- Pius II, Pope
- (Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini, 1405-1464)Prominent Italian humanist, diplomat, and cleric, elected pope in 1458. He was born near Siena and in 1423 entered the university there. He acquired a broad humanistic education and an excellent Latin style, attributes that won him employment as secretary to a number of high-ranking clergymen. He then became secretary to the Council of Basel and embraced its Conciliarist ideology. He travelled widely in the inter-ests of the council, forming a knowledge of non-Italian Europe far superior to most Italian humanists of his time. In 1440 he wrote a fa-vorable history of the council, but its increasing isolation and inef-fectiveness, together with the threat it now posed of reopening the Western Schism, caused him to leave it for a job as secretary to the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick III in 1442. Although Frederick was a famously ineffectual ruler, Piccolomini's imperial office made him a key player in the politics of the Schism, and he negotiated the set-tlement between the emperor and Pope Eugenius IV that ended im-perial support for the languishing council. This agreement and his abandonment of Conciliarist doctrine reconciled him with Rome, where he became apostolic secretary and was made bishop of Trieste in 1447; he was translated to the see of Siena in 1450 and made a car-dinal by Pope Calixtus III in 1456, just in time to be chosen as Cal-ixtus' successor in 1458. During his years as a Latin secretary, Pius was a prolific author. Many of his letters, both private and official, survive. Until mid-life, he led a worldly existence marked by many love affairs, and his most popular literary work was a tragic tale of love, adultery, and suffering, Historia de duobus amantibus / A Tale of Two Lovers (1444). He also produced a satire on court life, De curialium mis-eriis / On the Misfortunes of Courtiers; a collection of biographical sketches, De viris aetate sua claris / On the Famous Men of His Age; a history of the Emperor Frederick III; and several tracts re-pudiating the Conciliarist opinions of his youth. After his election as pope, Pius wrote his Commentarii, a historical survey of his own career, candidly admitting his earlier unchastity and providing a vivid description of the places and events of his career. As pope, he financed the transformation of his small hometown, Corsignano, into Pienza, a model city in Renaissance style. He also issued a pa-pal bull (Execrabilis, 1460) outlawing the lodging of appeals from a decision of the pope to a future meeting of a general council. He lamented the fall of Constantinople in 1453 and as pope worked diligently but in vain to persuade the Christian rulers to put aside their differences and join in an effort to reconquer the former Byzantine capital. He died while at the port of Ancona completing preparations for the crusade, which never took place.
Historical Dictionary of Renaissance. Charles G. Nauert. 2004.