Virtue Politics: Soulcraft and Statecraft in Renaissance Italy by James Hankins - review by Bijan Omrani

Bijan Omrani

Good Rule Hunting

Virtue Politics: Soulcraft and Statecraft in Renaissance Italy


Belknap Press 784pp £36.95 order from our bookshop

If anyone thinks that we live in a uniquely degraded political age, let them spare a thought for late medieval Italy. Consider, for example, Galeazzo II Visconti, who secured his rule over Milan in the 1350s by inventing the Quaresima torture protocol, a carefully designed forty-day programme of public torture – including eye-gouging, stretching on the rack, flaying and multiple amputation – to intimidate opponents of his rule; or his later successor Gian Maria Visconti, whose preferred means of executing criminals was to feed them alive to his hunting dogs.

For many Italian literati of this time, including Petrarch and Boccaccio, the disagreeable nature of the political classes was the cause of many of the travails that faced the peninsula. Italy was reeling not only from the effects of the Black Death but also from frequent wars, tyranny and social

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

The Incomparible Monsignor

Kafka Drawings

Follow Literary Review on Twitter