Salviani, Ippolito

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(b. Citta di Castello [?], Italy, 1514; d. 1572)

medicine, natural history.

Little is known of Salviani’s life: according to some, he was born in Rome, to others, in Citta di Castello. The latter is more likely since Pope Julius III, by a motu proprio, made him a Roman citizen—a pointless action if he had been born in Rome.

It is certain that Salviani studied medicine and was closely connected with the Vatican. He was personal physician to Julius III, Paul IV, and Cardinal Cervini, who later became Pope Marcellus II. It is also known that he was a professor of practical medicine, from 1551 until at least 1568, at the Sapienza, the Roman university of the Renaissance. The Vatican gave him many honors; in 1564 the cardinal in charge sent Salviani in his place to supervise the degree sessions in medicine; he was made principal physician of the medical college of Rome; and in 1565 he was nominated conservatore (“registrar”) of Rome, which was more an administrative than a medical post. As conservatore he arranged for the transportation to the Campidoglio of the two famous statues of Caesar Augustus and Julius Caeser, which until then had been in the keeping of Alessandro Ruffini, bishop of Melfi.

Salviani enjoyed considerable renown, probably because of his privileged position as papal physician: he also had many rich clients and, in time, became very wealthy.

Salviani published only one medical work, De crisibus ad Galeni censuram (1556). Its success is evident from a second edition that was published only two years later. He is better known, however, for his monumental work on natural science, De piscibus tomi duo, the publication date of which is uncertain: it has been conjectured by various biographers to be 1554, 1555, or 1558.

The work had been encouraged and supported financially by Cardinal Cervini. It describes, in two folio volumes, the fishes of the Mediterranean and is accompanied by beautiful copper engravings by various contemporary artists. Despite Aldrovandi’s unconditional praise for the illustrations, more recent critics have pointed out that their merits are artistic rather than scientific. Many species of fishes are so approximately represented that they cannot be identified with precision.

The work was dedicated not to Cardinal Cervini, as Salviani had intended, but to the new pope, Paul IV: Cervini died before publication was complete. A slight bibliographical controversy has ensued from this alteration. Polidorus Vergilius, who is never very reliable, went so far as to reproduce the dedication that Salviani would have written for Cervini. But no such dedication has been found in any copy of the work, the one to Pope Paul IV being the only known dedication.

Salviani’s De piscibus tomi duo was reprinted in Venice in 1600–1602, but with the title changed to De aquatilium animalium ... formis which led some biographers to believe that it was a different book. Salviani also wrote poetry and a play, La ruffiana. The latter was popular during his life and went through several editions, but it is completely ignored by modern literary critics.


Salviani’s two scientific works are De crisibus ad Galeni censuram liber (Rome. 1558), and De piscibus tomi duo, cum eorumdem figuris aere incisis [Rome, 1554], reprinted as De aquatilium animalium curandorum formis (Venice, 1600–1602). His play was entitled La ruffiana (Rome, 1554).

On Salviani and his work, see Polidorus Vergilius, De inventoribus rerum (Basel, 1563); G. Marini, Degli archiatri pontifici. 2 vols. (Rome, 1784), 1, 402–425; II, 306–307, 314–317; and G. Tiraboschi, Biblioteca Modenese, VII. pt. 2 (Modena, 1781–1786), 119.

Carlo Castellani