Scipione Ammirato


Scipione Ammirato (October 7, 1531 – January 11, 1601) was an Italian historian and philosopher. He is now regarded as an important founding figure in the scholarly study of the history of philosophy. He is best known for his political treatise Discorsi sopra Cornelio Tacito (Discourses on Tacitus), published in 1594. The book soon became “an international classic” with numerous translations.[1]

Scipione Ammirato
Portret van Scipione Ammirato Portretten van beroemde Italianen met wapenschild in ondermarge (serietitel), RP-P-1909-4607.jpg
Portrait of Scipione Ammirato engraved by Francesco Allegrini after Giuseppe Zocchi (1763)
Born(1531-10-07)7 October 1531
Died11 January 1601(1601-01-11) (aged 69)
OccupationHistorian and philosopher
Notable work
Discorsi sopra Cornelio Tacito
Istorie Fiorentine
EraRenaissance philosophy
RegionWestern philosophy
Main interests
Politics and political philosophy, military theory, history

In his Discorsi Ammirato presents himself as an anti-Machiavellian from the outset, leaving no stone unturned in his efforts to confute the main theses of Il Principe. Unlike Botero and Lipsius, Ammirato did not see Tacitism as a surrogate form of Machiavellianism. On the contrary, his Discorsi present the works of the Roman historian as an antidote to Il Principe, and this approach was to prove widely popular during the long Tacitus revival.[2]

Moreover, Ammirato's doctrine of reason of state defined such “reason” as violating neither natural nor divine law; it was the reason of the greater public good (such as public safety) and thus, in departing from the ordinary moral order in extraordinary circumstances, the modern prince did not come into conflict with Christianity.[3]


Ammirato was born at Lecce in the Kingdom of Naples in 1531, of a family originally from Florence. He was sent to Naples to study the law, for which, however, he had no taste. He applied himself chiefly to literature and poetry, and in 1551 he received the minor orders from the Bishop of Lecce, who gave him a canon's stall in the cathedral of that town. He afterwards travelled, or rather wandered, about Italy in quest of occupation; he resided some time at Venice, Rome, and Naples; returned to his native country, was temporarily employed by several noblemen, and was sent by the Archbishop of Naples on a mission to Pope Pius V. At last he fixed his residence at Florence in 1569, and the Grand Duke Cosimo I commissioned him to write the Istorie Fiorentine, the work by which he is best known, and Cardinal Ferdinando de' Medici gave him the use of his own country house at La Petraia. In 1595 he was made canon of the cathedral of Florence.[4] He died in 1601.


Ammirato was a very copious writer; the following are those of his works which deserve notice:

  • Delle Famiglie Nobili Napoletane, a genealogical work in two parts, folio, the first of which was in 1580, and the second in 1651, after the author's death;
  • Ammirato, Scipione (1594). Discorsi sopra Cornelio Tacito. Firenze. per Filippo Giunti. Ammirato invoked Tacitus to refute Machiavelli's republicanism and composed his Discorsi as a counter to Machiavelli's Discourses on Livy.[5] Ammirato also condemns Machiavelli for having subjugated the Christian religion to the demands of the state. Rather than adjust religion to fit themselves, he writes, men, and especially princes, must adjust laws to fit religion, «since in the nature of men in the fields and the caverns, before cities were built, there was a belief in God sooner than there were civil gatherings, on behalf of which laws were made; because it would not otherwise be necessary to say that religion should accommodate to civil life, than who might say that seasons of the year should change to fit individuals rather than the other way round.» [6] Ammirato's Discorsi sopra Cornelio Tacito went through four Italian editions before 1599 and two more at the beginning of the next century. They were translated into Latin for the benefit of German readers in 1609 and 1618 and appeared in French translations twice in 1618 and in 1628, 1633, and 1642;[7]
  • Orazioni a diversi Principi intorno a' Preparamenti che s'avrebbero a fare contro la Potenza del Turco, 1598;
  • Il Rota ovvero delle Imprese, 1562; a treatise upon heraldic devices; this work took the form of dialogue, named in honor of one its interlocutors, Berardino Rota, who was a distinguished Neapolitan poet and friend of the author.[8]
  • Istorie Fiorentine, in two parts. Part I, consisting of twenty books, comes down to the year 1434, when Cosimo de' Medici, styled Pater Patriae, returned from his exile, and it was published in 1600, in 1 vol. fol. Part II, in fifteen books, to the year 1574, was published 1641, in 1 vol. fol., by Ammirato the younger, and dedicated to the Grand Duke Ferdinando II. Ammirato the younger published also in 1647 a second and improved edition of the first part, with additions, in 2 vols fol. Ammirato's history of Florence is considered the most accurate and complete of its kind. The Accademia della Crusca called him "the modern Livy". Ammirato, was highly critical of Machiavelli's Florentine Histories; he said that Machiavelli «altered names, twisted facts, confounded cases, increased, added, subtracted, diminished and did anything that suited his fancy without checking, without lawful restraint and what is more, he seems to have done so occasionally on purpose!»;[9]
Scipione Ammirato, Delle famiglie nobili napoletane, Volume 1, 1580
  • Delle Famiglie nobili Fiorentine, completed and published in 1615 by Ammirato the younger, in fol.
  • Rime spirituali sopra salmi, Venice, 1634;
  • Ammirato, Scipione (1637). I Vescovi di Fiesole di Volterra e d'Arezzo, con l'Aggiunta di Scipione Ammirato il Giovane. Firenze. Amadore Massi. These are biographical notices of the bishops of those three sees;
  • Opuscoli, being a collection of his minor works, in 3 vols, 1637-1642. They contain orations addressed to several princes and popes, biographies of King Ladislaus and his sister Joanna II of Naples, and of several distinguished members of house of Medici; treatises, short poems, and dialogues. Most important among them is the dialogue Dedalione, published in the third volume of the Opuscoli (1642), in which the seer Tiresias answers the objections raised by Daedalion against poetry, basing his argument on certain passages in Plato.[10] Ammirato dedicated his Dedalione to his patron, cardinal Girolamo Seripando;[11]
  • Albero e Storia dei Guidi coll'Aggiunte di Scipione Ammirato il Giovane, fol. 1640, and again, with additions, in 1650. The Counts Guidi acted an important part in the early history of Florence;
  • Discorsi delle Famiglie Paladina e Antoglietta, 1595. Ammirato was a laborious and accurate investigator of genealogical notices, and his works on these subjects are very valuable as materials for history. He states that he examined fifty thousand papers for his work on the Neapolitan families, and six thousand for those of Florence. These works are now become very scarce.

Ammirato left also several MSS. works, among others a continuation of the chronicle of Montecassino, and his own autobiography, which is kept in the library of Santa Maria la Nuova of Florence.

Scipione Ammirato the younger, above mentioned, but whose real name was Cristoforo del Bianco, was born at Montaione in Tuscany about 1582; he acted as amanuensis to Ammirato in the latter part of his life, and was made his heir by will, on the condition of assuming his name and surname. He edited several of the posthumous works of his benefactor.


  • de Angelis, Domenico (1706). Della vita di Scipione Ammirato patrizio leccese. Lecce: Stamperia Vescovile.
  • Congedo, Umberto (1904). La vita e le opere di Scipione Ammirato (notizie e ricerche). Trani: Vecchi.
  • Toffanin, Giuseppe (1921). Machiavelli e il Tacitismo. Padova: Angelo Draghi. pp. 156 ff.
  • De Mattei, Rodolfo (1961). "AMMIRATO, Scipione". Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani, Volume 3: Ammirato–Arcoleo (in Italian). Rome: Istituto dell'Enciclopedia Italiana. ISBN 978-8-81200032-6.
  • Scarabelli, Luciano (1853). Di Scipione Ammirato e delle sue opere, introduzione alle Istorie fiorentine. Torino: Pomba. pp. 7–42.
  • Rodolfo De Mattei, Varia fortuna di Scipione Ammirato; Opere a stampa di Scipione Ammirato; Codici di Scipione Ammirato, in "Studi salentini", 8 (1960), pp. 352–407.
  • Schellhase, Kenneth C. (1976). Tacitus in Renaissance Political Thought, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, pp. 142–5.
  • Ronald J. Mellor, ed. (1995). Tacitus: the classical heritage. New York; London: Garland Publishing.
  • Peter Brand, Lino Pertile, ed. (1999). The Cambridge History of Italian Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 200. ISBN 9780521666220.
  • Snyder, Jon R. (2012). Dissimulation and the Culture of Secrecy in Early Modern Europe. University of California Press. pp. 129–132. ISBN 9780520274631.
  • The Biographical Dictionary of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge. Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans. 1842.   This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Tuck, Richard. Philosophy and Government 1572–1651. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993, p. 69.
  2. ^ Jürgen Von Stackelberg, Tacitus in der Romania: Studien zur literarischen Rezeption des Tacitus in Italian und Frankreich 120–128.
  3. ^ “Ragion di Stato altro non essere che contravvenzione di legge ordinaria, per rispetto di pubblico beneficio, ovvero per rispetto di maggiore e più universale ragione.” See Rodolfo De Mattei, “Scipione Ammirato,” Dizionario biografico degli italiani, vol. 3 (Rome: Istituto della Enciclopedia italiana, 1961) 1-4; De Mattei, Il pensiero politico di Scipione Ammirato, con discorsi inediti (Milan: A. Giuffrè, 1963) 121-151 (the above citation appears on 124).
  4. ^   One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Ammirato, Scipione". Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 1 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 860.
  5. ^ William Caferro, ed. (2017). The Routledge History of the Renaissance. Routledge. ISBN 9781351849456.
  6. ^ Discorsi del Signor Scipione Ammirato sopra Cornelio Tacito, Filippo Giunta, Florence 1594, Book V, Discorso 5; see also Eric Cochrane, Florence in the Forgotten Centuries, 1527-1800: A History of Florence and the Florentines in the Age of the Grand Dukes.
  7. ^ Eric Cochrane (2013). Florence in the Forgotten Centuries, 1527-1800: A History of Florence and the Florentines in the Age of the Grand Dukes. University of Chicago Press. p. 125. ISBN 9780226115955.
  8. ^ Dorigen Sophie Caldwell (2004). The Sixteenth-century Italian Impresa in Theory and Practice. AMS Press, 2004. p. 43. ISBN 9780404637170.
  9. ^ Ammirato's Istorie fiorentine, ed., F. Ranalli (Florence, 1846), cited in Eric W. Cochrane, Historians and Historiography in the Italian Renaissance, pp. 269-70.
  10. ^ See esp. Republic book 3, Stephanus number 398a-b, as well as 2.377b-c and 3.392a-b.
  11. ^ Jedin, Hubert (1947). Papal Legate at the Council of Trent, Cardinal Seripando. B. Herder Book Company. p. 69.