Mario Equicola (1470 – 1525) was an Italian humanist and courtier.
Born in Alvito (Lazio) in 1470, Equicola’s original surname is obscure. According to Domenico Santoro, one of Equicola’s 19th century biographers, the humanist may have been the illegitimate son of Pietro Giampaolo Cantelmo, the Duke of Sora and Alvito, with whose family Equicola had close ties. Stephen Kolsky (1991) rejects Santoro’s claim. Based on a thorough study of contemporary documents, Kolsky proposes instead that Equicola’s surname was Caccialupi, and that Equicola preferred his Latin pseudonym to his actual patronymic, which he nonetheless used in legal documents.
Equicola studied law in Naples without obtaining a degree (laurea). During his time there, he was a member of the Accademia Pontaniana, named after the humanist Giovanni Pontano. This academy is one of the oldest in Italy and it is still active to this day. Equicola subsequently studied in Rome and Florence. During his lifetime, he was secretary for several prominent Italian aristocratic families such as the Cantelmo, Gonzaga, and Este. He participated in various diplomatic undertakings, including a mission to Paris, and also fought in the battles of Atella (1496) and Garigliano (1503) alongside the Cantelmo.
One of his earliest works is the short Latin treatise De mulieribus [On Women] commissioned by Margherita Cantelmo (ca.1474–1532) and published in 1501 in Mantua. This book is now extremely rare. In this work, Equicola defends the equality of the sexes and decries the injustice of the social inequality faced by women. His best known work is the Libro de natura de amore [Book on the Nature of Love]. First published in Venice in 1525, there are fourteen extant editions, the last one from 1607. The work circulated widely and was translated into French and possibly into Spanish. Divided into six books, it is an exhaustive exposition and discussion of theories on love, ranging from medieval authors to Neoplatonic philosophers and poets, and on the different types of love.
Equicola died of malaria in Mantua in 1525.
Cherchi, Paolo. “Mario Equicola.” Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani volume 43 (1993). http://www.treccani.it/enciclopedia/mario-equicola_(Dizionario-Biografico)/ (accessed October 15, 2016)
Kolsky, Stephen. Mario Equicola: The Real Courtier. Geneva: Librairie Droz, 1991. Print.