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Italian Renaissance Learning Resources

In collaboration with the National Gallery of Art

Pius II, Pope

[Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini]

(b Corsignano [now Pienza], nr Siena, 18 Oct 1405; elected 1458; d Ancona, 15 Aug 1464).

Born of a Sienese noble family in exile, he studied classics and law in Siena, and travelled north of the Alps as secretary and diplomatic envoy to the cardinals at the Council of Basle, the anti-pope Felix V and the emperor Frederick III. He took holy orders in 1446, and returned to Italy to become bishop of Trieste (1447), bishop of Siena (1450) and cardinal (1456). A humanist gifted with an insatiable curiosity for history, travel and current events, with a penetrating eye for character and a love for landscape, he felt compelled to record his experiences and the results of his topographical studies in elegant Latin. Of all his many literary works, the Commentaries, written like Caesar’s in the third person, remain the most vivid source for his life and times.

Ruth Olitsky Rubinstein