Bellum uocum and uoces belli: The Aesthetic of Battle in Pontano’s Actius
The qualities as a captain of Giovanni Pontano are well testified, if not well known, mainly through his the De bello Neapolitano, whereas his poetics of the historical narrative are to be searched in the second part (de lege historiae) of this treatise, entitled Actius (ed. pr. Naples, 1507). Nonetheless, it was not perceived that his experience of battles had an influence on another part of his poetry, namely the critical appreciation of the euphony in the Virgilian hexameter. In the first part of the Actius (De poeticis numeris) Pontano deals with the compositio verborum and the classical heritage of Cicero, Denys of Halicarnasse, and Georges of Trebizond. Here he shows how deeply the battle lexicon and the memory of military art have structured his acoustic perception referred to the hexameter, brief and long organisation, elision, and the possibilities of accelerating and slowing down the rhythm. Moreover, his battle memory influenced also his attention to the graphic disposition of the verses on the manuscript or the printed page.