TO WAKE THE DEAD by Marina Belozerskaya


A Renaissance Merchant and the Birth of Archaeology
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A lively look at the life and work of Cyriacus of Ancona, the early classicist and preservationist of antiquities.

A shipping clerk, avid traveler and artist, Cyriacus Pizzecolli was among the first Renaissance men to bemoan the despoliation of ancient monuments and advocate their preservation. Belozerskaya (The Arts of Tuscany: From the Etruscans to Ferragamo, 2008, etc.) ably resurrects this lesser-known antiquarian. Born on the Adriatic coast to a merchant family, Cyriacus was trained in commerce and traveled widely as a youth. He was greatly impressed by trips to Venice, Alexandria and Constantinople. Belozerskaya attributes his archaeological epiphany at age 30 to a sudden awareness of the Arch of Trajan in his hometown, which “was whispering to invitation to uncover that long-ago history and bring it back from oblivion.” In Rome, Cyriacus witnessed ancient remains perishing literally overnight, due to careless building and general indifference, and he vowed to travel the world for vestiges of lost civilizations. His job as a commercial representative in Greece allowed him to sail throughout the Mediterranean and Aegean, learning Greek, collecting antiquities—though the author doesn’t dwell on the extent to which he made a “good profit” reselling these to humanist friends in Rome—and garnering support for a crusade against the Turkish threat. He didn’t have the foresight to realize, however, how provocation of religious wars between the Turks and the Catholics during the following centuries would aid in the demolition of his beloved ruins. Though Belozerskaya skirts Cyriacus’s friendships with Florentine humanists such as Brunelleschi, Ghiberti, Leonardo Bruni and Niccoli—details a specialist would appreciate—the author handles the material well and creates a solid layman’s portrait.

An important link in the understanding between ancient and modern.

Pub Date: Aug. 31st, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-393-06554-1
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 2009


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