Regiomontanus and Poetry

In the fifteenth and sixteenth-centuries, the period covering Regiomontanus' life and the peak of his considerable posthumous reputation, the sensibilities of Renaissance humanism ensured that the composition of poetry was attempted by scholars in every field. Regiomontanus himself is said to have written Greek verse, and it is noteworthy that one of the works printed at his press in Nuremberg was the astrological poem Astronomica of the Stoic philosopher Marcus Manilius. It is likely that a systematic survey of poetic references to Regiomontanus would find no shortage of instances. Certainly, poetry praising Regiomontanus can be found both in the context of his own works, for example the edition of his Latin calendar produced by Erhard Ratdolt in Venice in 1476, and naming him as a famous son of his birthplace or adoptive city, e.g. in Paul Melissus Schade's hymn of 1577 "Ad montem regiam Franconiae" or the epigram of Konrad Celtis, author of De origine, situ, moribus et institutis Norimbergensium (Nuremberg, 1502).

A poem of 1482, written by Jacobus Sentinus of Alderney for Regiomontanus' Latin calendar, is interesting for another reason. It is the earliest known source of the rumour that Regiomontanus' death in Rome was not of natural causes, a claim that was subsequently elaborated into the theory that the sons of George of Trebizond had poisoned the astronomer for criticising their father's translation and commentary of Ptolemy's Syntaxis. In fact, the most likely explanation for Regiomontanus' premature demise is that he fell victim to the plague which swept through the city in the year of his visit.

Recommended Reading

E. Zinner, Leben und Wirken des Joh. Müller von Königsberg, Osnabrück 1968. Translated by E. Brown as Regiomontanus: His Life and Work, Amsterdam 1990

Full Bibliography