Spanish Rome, 1500-1700. .
New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2001. 278 pp. index. $35. ISBN: 0-300-08956-2.
At a time when many academic books read as heavily-padded journal articles, Thomas James Dandelet's Spanish Rome: 1500-1700 boldly sets out to trace the shifting contours of Roman-Spanish relations across two centuries in just over 200 tightly argued pages of text. Clearly Dandelet wants this book to be read, not just consulted. Spanish Rome briskly describes the waxing and waning of Spanish influence not only over the occupants of Peter's throne, but also over the wider populace of the city, from the great noble families of Colonna and Orsini to poor girls in need of dowries.
Dandelet's study is a corrective to the hoary cliche of the Spanish as perfidious and destructive interlopers in Italian history. Arguing that the sack of 1527 marked only a temporary setback in the cultivation of a mutually beneficial relationship, Dandelet shows that Spanish influence in Rome was at least as symbiotic as it was coercive. Through the reigns of Charles V and Philip II and beyond, Spanish military might protected the Papal States from the Turks, while papal grants of Spanish ecclesiastical revenues helped the Catholic kings meet the massive expenses of empire. Spain also carefully built up a patronage system binding the papal Curia and Roman nobility to the crown, while supporting and promoting a sizeable and distinctly "Spanish" (as opposed to Caralan, Castilian or Portuguese) community in Rome. While some popes (including Sixtus V) bridled when collaboration began to look more and more like dependence and while Spanish kings could sometimes be heavy-handed in asserting their power (Philip II would deliver a blunt list of acceptable candidates to the second papal conclave of 1590), the relationship would seriously falter only when a newly stable and ambitious France began competing for clients and influence in the city, offering the papacy an alternative to Spanish domination. Faced with a half-dozen kings and many more popes, Dandelet does an impressive job of identifying and explaining the most significant issues, episodes, and (not least of all) personalities that shaped Roman-Spanish relations over two centuries.
While Dandelet's discussion of Spanish policy towards Rome is concise and compelling, it is when his book turns to a close examination of the Spanish community in the city that it becomes particularly exciting and innovative. Dandelet is an always conscientious and often subtle student of the archives, using a variety of documents to look closely at how patronage worked on the ground, both in the Curia and in Roman neighborhoods. The tour de force of this book is thus its central chapter describing "the people of Spanish Rome" and based largely upon the wills of Spanish subjects and clients from a variety of metiers and social strata.
The weaknesses of Dandelet's work are minor and would seem inherent to any study that aspires to be both sweeping and compact. Some subjects are introduced only to be swiftly laid aside. Dandelet's discussion of the cultural aspects of the Roman-Spanish relationship, particularly what he calls "the Spanish myth of Rome," are intriguing in outline but ultimately too thin to be convincing. Scattered within the more muscular narrative of high politics, the brief discussions of Annius of Viterbo's Corn mentaria, Ocampo and Morales' Cronica de Espana, and Cervantes' Trials of Persiles and Sigismunda appear as wan afterthoughts. Dandelet is not helped by the fact that the first cultural foray in his book, on Annius and the decoration of the Borgia apartments in the Vatican palace, covers much the same territory described at greater length and with greater verve in Ingrid Rowland's The Culture of the High Renaissance (1998). Even in these brief asides, however, Dandelet persuades the reader that the "Spanish myth of Rome" is a topic worthy of further study.
Quietly exciting and eminently readable, Spanish Rome is clearly not meant to be the last word on the subject. Dandelet has staked out a wide and diverse territory for future research and has effectively positioned himself to be an important voice in both Roman and Spanish early modern studies for some time to come.
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|Author:||Heindl, Jennifer A.|
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Jun 22, 2003|
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