Repertorium Pomponianum

Domizio Calderini

Domitius, baptized as Dominicus
1446-1478. Roman humanist, teacher at the Studium Urbis, author of successful commentaries on Martial and Juvenal.

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Relationship with Pomponio

If we believe later testimonies, Calderini's relationship with Pomponio was shaped by their rivalry as teachers. Francesco Florido Sabino (1511-1547) claims in his Apologia of 1535 that Pomponio lost students to Calderini because the latter 'enchanted' his listeners (hominum animos fascinavit, quoted from Perosa 1973). Paolo Cortesi's anecdote, which has Pomponio say that he thought God hated nothing (! Cortesi uses the neuter nihil) more than Calderini, is surely apocryphal. Still it may contain a grain of truth; Pomponio's uneasy coexistence with Calderini must have been widely known among their Roman peers. Certainly Calderini's bitter polemic with Perotti about their competing claims to Martial must have rubbed off on Pomponio whose interest in Martial was closely aligned with Perotti's. As far as C. is concerned, we find nothing like Perotti's respectful and warm deference to Pomponio's authority; on the contrary, C. emphasizes his indifference to any contact with Pomponio when the latter had not promptly answered a letter (see below).

Relationship with Perotti

Initially, relations between Bessarion's powerful advisor Perotti and the new secretary Calderini seem to have been cordial enough; Perotti's poems in the Codex Perottinus depict a dinner invitation with Perotti's beloved nephew Pirro reciting some verses after dinner, followed by C. answering with admiration for both uncle and nephew (Naples, Bibl. naz. IV F 58, Iannellius 1809, 266-7). In the preface to the commentary to Statius's Silvae (1470), Perotti names C. along with Pomponio as member of the Academia Bessarionea.
However, their relationship soon soured. Interest in the poets of the Silver Age was a new trend in humanist philology, and naturally each humanist tried to claim this new and exciting field for himself. Perotti had worked on the interpretation of Martial from his youth (as witnessed by the present Vat. lat. 6848), and had early on collaborated with Pomponio (see Perotti's vitae of Statius and Martial). Calderini in his turn acquired in Rome a ms. of Martial copied by Oliviero Palladio in 1466 (Vat. lat. 2823) that he used as basis for his research (Perosa 1973, 10). When he started to lecture on Martial at the Studium Urbis, a confrontation with Perotti may have been unavoidable. Calderini had lectured on Martial possibly before his departure to France in 1472; he claims that Perotti's criticisms of him had already started while Bessarion was still alive. If he in his turn had criticised Perotti publicly in his lectures (as he did in the later commentary), it would hardly be surprising that Perotti retaliated in public; he did so in a letter addressed to Pomponio Leto in which he ridiculed Calderini's interpretations (spring of 1473, ed. Charlet 2006). Calderini mounted a counterattack, the Apologia in Nicolaum Perottum, which is contained in the dedication manuscript of his Martial commentary of September 1473. In the printed version of 22 March 1474 his adversary was anonymous, but of course this was no more than an empty gesture; the work was now called Defensio cum recriminatione etc. (Defence with counterattack). The printed version of Calderini's commentary silently took into account some of Perotti's criticism; nevertheless he continued to attack Perotti's Martial edition of April 1473; if only Perotti (the renowned translator of Polybius!) would attend his, Calderini's, Greek university course (C. was professor of Greek during the academic year 1472-73), he might eventually acquire some Greek, rather than having to rely on somebody else's help. He claims to have renounced a plan to expose the more than two hundred mistakes in Perotti's Polybius translation and other works, following the wish of his friends (in the dedication of the Martial to Gian Francesco Gonzaga). Perotti replied with verve calling his adversary Timon (after the misanthrope in Lucian's famous dialogue) and accused him of having plagiarized his own interpretations of Martial, circulating in manuscript. Calderini retorted with the Defensio adversus Brotheum grammaticum (published together with the Juvenal commentary, 1. Sept. 1474), in which he rejected the explanations by his adversary of seven passages of Martial and attacked Perotti's edition of Pliny (7 May 1473). Brotheus (a play on Perotti's name) was a brilliant allusion to a character in Ovid's Ibis (on C.'s commentary to the Ibis, see below), who, as C. explained, was so ugly that even his parents could not tolerate his sight (see Ramminger 2001). The controversy petered out; but Perotti could not resist a dig at his old nemesis when he alluded in the preface of the Cornu copiae (ca. 1478) to the incompetence of "a certain brawler" (rabula nescio quis).

Relationship with other Pomponiani

In Rome C. was able not only to ingratiate himself with powerful prelates of the church such as Bessarion, and later Pietro Riario and Giuliano Della Rovere, but also to establish friendly contacts with fellow humanists at an early date. From the two letters from France to Oliviero Palladio from 1472 published by Perosa (1973a) we get a snapshot of C.'s perceived position within Roman humanists circles at a point when the Roman academy suppressed under Paul II was slowly coalescing again into a formal structure (proper names of Pomponians are in bold):
Letter I (ed. Perosa 1973, 6-7)
[...] Eorum, quae hic canemus, Paulus initium et auspicium felicissimum dabit. Scribas velim interea valeatne an Alexis suspiret amores, cui carior est quam vellem. Monebis ut nostri vivat memor, atque ita Alexi praeceptore utatur, ut se a nobis amari intelligat. Helius noster laboratne quartana an crinitus Apollo, qui citharam dedit, restituit valitudinem ?
Iam thura crementur in urbe,
iamque sacer veniat in pia vota chorus,
Pantagatus veniat Latia cum pube sacerdos,
cui Phoebi ante aras hostia multa cadat.
Exorate deos pro poeta! — Vides ut a dicendi gravitate discessi, dum ad poetam scribo. Hoc est aliud scriptorum genus, aliud habuit Phosphorus, quod nuper dedi: hic iocor, illic scribo. Vale et me amicis omnibus commenda.
Raptissime a Lugduno ad XIII Kalendas Quintiles. XXI Iunii. Quarqualio nostro me commendabis.
[...] Paulus will make a most auspicious beginning to the things of which we shall sing here. In the meantime I would like you to write whether he is well or sighs for the affections of Alexis, to whom he is more dear than I would wish. Remind him to keep us in his thoughts and to make use of his tutor Alexis in such a way that he understands that we love him. Is our Helius still sick with fever or has the long-haired Apollo, the giver of the lyre, restored his health?
Now let incense be burnt in the city,
Now let the holy chorus come with pious prayers,
Now let Pantagatus come, the priest with the Latin youth,
At Phoebus's altar many sacrifices shall be offered by him.
Pray to the gods for the poet! — You see, I have abandoned all seriousness while I write to a poet. This is a different kind of writing; different was a recent letter to Phosphorus: here I jest, there I write. Farewell, and remember me to all friends.
With great haste from Lyons on the thirteenth day before the Calends of July, June 21. Recommend me to our Quarquaglio. [on the conflicting dates see Perosa 1973, 9; translation partially by P. Osmond, see here]
Letter II (ed. Perosa 1973, 7)
[...] Te oro vehementer Helio, Paulo nostro et amicis omnibus salutem dicas. Ad Pomponium scripsi, nihil respondit; posthac silebo, nisi ipse loqui coeperit.
Vale ex Vernoto Turonum, ad VII Kalendas Septembres. Cherubino Quarqualio meis verbis salutem dices et Pantagato nostro.
[...] I ask you earnestly to greet Helius, our Paulus and all friends. I have written to Pomponio, he has not answered; henceforth I shall be silent, if he does not begin to speak.
Farewell from Vernou near Tours, August 26. Give my greetings to Cherubino Quarquaglio and to our Pantagatus.
Perosa (1973a, 9ff, from whom the following information is taken) has identified the Pomponiani mentioned by C. The recipient of the letters, Oliviero Palladio, remained a firm friend of C. and was still mentioned with gratitude in the first imprints of the Martial commentary in 1474 (benevolentia mecum coniunctissimus). Within the Academy he is a minor figure, as is Cherubino Quarquaglio who had come to Rome in 1468 in the service of the apostolic protonotary Cosimo Orsini. A Dominican monk and longtime correspondent of Ficino, he also exchanged letters with Campano and Ammanati, and contributed to the poems put together by a circle of Roman litterati for Alessandro Cinuzzi in 1474 (see Cherubini 1997, II, 1334 n.1, and Wesche in Cinuzzi 2009, 52).
Marco Lucido Fazini Fosforo (Phosphorus) is one of the most eminent Pomponians; he had been imprisoned in 1468, and later began a career in the church (bishop of Segni 1482); he is one of the dedicatees of the Defensio adversus Brotheum, and – if an epitaph he wrote for C. is any indication – on friendly terms with the latter, his "incomparable friend and teacher in the studia" (amico incomparabili et studiorum magistro, see Weiss 1960, 314). Helius is the Neapolitan humanist Francesco Elio Marchese who sojourned in Rome in this period, and later is the other dedicatee of the Defensio. He found warm words for "my very dear friend" Pomponio (mihi perquam familiaris, preface to Diogenes Laertius, fol. 1r), who is credited with giving him the impetus for the publication of the Diogenes Laertius (Rome 1472). Panthagatus is Giovanni Battista Capranica, later bishop of Fermo (1478). Dedicatee of Pomponio's De Romanorum magistratibus, he already appears in the inscriptions which the Pomponians left in the catacombs in the 1460s, in one as "Sacerdos Achademiae Rom." (Pomponio himself is styled as "Pont. Max."); C. with his flight of fancy imagining a crowd of youngsters praying under the leadership of the priest Panthagatus for the recovery of Helius' health implicitly wants to show off his familiarity with the 'inner' circle of the Academy. Paulus has been identified with Paolo Pompilio, eminent figure of the second Academy, Alexis is Alessio Stati, his tutor (see Osmond here).


Domizio Calderini was born in 1446 in Torri del Benaco at Lake Garda (Domitius is a classicising transformation of his Christian name Dominicus, which sometimes appears in official documents). After studies in Verona and Venice, around 1466-67 Calderini transferred to Rome, where he gained a position as secretary in Bessarion's household.
Calderini's entry into Bessarion's familia conincided with what was to be the last phase of a controversy about the relative superiority of Platonism or Aristotelianism, which dated back to 1439. It had flared up again with an attack on Platonism by George of Trebizond, which was countered by Bessarion. George of Trebizond's cause was taken up by his son, Andrea, who put together a collection of testimonia, the Contra Platonem ex doctorum auctoritate. Against this work Calderini in 1470 wrote an invective, modelled on Cicero's orations against Catiline; it had the form of a letter addressed to Francesco Barozzi, bishop of Treviso, a relative of the pope Paul II. Calderini, insisting that the Contra Platonem had been written by the father, ferociously attacked George (esp. his contacts with the Sultan). Calderini's letter survives only in an incomplete copy. It was, however, used by Niccolò Perotti in the extremely successful Refutatio deliramentorum Georgii Trapezuntii.
Calderini's contacts with the humanists in Rome are attested from early on. He is the recipient of a series of letters by Giovanni Antonio Campano, most of them from his stay at the diet in Regensburg as member of the familia of Francesco Piccolomini (1471). Calderini obviously had consolidated his position in Bessarion's household enough for Campano to beg his friend's intervention with Bessarion to obtain him employment in Rome.
Less than two weeks after Francesco Della Rovere was elected pope as Sixtus IV, Calderini on 20 Aug. 1471 was appointed apostolic secretary. The appointment, which was at first temporary, was probably due to the intervention of Bessarion. Calderini became secretary with full privileges (numerarius) on 27 June 1474 — presumably through Giuliano Della Rovere (as whose familiaris continuus commensalis Calderini is named in the document). This post he retained till his death.
In 1472 Calderini followed Bessarion to France. Bessarion left Rome on 20 April, and travelled via Gubbio (where C. composed an epigram for the ducal palace in Urbino) and Milan (where he met Filelfo – a man of "more fame than learning" was C.'s crushing assessment, Perosa 1973, 6).
In the manner of Renaissance bookhunters Calderini claimed to have found in France previously unknown classical texts. Among them he named "Marius Rusticus", whose "historia" he praised as "very old and exceedingly helpful for our research" (cum perveterem tum ad studia nostra accomodatissimam, Perosa 1973, 6). The phantom — for such it remained — reappeared in Calderini's Vita Suetoni, and in a marginal note in the dedication copy of the commentary on Martial. After Calderini's death, Poliziano searched (in vain) for the manuscript among the deceased's possessions. Of a similar nature was Calderini's claim that there existed in France twelve books of Asconius Pedianus, which he insisted Valla had plagiarized in the Elegantiae (Aldus Manutius, preface of the Statius edition of 1502).
After Bessarion's death we find Calderini in the familia of cardinal Pietro Riario, an influential nephew of Sixtus IV. From this period dates a number of poems, notably a collection commemorating a banquet which Riario gave on 7 June 1473 in honour of Eleanor of Aragon, spouse of Ercole d'Este, who on her way to Ferrara passed through Rome. After the death of Pietro Riario (5 Jan. 1474), Calderini passed into the familia of another nephew of the pope, Giuliano Della Rovere, the future Julius II. When Giovanni Della Rovere, a brother of Giuliano, became prefect of the city of Rome, Calderini was charged with composing a panegyric in his honour, which he delivered on 18 Dec. 1475. In the following year Calderini accompanied Giuliano to France. The legation departed on 19 Feb. 1476 and seems to have remained in France until September. Calderini wrote an account of the voyage of which we have the beginning.
In addition, Calderini maintained a sizeable scholarly activity. He may have begun his university teaching in the academic year 1470-71. Among his students are numbered Aldo Manuzio, Marcantonio Sabellico, Pietro Marsi, and Partenio Minucio Pallini. The financial records of the gabella Studii show that Calderini was professor of Greek during the academic year 1472-73 and taught rhetoric the subsequent year. From Calderini's own writings we gather more details: besides Cicero (first course before fall 1473; we have also prolusions for De oratore from 1474, and De officiis later), and Ovid (Ibis, before Sept. 1474) he read Martial (spring 1472 or earlier?), Juvenal (1473/74), Silius Italicus (spring 1473, for the commentary connected with these lectures see Muecke 2011; on the study of Silius in the Academy see Muecke 2008), Statius (Silvae, before fall 1473), and Quintilian (fall 1475).
The lectures on Martial brought Calderini into confrontation with Niccolò Perotti (see above). At the same time Calderini pursued a vendetta against a colleague from the Studio, Angelo Sani Sabino, who had published the Paradoxa in Iuvenalem (with dedication to Perotti, dated 9 Aug. 1474). Sabino had accused Calderini of plagiarism. Calderini retaliated swiftly in the Juvenal commentary; noting with satisfaction that his adversary had been forced to leave the university, he claimed that Sabino had used the recollectae of Calderini's students (he had lectured on Juvenal while preparing his commentary). Calderini continued his attacks on both Perotti and Sabinus in the publications of the following years.
The philological publications during the early years of Calderini's university appointment were dedicated to the authors he was lecturing on. The first one which can be dated was his commentary on Martial; Calderini presented a dedication copy to Lorenzo de'Medici, when he was in Florence in August and September 1473 (at the same time as his patron, who had been nominated archbishop of Florence on 20 June 1473). Calderini's work was the first humanistic commentary on a classical author to be printed; the printed version (Rome, Johannes Gensberg, 22 March 1474) contained some modifications and addenda et corrigenda and a new dedication to Gian Francesco Gonzaga.
In Florence Calderini became acquainted with humanists such as Ficino and Poliziano. The latter introduced him to the Florentine libraries; Calderini used the occasion to collate a Martial manuscript in Beneventan script in the S. Marco library. Back in Rome, Calderini tried to continue to use manuscripts from Florence. On 2 Oct. 1473 Lorenzo sent him a Greek Apollonius on loan; this was a manuscript from the S. Marco library (n° 1197 Ullman-Stadter), containing also a set of scholia which Calderini used in the Propertius commentary. Subsequently Calderini obtained a Quintilian; furthermore, he wanted Niccolò Michelozzi to procure him a Pausanias to have it transcribed in Rome by Giovanni Rhosos (again from the S. Marco library, n° 1186, the now lost archetype of the Pausanias tradition; letter from 19 Aug. 1474); in the same letter he announced that the Juvenal commentary dedicated to Giuliano de'Medici was already at the bookbinder's. It is probably due to the value of the Pausanias manuscript as well as the deteriorating political climate, that Calderini did not obtain the loan, although in the following years he sent repeated pleas to Lorenzo de'Medici himself. No further loans from Florence are known.
The dedication copy of the Juvenal commentary is dated 1 Sept. 1474. It was printed together with the text of Juvenal in April 1475, not in Rome, but in Venice. This is probably due to Marco Aurelio, secretary to the Venetian senate, who according to Calderini had solicited the publication (Aurelio was on official missions in Rome in 1473 and 1475). On 7 Sept. 1474 his commentary on Ovid's Ibis was printed in Rome, also the result of a preceding university course (one of his students, Pietro Marsi, used his lecture notes for his own commentary, which was finished slightly earlier); the volume was dedicated to the papal treasurer Falcone Sinibaldi.
Next came a miscellaneous volume (Rome, 13 Aug. 1475), containing the Silvae of Statius with commentary, dedicated to Agostino Maffei, an important curialist with close ties to the Riario family, the commentary to Ovid's Letter of Sappho and, dedicated to Francesco d'Aragona, the explanation of some difficult passages in Propertius (a commentary on Propertius is already mentioned in the Ibis of the preceding year); there follows a second letter to d'Aragona with the title Epilogus et προσφώνησις de Observationibus, and an excerpt ex tertio libro Observationum, containing comments on various passages of classical authors. The dedications pinpoint the change in the political climate of Rome. In the dedication to Maffei, Calderini hailed two persons who were at the core of the anti-Florentine forces in Rome, Girolamo Riario and Francesco Salviati, who had been appointed bishop of Pisa in 1474 against the will of the Medici. The new alliance between the pope and the king of Naples Ferrante, who had visited Rome at length in the spring of 1475, finds a neat reflection in the dedication to his son Francesco. In the summer of the same year Calderini prepared for his students an edition of some declamations ascribed to Quintilian; the printed edition was dedicated to the Aragonese ambassador in Rome, Aniello Arcamone.
In the commentary to Ovid's letter of Sappho Calderini severely criticised Giorgio Merula, who retorted with the Adversus Domitii Calderini commentarios in Martialem (spring 1478). The controversy continued after Calderini's death with Cornelio Vitelli's attack on Merula, In defensionem Plinii et Domitii Calderini (ca. 1482, dedicated to Ermolao Barbaro).
Other commentaries of Calderini cannot be assigned a precise date. Among those finished, but not yet published, Calderini in the Epilogus announced Cicero (Letters to Atticus), Suetonius and Silius. When Girolamo Avanzi in the summer of 1491 was shown Calderini's library, he noticed besides the commentaries to the letters to Atticus and Silius also others on the politica Ciceronis officia and Ovid's Fasti. Since Avanzi in the same context refers to Calderini's habit of annotating his manuscripts, some of these commentaries may never have gotten into a definitive form. Of Suetonius we have parts in several manuscripts (also a vita Suetonii), whereas the commentary on Silius can be reconstructed from autograph notes as well as students' recollectae. Courses or commentaries on Virgil are never mentioned by Calderini; however, there is an extremely successful commentary on the Appendix Vergiliana printed under his name; also there are various fragments of a commentary on the Aeneid.
In the Epilogus Calderini had announced a shift in his philological production away from the writing of commentaries. In the preface to Maffei as well as in a letter to his nephew Bernardino Messanello, he mentioned three major projects, the translation of Pausanias, the edition of the tables of Ptolemaeus, and the Observationes. The Observationes were an innovative form of philological literature; when first announced in the Defensio, they were conceived as a vehicle for Calderini's polemics. The project underwent numerous modifications, but never got underway (see Campanelli 2001). Quotations from Pausanias appear in Calderini's works already from the early 1470s. After the unsuccessful attempts to obtain a copy of the Florentine Pausanias, the long planned translation finally could begin when Calderini in 1477 had a copy made by Giorgio Tribizias from a manuscript in Venice (now Leiden, Bibl. Univ., B.P.G. 16 L); it progressed, however, only to the beginning of book two. The Ptolemy was a revision of the Latin translation of Iacopo Angeli di Scarperia, undertaken in collaboration with the Rome printer Conrad Sweynheym. After a lengthy period of preparation it was printed after the death of both Sweynheym and Calderini by Arnold Buckinck in October 1478. Calderini's preface, a dedication to Sixtus IV, remained unpublished.
Calderini died from the plague probably in June 1478. His books were inherited by his family and in the '90s were in the possession of his nephew Paolo. When Poliziano early in 1480 visited Torri and C.'s library, he composed a poem to be incised on a memorial stone, which can still be seen in one of the town's squares (ed. Weiss 1960).
Calderini's commentaries were extraordinarily successful; many of them remained standard works well into the next century. This stands in sharp contrast to the negative assessment of humanists such as Hermolao Barbaro, Antonius Codrus Urcaeus (Sermo I), and especially Politian; in chapter IX of the Miscellanea the latter bluntly stated that Calderini had combined a dearth of intellectual honesty with a sense of self-importance that had prevented him from relinquishing even manifestly wrong opinions. In letter from 30 Nov. 1489 (3,19) he says: "I show Domitius to my students as one would show a pot hole to the traveller" (Ego vero sic Domitium studiosis, quasi foveam viatoribus ostendo).


Note: the fundamental account of C.s life and works is Perosa 1973a, whom I have largely used; see also Ramminger 2006.
Editions of C.'s works later than Perosa 1973a and not mentioned in Ramminger 2006:
Domizio Calderini, Commentarioli in Ibyn Ovidii, a cura di Luca Carlo Rossi. Edizione nazionale dei Commenti ai testi latini in età umanistica e rinascimentale (Firenze 2011).
Maurizio Campanelli, Polemiche e filologia ai primordi della stampa. Le Observationes di Domizio Calderini. Sussidi eruditi 54 (Roma 2001).
Domizio Calderini, Commentary on Silius Italicus, edited by Frances Muecke and John Dunston†. Travaux d'Humanisme et Renaissance CDLXXVII (Genève 2011).
Charlet 2006
Jean-Louis Charlet, "Une lettre philologique de Niccolò Perotti à Pomponio Leto", Humanistica 1/2 (2006), 63-70.
Cherubini 1997
Iacopo Ammannati Piccolomini, Lettere, a cura di Paolo Cherubini. 3 vol.s (Roma 1997).
Iannellius 1809
Codex Perottinus Ms. Regiae Bibliothecae Neapolitanae Duas et triginta Phaedri Fabulas iam notas, totidem novas, sex et triginta Aviani vulgatas, et ipsius Perotti carmina inedita continens, digestus et editus a Cataldo Iannellio (Neapoli 1809).
Muecke 2008
Frances Muecke, "Silius Italicus", Repertorium Pomponianum (Rome 2008), URL:
Muecke 2011
Domizio Calderini, Commentary on Silius Italicus, edited by Frances Muecke and John Dunston†. Travaux d'Humanisme et Renaissance CDLXXVII (Genève 2011).
Perosa 1973
Alessandro Perosa, Due lettere di Domizio Calderini. Rinascimento, 2. ser., vol. 13 (1973) 3-20.
Perosa 1973a
Alessandro Perosa, Calderini (Calderinus, Caldarinus, de Caldarinis), Domizio (Domitius, Domicius, Dominicus). DBI 16 (Roma 1973), 597-605.
Ramminger 2001
Johann Ramminger, "Brotheus e Timon: Il vocabolario della polemica tra Domizio Calderini e Niccolò Perotti", Studi Umanistici Piceni 21 (2001), 147-155.
Ramminger 2006
Johann Ramminger, "Domizio Calderini", Centuriae latinae, II: Cent une figures humanistes de la Renaissance aux Lumières. A la mémoire de Marie-Madeleine de la Garanderie. ed. Colette Nativel. Travaux d'Humanisme et Renaissance 164 (Génève, 2006), 167-174.
Weiss 1960
Roberto Weiss, "In memoriam Domitii Calderini", IMU 3 (1960), 309-321.
Johann Ramminger
31 July 2014
This entry can be cited as follows:
Johann Ramminger, "Domizio Calderini," Repertorium Pomponianum, URL:,