On 2 December at 5:00pm I’ll be presenting a work-in-progress entitled “Pietro Martire in the Levant: Diplomacy and Orientalism in the Spanish Renaissance” as part of Harvard’s Early Modern History Workshop series. The talk will be held in the Lower Library [=1st floor] of Robinson Hall (map here). A bit of background: Martire (1457‚Äì1526) is one of the most significant of the ‘B-list’ humanists of the Renaissance‚Äîthat is, those humanists who figure prominently in the national historiographies of the Renaissance in their respective homelands, but who rarely share the limelight with internationally-recognized figures like Petrarch or Erasmus. Martire, who was born near Milan but emigrated to Spain as a young scholar in search of the Catholic Monarchs’ patronage, has received rather more attention than many of his fellow Spanish humanists. That is largely due to his eight decades De orbe novo, one of the first histories of the Spanish conquest of the New World.
In my talk I will focus not on the De orbe novo, however, but rather on another, smaller work which Maritre appended to several of its first printings. Entitled simply Legatio Babylonica, it consists of three humanist epistles which Martire first drafted in 1501‚Äì1502 in the course of his embassy to Egypt on behalf of the Catholic Monarchs. As I’ll attempt to show, the Legatio ought to receive as much attention as the more famous De orbe, for two reasons: first of all, because it reminds us of the relatively greater importance of the Near East vis-?†-vis the Americas in shaping Spanish policy in the early sixteenth century; and secondly, because its record of Martire’s reactions to, and negotiations with, the Mamluk empire offer an opportunity to question much of what we think we know‚Äîwhether from Edward Sa?Ød, or more recent books by Nancy Bisaha and Margaret Meserve, for example‚Äîabout the history of “orientalism” in the Renaissance.
I hope to see you there, and to hear your feedback on my talk!