Pontano, Giovanni-Giovano (Lat. Pontantus), a celebrated Italian statesman, noted as a writer on morals, was born December, 1426, in the environs of Cerreto, Umbria. His father having perished in a riot, his mother fled with him to Perugia, where he received a careful education. Having in vain asserted his claim to the heritage of his parents, he entered the army of Alfonso, king of Naples, then at war with the Florentines (1447), and followed that king to Naples, where he became acquainted with the celebrated Panormita, who took him along in his embassy to Florence, and had him appointed royal secretary. Pontano's verses, highly esteemed by all competent judges, seemed to entitle him sufficiently to a seat in the academy which Panormita, under the king's auspices, established at Naples. Ferdinand I, successor of Alfonso (1457), maintained him in his office of secretary, and appointed him tutor of his son Alfonso, duke of Calabria. He followed Ferdinand in his campaign against the duke of Anjou, and distinguished himself by his bravery. Taken prisoner on different occasions, he was always brought back without ransom to the camp of Ferdinand, out of respect for his genius. On his return to Naples the king lavished his favors upon him, bestowed upon him riches and dignities, and entrusted him with the conduct of the most important matters of state. In 1482 a war, which bade fair to become general, having broken out between the Venetians and the duke of Ferrara. Pontano brought about a reconciliation of the belligerents. He was equally successful in compounding the difficulties that had arisen between Ferdinand and pope Innocent VIII. Put on his guard against the negotiator, the pope exclaimed, "I treat with Pontano: is it meet that truth and good faith should abandon him who never abandoned them?" He became at that time first minister, and remained in that high position under Alfonso II (who erected to him a statue) and Ferdinand II. When Charles VIII of France approached Naples at the head of a French army, Pontano sent him forthwith the keys of the city, harangued the king at his coronation, and dishonored himself by the insults and aspersions which he cast in this speech at his royal benefactors. When Ferdinand returned, he contented himself with depriving Pontano of his offices. The fallen minister found in his retreat more happiness than he had enjoyed in the tumult of public business, and when Louis XII, after the conquest of the kingdom of Naples, offered to put him again at the head of the government this new Diocletian preferred his literary life to royal grandeur. It was in his retreat that he wrote most of the works he has left. He died at Naples in August, 1503. Most of his works deal with moral subjects, and abound in sound precepts and judicious reflections. His history of the Neapolitan war is a masterpiece, sufficient alone to immortalize its author. His Latinity is pure and elegant, his style noble and harmonious. His poetical works excited envy and conquered it. He announced himself, like Horace, the eternity of his fame: "The remotest posterity," he said, "will speak of Pontano, and celebrate his name." Erasmus, though a parsimonious distributor of praise to the Italians, has acknowledged Pontano's merit in the Cicesronians. It must be recorded also that Pontano had the merit of correcting the manuscript, then the only one, of Catullus; that we owe to him the discovery of Donat's commentaries on Virgil, and of Rhemnius Paloemon's Grammar. In his physical treatises he first signaled the law of continuity, and seems to have been the first among the moderns who, after Democritus, declared the Milky Way to be composed of an infinity of small stars. His poems, some of which unfortunately are spoiled by obscenities, were published at Venice (1505-8, 2 vols. 8vo) and at Florence (1514, 2 vols. 8vo). His prose writings were published at Venice (1518-19, 3 vols. 4to) and at Florence (1520, 4 vols. 8vo). His Works were edited at Naples (1505-12, 6 vols. fol.), and more completely at Basle (1556, 4 vols. 8vo). His prose writings comprise the following works: De Obedientia: — De Fortitudine: De Priincipe: — De Liberalitate: — De Benficentia: — De
Managntficentia: — De Splendore: — De Convenientia: — De Prudentia: — De Magnanimitate: -De Fortuna: - De Immanitate: — De Aspiratione: — Dialogi v; full of spirit, but blamed for their obscenity by Erasmus himself: De Sermone: — Belli libri 6 quod Ferdinandus Neopolitanorum rex cum Joanne Andoyavense duce gessit; this pamphlet was printed separately (Venice, 1519, 4to), and has been translated into Italian: — Centum Ptolencei sententice commentariis illustratae: — De rebus celestibus: De luna. The poetry of Pontano comprises, Urania, seu de stellis: — Metera: — De hortis Hesperidarum: Pastorales pompae: — Bucolica: - Amor um libri 2: De amore conjugali: — Tumulorum libri 2: — De divinis laudibus: — endecasyllaba: — Lyrici versus: — Edani libri 2: — Epigrammatua. — Hoefer, Nouv. Biog. Géneralé, s.v. See Hallam, Literary History, 1. 129 sq.; Roscoe, Leo X, ch. 2 and 20; Niceron, Memoires, vol. 8; Tiraboschi, Storia della Letter. Ital. s.v.