Giovanni Albino
a cura di Giovanni Caserta

Giovanni Albino belongs to Lucanian Humanism and hardly ever worked in its region and always inside power clubs. He came from the Senise or Lagonegrese (from Lagonegro) area, he was born in Castelluccio around 1445. As written in the documents of the Lucanus period, he had an ecclesiastical carrier like many other writers, but he also worked as diplomat, ambassador, orator, courtier and librarian. He also was secretary of Alfonso, Duke and heir of Calabria.

Very soon he moved from Castelluccio to Naples. He entered the Accademia Pontaniana and he gained a great Authority. He travelled a lot for political business; certainly he went to Ferrara, Tuscany, Urbino, Milan, Rome and Albany as well. When Charles VIII arrived in Naples in 1494, Giovanni Albino and all the intellectual and political court of Aragonesi left the active life, although he was still young, for retiring to S. Angelo Abbey, in Fasanella, not far from his birthplace Castelluccio, where he ended his days.

He wrote gestis regum Neapolitanorum (“On Naples’ kings deeds”), six books published later on by his grandson Ottavio. Emanuele Giordano, professor by the Lucania-Basilicata University, reminds us that the third and fourth book have been lost. The last book, De Bello Gallico, is dedicated to the war against Charles VIII, king of France, with whom ended the Aragonese story and Albino’s vicissitudes, who had started from the war against Florence (De bello hetrusco), dated 1478-80.

Of him we have to underline his attempt to popularize Vite Parallele by Plutarco, which demonstrates how the Southern culture was reaching the National culture, although 150 years later, by using instead of Latin, the Italian language or Tuscan, Hetrusca, language. This thing has already happened in the Centre of Italy, particularly in Tuscany, at the time of Brunetto Latini and then with Dante. It is not by chance that simultaneously Giovanni Brancati, an other Lucanian , probably from Matera, tried to translate the very difficult Naturalis historia by Plinio il Vecchio. The very famous Masuccio Salernitano and Iacopo Sannazzaro belong to these years.
Probably Giovanni Albino for his translation used a Latin text; but this doesn’t mean he didn’t know Greek. It is easy to understand that the teaching aim was to indicate some models of men, who in Humanism Age and therefore man’s dignity and values exaltation, had to encourage moral and civil elevation. And since they wanted to reach a more elevated public and since the message had to be largely understandable, they started to use a language already known in the South of Italy as well. The dedication to Ferrante was very important because, as Benedetto Croce said, he had an important role in spreading the vulgar tongue , he often surrounded himself with Italian intellectuals and during the reign of Alfonso with Spanish intellectuals, which predominated during Alfonso reign. Then he do really chose Plutarco and this is why his “Vite parallele” had so much luck. Giovanni Albino was the first to remember in the dedication to Ferrante D’Aragona that “from none of all Greek and Latin writers our Age can draw greater doctrin and knowledge of different things than from Plutarco, who widely tells the lives of many great Princes and famous Greek and Latin men, in which stay all together the holy religion, the military discipline, the very good countries administration, the excellent eloquence, a not insignificant ornament of human life, and also the admirable force of character and finally any other virtues”.

Giovanni Albino came from province and, in one way, is the symbol, together with many others, of the perfect Lucanian intellectual “humanist”, aristocratic, emigrated for culture, for whom his province is far away or just a place for physical rest or a waste land for regret in his old age. So his culture helped his fame but not the people living in the province where he came from, to whom he assumed, for social conditions, an air of detachment and contempt. The tender sensibility, all feminine, of Isabella Morra, some decades later, had to be subjected to the same attitude.