Bruni's De Militia.
Among the manuscripts of the
Burgess Collection in the Library of the University of Oregon
1, in Eugene, there are two works of Leonardo
Bruni: the translation of Plato's Phaedon and the
treatise De militia.
Eugene (Oregon), Knight Library,
Burgess Collection MS. 36.
Paper, sec. XV1
(1440), ff. IX,10 (of index, numbered separately),
-- where Bruni's De militia is copied -- is a codex
written by a single hand, in littera antiqua,
with strong reminiscences of the Italian Gothic and thus
with several abbreviations. Nonetheless, Ms. Burgess 36
is clearly written and hence very readable. The codex
was bound in parchment in the 1600's. It measures mm.
280 x 210. As mentioned, the numeration indicates 200 folios of text.
Folio 170 is blank and is ruled both horizontally and
vertically on each side. Gatherings: 110—2010, with catchword
in the lower center of last folio of the quire. Again as mentioned, at the very beginning of the
manuscript there are 9 blank pages, followed by a comprehensive
index of 10 separately numbered folios written by two hands, and
different from the hand that wrote the texts. At the end
there are 11 more blank folios.The measure of the written
space is mm. 190 x 107 ca., therefore the Ms. has wide
marginal spaces. There are 39 lines in each folio. The
space between the lines is mm. 5 ca. The manuscript is
punctuated with a fair accuracy. We can observe the signs
of pause -- short (·), long (·/) and full
(/·) -- the question mark (/.), and the
sign of paragraph, in red or blue, followed by a capital
letter. The paragraph sign and the capital letter, from
folio 4r to the end of Bruni's treatise,
are both outdented:
The De militia of
the Burgess Collection is part of a humanistic compilation
that contains, in addition to this work by Bruni (ff. 1r-10r),
the entire Epitome by Lucius Annaeus Florus (11r-54r),
Plutarch's Epistle (54r-54v),
political and military orations from Livy's Ab
Urbe condita (55r-169v), and some
excerpts from Flavius Josephus (171r-200v).
It seem apparent then that Bruni's De militia was
not only presented as a political and patriotic treatise,
but also as an example of a rhetorical work. Moreover, the
fact that Bruni's treatise is the very first in this rhetorical
anthology, it is an indication of the importance that it
was attributed to it from this point of view
2. Perhaps it was the desire of the unknown compiler
- and perhaps of Bruni himself - to see the De militia
as a scholastic book on rhetoric, as it had been the case
(and it will continue to be until the end of the 1600's)
for the Epitome of Lucius Annaeus Florus.
Charles C. Bayley who published a critical
edition of Bruni's De militia some forty years
ago 3 was not aware of the
Burgess Collection manuscript.
This large manuscript - that
includes De militia - was written in 1440
4, four years before Bruni's death. It is difficult
to say whether the manuscript, probably of north Italian origin (Milano?, Pavia?),
has been written with the knowledge and approval of Bruni himself. The
writer shows a medieval tendency in his writing. He writes
autoritatem, pretestati, fondo,
conta 5, cathena
6, incedere for incidere7,
deprendi. Yet, after the first mihi that
he writes as mij, 8
and after the first nihil, written according the
classic spelling that by now had become universal under
the push of humanists, the writer follows that precise intention
of Bruni, namely to write these two words always with the
c, michi and nichil
9. In addition diphthongs do not appear
in the manuscript. Of course, this too was Bruni's practice.
The title of Burgess Ms. 36 does not have
the subscription or dedication that is found in
earlier manuscripts. Bruni had originally dedicated his
work to Rinaldo degli Albizzi, but Rinaldo degli Albizzi's
name doesn't appear in Burgess Ms. 36. The title, written
on top of folio 1r in yellowish or ochre ink, is simply: Leonardo
Aretini de militia. It might
be of some interest to mention that this yellowish or ochre ink is used,
in Ms. 36, for titles until folio 54. Then beginning with Livy's Ab Urbe
condita, the titles and rubrics are written with red ink.
The De militia of Eugene is very
closely related to Ms. 599 of Rome (Italy) Casanatense Library,
which was probably the dedication copy. It has the same
characteristic error of Archidamus
10 for Hippodamus. It is also consistent
with the title of the Casanatense Ms., after the erasure
that this manuscript underwent with the consequent elimination
of the subscription. This happened as a result
of Rinaldo degli Albizzi's expulsion from Florence in 1434
The Burgess manuscript presents
some variants, among which the traditional antonomastic
poeta, or "the poet", for "our
Homer", i. e. Virgil. This does not appear
in any of the MSS. studied by Bayley. Still more interesting
are the two similarly written - but not quite - redimicula
of the text. Ms. Burgess 36, in fact, introduces two different
readings: the first appears in its correct form redimicula,
and the second as ridimicla. The Casanatense Library
manuscript has the same reading, although its ridimicula
is not apocopated. Bayley considered the Casanatense
second reading as an error and, in his critical edition,
changed it to redimicula. Bayley also informs us
that the Casanatense manuscript was reviewed, perhaps by
Bruni himself, but the presumed error escaped the reviewer
12. I have a different opinion. If it was Bruni
to review the Casanatense manuscript, the fact that he did
not amend the presumed erroneous ridimicula is a clear
proof of his intention to spell that particular word in
such a way.
The brief part of the De militia
that interests us here hinges on the issue relating to gold
ornaments worn by soldiers. According to some, golden ornaments
have the effect to confer distinction and valor to the soldier.
Bruni is opposed to this theory and tries to demonstrate
the futile argument with the rhetorical use of the similitudo
or simile. Ms. 36 of the Burgess Collection reads
uti splendor luciditasque auri magnam aliquam virtutis
significationem contineat non magis tolera[5v]bile
est quam si quis vestem illam senatoriam in allegorias
vertere conetur, ut si late eius manice sint virtutis
capaces dicat esse, sin arcte et breves abstinentiam parsimoniamque
significare. Denique nichil est quod levissime in huiuscemodi
significationes pertrahatur. Bipidem esse hominem multa
significare potest. Idem fieret et si esse tripes.
[To think, however, that
the splendor and brightness of gold imply any meaning
of merit is no more acceptable than trying to make an
allegory out of a senator's dress styles. If his sleaves
are large, would mean that he is capable of great liberality;
if they are tight and narrow, would mean that he follows
abstinence and parsimony. In fact you could apply a lighthearted
meaning in this manner to everything. The fact that man
is two-legged can denote many things. And the same would
be if he were three-legged.]
It is at this point that Bruni
introduces the salsus in order to demolish that
absurd argument. He does this by means of an interlocutor
who asks about the two points (apices) and
the two bands (redimicula) of the episcopal mitre
hanging on the bishop's shoulders.
Quo in genere perquam
urbane iocatum fuerat [read: "ferunt"] Lodovicum Marsilium, hominem cum
extra doctrina tum sacrarum litterarum scientia omnium
etatis nostre clarissimum, qui cum ab eo quereretur, apices
illi duo episcopalis mitre quidnam significaret, ridens
inquit, quia novum vetusque testamentum scrire episcopum
oportet. Tum ille, recte quidem hoc, at quid redimicula
post collum ob eadem mitra pendencia? Ridimicla, inquit,
illa post tergata atque reiecta significant nec novum nec
vetus episcopum scire testamentum. Ita doctissimus vir
stulticiam vanitatemque rogantis lepida cavillatione delusit,
quod et in auro militari esset merito faciendum.
[On this matter, there is
an extremely witty jest by Luigi Marsili, a man very famous
in our times both for his learning and his knowledge of
all sacred letters. When someone asked him about the meaning
of the two points on the bishop mitre, he answered, laughingly,
that they meant that the bishop knows both the new and
the old testament. "That is
correct", his interlocutor said. "And what about
the meaning of the bands hanging back from the neck of
the same mitre?".
"Those ridimicla, he said, thrown in the back
and rejected as they are, signify that the bishop knows
neither the new nor the old testament". In this way
the learned man made fun of the stupidity and the vanity
of his inquisitor by a witty jest. The same should be
said about the merit of gold to the military.]
Now these two discordant readings
(redimicula / ridimicla) at only half
a line one from the other, invite our serious attention.
I believe that the diversity of these two readings found
in both the Burgess and the Casanatense MSS. — and perhaps
also in other manuscripts as, for instance, Vat. Palat. Lat. 1598,
which originally had ridimicula, and then later someone
converted the first "i" to an "e" — is attributable to the original
from which these manuscripts derive. It
seems also logical to believe that this was the intention
of Bruni himself.
In fact here, in the rhetorical economy
of the passage in which the two readings appear, the point
is that of using a jest for a very precise scope. The
jester who jokes in an exquisite "urbane"
13 manner is the Augustinian friar Luigi Marsili
(1342-1394), a man of great doctrine and profoundly learned
in both pagan and Christian letters and philosophy. He
is interrogated first on the meaning of the two points,
or horns, the cornua14
of the episcopal mitre, and then on the meaning of the
two decorated bands - precisely the redimicula
- attached at the bottom of the mitre's posterior horn
and falling back on the bishop's shoulders. As we saw,
the answer to the second question is realized through
a witty expedient. In the brief and effective passage
transcribed above, the iocus put in the mouth
of the sharp and learned Augustinian friar is in perfect
compliance with Cicero's rhetorical precepts regarding
the genus iocandi. So that Bruni's sentence not
only puts into practice the tenets of instantaneity, brevity,
and surprise spelled out by Cicero in De oratore
( as Bayley pointed out)15,
but it also underscores the use of technical means in
order to arrive at the desired effect. Among these technical
means there are the various cases of dicacitas
or biting wit, paranomasia or a slight variation
of the letters in one or more words, etc
16. Here, in our case, the point
is to apply a slight variation in the letters of redimicula
that would allow the association of a different meaning.
This different meaning - as the text says - serves to
destroy the stupidity and the vanity of the inquisitor.
Thus a ridi-micla
17 wich, literally, serves to ridicule and to
negate the meaning that was earlier conferred to the cornua
of the mitre 18. With
the logic result of destroying the absurd opinion of those
who believe that golden adornments give special valor
to the soldier wearing them. Such an argument - Bruni
says - doesn't merit a serious confutation.
At this juncture, perhaps a further point
can be made. A close look at redimicula and ridimicla
of the Burgess manuscript reveals that the two terms not
only are spelled differently, but that they also have
- what I would like to call - a diacritical mark on them.
In Burgess 36 they appear as redimícula and
ridímicla (5v). It must be aknowledged,
however, that throughout the manuscript the "í"
is frequently - but not always - marked by a long stroke
or a acute accent. As we recall, this was also the practice
used by Niccolò Niccoli and other scribes in his
entourage. But the fact the the writer of our manuscript
marked the two similar terms differently, at only five
words distance one from the other, should be taken as
an indication of a semantic difference between them. And,
of course, this takes us back to, and confirms Cicero's
paranomasia we mentioned above.
|Burgess Collection MS 36 - folio
Click on the image to see it in context
In conclusion, it is obvious
that the correct redimicula is to be retained as
first term. This was the term used by the Marsili's interlocutor.
The second term, too, must be taken as correct, and its
form ridimicla should be given in a new critical
edition. In fact, at this point of its development, Bruni's
writing has the precise scope of 'dressing' the discourse
with the Ciceronian salsus in order to discredit
the absurd opinion we saw above. Changing ridimicla
to redimicula, as Bayley did, has the effect of
taking away all the flavor that the author intended to give
to his text.
1.. For the
history of the Burgess Collection, see P. D. Morrison and
R. B. Mofif, The Eadward S. Collection, in Imprint:
Oregon, 4, 1 (1978), pp. 3-13.
2. C. C.
Bayley has eminetly pointed out the rhetorical aspect and
construction of De militia. See C. C. Bayley, War
and Society in Renaissance Florence, The "De militia"
of Leonardo Bruni, University of Toronto Press [Toronto],
The practice of copying the De militia in manuscripts
in which were also copied classical works dealing in some way with
Rhetoric was not new. Just one year after De militia was
written, Flavio Biondo — who was in Milan in1422 — copied it
in the same manuscript in which he also copied Cicero's Brutus.
Afterwards Bruni's work had a a good fortune in Milan and was copied many times.
See M. Ferrari, La «littera antiqua»
à Milan, 1417-1439, in Renaissance- und
Humanistenhandschriften, München 1988, pp. 13-29
notes have been written in 1982. They are published now
in English with a few substantial changes. For a critical
edition of Bruni's De militia, see the preceding
note. It may be appropriate to mention that
an English translation of Bruni's De militia by Gordon
Griffiths has been available since 1987. It can be found
in The Humanism of Leonardo Bruni: Selected Texts, Translated
and introduced by Gordon Griffiths, James Hankins and David
Thomson, Binghamton, New York 1987, pp. 107-111, and pp.
4. The date of 1440 was recorded
by the scribe on folio 54r: Lvcii Annei Flori liber quartus
et ultimus explicit Anno Domini MCCCCXXXX die xxviiii Jullij
5. Already in
medieval dictionaries there is a warning that this word
should be written with u and not
with o. Indeed "many are mistaken when they
write" and confuse cuntor, cuntaris with contor,
contaris which is used for inquirere. Cf. Uguccione
da Pisa, Derivationes, s. v. See also Guillelmus Brito,
Summa Britonis , edited by L. D. Daly and B. A. Daly, Padova
1975. s. v. cunctatio.
can be found already in medieval dictionaries.
is not an error of transcription, The verb cedere
was used already in late medieval age as a synonym of incedere.
See William Brito, Summa, cit., under succedo.
and niil is also the normal spelling used
by Poggio Bracciolini. We know that in a letter Coluccio
Salutati advises Poggio to use rather the forms michi
and nichil. Cf. Coluccio Salutati, Epistulae,
ed. by F. Novati, Firenze 1893, Epist. VII, pp. 162-163.
ee also B. L. Ulman, The Origin and Development of Humanistic
Script, Roma 1960, p. 25.
Burgess Collection Ms. De militia shows the second
michi with an expunged c. However, it is quite
possible che the expunging sign, which seems of a different
ink, could have been written by a reader. It may be useful
to note that the forms michi and nichil are
also prevalent in other parts of the manuscript, in addition
to the part dedicated to De militia.
the Burgess manuscript the first occurrence of this name
is Archidamtis. It is possible that the scribe may
have taken the u of the manuscrit he was copying
from for the syllable ti.
degli Àlbizzi (stress on the A) was born into a powerful
political Florentine family in 1370. When his father died
in 1417, Rinaldo became the leader of that powerful and
illustrious oligarchy. In order to diminish the political
support of the lower class for the Medici, he tried to reduce
the number of the Minor Arts, but with no success. However,
in 1433 he succeeded to have Cosimo de' Medici first jailed
and then sent into exile. But in the following year fortune
changed. Rinaldo was banished from Florence and Cosimo was
called back to the city. Rinaldo then moved with his family
to Ancona where he died in 1442. Cfr. Enciclopedia Italiana
di scienze, lettere ed arti..., Roma 1929-1932, vol.
2, pp. 207-208. See also C. C. Bayley, War and Society....,
cit., p. 127ff and p. 362.
C. C. Bayley, War and Society...., cit., p. 362.
the Ciceronian concept of the terms urbanus and urbanitas
and for their semantic evolution through the centuries,
see E. Frank, De voce 'urbanitas' apud Ciceronem vi et
usu, Berlino 1932. See also E. de Saint-Denis, Evolution
sémantique de 'urbanus urbanitas', in Latomus, III
(1939), pp. 5-24.
14. From the
XI Century on the mitre was warn by bishops and other
dignitaries with the two points over their temples. Hence
the idea of cornua, or horns, seems to be very appropriate.
Now, during Marsili's times, the use was to wear it with
the points over the front and the nape. In addition the
mitre had become much higher so that its two points had
become real apices. Cf. L. Mortari, Enciclopedia
Cattolica, Milano 1949-1954, s. v. mitra.
C. C. Bayley, War and Society ..., cit., p. 325.
De Oratore, II 178, and II 256.
< micula is a diminutive of mica, with
the meaning of parvum frustulum. See ThLL,
s. v. micula.
the various play of pronouns and demonstrative adjectives
and for their humoristic and ironic effect in Ciceronian
rhetoric, see A. Haury, L'Ironie et l'Humour chez Cicéron,
Leiden 1955, p. 66 ff.