III. VANINI AND CAMPANELLA

Nineteen years later a kindred spirit moved quickly to a like fate. Giulio Cesare Lucilio Vanini was born in southern Italy of an Italian father and a Spanish mother—powder mating with fire. After wandering over Europe like Bruno, sampling climates and theologies, and writing books whose occasional insights (as that man had once been a quadruped) hardly balanced the occult nonsense, he settled down in Toulouse (1617) and, again like Bruno, enjoyed there two years of peace. But an attendant at his lectures reported him as laughing at the Incarnation and questioning the existence of a personal God.37 Another hearer, Sieur de Francon, gained Vanini’s confidence, drew him out as Mocenigo had done with Bruno, and reported him to the municipal parlement. On August 2, 1618, he was arrested not by the Church but by order of the Procurator-General of the King. On the basis of his lectures he was accused of atheism and blasphemy, both of them crimes punishable by the state. Vanini affirmed his belief in God, but Francon alleged that the prisoner had more than once professed atheism, saying that Nature was the only God. The judges accepted the evidence, and despite Vanini’s passionate protests and the piety that he showed in his cell, they condemned him—thirty-four years old—

to be delivered into the hands of the executioner of justice, who shall draw him on a hurdle, in his shirt, with a halter about his neck, and bearing upon his shoulders a placard with the words ATHEIST AND BLASPHEMER OF THE NAME OF GOD; he shall thus conduct him before the principal entrance to the church of St. Stephen, and being there placed on his knees … he shall ask pardon from God, from the King, and from Justice for his said blasphemies. Afterward he shall bring him into the Place of Salin, bind him to a stake there erected, cut off his tongue and strangle him, and afterward his body shall be burned … and the ashes thrown to the wind.38

Tradition tells that as Vanini came from his cell to bear his agony (February 9, 1619), he exclaimed, “Andiamo, andiamo allegramente a morire da filosofo” (Let us go, let us go cheerfully to die like a philosopher).39

Tommaso Campanella too was born with Calabrian lava in his blood. He cooled it for a while in a Dominican monastery, studied Telesio and Empedocles, rejected Aristotle, ridiculed a papal excommunication, and was imprisoned for some months by the Inquisition at Naples (1591–92). Released, he took courses at Padua, and was indicted for unchastity. There he wrote his first significant work, Prodromos philosophiae instaurendae (1594), in which, like Francis Bacon eleven years later, he advised thinkers to study Nature rather than Aristotle, and outlined a program for the restoration of science and philosophy. Returning to Naples, he joined a conspiracy to free it from Spain; the plot was frustrated, and Campanella languished in state jails for twenty-seven years (1599–1626). Twelve times he was tortured, once for forty hours.40 He allayed his suffering with philosophy, poetry, and visions of perfect states. His sonnet “The People” voices his resentment at the failure of the populace to support his revolt:

The people is a beast of muddy brain

That knows not its own force and therefore stands

Loaded with wood and stone; the powerless hands

Of a mere child guide it with bit and rein.

One kick would be enough to break the chain;

But the beast fears, and what the child demands

It does, nor its own terror understands,

Confused and stupefied by bugbears vain.

Most wonderful, with its own hand it ties

And gags itself—gives itself death and war

For pence doled out by kings from its own store.

Its own are all things between earth and heaven,

But this it knows not; and if one arise

To tell this truth, it kills him unforgiven.41

The most famous product of those weary years was his Civitas solis. Campanella imagined his City of the Sun as standing on a mountain in Ceylon. Its officials are chosen—and are removable—by a national assembly of all inhabitants over twenty years old. The magistrates so chosen choose the head of the government, a priest called Hoh. He and his aides rule in all matters, temporal or spiritual. They preside also over the union of the sexes, seeing to it “that men and women are so joined together that they bring forth the best offspring. Indeed, they laugh at us who exhibit a studious care for our breed of horses and dogs, but neglect the breeding of human beings.”42 Hence deformity is unknown. Women are communistically shared and sternly disciplined. They are required to take active exercise, which “gives them a clear complexion. … If any woman dyes her face or uses high-heeled boots … she is condemned to capital punishment.”43 Both the sexes are trained to war. Those who flee from battle are, when caught, put to death by being placed in a den of lions and bears.44 Everyone is assigned to work, but only for four hours a day. Children are brought up in common and are psychologically prepared for a communistic sharing of goods. The religion of these people is a worship of the sun as the “face and living image of God.” “They assert that the whole earth will come to live in accordance with their customs.”45

This communist manifesto, echoing Plato, was written in jail about 1602 and was published in Frankfurt am Main in 1622. Perhaps it expressed the aspirations of the Neapolitan conspirators and may have contributed to Campanella’s long incarceration. In time he made his peace with the Church and was released. He delighted Urban VIII by asserting the right of the popes to rule kings. In 1634 Urban sent him to Paris to save him from implication in another Neapolitan revolt. Richelieu protected him, and the tired rebel, recapturing his youth, died in a Dominican cell (1639). “I am the bell [campanella],” he said, “that announces the new dawn.”46

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