The Medieval Review 10.11.02

Schingnitz, Christoph. Eneas Silvius Piccolomini Pentalogus. MGH, Staatsschriften des Spteren Mittelalters, Band VIII. Hannover: Hahnsche Buchhandlung, 2009. Pp. xxix, 344. 50.00 EUR ISBN 978-3-7752-0308-1. .

Reviewed by:

Thomas Izbicki

Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini, the future Pope Pius II (1458-1464), entered the chancery of Frederick III, the Hapsburg king of the Romans, in 1442. Frederick had crowned Aeneas poet laureate earlier that year at the Diet of Frankfurt and offered the young humanist employment. Not long after reaching Vienna, in early 1443, Piccolomini wrote the Pentalogus, the first work he wrote while in Frederick's employ. The work is a fictional conversation involving Frederick, Aeneas, Kaspar Schlick, Frederick's chancellor, and two prelates, Sylvester Pflieger, bishop of Chiemsee, and Nicodemo della Scala, bishop of Freising. It is tied to the Diet of Nremberg, held in February of 1443, which had failed, like the assembly held in Frankfurt during the previous year, to resolve the schism between the Council of Basel (1431-1449) and Pope Eugenius IV (1431-1447). The early parts of this imaginary conversation focus on the value to rulers of the study of letters and recent efforts to resolve the Basel schism. The largest part, however, focuses on the affairs of Italy. The reason for this exchange of information and opinions is given as the desire of Frederick to be crowned emperor in Rome as Sigismund of Luxemburg, a recent predecessor, had been. The exposition of Italian affairs mostly deals with the wars and alliances of Italy's princes and urban regimes. Most notably, the discussions focus on the struggle over the throne of Naples between René of Anjou and Alphonso V of Aragon. The discussion covers not just the acceptability of imperial intervention in Italian affairs but the logistical needs of a large party going to Rome. Frederick even is advised to have an entourage representing Germany, not just his Austrian lands, when he crosses the Alps.

The Pentalogus is not one of Piccolomini's best known works. In fact, it was not included in early editions of his writings, which began appearing in the later fifteenth century. The text was published for the first time in 1723 in a collection assembled by Hieronymus Pez. A more recent edition by Lorenz Weinrich appeared in 2001. Christoph Schingnitz has provided us with both a new edition and a facing translation into German. The edition is founded on two manuscripts. The older is Munich Staatsbibliothek clm 14314, once in the library of the monastery of St. Emmeram. This manuscript, copied in Piccolomini's lifetime, is the basis of the new edition. The copy in British Library, Harley 3303, is somewhat later. It was acquired in Germany by an agent of the Earl of Oxford in the eighteenth century. Schingnitz also employs the editions of Pez and Weinrich. This new edition is thoroughly documented with both variant readings and explanatory footnotes. No important topic, person or quoted text goes without a brief but clear explanation. The typesetting is handsomely done, making the edition all the easier to read. Indexes of sources, key terms and names are provided.

The introduction is brief but informative. Schingnitz discusses Piccolomini and his work, the date and sources of the Pentalogus, the manuscripts and the previous editions. The editor also offers some reflections on the pragmatism of the political recommendations offered to Frederick. He raises the question whether the text is an early example of the political realism later displayed in Machiavelli's Discourses. What this reviewer misses is a discussion of the relationship of the Pentalogus to Aeneas' other dialogues. Particularly, how does it relate to the Libellus dialogorum, in which Piccolomini supported the Council of Basel? He would spend much effort later, as prelate and then pope, explaining away that exercise in conciliarist polemic. One also misses a discussion of how Aeneas puts his words into the mouths of others, especially when he allows Frederick, not noted for his intellect, to engage in learned discourse. Allowing for these small criticisms, this edition of the Pentalogus is valuable, casting light on Piccolomini's literary career, his understanding of the value of letters and the political opinions of a man who would rise to the summit of ecclesiastical power.