Petrarch's Eight Years in Milan

By Ernest Hatch Wilkins | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VI
The Mission to Venice

In one of the early months of 1354 the Archbishop decided to send a mission to Venice, with Petrarch as its orator, the objective of the mission being to bring about peace between Venice and Genoa. Petrarch's agreement to serve on this mission was doubtless ready and hearty. It offered him an opportunity to work for peace between two great Italian states, whose warfare had long been a matter of deep concern to him; it involved no difficult journey; and it led to a pleasant destination.

Petrarch's own statements with regard to this mission appear in Fam. XVIII16, written to the Doge Andrea Dandolo on 28 May 1354, and in Sen. XVII2, written many years afterward.

From Fam. XVIII16 we learn that Petrarch was the orator of the mission--"princeps . . . ad loquendum et fortissimis illis atque doctissimis viris antepositus"; that purely military matters were presented, however, by another member of the mission; that Petrarch spoke before the Ducal Council; that in the first part of his oration he made use of a quotation from Cicero urging openmindedness; that he spoke privately, also, with the Doge; and that he failed to move either the Councillors or the Doge-- their obstinacy being attributed to desire for war, to the persistence of traditional hatreds, to the proud memory of recent victory, and to the prospect of support from northern "barbarians."

From Sen. XVII2 we learn that the mission took an entire month of Petrarch's time, in the winter season: "Semel Venetias pro negotio pacis missus inter urbem illam et Ianuam reformande, hibernum in hoc mensem integrum exegi."

There exists in Vienna a 15th-century MS, Pal. 4498, written

-53-

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