Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/600

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of books," the misers of bibliography who hid their treasures from the light. And no one was more liberal than Aldo to all who worked with him, or who sought his aid.

At the time when his task was advancing towards completion, Greek learning had already begun to decline in Italy, and the last period of the Italian Renaissance had set in. That period may be roughly dated from the year 1494; and the end, or beginning of the end, is marked by the sack of Rome in 1527. It was in 1494 that Charles VIII of France marched on Naples. He conquered it easily, but lost it again after his withdrawal. A time of turmoil ensued in Italy, which became the battle-ground where foreign princes fought out their feuds. The Medici were driven from Florence, which thereupon was rent by the struggle between the Piagnoni and the Ottimati. Naples was acquired in 1504 by Ferdinand of Aragon. Milan was harassed by the passage of French, Swiss, and German armies. Almost everywhere Italy lay down-trodden under the contending invaders. Only a few of the smaller principalities, such as Ferrara and Mantua, retained any vigorous or independent life. Rome, meanwhile, was wealthy, and still untroubled by war. The papacy was now the chief Italian Power in the peninsula. It was at Rome, therefore, that humanistic culture held its central seat in this closing period of the Italian Renaissance. Erasmus was there in 1509, when Cardinal Grimani pressed him to make Rome his permanent abode; and he has recorded his impressions. He saw a bright and glorious city, an opulent treasure-house of literature and art, the metropolis of polite society, refined luxury, and learned intercourse. Nor was this merely the estimate of a northern visitor. A similar view of Rome brought consolation to contemporary Italians. The Poetica of Marco Vida (1489-1566) ends with a panegyric on Leo X, in which he laments, indeed, that Italy has become a prey to "foreign tyrants." The "fortune of arms" has forsaken her. "But may she still excel," he cries, "in the studies of Minerva; and may Rome, peerless in beauty, still teach the nations!" The claim which Virgil made immortal is reversed by Vida. Let others wield the sword, and bear rule; but let Rome be supreme in letters and in arts.

The prevalent tendency of humanism at this period was towards accuracy and elegance of Latin style. That wide range of study which had been characteristic of Politian, and of the greatest humanists before him, was no longer in vogue. Attention was now concentrated on a few models of composition, especially on Cicero and Virgil. Bembo, strictest of Ciceronians, a literary dictator in the age of Leo X, warned the learned Sadoleto against allowing his style to be depraved by the diction of St Paul's Epistles ("Omitte has iingos"); advice which did not, however, ultimately deter Sadoleto from publishing a commentary on the Epistle to the Romans. Another trait of the time, justly ridiculed by Erasmus, was the fashion of using pagan paraphrases for Christian ideas, or for