Coriolano Cippico

The Deeds of Commander
Pietro Mocenigo

edited and translated
Kiril Petkov

Renaissance Quarterly

Neo-Latin News, in Seventeenth-Century News

Mediterranean Studies

Renaissance Quarterly 69.1 (Spring 2016): 273–75

This volume presents for the first time a modern English translation of the Latin text of Coriolano Cippico. The editor writes that, apart from this volume, there is only one modern translation of the work, in Croatian. The Italian translation is now centuries old, completed in 1796 by Jacopo Morello, the famous librarian of the Marciana Library in Venice. An excellent modern Latin edition of the text was issued in 1990, edited by Renata Fabbri (Antenore). This is the edition that Petkov uses for his translation.

Coriolano Cippico (1425–93) was a member of an illustrious Dalmatian family. He was a humanist who had studied in Padua in close contact with many patricians and intellectuals. Dalmatia in the era was part of the Venetian Republic, and so Coriolano was a citizen of the Serenisssima. After Negroponte fell into Turkish hands, the Serenissima organized a powerful naval fleet and asked the city of Trogir to send an extra galley of which Cippico was named sopracomito (a technical term that means in Venetian the commander of a ship). The expedition to the Levant (1470–74) was commanded by Pietro Mocenigo, who already knew and respected Cippico; therefore Cippico was able directly to participate in the war. When Mocenigo returned to Venice, he was elected doge (16 December 1474–23 February 1476). It is in this period that Cippico wrote his detailed account, titled Petri Mocenici Imperatoris Gestorum Libri Tres, which was published in 1477. This was a memorial work, intended to recount memorable and successful events. The text clearly demonstrates that it is designed to defend Mocenigo, whose actions are always justified and praised. The triumphs of the expedition are discussed at length, whereas the negative events receive scant treatment. Cippico’s text is a firsthand account, and therefore reliable, even if its point of view is clearly Venetian. It is important foremost because of the rarity of fifteenth-century Venetian historiography, before the Venetian Senate instituted official public historiography at the beginning of the Cinquecento. The histories of Sabellico, Navagero, and Bembo, written “by public order,” would then recount the fifteenth century for the glory and honor of Serenissima, and with goals entirely different from those that today we think of as historical objectivity.

Cippico recounts episodes and events in which he directly participated. In his account, he executed the most important mission Mocenigo assigned, in November 1473 at Famagosta, to reaffirm — through the figure Caterina Corner, queen of Cyprus — Venetian dominance after a plot in the palace in which Andrea Corner and Marco Bembo (respectively, uncle and cousin of Caterina) were killed. Cippico used this important episode in Cyprus to underscore a Venetian loyalty not correspondent with the real historical truth. It is, therefore, surprising to find that the editor gives very few explanations about these incidents, and that he does not refer to other accounts in his introduction and notes, instead relying almost exclusively on what Cippico relates. It is disappointing in particular that the bibliography does not include any of the historical or critical texts published between 2010 (the 500th anniversary of Caterina Cornaro’s death) and the present, and lists instead only novel-like biographies of her published in the late 1980s. The incomplete bibliography is certainly to blame for the fact that Petkov includes inaccurate accounts that circulated nearly thirty years ago about episodes regarding Charlotte, James II, and Caterina, without the information that recent historical studies have brought to light. And this occurs with regard to other episodes as well. Overall, we can say that the bibliography lacks many important texts published not only recently, but also some time ago (perhaps because some of these were in Italian?). It is curious that the editor does not cite the entry on Cippico in the Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani (vol. 25, 1981), while citing other Dizionario entries.

The translation of the text is, on the other hand, very fine, even as it remains close to the original. In this case the aphorism that says a translation is either “ugly and faithful or beautiful and unfaithful” is undone; this translation is beautiful and faithful. This volume, in addition to the introduction, the history of the text, and the translation, offers interesting illustrations, at times not linked to the historical period at issue (see 17, 31, 41, 45, 82, in which late sixteenth-century and nineteenth-century illustrations are included). As the text relates to the Quattrocento, the images from later centuries seem out of place since the divide between fifteenth-century cartography and that of later centuries is well known. Nevertheless, these illustrations help the reader to visualize the places where key events took place.

Daria Perocco
Università Ca’ Foscari di Venezia

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Neo-Latin News 64.1–2, in Seventeenth-Century News 74.1–2 (Spring–Summer, 2016): 55–57.

The author of this book, Coriolano Cippico (1425–1493), was a Dalmatian nobleman who worked within the orbit of Venetian humanism, having received a good education at the University of Padua and associated with such intellectuals as Marcantonio Sabellico and Palladio Fosco. He left Trogir (Trau), his ancestral home, to serve for four years with Pietro Mocenigo after the Venetian Senate launched a naval force against the Ottoman Turks in response to the capture of Negroponte. Composed shortly after his return, The Deeds was dedicated to Marcantonio Morosini, who was then the Venetian ambassador to the duke of Burgundy.

The Deeds offers an account of Cippico’s service in behalf of the Venetian republic, but as the lengthy introduction explains, it is a complex work that resists easy categorization. Cippico was drawn into this adventure because his home town was under the control of Venice, and his work is certainly an encomium of an exemplary Venetian noble, but it is not an unvarnished praise of Venice, for Cippico was motivated as much by patriotism toward Trogir as he was by his obligations to Venice. Mocenigo is presented as a model of civic duty, loyalty, and service to the state, but the values Cippico is praising are more universal than restricted to the Venetian Renaissance. By education and temperament, Cippico was a humanist, and his treatise was constructed in the manner of Plutarch’s Lives and written in a straightforward Latin prose that met the avant garde standards of the day, with sources including Pliny the Elder and Strabo and with Mocenigo coming to resemble Julius Caesar. But in many cases, the ethnographic and antiquarian lore seems more ornamental than substantive, since the guiding structure looks like a throwback to the Venetian tradition of maritime warfare. Religion is an important part of the narrative, but in the end the treatise fails to present a clear differentiation between Christian and Muslim that could provide a sustained high moral ground: indeed more than once, Mocenigo and his troops resemble thieves more closely than pious crusaders. Petkov explains this as resulting from the fact that the period in which The Deeds was written “reflects a period during which the moral certainty of the traditional crusade had given way to a confused double standard through which the paradigm of encountering the ‘other’ was incorporated into Western political practice” (XXXV). This analysis may reflect more of our values than Cippico’s, but Petkov is certainly right to note that the interplay of the various strands within the work gives the treatise unusual interest for the modern reader.

The volume contains a translation, but not a Latin text. This is a pity, since a modern edition was made by Renata Fabbri in her Per la memorialistica veneziana in latino del Quattrocento: Filippo da Rimini, Francesco Contarini, Coriolano Cippico (Padua, 1988). Since the translation comes to only a little over a hundred pages, it would have been nice to have a bilingual edition. Petkov explains in his introduction (XXXVII) that he had aimed for a literal translation and apologizes for what he considers an unfortunate amount of clumsy phrasing that resulted from this goal, but I have to say I failed to notice this: the translation is straightforward and perhaps not elegant, but these are really qualities that are inherent in Cippico’s Latin. The translation is lightly annotated and supplemented with a good bibliography, which is important given that even specialists in Renaissance humanism are often not very familiar with what went on in the eastern Mediterranean basin during that period. All in all this is a nice little book that will make interesting reading for anyone interested in humanist history written within the Neo-Latin tradition.

Craig Kallendorf
Texas A&M University

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Mediterranean Studies 25. 2 (2017): 275–77.

In late July 1470, the city of Venice was consumed by panic, grief, and recriminations as the first reports of the fall of Negroponte trickled into the city. After the fall of Constantinople in 1453, the Aegean island of Negroponte (Euboea) had become Venice’s most vital commercial and military possession in the northeastern Mediterranean. After the island fell to an Ottoman siege and assault, Venetians feared that the rest of their maritime empire would begin to fall to the Ottomans as well. The Venetian Senate elected Pietro Mocenigo, an experienced diplomat, politician, and naval commander, as the Captain General of the Sea, sending him and his fleet on a campaign of retribution in the eastern Mediterranean. Coriolano Cippico, a noble from the Dalmatian city of Trogir (Trau), captained one of the galleys in Mocenigo’s fleet and was thus a direct observer and participant in the events he later chronicled in his Latin treatise, The Deeds of Commander Mocenigo.

While Cippico had a humanistic education, the work hovers between humanist history and a straightforward chronicle of events. The treatise is organized into three books, each of which narrates a different stage in the naval campaign. The first book begins with the fall of Negroponte and relates the fleet’s depredations along the cities and towns of the Anatolian coast. The second book begins with an attack on the Ottoman forces at Gallipoli by a Venetian secret agent and continues on to describe the Venetians’ systematic sack and capture of Ottoman coastal towns as well as their alliance with other anti-Ottoman forces in the region, notably the Karamans and Uzun Hasan, sultan of the Aq Qoyunlu emirate. In late 1473, the Venetian fleet’s attention was pulled to a growing crisis in Cyprus, and the remainder of book 2 and the beginning of book 3 are dedicated to Mocenigo’s efforts to secure the Venetians’ hold on the island. The work concludes with the fleet’s defense of the Albanian city of Scutari against an Ottoman attack in 1474.

Cippico’s text thus delivers what it promises: a short history of the naval campaign captained by Pietro Mocenigo, who was elected doge shortly after the fleet disbanded. As this was only a single expedition in a long history of Veneto-Ottoman commercial and military engagement in the eastern Mediterranean, the reader is often thrust into the thick of the action with very little background. Furthermore, the eventual outcome of events also takes place offstage: Scutari did fall to an Ottoman siege in 1479, while Cyprus was increasingly subject to Venetian influence and became a directly ruled possession of the Republic in 1489. Petkov’s careful introduction and notes help provide context and situate events in a broader panorama, doing a great deal to allow non-experts access to the text.

Two overarching themes run through Cippico’s history: the virtues of Commander Pietro Mocenigo and the Venetian fight against the Ottomans. One might assume that Cippico, a subject of Venice’s empire, intended to win preferment or advantages for himself by composing a text that praised Venice, but in the introduction, Petkov makes a convincing case that Cippico’s intended audience was more local and Dalmatian than imperial and Venetian. Cippico explains practices that would have been familiar to most Venetians, such as the auctioning of booty; he also praises Dalmatian Slavs as much or more than he praises Venetian soldiers or commanders. Cippico’s admiration of Mocenigo and his deeds, rather than fitting into the typical praise of Venetian patricians (as seen in the Venetian histories and chronicles that form the backbone of the myth of Venice), seem rather to be part of Cippico’s humanist engagement with civic virtue. Mocenigo thus appears as a praiseworthy servant of his civic community, just as a noble of Trogir might be to his own city.

Petkov also argues that while Cippico at times paints the Venetian expedition in religiously motivated terms, describing the Ottomans as “the common enemy of the Christian religion,” his text in fact undermines this vision of a clash of two faiths. First, Cippico’s classicizing framework often sits uneasily with a Christian or providential explanation for the expedition: Petkov points to the moment when Mocenigo arrives in Ragusa and is treated by the citizens “as almost a god who had descended from heaven to defend the Christian faith” (88). Second, Cippico’s protagonists display military or political motives more often than they do religious ones. In this regard, Ottoman and Christian states share principles of empire building, or as Cippico has Mocenigo say: “Kingdoms do not pass under the rule of kings through legal formulas or contested litigation but through arms and bravery” (55). The combatants also share motivations: both the defenders of Christian Scutari and Muslim Satalia fight for land and for family, and Venetian and Ottoman troops are depicted as burning, looting, and killing indiscriminately.

Third, the clashes that Cippico participated in or witnessed were not always between Christian and Muslim powers but demonstrated the complexity of warfare and power politics in the era. The Venetians ally with other Muslim powers in Anatolia against the Ottomans, and in Cyprus the Venetian fleet arrives to settle a dispute between two warring Christian factions. Cippico also highlights individuals who crossed religious and political borders — a Christian Dalmatian woman enslaved in a coastal Ottoman city encouraged the city’s besiegers, a Sicilian man enslaved in Gallipoli offered to burn the Ottoman fleet, and a Dalmatian man raised as an Ottoman janissary was in charge of the city of Corycus, in Anatolia.

Petkov’s translation of Cippico’s history flows very well, making it accessible to general audiences. It would also be appropriate to assign in undergraduate or graduate courses. While the text offers a wealth of detail on military matters and provides a detailed example of a naval campaign in an ongoing war, its greatest benefit to the field of Mediterranean studies is the tension that Petkov highlights in the introduction: Cippico’s rhetoric of religious difference and the Ottomans as “other” is consistently challenged by the details of his presentation, in which Christians and Muslims share a classical heritage, a political framework, and actions and reactions during war.

Monique O’Connell
Wake Forest University


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