chapter  8
21 Pages

Invoking and constructing legitimacy: rebels in the late medieval European and Islamic worlds Patrick Lantschner

Tyranny was a matter of concern to protesters and rebels in many urban societies around the late medieval Mediterranean world. To the minds of many city dwellers, it was not only expedient, but also right to oppose tyrants. This was as much true in late medieval Bologna, Northern Italy, as it was in the far-away city of Damascus, Syria. In May 1459, a visit by Pope Pius II to Bologna, a subject city of the Papal State, took an unusual turn. In his oration to the pope, the city’s official orator, Bornio da Sala, did not celebrate the city government, as was expected of him, but instead used this opportunity to denounce it. A famous jurist at Bologna’s university, Bornio proclaimed, with an unmistakable allusion to the city’s ruling elite, that it was more appropriate to say that Bologna was governed by a tyranny than to claim that it was free. The city government certainly got the message, and stripped Bornio of all his offices. The pope, whose relationship with Bologna was often fractious, was less displeased. He rewarded Bornio with a place on his delegation.1