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Galeotti, Marzio (or Martius) (ca. 1440-ca. 1494)

Galeotti, Marzio (or Martius) (ca. 1440-ca. 1494)

Italian astrologer and theologian who appears to have been a native of Narni, in Umbria. It seems that while a young man he settled for a while at Bologna, where he gave grave offense to the Church of Rome by promulgating the doctrine that good works are not the road to salvation, which is only to be obtained by faith in Christ. Finding the priests around him growing daily more and more hostile, Galeotti left for Hungary, where be became secretary to the king, Matthias Corvinus, and also tutor to the king's son, Prince John.

His secretarial and tutorial duties did not occupy all his time, so he was able to study astrology and also wrote a book, De jocose Dictis et Factis Regis Matthiae Corvini. Some of the tenets in this work caused further offense to the clergy, and eventually their rancor was such that the writer was seized and taken to Venice, where he was imprisoned for a while.

He was eventually released, chiefly through the influence of Pope Sixtus IV, whose tutor he is said to have been at an earlier, indeterminate date. Thereupon, Galeotti left for France, where he came under the notice of the king, Louis XI, who appointed him his state astrologer. He acted in this capacity for many years, sometimes living within the precincts of the royal castle of Plessis-les-Tours, sometimes at the town of Lyons. In 1478, while staying at Lyons, he was informed that Louis was approaching and he rode out to meet him, but fell from his horse and died shortly afterward as a result of injuries sustained in the fall.

A special interest attaches to Galeotti in that he appears in Sir Walter Scott's inimitable story of medieval France, Quentin Durward. Early in the tale, soon after Quentin has entered the Scots Guard of Louis XI, the latter and his new guardsman are depicted as visiting the astrologer, the king being anxious for a prophecy regarding Quentin's immediate future. The scene is a very memorable and graphic one, among the best in the whole book, and it is historically valuable because it contains what is probably a fairly accurate description of the kind of study used generally by an astrologer in the Middle Ages.

Galeotti is represented "curiously examining a specimen, just issued from the Frankfurt Press, of the newly invented art of printing," and the king questions him about this novel process, whereupon the seer speaks of the vast changes it is destined to bring about throughout the whole world.

This scene has a special point, since although the novelist himself did not refer to the matter in his notes, nor did Andrew Lang refer to it in his annotations to the Border Waverley edition, it is known that Louis was keenly interested in printing. Soon after the craft first made its appearance, the king commissioned the director of his mint (one Nicholas Janson or Jenson) to give up his post in favor of studying typography, with a view to its being carried on in France.

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