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Courtesy of Moreno Neri, great scholar of Renaissance and Byzantine history, an essay on Ciriaco d'Ancona, or Ciriaco Pizzecolli, which the city of Ancona seems to have forgotten

It is known that the culture of Greece was felt throughout Rome; leading by the hand that great, warrior and strong people through the maze of thought and the meanders of art. It is proverbial how the Roman victors were defeated by the culture of the Greeks. But at the beginning of the 15th century, the ancient Greek world, the quintessence of an archaic and poignant Mediterranean, this civilization to which the Romans had been irresistibly attracted, had long since fallen - a millennium now! — into oblivion.
The pioneer of the rediscovery of Greece, the first Italian to travel to Greece and the first true antiquarian to reach there since the time of the pro-Hellenic ancient Romans was Ciriaco Pizzecolli d'Ancona [I] — the Pausanias of the Middle Ages, as William Miller calls him in his essays on the Latin East, comparing him to the author who with his treatises had described all the Greek lands. He was born on 31 July 1391 to a patrician family [ii] of prosperous traders from Ancona. He lost his father Filippo when he was six years old, immediately after various financial setbacks that the family had suffered due to three shipwrecks and two pirate raids. His mother Masiella (née Selvatico), although reduced to poverty, raised him with his two brothers, Cincio and Nicolosa, and "working day and night, did everything possible to instruct them in good manners and letters" [iii].
His maternal grandfather and namesake - his name was Ciriaco Selvatico - took him with him at the age of nine on a trip to Venice and Padua and before reaching his adolescence Ciriaco had seen Naples and much of Southern Italy. At fourteen he began an apprenticeship in the mercantile firm of a rich relative, a certain Pietro; in practice he signed up for boarding a ship with the obligation to stay there for seven years, because, as he tells us, "he wanted to see the world", and in the space of two years he was able to run the business alone, we would say today, of import-export, having learned everything on his own - in life he will always be self-taught - counting, bookkeeping and dealing with business in every aspect. Moreover, his grandfather himself had pushed the young man into this undertaking, since he believed that the city of Ancona was totam non liberalbus studiis sed mercemoniis dedicated (all dedicated not to liberal studies, but to commerce). In an era in which the civilized world was marked by religious divisions between Christians and infidels or, from the other point of view, between true believers and jurors [iv], trade was an excellent opportunity to broaden the mind of a curious spirit like Ciriaco, animated by the invincible desire to travel and see new countries - where the world, finally, in the Mediterranean, was divided rather between buyers and sellers and not there were barriers of culture or religion that held: the Ottoman Empire and the Mamluk Sultanate were above all markets. Like Herodotus and Solon, Cyriacus thus combined business and trade with travel and discoveries, as the first way of facing otherness and opening the mind to new paths, all the more new the older they were.
In 1412, he set sail for the Levant on the ship of one of his relatives, a certain Alfieri, as a "scribe" (minor scribe), with a load of fruit for Alexandria in Egypt, the metropolis of the Mamluks, and returned, in the service of a Venetian merchant as "first scribe", making stopovers and stops in Cilicia and Bithynia, in Crete, Cyprus, Rhodes, Beirut, Miletus, Samos, Chios and, then, in Sicily and Dalmatia. After a year and a half he returned to his homeland, doctior opulentiorque (more educated and richer). In that same 1413, on the night of 6 October, he was among the heroic Ancona patriots who defended the city from the assault attempted on Capodimonte by Galeazzo Malatesta from Pesaro, who left hundreds dead and prisoners. But what will always distinguish Ciriaco will be his love for culture; he certainly will not despise money, but for him culture will be worth more than money and more than power. In the meantime, in fact, in those years, he dedicated himself to reading and read the modern classics in the vernacular: Dante, Petrarca, Boccaccio... In the year 1418, on a ship from Ancona, he arrived in Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine empire which was losing more and more territory in the grip of the Turks, which he discovered by stopping at Gallipoli (today's Turkish Gelibolu at the entrance to the Dardanelles).
Trips to Italy and a public office held him back for many years. Gabriele Condumer, Cardinal Legate of the Marche, practically the governor, had entrusted him with the ambitious project of rebuilding the ancient port of Ancona. Because of his municipal responsibility he took an interest in the Arch of Trajan and copied the inscription which could still be read there, even if the bronze letters had long since been plundered. He then seems to have suddenly experienced a sort of direct contact with the past and to have simultaneously understood how fragile the remains of the past are, the Greco-Roman ruins, our smooth stones, our works, left over from antiquity. The Arch of Trajan will be the foundation stone of the collections that would make him famous. They became his life's calling, almost a religious conversion, and he was the first of many great amateur classicists and undoubtedly the most enterprising and prolific recorder of classical antiquities, the true genius and discoverer of antiquarian science, in the broadest sense of the word , that is, understood as an inspection of archaeological sites, as a systematic study of the remains based on their graphic reproduction and their epigraphic emergencies, but also as an opportunity for fantastic digressions. He learned Latin in 1421, at the age of 30, under the guidance of Tommaso Seneca da Camerino [v], and began copying and collecting Roman inscriptions in his now famous notebooks. In 1423 he left Ancona for non vulgaribus torpescere (get numb in ordinary things). He was in Rome on 3 December 1424, guest of Condulmer, who in the meantime had also left Ancona and explored the city and its surroundings there in search of monuments and inscriptions. The cardinal provided him with a white steed and we can imagine him, in those forty days, riding among the ruins of temples, theaters, palaces, baths, obelisks, triumphal arches, aqueducts, bridges, columns and statues and tying the horse by the bridle to a bramble to linger in copying inscriptions or in sketching, with his rapid stroke, a monument. Later he will visit Sutri, Viterbo and other cities in the Roman countryside.
In 1425 he was sent back to Constantinople for some time to wait for a ship from the Contarini of Venice and here he began to study Greek [vi]: “Just as Dante had aroused in him the desire for Virgil, so this made him desire Homer, whom Dante himself placed at the head of the other poets” [vii]. During the same trip he became friends with the Giustiniani family, a Genoese clan that then ruled the island of Chios [viii]. Chios became his base of operations and the repository of his discoveries — coins, gems, bronzes, vases, marbles, stone inscriptions, manuscripts. He explored the Aegean islands, Rhodes and then Beirut and Damascus. In Cyprus, where he stayed for a year, he frequented the court of the king of Cyprus (and formally also of Jerusalem and Armenia), the Frenchman Janus of Lusignan (1398-1432), where he bought manuscripts ofIliad,Odyssey and Tragedy of Euripides. But unlike other humanists such as Francesco Filelfo (1398-1481), Leonardo Bruni (1370-1444) and Poggio Bracciolini (1380-1460), with whom he was in close relationships, Ciriaco was increasingly convinced that monuments, populated with gods and heroes, and the inscriptions, these pages of stone and marble written with the hammer and the chisel, were the most faithful witnesses of the texts of the ancient authors. What he couldn't carry he drew.
During the following three decades Ciriaco crossed the length and breadth of the eastern Mediterranean with learned and commercial assiduity, often on Ancona ships and there is no city where he does not meet a fellow citizen [ix], carrying out now a political commission, now a papal commission, reading theIliad,  Works and Days of Hesiod and the codes of Ptolemy. While passing through Cyprus, in 1428, he stopped for a month to govern the city of Famagusta, during the absence of its mayor, making decisions based on Roman law; even before that he had been chosen as one of the six elderly who governed Ancona, even though he was of the minimum age to be part of the city senate. He is in Asia Minor in Cyzicus, where he finds a world of ruins, immense columns of the temple built by Hadrian and the remains of an amphitheatre, and in Smyrna, where he buys ancient gold coins. We find him in 1431 in Gallipoli, where he learns that his friend and old employer of the port renewal project, Gabriele Condulmer, has been elected pope with the name Eugene IV. We track him down in a convent in Cyprus who negotiates a manuscript of the with some local monks Gospels for their Iliad [X]. We find him residing in Adrianople (today's Turkish Edirne, then the Ottoman capital in Europe in Thrace) where he trades in carpets and receives hospitality and a safe conduct (advises) by Sultan Murad II, allowing him to travel to the Ottoman Empire without harassment and free from any duties; here he will have time to bear witness to the sumptuous spectacle of the Sultan's court and the misery of the thousands of Greeks captured and enslaved after the conquest of Thessaloniki in 1431. This compassion will not prevent him from purchasing a girl from Epirus in a slave market , Chaonia, who he will send home as his mother's maid, who will be baptized as Clara and who, in fact, will become his concubine.
We see him return to Italy when he tries to interest his friend Condulmer, now Pope Eugene IV, in a crusade against the Turks so that he can save his precious Greek ruins from further desecration and it was certainly in these discussions that the project was conceived to convene a council to reunite the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, healing the schism that dated back to the 1437th century, and then proclaim a crusade that was supposed to repel the Turks from Europe. Eugene IV did both, convening the Council of Ferrara-Florence in 1443 and proclaiming the crusade in 21. Ciriaco made some excursions to Ostia and Tivoli to explore monuments. We find him on 1433 May XNUMX acting as a guide to the antiquities of Rome for the Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund of Luxembourg, who had arrived in Rome for his coronation and of whom Ciriaco had already been a distinguished guest in Siena. Crossing the depopulated city, full only of vineyards and ruins, he bitterly noted regretting it: "those who today lead their lives within the walls of Rome, hideously, obscenely, day by day transform the marble, majestic and highly decorated buildings scattered everywhere around the city, the famous statues and columns into white and impalpable ash... so that in a short time no image and no memory of them will remain for posterity." [xi]. By ash Ciriaco meant that supplied by the countless lime kilns in which for the centuries of the Middle Ages and still in his time the marbles coming from the ancient temples, imperial and patrician palaces were fired. We find him in Florence with Cosimo de Medici, Palla Strozzi, Niccolò Niccoli, Filippo Brunelleschi and visiting Donatello's atelier; in Milan, received by Duke Filippo Maria Visconti who in 1433 commissioned him to catalog the antiquities and to ascertain whether in Milan and Pavia insubrum quidquid noble reliquum vetustatis extat, and in Genoa. He frequented humanist and bibliophile bishops such as Pietro Donato from Padua. We see him plotting plans with the King of Naples to destroy the pirates; visit Lake Averno, Pozzuoli, Miseno, Cuma and Baia. We find him a second time in Naples making King Alfonso leap for joy by presenting him with a drop of golden amber in which a mosquito with spread wings was trapped; associating as friends with the best humanists of the time: in addition to those already mentioned, Carlo Marsuppini, Guarino da Verona, Maffeo Vegio, Flavio Biondo, Roberto Valturio and, above all, Francesco Filelfo; to make, therefore, his two greatest trips to Greece.
In 1435-37 he sailed along the Dalmatian coast, designed the cyclopean walls of Azilla in Epirus, crossed the Ionian Islands and then passed through Delphi - "I saw statues destroyed here and there and wonderful inscriptions in Greek and Latin and large pieces of marble” — and finally he saw Athens, then a Florentine duchy under the Acciaioli, which struck him in general as a heap of ruins: “I saw the great walls destroyed by time, and in the city and outside in the fields incredible marble buildings, houses and temples and various statues of things, distinguished for marvelous craftsmanship, and enormous columns, but all these things left in the utmost ruin on all sides.” But the Parthenon was something else, “on the highest fortress of the city a great and marvelous marble temple of the Goddess Pallas, a glorious work of Phidias”. After 1436 he would revisit it in 1447. Later he saw Sparta, Mystra, Corinth, the cyclopean walls of Argos and the western coast of the Peloponnese, then called Morea, a land of artistic wonders. Also in 1435 he visited, up the Nile, through Sais, and described the pyramids of Memphis and other antiquities of Egypt. Francesco Scalamonti, his friend and compatriot, his biographer, who survived him for a long time (he died of the plague in 1468 in Ancona) tells how he set out to get to know the land to its furthest reaches and also wanted to visit the edge of the frigid arctic lands, up to the mythical island of Thule, and the torrid equator, beyond the Elephant Mountains, in the kingdom of the burnt Ethiopians.


Ciriaco d'Ancona, drawing of the Parthenon.


In 1438 he returned to Italy and alternated his presence between Ancona and Florence, where the Council of the Union between the Churches took place. One of the Pope's most trusted collaborators, he acts as a translator when necessary in meetings with the Greek delegation. There he met his friend Gemistos Pletho, the philosopher of Mystra, frequented the court of the Byzantine emperor John Palaeologus, met the metropolitan of Nicaea, and disciple of Plethon, Bessarion, who later became one of the most important cardinals of the Roman Church. In 1440, he was chosen as one of the six regulators who had to renegotiate a commercial treaty with Ancona's friendly rival, the free city of Ragusa (now Dubrovnik). He writes the Naumachia regia, an account of the naval battle of 5 August 1435 near the island of Ponza, where the king of Naples, Alfonso of Aragon, was taken prisoner by the Genoese. From another writing, On the noble families of the Romans, all we know is the title. In October 1441 he participated with a sonnet in the "Certame Coronario", a poetic competition in the "vulgar" on the theme of friendship which took place in Florence, in Santa Maria del Fiore, in which Leon Battista Alberti also took part together with various other poets and popular rhymers and which left everyone dissatisfied, since the jury, made up of ten apostolic secretaries, did not award the prize, which consisted of a silver laurel crown.
In 1444 Cyriacus left again for Athens, traveled across the Aegean over the next two years and returned to the Peloponnese in 1447 [xii]. In the first twelve months of the period mentioned, Cyriacus was successively in Euboea, in Ragusa, in Chios, in Asia Minor, in Adrianople, Constantinople, in the Propontis, i.e. in the Sea of ​​Marmara, in Thasos, on the island of Imbros and in Ainos ( near present-day Keşan, in European Turkey). He finds time to write letters to Basileus Byzantine John VIII Palaeologus, to Cardinal Cesarini and to the regent of Hungary Giovanni Hunyadi. Most of the letters are addressed to his Genoese friend from Chio, Andreolo Giustiniani Banca [xiii]. He writes at length about the union of the churches, about a treaty between the king of Spain and the pope, about the Hungarian war against the Turks, about the government of the Morea, about pirates in the Aegean, about the enormous Greek slave markets, and gives a detailed description of the Parthenon and describes the weather during his sea voyages. We find him in June '44 in Adrianople listening to the gossip about the negotiations between Sultan Murad II and the representatives of the young King Ladislaus II of Poland and Hungary, head of the allied crusader army which is about to descend from Hungary, open the away through the Balkans and face the Turkish army on the European side of the Bosphorus, while a papal fleet will have to prevent the mass of the Turkish army from crossing it from Asia into Europe. Even after the disastrous defeat of the Crusader army in November 1444 in Varna, due to the preponderant forces of the Turks who had crossed the Bosphorus despite the papal fleet, he continued to keep himself informed of the attempts of the Hungarian general Giovanni Hunyadi who, having reconstituted his army, resumes its offensive against the Turks, until its final defeat in the second battle of Kosovo in the autumn of 1448, only a few months before Ciriaco's return to Italy. He also appears to have been one of the first speleologists and ignored local tales of a dragon (taken from the myth of Heracles and Cerberus) to descend into the cave at the end of Cape Taenarus (Cape Matapan) which was said to lead to the Underworld (Pausanias III, 25 , 5): “no dragon terrified us… but the flapping of the wings of three pigeons flying out assailed the trembling hearts of our companions. And with the accompaniment of three natives of Porasia and Tenaro, I then descended, through the rocky mouth, into the internal part of the cave. …descending with lighted candles through the yawning bowels of the abyss, we felt that we were approaching a hole of indeterminate depth.” He spent the winter of 1447-8 on the cold mountain of Mystra, in the house of the great and mysterious Neoplatonic philosopher Giorgio Gemisto Pletone. There he visits the site of ancient Sparta, in the plain dominated by the mountain of Mystra, the Byzantine capital of the Morea (the Peloponnese), where his host, Constantine, the despot of Morea will soon be crowned (last) emperor of Byzantium upon the death of his brother John VIII. During his long stay in the capital of the Peloponnese he composed an explanation of the Roman calendar in Greek for the future emperor [xiv], compare his manuscript of the Geography of Strabo, recently purchased, with the one in Pletho's possession and translates it by reading it with him, copies a summary of the Trojan War of Dicty Cretese and on the manuscript that has been preserved you can still see the writing of Cyriacus and a correction by Pletho's hand. He knows Pletho's disciple, Laonic Chalcondylas, who will be the great historian of the last century and a half of the Byzantium empire. In the spring of 1448 he was in Acrocorinth and in the autumn he was found visiting his friend, Carlo II Tocco, despot of Arta in Acarnania, in north-western Greece (Epirus) who sadly died during Cyriacus' visit .


Cyriacus of Ancona, drawing of a bas-relief of Pan on the island of Thasos (1444-14445), Oxford, Bodleian Library.


 Throughout this time he continues to be the same antiquities dealer as ever, at least from time to time, purchasing manuscripts (of Plato, Aristotle, Herodotus, Hippocrates and Plutarch, as well as of the Church Fathers and Dionysius), ancient gems , coins and sporadic pieces of sculpture. Now he is a kind of marine hitchhiker, he catches passages on the merchant ships of Venice and Genoa carrying in his backpack his personal manuscripts of the Natural history of Pliny, Thucydides and ancient geographers such as Ptolemy, Pomponius Mela and Strabo. He reads them and writes them down to keep himself occupied while he waits for a ship to take him to his next destination. In that copious bag there are also his precious notebooks, increasingly numerous, in which he records what he has just seen in his travels, together with copies of the ancient inscriptions found in the places he has visited, illustrated with the own hand, often naive.
In conclusion, what did Cyriacus do for our understanding of the ancient world? The early Renaissance humanists discovered ancient Greco-Roman culture primarily through the study of classical manuscripts. Cyriacus, a merchant and diplomat but also erudite and self-taught, was among the first to personally study the material remains of the ancient world and for this reason he is often considered the father of classical archaeology. We know that his travel diaries and letters must have been filled with descriptions of classical sites, illustrations of buildings and sketches of statues, drawings of all kinds and copies of hundreds of Latin and Greek inscriptions, verses and legends of hundreds of coins, of small archaeological treatises. Cyriacus came to consider as his supreme aspirations the recording of the current state of the remains of Antiquity and the exhortation to the local authorities to ensure that they were preserved, realizing that the archaeological testimony was an irreplaceable complement to the written annotation.



Up: a sketch by Ciriaco d'Ancona of an ancient Roman tombstone inserted
in the western facade of the church of Ag. Iannis (St. John the Apostle)
in the village of Keria in the Peloponnesian Mani.
Down: a photo of the same tombstone. The plate was stolen in the winter of 1998.


 I souvenir which he continuously sent from Chios to Italy are the minimum legacy of his contribution. The most important thing is that he saved numerous Latin and Greek inscriptions (about a thousand) during his travels in Italy, Greece, the Mediterranean islands and Asia Minor. Inscriptions that have since disappeared, thus establishing the authentic science of epigraphy. He described and drew monuments that, after him, were damaged or even destroyed — so his notes are a great aid to reconstruction, even if only in the mind of the art historian. In Athens he designed the Parthenon, the temple of Olympian Zeus when it had twenty-one columns instead of today's fifteen, the monument of Philopappos when it was still intact; vhe also visited the ruins of Piraeus and saw the large marble statue of a lion at the entrance to the port, which then gave the port its name, Porto Leone, precisely [xv]he also designed the church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople and many other buildings. Thanks to him we know how the mammoth temple at Didyma in Asia Minor could be seen before an earthquake shook it. Thanks to him the completely vanished temple of Zeus in Cyzicus (Kyzicos) could be restored, at least on paper. And thanks to his misidentification—he wasn't perfect either—a bust of Tiresias of Samothrace became the model for Aristotle's Renaissance portraits.
These are only small examples of the further and essential approach to the Ancient, represented, in Humanism, by the archaeological and epigraphic investigations of Ciriaco, whose influence, however, is above all perceptible in the figurative arts.
Remembered as an eccentric and curious character, his antiquarian furies also gave rise to ridiculous portraits, such as that of Poggio Bracciolini in his Facetiae. In them Cyriacus is depicted as desperate and heartbroken even over the fall of the Roman Empire: “Cyriacus of Ancona, being the incurable chatterbox that he is, one day deplored in my presence the fall and destruction of the Roman Empire and appeared extremely distressed for that event. At this point Antonio Loschi, a man of great culture who was part of the company, intervened to mock that silly concern." [xvi].
The lack of consideration for archaeological and erudite work evident in Poggio's joke not only expresses an evident antipathy for Ciriaco, but also reflects the lack of consideration in which the artistic tradition was held and the recovery of the ancient which will instead become the most interesting heritage that the Renaissance in sculpture and painting left us and destined to last over time.
Perhaps more than others, this Schliemann of his time must maintain the title of first archaeologist, given that the world would not coin others for another four centuries. The ruins of Antiquity, “the half-destroyed glories” were living voices crying out to be recognized. The revival of archeology was linked to the revival of Hellenism. Their development went hand in hand.
All the Academies that were born, which we will talk about shortly, in their devotion to the Ancients, echoed the cri de heart by Ciriaco "I go to raise the dead" [xvii]. Their lost place in the history of the world was being restored, we were trying to bring back that time in which we had been great, that time in which we had never been defeated.
The Renaissance myth of a return to ancient art will immediately and from then on lead to the primacy of marble and bronze in sculpture and monuments, also in medals, understood as the recovery of Romanism, above all imperialism. Time had only spared the products of sculpture in resistant material and of casting in non-precious metal (spared by human greed). Marble and bronze were thus welded to what remains one of the great drivers of Renaissance civilization: the desire for one's fame to last as long as possible on earth. Only these subjects can actually compete with the proclaimed immortality of literary works.
But numerous paintings - by Andrea Mantegna, Benozzo Gozzoli, Gentile da Fabriano, as well as by Pisanello and Piero della Francesca - also retain profound and sensitive traces of the influence of Ciriaco's drawings, to which recent studies give more defined importance. How great an impression his drawings made on the imagination of artists, architects and sculptors is demonstrated by the fact that his sketch of the Parthenon and that of of the Hagia Sophia, which shows us both the inside and the outside. Equally recent are the connections found in Leon Battista Alberti due to Ciriaco d'Ancona's antiquarian acquaintances. The anonymous illustrator of Hypnerotomachia poliphili (1499), published by Aldus Manutius and universally considered the most beautiful book in the world, especially for its lush illustrations of buildings of Classical style certainly saw and employed the designs of Ciraco. In the Triumph of Virtue over Vice (the expulsion of the Vices from the garden of Virtues) by Andrea Mantegna, now in the Louvre, executed around 1497 for the study of Isabella Gonzaga, which becomes the triumph of Athena Polias over the carnal Venus, precariously balanced on a fleeing centaur, the Dancing Muses and Mercury are inspired by drawings by Ciriaco. His drawings of exotic animals, seen in Cairo around 1433, influenced Gentile Bellini and Hieronimus Bosch, in the former case in Saint Mark preaching in Alexandria, Egypt (1504-1507) and in the second in the depiction of a white giraffe in the center of the Triptych of delights (1505-1510). Unfortunately, a colorfully painted effigy of his patron Mercury has also been lost, which he gave to Carlo Marsuppini for his collection, and who praised it as an excellent work of art: a copy of which is the archaic drawing of Hermes from the 1460th century to. C. with flames inverted on the chlamys and modified with burlesque and obscene touches, preserved in the Bodleian in Oxford and is probably also known to us through the drawings of Hartmann Schedel and Albrecht Dürer; it was also probably the direct source of inspiration for Mercury (circa XNUMX), XXXXII card of the Ferrarese Tarot, traditionally called Mantegna's, as well as other images of the god present in chests, codes, manuscripts, medals and woodcuts.


Ciriaco d'Ancona, Carola delle Muse, after 1485, Florence, Laurentian Library.


We also mention the fact that, thanks to his epigraphic research and his examples of paleography, the writing changed in the manuscripts, which also became antiquarian and partly archaic, in certain aspects calligraphic, with its elegant, refined allusive refinements which can be found in ancient models. Ciriaco's lesson was taken as inspiration by famous copyists, including Felice Feliciano [xviii] and Bartolomeo Sanvito.
Finally, it was Ciriaco's awareness that Time was threatening to destroy this inimitable work, represented by ancient books and the remains of the past, and the spread of this awareness, which led at that time to the need to open a shelter for them, in which they could not receive offense from time. They are the first libraries and museums, always set up, inaugurated and open to the public by the Academies or by exponents of them.
We know from a letter from Francesco Filelfo that at the beginning of the winter of 1448-1449 Ciriaco was back on Italian soil, in Venice. Two letters to Roberto Valturio, advisor to Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta, at the end of June locate him in Ravenna, after a stay at the court of Rimini [xx]. In fact, the elephant used as a decorative motif of the Tempio Malatestiano in Rimini, which was built in that period, and depicted on one of the faces of a contemporary medal by Matteo de' Pasti in honor of Sigismondo's lover and then wife, Isotta, who is buried in the Temple, are directly inspired by a drawing by Ciriaco [xx]. Immediately afterwards, in July 1449, Ciriaco was in Padua from where he wrote in admiration of the new equestrian statue of Donatello's Gattamelata and then in Ferrara, where, thanks to Leonello d'Este, he was among the first to be able to see the extraordinary masterpiece by Rogier van der Weyden, The burial of Christ [xxx]. His definition of Christ as humanatus Iovis “Jupiter incarnate” may leave the layman perplexed, but his meticulous description nevertheless shows in him an awareness of the artistic spring of Western art which has the same joy as his discoveries of classical treasures: we are truly in the Renaissance! In Ferrara he also saw two finished paintings portraying the muses Clio and Melpomene (both deceased) in the atelier of Angelo del Macagnino da Siena, also known as Angelo Parrasio, probably intended for the studio of the lord of Ferrara, Leonello.
Information about Ciriaco becomes more tenuous towards the end of his life, a mere series of probabilities. Genoa records dated 31 August 1449 confirm that Ciriaco requested safe conduct to travel west and south which was granted, but whether he ever actually traveled to Spain, as some believe, we cannot know.
Was he really in Sultan Mehmet II's tent on the Hellespont in 1452, reading Herodotus and Livy to the brooding monarch, while the Turks besieged the future Istanbul and the icons of the Virgin wept in the churches? Was he perhaps able to enter Constantinople in the sultan's company after his fall the following year? This rumor has made him, among some historians, an opportunist and a turncoat, but the alleged story of his presence at Mehmet's camp is today largely discredited and so his loyalty is beyond question and his numerous letters in favor of a Crusade remain to prove it. This does not prevent an eminent historian such as Franz Babinger in his well-known book Muhammad the Conqueror, a text whose importance in European culture it seems superfluous to reiterate, uses contemptuous words towards our Ciriaco. The only justification is that it was written by a German in the 1930s: "a fabler unworthy of belief and a boastful boaster, indeed a forger and deceiver", not only "secretary" of Muhammad and "among the closest companions of Muhammad", but "adviser and instructor", reader even during the sultan's meals [xxiii]. However, this legend, based on his good relations with the Turks, which were only a means to protect his life and preserve his activity and on the close relations that Ciriaco had with the sultan, born from a passage by Iacopo de' Languschi, a contemporary of Ciriaco, and taken up by another Venetian of the time, Zorzi Dolfin (ca. 1396-1457), in his chronicle [Each of (the Lord Maumetho, great Turk) reads Roman histories and others by a companion, called Chiriaco d'Ancona...] reported literally by the German historian, has been definitively discredited. In fact, it was enough to recheck the offending phrase to discover that it was a misreading made by a nineteenth-century German scholar, Georg Martin Thomas: it was not in fact a Kiriakos of Ancona, but a Kyrizys grammateus (secretary) to be identified with Demetrius Apocaucus Kyritzes, actually secretary of the Grand Turk [xxiii].
Ciriaco probably died on Italian soil. Probably in Cremona. Perhaps in 1455 and more probably in 1452, as confirmed by an isolated note in a manuscript so corrupt as to make the precise date not fully recognisable, one year before the fall of Constantinople, an event that sealed the end of the Roman Empire of East and the brief attempt at reunion of the Churches and perhaps the most occult attempt to establish a new Olympic religion. His last years are shrouded in mystery, as befits what in reality, according to some scholars, he was: a secret agent, if not a spy. But if he spies, in whose pay? The debate among scholars on his "diplomatic" or "espionage" activities - as we know, sometimes the two activities intertwine and overlap - is so subtle and intricate that it is impossible to summarize it. If he had this secret activity in the profane world, then he was twice shrouded in secrecy, because he was also initiated, as will be said, into an esoteric society.
After his passing, his Commentary, or notebooks, which occupied at least three and probably six large volumes, probably perished in the fire of the library of Pesaro in 1514. They contained the detailed diary of his wanderings, in which he had noted not only the places visited but also the characters he encountered and drew the monuments and inscriptions he found and undoubtedly much that had been saved from oblivion was once again forgotten.
His influence comes from the few pages that have survived (a small part on his travels in the Peloponnese in 1447-1448, as well as passages from his travels in Greece in 1435-1437), from his letters and from the numerous extracts and copies of passages and drawings from his notebooks that circulated during his lifetime, recopied by his friends and the next generation of humanists, although some copies of the drawings are unfortunately not as accurate as his lost originals.
But what kind of man was Cyriacus? Delicious, but an exhausting companion. On New Year's Eve 1445, after having celebrated the new year in the hall of the court of Thasos and having exchanged the ritual hugs with the other guests, he immediately embarked with a crew on a small boat bound for ancient Ainos and until the Rooster doesn't crow, he takes care of keeping the captain and sailors awake by singing "hallelujah". That he was kind is evident from his care in recording the names of the men with whom he sailed, whether he was the captain of the ship or a hunter or a sacristan on board, from the greetings to his interlocutor's wife or children in his letters, from his gifts to friends , often an ancient coin, sometimes a marble inscription.
When he wasn't hiking over the Greek hills or sailing in small boats along the Greek coast to see a classical site or a recently discovered column, Cyriacus was busy organizing a crusade against the Turks (he had a safe-conduct from the Sultan at his disposal, but his friend and former employer was now the Pope) or worked to support the union of the churches, or served as ambassador and eye for the Byzantine Emperor (to whom he reported on his travels), or visited his patrons Cosimo de Medici [xxv], Francesco Filelfo, Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta. It is Filelfo himself who, upon Ciriaco's death, suggests something of his hyperactive personality: Nunquam Kyriacus quiescit.
Everything interested him. It is difficult to choose any theme among the many he addresses, but here is one as an example on the practice of slavery in the Ottoman world: “[3 December 1442] On numerous occasions we have seen Christians — boys as well as unmarried girls and a large quantities of married women of every condition – paraded in a miserable manner by the Turks in long lines through the cities of Thrace and Macedonia, bound in iron chains and lashed with whips, and finally put up for sale in the villages and markets and along the coast of the Hellespont, an obscene and inexplicably shameful sight, like a cattle market, so to speak.”
Founder of archaeology, first antiquarian, first numismatist, first epigraphist, therefore. But what probably interests us most is the most secret, I would say esoteric and initiatory aspect of his life.
It has been observed that Cyriacus' religiosity, as it appears from his letters and diaries, is "syncretistic, semi-pagan and semi-Christian, in the style of the Renaissance" [xxiv]. It has been noted that, despite being a Christian and a fervent supporter of the papacy, he is equally at home in a Greek Orthodox church, especially after the Council of Union of 1439: for example on 15 August 1446, the Marian feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin in the Roman Catholic church, and of Dormition of the Mother of God in the Greek Orthodox one, he attends both the Byzantine liturgy in Constantinople and the Latin rite mass in the Genoese colony of Galata/Pera beyond the Golden Horn. But the deity or tutelary deity to whom she turns in her prayers [xxv] at the beginning of his travels he is Mercury, the god of traders and travellers; and the day of Mercury, Wednesday, is the special day of Cyriacus. It has been observed that also his aspiration to go among the Ethiopians - on 18 October 1441 he solicited Pope Eugene IV with a letter for authorization, blessing and certainly financing - in the deepest and most unknown part of Africa, towards the torrid zone of the equator, in the lands of the fabulous Priest Gianni who brought the word of the Supreme Pontiff and the Church, poorly hides his commercial and archaeological ambitions [xxviii]. One scholar has observed how incomprehensible it is that such a mobile, determined traveller, introduced to all environments, had never been to Jerusalem, then under the rule of the Mamluks, who also governed Alexandria, Cairo, Beirut, Damascus, all cities he visits, nor does he ever mention the holy city, the cradle of the Christian faith and moreover the city of which the patron saint of Ancona, whose name he bore, had been bishop [xxviii]. On the contrary, he shows himself to be more passionately interested in the ancient Egyptian civilization. He is, however, devoted to the Muses and the Nymphs, and in particular to his protective nymph of the waters, Cimodocea (in Greek "receiver of the wave") who in a letter saves a small boat from disaster by transforming it into a nymph, a concept taken from borrowed from Book IX ofAeneid of Virgil. In another letter his intention to sail from Chios to the island of Lesbos is immediately frustrated by the nymphs of Chios who cause contrary winds because they want to keep him around the island so as to allow him to discover an ancient and interesting temple on the coast northern Chios. Only after this discovery did the nymphs of Lesbos agree to welcome him to their island. Finally, as we have already seen, he consistently refers to the incarnate Christ as Jupiter humanatus (Jupiter incarnate). Not to mention his way of dating letters, as well as citing dates in his diaries, according to the ancient Roman calendar: for example, pridie Kalendas Decembris means the day before the Kalends (the first) of December, i.e on November 30th. In a syncretistic language similar to Italian, he calls Sunday dies Kyriaceus (equivalent to Latin say dominic, “the day of the Lord”); Monday, dies Lunae, is the day of Diana, as goddess of the moon; Tuesday is Mars day (dies Martis); Wednesday dies Mercurii, the day of Mercury; Thursday dies Iovis, the day of Jupiter; Friday this Veneris, the day of Venus; Saturday dies Saturni, the day of Saturn. Some scholars have no doubts in defining him, deep down, as a pagan [xxix].


Mercury, XXXXII card of the series known under the name of “Mantenga Tarot”,
1465, London, British Museum.
It is in this climate of "return to the ancient", of rebirth of prisca wisdom, that is, of the true tradition, not of the more recent one, the Christian one, that it is necessary to place the activity and thought of Ciriaco [xxx]. I believe that in addition to his "qualification" in the Guénonian sense, his meeting with Giorgio Gemisto Pletone (Constantinople ca. 1355 – Mistrà 1452) was decisive. They must have met for the first time in 1437, if not earlier, and according to what Iacopo Zeno (1418–1481), bishop of Padua from 1460, says, it was Ciriaco so eloquentie flumine et vivis et efficacibus rationibus to convince the octogenarian philosopher to come to Italy for the Council of the Union [xxxii] and even if there is no concrete evidence, it is certain that he attended the Florentine "conferences" of Gemistos where the old philosopher taught the "Platonic mysteries" and imparted his initiations with the exhortation to create academies, daughters of the "mother" academy of Mystra. Nor is it unlikely that Ciriaco himself acted as interpreter in these conferences.
Giorgio Gemisto Pletone was one of the most important figures of the last years of Byzantium. Advisor to the emperors and despots of Morea, he was the most prestigious scholar who produced the Byzantine culture of his era. In Mystra he created an esoteric circle, on the model of Plato's ancient Academy, whose work was of fundamental importance for the Western Renaissance. His presence at the Council of the Union of the Orthodox and Catholic Churches (Ferrara-Florence 1438-39) - a last desperate attempt to obtain military aid from the West against the Turk - made a profound impression on Italian humanists due to his ardent defense of platonism. As Marsilio Ficino testifies in his preface to the translation of Enneadi of Plotinus, the munificent lord of Florence "at the time of the council of Florence between Greeks and Latins, under the pontificate of Eugene, he often heard a Greek philosopher named Gemistos called Pletho speak, like another Plato, about the Platonic mysteries and was thus inspired , so deeply conquered that, from that moment on, he conceived in his lofty mind the plan of an Academy, to be realized as soon as the opportunity was given" [xxxi]. The Florentine Platonic Academy, which was responsible for the translation of Plato's entire work, al Corpus Hermeticum and a large part of the Neoplatonic body (Iamblichus, Proclus, Porphyry, etc.), will be created in 1459 by Ficino himself. Heir of Pythagoreanism, adept of the ancient mystery schools, initiated in his youth into a mythical Zoroastrianism in a Sufi school by a mysterious Jewish master, Elisha, who came to a bad end, convinced that Christianity was the main cause of the decline of the Byzantine empire, Pletho tried to give new life to pagan conceptions, creating a philosophical religion inspired by Platonism and ancient wisdom, he resumed the project of the emperor Julian, announcing the dream that unites political utopia with religious nostalgia that would have taken hold of various esoteric currents, that is, on that magical culture that flourished under the banner of the union between rationalism and spirituality, up to Giordano Bruno and beyond, as Yates' studies have demonstrated [xxxii] (not to mention Greek Freemasonry which has Pletho as its tutelary deity, like the Nolan for the Italian one). Convinced that only the clearest and most absolute knowledge of the truth could free men from the confused uncertainty and conflict of dogmatic opinions, Gemistos referred to a very ancient truth, common to the entire human race and pure from any contamination and this tradition illustrated in a doctrine, which certainly had to necessarily remain esoteric, with its conception of an immutable and eternal universe, with its idea of ​​the human soul, immortal and celestial and, as such, similar to the gods and capable of joining them. And at the bottom of his thought remained the prediction of the return to the original unity of all knowledge, having closed the fatal time of divisions, dogmas and beliefs, which would find its expression in the common cult of the eternal divine demiurge of the universe. There is no doubt that similar ideas, even if Gemisto's prediction did not totally come true within the hoped-for temporal terms, exorbitant ecumenism and irenicism, remain visible traces even today and that the nucleus of these conceptions continues to remain the inspiring theme of passionate meditation on the part of several contemporary thinkers and of the only esoteric and traditional institution existing today in the West. In the eyes of his contemporaries, the philosopher of Mystra appeared as the interpreter par excellence of Hellenism. This honor was not denied to him by the men of the 1447th century: the Byzantine historian Michael Dukas defined him as "prince of the Platonic sect"; Cyriacus of Ancona, who visited the Peloponnese in XNUMX, moved by the desire to see his "dearest Platonist"[xxxv], remembers him as "the most learned of the Greeks of our time, and in life and in morality and doctrine the most brilliant and influential philosopher among the Platonists", and Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta, one of his fervent admirers, during one of his military campaigns against the Turks (1464) in the pay of Venice, he moved his remains from Mystra to bury them in his "pagan" Temple of Rimini, on whose marble ark he had his workers of Comacine stonemasons engrave the words "prince of the philosophers of his time”, in a Latin epitaph commissioned from Ciriaco's old correspondent, his faithful advisor Roberto Valturio.
The "theosophist of Mystra", as he was called, had opened an esoteric school, which referred to the doctrines of Zoroaster, Pythagoras and Plato, following the example and memory of the ancient Platonic Academy. There he taught you how to recover ancient Greek wisdom and how to revive ancient philosophy. We also know from his funeral eulogies that one entered his school only by initiation and Pletho is often referred to as a "mystagogue", i.e. "master of initiates".
In his project of radical restoration of ancient thought, he spoke of a new universal religion, which would absorb all existing systems, such as Christianity and Islam. He indicated the inspiration of classical antiquity as his source and stated "that the whole world in a few years would welcome just the same religion, with a single soul, a single spirit, a single preaching" (true religion, one soul, one teaching, universum orbem paucis post annis suscepturum). When he was then asked what this faith would be, whether Christian or Mohammedan, Pletho replied: “neither one nor the other; it will be a faith similar to the paganism of antiquity" [xxxiv], which would have integrated the rites and cults of the past into a new spirituality based on Platonism and adapted to the times.
On his impulse, Academies were founded in all the main Italian cities in imitation of the Platonic associations, laying the foundations of a new and creative philosophical movement. Academies, similar to those of Mistrà, were born immediately in Rimini, and then in Florence in Careggi, in Naples the Pontaniana, in Rome the Romana with Pomponio Leto and Platina, and then the Vitruviana, which will emigrate to Vicenza and that of Bessarion, first in Rome and then in Venice, from which that of Aldo Manuzio, our first great printed publisher, will descend. Especially thePlatonic Academy Florence became a center of lively philosophical disputes clearly directed against Scholasticism. The names of Marsilio Ficino, Pico della Mirandola, Angelo Poliziano will be linked to it and it will have a great influence on artists such as Botticelli, Michelangelo and Leonardo. The conception ofPlatonic Academy it was not only idealistic with its return to the ancient tradition, but contained elements of historicism and rationalism that also pointed the way to the future. As I have already said on other occasions, there is no historian of Freemasonry and Western esotericism, serious or less serious, and not necessarily a Freemason, who does not consider the network of Renaissance Academies at least as a sort of pre-institutional phase of modern Freemasonry , officially resurrected in 1717 in London [xxxiv].
In the second long stop in Mystras (first in August '47, then the entire period from October to March '48), Cyriacus and Pletho must have looked fixedly with their eyes on Sparta, beyond the limits of the narrow enclosure of their century, on the serene plains of antiquity, on the temples that stood among gardens, on cities that had no walls, on the spacious countryside where once man had been beautiful, noble and happy and where they hoped that men could still return . Cyriacus composed a sonnet whose first lines begin like this: “Alma laconic Spartan city, / glory of Greece, already an example of the world / of arms and chastity, gymnasium and temple / and of every soul virtue mirror and fountain... [xxxviii] The truth, they estimated, could be in the past rather than the present. Where their intellectual sympathies rested, they also placed their spiritual hopes. They looked for their religion among the half-forgotten rites of ancient Greece. Pletho and Cyriacus admired the tradition of ancient thought, which had not waited for Christ to be perfect. They must have understood that their path became the destination. It is therefore to be believed, together with many other serious scholars, that the birth of the Academies was the true beginning phase of modern Freemasonry and the birth of esotericism as we know it in the West. [xxxviii].
We do not know the precise terms with which Pletho would have expressed these hopes: we only know that he based his system on Tradition, he spoke of "common beliefs" (koinå dÒgmata), whose strength he tested using their age as a criterion. With the help of a play on words permitted by the Greek and such as was perfectly suited to Cyriacus' research, Plethon connected the "foundations of thought", "the first principles of logic" (logika‹ érxa€) to the "study of antiquities ” (érxaiolog€a): as if what is 'first' for logic and wisest for morality must also be the oldest in time. Pletho also said: “Wisdom is compressed into few words and deals with few things. It deals with the principles of being and whoever has grasped them perfectly will be able to judge how much he can come to know man. While Ciriaco stated: “I, out of a great desire to visit the entire known world, have proposed to explore the monuments of antiquity in every part of the earth, which day by day and due to the wear and tear of time and the neglect of men go to ruin and I have devoted myself entirely to translating the memory into writing”. Ciriaco's thought in this sense is truly "pagan", that is, "rustic": it is linked to stone and rocks, fields, mountains and waters: it is not a theology, an ideological program; it is a life, and the gods and nymphs live there, manifest themselves, speak to it. With hermetic intoxication Mercury makes him travel, navigate, cross every border; it is he, with his magic rod, who controls clouds and winds. The swift and winged messenger of the gods is in the market, making him carry out exchanges, trade, sell, purchase, communicate and inform and write. In fact, sacred to traders as well as to men of letters and metaphysicians, Mercury/Hermes gives its name not only to trading, but also to erudite interpretation, hermeneutics, and to the revelation of secret or "hermetic" knowledge and, therefore, this god it is the divine mystagogue that bridges the distance between the divine and the earthly. Leonardo Bruni once said to Ciriaco: "it would be better for you not to know as much as you know".
By some of his contemporaries Cyriacus was also considered a vain braggart and a forger: more than anything they are lies of enemies, but even if sometimes it had been true, no wonder, "the most holy genius Mercury", is also the god of forgers [xxxix]. Some of the greatest scholars and most notable men of his time may have looked with pity on his mania for "raising the dead." But here the archetypal, symbolic power is at work; Mercury is also the god who with his caduceus evokes the shadows from the underworld or directs them to the same deep abyss and gives sleep and vigil, life and death [xl] and, as Jung says: “It is not at all indifferent to call a certain thing 'mania' or 'god'. Serving a mania is hateful and unseemly, but serving a god is full of meaning..." [xi].
We thus understand how Ciriaco was profoundly convinced that with his "art" he could bring the dead back to life, to bring them back to life, to disperse the veils and clouds from what had long been forgotten and buried, because only what is dead can we surrounds us, we have to change into life to exist. And he cheerfully remembered how he had frightened a rude priest from Vercelli, who had asked him what he was doing in his church, replying: "my art is to sometimes recall the dead from the grave and I learned it from the Pythian oracles".
Mercury is, finally, and equally magical, the "ingenious" god of the intellect, the one who recalls the mind to celestial things through the power of reason. In this sense, in the possibility of everyone to disperse the clouds to reach intellectual enlightenment, Ciriaco is a disciple of no one, as he himself will later proclaim, but only of himself.
Ciriaco de' Pizzecolli? One of the noblest spirits of the first pioneers of the Renaissance, a man who paved the way, after the Middle Ages, and in the modern world for the restoration of the civilization and ancient wisdom of Greece and Rome. From then until the Romantic period, the myth of Rome and Greece would have constituted a spiritual panorama for the most discerning minds, the embodiment of the strength of civilization, of beauty in its natural state and of primordial wisdom.
We have seen that Gemisto and Ciriaco d'Ancona are close to each other due to a number of common interests, for example, geographical ones, very alive in Medici and humanistic Florence. Nor is it worth contesting the existence of an esoteric "phratry", as a French scholar called it [xliii], making use of the Greek term which stands for "brotherhood", highlight the differences of thought between one and the other presumed adept of them [xiii]: esoteric institutions do not give watchwords, they do not provide a dogmatic ideology, but an ideal, which informs the practice and orients it like a distant star for the navigator, they do not give a program to the letter, but rather a vision symbolic that leaves the greatest freedom to those who follow it.
Finally, Cyriacus and Pletho compete among historians for the merit of having brought the Geography of Strabo and, therefore, of having played an important role, albeit indirect, in the discovery of America by Columbus who cited Strabo among his main authorities and who had texts, letters and papers from the Florentine Paolo dal Pozzo Toscanelli (1397- 1482), mathematician, geographer and astronomer, close to the Medici family and friend of both Pletho and Ciriaco [xiv]. Their contribution remains undoubted in the project of "searching the East for the West" across the Ocean, which was becoming popular in various scientific and erudite circles of the time: the Pillars of Hercules of the sclerotized, heavy order are overcome , material, of the old Scholasticism, freedom is experienced and America is discovered.
But, as has already been mentioned, further progress will be made: not only the geographical map but also that of historical and intellectual thought will no longer be the same as before. After Ciriaco the next step would have been that many, following his example, would have started collecting manuscripts, finding them, copying them and preserving the precious relics of the past. His friends Guarino and Filelfo, Aurispa and Poggio followed him in this work of accumulation, aided by the wealth of the Italian patricians, merchant-princes and warrior-patrons who were inspired by the sacred desire for knowledge. Knowledge was not a pursuit of a particular and exclusive class. It was a new spirit and a new enthusiasm, which pervaded the whole society with the intensity of a love. For a generation raised in decadent scholasticism and stereotypical theological formulas it was the source of reborn youth, of beauty and freedom, the form in which the Helen of art and poetry appeared to the rapt and ecstatic eyes of a Doctor Faustus medieval. It was the awakening, the resurrection of the most powerful spirits of the past, as Ciriaco had understood. This was the enthusiasm, this the life-giving hope that made culture in the fifteenth century so always in tension, so sensitive and ardent. The men who followed her knew that they were returning humanity to its birthright after a deadly exile of ten centuries. They were instinctively aware that their work was for freedom of action, thought and conscience in the future. When we became masters of the Greek language, after having collected the manuscripts and works of art, libraries and museums were formed in every place in Italy and the era of the press and of writers such as Ficino, Pico, Poliziano, Pontano, Valla… Italy became the great forge of the new culture and Germany, France and Spain, and then England, were invited to its celebration.
One would be tempted to conclude that the symbolic world of images, which Ciriaco took pains to portray, offers man the highest degree of contemplation of the divine Being that can be known. Ioan Couliano writes: “The culture of the Renaissance was a culture of the fantastic; it recognized the phantasms aroused by the internal sense as having a very great weight and had developed the human faculty of actively work on and with ghosts, had created an entire dialectic of eros [...] By establishing the idolatrous, impious character of ghosts, the Reformation abolished the culture of the Renaissance in one fell swoop. And since all the Renaissance 'sciences' were buildings whose construction material were ghosts, they too had to succumb under the weight of the Reformation" [xlv].
“It was necessary to reduce to ashes the fantasy of possible choices towards a possible, impossible love. Savonarola's words from 1491 are valid: «They have abandoned the simplicity of the sacred texts and, by altering the word of God, they have covered the pages with pretentious obscurities and vain artifices... They tell fables about gods and men, full of passions and unions absurd and impious... But what do our princes do? Why don't they promulgate a law ordering that not only these poets be exiled from the cities but that their books and those of the ancients, which speak of the art of loving, of courtesans, of idols and of the infected and abject superstition of demons, are burned with fire until they are only ashes?". Whoever invokes evokes and will meet his own nemesis. But there remained other Dominicans, princes of the church and their secular arm to rekindle the flames that had been fanned" [xlv].
In fact, the continuation of the story, after the death of Cyriacus and that of Pletho, which occurred the same year, is a counterpoint of fires and bonfires, of inflexible and intransigent condemnations of differences and disagreements. That one moment of enlightenment, represented by the Renaissance, was immediately crushed. It's worth showing it for quick hints.
Plethon's major work, the treatise of Read, which was not only a book of Hellenic philosophy, but a breviary, a catechism and a ritual, which he had kept secret and which constituted the corpus of teachings imparted in his school, after his death, fell into the hands of his adversary Scolarius , who became the new Patriarch of Constantinople under the Turks with the name of Gennadius II. He read it with growing horror and then, in front of witnesses, burned most of it at an uncertain date between 1460 and 1465. Sigismondo Malatesta, whose fortunes had grown under the pontificate of Eugene IV, and who had created the shrine of the thought of Pletho and Cyriacus in his "pagan" Temple, in 1461 he was excommunicated by his successor Pius II, publicly canonized in Hell [xlv] and, in the following year, burned in effigy in Rome, on the Capitoline Hill, in Campo dei Fiori and on the steps of San Pietro. In 1496, under the ephemeral fanatical theocratic, fundamentalist, almost "Taliban" republic, one might say, of the Dominican Girolamo Savonarola, Florence, in Piazza della Signoria, was dotted with the "purifying" flames of the "burnings of the vanities", public bonfires in which were burned not only playing cards and dice, ornaments and luxurious clothes, mirrors and perfumes, but pagan and immoral books (sometimes even an innocent book of poems or a copy of the decamerone of Boccaccio or Song book of Petrarca, “dishonest, lascivious and vain”), tapestries and paintings of nudes considered obscene, and even paintings by the old Botticelli and the young Leonardo. If accidental, it was on 14 December 1514, in Pesaro, the fire that destroyed the library of Alessandro and Costanza Sforza, in which the Commentary, the travel notebooks of Ciriaco d'Ancona, preserved there (but it is very probable that Leonardo saw them in 1502), the same cannot be said about the fire of the civic archives of Ancona in 1532, in which they disappeared in the flames, set by the papal troops, the manuscripts donated to the native city by Ciriaco: it was in fact the year in which Ancona lost its autonomy as a free city and came under the yoke of the Papal State for centuries. I won't say about the burning of Giordano Bruno... it is too well known to us. Bruno, as we know, is the highest manifestation of that "high tension" Renaissance which after him gets lost and slowly vanishes, disappearing into the darkness of history, becoming a secret and disguised word, mocked or misunderstood or suspected. In this sense, the death of this highly original thinker seems to symbolize the defeat of a vision of the world, which then had to confine itself more and more to a geographical location, known only to the initiated.
Hellenic Platonism, ancient thought, Tradition then went back into hiding. We know the history of the following centuries, from the eighteenth century to today, better and we can find traces of this thought in the secret societies that were born in the period of the Enlightenment.
But the Roman myth hardly dies and the Greek one even more so; remain the longed-for lands and places of utopian rebirths, Rome and Greece are truly the retrospective Utopia in which men like Ciriacus, tireless travelers in every sense, from the time of the Renaissance to a much later era, saw the realization of their ideals, seat of all virtues and sole receptacle of human intelligence. As another great Marche native and great Italian, Leopardi, warned, we are ourselves the more we look back at our ancient and very ancient fathers. In fact, as the school of Mystra explained to us and Ciriaco illustrates, the principles of wisdom seem to sound more effective if heard and seen from the voice and in the very figure of the ancient fathers.
With that same profound sense of spiritual brotherhood that led back to the tradition of the ancients, men like Ciriaco, who returned with the same impatient and respectful affection with which children return, after a long absence, to their father's home, therefore, in a Europe search for common roots and references, Greek or Greco-Roman culture is incontestably the only heritage that all nations can claim with one single reverent voice and that is why we must remember and pay homage to Cyriacus of Ancona, the Doric Ancona .


* Elaboration of a Table/Conference held at the “Dorium Limen” College in the East of Ancona in the Tenuta dei Lavori on 20 March 2006 E\V\.
[I] Ciriaco de' Pizzecolli usually signed himself as Kyriacus Anconitanus de Picenicollibus (which could be translated as “Ciriaco Anconitano dai Colli Piceni”, abbreviated to KAP or KA as it was customary to sign his crates of goods and finds) or, sometimes, during his last years as KuriakÒw ı §j 'Ank«now.
[ii] Most of the Ancona patriciate was dedicated to trading.
[iii] According to what Francesco Scalamonti reports in Life Kyriaci.
[iv] Giaurrus, a term that gained widespread currency after the publication of Byron's poem, The Giaour (1813), is an Arabism of Turkish rather than Arab origin. The voice, from Turkish gâurgâvur, originally indicated a follower of the Zoroastrian religion, then became the term with which the Ottoman Turks derogatorily designated those who were not Muslims, especially Christians, finally taking the generic meaning of "infidel", "pagan". This entry is occasionally found in ancient Venetian texts as early as the 16th century. to indicate non-Muslims.
[v] The humanist and poet Tommaso Seneca (Camerino 1390 – 1472), famous as a professor, left numerous writings that have come down to us. In the year of his death he was still working as a grammarian in Rimini. He is above all famous for a literary duel. In 1455 or 1456 Tommaso Seneca da Camerino (who already in 1440 was in Rimini as secretary of Sigismondo Malatesta and lived there occasionally until his death) was a protagonist alongside the Neapolitan poet and adventurer Porcellio Pandoni and against Basinio da Parma (all poets of the Malatesta court) of a singular and spirited controversy, typical of the Renaissance. The bitter dispute centered on whether knowledge of Greek was important for Latin scholars. Seneca and Porcellio's thesis was that "one could be an elegant Latin poet without paling above the Greek authors". The controversy, of which Sigismondo Malatesta was the judge, was won by Basinio's improvised reply and gave rise to several writings. On the episode and on Seneca da Camerino see FERRUCCIO FERRI, A contest between three humanists. Basinio Porcellio and Seneca. Contribution to the history of Greek studies in fifteenth century Italy, Typ. Subsequently Fratelli Fusi, Pavia 1920; in summary: CHARLES YRIARTE, Rimini: a leader of the 200th century: studies on letters and the arts at the Malatesta court according to the state papers of the Italian archives; with XNUMX drawings from the monuments of the time, trans. of the ed. Parisian of 1882 by Moreno Neri, Raffaelli Editore, Rimini, 2003, p. 236 and p. 395; Augusto Campana, Basinio from Parma, in Biographical Dictionary of Italians, vol. 7 [Bartolucci-Bellotto], Institute of the Italian Encyclopedia Rome, 1965, pp. 89-98, on p. ninety two.
[vi] Cyriacus was not a scholar of the language: when he wished to learn Latin, he hired Thomas Seneca in Ancona to help him read Virgil and did not worry much about grammar. Afterwards he almost always wrote in Latin - his diaries and his letters are in this language - but in a somewhat peculiar Latin. Poggio Bracciolini wrote about his style “Graeca plurima latinis mixta, verba inepta, latinitas mala, constructio inconcinna, sensus nullus…” but Ciriaco had criticized him publicly (see infra note 16). In reality, a careful reading of his texts shows that, despite his peculiar writing style, he certainly knew the rudiments of grammar. His sentences, often extraordinarily complex, are usually grammatically constructed (and when they are not, the imperfections can usually be attributed to an error on the part of the copyists, considering the few autograph texts that have come down to us); he also had a much larger vocabulary at his fingertips than is commonly thought. At first, he could not read the Greek inscriptions that he had copied and then, during a stopover in Cyprus, he began to learn the Greek language by reading Homer.
[vii] GEORG VOIGT (1968), p. 271.
[viii] Ghibelline family from Genoa who had established the maona (merchant company) new to Chios. The Giustiniani of Genoa also had a solid trading post in the Flemish city of Bruges.
[ix] Although it was not a maritime power, like Genoa, Venice or the Catalan Barcelona, ​​the presence of Ancona was significant, even in that period. Among the captains of the ships on which he embarked for Constantinople or the Hellespont, Ciriaco from Ancona remembers Benvenuto Scottivoli and Tommaso Blasi. One can see in this, against the light, the most characteristic imprint of the economy of the Marche city, based on a mercantile economic and social class aimed at the Levant.
[X] And viceversa. It is known that Cyriacus brought new manuscripts of the Greek Testament from the East to Pope Eugene IV, who sponsored and financed him throughout his not short pontificate (1431-1447) and was commissioned to compare these texts with the translation of the Vulgate; it is one of the first examples of the application of new methods in biblical studies.
[xi] Kyriaci Anconitani Itinerarium, P. 21.
[xii] For the period of his last travels, which took him from Italy to the eastern coasts of the Adriatic, to the Greek continent, to the Aegean islands, to Anatolian Turkey and Thrace, to Mount Athos, to Constantinople, to the Cyclades and to Crete, see ( 2003), EDWARD W. BODNAR with CLIVE FOSS (ed. and trans.). The volume presents his letters and diaries from 1443 to 1449. The accounts of his travels, with their commentary reflecting his very broad antiquarian, political, religious and commercial interests, provide a fascinating reminder of the encounter of the Renaissance world with the legacy of classical antiquity. The Latin texts collected in this edition have only recently been published and most of them appear for the first time in their English translation. The edition is enriched by some reproductions of Ciriaco's sketches and a map of his travels.
[xiii] Andreolo Giustiniani (1385-1456), scholar and poet (he was the author of the history in Latin verse of the war against Venice in 1431), lord of Chio, merchant, had collected a library of 2000 volumes and provided books and texts to contemporary humanists, Poggio Bracciolini in particular, with whom he was in constant contact.
[xiv] The manuscript survives within the incunabula and books of the Bessarione library donated to the Republic of Venice which constitute the initial nucleus of the Marciana, just as the Medici manuscripts, some certainly purchased by Ciriaco, became the nucleus of the Laurenziana of Florence.
[xv] The statue was stolen in 1687 by Admiral Francesco Morosini and today it is placed at the entrance to the arsenal of Venice.

[xvi] Ciriacus Anconitanus, homo verbosus et nimium loquax, deplorabat aliwhen, asstantibus nobis, casum atque eversionem Imperial Romani, inque ea re vehementius angi videbatur. Tum Antonius Luscus, vir doctissimus, here in coetu aderat, ridens hominis stultam curam… (Poggi Facetiae, 82 Comparatio Antonii Lusciand. I. Liseux, Paris, 1879). In a letter Poggio defines Ciriaco asinus bipedalis, “two-legged donkey” (Slightly, edited by Helene Hart, Leo S. Olschki, Florence 1984-87, vol. 2, Epistolarium familiarum libri / Poggio Bracciolini, p. 299. But the relationships between the two (see supra note 5) had notoriously deteriorated when Ciriaco, in a controversy that Poggio had with Guarino Veronese on the issue of the superiority of Scipio and Caesar, he took the side of his opponent. On the controversy, one of many of the Renaissance period (see also supra note 5) and full of political implications between a republican and monarchic choice, see DGREED CAMPHORAThe controversy of Poggio Bracciolini and Guarino Veronese over Caesar and Scipio, Leo S. Olschki, Florence, 2001.

[xvii] “Shortly afterwards collections of antiquities of all kinds arose. Cyriacus of Ancona traveled not only through Italy, but also many other ancient countries orbis terrarum, and brought back large copies of inscriptions and drawings; when asked why he worked so hard, he replied: to resurrect the dead” (JACOB BURCKHARDT, The civilization of the Renaissance in Italy, Newton & Compton Editori, Rome, 2000, p. 147).
[xviii] It was Feliciano himself who transmitted to us the life of Ciriaco, written, when he was still alive, by his fellow citizen Francesco Scalamonti, in the codex of the Capitulary of Treviso (see REFERENCES under Colucci, Giuseppe,). CHARLES MITCHELL, “Felice Feliciano Antiquarius” (in Proceeding of the British Academy for the promotion of historical, philosophical and philological studies XLVII, 1961, pp. 197-221), p. 197, considers Feliciano a disciple of Ciriaco d'Ancona, based on his own declaration of being an "authentic follower and spiritual heir" of Ciriaco. The friendship between the copyist Feliciano and the painter Mantegna, both passionate about antiquarianism, explains the influence of the Ancona native's drawings on the painter.
[xx] The relationships with the Malatesta courts of Rimini and Cesena, which Ciriaco visited for the first time in 1423, are also attested through the knowledge of Giovanni di Marco da Rimini, doctor in charge of the Cesena lord Malatesta Novello and lover of antiquities and books that donated to the Malatestiana of Cesena. The humanist doctor accompanied Ciriaco on his visit to Rimini in 1435 (see ORESTE DELUCCA, “Biographical sources for Giovanni di Marco” in The library of a fifteenth-century doctor. The codes of Giovanni di Marco da Rimini in the Malatestiana Library, edited by Anna Manfron, Municipality of Cesena – Malatestiana Library Institution, U. Allemandi press, Turin, 1998, pp. 39-68 on p. 46). The following visit to Rimini dates back to 1449.
[xx] See on the subject AUGUSTO CAMPANA, Ciriaco and the Malatesta elephant in (1998) GIANFRANCO PACI and SERGIO SCONOCCHIA (eds.), pp. 198-200. Ciriaco's interventions are also certainly at the origin of the two large twin celebratory epigraphs in Greek characters affixed to the sides of the Malatesta Temple, the first example of that type in the humanistic culture of the period. Further investigations would allow us to discover the influence of Ciriacan's sketches and his suggestions in other sculptures of the Rimini Temple, as can be seen from the comparison for example of the bas-relief of the Capricorn in the Chapel of the Planets or that of the so-called Concord in the Chapel of the Arts - model among other things also of the sixth lama, call of the Lovers, of the Major Arcana of the Visconti-Sforza Tarot (circa 1441-1447) —, respectively with Cyriacan sketches of a bas-relief of Pan in Thasos and of a Roman tombstone in Agios Ioannis of Keria, in the Peloponnesian Mani.
[xxx] Now at the Uffizi Gallery.
[xxiii] See in the 2nd ed. Italian cited in the Bibliography on Cyriacus, with presentation by Delio Cantimori, especially p. 30, p. 118, p. 124, pp. 131 ff., pp. 541 ff. It should be noted that the episode of Ciriaco's entry alongside Sultan Mehmed II is also given as certain by ROBERTO WEISS (1966), p. 366.
[xxiii] See JULIAN RABY (1981), pp. 242-246 and spec. p. 245; as well as the definitive clarification by CHRISTOS G. PATRINELES (1968). The essay by GIORGIO VERCELLIN, “Cyriacus of Ancona and the Turk in Cyriacus of Ancona and his time (2002), p. 103-126, in part. pp. 103-107.
[xxv] Cosimo de Medici was certainly its most munificent financier. Thanks to Ciriaco he had collected cameos, reliefs and sculptures. But nothing remains of Cosimo the Elder's antiquarian collection, which was lost together with the refined collections of Lorenzo the Magnificent with the expulsion of Piero II de Medici from Florence in 1494.
[xxiv] See EDWARD W. BODNAR with CLIVE FOSS (2003): xiv-xv.
[xxv] Artium, mentis, ingenii facundiaeque pater, alme Mercuri, viarum itinerumque optime dux… (Benefic Mercury, father of the arts, ingenuity and eloquence, excellent leader of roads and travels...).
[xxviii] See JEAN COLIN (1981) pp. 214 ff. and pp. 317 ff.
[xxviii] GIORGIO VERCELLIN, Op. Cit., pp. 113-114.
[xxix] See CM WOODHOUSE (1986), p. 165: “… he [Cyriac] was at heart a pagan, like Gemistos…” and p. 228: “Ciryac was… a fellow pagan.”
[xxx] On the only moment of syncretistic enlightenment, represented by the Renaissance, see ELÉMIRE ZOLLA, Syncretism is an example of it in Exit the World, Adelphi, Milan, 1992, pp. 59-65.
[xxxii] See LUDWIG BERTALOT and AUGUSTO CAMPANA (1939), p. 374; LUDWIG BERTALOT (1975)pp. 329 ff.
[xxxi] MARSILIO FICINO, The works, former Henricpetrina workshop, Basileae, t. II, p. 1537 (Anast. Repr. Bottega d'Erasmo, Turin, 1983).
[xxxii] See especially FRANCES A. YATES, Giordano Bruno and the hermetic tradition, Laterza, Rome, 2000.
[xxxv] … cum… inde Gemistei platonic dilectissiminostri nostri gratia Laconicam Mysitratem revivissem… (when... I returned to the laconic Mystra in order to see the dearest Platonic Gemistus...).
[xxxiv] GIORGIO DI TREBISONDA KNOWN AS TRAPEZUNZIO, Comparationes philosophorum Aristotelis et Platonis, 1458.
[xxxiv] See, for example, the entry “Freemasonry” in LUIGI TROISI, Universal Freemasonry: dictionary; introduction by Aldo A. Mola, SugarCo, Carnago, 1994, p. 144 “It is widely believed that speculative Freemasonry in developing its principles was also inspired, as we have mentioned before, by other associations such as the Academies, flourishing during the modern era, starting from humanism, when intellectual work, on an industrial level, it was insufficient to organize and arrange the very abundant material collected by the humanists. And it is precisely in these associations that doctrines centered on tolerance and the pluralism of ideas in all fields (primarily in the religious one) flourish and are strengthened." In any case, the aforementioned book by Yates remains fundamental on the subject.
[xxxviii] There is a Greek translation of the sonnet attributable to Gemisto Pletone; see FRANÇOIS MASAI (1956) n. 4 on p. 72.
[xxxviii] François Masai, who dealt with the special Platonism of Pletho, already wondered if these Academies "were not, in some way, branches of those of Mystra". Those who know the functioning of esoteric societies and initiatory transmissions, in their flow like a karst river, know that it is difficult to determine their extension and their fertility is known, for which they form branches and colonies, and if they want to follow them the tracks, you get lost in a labyrinth.
[xxxix] See ROBERTO WEISS (1988), which highlights the curious mix in the Renaissance between meticulous antiquarian care and forgery.
[xl] See VIRGIL, Aeneid IV, 242-245.
[xi] CARL GUSTAV JUNG, The Collected Works of CG Jung, Vol. XIII: Alchemical Studies, par. 54, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1967; trans. it. The Secret of the Golden Flower: A Book of Chinese Life, Bollati Boringhieri, Turin, 2001.
[xliii] The Masai, just mentioned, in § 3 of the chapter. vii, “La Phratrie des Hellènes”, pp. 300-314.
[xiii] We refer in particular to the thesis exposed by JOHN MONFASANI, “Platonic Paganism in the Fiftteenth Century” in Reconsidering the Renaissance: Papers from the Twenty-First Annual Conference, edited by Mario A. di Cesare, Medieval & Renaissance Texts & Studies, Binghamton (NY), 1992, pp. 45-61.
[xiv] The topic is truly complex and would require a separate article. It is debated whether the Geography by Strabo, until then unknown in the West, was transmitted by Pletho during his stay in Florence or by Ciriaco who had copied it from a manuscript by Pletho during his last stay in Mystra in the winter of 1447-1448. The case is even more complicated because there is still debate among historians about the authenticity of Toscanelli's letters to Columbus. The fact remains that Strabo's text was printed as early as 1469 in Rome and republished four times, in Venice and again in Rome, before 1500. The Latin version was by Guarino Veronese who received 1500 gold scudi for this translation by Cardinal Bessarione.
[xlv] JOAN PETRU COULIANO, Eros and magic in the Renaissance: the astrological conjunction of 1484, preface by Mircea Eliade, trans. it. by Gabriella Ernesti, Il assayatore, Milan, 1987, p. 284.
[xlv] MORENO NERI, “Antonio Beltramelli and the Malatesta Temple between eros and airesis” in the appendix to ANTONIO BELTRAMELLI, A Temple of Love, illustrations by Francesco Nonni, (facs. repr. of the 1912 edition), Raffaelli Editore, Rimini, 2004, pp. 93-94.
[xlv] “Until now, no mortal has been solemnly canonized in Hell. Sigismund will be the first man worthy of this honor. By edict of the Pope, he will be condemned to the infernal city where he will join the damned and the demons. Nor will we wait for his death, because there is no possibility of his repentance. He is thereby condemned, while he is still alive, to the Ogre and to the eternal fire” (PIUS II, Commentaries, V).
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