Monday, July 21, 2014

A Sinister Role For Flavius Mithridates

Hey you know how in every single place you look on the "internet" it says that Pico della Mirandola wrote something called ORATION ON THE DIGNITY OF MAN that everybody is so jazzed up about? Well, according to this guy who translated this book of Pico's 900 theses that I have here, that title "first appeared ten years after Pico's death in a corrupt German reprint of his collected works." And this here guy is pretty upset about how everybody loves that fake title so much! But do you think the "internet" cares? Here's another funny part: "In the section of the text devoted to the Platonists, we find eight theses attributed to 'Adeland the Arab,' who Pico claimed was Plotinus's fellow student in Egypt under Ammonius Saccas... Both external and internal evidence, however, clearly show that Adeland the Arab was Adelard of Bath, the twelfth-century Englishman!" (You know I appreciate a learned scholar who is not afraid of exclamation points.) But the best part is right after that: "Here again there are reasons to suspect a sinister role for Flavius Mithridates, whose reputation in the Renaissance as something of a con man was apparently well deserved. Pico's involvement with this colorful figure - who liked to style himself as Pico's would-be but scorned lover - constitutes one of the strangest personal stories of the period, although it is one that is far from being completely understood." I know, I know! Now you are thinking of John Dee and Edward Kelley, right? And the time the angel told them to swap wives? Or maybe you are thinking of Paracelsus, and how he would "vanish under cover of night" when the heat was on, running around all drunk with his big sword and being a genius. Those were the days! There are not enough drunken, sword-brandishing geniuses anymore! We don't even have any young Rip Torns around to hit our Norman Mailers in the heads with hammers, or any Norman Mailers to bite other partygoers on the neck. John Dee had plenty of Pico and Paracelsus in his library, you better believe it, until that mob trashed his house that time, I can't remember why, I guess they were mad about something.