Momus by Leon Battista AlbertiMomus by Leon Battista Alberti


byLeon Battista Alberti

Hardcover | June 15, 2003 | Latin

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Momus is the most ambitious literary creation of Leon Battista Alberti, the famous humanist-scientist-artist and "universal man" of the Italian Renaissance. In this dark comedy, written around 1450, Alberti charts the lively fortunes of his anti-hero Momus, the unscrupulous and vitriolic god of criticism. Alberti deploys his singular erudition and wit to satirize subjects from court life and politics to philosophy and intellectuals, from grand architectural designs to human and divine folly. The possible contemporary resonance of Alberti's satire—read variously as a humanist roman-à-clef and as a veiled mockery of the mid-Quattrocento papacy—is among its most intriguing aspects. While his more famous books on architecture, painting, and family life have long been regarded as indispensable to a study of Renaissance culture, Momus has recently attracted increasing attention from scholars as a work anticipating the realism of Machiavelli and the satiric wit of Erasmus. This edition provides a new Latin text, the first to be based on the two earliest manuscripts, both corrected by Alberti himself, and includes the first full translation into English.

Sarah Knight is in the Department of English,University of Leicester, England.
Title:MomusFormat:HardcoverDimensions:448 pages, 8 × 5.25 × 0 inPublished:June 15, 2003Publisher:HarvardLanguage:Latin

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0674007549

ISBN - 13:9780674007543


Read from the Book

Leon Battista Alberti's Momus is one of the great comic masterpieces of the Italian Renaissance. A complex narrative that charts the tumultuous career of Momus, god of fault-finding and the personification of embittered mockery, it has been variously read as an allegorical attack on the fifteenth century papacy, as a satire on Florentine humanists and statesmen, and as disguised autobiography. It has been seen as foreshadowing the work of Machiavelli, Erasmus, Rabelais, Cervantes and Swift. Yet it never achieved wide popularity, whether because of its unorthodox Latin style, its evidently unpolished state, or its cynicism it is difficult to say. Alberti wrote Momus between 1443 and 1450, after returning to Rome with the papal curia following the Council of Florence. For more than seventy years it circulated only in a handful of manuscript copies before being published in 1520 by two different editors. In the later sixteenth century it was translated into Italian and Spanish and in the eighteenth century into German. Although most of the printed editions and translations bear the subtitle De Principe ("On the Prince"), there is no evidence that this title goes back to Alberti himself. Indeed, Momus defies the conventions of the speculum principis ("mirror for princes") tradition. Rather than writing within one identifiable genre, Alberti causes mythology, literary fiction, political theory, philosophical dialectic and broad farce to jostle for primacy within this highly unusual work.

Table of Contents




Book I

Book II

Book III

Book IV

Note on the Text

Notes to the Text

Notes to the Translation



Editorial Reviews

An epic satire focused on the little-known classical god Momus, archetype of the critic and troublemaker, this work represents a notable contribution to neo-Latin satire in general and an eccentric addition to Alberti's corpus in particular...The appearance of an English version of Momus is a welcome complement to David Marsh's translations of two other Latin comic works by Alberti, the Intercenales (1987) and the Aesopic Apologi(2004)...The Latin text by Brown and Knight and the English translation by Knight have been expertly rendered...The translation is fluid, graceful, and appropriately colloquial at times; Alberti would be pleased with the deft capturing of his sometimes bawdy tone...Momus as faultfinder, would find little to complain about in Knight and Brown's fine edition of Alberti's strange satire.