Bartolomeo Sacchi (Italian: [ˌbartɔlɔˈmɛɔ ˈsakki]; 1421
– 21 September 1481), known as Platina (in Italian il Platina [il
ˈplatina]) after his birthplace (Piadena), and commonly referred
to in English as Bartolomeo Platina, was an Italian Renaissance
humanist writer and gastronomist.
Platina started his career as a soldier employed by condottieri,
before gaining long-term patronage from the Gonzagas, including the
young cardinal Francesco, for whom he wrote a family history. He
studied under the Byzantine humanist philosopher
John Argyropulos in
Florence, where he frequented other fellow humanists, as well as
members of the ruling Medici family.
Around 1462 he moved with Francesco Gonzaga to Rome, where he
purchased a post as a papal writer under the humanist
Pius II (Enea
Silvio Piccolomini) and became a member of the pagan-influenced Roman
Academy founded by Pomponio Leto. Close acquaintance with the renowned
chef Maestro Martino in Rome seems to have provided inspiration for a
theoretical treatise on Italian gastronomy entitled De honesta
voluptate et valetudine ("On honourable pleasure and health"), which
achieved considerable popularity and has the distinction of being
considered the first printed cookbook.
Platina's papal employment was abruptly curtailed on the arrival of an
anti-humanist pope, Paul II (Pietro Barbo), who had the rebellious
Platina locked up in
Castel Sant'Angelo during the winter of 1464-65
as a punishment for his remonstrations. In 1468 he was again confined
Castel Sant'Angelo for a further year, where he was interrogated
under torture, following accusations of an alleged pagan conspiracy by
members of Pomponio's Roman academy involving plans to assassinate the
Platina's fortunes were revived by the return to power of the strongly
Sixtus IV (Francesco della Rovere), who in 1475
made him Vatican librarian—an appointment which was depicted in a
famous fresco by Melozzo da Forlì. He was granted the post after
writing an innovative and influential history of the lives of the
popes that gives ample space to
Roman history and pagan themes, and
concludes by vilifying Platina's nemesis, Paul II.
2 Halley's comet
3 Published and unpublished works
6 External links
Platina was born at
Piadena (Platina in Latin), near Cremona.
He first enlisted as a private soldier, and was then appointed tutor
to the sons of the Marquis Ludovico III Gonzaga, task previously held
by Iacopo da San Cassiano and Ognibene da Lonigo. In 1457, he went
to Florence, and studied under the Greek scholar Argyropulos. In 1462
he proceeded to Rome, probably in the suite of Cardinal Francesco
Pius II had reorganized the College of Abbreviators
(1463), and increased the number to seventy, Platina, in May 1464, was
elected a member.
De honesta voluptate et valetudine
Probably in the summer of 1465 Platina composed De honesta voluptate
et valetudine ("On honourable pleasure and health"). This first
printed cookbook, a monument of medieval cuisine in Renaissance
intellectual trappings, left the press in 1474 and ran into dozens
of editions, disseminating Roman ideas about fine dining throughout
Western Europe. In a display of humanist learning Platina embedded
recipes from the famous chef, Maestro Martino de' Rossi, whom he had
met in the summer of 1463 at Albano, where Platina was the guest of
Martino's employer, a cardinal. The cookbook also happens to contain
the oldest recorded usage of cannabis in cooking.
When Paul II abolished the ordinances of Pius, Platina with the other
new members was deprived of his office. Angered by this, he wrote a
pamphlet insolently demanding from the pope the recall of his
restrictions. When called upon to justify himself he answered with
insolence and was imprisoned in the Castel Sant'Angelo, being released
after four months on condition that he remain at Rome. In February
1468, with about twenty other humanists, he was again imprisoned on
suspicion of heresy and of conspiring against the life of the pope.
The latter charge was dropped for lack of evidence, while they were
acquitted on the former. However, members of the Roman Academy were
found guilty of immorality.
After his release on July 7, 1469, he expected to be again in the
employ of Paul II, who, however, declined his services. Platina
threatened vengeance and executed his threat, when at the suggestion
Sixtus IV he wrote his Vitæ Pontificum Platinæ historici liber de
vita Christi ac omnium pontificum qui hactenus ducenti fuere et XX
(1479). In it he paints his enemy as cruel, and an archenemy of
science. For centuries it influenced historical opinions until
critical research proved otherwise. In other places party spirit is
evident, especially when he treats of the condition of the Church.
Notwithstanding, his Lives of the Popes is a work of no small merit,
for it is the first systematic handbook of papal history. Platina felt
the need of critical research, but shirked the examination of details.
By the end of 1474 or the beginning of 1475 Platina offered his
Pope Sixtus IV; it is still preserved in the Vatican
Library. The pope's acceptance may cause surprise, but it is probable
he was ignorant of its contents except insofar as it concerned his own
pontificate up to November, 1474. After the death of Giovanni Andrea
Bishop of Aleria, the pope appointed Platina librarian with a
yearly salary of 120 ducats and an official residence in the Vatican.
He also instructed him to make a collection of the chief privileges of
the Roman Church. This collection, whose value is acknowledged by all
the annalists, is still preserved in the Vatican archives. In the
preface Platina not only avoids any antagonism towards the Church but
even refers with approbation to the punishing of heretics and
schismatics by the popes, which is the best proof that Sixtus IV, by
his marks of favour, had won Platina for the interests of the Church.
Besides his principal work Platina wrote several others of smaller
importance, notably: Historia inclita urbis Mantuæ et serenissimæ
familiæ Gonzagæ. The Pinacoteca Vaticana contains a famous fresco by
Melozzo da Forlì
Melozzo da Forlì representing
Sixtus IV Appointing Platina as Prefect
of the Vatican Library.
As a paragraph from Platina's Vitæ Pontificum first gave rise to the
legend of the excommunication of Halley's comet by
Pope Callixtus III,
we here give the legend briefly, after recalling some historical
facts. After the fall of
Constantinople (1453), Nicolas V appealed in
vain to the Christian princes for a crusade. Callixtus III
(1455–1458), immediately after his succession, sent legates to the
various courts for the same purpose; and, meeting with no response,
promulgated a bull June 29, 1456, prescribing the following:
all priests were to say during Mass the oratio contra paganos;
daily, between noon and vespers, at the ringing of a bell, everybody
had to say three Our Fathers and Hail Marys;
processions were to be held by the clergy and the faithful on the
first Sunday of each month, and the priests were to preach on faith,
patience, and penance; to expose the cruelty of the Turks, and urge
all to pray for their deliverance.
The first Sunday of July (July 4), the first processions were held in
Rome. On the same day the Turks began to besiege Belgrade. On July 14
the Christians gained a small advantage, and on the twenty-first and
twenty-second the Turks were put to flight.
In the same year Halley's comet appeared. In
Italy it was first seen
in June. Towards the end of the month it was still visible for three
hours after sunset, causing great excitement everywhere by its
extraordinary splendour. It naturally attracted the attention of
astrologers as may appear from the long judicium astrologicum by
Avogario, of Ferrara, dated June 17, 1467; it was found again by
Celoria among the manuscripts of Paolo Toscanelli, who had copied it
himself. The comet was seen till July 8. It is evident, from all the
documents of that time, that it had disappeared from sight several
days before the battle of Belgrade. These two simultaneous facts–the
publication of the bull and the appearance of the comet–were
connected by Platina in the following manner:
Apparente deinde per aliquot dies cometa crinito et rubeo: cum
mathematici ingentem pestem: charitatem annonæ: magnam aliquam cladem
futuram dicerent: ad avertendam iram Dei Calistus aliquot dierum
supplicationes decrevit: ut si quid hominibus immineret, totum id in
Thurcos christiani nominis hostes converteret. Mandavit præterea ut
assiduo rogatu Deus flecteretur in meridie campanis signum dari
fidelibus omnibus: ut orationibus eos juvarent: qui contra Thurcos
continuo dimicabant (A maned and fiery comet appearing for several
days, while scientists were predicting a great plague, dearness of
food, or some great disaster, Callistus decreed that supplicatory
prayers be held for some days to avert the anger of God, so that, if
any calamity threatened mankind, it might be entirely diverted against
the Turks, the foes of the Christian name. He likewise ordered that
the bells be rung at midday as a signal to all the faithful to move
God with assiduous petitions and to assist with their prayers those
engaged in constant warfare with the Turks).
Platina has, generally speaking, recorded the facts truly; but is
wrong at one point, viz., where he says that the astrologers'
predictions of great calamities induced the pope to prescribe public
prayers. The bull does not contain a word on the comet, as can be
verified in the original, authenticated document.
A careful investigation of the authenticated Regesta of Callixtus
(about one hundred folios), in the Vatican archives, shows that the
comet is not mentioned in any other papal document. Nor do other
writers of the time refer to any such prayers against the comet,
though many speak both of the comet and of the prayers against the
Turks. The silence of St. Antoninus, Archbishop of Florence
(1446–1459), is particularly significant. In his Chronicorum libri
tres he enumerates accurately all the prayers prescribed by Callixtus;
he also mentions the comet of 1456 in a chapter entitled, De cometis,
unde causentur et quid significent – but never refers to prayers and
processions against the comet, although all papal decrees were sent to
him. Aeneas Sylvius and St. John Capistrano, who preached the crusade
in Hungary, considered the comet rather as a favourable omen in the
war against the Turks.
Hence it is clear that Platina has looked wrongly upon the bull as the
outcome of fear of comets. The historians of the 16th and 17th
centuries contented themselves with quoting Platina more or less
accurately (Calvisius 1605, Spondanus 1641, Lubienietski 1666). Fabre
(1726) in his continuation of the Histoire Ecclésiastique by Fleury
gave a somewhat free paraphrase.
Bruys (1733), an apostate (who
afterwards entered the Church again), copies Fleury-Fabre adding que
le Pape profita en habile homme de la superstition et de la
crédulité des peuples. It is only when we come to Laplace's
Exposition du Système du monde, that we find the expression that the
pope ordered the comet and the Turks to be exorcized (conjuré), which
expression we find again in Daru's poem L'Astronomie. Arago (Des
Comètes en général etc. Annuaire du Bureau des Longitudes 1832,
244) converts it into an excommunication. Arago's treatise was soon
translated into all the European languages after which time the
appearance of the comet (1456) is hardly ever mentioned, but this
historical lie must be repeated in various shapes. Smyth (Cycle of
celestial objects) speaks of a special protest and excommunication
exorcizing the Devil, the Turks, and the comet. Grant (History of
physical astronomy) refers to the publication of a bull, in which
Callixtus anathematized both the Turks and the comet. Babinet (Revue
des deux mondes, 23 ann., vol. 4, 1853, 831) has the pope lancer un
timide anathème sur la comète et sur les ennemis de la Chrétienté,
whilst in the battle of
Belgrade les Frères Mineurs aux premiers
rangs, invoquaient l'exorcisme du pape contre la comète. In different
ways the legend is repeated by Chambers, Flammarion, Draper, Jamin,
Dickson White, and others.
Published and unpublished works
Divi Ludovici Marchionis Mantuae somnium (ca. 1454-1456), ed. A.
Portioli, Mantua 1887
Oratio de laudibus illustris ac divi Ludovici Marchionis Mantuae (ca.
1457-1460), in F. Amadei, Cronaca universale della città di Mantova,
ed. G. Amadei, E. Marani and G. Praticò, vol. II, Mantua 1955, pp.
Vita Nerii Capponi (ca. 1457-1460), in Rerum Italicarum scriptores,
vol. XX, Milan 1731, cols 478-516
Vocabula Bucolicorum, Vocabula Georgicorum (ca. 1460-1461), MS Berlin,
Staatsbibliothek, Lat. qu. 488, fols 58r-59v, 59v-65r
Commentariolus de vita Victorini Feltrensis (ca. 1462-1465), in Il
pensiero pedagogico dello Umanesimo, ed. E. Garin,
Florence 1958, pp.
Epitome ex primo [-XXXVII] C. Plinii Secundi libro De naturali
historia (ca. 1462-1466), e.g. MS Siena, Biblioteca comunale, L.III.8,
Oratio de laudibus bonarum artium (ca. 1463-1464), in T. A. Vairani,
Cremonensium monumenta Romae extantia, vol. I, Rome 1778, pp. 109-118
Vita Pii Pontificis Maximi (1464-1465), ed. G.C. Zimolo, in Rerum
Italicarum scriptores, 2nd ed., vol. III.3, Bologna 1964, pp. 89-121
Dialogus de falso ac vero bono, dedicated to Paul II (1464-1465), e.g.
Milan, Biblioteca Trivulziana, Mss., 805
Dialogus de flosculis quibusdam linguae Latinae (ca. 1465-1466), ed.
P. A. Filelfo, Milan 1481
Dialogus contra amores (de amore) (ca. 1465-1472), in Platina,
Hystoria de vitis pontificum, Venice 1504, fols B8r-C5r (ed. L.
Mitarotondo, doctoral thesis, Università di Messina, 2003)
De honesta voluptate e valitudine (ca. 1466-1467), ed. E. Carnevale
Historia urbis Mantuae Gonziacaeque familiae (1466-1469), ed. P.
Lambeck (1675), reprinted in Rerum Italicarum scriptores, XX, Milan
1731, cols 617-862
Tractatus de laudibus pacis (1468), in W. Benziger, Zur Theorie von
Krieg und Frieden in der italienischen Renaissance, Frankfurt a.M.
1996, part 2, pp. 1-21
Oratio de pace Italiae confirmanda et bello Thurcis indicendo (1468),
ed. Benziger, Zur Theorie, part 2, pp. 95-105
Panegyricus in laudem amplissimi patris Bessarionis (1470), in
Patrologia Graeca, vol. CLXI, 1866, cols CIII-CXVI
De principe (1470), ed. G. Ferraù, Palermo 1979
De falso et vero bono, dedicated to
Sixtus IV (ca. 1471-1472), ed. M.
G. Blasio, Rome 1999
Liber de vita Christi ac omnium pontificum (ca. 1471-1475), first
published Venice 1479; critical edition: G. Gaida, in Rerum
Italicarum, scriptores, 2nd ed. vol. III.1, Città di Castello
1913-1932; Latin and English: Lives of the Popes, vol. I, ed. A. F.
D’Elia, Cambridge (MA) 2008 (the other volumes are forthcoming)
De vera nobilitate (ca. 1472-1477), in Platina, Hystoria de vitis
pontificum, Venice 1504, fols C5v-D3v
De optimo cive (1474), ed. F. Battaglia, Bologna 1944
A polemical treatise or letter against Battista de’ Giudici (1477);
lost, but partly cited in the latter’s reply in B. De’ Giudici,
Apologia Iudaeorum; Invectiva contra Platinam, ed. D. Quaglioni, Rome
1987, pp. 94-127
Plutarch, De ira sedanda, translated by Platina (ca. 1477), in
Vairani, Cremonensium monumenta, pp. 119-135
Vita amplissimi patris Ioannis Melini (ca. 1478), ed. M.G. Blasio,
Liber privilegiorum (ca. 1476-1480), MS Archivio segreto Vaticano,
A.A. Arm. I-XVIII, 1288-1290
Letters: Platinae custodia detenti epistulae (1468-69), ed. Vairani,
Cremonensium monumenta, pp. 29-66; and Lettere, ed. D. Vecchia,
doctoral thesis, Università di Firenze, 2012 (publication
Book edited by Platina: Josephus, Historiarum libri numero VII, Rome
^ "Plàtina, Il".
Treccani (in Italian). Retrieved 6 November
^ Capatti and Montanari, pp. 10–11
^ Riley, Gillian, ed. (2007). "Platina, Bartolomeo Sacchi". The Oxford
Companion to Italian Food. Oxford University Press.
pp. 411–413. ISBN 978-0-19-860617-8.
^ a b Bauer, Stefan (2013) . "Bartolomeo Sacchi (Platina)".
Repertorium Pomponianum. Rome: Roma nel Rinascimento. Retrieved 22
^ Platina, pp. ix–x
^ Paolo d'Alessandro e Pier Daniele Napolitani, Archimede Latino.
Iacopo da San Cassiano e il corpus archimedeo alla metà del
Quattrocento, Paris, Les Belles Lettres 2012
^ "Many of the aspects of medieval Italian eating... are to be found
in Master Martino," observes John Dickie, Delizia! The Epic History of
the Italians and Their Food, 2008, p. 67.
This article incorporates text from a publication now in the
public domain: Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Bartolomeo
Platina". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton.
Capatti, Alberto; Montanari, Massimo (2003). Italian Cuisine: A
Cultural History. Columbia University Press.
Platina (2008). Lives of the Popes: Antiquity. Edited and translated
by Anthony F. D'Elia. Harvard University Press.
Riley, Gillian (1996). "Platina, Martino and their Circle". In Walker,
Harlan. Cooks and Other People. Oxford Symposium. pp. 214–219.
Bauer, Stefan (2006). The Censorship and Fortuna of Platina's Lives of
the Popes in the Sixteenth Century. Brepols.
ISBN 978-2-503-51814-5. Contains detailed biography and
Bauer, Stefan (2017), "Sacchi, Bartolomeo, detto il Platina", in
Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani, 89 (2017), pp. 472-475
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Bartolomeo Platina.
"The Oldest Recorded
Cannabis Recipe". Good And Baked. Retrieved 19
A 1498 edition of De honesta voluptate et valetudine
Platina's Lives of the Popes in a 1485 edition
"Lives of the Popes: Paul II. An intermediate Latin reader of
Renaissance Latin. Faenum Publishing, 2017" (PDF). Retrieved 13 March
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