Caesarea Laus: Ciriaco d’Ancona praising Caesar to Leonardo Bruni
Renaissance Studies 22 (4): 435--449 (2008)

In the 1430s, Poggio Bracciolini and Guarino Veronese conducted a heated epistolary exchange on the relative merits of the Roman republican paragon Scipio Africanus, and Julius Caesar, whom Poggio decried as destroyer of the Republic, whilst Guarino praised him as founder of the Empire. To this debate Ciriaco d’Ancona added his views, a defence of universal monarchy with Caesar as its herald, in his Caesarea Laus. This startling letter, addressed to Leonardo Bruni, is profoundly different in conception from the previous contributions to the Scipio-Caesar controversy, and is as yet not fully studied. In order to explain Ciriaco's argument, the present article examines his narrative tropes, his self-presentation, and his literary models in the Caesarea Laus. Foremost among these is Virgil, but behind him, Ciriaco's ultimate source appears: Dante. In choosing these models, Ciriaco also takes issue with Poggio, and Bruni, concerning the use of poetical allegory as a means to attain truth, of which both had been critical. Comparison with an earlier letter, in which Ciriaco defends such interpretations of poetry, sheds further light not only on his method, but also on the contents of his argument in the Caesarea Laus, and the importance he attached to it. Both Ciriaco's appraisal of Caesar and his espousal of allegorical exegesis, which for him are intimately linked, bespeak the continuing vitality, in early Quattrocento humanism, of medieval approaches, which underlie the originality of the Caesarea Laus.
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