Christian Guerra (2015)

Enea SilvioPiccolomini's Commentarii de rebus a se gestis

- Genre-theoretical and narratological considerations against the background of ancient historiography

TheCommentarii de rebus a se gestis by Enea Silvio Piccolomini (1405-1464) are often described as an autobiography. Based on a genre-theoretical consideration, it will be shown that it is more fruitful for the interpretation of the work (and also more in the sense of the author) to read the Commentarii as a historiographical work, whereby the autobiographical argumentation would have to be considered as part of the literary composition strategy of the author. A genre-theoretical approach is, of course, only meaningful if it places formal and content-related aspects in a meaningful relationship to each other. Thus, when the first part traces the development of the genres of historiography, biography, and autobiography in Greco-Roman antiquity, traces lines of tradition from antiquity into the early modern period, and points out tendencies of ancient historiography that persist in humanistic historiography, this is not done in the sense of a "crossing of genres" but in the sense of an encounter of genres in a common space, which corresponds to a dynamic understanding of genre. The aim of this study is to elaborate specifics of the literary form of the Commentarius and to draw attention to particularities in Piccolomini's work.

As will subsequently be shown in a selective reading of theCommentarii, they share in particular the protreptic impetus with their ancient models, i.e. they want to call for exemplary behavior by conveying exemplary deeds. The autobiographical passages should also be read against the background of this moral-pedagogical discourse, since they present the reader with an example of an exemplary existence. In this context, the "Jesus-Vita" of the Gospels will also represent an important biographical-historiographical model, whereas numerous portraits and character studies will contribute to draw a "moral tableau" of one's own time.

Finally, it will be seen that narrative schemes are also adopted from ancient historiography that influence the representation of events. For example, the battles of Sarno (7. 7. 1460) and Troy (29. 8. 1462) evoke Cannae and Zama against the backdrop of the 2nd Punic War; here the papal party appears as Romans led by Scipio, the pro-French party as Carthaginians and Hannibal. Thus, antiquity possesses a prominent role in gaining perspective on the present and, as a cultural model, affects and changes "real" life.

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