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Alessandro Piccolomini

Alessandro Piccolomini

Alessandro Piccolomini (1508–1579) was an Italian linguistic reformer, and the author of both philosophical and scientific treatises as well as several comedies.

Born in 1508 to an aristocratic Sienese family, Alessandro Piccolomini was the eldest son of Angelo Piccolomini and Margherita Santi. The Piccolomini family was notable for its many illustrious ecclesiastics, including two popes, Pius II and Pius III. Piccolomini first studied philosophy, mathematics, and astronomy at the studium in his native city and later at the studium in Padua. It is unknown, however, whether he ever obtained a degree (laurea) for his studies. During his lifetime, Piccolomini was a prominent member of various academies. In Siena, he was a member of the Accademia degli Intronati [Academy of the Deafened]. Founded in 1525, this academy was known for its propensity for provocation, but also for its philogynous attitude and promotion of the Italian language. In Padua, Piccolomini was actively involved in the Accademia degli Infiammati [Academy of the Inflamed] which was founded in 1540. This Academy was heavily influenced by Pietro Pomponazzi (1462–1525)—a professor, physician, and philosopher known for his controversial Aristotelianism. The Paduan academy’s goals included the promotion of the Italian vernacular as an appropriate language for scientific and philosophical speculation and publication, then restricted to Latin.

Piccolomini himself actively sought to further this linguistic cause which would allow for a broader readership—including women—by publishing astronomical and philosophical treatises in Italian, some of which were dedicated to Laudomia Forteguerri (1515­–ca.1555), a Sienese poet. Also dedicated to Forteguerri is his Dialogo de la bella creanza delle Donne [Dialogue on the Beautiful Creation of Women]—written in 1538 and published in 1539—better known as La Raffaella. In this dialogue, Raffaella, a wise, older woman, advises Margherita, a younger woman, on the importance of having a lover as a married woman. Some scholars have seen this work as an attempt to seduce the married Forteguerri. It has been suggested that Piccolomini wrote the Orazione in lode delle donne [Oration in praise of women] in 1538. He wrote several comedies, the most famous of which is the Alessandro (performed in 1544 and published in 1545).

Having been ordained in 1555, Piccolomini was appointed Archbishop of Patrasso in 1574. He died in 1579.



Perrone Compagni, Vittoria. “Pomponazzi, Pietro.” In Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani volume 84 (2015) (accessed July 30, 2016)

Tomasi, Franco. “Piccolomini, Alessandro.” In Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani volume 83 (2015) (accessed July 30, 2016)

Zarrilli, Carla. “Forteguerri, Laudomia.” In Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani volume 49 (1997) (accessed July 30, 2016)