|Pope Pius II
AKA Enea Silvio de Piccolomini
Birthplace: Pienza, Italy
Location of death: Ancona, Italy
Cause of death: unspecified
Religion: Roman Catholic
Race or Ethnicity: White
Executive summary: Roman Catholic Pope, 1458-64
Pius II, given name Enea Silvio de Piccolomini, known in literature as Aeneas Silvius, Roman Catholic Pope from 1458 to 1464, was born on the 18th of October 1405, at Corsignano (afterward called Pienza after him), near Siena. His family, though poor, was noble, and claimed to trace descent from Romulus. The eldest of eighteen children, he had to work on the farm with his father, until a priest taught him the rudiments of letters, which enabled him at the age of eighteen to go as a poor student to Siena, dividing his time between severe humanistic studies and a life of sensual pleasure. He was attracted to Florence by the teaching of Francesco Filelfo. His father urged him to become a lawyer, but he accepted the position of secretary to Domenico Capranica, Bishop of Fermo, and went with him to the council of Basel, where he stayed several years (1431-35), changing masters whenever he could improve his position. As secretary of the Bishop of Novara he became engaged in a conspiracy against Pope Eugenius IV; his master was caught and imprisoned, and Aeneas only saved himself by a hasty flight. He was next (1435) employed as secretary of Cardinal Nicholas Albergati (d. 1443) at the congress of Arras, where peace was made between France and Burgundy. From here he took a long journey to Scotland and England, on a secret diplomatic mission; he had numerous adventures, in one of which he nearly lost his life. In 1436 he was back at Basel, and, although a layman, obtained a seat in the council and exercised considerable influence. In order to control it better Eugenius tried to get the council to move to Florence; a minority agreed and seceded; the majority, however, stayed where they were and took vigorous measures against the pope, culminating in his deposition on the 25th of June 1438. Aeneas took an active part in the council; and though he still declined to take orders, he was given a position on the conciliar conclave which elected Amadeus of Savoy as pope under the title of Felix V. In return for his services Felix made Aeneas papal secretary.
A new period of his career opened in 1442, when he was sent by the council to take part in the diet of Frankfurt-on-Main. Here he met Frederick III of Germany, who made him poet laureate and his private secretary. He ingratiated himself with the chancellor, Kaspar Schlick, at Vienna, one of whose adventures he celebrated in Lucretia and Eurialus, a novel in the style of Boccaccio. At this period he also wrote his witty but immoral play, Chrisis. In 1446 he took orders as subdeacon, and wrote that he meant to reform, "forsaking Venus for Bacchus", chiefly on the ground of satiety, and also, as he frankly wrote, because the clerical profession offered him more advantages than he could secure outside it.
Aeneas was useful to Frederick as a diplomatist, and managed to give all parties the impression that he was the devoted advocate of each. During the struggle between pope and council he induced Frederick to be neutral for a while. He took an important part in the diet of Nuremberg (1444), and being sent on an embassy to Eugenius in the following year he made his peace with the pope. At the diet of Frankfurt (September 1446) Aeneas was instrumental in changing the majority of the electors from their hostile position towards pope and emperor into a friendly one. He brought the good news to Eugenius shortly before his death (February 7, 1447), and made friends with the new pope, Nicholas V, by whom he was made Bishop of Siena. He was an agent of Frederick in making the celebrated concordat of Vienna (also called concordat of Aschaffenburg) in February 1448. His services to pope and emperor brought him the titles of prince of the empire and cardinal, positions which he used rather unscrupulously to get as many lucrative benefices into his hands as possible. Those in Germany brought him two thousand ducats a year.
The death of Calixtus III (who succeeded Nicholas V) occurred on the 5th of August 1458. After a hot fight in the conclave, in which it seemed that the wealthy French cardinal, Guillaume d'Estouteville, Archbishop of Rouen and Bishop of Ostia, would be elected, the intrigues of Aeneas and of his friend Rodrigo Borgia (later the notorious Alexander VI) gave the victory to the cardinal of Siena, who took the title Pius II, with a reminiscence of Virgil's "pius Aeneas." The humanists hailed his election with joy, and flocked around to secure a share of the good things, but they were bitterly disappointed, as Pius did not prove himself the liberal and undiscriminating patron they hoped. The fall of Constantinople in 1453 had made a deep impression upon Pius, and he never ceased to preach the crusade against the Turk. In September 1459 he opened a congress at Mantua for the purpose of considering what could be done in this direction. His proposals for the raising of troops and money met with general opposition. The French were angry because Pius had crowned the Spanish claimant, Ferdinand, King of Naples, and thus disposed of the pretensions of René of Anjou. The Germans also objected to Pius's plans, but finally agreed to furnish some troops and money, promises which they did not carry out. Pius felt how much the position of the papacy had fallen in importance since the days of Urban and Innocent III, and, believing that the change was due to the general councils which had asserted power over the popes, he changed his position, which before his election to the papal throne had been that of a warm advocate of the conciliar claims, and issued (January 1460) the bull Execrabilis et in pristinis temporibus inauditus, in which he condemned as heretical the doctrine that the councils were superior to the popes, and proclaimed the anathema against anyone who should dare to appeal to one. He issued another bull at the same time, promising forgiveness of sins to those who would take part in the crusade, and then dissolved the congress.
While Pius was at Mantua war broke out between the French and Spanish in southern Italy, and a rising of the barons devastated the Campagna. Hurrying back to Rome Pius succeeded in quelling the disorders, and sent his nephew Antonio Todeschini to the aid of Ferdinand, who made him Duke of Amalfi and gave him his natural daughter Maria in marriage. This measure still further alienated the pope from the French, with whom he was at that time negotiating for the abrogation of the Pragmatic Sanction. When Louis XI came to the throne (November 1461), he sent to Pius saying that he had abolished the Pragmatic Sanction, hoping in return to get the Kingdom of Naples for his countryman René of Anjou. When Pius refused to do anything to the prejudice of Ferdinand, Louis changed his attitude, and allowed the protests of the University of Paris and the parlements to persuade him to restore the ancient liberties of the Gallican Church. At the same time a serious quarrel with the Germans prevented anything being done towards a crusade. George Podiebrad, King of Bohemia, was plotting to depose the emperor Frederick III, who was supported by Pius. Diether, Archbishop of Mainz, took the side of Podiebrad, and replied to Pius's measures by appealing to a general council. He was declared deposed by the pope, but kept his seat, and in 1464 compelled the pope to recognize him again. The quarrel with Podiebrad, who was accused of supporting the Utraquist heresy, continued with increasing bitterness, but without any decisive result, until the death of Pius. In the meantime the pope did what he could to further the cause of the crusade. The discovery of alum mines at Tolfa gave him an unexpected pecuniary resource, and to stimulate the zeal of Christendom, Pius took the cross on the 18th of June 1464. He set out for Venice, where he intended to sail for the East, but he was attacked with a fever, and on the 14th of August 1464 he died.
Pius II was a voluminous author. Besides poems, a novel and a play, he wrote a number of orations, which were considered models of eloquence in their day. His most valuable work, however, is his Commentaries, a history of his own life and times, told in an interesting and rational manner. He is very frank about himself, and most of the adverse judgments which have been pronounced on his character have been based on his own confessions. He was an opportunist, sailing along with any favorable breeze, and not quite enough in earnest about anything to pursue the same tack steadily for long. We must give him the credit, however, of advocating a statesmanlike policy in the interests of the whole of Europe in trying to get the powers to unite against the Turks, who threatened to overwhelm them all.
Roman Catholic Pope 5-Aug-1458 to 14-Aug-1464
Roman Catholic Bishop Siena
Roman Catholic Cardinal
Risk Factors: Gout
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