Thursday, 16 May 2013

Janus Pannonius: why the balls of popes are not examined anymore.

Janus Pannonius  (Kesinci or Čazma, 29 august 1434 - near Zagreb, 27 march 1472) was an Hungarian-Croat humanist who spent his youth at Rome and later returned as ambassador for the Hungarian king Matthias Corvinus. He was fluent in Latin and Greek and one of the best imitators Martial ever had. When the anti-humanist Pope Paul II (1464- 1471) was installed, Janus wrote some biting epigrams. In one of them he accused Paul of having a daughter. This is a probably not true: some historians think he was homosexual (in itself that does not exclude having a daughter.) Though it probably does not apply to Pope Paul II, many popes and cardinals had mistresses and children during that period.
In this epigram Janus refers to Pope Joan, the alleged female Pope living in the 9th century. It was only found out that she was a woman, when she gave birth. After that it was said that new popes had to show their testicles to the cardinals. As the earliest sources are from the 13th century there is no single reason to believe in her existence. Probably the whole story was invented as a satire on the papacy, but for a long time it was believed to be true till it was proved to be a forgery.. However, some feminist fellow students believed it, when I studied theology in the 80ties. They thought that Pope Joan was erased from history because of male patriarchalism and jealousy. They were better in feminist ideology than in the evaluation of historical sources….

Janus Pannonius epigram 91:
Quare nunc, ut quondam, summorum pontificum testiculi non explorantur.

Femina, Petre, tua quondam ausa sedere cathedra,
    orbi terrarum iura verenda dedit.
Indeprensa quidem cunctos latuisset in annos,
    facta foret partu, ni manifesta, novo.
Post haec Roma diu simili sibi cavit ab astu,
    pontificum arcanos quaerere sueta  sinus.
Nec poterat quisquam reserantes aethera claves,
    non exploratis sumere testiculis.
Cur igitur nostro mos hic iam tempore cessat?
    Ante probat quod se quilibet esse marem.

Petre: Saint Peter
tua with cathedra (locative ablative)
audeo ausus sum: to dare
vereor: to fear
indeprensus: uncaught
lateo latui: to escape unnoticed
facta foret partu, ni manifesta, novo = ni manifesta facta partu novo foret
foret = esset (foret is an archaic form)    
partus -us (m): birth
astus -us (m): cunning
suetus: used
arcanus sinus: secret places
Nec poterat quisquam reserantes aethera claves, non exploratis sumere testiculis =  Nec poterat quisquam sumere claves reserantes aethera, non exploratis testiculis.
resero: unlock
aether (m): heaven (aethera is a Greek accusative form)
mas maris: male

A woman once dared to sit on your throne,
And proclaimed her lws for the world to obey.
If not exposed by gining birth, Peter,
She might have escaped detection for all time, Peter.
Rome for many years defended herself form such a trick
and examined the Pontiff’s secret nooks and crannies.
None could assume the keys that open heaven,
unless the balls were examined.
Why has the practice died out in our days?
Because everyone proves beforehand that he’s a man.
(A.A. Barret, Janus Pannonius epigrammata – the epigrams, Hungary 1985)

There is no English wiki about Janus Pannonius, but here is a German link:

No comments:

Post a Comment