In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Giovanni Giovano Pontano

  • Introduction
  • Life and Works
  • Accademia Pontaniana
  • From Manuscripts to Early Printed Editions
  • English Translations
  • Politics and Society in Naples
  • Scholarship
  • De sermone
  • Language, History, and Philosophy
  • Astrology

Renaissance and Reformation Giovanni Giovano Pontano
Craig Kallendorf
  • LAST REVIEWED: 06 May 2021
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 May 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0207


Statesman, scholar, and poet, Giovanni Giovano Pontano (b. 1426–d. 1503) is one of the shining lights of the Italian Renaissance. Born in Umbria, he moved to Naples as a penniless but prodigiously talented young man. Through the influence of his mentor, the scholar Antonio Beccadelli, he gained an entrée to the royal court, becoming first tutor, then military and cultural advisor, and finally chancellor to the Aragonese kings. After Beccadelli’s death he presided over what came to be known as the Accademia Pontaniana, which was the center of literary life in the kingdom of Naples. His prose works cover serious topics such as language use and the moral virtues, but they are discussed in a distinctive way that is both elegant and learned. Pontano was one of the best poets of the 15th century, able to treat a wide range of topics successfully, from astronomy to the joys of family life. Unlike some of his fellow scholars and writers, Pontano attained fame and wealth in his lifetime and scholarly recognition that has continued to the present, which has resulted in some unexpected bibliographical challenges: not a dearth of modern critical editions, but competing ones, along with secondary scholarship that appeared in and around Naples and is sometimes almost impossible to find elsewhere. This article should offer a clear path through what is available, but serious work at the highest level will benefit from some time spent in Naples.

Life and Works

Holtz 2006 provides a good, short introduction to Pontano’s life and works. Monti Sabia 1964–1968, Monti Sabia 1998, and Speyer 1966 offer access to the early biographies. Several scholars in the 1930s pulled together what was known at that point, with Percopo 1938 still being cited regularly and Altamura 1938 and Renda 1939 still worth consulting as well. Kidwell 1991 is the standard intellectual biography.

  • Altamura, Antonio. Giovanni Pontano. Naples, Italy: Alberto Morano editore, 1938.

    A ninety-page overview of Pontano’s work, reflecting a traditional vision of the subject as poet, philosopher, and humanist. Largely superseded by Kidwell 1991 but still cited regularly by Italian scholars.

  • Holtz, Louis. “Giovanni Gioviano Pontano (1429–1503).” In Centuriae Latinae II: Cent une figures humanistes de la Renaissance aux Lumières. Edited by Colette Nativel, 701–712. Travaux d’humanisme et Renaissance 414. Geneva, Switzerland: Droz, 2006.

    A brief introduction to Pontano’s life and works, with an extensive bibliography that includes a list of autograph manuscripts and early printed editions along with modern primary and secondary scholarship, including a number of items that are unavailable in North America.

  • Kidwell, Carol. Pontano, Poet and Prime Minister. London: Duckworth, 1991.

    A detailed biography, profusely illustrated, with lengthy quotations from Pontano’s works. The obvious place to start in English for serious study, with frequent but sometimes idiosyncratic references to older Italian scholarship.

  • Monti Sabia, Liliana. “Un’ignota biografia cinquecentesca di Giovanni Pontano.” Annali della facoltà di lettere e filosofia dell’Università di Napoli 11 (1964–1968): 253–264.

    Adds a previously unknown early biography by Calisto Fido to the two others, by Tristano Caracciolo and Fabio Pontano, that have been used by scholars for centuries, with a discussion of the important points in this new source.

  • Monti Sabia, Liliana. Un profilo moderno e due vitae antiche di Giovanni Pontano. Quaderno 25. Naples, Italy: Accademia pontaniana, 1998.

    Includes Latin texts with Italian translations of biographies of Pontano by Tristano Caracciolo and Calisto Fido, with discussion by Monti Sabia.

  • Percopo, Erasmo. Vita di Giovanni Pontano. Edited by Michele Manfredi. Naples, Italy: Industrie tipografiche editoriali assimilate, 1938.

    An intellectual biography that first systematically works through Pontano’s life, then surveys his writings by genre. To be supplemented by Kidwell 1991, but worth consulting by anyone preparing to do serious work on Pontano.

  • Renda, Umberto. Giovanni Pontano, 1426–1503. Scrittori italiani. Turin, Italy: G. B. Paravia, 1939.

    Argues that Pontano is neither a systematic thinker nor a didactic writer, but rather a lyric poet. An intellectual biography in the Italian tradition, this is useful as an overview of Pontano’s life and work.

  • Speyer, W. “Die vollständige Vita Joannis Joviani Pontani auctore Fabio Pontano im Codex Spoletinus 163.” Rinascimento 6 (1966): 233–257.

    A critical edition, with brief introduction, of Fabio Pontano’s life of his relative, in Spoleto, Biblioteca comunale, Miscellaneous MS. 163, an important early source.

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