Scutellius Tridentinus, Nicolaus
Nicolaus Scutellius of Trent (1490–1542), an Augustinian friar and protégé of Giles of Viterbo (1469–1532), as well as a prominent Hellenist and translator of Greek Neoplatonic writings into Latin, is notable for his passionate participation in Renaissance controversies about Plato and Aristotle. In modern scholarly literature, the only discussion of the life and works of this almost unknown and rather marginal figure in the history of European thought are found in the studies of John Monfasani.
Nicolaus Scutellius was born in Trent (Italy) in 1490. In 1512, he became an assistant to Giles of Viterbo, a major humanist and General of the Augustinian Order (see Monfasani 2007). Scutellius “spent some time in various studia of the Order in the 1510s, but in the 1510s and 1520s he was mainly in Rome with Giles” (Monfasani 2005: 3). In 1513 and 1514, Scutellius worked in Rome as a scribe of Giles’s registers. In 1515, he moved to Siena to study, and in 1518 he received a Bachelor’s degree in Theology. He completed his Latin translation of Proclus’s Theologia Platonica in 1520 and of Proclus’s commentary on Parmenides in 1521. The following year, he became regent at the monastery of S. Agostino in Rome. During 1526 and 1527, he dedicated some of his major translations to Giles of Viterbo, including his Latin versions of Pletho’s commentary on the Oracula Chaldaica (Zoroastris) (1526) and the Tabula of the Theologia Grecorum and the collection of the Fragmenta Orphica (January and March 1527). Scutellius also produced Latin translations of the following important texts: Iamblichus’s De mysteriis Aegyptorum and Vita Pythagorae; Proclus’s commentaries on Plato’s Republic and part of Alcibiades I; a collection of extracts from Proclus’s Theologia Platonica known as “Le Grand Fragment”; Porphyry’s Sententiae; Albinus’s Didascalicos; and George Gemistus Pletho’s Laws (Leges). His versions of Pletho’s writings are particularly significant; as Monfasani points out, “Scutellius made the first known Latin translations of Pletho’s Laws and his commentary on the Oracula Chaldaica. Scutellius, in fact, translated the latter text from a Greek manuscript, now in Dresden, that Giles himself had transcribed with his own hand years earlier” (Monfasani 2005: 5).
Scutellius’s interest in Pletho is evidenced by his treatise Pletho in Aristotelem, written under the pseudonym “Pletho” between the early 1520s and early 1530s. The work was discovered in 1990 by Monfasani and is not a mere translation of Pletho’s De differentiis, but an original philosophical treatise. Moreover, according to Monfasani, this work “is an important text for several reasons. First of all, it is powerful proof of how much the Augustinian Platonists around Giles of Viterbo took to heart the fifteenth-century Plato-Aristotle controversy” and, as such, it stands out as “a major piece of evidence for the interests and activity of a distinct group of Italian Platonists in the 1520s. Second, Pletho in Aristotelem is the only sizeable original philosophical document we have from the most competent Hellenist and Neoplatonic scholar in the circle of Giles of Viterbo” (Monfasani 2005: 15–16).
After Giles’ death (1532), Scutellius returned to northern Italy. He died in Trent in 1542 (Monfasani 2006: 332–333).
Iamblichus, Mysteria Aegyptorum, printed in Rome in 1556 and extant in several MSS.
Iamblichus, Vita Pythagorae, printed in Rome in 1556 and extant in several MSS.
Pseudo-Plato, De Iusto, in MS Napoli, BN, V. F. 5.
George Gemistus Pletho, In Oracula Zoroastri, in MS Napoli, BN, II. F. 7, ff. 191v–195r, dated Palm Sunday, 1526.
George Gemistus Pletho, Leges, (partial), in MS BAV, Vat. Lat. 6320, ff. 161r–174r.
Collection of Orphica, MS Napoli, in BN, II. F. 7, ff. 4r–71v, with a preface dated 3 Non. Mar. 1527; and miscellaneous theologia prisca BAV, Vat. Lat. 6320, ff. 49r–122v.
Proclus, Theologia Platonica, in MS Napoli, BN, VIII. F. 7, ff. 37r–299r, with the colophon “Hanc feturam Viterbium peperit. MDXX Urbs Roma partum solvi.”
Proclus, In Platonis Rempublicam (partial, to the end of the twelfth dissertation, ed. Kroll, II, p. 296.16), in MS Napoli, BN, II. F. 7, ff. 74r–184r, dated 20 April 1526.
Proclus, In Platonis Parmenidem, in MS Firenze, Bibl. Riccardiana, 155, ff. 4r–426v; Wien, NB, Lat. 10056, ff. 24v–236v.
Proclus, In Alcibiadem I (partial; up to 72.7; = tr. Ficin., Opera Omnia, Basileae 1576, pp. 1908–1912, last line), in MS Firenze, Bibl. Riccardiana, 155, ff. 427r–459r; Wien, NB, 10056, ff. 223r–250v.
Porphyry, Ansae (= Sententiae ad Intelligibilia Ducentes), dated 6 October 1526, in BAV Barb. Lat. 322, ff. 133r–144r, copied by Luca Holstenus from a MS in Theatines’ library in Naples; Napoli, BN, II. F. 7, ff. 210r–227r.
Unidentified texts of Gregory of Nyssa, lost; see Seripando, Registrum Generalatus, II, p. 172.
Lucian, Dialogus VII Mortuorum, preface dated Rome, Id. February 1533, in Wien, NB, Lat. 10056, ff. 251v–252r, but the translation is no longer extant.
Four hymns in Homer to Venus, Minerva, Juno, the Muses and Apollo, in Wien, NB, Lat. 10056, f. 252r–v.
Extracts from various authors in alphabetical order, in MS BAV, Vat. Lat. 6320, ff. 185r–309v.
Albinus, Didascalicos, MS Napoli, BN, VIII. F. 7, ff. 425v–428r.
- Monfasani, John. 2005. Nicolaus Scutellius, O.S.A., as Pseudo-Pletho. The sixteenth-century treatise Pletho in Aristotelem and the scribe Michael Martinus Stella. Florence: Leo S. Olschki Editore.Google Scholar
- Monfasani, John. 2006. The Augustinian Platonists. In Marsilio Ficino. Fonti, testi, fortuna (Atti del convegno, Firenze 1–3 Ottobre 1999), ed. Sebastiano Gentile and Stéphane Toussaint, 319–338. Rome: Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura.Google Scholar
- Monfasani, John. 2007. Giles of Viterbo as “Alter Orpheus”. In Forme del neoplatonismo: Dall’eredità ficiniana ai platonici di Cambridge (Atti del convegno, Firenze 25–27 Ottobre 2001), ed. Luisa Simonutti, 97–116. Florence: Leo S. Olschki.Google Scholar