Platina, Battista Bartolommeo De Sacchi

Platina, Battista Bartolommeo de Sacchi a very learned Italian, is noted as the author of a History of the Popes. He was born in 1421 at Piadena, a village between Cremona and Mantua. He first embraced a military life, which he followed for a time, but afterwards devoted himself to literature. He went to Rome under Calixtus III, who was made pope in 1455; where, getting himself introduced to cardinal Bessarion, he obtained some small benefices of pope Pius II, who succeeded Calixtus in 1458, and afterwards was appointed apostolical abbreviator. When Paul II succeeded Pius in 1464, Platina's affairs took a very unfavorable turn. In the first place, Paul was much indisposed towards him, on account of his connections with his predecessor Pius; but this might possibly have been borne if Paul, in the next place, had not removed all the abbreviators from their employments by abolishing their places, notwithstanding they had purchased them with great sums of money. Upon this Platina complained to the pope, and most humbly besought him to order their cause to be judged by the auditors of the Rota. The pope was offended at the liberty, and gave him a very haughty repulse: "Is it thus," said he, looking at him sternly-"is it thus that you summon us before your judges, as if you knew not that all laws are centered in our breast? Such is our decree: they shall all go hence, whithersoever they please: I am pope, and have a right to ratify or cancel the acts of others at pleasure." These unhappy men, thus divested of their employments, used their utmost endeavors for some days to obtain audience of the pope, but were repulsed with contempt. Upon this Platina wrote to him in the following terms: "If you had a right to dispossess us, without permitting our cause to be heard, of the employments we had lawfully purchased, we, on the other side, ought to be permitted to complain of the injustice we suffer, and the ignominy with which we are branded. As you have repulsed us so contumeliously, we will go to all the courts of princes, and entreat them to call a council, whose principal business shall be to oblige you to show cause why you have divested us of all our lawful possessions." Nothing can better illustrate the temper and character of Platina than this letter, which was, however, considered as an act of rebellion, and caused him to be imprisoned, and to endure great hardships. At the end of four months he had his liberty, with orders not to leave Rome, and continued in quiet for some time; but afterwards, being suspected of a plot, he was again imprisoned, and, with many others, put to the rack. The plot being found imaginary, the charge was turned to heresy, which also came to nothing, and Platina was set at liberty some time after. The pope then flattered him with a prospect of preferment, and thus kept him in Rome; but, dying of apoplexy, left him to shift for himself as he could. This whole conflict is related by Platina himself in his Lives of the Popes, under the pontificate of Paul II. Sixtus IV succeeded Paul in 1467, and appointed Platina keeper of the Vatican Library, which was established by this pope. Platina here found himself in his own element, and lived very happily in that station till 1481, when he was snatched away by the plague. He bequeathed to Pomponius Laetus the house which he built on the Mons Quirinalis, with the laurel grove, out of which the poetical crowns were taken. He was the author of several works, the most considerable of which is De Vitis ac Gestis Romanorum Pontificum, or history of the popes from St. Peter to Sixtus IV, to whom he dedicated it. The Protestants have approved it, and ranked the author among the witnesses to truth. Some Roman Catholic writers charge him with want of sincerity and care; yet Panvinius did not scruple to publish this history, with notes of his own, and added to it the Lives of the popes from Sixtus IV to Pius IV. It was first printed at Venice in 1479 (fol.), and reprinted once or twice before 1500, since which time all the editions of it are said to have been castrated. His Lives of the Popes is written with elegance of style, and discovers powers of research and discrimination which were then rare. He writes with freedom of the popes. Some passages are omitted in late editions. In the edition of 1574, the passage in the life of St. Anacletus, "Uxorem habuit in Bithynia," is for the first time changed into "Uxorem nion habens." Platina wrote also a History of Mantua, in Latin, which was first published by Lambecius, with notes, at Vienna (1675, 4to). The titles of some of his other works are. De Naturis rerum: — Epistole ad diversos: — De honesta voluptate et valetudine: — De falso et vero bono: — Contra amores: — De vera nobilitate: — De optimo cive: — Panegyricus in Bessarionem: — Oratio ad Paulum II: — Depace Italice componenda et bello Turcico indicenado: — De flosculis linguce Latinae: — A Treatise on the Means of preserving Health, and the Science of the Kitchen (Bologna, 1498, 8vo), which provoked the following epigram by Salnnazarius:

Ingenia et mores, vitas, obitusque notasse Polmificum, argntte lex fuit historiae. Tu tameni hic lautae tractas pulmenta culinae, Hoc Platina, est ipsos pascere pontifices.

See Schröckh, Kirchengesch. vol. 32; Niceron, Memoires, vol. 3; Tiraboschi, Storia della letter. Ital. s.v.; General Biog. Dict. s.v.

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