In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini

  • Introduction
  • Bibliography
  • Essay Collections
  • Aeneas Sylvius and Siena
  • Humanist
  • Prince and Politician
  • Pope
  • The Crusade against the Turks
  • Pienza
  • The European Reception of Aeneas Sylvius’s Works

Renaissance and Reformation Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini
Craig Kallendorf
  • LAST REVIEWED: 27 April 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 April 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0065


Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini (b. 1405–d. 1464) is one of the more interesting and enigmatic figures of the Italian Renaissance, a Renaissance humanist who became Pope Pius II. Born into an old but no-longer-prosperous family from the area around Siena, the young Aeneas Sylvius lived an open, easy life serving a variety of increasingly powerful individuals, shifting his alliances and remaining on good terms with everyone. Along the way he took orders and became more serious in his interests and goals, emerging rather surprisingly as pope in 1458. His short time in office was dominated by an unsuccessful effort to launch a crusade to recover the Holy Land. He was a prolific author, one whose Latin did not rise to the highest humanistic standards but whose works include the only autobiography ever written by a sitting pope. Worldly yet also a man of genuine faith, self-serving while he also served others, the complexity of Aeneas Sylvius’s character is symbolized by his official retraction bull of 1462, Aeneam suscipite, Pium recipite, in which he used a commonly understood reference to pious Aeneas, the hero of Virgil’s epic, to dissociate himself from the humanist past that he would continue to rely on to write his Commentaries.


While much has been written about Aeneas Sylvius, recent works in languages other than English often have to be gleaned from the notes of relevant books and articles. Older material is accessible in Casella 1972, while Feinberg 1992 offers an extensively annotated guide to works, published in English translation.

  • Casella, N. “Recenti studi su Enea Silvio Piccolomini.” Rivista di storia della chiesa in Italia 26 (1972): 473–488.

    Devoted primarily to the contents of Maffei 1968 and Deputazione di storia patria per le Marche 1964–1965 (both cited under Essay Collections) but useful for an overview of scholarship at the point when it was published.

  • Feinberg, R. “Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini (1405–1464), Pope Pius II, Model of the Early Renaissance: A Select, Annotated Bibliography of English-Language Materials.” Bulletin of Bibliography 49 (1992): 135–155.

    In theory a survey of both writings by and about Aeneas Sylvius, limited to works written in English, but many of the secondary entries contain little direct information on Aeneas Sylvius and are useful more for general background.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.