-39), which also put on display the other major theoretical novelty of the Rhetoricorum libri quinque, the Hermagorean doctrine of stylistic forms. (36) Like Merula's later gloss on the same oration, George's Pro Ligario commentary has a polemical dimension. His first mention of the speech had occurred in the Rhetoricorum libri quinque, in which he had contested Quintilian's reading of its exordium as ironic, attracting the opprobrium of Guarino da Verona, who attacked him in a pseudonymous letter. (37) George's commentary on Pro Ligario is clearly intended, among other things, as a follow-up to his initial provocation, reiterating and developing his tortuously ingenious analysis of the opening of the speech. Beyond this, as noted, the commentary serves as a showcase for some of the more spectacular of the Rhetoricorum libri quinque's theoretical "discoveries," one of which--precisely, ductus--is prominently employed in George's confutation of Quintilian. George's pride in the innovatory character of his work is apparent in a letter to Bernardo Giustinian of 1440 in which he describes it as embodying a novam ... viam interpretande artis in orationibus. Giustinian's response underscores the novelty of his approach and congratulates him warmly on its remarkable results. (38)

It should be clear from the above that Giorgio Merula in the 1470s, consciously measuring himself against Trebizond as a Ciceronian commentator, could hardly have avoided the challenge presented by the latter's "signature" doctrine of ductus. The topic is first broached in the opening lines of Merula's commentary, where he notes sourly that George--condescendingly recollected here as nastra memoria rhetor nan incelebris--had distinguished himself in his gloss on Pro Ligario by sidelining the traditional concerns of commentators on Cicero's orations with features like status and genre, to pursue instead the far more "recondite and abstruse" issue of the ductus and consilium that Cicero had used. (39) Merula's coupling of these two terms here is noteworthy in connection with Barbaro's letter to Dandolo, where we saw ductus and consilium similarly conjoined as two of the "capital skills" required of the orator. In Merula's commentary, the pairing is clearly directed at diminishing the impact and credibility of George of Trebizond's innovations as a rhetorical commentator, by suggesting a functional equivalence between George's recondite doctrine of ductus and the far more mainstream Quintilianesque notion of consilium. Merula reinforces this point by placing his own interpretation of Cicero's oratorical strategy in Pro Ligario in a section of his argument headed Quo consilio usus orator, which he follows with a far briefer and more perfunctory section headed De ductu. (40) As if this were not enough, he concludes the latter section with a contemptuous aside informing the reader that Trebizond's account of ductus in the Rhetoricorum libri quinque was "plagiarized" from classical sources. (41) Fortunatianus and Martianus Capella are included among these, but more pointedly, so is Quintilian--the same classical authority, of course, that Trebizond had so arrogantly set out to "correct." (42)

The Quintilianesque sympathies of Merula's Pro Ligario commentary are a noteworthy feature of the text, and one to which we shall return later in this study. For the moment, the key thing to note in Merula's gloss is the insight it affords into the context of the rhetorical observations of Ermolao Barbaro discussed in the first section of this study. As was remarked there, the most unexpected feature of this letter from a rhetorical point of view is its seemingly casual identification as the "capital skills" of political oratory of the curious triad of insinuatio, consilium, and ductus, for whose juxtaposition, it was noted, it is difficult to find precedents in either classical or humanistic rhetorical theory. Merula's Pro Ligario commentary is an important exception in this regard: here, we find these three terms featuring prominently, and in a context by no means remote from that envisaged by Barbaro, in that the oration under scrutiny, while technically forensic in character, is sufficiently political in its subject matter to serve as a model for deliberative oratory, and, specifically, for the kind of psychologically-acute, context-sensitive oratory with which Barbaro is concerned in his letter. The conjunction in Merula's commentary of the terms ductus and consilium was noted in the previous paragraph. Pro Ligario also offered a celebrated instance of the employment of insinuatio, and Merula glosses its exordium very fully and with detailed reference to Cicero's discussion of this technique in De inventione. (43) Given the salience accorded to insinuatio, ductus, and consilium in Merula's commentary, it seems legitimate to conclude that Barbaro's reference to these same terms in his letter to Dandolo should be read as a conscious allusion to the polemic that had so exercised Venetian humanistic circles a decade before this letter was written. This would help to make sense of the note of irony that accompanies this allusion, and which is difficult to account for initially in what is, after all, a letter of condolence. In the reading suggested here, this irony would be directed, not at the deceased Giustinian's eloquence, but at the scholarly dispute between Merula and the supporters of Trebizond, whose vicissitudes we may suppose Barbaro and Dandolo to have followed, perhaps with some detached amusement, a decade before.

Though it is valuable as a starting point to have established this immediate context for Barbaro's remarks on rhetoric in his letter to Dandolo, we are still some distance from understanding their implications and import in full. To proceed with our investigation, it will be useful to recall the precise context in the letter in which Barbaro's unexpected reference to insinuatio, consilium, and ductus as the "capital skills" of oratory occurs. Barbaro's specific point concerning these skills is that no rhetorical ars could teach them as effectively as Giustinian's performances in the Senate, and that he himself has learned more from watching the deceased senator in action than ex sexcentis rhetorum voluminibus in scholis. (44) Of note here is the fact that, in addition to extolling Giustinian's eloquence, the passage also adumbrates a critique of academic rhetorical instruction, which is portrayed as inadequate, specifically, in teaching the skills required in political debate. As will be argued below, this question of the practical utility or otherwise of formal rhetorical study was one with a long and complex history within Venetian humanistic culture. Some understanding of this history will be necessary if we are to grasp the implications of Barbaro's allusion to it here.


As a starting point in this task, it will be useful first briefly to review the history of humanism and humanistic education in fifteenth-century Venice. As has been stressed in recent scholarship, this was by no means a simple or unconflictual one. (45) During the first two or three decades of the Quattrocento, when the cultural and educational innovations of humanism were gaining increasing acceptance within the seigniorial regimes of mainland Italy, Venice proved relatively resistant to the attractions of the new learning: while individual enthusiasts among the patriciate were not lacking, Venice offered little institutional support for humanistic education and scholarship, and as a result had limited success in retaining the services of teachers and scholars of distinction. (46) Various motives have been suggested for the indifference with which Venice initially appeared to greet the classicizing innovations of humanism, an indifference the more striking given the city's proximity to important early humanistic centers such as Padua and Verona. One is the traditionally practical and vocational attitude to education of Venice's mercantile elite, reflected in the mathematical and proto-scientific orientation of the city's intellectual traditions. (47) It is telling that Venice's first experiment in publicly funded higher education, dating from 1408, was a school of logic and natural philosophy, located by the Rialto at the heart of the city's financial district, and associated through its foundation with one of the four Venetian "philistines" whose attack on Petrarch's "ignorance" in the 1370s had inspired one of the latter's most memorable humanistic polemics. (48) In addition to this, a further possible factor in accounting for Venice's lukewarm reception of humanism is the city's relative political stability, which left its rulers without the incentives which led newer and more unstable regimes to seize on the emerging classicizing cultural discourses as instruments of self-promotion and self-definition. This should not be stated too absolutely: certainly, a vanguard within the Venetian patriciate showed an awareness from the opening decades of the fifteenth century that one consequence of Venice's new role as a territorial power would be a need for an increasingly vigilant tutelage of the city's, and its rulers', ideological profile. (49) At this stage in the process, however, the perception could hardly be said to be urgent or widely shared; it is only from around the mid-century that indications can be registered of a shift in the cultural attitudes of the patriciate as a whole.

Traces of the resistance that Venetian elite culture initially offered to humanistic educational ideals--and to the study of classical rhetoric in particular--may be found in a number of works of the period by humanist teachers attempting to establish themselves in the city. George of Trebizond, who taught in Venice in the 1420s and 30s before being lured away to more promising environments elsewhere, alludes in his Rhetoricorum libri quinque (1433-34) to "those many [in Venice] who dare to assert that dialectic and natural philosophy"--specifically the study of the "passions"--"are much more useful in deliberative and forensic contexts than skill in oratory." (50) George's target in this passage is probably the philosophy school at the Rialto, whose long-term chair, Paolo Della Pergola (d. 1455), is known to have been dismissive of rhetoric, and may well have promoted the disciplines taught at his own institution as an alternative training in practical eloquence. (51) Given the prestige in Venice of the intellectual tradition Della Pergola represented, this may not have been a trivial threat. Besides this academic rivalry, we also find references in the sources to a view seemingly widespread among the Venetian patriciate and whose traces can be found in Barbaro's letter to Dandolo, that practical skills in rhetoric were better acquired through experience and observation than through academic study. Both George of Trebizond and Filippo Morandi Da Rimini (ca. 1407-97) address this skepticism in their writings on rhetoric, urging young patricians to supplement their "on the job" training with a systematic grounding in rhetorical doctrine, without which, they insist, even the finest native talents cannot hope to reach the summit of eloquence. (52) The works of both men are of interest for the fervor with which they champion the utility of rhetorical study within a republican context, stressing in particular its relevance to the key patrician skills of deliberative oratory and forensic debate. (53) There is an assumption clearly at work here that, if the study of the classics is to be sold to the Venetian patriciate, it will be on the grounds of precisely this practical utility, rather than on any more disinterested "humanistic" value as a general moral preparation for life.

To understand the significance of these attitudes, it will be useful to glance briefly at the history of the study of rhetoric in Italy, taking as a starting point the ambience of the late medieval city republics, in which the Renaissance tradition of rhetorical education may be seen, in some sense, as having its roots. The study of rhetoric as it developed within the medieval communes was powerfully pragmatic and vocational in character, and was meshed with peculiar intimacy to contemporary practices of civic eloquence. This applies equally to the ars dictaminis, developed from the late eleventh century and addressed to the composition of public letters and documents, and to classical rhetorical theory, whose "rediscovery" from the mid-thirteenth century may be seen in part as a response to the increased prominence of oral practices of eloquence--and in particular, perhaps, of adversarial political debate--in the political life of the medieval city republics. (54) Rhetoric in Italy in this period thus positioned itself, as it had done in Cicero's Rome, as an essential component of the science of government, teaching as it did the skills of rational persuasion through which collective decisions were reached. In the vibrant, if ad hoc, form the discipline assumed in the medieval communes, this claim had some justification. Thirteenth-and fourteenth-century rhetorical literature, often written in the vernacular, typically combines a theoretical framework freely adapted from classical sources with a rich exemplification based on contemporary written and oral speech practices. Practical utility, and specifically utility to civic life, is patently the governing criterion of the genre.

If these were the original characteristics of the discipline of rhetoric as it constituted itself in the Italy of the communes, however, substantial changes had occurred by the period that occupies us here. From the mid-fourteenth century onwards, the first signs are apparent of a radical reorientation of Italian rhetorical culture, which in historical perspective seems causally related to the downfall of the city republics. The change may be seen as in some respects shadowing that which took place in ancient Rome following the fall of the republic; not for nothing over the fifteenth century did the "imperial" Quintilian rise to challenge the republican Cicero as the prime rhetorical authority of antiquity. (55) In both cases, following the demise of the political institutions whose practices had originally informed it, rhetoric repositioned itself as, increasingly, an adjunct to the study of philosophy and literature, selling itself less on its specific utility to civic practices of eloquence than on its broader cultural value as a universal instrument of expression. Correspondingly, demonstrative or epideictic rhetoric, the most apolitical of the three genres identified by classical theorists, came to displace the more functional forensic and deliberative genres as the privileged focus of rhetorical theory and practice. In the Italian case, these developments were accompanied by a process of linguistic and stylistic classicization that served as probably the sharpest single signifier of the shift in focus that separated the medieval from the humanistic tradition. As rhetoric retreated from thepiazze into the study and the schoolroom, it progressively took on the classicizing tendencies that had been apparent already for almost a century within the Italian "grammatical" tradition. It is from this period that we can date the aspiration to a correct stylistic imitation of classical Latin oratory: an elitist linguistic gesture perfectly consonant with the social attitudes of the humanist movement. (56)

It should be clear from the preceding argument why the claims of humanistic rhetorical education to provide an appropriate training for civic eloquence might prove controversial in a city like Venice. While throughout most of the Italian peninsula the humanistic reorientation of rhetorical culture may be regarded as a quasi-evolutionary adaptation to changed sociopolitical conditions, this could not be the case--or not entirely--in a republic like Venice, in which "primary" rhetorical practices continued to flourish, and a need felt for a form of rhetorical training more closely geared to these practices. This is not to say that the Venetian elite was impervious to the appeal of humanist innovations within rhetorical culture; on the contrary, from the second decade of the fifteenth century, an influential minority of patrician intellectuals had begun the task of appropriating for Venetian contexts--initially and most typically for funeral orations--the impressive new tradition of classicizing epideictic oratory elaborated over the previous decades on the mainland in centers such as Florence and Padua. (57) This was a form of public speaking for which a humanistic rhetorical education was clearly appropriate--indeed, necessary--but it by no means exhausted the range of rhetorical competences a Venetian patrician might be expected to display. A vivid sense of this range is conveyed in a letter of 1420 by Leonardo Giustinian (1388-1446), one of the pioneers of classicizing oratory in Venice, at the time in his early thirties and employed in the first major office of his political career, as one of the Avogadori del Comun, the attorneys general or chief law officers of the city. "There is no kind of case," Giustinian writes, "no type, no topic, finally, no precept of the entire art in which I must not be proficient. Add to this the fact that I am not required to speak always before the same body, but, according to the merits and dignity of the cases, I must go now before the Doge himself, now before the [judicial body of the] Quaranta, now in the Senate, now with the body of patricians. And in these places, various and wholly different forms of oratory are required. " (58)

Faced with the task of training up the Venetian elite for this daunting range of speech competences, the type of rhetorical instruction envisaged by humanist educators was obviously inadequate, or of limited use. One obvious problem was that of the "insider" character of some of the most crucial Venetian rhetorical practices: to revert to the example cited by Barbaro in his letter to Dandolo, it is difficult to envisage anyone successfully teaching the art of political debate as practiced in the Venetian Senate other than someone--a patrician, of necessity--who had had the opportunity of observing its dynamics at first hand. In these circumstances, it is not difficult to understand the basis of the patrician prejudice alluded to by George of Trebizond and Filippo Da Rimini, whereby formal rhetorical study was regarded as inferior to a hands-on training through experience and observation. Of interest in regard to this attitude is a text of the 1430s, again from the circles of the Giustinian: an unpublished treatise seemingly composed by Leonardo for the private edification of his son Bernardo--the same Bernardo who was later to be the object of Barbaro's encomium--offering a customized version of the doctrine of mnemonics which had traditionally formed part of rhetorical theory. (59) What is striking about this is that the treatise is addressed to a young man already in his twenties, who had received the finest humanistic education available in his day, and who may thus be assumed to have been intimately familiar with the classic treatment of mnemonics in the Rhetarica ad Herennium. (60) It is suggestive, given this, that Leonardo Giustinian should have felt the need to supplement his son's existing knowledge with a form of training geared to specific and eminently practical Venetian needs (evocatively, the worked examples given in the treatise are drawn from the realms of commerce and of Senate debate).

How did humanist teachers of rhetoric in Venice respond to these difficult market conditions? While little concrete documentation survives of the way in which rhetoric was taught in Venice in this period, it seems reasonable to assume that humanists in Venice will have accommodated to the demands of their skeptical patrician target audience by emphasizing the relevance of the study of classical rhetoric to modern-day practices of deliberative and forensic oratory, thus preserving in some degree the powerfully "civic" orientation that had characterized the Italian rhetorical tradition in earlier times. Some evidence of this is perhaps offered by George of Trebizond's Rhetaricorum libri quinque, which, as we saw earlier, was composed in Venice in the 1430s, when George was attempting to establish himself as a teacher of rhetoric in the city. As John Monfasani has noted, the Rhetoricorum libri quinque is distinctive within the humanistic tradition of writings of rhetoric for its emphasis on rhetoric's political vocation, apparent from its initial definition of rhetoric as "the civil science by which we speak in civil questions." (61) Equally distinctive, and related, is George's relative indifference to the moral dimension of eloquence. As Monfasani remarks, the Rhetoricorum libri quinque is unusual, if not unique, among Renaissance rhetorical manuals in omitting from its definition of the "office" of the orator the requirement that he be a "good man." (62) Rhetoric is, in fact, presented in the Rhetaricorum libri quinque much in the guise in which it is presented in a text like the Rhetorica ad Herennium, as a set of practical speech skills geared towards effective persuasion in political and forensic debate. George's choice of exemplification is revealing in this respect, drawing as it does extensively on illustrations from classical oratory, and specifically from Cicero's orations, quoted liberally at every turn. (63) What is of particular interest is the sense we get here that, rather than as models of style, generalizable to other literary uses, Cicero's speeches are being proposed by George specifically as models of speech-making, illustrating strategies and devices to be imitated by modern orators in analogous cases. George's teachings on ductus are a case in point; indeed, once we have grasped the character of his overall approach to rhetoric, it seems entirely appropriate that George should have been responsible for rediscovering a sophistic doctrine of this kind. As we have seen, the theory of ductus promised the orator a fine-grained instruction on the means of turning the most improbable cases to his advantage. Whatever we think of its moral implications, the utility of such a doctrine can hardly be denied.

Of course, in the absence of any concrete evidence that the Rhetoricorum libri quinque was ever used as a teaching textbook for in Venice, it would be rash to regard this idiosyncratic work as representative of the form rhetorical instruction took in the city. Nonetheless, as we have seen, there is sufficient evidence of the respect George enjoyed as a rhetorical authority in Venice at least down to the time of his death in the 1470s for it to be possible to assume that his attitudes were at least consonant with those of other teachers of rhetoric in the city. If this may be supposed, we can tentatively posit the existence of a distinctive, hybrid tradition of rhetoric teaching in Quattrocento Venice, combining a classicizing bias consistent with trends in mainland humanism with a "medieval" conception of rhetoric as primarily civic in its orientation and uses. The suggestion seems the more plausible in that this type of cultural compromise is eminently characteristic of Venetian culture in this period, caught as it was between powerful "progressive" classicizing influences, deriving mainly from external sources, and an equally potent undertow of traditionalist impulses, dictated by local sociopolitical conditions.


Despite the difficulties outlined above, a tradition of humanistic studies did eventually succeed in establishing itself in Venice over the first half of the Quattrocento. Humanistic teaching was certainly available in the republic from the early decades of the century: a number of prominent humanists were attracted there, even if they did not always remain long once their reputations were established, while less ambitious or less talented figures remained to eke out a precarious livelihood in the city. (64) At the same time, a strong tradition of classicizing scholarship developed within the patriciate, as, increasingly, prominent members of the political elite sought out a humanistic education for their sons. It is, in fact, with the ascendancy to positions of influence of the "second generation" of humanistically-educated patricians identified by Margaret King--those born in the first three decades of the fifteenth century--that we can begin to see a change in institutional attitudes to humanistic education within the republic. (65) The first tangible sign of this was the foundation in 1446 of an advanced state-funded school of the humanities, based at San Marco, primarily intended for the training of chancery staff, but also open to interested patricians. (66) A second chair was established in 1460, this time specifically for the teaching of rhetoric, to which a third post was sporadically added. A Senate decree of 1468 confirming this provision makes explicit reference to the civic utility of rhetorical study, stating that two posts are publicly funded in this discipline "because it is crucial in public affairs." (67)

By the second half of the fifteenth century, then, the study of classical rhetoric had achieved a strong measure of cultural acceptance and institutional recognition in Venice. This development coincided, however, with a period of accentuated cultural change, as the powerfully cohesive patrician-led "civic humanist" tradition that had dominated in the first half of the century began to cede to a constellation of less collective, more "private," and more academic concerns. (68) In part, this cultural shift--particularly marked from the 1470s--may be seen as a consequence of the republic's eager embrace of the new technology of printing, which would make of Venice, by the end of the fifteenth century, the most important publishing center in Europe. The arrival of the printing industry in Venice progressively transformed employment opportunities for humanists there by offering them the possibility of supplementing their traditionally meager income from teaching by freelance editorial work. (69) As a result, ambitious humanist scholars began to be drawn to Venice in ever greater numbers, and the lively and disputatious editorial culture that sprang up around the presses came increasingly to define the tone of intellectual life in the city, displacing the more solemn and "mono-cultural" patrician tradition that had earlier dominated. At the same time, internal developments within patrician culture itself contributed to this diversification of focus, as Margaret King's "second generation" of patrician humanists gave way to a third, in many cases less single-minded than their forefathers in their devotion to public service and more ready to entertain the notion of intellectual enquiry as an end in itself. (70) As King has suggested, this subtle but noticeable change in the ethos of Venice's ruling elite in the later fifteenth century may be related to long-term social and cultural trends, notably the gradual shift in patterns of patrician investment from maritime commerce to landed property in Venice's mainland empire, and the patriciate's consequent progressive cultural assimilation to the values of the aristocracy of the terraferma. (71) Whatever the causes, the result seems to have been a more varied, exploratory, and outward-looking intellectual culture, most impressively embodied in this period by Ermolao Barbaro, perhaps the first Venetian humanist to win a truly international renown.

A key development in Venetian humanism in this period, expressive of the cultural shift described in the previous paragraph, was the emergence in the city in these years of a strong tradition of philological scholarship, capable of competing with the longer-rooted traditions of centers like Florence and Rome. Though the most distinguished exponents of this tradition included patricians such as Barbaro and Girolamo Dona (ca. 1456-15 1 1), (72) a vital role in establishing this new philological culture was played by the succession of prominent non-Venetian humanist teachers appointed to the school of San Marco from the late 1460s. The first of these, and the most influential, was the Piedmontese humanist Giorgio Merula, whose trenchant intellectual style we have already observed in action. Merula was appointed to San Marco in 1468, and remained in Venice until 1484, when he was lured away to a more lucrative employment in the service of the Sforza in Milan. During his sixteen years teaching in Venice, he played a crucial role in fostering the new philological culture, counting among his pupils leading figures of the coming generation of Venetian patrician intellectuals such as Barbaro and Dona. Merula was succeeded at San Marco by other prominent humanist scholars such as Marcantonio Sabellico (1436-1506) and Giorgio Valla (1447-1500), while other high-profile humanists taught at the University of Padua, notably Raffaele Regio (?1440-1520) and Giovanni Calfurnio (1443-1503). (73) All were closely involved in the rather feverish philological activity that characterized Italian humanism in the latter decades of the Quattrocento; indeed, Merula in particular may be counted among the most distinguished philologists of the age. (74) Venetian humanistic culture underwent a significant transition in the latter decades of the Quattrocento. Like all such cultural transitions, this did not take place without engendering controversy and resistance. An interesting document of this is offered by the polemic examined in an earlier section of this study concerning the interpretation of Cicero's Pro Ligario, which, it will be remembered, was initiated by Merula in the early 1470s, not long after his appointment at San Marco. Although the ostensible focus of this controversy was the exegesis of a single classical text, it is apparent that the implications of the debate were much broader. The contrasting readings of Pro Ligario offered by Merula and George of Trebizond in their respective commentaries do not differ simply in details of fact or emphasis; rather, they represent two quite distinct ways of approaching a classical text, and, specifically, a classical rhetorical text. Within the "civic" model of humanistic education embraced by Trebizond, the study of rhetoric was ultimately legitimated by its political utility, as the "civil science by which we speak on civil questions," to quote his definition of rhetoric in the Rhetoricorum libri quinque. (75) Within the less utilitarian and more academic approach of Merula, by contrast, rhetoric was principally of interest as a stylistic and hermeneutical discipline, functional to the composition and interpretation of literary texts. These differing perspectives dictate quite radically distinct approaches to the exegesis of a text such as a Ciceronian oration: for Trebizond, a masterly rhetorical artifact to be analyzed with a view to its utility as a model for imitation; for Merula, rather, a prestigious classical literary text and an interesting historical document, to be studied not least for the light it can shed on the culture and history of ancient Rome. (76) As we saw, in fact, Merula's critique of his predecessor's gloss centers largely on Trebizond's ineptitude as a historical commentator, which scandalizes him to an extent highly indicative of his own antiquarian emphases. Trebizond's contrasting concerns, meanwhile, are most illuminatingly revealed by his eager engagement with the strategic subtleties of ductus: a doctrine, as we have seen, whose utility and interest Merula is equally eager to dismiss.

Beyond its ad hominem element, then, in the circumstances in which it was produced, Merula's attack on Trebizond may be regarded as having a more general dimension, serving as a kind of manifesto for the historically oriented model of humanistic philology Merula was engaged in pioneering in this period in Venice. This helps to clarify the grounds for his choice of polemical object, given Trebizond's iconic standing within the previous, "civic" tradition of Venetian humanism, and it helps, as well, to account for the seemingly quite heated resistance with which his initiative appears to have been met. This context may also assist in revealing the import of certain details of this controversy whose significance might otherwise be missed. It is unlikely to be fortuitous, for example, that Merula's attack on Trebizond is at the same time a defense of the authority of Quintilian, whose reading of Pro Ligario the Greek humanist had challenged in his interpretation of the speech. (77) Increasingly, over the fifteenth century, attitudes to Quintilian had become one of the most obvious touchstones of Italian humanists' intellectual allegiances, especially after Lorenzo Valla had controversially championed Quintilian as equal or superior to Cicero as a rhetorical theorist. (78) In Venice in particular, as we shall see, by the latter decades of the Quattrocento, expressions of allegiance to Cicero or to Quintilian had come to serve as a means of polemical self-definition, signifying an adherence, respectively, to a traditionalist and "civic," or to a literary-philosophical conception of rhetoric. In these circumstances, it seems plausible that the rather incidental "anti-Quintilianism" of Trebizond's Pro Ligario commentary will have acquired a greater salience for Merula than it had in its original context. (79) By Merula's time, to attack Quintilian--in however apparently casual a way--could only be read in a polemical light.

The tendency for Venetian humanistic attitudes to rhetoric in the later Quattrocento to polarize themselves around attitudes to Quintilian becomes evident if we turn from the Pro Ligario debate to other rhetorical controversies of the period. The most interesting of these, in terms of the scope and centrality of its subject matter, is also that which has attracted the least attention in modern scholarship: a polemic of the late 1470s and 80s concerning the ends and the subject matter of rhetoric, initiated by an obscure Calabrian humanist named Matteo Collazio, seemingly employed at this time as a teacher of rhetoric in Venice. (80) The work of Collazio's that triggered the debate, published in 1477, was the provocatively entitled Define oratoris in Quintilianum pro M. T. Cicerone et omni antiquitate. Unsurprisingly, this appears to have provoked a strong reaction among supporters of Quintilian in Venice. The following year Collazio published a response to his critics, followed in 1486 by a dialogue, De rhetoricaefine, admiringly reporting a public disputation the author had held on this issue at the University of Padua. Although Collazio does not indicate the identity of his adversaries in this debate, two published works survive responding to his arguments: a pamphlet by Bonifacio Bembo, seemingly a protege of Merula, who taught in the Veneto in the 1480s before moving to Pavia, and a treatise by another humanist teacher, Cristoforo Barzizza, published in his hometown of Brescia in 1492. (81)

The debate triggered by Collazio centered around two distinct, though related, issues: the question of the materia and thefinis of rhetoric, its subject matter and its ultimate end or ends. To take the latter first, the question of the end of rhetoric had first become a matter of dispute in the mid-Quattrocento, as part of the more general controversy on the relative merits of Cicero and Quintilian. Debate on this subject tended to revolve around two quite starkly differentiated positions, associated, respectively, with the two Roman authorities, the first of which (the "Ciceronian" position) saw the end of rhetoric as persuasion, the second as "speaking well" (bene dicere). The battle-lines between these two positions were first drawn up in a famous dispute in Rome in 1450 between George of Trebizond and Theodore Gaza (ca. 1398ca. 1478), with George, predictably, taking a "Ciceronian" stance and Gaza the position of Quintilian. (82) In the Venetian reprise of this controversy, Collazio adopts the position associated with Trebizond, arguing that the primary end of rhetoric was persuasion, and Quintilian's bene dicere, if anything, a secondary end. Of his documented opponents, Bonifacio Bembo took a polemically Quintilianesque stance, arguing for eloquentia as the prime end of rhetoric, while Barzizza, adopting a compromise strategy similar to that formulated earlier in the century by Guarino, maintained that persuasion constituted the "extrinsic end" of the art, bene dicere, or eloquence, its intrinsic end. The second point of debate was the issue of whether rhetoric was limited in its scope to "civil questions"--again, a position associated with Cicero--or whether, as Quintilian ambitiously claimed, it should embrace the whole field of literary and philosophical discourse. Divisions here, in the Venetian debate, fell along predictable lines, with Collazio arguing for a "Ciceronian," civic definition of the scope of rhetoric, while his opponent Bembo maintained a Quintilianesque, "universalist" position. (83)

As will be clear from the preceding argument, within the Venetian context in which they were debated in the 1470s and 80s, the issues around which this controversy centered were far from being simply of abstract theoretical interest. The "Ciceronian" position Collazio defends in his writings is fundamentally that authoritatively defined earlier in the century by George of Trebizond, and which is likely to have informed the tradition of humanistic rhetorical teaching in Venice as it developed in the first half of the fifteenth century. As we have seen, at the time when Collazio was writing, this native tradition was under threat from a powerful competing school of scholarship, represented most signally by Giorgio Merula, which was remote from the traditional "functionalist" premises of Venetian humanism, and closer to the cultural values and emphases of the mainland. Especially given the ascendancy this latter tradition was increasingly asserting over the younger generation of humanistically educated patricians, it is not difficult to understand the tones of feverish intensity and personal outrage with which Collazio invests his ostensibly objective analyses of the theoretical discrepancies between classical authorities. The local tensions informing the debate as it developed between Venice and Padua in the 1470s and 80s are illuminated by a comparative glance at the belated intervention of Cristoforo Barzizza, writing from the safe distance of Brescia in 1492. For Barzizza, it is clear that the polemical positions adopted by Collazio and Bonifacio Bembo are unnecessarily polarized, and that the evidence of the texts suggests a greater compatibility between Cicero and Quintilian than their respective adherents would suggest. (84) Though Barzizza is clearly in some sense objectively right, his objectivity is a luxury of distance, and one that someone in Collazio's position could less easily afford.

If, as has been suggested here, Collazio's writings are to be regarded as a rearguard defense of the Venetian tradition of"civic humanism" as it had developed in the middle decades of the fifteenth century, it becomes significant that his main patrician points of reference, as we can infer them from the dedications and other mentions in his writings, appear on the whole to be survivors of the generation which had nursed this tradition to maturity, such as Antonio Dona (1422-81) and Domenico Morosini (1417-1509), the latter the author in extreme old age of a trenchant defense of traditional Venetian patrician values in De bene instituta republica. (85) It is, in fact, in a work addressed to Morosini, and purportedly composed in response to a series of doubts expressed by the latter, that Collazio sets out perhaps most eloquently his civic and political conception of rhetoric. Much of the short treatise De verbo civilitate, published in a collection of Collazio's Opuscula in 1486, is occupied with a minute dissection of Quintilian's and Victorinus' positions on the place of rhetoric within the hierarchy of scientific disciplines. It opens, however, with a more broad-ranging disquisition on rhetoric's role in society, stemming from two queries of Morosini, concerning, respectively, the meaning of the word civilitas and the question of whether Cicero's orations could be said to possess this quality. (86) Collazio defines civilitas on the basis of its etymological roots in civis or civitas. A civis is a man fully integrated in civic life and identified with the values and interests of his city (civitas). (87) The "civil sciences"--essentially, the humanities, law, and politics--are the disciplines that address themselves to the governance of the republic, and for a speech to possess the quality of civilitas is for it to articulate the political and social values of the republic to the full. (88) By this definition, Cicero emerges as civilissimus oratorum, expert as he was in the sciences of government and intrinsically engaged, in utraquefortuna, in the life of the Roman republic. (89) The human ideal that emerges here has clear analogies with that of the ideal Venetian patrician as expressed in numerous writings of the period, including Morosini's own De bene instituta republica, and the letter of Ermolao Barbaro that was the starting point for the present discussion. As De verbo civilitate makes clear, it is within this broader social and ethical vision that Collazio's conception of rhetoric is located. Rhetoric is, indeed, defined emphatically in the treatise as the most crucial of the "sciences" that inform civic life, instrumental in the ministration of the just, expedient, and pleasurable within the republic's internal and external affairs. (90) Domina rerum potentissima eloquentia: it is within this exalted, Ciceronian conception of the civic role of eloquence that we must position Collazio's resistance to any attempt to redefine rhetoric as an essentially "private" and aesthetic art, directed at the end of "fine speaking." That he regards this as an intolerable reduction of the status of the art is made clear in Define oratoris, in a statement that perhaps reveals more clearly than any other in his writings the underlying basis of his rhetorical polemics: "bene dicere is a mediocre end and inferior in its operation, for, while persuasion is a source of concrete benefit to humanity, bene dicere can only confer pleasure." (91)

As noted at the outset of this analysis, the rhetorical dispute orchestrated by Collazio in the 1470s and 80s has attracted little attention from scholars, not least because of the obscurity of both Collazio himself and his published opponents in the debate. In a culture in which oral disputation remained an important medium for intellectual exchange, however, we should not necessarily conclude that this debate was as low-profile as its textual legacy may suggest. While we may suspect a degree of self-flattering inflation in Collazio's account in De rhetoricaefine of his massively attended public disputation at the University of Padua in the mid 1480s, it is difficult to believe that this historical episode is entirely a product of his fantasy. (92) The same goes for his dark allusions in the same work to two antagonists he describes as "among the most prominent men of our day," and whose arguments he details with a precision that seems to indicate a basis in fact. While these figures are not named, Collazio's use of the term Quintilianistae might perhaps point, as one likely candidate, to the Bergamasque humanist Raffaele Regio, who was teaching at Padua in these years and was closely engaged at this time on the preparation of his edition of Quintilian. (93)

These considerations become important when we come to assess the possible connections between this debate of Collazio and a far more historically salient dispute on rhetoric which arose at around the same time, and in the same circles in Padua and Venice: that concerning the authenticity of Cicero's authorship of the Rhetorica ad Herennium. The catalyst of the latter has traditionally been identified in a pamphlet by Regio published in 1492, entitled Quaestio utrum ars rhetorica ad Herennium falso Ciceroni inscribatur, which queries the work's Ciceronian authorship on historical and philological grounds. (94) As recent scholarship in this area has argued, however, it is probable that, rather than the actual starting point of the authorship debate, Regio's Quaestio represents no more than the first published intervention in what was already an ongoing controversy. Regio himself, in fact, alludes in the Quaestio to the issue as one that was being debated at the University of Padua when he was teaching there in the early to mid 1480s, and it has recently been suggested that an unpublished essay on the subject by Giorgio Merula may well date from this same period at the latest, thus predating Regio's published contribution to the debate by a number of years. (95)

As an important recent study by John Ward has shown, the task of contextualizing the Venetian debate on the authorship of Ad Herennium is a delicate one, and one that demands alertness, in particular, to the complex web of professional rivalries that enveloped the humanist community in the city in this period. (96) Particularly important in this respect appears to be the bitter enmity between Regio and Giovanni Calfurnio, his successor at the University of Padua: it is doubtless not fortuitous that the fiercest defender of the Ciceronian attribution of Ad Herennium in the years following the publication of Regio's Quaestio was an acolyte of Calfurnio's, Marino Becichemo (ca. 1458-1526), and supporters of Calfurnio also seem to have been behind an edition of Ad Herennium in 1496, which retained the traditional ascription. (97) Beyond these ad hominem motives, however, Ward has also called attention to the importance as context for the debate on Ad Herennium the-long-running dispute in fifteenth-century Italian humanism on the relative status of Cicero and Quintilian as rhetorical authorities. (98) It should not be forgotten that Regio was engaged in an extended project of philological research on Quintilian precisely in the period leading up to the publication of his doubts on the authorship of Ad Herennium; indeed, his Quaestio was published in conjunction with a treatise expounding the latest results of this research. That "Quintilianist" interests lay behind the assault on Ad Herennium's Ciceronian attribution seems highly plausible. Certainly, it is noteworthy that Quintilian provided those attacking this attribution with their principal ammunition, in that all cite as a key argument against the text's Ciceronian authorship Quintilian's failure to identify it as Cicero's and his seeming inclination to attribute it, instead, to an alternative author, "Cornificius." (99) In any case, as Ward has noted, the denial of Ad Herennium's Ciceronian authorship clearly served the interests of those-- including Regio--seeking to promote the Institutio oratoria as a rhetorical textbook) (100) Ad Herennium had enjoyed an unrivalled status since the twelfth century as the prime rhetorical manual of classical antiquity, and had the advantage of concision and didactic clarity over Quintilian's far more sophisticated treatise. Its status, however, depended crucially on its prestigious attribution to Cicero, whose reliability it was therefore clearly in the interests of the "Quintilianist" camp to impugn.

Ward's contention that the Cicero-Quintilian controversy should be regarded as the matrix of the debate on Ad Herennium receives strong support if we add to the already complex mosaic of contextual factors he has assembled in his study the polemic on the ends of rhetoric stoked by Collazio in the 1470s and 80s. As we have seen, Collazio provocatively framed this dispute as, precisely a confrontation between Cicero and Quintilian or, in his preferred formula, between Quintilian and "Cicero and the whole of antiquity." In fact, however, despite this grandiose claim, it may be argued that the controversy came down in practice to a confrontation between Quintilian, on the one hand, and the Cicero, or pseudo-Cicero, of Ad Herennium on the other. As his opponents were quick to point out, the polarity Collazio insists on between Cicero's and Quintilian's views of rhetoric is difficult to maintain when Cicero's mature rhetorical works are taken into account, De oratore, in particular, seeming close to Quintilian in its broad conception of the remit of rhetoric. (101) Collazio's narrowly "functionalist" and political view of rhetoric is one that, in fact, finds its principal textual support in Ad Herennium, and this last is, in consequence, by far the most frequent "Ciceronian" text that he cites. It would perhaps be rash to conclude from this that Collazio's provocations were decisive in prompting philologists of "Quintilianist" sympathies to turn a critical eye on the question of Ad Herennium's status; as we have seen, other factors were not lacking, and, in any case, the discrepancies between this and Cicero's genuine works were not difficult to perceive. Even if Collazio's polemic only contributed in some small part to this development, however, an undoubted irony must be registered: in this way, one of the staunchest--if belated--defenders of the venerable medieval and Renaissance Italian tradition of Ciceronian civic rhetoric might be seen as having inadvertently facilitated one of the great symbolic staging-points in that tradition's decline.


At its most immediate level, the conclusion of the present study is clear. Returning to the letter of Ermolao Barbaro that was its starting point, and reconsidering his remarks on civic eloquence and the proper method of its acquisition, it seems clear that these need to be located within the context of the peculiar slice of Venetian intellectual history that has been the object of analysis here. Within this context, Barbaro's dismissal of "school" rhetoric as an inadequate preparation for Venetian political eloquence is more pointed and specific in its target than may at first appear. Certainly, on one level, this attitude may plausibly be seen as expressive simply of that same quasi-instinctive patrician elitism we saw humanists like Trebizond and Filippo Da Rimini battling against earlier in the century. The notion that a prospective Venetian statesman could learn his trade more effectively by watching his peers in action than by ploughing through rhetorical textbooks under the direction of a plebeian schoolmaster is unlikely ever to have entirely lost its appeal, even to those patricians most committed to humanistic learning. The evidence presented in this study, however, appears to legitimate a further, less generic reading of Barbaro's aside. It will be remembered that his criticism of rhetorical teaching in the Dandolo letter is directed most explicitly at the failure of academic rhetorical education to teach the skills he designates as "capital" in Senate oratory: insinuatio, consilium, and ductus. This opens the possibility that the target of Barbaro's criticism should be seen not as "school" rhetoric in general, but a particular, Venetian tradition of rhetorical education, whose prime selling-point was precisely its value as a preparation for Venetian civic practices of eloquence. The mention of ductus is the vital clue here; given ductus theory's strong connections with George of Trebizond, it seems plausible that the term serves here to evoke metonymically that whole pragmatic and "Ciceronian" tradition in Venetian rhetoric for which George appears to have acted as figurehead and which found itself now, in the closing decades of the Quattrocento, the object of an increasingly critical scrutiny. Certainly, it is not difficult to imagine how inept and homespun this tradition will have appeared to a humanist of Barbaro's sophistication, trained in the philological school of George's antagonist, Giorgio Merula, and sharing the latter's intellectual commitments. (102)

Though the present study has focused, in its contextualization of Barbaro's remarks, on the conflict between "Ciceronianism" and "Quintilianism" in Venice, it may well be that a further, emerging strand of humanistic rhetorical culture should also be considered in this connection, that which took its cue from the Rhetoric of Aristotle. As is well known, Barbaro played a leading role in the tradition of humanistically-informed Aristotelian studies that evolved in the late Quattrocento, particularly in Venice and Padua. Among the Aristotelian texts that he worked on was the Rhetoric, on which he taught a course in Padua in 1478-79 and later translated into Latin, seemingly completing his translation in 1488, the year before his letter to Dandolo. (103) The question of how this engagement with Aristotle may have affected Barbaro's attitude to Ciceronian rhetoric is a complex and inevitably speculative one, which it would be well beyond the scope of the present study to broach in any detail. It is perhaps worth noting, however, that, if we look at the later tradition of"Aristotelian humanism" that developed in the following century in the circles of the Accademia degli Infiammati in Padua, we find a commitment to an Aristotelian conception of rhetoric going hand-in-hand with a disparagement of the rival Ciceronian conception. Thus, for a figure such as Sperone Speroni (1500-88), Aristotle's Rhetoric is the only classical theory sufficiently rigorous and philosophically informed to be considered a true art, while Cicero's precepts amount at best to a series of oratorical "tricks of the trade," of practical utility but no intellectual substance. (104) This disparaging attitude to Ciceronian theory rests on a similarly skeptical view of the rhetorical practices to which this theory principally relates: forensic and deliberative oratory, for example, though redeemed by their utility to the life of the republic, (105) are, for Speroni, intrinsically sophistic, notwithstanding all Cicero's pretensions to unite eloquence with "wisdom." As will be apparent from this, there are intriguing points of similarity between the rhetorical attitudes of these later Aristotelians and those that we can infer, or conjecturally reconstruct, from Barbaro's letter to Dandolo. Certainly, in this letter, Barbaro's attitude to political oratory appears to bear comparison with Speroni's, in that it appears to be regarded simultaneously as inherently sophistic and yet dignified by its utility to the life of the republic. Similarly, Barbaro's ironic allusion to the niceties of ductus, insinuatio, and consilium shows some analogies with Speroni's presentation of Roman rhetorical theory as a collection of faintly disreputable "trade secrets" attempting to pass itself off as an art.

Beyond these immediate conclusions, the material presented in this study obviously lends itself to broader reflections. On the most basic level, it serves as a reminder of the necessity, in considering the history of humanism in Italy, of taking into account the diversity of the forms the movement assumed within different sociopolitical and cultural contexts. Where Quattrocento Venice is concerned, a survey of the study of classical rhetoric in the city across the course of the century reveals strong parallels with cultural developments in this period on the Italian mainland, but also discrepancies, idiosyncrasies, differences in emphasis and chronology that can only be explained by local circumstantial factors. In particular--unsurprisingly, given rhetoric's traditional vocation as a "civil science"--sociopolitical factors seem crucial; in a city that retained a republican regime and in which deliberative oratory continued to play a role within the conduct of government, the art of public speaking necessarily assumed different concrete and ideal forms than in seigniorial regimes in which civic rhetoric on this model was no longer relevant. This regional diversity needs to be taken into account when we are considering such questions as the relationship of rhetoric and ethics in Italian humanism, which are too often considered susceptible of a single, "national" solution. Within a republic like Venice, for example, the kind of powerfully ethicized and truth-oriented models of rhetoric elaborated by humanists such as Petrarch and Guarino could not be adopted without modification or nuance, in that they failed adequately to encompass the rhetorical needs of a society in which "live" traditions of deliberative and forensic oratory still existed. These rhetorical ideals may still have been profoundly influential in Venice, but they could not be exclusive; as we have seen from the letter that was the starting point of this study, even a figure as committed to the ideal of an ethicized rhetoric as Ermolao Barbaro is capable of entertaining different, more pragmatic and sophistic conceptions of "eloquence," at least in certain specific, deliberative contexts. As we have seen, political oratory emerges in Barbaro's letter as an eminently "politic" art, centering on skills of flexibility and psychological manipulation, and implicitly "Ciceronian" in its focus on successful persuasion rather than any intrinsic ideal of "well-formedness." It is hard to imagine how this might be squared with the humanistic ideal of an eloquence united with wisdom, unless the sense of "wisdom" is narrowed to the kind of prudential savvy Barbaro evokes through the Quintilianesque term consilium.

These considerations are important, as they have implications not simply for the history of rhetoric, but also for the history of ethics and that of political thought. As hardly needs to be stated, one of the most historically momentous developments in political thought in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries was the progressive delineation of politics as a distinctive sphere of human operation, with its own laws and, crucially, its own ethical norms. As scholars have increasingly recognized in recent years, a key context for this development was the classical rhetorical tradition, as reinvented by Renaissance humanism: a tradition, it has been argued, that profoundly and powerfully informed the writings of figures like Machiavelli and Hobbes. (106) A feature of classical and humanistic rhetorical culture that has attracted particular attention in this regard is the doctrine of the genera dicendi, which defines political, or deliberative, speech as a discrete form of discourse, governed by distinctive, largely pragmatic ethical criteria. (107) Though part of the common classical rhetorical heritage of humanism, this notion obviously had the keenest afterlife in cultures in which strong traditions of political oratory persisted, such as Machiavelli's Florence, and--one might add on the basis of the present study--such as Barbaro's, or Collazio's, Venice. While we would look in vain in Venetian political writings of this period for the kind of gleefully subversive assertions of political amoralism we find in Machiavelli, it is not difficult to find hints in rhetorical contexts at a differentiated understanding of speech ethics, positing different criteria for political than for moral or philosophical discourse. This is implicit in Collazio's notion of civilitas as the defining characteristic of republican eloquence, and of the ideal practitioner of this eloquence as bonus civis, rather than Quintilian's absolute vir bonus. (108) It is more than implicit in the clear distinction Barbaro makes, in his famous letter to Pico on the relation of rhetoric and philosophy, between the standard of truth required in political discourse and that in "moral or natural or divine." (109) If, as scholars are increasingly recognizing, the cultural roots of sixteenth-century political "realism" are to be sought as much in the tradition of rhetoric as that of political thought as traditionally defined, the present study may serve as a reminder that our search for these roots should not limit itself to Florence. Though, as ever, less well-documented and more elusive than its rival, Venice too forms a part of this story.

(1) For the text of the letter, dated 15 March 1589, see Barbaro, 1943, 2:48-49. For discussion, see Labalme, 1996. On Giustinian, see Labalme, 1969 and 1976; King, 1986, 38-39, 381-83. On the recipient of the letter, Marco Dandolo, see Labalme, 1996, 338-40; King, 1986, 359-61 ; Gullino, 1986. I am grateful to Letizia Panizza, John Ward, and the two RQ readers for their help and comments.

(2) On Giustinian's fame as an orator, see Labalme, 1969, 132-34; Sabellico, 140, n. 2.

(3) "Per quinque porro et viginti annos fere nulli maior auctoritas in curia, nullius maior in sententia dicenda gravitas, ut quoius ipse auctor fuisset, iam tum constaret multorum in eam pedibus itum iri. Quis propensa civitatis consilia facilius aliorsum vertebat? Quoius orationi, fatigato disputationibus senatu, recentius silentium accommodabatur? Erat ei sermo consideratus et interpunctus, elegans translatus, proverbiorum luce nitidus, sententiarum et verborum pondere quadratus, solidus ac virilis. Respondebat sermoni gravitas incessus atque vocis, os reverendum et amabile, ac omnes quidem partes egregie obibat, quaecumque in oratore magno desiderantur, sed duas prope divinitus, si aut metum civibus excutere aut contra deterrere libuisset. Arbitratu suo alienas excitabat et ponebat iras, quodque multo mirius est, duobus potentissimis affectibus regendis, metu et audacia, raro pathetikos, multo saepius ethikos agebat." (In addition, for twenty-five years, almost no-one had more authority in the Senate, no-one had greater moral effect, gravitas, in expressing his opinions, so that in whatever way he acted, it was right away clear that many would follow him. Who was more adept in effecting shifts in public opinion? Who else could so immediately restore the Senate, weary from arguments, to silence? His speeches were deliberate and well-laid out, elegantly delivered and illustrated with proverbs, ordered, solid, and virile in [their] balance of words and sentences. The dignity of his pace and voice corresponded to that of his speech, his mien was venerable and kind; and he met brilliantly all those requirements which are desirable in a great orator ... At will, he aroused and calmed the passions of others, and, that which is even more remarkable, in controlling the two most powerful emotions, fear and audacity, he did so far more often through sympathetic persuasion than violent emotional appeal.) The translation given here is, with some modifications, from Labalme, 1996, 332. For the distinction between persuasion through ethos and pathos, see Aristotle, Rhetoric, 1, 2, 4, 1356a, and, for discussion, Cooper.

(4) For published examples of these Florentine records, see Consulte, 1981, 1988, 1991, and 1993. For discussion, see Gilbert, 1957; Cox, 1997, 1134-36. A useful discussion of evidence relating to the practice of Senate debate in Venice is found in Besta, 218-22.

(5) Branca, 1973, esp. 226-30; Branca, 1981, esp. 133-38.

(6) An interesting point of comparison here, from an analogous context, is offered by a passage in a letter by Lodovico Foscarini (1409-80), praising the eloquence of Barbone Morosini (ca. 1414-1457/8), cited in King, 1986, 40, n. 194: "in dicendi vi [et] elloquentia nemini cedebat; libero animo publicos privatosque erores redarguens, causam veritatis semper ornatissime gravissimeque defend[en]s, summam sapientiam, summam vim, summam bonitatem, integerimum animum ad virtutum gloriam et vitiorum damnationem afferebat." (In eloquence and forceful speech [Morosini] was exceeded by none; candidly challenging errors of private behavior and public policy, always defending, gracefully and weightily, the cause of truth, he applied the greatest wisdom, the greatest force, the greatest goodness, his blameless soul to the glorification of virtue and damnation of vice [trans. ibid., 39-40]). The eccentricities of spelling in the Latin original have been retained from King's transcription.

(7) Barbaro, 1943, 2:49. "Praecipuum et illud habuit, quod de insinuatione, consilio atque ductu, quae sunt in oratore capitalia, nemo fere tam multa in artibus suis praecepit quam ipse in actionibus suis re praestitit." (And this, in particular, may be said of him: that where insinuatio, consilium, and ductus are concerned--all crucial skills in an orator--no one taught as much in their textbooks on the art as he exemplified through his practice.) The translation here is mine; compare that in Labalme, 1996, 332, which translates ductus in its general sense of "leadership" and consilium as, generically, "advice."

(8) Barbaro, 1943, 2:49: "Fateor me plura in eo genere ab illo in senatu didicisse quam ex sexcentis rhetorum voluminibus in scholis." (Indeed, I confess that I learned more of these techniques through watching him in the Senate than from endless rhetoric manuals studied at school.)

(9) The classic treatments of insinuatio are those in Cicero's De inventione, 1, 17, 23-25, and the pseudo-Ciceronian Rhetorica ad Herennium (1, 6, 9-10). On the fortunes of this doctrine in late medieval and humanistic Italian rhetorical theory, see Cox, 1999, 265-70, 285.

(10) Lausberg, 503 (no. 1154).

(11) Institutio oratoria, 6, 5, 5 ("nam quid dicendum, quid tacendum, quid differendum sit, exigere consilii est; negate sit satis an defendere, ubi prooemio utendum et quali ... tum omnes colores, aspere an leniter an etiam summisse loqui expediat").

(12) Ibid., 6, 5, 3: "Nec multum a iudicio credo distare consilium, nisi quod illud ostendentibus se rebus adhibetur, hoc latentibus et aut omnino nondum repertis aut dubiis. Et iudicium frequentissime certum est, consilium vero ratio quaedam alte petita et plerumque perpendens et comparans, habensque in se et inventionem et iudicationem." (Consilium does not differ greatly, in my view, from judgment, except that judgment deals with evident facts, while consilium is concerned with hidden or disputed facts, or ones which have not yet come to light. Also, judgment very often deals in certainties, while consilium is a form of reasoning that involves weighing and comparing a number of deep-seated, underlying factors, and that encompasses both invention and judgment.)

(13) Fortunatianus, 1, 6, defines the ductus of a speech as "quo modo tota causa agendi sit," Martianus Capella, 470, as "agendi per totam causam tenor sub aliqua figura servatus." On possible sources for the doctrine of ductus within earlier Greek and Latin rhetorical theory, see Montefusco.

(14) Fortunatianus, 1, 7; Martianus Capella, 470. Besides the four types of ductus mentioned in the text here (simplex, subtilis, figuratus, oblicus), both authors also mention a fifth, ductus mixtus, designating instances where the ductus of a speech does not remain constant throughout.

(15) Trebizond, 1523, 51v-53r; for discussion, see Monfasani, 1976, 280-81. The novelty of George's "rediscovery" is, in fact, relative: see Carruthers, who traces the continuing presence of the rhetorical notion of ductus within medieval monastic thought.

(16) On Trebizond's sources, see Monfasani, 1976, 281; Montefusco.

(17) For Guarino, see Cox, 1999, 285. For Barbaro, see the passage near the beginning of his famous letter of 1485 to Giovanni Pico della Mirandola on the relation of rhetoric and philosophy, where he compliments Pico for his use of ductus and emphasis to defend eloquence against its scholastic opponents while seeming to attack it ("nam nobis, quibuscum verbo litigas, corde sentis, gratissimam omnibus rem fecisti, quia et ductum et emphasim intelligimus": Barbaro and Pico, 68). For the term emphasis, which Barbaro couples here with ductus, see Quintilian, Institutio, 9, 2, 64, where it is defined as a kind of subtext or latent meaning ("cum ex aliquo dicto latens aliquid eruitur.")

(18) On the events of 1491 and their implications, see, for a brief summary, King, 1986, 204-05; for more detail, Figliuolo, 133-42.

(19) Labalme, 1996, esp. 333-34. See also, more generally, on Barbaro's conflicted attitude to his political career in this period, King, 1986, 201-04; Figliuolo, 84-85, 89; also, for a differing position, see Branca in Barbaro, 1969, 23-25.

(20) On Dandolo's humanistic interests, and, more specifically, on his interest in rhetoric, see Medin, 1916-17, esp. 335, 343, 374-75.

(21) On Merula's career, and his sixteen-year (1468-84) tenure at San Marco, see, most fully, Gabotto and Confalonieri; also Gardenal; King, 1986, 400-01; Branca, 1981, 158-61; Sabellico, 177, n. 1. On his relationship with Barbaro, see Gabotto and Confalonieri, part I, 73-75, and part II, 186; King, 1986, 73; Branca, 1981, 160 and n. 65; Figliuolo, 20.

(22) For the text of the commentary, see Merula. For discussion, see Classen, 80-82; Gabotto and Confalonieri, part I, 114-15. The information given here on the circumstances of composition of the commentary's derives from its dedicatory letter to Bernardo Bembo.

(23) Merula, sig. n 3r: "cum iam ferme quadriennium in urbe florentissima eam orationem interpretarer quae pro Q. Ligario inscribitur, pauloque diligentius atque subtilius qualitatem causae perquirerem, forte incidi in commentarios Georgii Trapezuntii, quos non minus avide quam diligenter perlegi, propterea quod visus est mihi quaedam neque vulgaria neque pertrita tractare, tum etiam quod fortiter a Quintiliano summo artis oratoriae magistro dissentiret."

(24) Ibid., sig. n 3r-v: "Placuere prima specie hominis inventa quae tamen dum accuratius exploro non solum commenticia sed plane ridicula inveni."

(25) Ibid., sig. n 3v: "quantum ex illius scriptis consequebar hominem magis ingenio quam doctrina valuisse, et antiquitatis Romanae incuriosum deprehendi." The judgment is presented, specifically, as a response to an inquiry of Bernardo Bembo's (see below, n. 35) regarding the merits of George's Rhetoricorum libri quinque. Merula does not appear to have moderated this harsh assessment of George's scholarly competence later in life: see Sali, 181; Fera, 22.

(26) Merula, sig. o 3v: "Hic praeceptor quo plura repetit, et rem magis explicare nititur, eo magis se implicat, et Ciceronis mentem odiosis ambagibus quodammodo obtenebrat, atque, si paulo licentius loqui licet, nusquam magis aegroti veteris somnia, quam in hac expositione contemplari possumus." (The more this commentator attempts to clarify things, the more entangled he becomes, enveloping Cicero's intentions in grotesque convolutions ... anyone wishing to contemplate the ravings of a sick old man needs look no further than the present exposition.)

(27) On the relative fluidity and instability of the working conditions of humanist teachers and scholars in Venice in this period, see Lowry, 186-87. On the fiercely competitive academic culture that resulted from this situation, see Ward, 1995, 234-51, esp. 237-38, 245. Merula himself was, in any case, an arch-polemicist: for an exhaustive account of the series of often bitter academic controversies that punctuated his years in Venice, see Gabotto and Confalonieri, part I, 78-142.

(28) On George's reputation as a rhetorical authority in the period following his death ca. 1472-73, see Monfasani, 1976, 230-31, 320-21; Classen, 81-82 and n. 39; Sabellico, 132, n. 1.

(29) On George's various stays in Venice, see Monfasani, 1976, 8-10, 13-14, 22-32, 145-47. On the importance of Venetian patronage in his career as a whole, see ibid., 13-14. Merula's Pro Ligario commentary refers at one point, with some savagery, to George's past ties with Venice: see Merula, sig. o 5v: "En quem censorem (si diis placet) latinae litterae, et quem monitorem nostri iuvenes habuerunt: homo, quem nescias utrum loquaciorem dixeris an indiligentiorem, quique suis ranis et interim falsis praeceptis suum saeculum contaminavit." (Ye gods! What kind of custodian of Latin letters, what kind of tutor was appointed for the youth of our city? A man whom one would not whether to define as more notable for his loquacity or the sloppiness of his scholarship, and who, with his vain and meretricious teachings, corrupted the culture of his day.)

(30) On this edition of the Rhetoricorum libri quinque, see Monfasani, 1984, 459-60. On Brognoli, who held the grammar teaching post at San Marco from 1466 to 1492, see Mioni; also Sabellico, 17-20, 197; Lowry, i82-83; King, 1986, 342-43; Chavasse, 455-57.

(31) Monfasani, 1988a, 36-37, 42.

(32) Merula, sig. n 3v (dedicatory letter): "ergo quid de illis [i.e., George's comments on the speech] sentirem cum propalam dicerem, non defuere qui nostra constantissime repudiarent, adeo auctoritas praeceptoris in eorum mentibus insederat, ut nec rationibus, nec priscorum scriptorum auctoritate de sententia sua dimoveri possent."

(33) Squarzafico's report of Barbo's enthusiasm for Trebizond is found in his dedicatory letter to the volume, reprinted in Allenspach and Frasso, 267-69. On Barbo's career and cultural interests, see King, 1986, 327-38; Gualdo. On his relations with George of Trebizond, see Monfasani, 1976, 138.

(34) For an analogous case of a seemingly "straight" Venetian edition of a classical text in fact serving as a vehicle for humanistic polemic, see Perosa. Squarzafico later "came out" as an opponent of Merula's in the early 1480s: see Gabotto and Confalonieri, 131-35; Allenspach and Frasso, 238,242-43, 254-55.

(35) On Bembo, see Giannetto; Pecoraro; King, 1986, 335-39; also, on his relations with Merula, Malta, 186-90.

(36) On the circumstances of composition of George's Pro Ligario commentary, see Monfasani, 1976, 38-39, 46-47. For discussions of the text, see ibid., 292-93; Classen, 76, 79-80.

(37) The letter referred to here, of 1437, goes under the name "Andrea Agaso," but is thought to be by Guarino. Trebizond's reply to the "Agaso" invective makes it clear that his Pro Ligario commentary was composed as an expansion and justification of his original point. The texts of both letters are published in Monfasani, 1984, 364-411 (see esp. 367-68 and 390-92 for the passages relating to Pro Ligario). For discussion of the episode, see Monfasani, 1976, 30-32, 291-92.

(38) For the text of George's correspondence with Giustinian over his Pro Ligario commentary, see Monfasani, 1984, 148-58; for discussion, Monfasani, 1976, 46-47. The phrase of George's cited in the text here is found in his letter to Giustinian of 28 October 1440 (Monfasani, 1984, 149). For Giustinian's appreciation of George's approach, see ibid., 155 (letter of 1 February, 1441): "Ista tua nova in terpretatio--bone deus, quid in ilia doctrine quantum artis operisque est!--tota subtilis in statuum declaratione, acuta in figuratorum ductuum divisione. Quot res quam abdite, quam nove, quam inusitate aperiuntur vel in statibus vel in figuris vel in ideis orationis."

(39) Merula, sig. n 4r-v: "nam hic nostra memoria rhetor non incelebris commentarios in hanc orationem ad Victorianum Feltrensem conscripsit ... In his igitur quaedam paulo solertius atque subtilius indagare tentavit, quippe iis non contentus, quae plerique rhetores in exponendis Ciceronis orationibus longe repetere et late conquirere solent; quaerit enim non de statu ant de genere causae, nec de argumentatione, elocutioneve, ceu haec in scholis pervulgata habeantur, sed illud abditum atque reconditum eruisse se iactat, de quo pauci admodum praecipere ausi fuerint, Latinos omnes qui tunc in Italia oratoriam facultatem docebant, graviter infectatus: hoc est, quo ductu atque consilio Tuberonibus orator respondeat." The nationalistic overtones apparent in Merula's attack are also found in the earlier polemic of "Andrea Agaso" (see above, n. 37), where outrage is expressed that a Greek should presume to correct Italians' reading of their "own," Latin literature.

(40) Merula, sig. n 5v-n 6r.

(41) Ibid., sig. n 6r: "si quispiam veto de ductibus praecepta cognoscere voluerit, et quotiens atque quomodo in causis habendi sint intelligere, is nonum Quintiliani librum diligenter revolvat, nec aspernetur item quae recentiores duo, hoc est, Martianus et Consultus [i.e., Fortunatianus] de ratione dicendi conscripserint, ex quibus impudens plagiarius fete omnia surripuit quae de ductibus praecepit, praeter pauca ex Hermogene sumpta." For further humanist criticisms of George's perceived attempt to pass offancient rhetorical teachings as his own, see Sabellico, 132, n. 1.

(42) See previous note. The passage in Quintilian to which Merula is referring is probably his discussion offiguratae controversiae at Institutio, 9, 2, 66, also identified by modern scholarship as a possible source for George (see nn. 15-16 above).

(43) Merula's discussion of the exordium of Pro Ligario is found in Merula, sig. n 7r ff., in two sections headed, respectively, Genus causae, in quo locum habet exordium and Quod Ironia habeatur in exordio (the second a vindication of Quintilian's reading of the speech (Institutio, 4, 1, 38-39 and 4, 1,70)). For Merula's comments on Cicero's use ofinsinuatio in Pro Ligario, see esp. Merula, sig. n 7r, where it is noted that, in this oration, "servat ... in exordiendo ea quae de insinuatione facienda in rhetoricis praecipit."

(44) For the passage in question, see above, nn. 7-8.

(45) The most comprehensive study of humanism in fifteenth-century Venice is King, 1986; see also King 1988. Further important studies are Pastore Stocchi, and (on the later part of the century in particular), Branca, 1981. See also Labalme, 1969, 11-15, for some useful briefer considerations.

(46) On Venice's problems in retaining the services of the humanist intellectuals it attracted, see ibid., 29-42; King, 1986, 220-21 ; Pastore Stocchi, 98-114, esp. 107-10.

(47) See Labalme, 1969, 11-14; Pastore Stocchi, 108-09.

(48) On the Rialto school, see Nardi, 6-30 and 45-98; also Lepori, 539-602; Labalme, 1969, 91-96.

(49) On Venice's expansion as an imperial power on the terraferma as a context for the development of humanism in the city, see King, 1986, 219, 225-26; Pastore Stocchi, 93-98.

(50) Trebizond, 1523, f. 84v: "Nam his temporibus multi stint qui predicare audeant dialecticam eamque philosophiam que de uatura return habetur in deliberationibus atque iudiciis oratoria facultate multo amptius posse. Nam inventio, aiunt, dialectica subtilitate acquiritur, affectus naturali scientia, quid sit et unde commoveatur certa ratione comprehenditur. Que duo in dicendo plurlmum posse quis dubitat?" (In our own times, many dare to assert that dialectics and natural philosophy are much more useful in deliberative and forensic rhetoric than skill in oratory. For inventio, they claim, is acquired through dialectical acuteness, while knowledge of the nature of emotion and how it is stirred derives from the methodical study of natural philosophy; and who can doubt that these two things are the most potent components of eloquence?) Another passage in the Rhetoricorum libri quinque suggests that a combination of law and dialectic was also regarded by some as an alternative to rhetoric as a training in public speaking (ibid., ff. 70v-80r, cited in Monfasani, 1976, 299, n. 233).

(51) See Nardi, 24 and n. 2, for Della Pergolas hostility to those he refers to as "rudes rhetorici, qui parentem ac progenitricem suam dialectieam ignorant."

(52) The texts referred to here are George's oration De laudibus eloquentiae, probably written in the late 1420s or 1430s, and Filippo Da Rimini's Invectiva in vanissimos oratores of 1451. For the passages in question, see Trebizond, 1976, 368 ("Quod si dicendi usus tam maxima ornamenta comparat, profecto si ars etiam usui accesserit, singulariter quid unicum atque divinum eloquentie specimen conficietur!"); Da Rimini, f. 77r ("In his enim rebus [deliberative and forensic oratory] etsi natura sua vi possit plurima officere, si tamen earn accuratissime excultam reddiderimus, quantum frugem allatura sit nemo erit qui nesciat?") On Filippo's career as a teacher of rhetoric in Venice, where he was employed for two separate stints in the 1440s-60s at the San Marco school, see King, 1986, 406-07; King, 1978, esp. 87.

(53) For George, see Trebizond, 1976, 368: "Nonne tu vides, ut antiquiora pretermittam exempla, florentissimam hanc rempublicam sola eloquentia gubernari? Si quid mihi reperies quod vel in populo vel in senatu ante factum quam persuasam sit, cedam atque abibo." (Given the Venetian context, the popular assembly referred to here is presumably the Maggior Consiglio). For Filippo, see Da Rimini, ft. 73v-74r (quoted in King, 1986, 48-49), in which a personified Eloquence declares her utility in the governance of free republics ("Ego ilia sum eloquentia que in liberrimis urbibus habito ... Ego patriciorum mentes in consukandis maximis rebus quo velim exagito. Bella indico, pacem, inducias, societares, scita, leges pono ... Ego pro tutenda re publica atque imperio proferendo legiones ipsas et castra succedo"); also ibid. f. 76v, where Filippo laments that so little account is taken of rhetorical education precisely in Venice, where the practice of oratory still has such crucial importance in civic life ("Ubi in suasorio genere dicendi maior facultas habita est quam in hoc sanctissimo senaru vestro, ubi ducibus, ubi regibus ubi imperatoribus ipsis bella indicenda sanxistis? ... Minime nunc dicite opus esse eloquentia?")

(54) On this, see Cox, 1999, esp. 259-64; also, more generally, on contextual reasons for the appeal of Ciceronian rhetoric in communal Italy, ibid., 268-71 ; Ward, 2001, 198-201.

(55) For the Roman case, see Kennedy, 129-30; also, more generally, on the dynamics of such cultural shifts, ibid., 2-3. For a recent account of changes in Italian rhetorical culture between the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries, see Witt.

(56) On the development of a tradition of classicizing oratory in Italy from the late fourteenth century, see Witt, 338-91 ; 10-11 ; McManamon, 1996, 31-49.

(57) On this, see Witt, 458-66; also, more generally, on patrician humanism in Venice in this period, King, 1986, 219-25.

(58) Letter to Pietro de" Tommasi, 1420, cited in Labalme, 1969, 23. On Leonardo Giustinian's role as a pioneer of classicizing epideictic oratory, see McManamon, 1989, esp. 11, 88-91.

(59) The text has been edited in Oberdofer, 121-27. On its probable date (ca. 1432), see ibid., 118. For discussion, see also Labalme, 1969, 55-60.

(60) Giustinian studied with Cristoforo de Scarpis, Francesco Filelfo, and Guarino da Verona in Venice, later attending Guarino's school in Verona; for details, see Labalme, 1969, 17-44.

(61) Trebizond, 1523, f. 1 r: (" [Rhetorica est] civilis scientia qua cum assensione auditorum quoad eius fieri potest in civilibus quaestionibus dicimus"). Monfasani, 1976, 267, n. 105, notes that the definition combines elements from the definitions of rhetoric found in De inventione, the Rhetorica ad Herennium, and late Roman sources such as Fortunatianus. More generally, on George's political conception of rhetoric and its moral implications, see ibid., 259-60, 266-68 and 295-98.

(62) Monfasani, 1976, 267-68; see also ibid., 259-60, 295-98, and esp. Monfasani, 1992.

(63) On George's extensive use of Ciceronian oratory as exemplifactory material in the Rhetoricorum libri quinque, see Monfasani, 1976, 289-90; Classen, 77-78.

(64) Prominent humanists who taught for a period in Venice in the first half of the fifteenth century include (besides George of Trebizond, whose Venetian sojourns are discussed elsewhere in this article), Guarino da Verona (in Venice from 1414-19); Vittorino da Feltre (1416 and again in 1422-23), and Francesco Filelfo (1417-19 and 1427-28). For discussion, see Labalme, 1969, 29-42; King, 1986, 267 and n. 13.

(65) On this "second generation," see King, 1986, 225-31; Branca, 1981, 124-25.

(66) For a summary of recent research on the San Marco school, with bibliography, see Ross, 521-36. On the significance of the foundation of the school as an indication of the new "rootedness" of humanist culture in Venice from the mid-century see King, 1986, 227; also Branca, 1981, 125-27; Labalme, 1969, 104-05.

(67) ("quia oratoria facultas rebus publicis maxime necessaria est.") Senate, Terra, reg. VI, f. 42v (28 November 1468), cited in Labalme, 1969, 100, n. 45; see also Segarizzi, 651, n. 3.

(68) On the cultural trends discussed in this paragraph and the next, see King, 1986, 231-36; also (though with some differences in dating and emphasis) Gilbert, 1971,284-85.

(69) King, 1986, 232-33; Lowry, 7-47.

(70) King, 1986, 235-36, 239-43.

(71) Ibid., 237-38.

(72) On Dona, see Rigo; King, 1986, 366-67; Branca, 1981, 166-69.

(73) For bibliography on Sabellico and Valla, see King, 1986, 425-27 (Sabellico), and 439-40 (Valla); also, for the former, Sabellico. For Regio, see Murphy and Winterbottom, 77-78. For Calfurnio, see Clan, 222-23; Gaisser, 35. On Regio's and Calfurnio's employment at the University of Padua, see Grendler, 225.

(74) For an assessment of Merula's achievements as a philologist, see Branca, 1981, 157-61. More generally, on developments in humanistic philology in this period, see Grafton.

(75) See above, n. 61.

(76) Fera, 21, n. 2.

(77) See above, pp. 664-65.

(78) On the debate over the relative merits of Quintilian and Cicero as rhetorical authorities in fifteenth-century Italy, see Monfasani, 1992; Ward, 1995, 245-46; Wesseling, 192-93, all citing earlier bibliography.

(79) A factor in this may well have been Merula's awareness of the more concertedly anti-Quintilian position adopted by George in his later career in Rome, on which see p. 680 below.

(80) Few details are known of Collazio's life, beyond those that can be inferred from his works; see, however, Longo; also Monfasani, 1992, 128, n. 67. The latter also contains what is, as far as I know, the only modern critical analysis of the polemic under discussion here (128-33).

(81) See Bembo, Barzizza. For discussion of these texts, see Monfasani, 1992, 131-33. On Bembo, perhaps a protege of Giorgio Merula and, at the time of writing, a teacher of the humanities in the Veneto, see Balduino; also Cereta, 57, n. 104. On Barzizza, an obscure figure sometimes confused with a Bergamasque contemporary of the same name, see the brief mention in Sambin, 33. His dates are unknown.

(82) Monfasani, 1976, 82-83; 1992, 127-28.

(81) For a summary of Collazio's arguments, see Monfasani, 1992, 130-31; for Bembo's and Barzizza's, ibid., 131-33.

(84) The more conciliatory tone of Barzizza's treatise is well conveyed, for example, by the title of its first chapter (Barzizza, sig. a 2r-v): Quod Cicero a Quintiliano nonpotuit, et Quintilianus a Cicerone noluit dissentire.

(85) On Dona, see De Peppo; King, 1986, 365-66. On Morosini, see the introduction to Morosini, 1-56; also King, 1986, 140-50 and409-10; Labalme, 1976, 485-86; Cozzi, 405-58. On his rhetorical interests, see Monfasani, 1976, 62-63, esp. 62, n. 151 on his relations with George of Trebizond. As evidence of the generational split hypothesized here it is interesting to note that a work such as Raffaele Regio's De quattuor locis Quintiliani ... dialogus (1490)--an archetypal product of the new philological humanism of the period--is dedicated to a group of prominent patricians of the younger generation: Girolamo Dona (ca. 1456: see n. 72 above), Marco Dandolo (b. 1458: see n. 1 above), and Paolo Pisani (b.c. 1454: see King, 1986, 418-19).

(86) Collazio, 1486b, sig. a 1r-a 3v.

(87) Ibid., sig. a 2r: "Civem porro dicunt qui civitatis legibus victus honores et onera subit, et eius sive boni sive mali quod suae civitati accidit sit particeps."

(88) Ibid., sig. a 2v-a 3v. The scientiae civiles are defined by Collazio as "disciplinae unde acquirant adolescentes futuri politici purum sermonem, ad eloquentiam aditum, bonos mores, et ad gubernandam etiam remp[ublicam] instruantur" (a 2r). Civilitas is defined generally (a iii v) as "quaedam virtus periciaque scientiarum et rerum civilium in ipso cive, unde is civilis appellatur." When applied to an oration, it signifies "quidam efffectus et exemplum eius civilitatis quae est in anima oratoris."

(89) Ibid., sig. a 3v. ("M[arcus] C[icero] ... fuit me iudice civilissimus oratorum qui unq[uam] fuere omnium ... Quis eo rectius et rhetoricam et omnes civiles scientias tenuerit? Quis deniquc plura de republica in utraque fortuna et est expertus et viderit? Certe omnium nationum et gentlum nemo.")

(90) Ibid., sig. a 3r, where, concluding his discussion of the scientiae civiles with a paean to rhetoric, Collazio notes that "hac [by means of eloquence] vir civilis, qui politice ministrat de iusto, utili, pulchro, et his contrariis pro civitate domi et foris disserit; cum hac ille omnia suscitat, et rursus quando vult sternit; conficit ille hac et destruit omnia." The passage concludes with the rhetorical question from which the phrase quoted in the text here is taken: "quid non potest domina rerum potentissima eloquentia?"

(91) Ibid., f. 6r, "Nam benedicere unus finium mediocris est, et inferior operatio. Persuadere enim generi humano fructum gignit, benedicere autem tantum voluptatem." Similar concerns about status are apparent, at f. 8v, where Collazio insists that persuasion is not "humilis" as an end, as Quintilian seems to suggest, but "arduus et dignissimus."

(92) For an allusion by Regio to a debate in Padua on the ends of rhetoric that may correspond to this, see Monfasani, 1992, 134.

(93) Collazio, 1486a, sig. c 1 v. The arguments of these disputants are summarized, at c 1v-c 3r. There is some independent evidence of Regio's "Quintilianist" sympathies regarding the end of rhetoric (Monfasani, 1992, 134).

(94) For an edition of the text, see Murphy and Winterbottom, 83-87.

(95) Belloni.

(96) Ward, 1995, 234-46.

(97) Ibid., 245-46. On the dispute between Regio and Calfurnio, see also Monfasani, 1992, 133-34; and the bibliography cited in n. 73 above. On Becichemo, see Ward, 1995, 234-37; Medin, 1922, 239, 241-42. On the Brescian editor Giovanni Antonio Moreto, eemingly the prime mover of the 1496 Ad Herennium edition, see Ward, 1995, 236 and n. 13; Monfasani, 1998b, 14-22 and 28-31; Perosa, 577, 608-09.

(98) Ward, 1995, 245-46; see also, on this, Murphy and Winterbottom, 81.

(99) Ward, 1995, 247-48.

(100) Ibid., 245-46.

(101) See, for example, Barzizza, sig. a 4r-v (I, 5); Bembo, sig. a 1r-a 2v. Bembo expresses reservations concerning the authority of Ad Herennium, as a juvenile work, contrasting it implicitly with the mature De oratore (sig. a 6r).

(102) Barbaro's dismissiveness towards the Ciceronian tradition of rhetorical theory represented by George of Trebizond may also reflect his distance from the stylistic tradition of Ciceronianism (on which see D'Amico, 364).

(103) Figliuolo, 54, 59; also, on Barbaro's teaching of the Rhetoric, Branca, 1983, 31, n. 31.

(104) For discussion of Speroni's writings and their context, see Sperone Speroni; Fournel.

(105) Speroni, 539-40.

(106) Recent studies of Machiavelli's rhetorical culture include Tinkler, 1988; Cox, 1997; Viroli, 73-113. For Hobbes, see Skinner.

(107) Tinkler, 1987 and 1988; Cox, 1997; Skinner, esp. 41-45; Viroli, 76, 84-97.

(108) The distinction is made in Collazio, 1486b, sig. a 2r, citing Aristotle: "Et facit differentia inter bonum virum et bonum civem: bonum virum esse, qui singulis bonus est, bonum autem civem qui prudentia fortitudine iusticia liberalitate eloquentia fide caeterique virtutibus et laboribus civitati prodest." Elsewhere, however, it should be noted, Cullazio appears to be working with a more morally prescriptive notion of rhetoric (see, for example, Collazio, ca. 1477, f. 7v, where the end of rhetoric is defined as persuasion secundum virtutem).

(109) Barbaro and Pico, 80: "iam ut mentiri liceat in civilibus, nunquid licebit in naturalibus, in moralibus, in divinis? Alia enim orationis civilis, alia philosophicae pracepta tradi." For discussion of Barbaro's letter and its context, see ibid., 1-33, and the bibliography cited there.


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