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Paolo Paruta

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Venetian historian and statesman, born at Venice, 14 May, 1540; died there, 6 Dec., 1598. Of a Luccan family, he was devoted from youth to literature and philosophy, also the composition of poetry. He applied himself especially to history and political science, and was at the end of the fifteenth century what Macchiavelli, though in a different way, was at the beginning. He belonged intellectually to the group of recently ennobled men who met at the residence of the Morosini to discuss politics, which party (it may be called the liberal party) came into authority in 1582. Previous to this he occupied positions of secondary importance; in 1562 he accompanied the ambassador Michele Suriano to the Court of Maximilian II and acted as official historiographer of the Republic; during which office he delivered the funeral oration for those killed at the battle of Lepanto (1572); after the change of government he was made Savio di Terraferma , and became a senator; he was Commisario del Cadore (1589), Governor of Brescia (1590-92), ambassador to Rome (1592-95), procurator of St. Mark (1596), next in dignity after the doge, and Provveditore delle Fortezze (1597).

His chief works are the "Guerra di Cipro" (1570-72) and the "Storia Veneziana" a continuation of Bembo's history, embracing the years 1513 to 1551, works composed at the request of the Government, but written with truth and impartiality, showing especially the connexion between the current events of Venice and the general history of Europe. His "Despatches" from Rome and the "Relazione" written at the end of his diplomatic mission reveal his great political foresight, by his accurate estimate of men and affairs at Rome, and which are equal to those of the greatest Venetian ambassadors. Of his political writings, the "Della perfezione della vita politica" in dialogue form, written between 1572 and 1579, has a somewhat didactic and academic tone, and treats principally of the relative superiority of the active and contemplative life, a problem he decides in favour of the active life on account of its contributing more to the welfare of the Republic. It was supposed, not without reason, to have been written to controvert the ideas contained in Bellarmine 's "De officio principis christiani". His "Discorsi politici" were not published till after his death. The first book treats of the greatness and decadence of the Romans; the second of modern governments, especially Venice, being really an apology for the latter's policy. Though Paruta is an independent thinker, Macchiavelli's influence is notable. The policy of Italian equilibrium, which a century later developed into that of European equilibrium, was clearly foreseen by him. In his political views economy is not an important part, and therein he is inferior to his contemporary, the Piedmontese Botero.


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