By Anne Leader

Papal secretary, historian, and antiquarian Flavio Biondo died on 4 June 1463 in Rome. Born in Forlì in 1392, Biondo trained as a notary and worked as an administrator for various north Italian states before becoming apostolic notary and then papal secretary to Eugenius IV (r. 1431-37). Though perhaps not as eloquent as other humanists in his circle, Biondo was fascinated by Rome’s history and her ruins. His Decades ab inclinatione imperii (1452) traced the history of Italian political power from the fall of Rome to his own time. His Italia illustrata (1453) describes Roman Italy in terms of its geography, ancient monuments, and modern buildings. It was, however, his Roma instaurata (1446) that attracted the most notice. The first true guidebook to the ruins of Rome, the book documents and describes ancient monuments (and a few modern ones) in terms of location and function. Because of his reliance on ancient and medieval sources as well as archaeological material, Biondo was able to correct numerous misattributions and misidentifications based more on legend and tradition than on fact. This scholarly thoroughness has earned Biondo recognition as the father of archaeology. He was buried in the church of Santa Maria Aracoeli, located on the Capitoline hill.

Reference: M. C. Davies. “Biondo, Flavio.” Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press.

Roma instaurata, manuscript, open to description of Baths of Diocletian

Inscription from tomb of Flavio Biondo, Santa Maria Aracoeli, Rome

Decorated page from Italia illustrata, edited by Gaspare Biondo. Rome, 1474. University of Glasgow Library, Sp. Coll. Hunterian Be.2.6.

Historiae Ab Inclinatione Romanorum Imperii (part of the Opera Basel 1531)

De Origine et Gestis Venetorum (part of the Opera Basel 1531)

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