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T HE I TATT I R E N AI S S A N C E LIB RARY

James H ankins. Gen eral Editor

Editorial Board Michael J. B. Allen Brian Cope nhaver E D I T E D A N D T R A N S L ATE D flY

Albinia de la Mar e

V I RGI N IA BRO W N

'rJozef IJsewijn Claudio Leonardi Walther Ludwig Nic holas Mann Silvia Rizzo

Advisory Committee Walter Kaiser, Chairman Robert Black

David Ma rsh

t Leonard Boyle Virginia Brown

Joh n Monfasani

Salvatore Camporeale

David Quint

Caroline Elam Arth ur Field

Ch ristine Smith Rita Sturlese

Ant hony G rafton

Francesco Tateo

H anna Gr ay

Mirko Tavoni

t Cecil G rayson Ralph H exrer

J. B. Trapp Ca rlo Vecce

Jill Kraye Francesco Lo Monaco

Jan Z iolkowski

John O'Malley

Ronald Witt

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T H E I TAT T I R E NA ISSA NCE LIBRARY

HARVARD UNIVE R SIT Y PR E S S

C A M B R I D G E , M A S S A C H U S E T T S

L O N D O N , E N G L A N D


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Priface

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lohmmis Boccaccii de Certaldo De mulieribus doris ad Andremn de Acciarolis de Florenti« Alteville comitissam liber inctpi; fcliciter

Here Begins the Book on Fa mous Women W/'itten by Giovanni Boccaccio of Certaldo and Dedicated to Andrea Acciaiuoli of Florence, Countess of Altavilla

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Scr ipsere iarndudum non nulli vcterurn sub compendio de viris il­ lust ribus libros; et nostr o evo, [ariori ramen volumine et accura­ tiori stile, vir insignis er poera egregius Franciscus Petrarca, pr e­ 2 cepro r noster, scribir: er dign e. N am qui, ur cereros antei rcnt claris facinoribus, studium omne, substantias, sanguinem er animam, exigenre oporrunirare, pos uere, pr ofecro ur eorum nomen in poste­ 3 ros perpetu a deduca rur memoria meruere. Sane mira tus sum plu­ rimurn adeo modicum apud huiusce viros poruisse mu lieres, ut nullam memo rie gratiam in speciali aliqua descripti on e consecut e sint, cum liqu ido ex amplioribus histor iis consrer qu asdam tam strenue quam forr irer egisse nonnulla. 4 Er si extollendi sum hom ines dum, concesso sibi robore, magna perfecerint, quant o amplius mulieres, quib us fere om nibus a na­ tura reru m mollities insita er corp us debile ac tardu m ingeniu m datu m est, si in virilem evaserint animum er ingen io celebri atque virtute consp icua audean r atque perficiant etiam d ifficillima viris, exrollend e sum? Et ideo, ne meriro fraudent ur suo, venit in animum ex his qu as memoria referee in glorie sue decus in unum deducere; eisque ad­ dere ex muft is quasdam, qu as aut audacia seu vires ingenii et in­

Long ago th ere were a few ancient auth ors who composed biogra­ phies of famous men in th e form of compendia, and in our day th at renowned man and great poet, my teacher Petrarch, is writing a similar work th at will be even fuller and more carefully don e." T his is fitt ing. For those who gave all their zeal, th eir fortu nes, 2 and (when th e occasion required it) th eir blood and th eir lives in order to surpass other men in illustr ious deeds have cerrainly earned th e right to have th eir name s rememb ered forever by pos­ terity. What surprises me is how little atte nt ion wome n have at- 3 tracred from writers of this genre , and the absence of any work de­ voted especially to th eir memory, even though length ier histories show clearly th at some wome n have performed acts requir ing vigor and courage. If we gram th at men deserve praise whenever th ey perform grea t deeds with the strength bestowed upon them, how mu ch more should wom en be extolled - almost all of whom are en­ dowed by nature with soft, frail bodie s and sluggish minds - when th ey take on a manly spirit, show remarkable intelligence and brav­ ery, and dare to execute deeds th at would be extremely difficult even for men? Lest, th erefore, such women be cheated of th eir just du e, I had the idea of honoring th eir glory by assembling in a single volu me th e biograp hies of women whose memory is still green. To these I have added some lives from amo ng th e many women who are no­

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• FAMOUS WOMEN '

. PREFACE .

du stri a, aut nature munus, vel fortune gratia, seu iniuria, norabiles fecit; bisque paucas adnecrere qu e, etsi non memoraru dignum ali­

table for their boldness, int ellecru al powers, and perseveran ce, or for th eir narural endowments, or for fortune's favor or enmity. I have also included a few women who, although they performed no action worthy of rem embrance, were nonetheless cau sal agents in the performance of m ighty deed s. Furthermore, I do not want read ers to think it strange if rhey hnd such chast e matrons as Penelo pe, Lucretia , and Sulpicia in company with Medea, Flor a, and Sempronia or others like them, who had st rong but, as it happened , destructive charact ers . It is not in fact my inte nt ion to int erpret th e word 'fam ou s' in such a strict sense that it will always appear to mean 'virtuou s'. Instead, with the kind permission of my read ers, I will adopt a wider meaning and con sid er as famous those women wh om I know to have gained a reputation through out the world for any deed what­ soever. Indeed, in the case of illust rious men I reme mber h aving read not only about the Leon ida ses, th e Scipio s, the Cares, and the Fabricii, but also about th e turbulent Gracchi, sly H annibal, and tr eacherous ]ugurtha; about Sulla and Marius , st ain ed with the blood of civil war; about Crassus, as avaricious as he was rich ; and others of simil ar bent. An account that praises deeds worthy of commemoration and some times heaps reproaches upon crim es will not only dri ve th e nobl e tow ard s glory and to some degree rest rain villains from the ir wicked acts; it will also restore to thi s little book the att ractiveness lost as a result of the shameful exploits of certain of its hero ines. Hence I have decided to insert at various places in th ese st ori es some pleasant exhortations to virtue and to add incentives for avoiding and detesting wickedness . Thus holy profit will mix with entertainment and so steal insen sibly int o my readers' minds. To avoid the time-honored custom of dwellin g only supernciall y on events , I think it will be useful and appropriate to deal wit h th e stories at somewhat greater length , learning where I can from trustworthy authors. It is my bel ief th at th e accomplish-

quid fecere, causas ramen maximi s facinoribus prebuere. Nec volo legenti videatur incongruum si Penelopi, Lucretie Sul­ 5 pirieve, pudicissimis marronis, imrnixtas Mcdearn , Floram Sern ­ proniamque compererint, vel conformes eisdern, quibus pre grande 6 sed pernitiosum forte fuit ingenium . Non enim est animus michi hoc claritatis nomen adeo st rict irn sum mere, ur semper in virtu­ tern videatur exire: quin imo in ampliorem sensum - bona cum pace legentium - trahere er illas intelligere clara s quas quo cunque ex facinore orbi vulgato sermone noris sim as nover o; cum er inter Leonidas Sc ipione s Catonesqu e atque Fabritios, viros illustrcs, se­ ditiosissimo s Graccos, versipellem Hanibalem, prod ito rern Iugur­ tam, cruentos civilis sa ngu inis ' Syllam Mariumque er eque di vircm er avaru m Crassum aliosqu e tales sepe legisse mem inerim . Verum, quoniam extuli ssc laudibus mernoraru d igna et depr es­ 7 sisse increpationibus infanda nonnunquam, non solu m erit hinc egisse generosos in gloriam et inde igna vos habenis ab infausti s paululum retraxisse. sed id restaurasse quod quarundam rurpirudi­ nibus venustaris opus culo dernprurn videtur, rarus sum quandoque hisroriis inserer e non nulla lepida blandimenr a virtutis er in fugam atque der esrati oncm sceleru m aculeos addere; et sic net ut , inmixra 8

hystoriarum delecrari oni , sacra mentes subint rabit urilitas. Et ne more pri sco apices tantum rerum tetigi sse videar , ex qui ­ bu s a hd e dignis poruero cognovisse ampl ius in longiusculam hy­ storiam prorraxisse non solu m utile, sed oporrunum arbit ror : exi­ srirnans harum facino ra non minus muli eribus qu am viris etiam

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. FAMOUS WOMEN'

placitura: qu e cum, ut plurimum, hystoriarum ign are sin r, ser ­ mon e prolixiori ind igent et lerantur. 9 Atra rnen visum est, ne orniserim, excepta matre pr ima, his om ­ nib us Iere gent ilibus nullas ex sacris m ulieribus hebreis christ ia­ nisque miscuisse: non enim saris bene conven iun t, nee equ o ince­ dere videntur gradu. 10 H e quippe ob eternam et veram glor iam sese tere in adversam persepe humanitati toleranti am coegere, sacrosancri Pr eceptoris tam iussa quam vestigia imit antes: ubi ille, seu quodam nature munere vel insti nct u, seu po t ius hu ius moment anei fulgo ris cupi­ dita te percite, non absque tam en acri mentis robo re, devenere; vel, fortu ne urgentis inpulsu, nonnunqu am gravissima pe rru lerc. II Pre terea he, vera et indehcienti luce cor usee, in meritam eterni­ ratem non solurn clarissime vivunt, sed ear um virginitatem , casti­ mo niam, sanctitatem, virtu tern et, in super andis tam conc upi ­ scentiis carn is quam suppliciis tir am no rum invicram con stantiam, ipsarum meritis exigentibus, singu lis volu mi nibus a piis homi ni ­ bus, sacris lit eris er veneranda maiesta te conspicuis, descripta s esse cogn oscimus; ubi illarum merira, nullo in hoc edito volumi ne spe­ ciali- uti iam dictum est - et a nemine demon strat a, describere, qu asi aliqu ale reddituri premium, inchoa mus . C ui qu idem pio operi ipse reru m omnium pater D eus assit : et, laboris assump ti fauror, qu od scrip sero in suam veram laudem scripsisse concedat.

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. P R E FA CE·

me rits of thes e ladies will please women no less th an men . Mo re­ over, since women are gene rally un acqu aint ed with history, th ey requ ire and enjoy a more extended accoun t. N evertheless, it seemed advisable, as I want to make plain , not to mix th ese wom en, nearly all of th em pagan , with H ebrew and C hristian wome n (except for Eve). T he two groups do no t ha rmo­ nize very well with each other, and they appear to proce ed in differem ways. Following th e commands and example of th eir holy Teacher, H ebrew and C hri stian women commonly steeled th emselves for th e sake of t rue and everlasti ng glory to an endurance ofren at od ds with hu man nature. Pagan wom en , however, reached the ir goal, ad mirredly with remarkable st rength of character, eith er th rough som e natural gift or instinct or, as seems more likely, th rough a keen desire for th e Beeting glory of thi s world ; some­ times th ey endure d grievous tr oubl es in the face of Fortune's as­ saults. Besides, Christ ian women, resplendent in th e true and unfailing light, live gloriously in their deserved immortalit y; we know toO th at th eir virginity, pur ity, holiness, and invincible firmness in overcoming carna l desire and th e puni sh ments of tyra nt s have been de scribed in indiv idual works , as th eir merits required, by pi­ ous men out stan ding for the ir knowledge of sacred lite rature and revered for th eir dign ity. The merit s of pagan women, on th e other hand , h ave not been publi shed in any work designed espe­ cially for th is purpose and have not been set forth by anyone , as I have already pointed out. That is why I began to write th is work: it was a way of giving them some kind of reward . M ay G od, th e Father of all things, assist me in this piou s endeavour; may He lavish his favor on wha t I shall write and gr ant th at I write it to his true glory.

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De Eva parente prima Scr ipturu s igitu r quibu s fulgoribu s mu liercs clarue rint insignes, a matre omnium sumpsisse exord ium non appareb ir indignum: ea quip pe verustissima parens, ut i prima, sic magnificis fuit insignis 2 splendoribus. Nam, non in hac erurn nosa miscriarum valle, in qua ad laborem cereri mort ales nas cimur, producra est, nee eodem malleo aut incude etiarn fabrefacra, seu eiulans nascendi crimen deflens, aut invalida, ceteror um rit u, venit in vitam; qu in imo ­ quod nemini unquam alreri contigis se audirum CSt ­ cum iarn ex limo terre rerum omnium Faber op rirnus Adam man u compe­ gisset propria, et ex agro, cui postea Damascenu s nomen ind irum est, in orro delit iaru m transtuli sset eumque in sopotem solvisset placidum, artihcio sibi tantu m cogniro ex dor rnienris larere edu xit eandem, sui compo tem et maturam viro et loci arnenitare atque sui Facroris lerabundarn int uitu , imrnortalern er reru m dom inam atq ue vigilanti s iam viri sociarn, er ab eodem Evam etiam nomi­ natarn. 3 Quid maius, qu id splendidius poru it unquam contig isse na­ scenti? Preterea han c arbirrari possum us corpo rea forrnosirare mi­ 4 rabilem. Quid enim De i digiro factum est qu od cete ra non excedar pulchritudine? Et qua mvis formosiras hec anno sirare per itu ra sit aut, medio in etatis flore, parvo egritudinis inpulsu, lapsura, ta­ men, quia inter precipuas dotes suas' mul ieres numerant, et plu ri­ mu m ex ea glorie, rnortalium indiscrete iudicio, iarn con secure sunt, non superflue inter claritates earum, tanquam fulgor preci­ puus, et apposita est er in seq uenribus apponenda venier. 5 H ec insuper, tam iure originis qu am incolarus, paradisi civis facta et amict a splendo re nobis incogni ro, dum una cum viro loci delitiis frueretur avide, invidu s sue felicitatis hosris nephar ia i1l i I

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Eve, Our Fi rst Mother As I am going to write about the glories for which women have become famous, it will not seem inappropriate to begin with the mot he r of us all. She is the most ancient of mothers and, as th e first , she was singled out for special honors. She was not brought fort h in th is wretched vale of misery in which the rest of us are born to labor: she was not wrought with the same hammer or an­ vil; nor d id she come into life like ot hers, either weak or tearfully bewailing original sin. Instead (and this never happened to anyone else, so far as I kn ow) , after th e most excellent C reator of all things had formed Ad am from eart hly clay with his own hand and had taken him from the field later called Damascene to the garden of delight s, he made Adam fall into peaceful slumber. W ith a skill known only to himself. God brought forth a woman from Adam's side as he lay sleeping. Adult, ripe for marr iage, joyful at the beaut y of th e place and at the sight of her M aker, she was also the imm ort al mistress of nature and the com panion of th e man who, now awake, named her Eve. C ould anyt hin g greater and more glor ious ever happen to someone at birth ? We can imagine, besides, how marvelou sly beaut iful her body was, for whatever God creates with his own hand will certainly surpass everyt hing else in beaut y. Beaut y, to be sure, peris hes with old age, and even in the Hower of youth it may vanish from a slight att ack of illness. Yet, since women count beauty among their foremost endowments and have achieved, ow­ ing to the superficial judgment of mortal s, much glory on rhar ac­ count , it will not seem excessive to place beauty here and in the following pages as th e most dazzling aspect of their fame. Eve, furt hermore, became a citizen of Paradi se as much by righ t of origin as of residence, and she was cloaked in a radiance un­ known to us. While she and her husband were eagerly enjoying IS


int er vep res glebas et scopulos dedu xere. N am , cum lux corusca, qu a incedebanr amicti, abiisset, a tur­ bate Crearor e suo obiurgati, perizomatibus cincti , ex delitiarum 8 loco in agros Hebro n: pul si exulesque venere . Ibi egregia mulier, his facinoribus clara, cum pri ma - U( a non nullis creditum est ­ vertenre terram ligonibus viro, colo nere adin venisser, sep ius dolo­ res p artus expert a est; et , quibus ob mortem filiorum atq ue nepo­ tum angu stiis angeretur animus, equ e rnisere passa; et, lit algores estu sque sinam er incomoda cetera, fessa laboribus mor itura deve­ nit in senium. 7

By th is rash, foolhardy act they brought th emselves and all th eir future descend ant s from peace and imm ortality to anxious labor and wr etched death , and from a delightful country to thorns, clods, and rocks. The gleaming light which clothed th em disappeared. Rebu ked 7 by th eir angry Cr eator and covered by a girdle of leaves , they were dri ven out of Ed en and came as exiles to th e fields of H ebron. There, wh ile her hu sband tilled th e soil with th e hoe, th is distin- 8 guished wom an , famous for her above-mentio ned deeds, discov­ ered (so some believe) th e art of spinning with th e d istaff. She ex­ pe rienced th e p ains of frequ ent childb irth and also suffered th e grief wh ich tortures th e mind at th e death of children and grand­ children . I shall pass over th e cold and heat and her other suffer­ ings. Finally she reached old age, tired our by her labors, waiting for death .

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De Semiramule regina Assyriorum

Semiramis, Queen of the Assyrians

Semiramis insigni s atq ue vetustissirna Assyriorum regin a fuit; a quibus ram en parentibus genu s duxerit, annositas abstulit, preter quod fabu losum placet antiquis, aientibus earn filiam fu isse Ne­ pruni, qu em Satu rni filium et maris deu m erronea' credulitare

Semiram is was a fam ous and very ancient queen of the Assyrians. Time ha s oblite rated any kn owledge of her parent s except for th e legend of th e ancients that she was the daught er of N eptune who, th ey falsely maintained, was th e son of Saturn and god of th e sea.

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Contents Mp-~

Copyright © 200 1 by th e President and Fellows of H arvard CoUege

All righ rs reserved

Printed in th e United States of America

Introduction

Series design by D ean Bom stein

Xl

FAMOUS WOMEN

Libra ry of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Dedication

I.

Boccaccio, G iovanni, 1313- 1375

(De mulicribus clar is, English & Latin]

Famous women I G iovann i Boccaccio;

edited and translated by Virginia Brown .

P: cm.-(ITRL; I)

Includes bibliographical references and index.

ISBN 0-674-00347-0 (alk. paper)

Women - Biograph y. I. Brown, Virginia, 1940­

II. T itle II I. I Tarn Renaissance library; I.

PQ4274·D5 E5 2001

920.72- dC21

(B]

Preface

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Eve, O ur First Mother

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Semiramis, Q ueen of th e Assyrians

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III .

O pis, \ Vife of Saturn

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IV.

Jun o, Goddess of Kingdom s

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I. II.

v. Ceres, G oddess of th e H arvest and

00 -053492

VI.

Second printing, 2001

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V I I. VIII .

IX .

x. XI- XII.

X III . XI V.

Queen of Sicily

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M inerva

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Venus, Queen of Cypru s

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Isis, Queen and Goddess of Egypt

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Europa, Qu een of Crete

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Libya, Queen of Libya

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Marpesia and Lampedo, Queens of the Amazons

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Thisbe, a Babylonian Maiden

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Hyperrnn esrra, Queen of the At gives

and Priestess of Juno

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xv. Ni obe, Queen of Thebes

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. FAMOUS WOMEN. • CHAPTER CI •

quo non aliter quam si p etmaximu!116 sup erasset du cem er accrn mum reipublice hosr em , Aure/ianus glo riatus est eamque triunplu , servavit et adduxit Cum filiis Rom an,. 20

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Incie ab Aureli ano celebrat us <triu nphus>,7 spectaculo Zenol». admirandus, in qu o, inter alia egregia ct mcmoratu dignissilll.l . Currum dux it, qu em sibi ex auro gcm misque pr eciosissimum Z , nobia fabricari fecerat, sperans se R o mam venruram, non quid, /II captivam, sed rerum dominam at(l Ue triunpharuram et roma uu.» pos sessuram imperium; quen1 et ipsa cum filiis p recessit. V;'IIJ'" ipsa <arenis aur eis collo manibus pedibusque inieeris corona «'I \ ' st irncntis regiis ac ma rgariti s et bpidibus pretiosis honusta. .1' /' " ur, cum roboris inexhausri ess er, pondere fessa p ersepe su bsist,'" , Sane consumaro rriu npho thesa uro er virt ute specrabili, . 11/1 1" illam pri varo in habiru int er romanas, matronas cum filiis SCIIIJI concessa sibi a sena ru possession e ap ud Tiburtum, que zenol« II •• diu postmodum ab ea denon1inata e st, haud longe a divi Ali i ,," palano. quod eo in loco est cui Conche ab incolis dic eb atui .

CI

De Iohanna anglica papa lohannes,! esto vir nomine videatu r, sexu ramen t~'llJ i" I I " Cuiu s inaudita temeritas ur orbi roto notissima fieret ( 'J 1/1 I" rum nosceretur effecit.

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Huius etsi patriam Maguntium quidam fuisse di, .uu " prop rium fuerit nomen vix cogn itum est, esro sinr qui ,I" "" , pOntificatu s assump tionem, fuisse Giliberrum. Hoc" 'I' " "

sented alive to the emperor. Aurelian prided him self on thi s as if he had conquered a great leader and a bitter enemy of the state. He reserved her for his triumph and rook her to Rome with her children. There th e triumph was celebrat ed, Z enobia's pr esence making it a ma rvelous sight. Among other outstanding thin gs wort hy of rem embrance, he brought th e pr ecious chariot adorned with gold and gems which Z enobi a had had built for her self when sh e hoped to come to Rome, not as a pri sone r, bur as a triumphant conqueror arrivin g to take possession of th e Rom an Empire . Now she walked in front of the chariot with her children. Fettered with gold chain s around her neck. hands, and feet and burdened by her crown and royal robes and pearl s and precious stones, she was ex­ hau sted by their weight and often had to stop, despit e her inex­ haustible vigor. At the conclusion of this triumph, conspicuous for its trea sure and its valor, Z enobia is said to have lived privately with her chil­ dren amidst th e wom en of Rome until she reached old age. The Senate grant ed her an estate near Tivoli ; long called Zenobia after her own name, it was not far from the palace of the emperor Hadrian, in the place which the inhabitants called Conca.

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Joan , an Englishwoman and Pope From her name John would seem to be a man, but in reality she was a woman. Her unprecedented audacity made her known to rhe whole world and to posterity. Some authorities claim she was from Mainz. There is little evi­ lienee for her real name, bur it is said to have been Gilberrus be­ I ~)l'e she became pope. This mu ch is known according to some

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FA M OUS W OMEN ,

serno ne quorundam , cam virginem a scolasrico iuvene dilecrarn, quem adeo dilexisse feru nt ut, posita verecun dia virgin ali atque pa­ yore femineo, clam e domo parris effUgeret , et amasium adolescen­ tis in habiru er mur aro sequeretur n om ine; apud quem, in An glia studentern, clericus excisc-ti rnatus? ab omn ibu s et Veneri er litera­ ru m miliravir st udiis. Inde iuvcne mo rre subrracro, cum se cognosceret ingenio valere 3 et dulcedin e trahererur scien tie, rctento ha biru nec adhe rere voluit alreri, nee se femina m proh reri, quin imo st udiis vigilanter insi­ stens, adeo in liberalibu s et sacris lireris pr ofecit lit pre ceter is ex­ cellens haberetu r. Et sic, scienria mirabili predira, iam etar e provecta, ex An glia 4 se Romam contulit: et ibidem aliqu ibus annis in tri vio legens insign es h abu it audirores; er cum , p ret er scicnria rn, singulari ho­ 5 nesrate ac sanctitate pollerer, ho mo ab omni bus credirus, Er ideo notus a m ulti s, solvent e Leon e qu into pont ihce summo carn is de­ bitum, a vcnerandissimis patri bus comu ni consensu prem ort uo in papatu suffectus est norninatu squ e Iohannes: cui, si vir fuisset, ut octavus esset in numero contigisset . Que tamen non verita ascend ere Piscaroris carh edr arn et sacra 6 min isreria omnia, nulli mul ierum a ch rist ian a religione concessum, tractare agere er aliis exhibere, apostolat us culmen aliquibus ann is 7 obti nuit Christ iqu e vicariat um femina gessit in terris , Sane ex alto D eus, plebi sue misertus, tam insignem locum ten eri, tanto presi­ deri p op ulo tanque inlaust o error e decipi a femina passus non est et illam indebita audenrern nec sinentem suis in manibu s liquit .

sources: while still a maiden, she became the sweetheart of a youthful student. Reportedly she loved h im so much th at, casting aside virginal modesty and fem inine timi dit y, she Red in secret from her father's house. C hanging her name and dr essing as a young nun, she followed her lover. For the duration of his stu dies

in England she remamed in his company and was un iversally taken

for a cleric while serving in th e arm ies of Love and Literature .

T hen her lover died . Joan, realizing th at she had a good mind 3

and drawn by th e cha rms of learn ing, retain ed h er masculine dress

and refused to attac h herself to anyone else or admit that she was

a wom an. She persisted diligentl y in her studies and made such

pr ogress in liberal and sacred letters that she was deemed to excel everyone. An d so, equipped with an ad mirable array of kn owledge, Joan 4 left England and went to Rome. Sh e was no lon ger you ng. In R om e she lectu red for a nu mber of years on th e ttivium and h ad d istinguished stu dents . Besides her erudition, Joan was esteemed for her outsta nding virt ue and holiness, and thus was believed by everyone to be a man . In th is way she became widely known, and, 5 when Pope Leo V died , she was elected to succeed him as pontiff by the un animous vote of the cardi nals and was called John . If sh e had been a man, she would have had th e titl e of Joh n VIII. This wom an was not afraid to mount th e Fisherman's throne,

sh ould not have b een done. 439 4 38

6

to per for m all th e sacred offices, and to administer th em to oth ers (som ething th at th e C hr isti an religion does not permit any ate woman to do). For a few years she occupied th e highest apostol and a wom an acted as Chr ist's Vicar on eart h. Then from on h igh 7 G od took pity on h is people. H e d id not suffer a woman to hol d so eminen t an office, govern so great a people, and deceive the m with so inauspicious a misapp rehension . H e abandoned to her own devices th is person who b oldly persisted in doing wha t


. FAMOUS WOM E N

. . C HAPT ER C I .

8

Quam ob rem suadenre d iabolo! qui cam in tam scelestarn de­ duxerar atq ue detincbar audaciam, <actum est>" ut, que privata precipuam honesrarem servaverat, in tam sublimi eveeta po nnfi­ caru in ardorem devenirer libidinis. Nee ei, que sexum diu fingere noverar, art cs ad explendam deluerc lasciviam. N am ad invenro qui clam Petri successorem conscend eret et exurent ern pruriginem de­ fricaret, actum est ut papa concipere t.

0 scelus indignum, 0 invicta parienria Dei! Q uid tand em? Ei que fascina re di u oculos potuerat hominum, ad incestuosum par ­ 10 tum occultandum defecit ingenium. Na m Cum is pre rer spem pro­ pinquior esset terrnin o, dum ex Ianiculo, amburbale sacrum cele­ brans, Late1'anu m peteret inter Coloseum et C lementis po nt ificis edern , obstetrice non vocara, enixa pub lice pat uir qua fraude tam diu, preter amasium, cereros decepisset homi nes. Er hinc a patri­ bus in tenebras exteriores abiecta , cum feru misella abiit. II Ad cuius deresrandam spurcitiem et nom inis continuandam memo riam, in hodiernum usqu e summi pOntifices rogationum cum clero er populo sacrum agentes, cum locum pa rtus, medio eius in itinere positum, abominentur, eo ornisso, declinant per di­ verticula vicosqu e er sic, loco detesrabili postergato, reint rant es iter perficiunr quod cepere. 9

440

In pr ivate life, Joan had been remarkably virtuo us, But at the 8 instigation of the devil, who had led her inro th is wicked act of au­ dacity and caused her to cont inue in it, she fell prey to burning lust once she had risen to the lofty pontificate. Nor d id Joan, who had long been able to hide her sex, lack the wiles necessary to quench her desire. She found someone who would secretly mount Peter's successor and scratch her uncontrollable itch; and so it happened that the pope became pregnant . W hat a shameful crime! H ow invincible is God's patience! 9 But what followed? 'I 'his woman, who had been able for so long to bewitch men's eyes, lacked th e wit to conceal the shameful birth . When Joan celebrated the Rogation Days" in a pro cession 10 from th e Janiculul11 H ill to the Lateran Palace, she was nearer the end of her pregnancy th an she had th ought . Between the Colos­ seurn and th e church of Pope Clement, she gave birth in pu blic and without the help of a midwife, showing how long she had de­ ceived everyone except her lover. The cardinals th en cast her out," and the wretched woman departed with her child. Even today th e popes, when they celebrate the Rogation Days II with the clergy and the people, condemn her foul action s and per ­ petu ate her infamy. The place where Joan gave birth is located at the halfway point of th e procession; they abomin ate this site and avoid it by turning away and taking side Streets. When they have bypassed th e hated place, they return to the main road and com­ plete th e init ial route.

441

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Boccaccio: “Joan, an Englishwoman and Pope”