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Greater than Emperor: Cola di Rienzo (ca. 1313-54) and the World of Fourteenth-Century Rome
by Amanda Collins
University of Michigan Press, 2002
Cloth: 978-0-472-11250-0
Library of Congress Classification DG811.6.C65 2002
Dewey Decimal Classification 945.63205092


Greater than Emperor charts the remarkable process by which Rome tried to forge a new civic identity, similar in constitution to contemporary city-republics but conceptually much greater. At the forefront of the process stood the idiosyncratic and astonishing young notary Cola di Rienzo. On May 21, 1347, Cola staged a bloodless coup. Rome entered a new age that would witness both the resurrection of the ancient power of the Empire and Rome's apotheosis as God's chosen city. Yet within seven months, the theatricality and violence of Cola's regime led to exile. Cola's triumphal return some years later ended in his assassination.

Cola was eventually resurrected as a hero of nineteenth-century nationalism, leaving the realities of Trecento Rome far behind. Yet it is only in terms of the very real models and methods that Cola welded together that his revolution can be understood.

Greater than Emperor describes Cola's reliance on the past of rhetoric, pageantry, and Roman law. It then discusses the future, tracing the dynamic contemporary influences of apocalyptic fervor, prophetic literature, and radical Franciscan imagery of Cola's world. Amanda Collins assesses Cola's legal and political career within both the complex mechanics of municipal administration and the multiple hierarchies of Roman society.

Amanda Collins offers a new assessment of the dramatic events of 1347 and an analysis of Cola within his late medieval Roman context. Bringing depth and substance to Cola's backdrop, Trecento Rome and the economic and spiritual ambitions of its citizen body, Collins provides information crucial to understanding the longer-term economic and political drive to civic autonomy in Rome before 1400.

Historians and generalists alike will relish the story of a remarkable individual, set within the cultural climate of a famous and fascinating city, during an often-overlooked period. This book sheds new light on a crucial political figure that brought a dazzling civil independence to Rome.

Amanda Collins held the Junior Research Fellowship in Intellectual History at Wolfson College, Oxford from 1997-2000, and has more recently been employed at the University of Sussex.

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