Maffei, Francesco Scipione Marchese di

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Maffei, Francesco Scipione Marchese di (1675-1755): Italian, Playwright.

Maffei, man of letters, archaeologist, antiquarian and historian, was born in Verona into an aristocratic family, and educated by Jesuits in Parma and Rome.

As a man of letters, Maffei’s main concern was to rehabilitate Italian theater by imitating ancient Greek models. He set the example with his tragedy Merope (1714), which met with considerable applause, was translated into several languages, and inspired Voltaire, François-Marie Arouet de. Maffei is now considered a forerunner of Vittorio Alfieri.

In his activities as archaeologist and antiquarian Maffei amassed an important collection of historical material on Verona, built a museum to house it, and wrote a major work Verona illustrata (1713-32), which earned him lasting admiration from the Veronese. A public high school in Verona still bears his name.

As a historian, Maffei distinguished himself with publications on medieval knighthood and diplomatic history. His encyclopedic interests led him to write about a myriad of subjects, including Catholic doctrine, ancient inscriptions, musical instruments, physics and astronomy, and to travel widely. He was welcomed everywhere. Kings of Savoy and Pope Clement XI offered him important positions; Oxford University granted him a doctorate; the Paris Academy of Inscriptions invited him to become a member. In his open mindedness, in the variety of his interests, in his concern for scholarly historicity he was a man of the Enlightenment. He remained, however, an orthodox Catholic who sought only moderate reforms.

Further Reading:

Giuseppe Silvestri, Scipione Maffei: un europeo de settecento, 1968.


Natalie Sandomirsky

Southern Connecticut State University

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