A new sense of the past : the scholarship of Biondo Flavio by Gilbert Tournoy

By Gilbert Tournoy

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Muecke gives some attention to the relationship between Biondo’s and Rosinus’ works. ’ The account of the burial practices was utilized by Poliziano and subsequent authors. However, the most successful of Biondo’s descriptions was that of the Bacchanalia, which survived up to the eighteenth century. Bacchus was the most controversial of the pagan gods, whose libidinous behavior was highly repelling to the religious sects of Europe. Biondo’s ‘trinitarian’ interpretation of an oath sworn by the Roman god Dius Fidius was appropriated to explain the ‘Fidei Simulacrum,’ an Augustan-era funeral shrine, where a husband and wife clasp hands in front of a child.

Indeed, by reconstructing the dark age of an entire millennium and by conveying an historical discourse that evolves from the general to the particular, that is to say from late antiquity to late Middle Ages, the Decades set the stage for the Italia illustrata. Thus the theme of Italian identity, central to the ideology of the Italia Illustrata, is complementary to that of the Middle Ages formulated in the Decades. Consequently the notion of a medieval age prevalent in the Decades is at the base of Biondo’s 32 ANGELO MAZZOCCO view of the origin and development of a modern Italian civilization in the fifteenth century.

I barbari romanizzati però, quando si trasferiscono a Roma da regioni sottomesse all’impero, contaminano con barbarismi e solecismi la correttezza del latino parlato nell’Urbe. La corruzione del latino è pertanto, per Isidoro, il risultato stesso dell’espansionismo romano. Se affrontiamo la questione alla luce di queste osservazioni, ci accorgiamo immediatamente che il concetto espresso da Biondo è notevolmente diverso da quello formulato da Isidoro. Per il nostro umanista il mutamento linguistico non sarebbe avvenuto a seguito della conquista romana dei territori barbarici, ma a causa della conquista barbarica di Roma.

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