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Imprisonment in Castel Sant'Angelo and even the use of torture—mild, doubtless—failing to extract incriminating admissions from the accused, both prisoners were unconditionally released. If the Pope felt serious alarm, his fears seem to have been easily allayed, for Pomponius was permitted to resume his public lectures undisturbed, but the Roman Academy had received a check, from which it did not recover during the remainder of the pontificate of Paul II. With the accession of Sixtus IV., the cloud of disfavour that still hung obscuringly over its glories was lifted. Encouraged by the Pope and frequented by distinguished members of the Curia, its era of greatness dawned in splendour. The assault upon the Church by the humanists, which resulted in the partial capture of Latin Christianity, was ably directed. Although the renascence of learning did not take its rise in Rome, where the intellectual movement and enthusiasm imported from Florence flourished but fitfully, according to the various humours of the successive pontiffs, the papal capital drew within its walls eminent scholars from all the states of the Italian peninsula. Rome was the world-city, a centre from which radiated honours, distinctions, and fortune. Gifts of oratory, facility in debate, ability in the conduct of diplomatic negotiations, a masterly style in Latin composition, and even perfection in penmanship, were all marketable accomplishments, for which Rome was the highest bidder. If classical learning and the graces of literature received but intermittent encouragement from the sovereign pontiffs, both the secular interests of their government and the vindication of the Church's dogmatic teaching afforded the most profitable exercise for talents which sceptical humanists sold, as readily as did the condottieri their swords—to the best paymaster, regardless of their personal convictions. There consequently came into existence in Rome a new ceto or class, equally removed from
the nobles of feudal traditions and the ecclesiastics of the Curia, yet mingling with both. Literary style and the art of Latin composition, sedulously cultivated by these brilliant intellectual nomads, shed an undoubted lustre on the Roman chancery, giving it a stamp it has never entirely lost. They fought battles and scored victories for an orthodoxy they derided. They defended the Church's temporalities from the encroachments of covetous princes. Their influence on morals was frankly pagan. Expatriated and emancipated from all laws save those dictated by their own tastes and inclinations, these men were genially rebellious against the restraints and discipline imposed by the evangelical law. From the Franciscan virtues of chastity, poverty, and obedience, preached by the Poverello of Assisi, they turned with aversion to laud the antipodal trinity of lust, license, and luxury. The mysticism of medieval Christianity was repugnant to their materialism, and the symbolism of its art, expressed under rigid, graceless forms, offended eyes that craved beauty of line and beauty of colour. They ignored or condemned any ulterior purpose of art as a teaching medium for spiritual truths. To such men, a satire of Juvenal was more precious than an epistle of St. Paul; dogma, they demolished with epigrams, the philosophy of the schoolmen was a standing joke, and a passage from Plato or Horace outweighed the definitions of an Ecumenical Council. The toleration extended to these heterodox scholars seems to have been unlimited,—perhaps it was not in Some instances unmixed with contempt, for, though they lampooned the clergy of all grades, not sparing even the Pope himself, their writings, even when not free from positive scurrility, were allowed the freest circulation. In all that pertained to personal conduct and morality, they directed their exclusive efforts to assimilating classical standards of the decadent periods, ignoring the austere virtues of civic probity, self-restraint, and frugality, that characterised the best society of Greek and Rome in their florescence. These same men lived on terms of close intimacy with princes of the Church, on whose bounty they throve, and by degrees numbers of them even entered the ranks of the clergy, some with minor and others with holy orders. To their labours, the world owes the recovery of the classic literature of Greece and Rome from oblivion, while the invention and rapid adoption of the printing-press rendered these precious texts forever indestructible and accessible. Into this brilliant, dissolute world of intellectual activity, Peter Martyr entered, and through it he passed unscathed, emerging with his Christian faith intact and his orthodoxy untainted. He gathered the gold of classical learning, rejecting its dross; his morals were above reproach and calumny never touched his reputation. Respected, appreciated, and, most of all, beloved by his contemporaries, his writings enriched the intellectual heritage of posterity with inexhaustible treasures of original information concerning the great events of the memorable epoch it was his privilege to illustrate. General culture being widely diffused, the pedantic imitations of antiquity applauded by the preceding generation ceased to confer distinction. Latin still held its supremacy but the Italian language, no longer reputed vulgar, was coming more and more into favour as a vehicle for the expression of original thought. Had he remained in Italy Martyr might well have used it, but his removal to Spain imposed Latin as the language of his voluminous compositions. Four years after his arrival in Rome, a Milanese noble, Bartolomeo Scandiano, who later went as nuncio to Spain, invited Peter Martyr to pass the summer months in his villa at Rieti, in company with the Bishop of Viterbo. In the fifteenth letter of the Opus Epistolarum he recalls the impressions and recollections of that memorable visit, in the following terms: “Do you remember, Scandiano, with what enthusiasm we dedicated our days to poetical composition? Then did I first appreciate the importance of association with the learned and to what degree the mind of youth is elevated in the amiable society of serious men: then, for the first time, I ventured to think myself a man and to hope that I might become somebody." The summer of 1481 may, therefore, be held to mark his intellectual awakening and the birth of his definite ambitions. Endowed by nature with the qualities necessary to success, intimate association with men of eminent culture inspired him with the determination to emulate them, and from this ideal he never deflected. The remaining six years of his life in Rome were devoted to the pursuit of knowledge, and in the art of deciphering inscriptions and the geography of the ancients he acquired singular proficiency. During the pontificate of Innocent VIII., Francesco Negro, a Milanese by birth, was governor of Rome and him Peter Martyr served as secretary; a service which, for some reason, necessitated several months' residence in Perugia. His relations with Ascanio Sforza, created cardinal in 1484, continued to be close, and at one period he may have held some position in the cardinal's household or in that of Cardinal Giovanni Arcimboldo, Archbishop of Milan, though it is nowhere made clear precisely what, while some authorities incline to number him merely among the assiduous courtiers of these dignitaries from his native Lombardy. The fame of his scholarship had meanwhile raised him from the position of disciple to a place amongst the masters of learning, and in his turn he saw gathering about him a group of admirers and adulators. Besides Pomponius Laetus, his intimates of this period were Theodore of Pavia and Peter Marsus, the less celebrated of the Venetian brothers. He stood in the relation of preceptor or mentor to Alonso Carillo, Bishop of Pamplona, and to Jorge da Costa, Archbishop of Braga, two personages of rank, who did but follow the prevailing fashion that decreed the presence of a humanist scholar to be an indispensable appendage in the households of the great. He read and commented the classics to his exalted patrons, was the arbiter of taste, their friend, the companion of their cultured leisure, and their confidant. Replying to the praises of his disciples, couched in extravagant language, he administered a mild rebuke, recalling them to moderation in the expression of their sentiments: “These are not the lessons you received from me when I explained to you the satire of the divine Juvenal; on the contrary, you have learned that nothing more shames a free man than adulation.” The year 1486 was signalised in Rome by the arrival of an embassy from Ferdinand and Isabella to make the usual oath of obedience on behalf of the Catholic sovereigns of Castille and Leon to their spiritual over-lord, the Pope. Ifiigo Lopez de Mendoza, Count of Tendilla, a son of the noble house of Mendoza, whose cardinal was termed throughout Europe tertius rex, was the ambassador charged with this mission.” Tendilla shone in a family in which intellectual brilliancy was a heritage, the accomplishments of its members adding distinction to a house of origin and descent exceptionally illustrious. Whether in the house of his compatriot, the Bishop of Pamplona, or elsewhere, the ambassador made the acquaintance of Peter Martyr and evidently fell under
* Epist. x. Non hac a me profecto, quam ambobus Juvenalis aliguando divinam illam, qual proxima est a secunda, satiram aperirem, sed adulatione nihil esse ingenuo facdius dedicistis.
• From Burchard's Diarium, 1483–1506, and from the Chronicle of Pulgar we learn that Antonio Geraldini and Juan de Medina, the latter afterwards Bishop of Astorga, accompanied the embassy.