Gurk Cathedral, Dompl. 11, 9342 Gurk, Austria
Girolamo Balbi (1460-1535) was an Italian humanist. Balbi probably studied in Rome with Julius Pomponius Laetus but, by 1485, was in Paris, where he obtained a university chair four years later. His severe and uncompromising character brought him into conflict with several colleagues whom he accused of incompetence. The quarrel became increasingly bitter and in 1490 or 1491, accused of sodomy and heresy, Balbi had to flee Paris. One of his rivals, Publio Fausto Andrelini, in a Latin eclogue, ‘De fuga Balbi’ (1491–1493), also published the accusations of sodomy against him. One of Balbi's former students, Jacques Morlin, wrote a defence, Invectiva in Fausti Balbi calumniatorem, in which he accused Andrelini of homosexual tastes. One Guillaume Tardif, in Antiabalbica, also claimed that Balbi had been tried for sodomy. Meanwhile, Balbi took refuge in England, then travelled to Vienna (1493) and on to the court of King Ladislas of Bohemia in Prague. In 1497, faced with new accusations of sodomy, he was again obliged to take flight. Balbi's erstwhile protector, Bohuslaw von Hassenstein (Baron Lobocovicz), published a Latin composition proclaiming that perhaps the Bohemians were not so cultured as the Italians, but at least they knew nothing about the love for Ganymede. Balbi found a haven in Hungary, where he was ordained to the priesthood, obtained important political and diplomatic posts and, in 1523, was made bishop of Gurk; he eventually died there.
Balbi was most appreciated during his life (in certain ways similar to Filippo Buonaccorsi) for spreading humanism in eastern Europe. His poetry, letters and philosophical tracts, written in Latin, reveal Balbi's vast learning. A number of the compositions that have homosexual themes are included in his published works. (Others, such as those in the Manoscritto Marciano Latino (No. 4689) in the Marciana Library in Venice, remain unpublished and unstudied). One published letter sent to Pomponio-Leto speaks of his new love for a youth. In another, he says that women were not allowed into his house (which he had consecrated to Hercules) but only a ‘chaste’ youth whom he called ‘Illa’ after Hercules’ male lover. Such remarks suggest that the accusations against Balbi were at least partly based on fact.
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