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Poliziano (1454-1494)  

The fifteenth-century Italian scholar and poet Poliziano wrote many homoerotic Greek and Latin epigrams, published when he was seventeen.

Angelo Ambrogini, called Poliziano from his birthplace, Montepulciano, and sometimes referred to as Politian in English, distinguished himself equally in scholarship and poetry. His teachers included Marsilio Ficino, John Argyropulos, and Christoforo Landino, while Linacre, Grocyn, and Reuchlin were among his pupils. His scholarly and literary talents were manifested as early as 1470, when his Latin translation of Homer's Iliad began to appear.

At nineteen, he was engaged by Lorenzo de' Medici as a tutor to his sons Piero and Giovanni (later Pope Leo X), and two years later, he became Lorenzo's personal secretary. A rupture with Lorenzo's wife, Clarice, in 1478 was the occasion of Poliziano's removal to Mantua under the protection of Cardinal Francesco Gonzaga. In 1480, he was permitted to return to Florence, where he became Professor of Greek and Latin literature at the Academy.

His eloquence, his profound knowledge of the classics, and his abilities as a teacher made him famous throughout Europe. His later years were principally devoted to philology. The story related by Paolo Giovio (1483-1552), attributing Poliziano's early death to an amorous paroxysm for a beautiful young man, though often repeated, is viewed with skepticism by current scholars.

Poliziano's poetic genius was exercised in no fewer than three languages: Latin, Greek, and Italian. His corpus of Greek poetry consists of about sixty epigrams. In Latin, he produced numerous epigrams, odes, and elegies, as well as his famous Silvae, hexameter introductions to his lectures in literature, considered stylistic ideals throughout the Renaissance.

Poliziano's Latin poetry is remarkable not only for its exquisite polish, but also for its distinct individuality of voice. His Italian poetry, equally accomplished, fuses diverse forms. The stanze, written in honor of Giuliano de' Medici, mixes narrative and mythological allegory. The Orfeo, a "pastoral fable" containing elements of sacred drama and eclogue, foreshadowed Italian secular theater and influenced Ariosto and Tasso.

Poliziano also wrote a history of the Pazzi conspiracy in Latin prose, as well as two influential collections of scholarly Miscellanea.

Poliziano's homoerotic poetry is found mainly in his Greek and Latin epigrams, published when he was seventeen. In one he describes his love for two youths dissimilar in every respect except their antipathy toward him. Another contains a remarkably frank celebration of the physical pleasures he enjoys with his lover. Another describes his susceptibility to the "vertiginous" glances of a beautiful boy.

In one he describes himself as being in the habit of kissing the "redolent lips of youths" although he declines to kiss one who drinks urine. He shows a preference for blonds. He complains of an inveterate tease.

He refers to the homosexuality of Virgil and Anacreon. With apparent hypocrisy, Poliziano sometimes uses homosexuality as the basis of reproaches--rather implausible ones--against his literary rival, Marullo (1453-1500).

Brad Walton


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Bigi, Emilio. La Cultura del Poliziano e altri studi umanistici. Pisa: Nistri Lischi, 1967.

Branca, Vittore. Poliziano e l'umanesimo della parola. Torino: Giulio Einandi, 1983.

Cascio, Renzo lo. Poliziano. Palermo: Palumbo, 1970.

Maier, Ida. Ange Politien. Geneva: Droz, 1966.

Poliziano, Angelo Ambrogini. Prose volgari inedite e poesie latine e greche edite e inedite. Hildesheim: George Olms, 1976.


    Citation Information
    Author: Walton, Brad  
    Entry Title: Poliziano  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated August 26, 2005  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 1995, 2002 New England Publishing Associates  


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