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Pacifico Massimi (1410 – 1506), (also known as Pacifico d'Ascoli) was anItalian writer. It would be pointless to search for references to Massimi in the history of Italian literature, not only because he wrote in Latin, but particularly because his most important work, the Hecatelegium, published in 1489, was of such frankness concerning homosexuality that it may be considered unique. What other Renaissance poet dared to admit openly that he had practiced passive sodomy? Massimi's uncompromising verses condemned him to ostracism by literary historians.

According to the study by Carmelo Calì (the only available source), Massimi was born in Ascoli to a noble and wealthy family which had been exiled for political reasons. He led an adventurous life, though never succeeding in obtaining the permanent position at court to which he aspired. Returning from exile in 1426, Massimi married and fathered three children. Again exiled from 1445 to 1448, he served in the army of the king of Naples. In 1452 he was able to return to Ascoli, where he remained for six years, only to be exiled anew for political sedition; his estate was also confiscated. By 1459, having abandoned his wife (the object of violent poems), he was a law student in Perugia, where he also gained a reputation as a Latin poet and secured employment. In 1476, he was invited to Rome by Pope SIXTUS IV but, failing to obtain employment, moved to Lucca, where he taught poetry, rhetoric, Greek and Latin. In 1489, Massimi went to Florence, where he was able to get his book published and earned his living as private tutor.

In 1493 he was again in Lucca, where he obtained citizenship and taught for six months, the time established in the post, as confirmed by the registrations in the chamberlain's books. At the end of his life he returned to Rome, where he befriended Angelo Colocci, who became his last patron, welcomed him in the Horti Colocciani, or the Acqua Vergine, hosting and protecting him until his death. His epitaph says that he worked as a lawyer and reached the age of 80, though he may have been almost a centenarian at his death.

Massimi applied to Latin poetry the taste for erotic double entendre which is found in Italian fifteenth-century verse; so deft was he that when an expurgated edition of the Hecatelegium was published in 1691 in Parma, a number of cases of double entendre escaped the censors. Homosexual themes also appear in some 20 unpublished epigrams and verse letters (now held by the national library in Venice). Massimi was notorious as a sodomite during his own life, admitting that when he walked in the streets, boys touched their ear in a gesture – still used today – to indicate a ‘poof’. In a 1501 letter, Machiavelli listed Massimi among poets who would have been burned at the stake as sodomites in Rome were it not for the protection of powerful cardinals.

Only the least compromising verses of the Hecatelegium were reprinted; the only complete edition, published in Paris in 1885, was limited to 150 copies. An edition by Juliette Desjardins and the partial translations included in James Wilhelm's anthology nevertheless have allowed readers to discover a poet whose homosexual work is both extraordinarily explicit and extraordinarily rich in information about the private and social life of a Renaissance sodomite.


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