Repertorium Pomponianum

Perotti, Preface of the commentary to Statius' Silvae

to cite this entry

In the preface Perotti recalls how he spent the previous winter emending and explaining the text of Martial together with Pomponio. The preface is thus important for establishing the date of the Martial copied and annotated by Pomponio, the present BL King's 32.





Date: 1470 (see Pade, BL King's 32)
Mss.:Vat. lat. 6835 (autograph), fol. 54r–55v. All variants refer to this ms.
Vat. lat. 6526, fol. 156r–157r.
Ed.: Mercati 1925, 156-158, Perotti G. 1999, 130-131 (both from Vat. lat. 6835).



It may be objectionable that I return as bishop to the study of poetry which I have left as young man. Because of your great gifts, however, I feel obliged to aid you in any way I can. Therefore I have – after finishing the Rudimenta grammatices – together with my good friend Pomponius Fortunatus (= Leto) spent the whole of the last winter and a large part of the autumn in correcting and explaining Martial. This was a very difficult task, firstly because of the great variety of contents – sometimes one cannot even understand the words themselves –, secondly because of the great amount of errors in the text. Now, however, even a young reader without much erudition can understand the poet, who for the last thousand years has been understood by nobody except the two of us. Admittedly, Martial is a lascivious poet, who was nevertheless read by Jerome. There is no other poet in either language with comparable breadth of invention, splendor, sweetness and apt choice of expression. We have to remember that whenever he says something prurient, he does so to criticize people. Now you have a text to read when you want a change in your studies. Much is there worth knowing, not only for you, but also for the members of Bessarion's academy, and, if I am not mistaken, for Bessarion himself.



Nicolai Perotti pontificis Sypontini in P. Papinii Statii Siluarum expositionem prohoemium incipit foeliciter.

Nicolaus Perottus pontifex Syponti. Pyrrho Perotto equiti fratris filio salutem.

Vereor ne qui mihi forte succenseant, quod iam et aetate uir et ordine pontifex ad studia poetarum, quae ante uigesimum annum iuuenis omiseram, nunc quasi longo postliminio uidear rediisse. Sed dare hoc omnes debent nostro in te amori, Pyrrhe suauissime, quem qum fata solum mihi ex omni nostra familia superstitem reliquerint. Non iniuste facere uideor, si omnem meum laborem, studium, industriam ad te non modo moribus et uirtute, sed optimarum quoque artium studiis ornandum conor impendere, qum praesertim tales in te sint uirtutes ingenii, tantus ardor laudis, tanta studiorum cupiditas, ea praeterea et suauitas uocis et iocunditas pronuntiationis et quasi à natura ipsa in utraque lingua concessa facilitas, ut non possim tibi sine ingratitudinis crimine deesse.

Hinc post Rudimenta grammatices, quae tibi nuper, qum Thusciae prouintiae praeessem, dedicaui, omnem hanc hyemem et maximam partem autumni in corrigendo atque exponendo Martiali unà cum Pomponio meo Fortunato consumpsi. In qua re nec dictu facile est nec credibile auditu quos sustinuerimus labores, tum propter multarum rerum ac reconditarum uarietatem, quarum etiam uocabula uix aut nullo modo intelligi poterant, tum propter errorum multitudinem, quibus undique totus liber scatebat. Quos emendare pene supra uires hominis fuit. Superauit tamen difficultatem omnem studium et diligentia, talemque ad extremum reddidimus hunc poetam, ut, qui iam supra mille annos á nemine intellectus fuit nec in praesentem usque diem nobis exceptis intelligitur, iam ab adolescentibus quoque mediocriter eruditis possit intelligi. Nec nos deterruit, quod lasciuus plerisque in locis hic poeta uideretur, qum dium Hieronymum uirum sanctissimum non modo eum legisse, sed plerumque etiam testimonio eius usum esse uideremus. Nec tanti existimauimus iocorum lasciuiam esse momenti, ut retrahere quemquam ab excellentissimi uatis lectione deberet; quoi, si quid mei iudicii est, nullus est in utraque lingua, qui uel inuentione uel splendore uel suauitate uel proprietate ac copia uerborum possit comparari. Taceo quod, si quid in eo lasciui est, reprehendendi gratia scripsit. Quod ipse apertissime declarat, dum inquit [10,33]: "Hunc seruare modum nostri nouere libelli: Parcere personis, dicere de uitiis."

Caeterum hoc opere non contenti, alium quoque eiusdem aetatis poetam, etsi minime huic similem, bonum tamen nec minus uel corruptum uel difficilem emendandum exponendum que suscepimus, ne tibi deesset in quo mutare interdum studium posses. Solent enim uel delicatissimi cibi, si semper eosdem sumas [sūmas ms.], fastidio esse et uiliores quoque epulae subinde mutatae delectant.

En igitur Siluas P. Papinii Statii ad te mittimus, á nobis proximis feriis emendatas atque expositas et, nisi fallor, non modo tibi, sed caeteris quoque, qui eas legent, non iniucundas neque inutiles futuras. Has te hortor ut diligenter perlegas et, quod in aliis consueuisti facere, singula quaeque animaduertas et notes. Multa quippe reperies, quae cognitu dignissima uidebuntur, non tibi solum, sed aliis quoque contubernalibus nostris et diui Bessarionis academiama sequentibus. Non Theodorum dico, non Catum, non Valerium [non Valerium add. in mg. dex.], non Andronicum, non Narniensem Theophrastum, non Domicium [Domicium add. in mg. dex.] Veronensem, Pomponium [Veronensem Pomponium in ras.], Octauium Lucillium, Pierium Durantinum [Pierium Durantinum. add. in mg. dex.], sed Benteuoleum nostrum, sed Rufum, sed Almadianum, sed Alexin, sed caeteros, qui adhuc adolescentes in huiusmodi studiis uersantur. Quanquam, nisi me animus fallit, nec priores illos nec ipsum academiae principem Bessarionem pigebit aliquando in his extraordinariis studiis animum relaxare. Vale.


a in mg. sin. (the writing alternates between yellow and purple ink; the punctuation marks are linebreaks in the ms.): Bessarionis academia. Theodorus, Catus, Andronicus, Flaccus Valerius, Narniensis Theophrastus, Pomponius, Domicius Veronensis, Octauius, Lucillius, Benteuoleus, Rufus, Almadianus, Alexis, Pierius Durantinus





Here begins the preface of the explanation of the Siluae of P. Papinius Statius by Niccolò Perotti. May it bring good luck.


Niccolò Perotti, Bishop of Siponto, greets the noble Pirro Perotti, the son of his brother.


I am afraid that some people might be angry with me, because – although I am grown up and a bishop – I now return to the study of poets after a long absence, as it were. But all should concede this to my love for you, most beloved Pirro, the only one whom fate has spared me of all our family. It seems not unreasonable, if I try to devote all my work, study, effort to further not only your character and virtue, but also your study of the finest literature, all the more so, since you have such a fine intellect, such a desire for recognition, such a wish for study, also a sweet voice and pleasant tone and, as if a gift of nature, an ability for both languages that it would be ungrateful if I did not support you.

After the Rudimenta which I have dedicated to you recently, when I was governor of Etruria, all this winter and the greatest part of fall I have spent together with my fortunate Pomponius [Pomponio himself likes to joke about his name Laetus = 'happy', calling himself Fortunatus or Infortunatus = 'unfortunate' according to the circumstances of his life] in correcting and explaining Martial. In that endeavour it is neither easy to say nor credible when you hear what difficulties we encountered: in the first place on account of the great variety and obscurity of the content expressed in a vocabulary which could be understood only with difficulty or not at all, secondly because of the great number of corruptions which afflicted this text throughout; their emendation nearly exceeded our ability. Still, all difficulty was overcome by zeal and diligence, and in the end we accomplished that this poet - who has not been understood by anybody for over thousand years and to this day is understood only by us - can now be understood also by youngsters with moderate education. And it did not put us off that this poet in many places appears lascivious, since we know that Saint Jerome, the holy man, did not only read him, but also used him as witness. Nor did we think the licentiousness of his jokes to be important enough to deter anybody from reading this excellent poet: no one - if my opinion is worth anything - in either language is his equal as regards invention, splendour, elegance, precision or range of expression. Not to mention that if he writes lasciviously, it is for the purpose of censure; this he says openly when he declares: "This is the way our booklets know to follow: spare the persons, speak out about the vices".


I have used the translation in Pade 2014, where also further information can be found.





Pade 2014

M. Pade, "The Vitae Statii of Niccolò Perotti and Pomponio Leto," Vitae Pomponianae: Biografie di autori antichi nell'Umanesimo romano / Lives of Classical Writers in Fifteenth-Century Roman Humanism (Proceedings of the conference held at the Danish and American Academies of Rome, 23-24 April 2013), Renæssanceforum 9 (2014), 139-155.


J. Ramminger (24 June 2014, last changed 15 June 2017).

This entry can be cited as follows:
Nicolaus Perottus, Preface of the commentary to Statius' Silvae, ed. Johann Ramminger, Repertorium Pomponianum, URL:,