Sunday, July 18, 2010

"Republicanism, Irreligion, Heresy, Paganism, and Sodomy." (Heathen-Minded Humanists, Part Two)

[The Heathen-Minded Humanists: Part One provides the background of the struggle between Pope Paul II and the Roman Academy; Part Two (below) describes the crisis of 1468; Part Three (which I haven't posted yet) presents the denouement, in which all charges are dropped and the Heathen Academy survives intact; Part Four tells the tale of the surprising evidence discovered four centuries later of the literally underground Paganism that existed in Rome in the 15th century; Part Five looks at the other Roman Academy and its head, Cardinal Bessarion.]

Before picking back up where we left off with Ludwing von Pastor's narrative of the struggle waged by Pope Paul II against the forces of Heathenism, here is a more recent summary of these same events, from James Hankins' 1990 study Plato in the Italian Renaissance, Vol. I, pp. 211-212 (notice that Hankins' fashionably modern bias causes him to uncritically accept the charges of political conspiracy, while being just as uncritically dismissive toward the religious aspect of the conflict):
The floodwaters of the conspiracy had evidently been collecting since the early days of the Paul II's pontificate, when the pontiff reorganized the College of the Abbreviators in the chancery in such a fashion as to displace large numbers of humanist functionaries. One of the humanists, Bartolomeo Platina, was so enraged that he composed an absurd and self-important letter in which he threatened the Pope with a council unless he restored the abbreviators to their places. Like other popes of the later Quattrocentro, Paul regarded the promotion of a council as tantamount to treason and revoluation, and so imprisoned Platina in the Castel Sant'Angelo for four months until Cardinal Gonzaga procured his release. Platina, far from being mollified by this [Notice how Hankins passes over in the silence the small matter of Platina having been subjected to torture from the first day of his imprisonment - perhaps that had something to do with how far he was from being "mollified".], joined himself to some other discontented humanists who had been meeting in the house of Pomponio Leto, a well-known Roman educator. It is difficult to say precisely what activities this group engaged in -- many of them appear to have been cardinal's secretaries -- and with what degree of seriousness, but there is good evidence that they wrote salacious homosexual poetry, longed (like Cola di Rienzo and Stefano Porcari) for a return to the Roman republic, muttered treasonously against "papal tyranny", and gave others the impression of holding heretical beliefs. In February of 1468 the Cardinals Fortiguerri and Gonzaga informed the Pope that the Academicians were conspiring against his life, and named "Callimachus" (Filippo Buonaccorsi), Platina, "Petreius" (Pietro Demetrio), and "Glaucus" (Lucio Condulmer) as the ringleaders. The Roman police acted swiftly, making numerous arrests. Platina was incarcerated once more in the Castel Sant'Angelo, and Pomponio Leto, who was standing trial in Venice for sodomy, was brought back in chains for trial. The conspirators were charged with republicanism, irrelegion, heresy, neopaganism, and sodomy. Although Leto and Platina were ultimately acquitted of the charge of heresy and released, the affair kept Rome in turmoil for most of the summer, and the papal legate was still trying to secure Callimachus' extradition from Poland as late as 1470.
But now, let us return to Pastor, who covers the same ground as Hankins, above, but in greater detail, and with far greater interest in and understanding of the religious motivations on both sides of this struggle (emphases are mine):
In the last days of February, 1468, the inhabitants of Rome suddenly learned that the police had discovered a conspiracy against the Pope, and had made numerous arrests, chiefly among the Literati and members of the Roman Academy.

Disquieting reports of various kinds had, for some time, been prevalent in the city, and predictions of the Pope's speedy death had been circulated. Paul II had attached no importance to these rumors, but, after receiving a warning letter from a temporal Prince, he looked on the matter in a more serious light. Hi anxiety increased, and his determination to act was confirmed, when some of the Cardinals also made communications of an alarming character. On the same night an order was issued for the arrest of the ringleaders of the Conspiracy. Four members of the Roman Academy, viz., Callimachus, Glaucus, Petrejus, and Platina, had been named to the Pope as chiefs. The first three, having received intimation of the danger which threatend them, succeeded in making their escape. Callimachus, himself in a letter subsequently written for his own justification, declares that he had at first remained hidden in Rome, and then fled secretly to Apulia.

Others who had been connected with the Academicians were, together with Platina, incarcerated in St. Angelo, and afterwards examined by torture. "Every night someone is arrested," wrote the Milanese Ambassador, Johannes Blanchus, on the 28th Februrary, "and every day the matter is better understood; it is not, as Cardinal Ammanati supposed, a dream, but a reality. The plan would have succeeded if God had not protected the Pope."

It is most interesting to observe the manner in which Paul II himself took the whole affair. Hitherto, we have had little save the somewhat scanty account of his biographer, Canensius, to guide us. He informs us that the Pope had taken measures to make an example of an infamous band of young Romans of corrupt morals and insolent behavior. They had maintained that the Christian religion was a fraud, trumped up by a few Saints, without any foundation in facts. Hence, it was allowable to copy the Cynics, and give themselves up to the gratification of their passions. "These persons," Canensius goes on to say, "despise our religion so much that they consider it disgraceful to be called by the name of a Saint, and take pains to substitute heathen names for those conferred on them in baptism. The leader of this sect, whom whom I will not here name, was a well-known teacher of Grammar in Rome, who, in the first instance, changed his own name, and then those of his friends and disciples in this manner. Some abandoned men associated themselves with him: as for example the Roman, Marcus, who called Asclepiades; the Venetian, Marinus, who is called Glaucus; a certain Petrus, who has styled himself Petreius; and Damian, a Tuscan, who is known as Callimachus. These had bound themselves to murder the Pope."

This account [Canensius, quoted above, which, as Pastor notes, was endorsed by Voigt as well] enables us to look at the affair from the point of view of the Pope's position as "guardian of Faith and Morals," and recently discovered Reports of the Milanese Ambassadors serve yet more clearly to elucidate its significance in this respect. Their independent character, and the direct nature of their testimony, entitle them to be considered as documents of the greatest importance.
[pp. 46-48]
Pastor is now focusing on the details of the Church's "legal" (in the Orwellian sense) proceedings against the Academicians. Fortunately, at one point members of the Italian League requested an Audience with the Pope in order to obtain more accurate information about the nature of the charges and the evidence, and a written account of this event survives from the pens of the Milanese Ambassadors (who even made copies of their notes):

This document makes it perfectly evident that, from the very first, the Pope clearly distinguished between the anti-Christian and immoral life of many Academicians, or their "heresy," as the Ambassadors shortly styled it, and the Conspiracy against his person.

On the first of these points Paul II made some very important statements, representing the Academicians as complete heathens and Materialists. They deny, he said, the existence of God, they declare that there is no other world than this, that the soul dies with the body, and that, accordingly, man may give himself up to the indulgence of his passions without any regard to the law of God; all that is needed is to avoid coming into collision with the temporal power.

Paul II had much more tell of the evil deeds of these Epicureans, who seem, indeed, to have adopted the doctrines promulgated by Valla in his book "on pleasure." They despised the commands of the Church, he said, ate meat on fast-days, and reviled the Pope and the Clergy. They said that the priests were the enemies of the laity, that they had invented fasting and forbidden men to have more than one wife. Moses, they taught, deceived the Jews, his law was a forgery, Christ was a deceiver, Mahomet a great intellect, but also an impostor [the dreaded, semi-legendary Mother of All Heathenish Abominations: The Doctrine of The Three Imposters]. They were ashamed of their Christian names and preferred those which were heathen, and they practiced the most shameful vices of antiquity. Some of these free-thinkers are said to have contemplated an alliance with the Turks. Predictions of the speedy death of the Pope were circulated by them; then there would be a new Election and a complete change in the state of affairs.
[pp. 50-51]
To be continued .....

Related posts from this blog:
The Heathen-Minded Humanists (Part One)
Ficinus. Paganus? More on the religious identity of Marsilio Ficino
On How To Look For Medieval Pagans (Assuming You Actually Want To Find Them)
Michael Psellos: An 11th Century Pagan?
Seek, and ye shall find
Which Plato and Which Platonism?
"Gotta Serve Somebody" Part Deux
"Gotta Serve Somebody" Part Un
Contra Atheos, Part Deux