Biondo, Flavio

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Humanist, historian of Roman antiquity, and secretary at the papal Curia; b. Forlì, Italy, November or December 1392; d. Rome, June 4, 1463. He usually signed himself Blondus. His literary education seems to have included little Greek, for he relied on translations of Greek literature. He was secretary for various people in many places in north Italy (142032), entered the papal service by early 1433, and, despite the fact that he was not trained in Canon Law, served as scriptor of apostolic letters under Popes Eugene IV, Nicholas V (except 144953), Callistus III, and Pius II from 1436 to his death. In 1423 he married, and by 1440 he was the father of ten children, one of whom, Gaspar (d. 1493), succeeded him as scriptor. Biondo lived and died poor, seeking no riches. His scholarly, methodical work contributed more to knowledge of the Middle Ages than that of his Renaissance colleagues, who disparaged his unrhetorical style. His Historiarum ab inclinatione Romanorum imperii decades, which imitates Livy, was intended as the contemporary history (140140) of Decades III and IV and was completed in 1453; this was supplemented with Decades I and II (4101400), the whole being published in Venice in 1483. Both his Roma instaurata, a descriptive catalogue of ruins and monuments of Rome, completed in 1446 and published in 1471, and his Italia illustrata, an archeological and historical account of Italy from the Alps to Salerno, completed in 1453 and published in Rome in 1474, offer valuable data on monuments extant in 15th-century Italy. Romae triumphantis libri X (1460), a manual of Roman antiquities, sacerdotal and private rather than public, was the basis for much subsequent antiquarian interest. Biondo is important in the development of the idea of a "Middle" Age inasmuch as he thought the barbarian invasions ushered in a new period. He held that the Rome of the popes was at least the equal of that of the emperors and that Christians should unite against the new barbarians, the Turks, who took Constantinople in 1453. Biondo wrote other lesser works; many of his letters are lost.

Bibliography: Opera omnia (Basel 1531). Scritti inediti e rari di Biondo Flavio, ed. b. nogara [Studi e Testi, 48 (1927)]. a. masius, Flavio Biondo, sein Leben und seine Werke (Leipzig 1897). b. nogara, Enciclopedia Italiana di scienzi, littere ed arti, 36 v. (Rome 192939) 7:56. l. mohler, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. m. buchberger, 10 v. (Freiburg 193038) 2:363364. f. baix, Dictionnaire d'histoire et de géographie ecclésiastiques, ed. a. baudrillart et al. (Paris 1912) 8:151319.

[e. p. colbert]