Basinio da Parma, Hesperis

Anna Chisena (2018–2020), Nikolaus Hölzl (2020–2021), Marco Petolicchio (2019–2021), Florian Schaffenrath (2018–), Simon Smets (2019–)

In August 2018, the LBI started the new “Basinio da Parma’s Hesperis” project, financed by the Austrian Science Foundation (FWF).

Basinio da Parma was one of the most prolific Neo-Latin authors of the long first half of the fifteenth century. During his short life from 1425 to 1457, he composed a collection of verse epistles, an epyllion on the hero Meleager, and a didactic poem on astronomy. His magnum opus was, however, the Hesperis. It was the first large-scale Neo-Latin epic ever completed and deals with the military endeavours of Sigismondo Malatesta (1417–1468), lord of Rimini and from 1450 patron of Basinio. The writing of the Hesperis started after Basinio had moved from Ferrara to the Malatesta court in Rimini, and deals with historical events from 1447 to 1453. Alongside this feature mythological episodes involving gods and scenes set in the afterworld. The first six books narrate the campaign of Sigismondo against King Alfonso of Naples. The following three describe his journey to the Isles of the Blessed, where he not only meets ancient heroes, but also his future wife Isotta degli Atti who features in Basinio’s epistolary poetry. After this excursion, the poem returns to the historical events of Sigismondo’s war against King Ferrante, son and successor of Alfonso. The work ends with Sigismondo’s victory and the erection of the Tempio Malatestiano in Rimini. The variation of vivid battle scenes, detailed descriptions, and mythological digressions make for a thrilling piece of renaissance literature. Its indebtedness to Homer, Vergil, but also to Statius and Lucan, make it a striking example of the humanist poetics based on ancient models. Its historiographical importance, moreover, is clear from the political allusions and descriptions of battle scenes characterised by an inventive use of the Latin vocabulary.

The FWF-financed project will have several outcomes: a series of articles focusing on Basinio, and an annotated English translation of the Hesperis with facing Latin text, and introduction (to be published in 2022 as part of Brill’s RSA Text and Studies Series). Initially, we also planned a digital born online edition of the text. However, as only two books could be completed with the funding reserved for the IT aspect, we decided not to make accessible these fragmentary results. Instead, Marco Petolicchio presented his achievements on the digital born edition at several workshops. Florian Schaffenrath and Anna Gabriela Chisena have disseminated their findings in several articles and conference papers; themes include the poetology of the Hesperis, its reflections on archaeology and the paragone debate, as well as Basinio’s Astronomicon Libri. Both team members, together with Nikolaus Hölzl, also participate in discussions about the annotated translation, for which Simon Smets is the main responsible. His book will be the first English translation of Basinio da Parma’s poem.