(c. 1458-1530)
Jacopo Sannazaro was a Renaissance humanist and poet who wrote in Italian and Latin. He is most famous for the poem Arcadia (1504), which established the literary tradition of the pastoral mode and influenced writers for the next two centuries, most notably the English poet Philip Sidney* and the Portuguese Jorge de Montemayor.*
Born into a distinguished Neapolitan family, Sannazaro was educated in the style of an aristocrat. He was admitted to the prestigious literary academy of Naples around 1478 and, according to the prevailing custom in these circles of assuming Latinized names, was given the academic name of "Actius Syncerus." It is believed that he did much of his writing in Italian during the 1480s, with Arcadia being his principal undertaking. Arcadia is an elegiac portrayal, written in prose and verse, of lovelorn shepherds who inhabit a world permeated by a profound sense of melancholy. Sannazaro introduces himself into his own poem in the person of its narrator, Sincero, who, unfortunate in love, leaves Naples in order to find respite within the idyllic landscape of Arcadia. The poem cir­culated widely in manuscript, and a pirated edition was published in 1501; Sannazaro's revised and corrected version was ultimately published in 1504.
By 1490 Sannazaro was engaged in the Latin poetry that he hoped would ensure his reputation. Notable among these works are the Eclogae piscatoriae (Piscatorial Eclogues, 1526), in which the Arcadia's plaintive shepherds are reinvented as fisherman on the Bay of Naples, and De partu virginis (On the virgin birth, 1526), an epic poem on Jesus nativity.
Sannazaro lived almost his entire life in his native city, maintaining close ties with the court of Aragon, then rulers of Naples. Thus when Frederick of Aragon was deposed in 1501, Sannazaro loyally followed his king into exile in France. Following Frederick s death in 1504, he returned to his villa in Naples, where he lived the remainder of his life. After the tumultuous period he spent in France, he remained estranged from the social and political life of Naples. Although he refrained from taking part in affairs of state, his writings reflect his continued allegiance to King Frederick and to Naples.
Sannazaro s remains are housed in Santa Maria del Parto a Mergellina, the small church built on the property given to him by King Frederick in 1499. The tomb, which is believed to have been designed by the poet himself, is charac­terized by both Christian and classical motifs and endures as a fine example of Renaissance art.
C. Kidwell, Sannazaro and Arcadia, 1993.
R. Nash, trans., Jacopo Sannzaro: Arcadia and Piscatorial Eclogues, 1966.
R. Nash, trans., The Major Latin Poems of Jacopo Sannazaro, 1996.
Patricia A. White

Renaissance and Reformation 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary. . 2001.

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