A Sudden Terror: The Plot to Murder the Pope in Renaissance Rome

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Overview

In 1468, on the final night of Carnival in Rome, Pope Paul II sat enthroned above the boisterous crowd, when a scuffle caught his eye. His guards had intercepted a mysterious stranger trying urgently to convey a warning—conspirators were lying in wait to slay the pontiff. Twenty humanist intellectuals were quickly arrested, tortured on the rack, and imprisoned in separate cells in the damp dungeon of Castel Sant’Angelo.

Anthony D’Elia offers a compelling, surprising story that reveals a Renaissance world that witnessed the rebirth of interest in the classics, a thriving homoerotic culture, the clash of Christian and pagan values, the contest between republicanism and a papal monarchy, and tensions separating Christian Europeans and Muslim Turks. Using newly discovered sources, he shows why the pope targeted the humanists, who were seen as dangerously pagan in their Epicurean morals and their Platonic beliefs about the soul and insurrectionist in their support of a more democratic Church. Their fascination with Sultan Mehmed II connected them to the Ottoman Turks, enemies of Christendom, and the love of the classical world tied them to recent rebellious attempts to replace papal rule with a republic harking back to the glorious days of Roman antiquity.

From the cosmetic-wearing, parrot-loving pontiff to the Turkish sultan, savage in war but obsessed with Italian culture, D’Elia brings to life a Renaissance world full of pageantry, mayhem, and conspiracy and offers a fresh interpretation of humanism as a dynamic communal movement.

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Editorial Reviews

Christopher S. Celenza
A work of outstanding scholarship presented in a taut yet lively narrative. D'Elia brings to life the vibrant, cruel, and glitteringly public city of Renaissance Rome. A splendid achievement.
Literary Review of Canada - Michael W. Higgins
Although there is no conclusive evidence that a conspiracy to murder Paul II was afoot on the eve of Lent 1468, D'Elia painstakingly establishes the plausibility of such a conspiracy by deftly employing an array of distinct but related causes and showing how they could easily coalesce to bring down the Barbo pontificate. And in doing this he paints a portrait of mid 15th-century Rome that is illuminating and serves as a corrective to those who hold the jaundiced and indefensible view that the papacy is constitutionally irreformable and that things have never been worse in Rome than they are now.
Catholic Herald - Jonathan Wright
D'Elia deserves a medal for producing such a satisfying study...Sex, papal politics, the excesses of carnival in Renaissance Rome, Christendom confronting the Ottoman empire, scholars joyfully and dangerously dreaming about the glories of ancient Greece: one couldn't really ask for anything more.
Booklist - Gilbert Taylor
[A] commendable reconstruction of a Renaissance mystery.
Booklist
[A] commendable reconstruction of a Renaissance mystery.
— Gilbert Taylor
Catholic Herald
D'Elia deserves a medal for producing such a satisfying study...Sex, papal politics, the excesses of carnival in Renaissance Rome, Christendom confronting the Ottoman empire, scholars joyfully and dangerously dreaming about the glories of ancient Greece: one couldn't really ask for anything more.
— Jonathan Wright
Literary Review of Canada
Although there is no conclusive evidence that a conspiracy to murder Paul II was afoot on the eve of Lent 1468, D'Elia painstakingly establishes the plausibility of such a conspiracy by deftly employing an array of distinct but related causes and showing how they could easily coalesce to bring down the Barbo pontificate. And in doing this he paints a portrait of mid 15th-century Rome that is illuminating and serves as a corrective to those who hold the jaundiced and indefensible view that the papacy is constitutionally irreformable and that things have never been worse in Rome than they are now.
— Michael W. Higgins
Library Journal
Not till his epilog does Renaissance historian D'Elia say that this book was inspired by his accidental encounter with letters that 15th-century Roman humanists wrote while imprisoned in the Castel Sant'Angelo for conspiracy to assassinate Pope Paul II. That explains a lot about the book. In 1668, informed of a plot against his life, Paul II rounded up the usual suspects, leading local humanists, and threw them in jail for a year where they exchanged Classically-inspired letters of apology, regret, and defiance. D'Elia details a half-century of prior challenges to the papacy that could make a pope uneasy. What D'Elia never explores is whether this particular plot existed or how it might have worked. Instead, the book considers the aspects of Roman humanism that bothered the church: homoeroticism, a taste for pre-Christian philosophy and flirtation with Islam. D'Elia closes with a numbing textual analysis of the letters that inspired his work. VERDICT Despite some interesting detail of the centuries-old love-hate relationship between the Romans and their pope, the book isn't for the general reader. It may have some interest for students of Roman humanism.—Stewart Desmond, New York
Literary Review of Canada

Although there is no conclusive evidence that a conspiracy to murder Paul II was afoot on the eve of Lent 1468, D'Elia painstakingly establishes the plausibility of such a conspiracy by deftly employing an array of distinct but related causes and showing how they could easily coalesce to bring down the Barbo pontificate. And in doing this he paints a portrait of mid 15th-century Rome that is illuminating and serves as a corrective to those who hold the jaundiced and indefensible view that the papacy is constitutionally irreformable and that things have never been worse in Rome than they are now.
— Michael W. Higgins

Catholic Herald

D'Elia deserves a medal for producing such a satisfying study...Sex, papal politics, the excesses of carnival in Renaissance Rome, Christendom confronting the Ottoman empire, scholars joyfully and dangerously dreaming about the glories of ancient Greece: one couldn't really ask for anything more.
— Jonathan Wright

Booklist

[A] commendable reconstruction of a Renaissance mystery.
— Gilbert Taylor

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674035553
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 11/30/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Anthony F. D'Elia is Associate Professor of History at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario.
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Table of Contents

  1. Carnival to Lent
  2. The Price of Magnificence
  3. Lessons of Rebellions Past
  4. A Pagan Renaissance: Sodomy and the Classical Tradition
  5. Consorting with the Enemy: Mehmet II and the Ottoman Threat
  6. The Emperor’s Tomb
  7. Humanism Imprisoned

  • Epilogue
  • Notes
  • Acknowledgments
  • Bibliography
  • Index

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 9 )
Rating Distribution

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(8)

4 Star

(1)

3 Star

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Sort by: Showing all of 9 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 2, 2013

    Zolo to assassin

    Meet me at our place.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 16, 2013

    Jordan to Assassin

    Capture the man in my fu<_>ckin' house! He's been there forever and wont leave! House is at 'the castle' res 5. Should be "tuesdays at the Castle."

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 16, 2013

    RA?PE REQUEST

    I need u to ra.pe violet at violet res 1....i nt care who da ot to her

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 16, 2013

    To Blackstar

    You watch Soul Eater dont you.....if you do your awsome.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 16, 2013

    Black star

    Ok ashly

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 16, 2013

    To assasin

    She justs gets on my nerves and i want her out of that rp for awhile. I also think that the rp needs drama and i think that that would be perfect...

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 15, 2013

    To The Assassin

    Do you do ra<c>pe?

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 15, 2013

    Kidnap fox

    At blood and bone res one. Omg i hate that snob so much. I want to scare bloodclan out of their wits cuz shes the leaders pregnet mate and only queen.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 15, 2013

    Wait

    Wait i xan take care of it

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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