15 May 2015

Two for Cyriaco

Two documents for Cyriaco of Ancona, one new, one ignored, that contribute to his portrait.

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Cyriaco  is conventionally thought to have died in 1452 or 1555: I find authors fairly evenly divided on that.  I'm quite sure 1452 is wrong, as I have found the document above which certainly has him alive on 8 March 1454 when he was granted Venetian citizenship at the age of 62. This is not a very exciting or important piece of information, but it was a surprise and raises the question of why Venetian citizenship at this point?  He was 63 and had been going to Venice since he was 10.

This document is available on-line at ASV Senato Privilegi 1425-October 1560.

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In 1431 Francesco Filelfo, a fellow citizen of Ancona, wrote Cyriaco a letter.  Cyriaco had been studying Greek for five years or so -- we don't know what that means -- but apparently Cyriaco had written a letter in Greek to Filelfo who was teaching Greek in Florence.  To my mind, Filelfo was a bit of a charlatan, and this letter demonstrates it.  His quotation of Homer bears no resemblance to anything Homer ever wrote, thought it seems to refer to Aphrodite and Diomedes in Iliad 5.  And his compliments of Cyriaco's Greek make me wonder what the Florentines were paying to learn from him: Cyriaco's Latin was not so good, his Greek was unlikely to have been any better.  Pierre MacKay translated the letter for me.

Francesco Filelfo to Cyriaco, greetings,
I have for a long time admired your capabilities in language, and now I would have no way of doing so adequately; so much has the beauty of your letters written in Greek astonished me; it informs me vividly that you did not learn it in Constantinople but there in Athens. The grace inherent in your composition is from there. I believe that the first of the Muses, if you were to meet her in person, on experiencing and marveling at the charm of your words would utter that Homeric phrase:
Who and from where are you, where is the city that bore you, For I shall tell you that I, most distinguished of goddesses, am envious At being so utterly defeated by a mortal

Be in good health, therefore, so that you may be able to enchant us and all those others who are similarly disposed toward you with your God-given talent from the Muses. I wish for you also that you may reach the age of Nestor, since you yield in wisdom in no way whatsoever not only to our contemporaries, but even to the outstanding figures of those in the past. Stay well, shrine of the Muses, and love your Filelfo as always, who would for your sake and for the sake of all who support you, jump into the fire, metaphorically, with great eagerness.

From Florence, on the nones of March, in the year 1431 from the birth of Christ. 

This letter can be found on-line as #8 in Cent-Dix Lettres Grecques de Francois Filelfe.

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