Carlo Sigonio and the Respublica Hebraeorum: A Re-evaluation

Guido Bartolucci

Abstract: The study of the Respublica Hebraeorum (Hebrew polity) as a model for political thought in early modernity is increasingly recognized as significant for the history of ideas. Carlo Sigonio, who, I argue, should be considered one of the first writers in this genre, has not yet received sufficient attention for his pioneering work, and this for a number of reasons. Respublica Hebraeorum literature is generally regarded as a Protestant project, whereas Sigonio was writing in Catholic Italy. In addition, Sigonio has been revered for his meticulous antiquarian research but not for expounding ideas of any relevance to his society. No less important, Sigonio does not fit the mold that has been created, based on other scholars’ writing in the genre, so he’s been left out. This article views Sigonio’s De republica Hebraeorum against the backdrop of his other work, the context of the society in which he wrote, and the broader European context. It highlights the significance of Sigonio’s work in his own time and for the subsequent history of political thought and paints Sigonio as an innovative thinker and a pioneer of early modern political Hebraism not only for his antiquarian research but as much for the ideas he espoused.

Biography: Guido Bartolucci received his doctorate in 2004 from the University of Bologna in religious studies, social sciences, and historical studies of the religions. He is currently a post-doctoral fellow at Shalem studying Christian Hebraists such as Erudites, Francois Vatable, Jean Mercier, Jean Cinqarbres, Angelo Canini, Marco Paradisi and Gilbert Genebrard. Their works contributed to building a Hebrew political lexicon in Latin, helping political thinkers and jurists to find in the Jewish tradition elements useful for their debates. He was a visiting fellow in 2002-2003 at the Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies and at the Seminar für Judischen Studien at Martin-Luther University, Halle-Wittenberg. His published articles include "La teocrazia ebraica di Carlo Sigonio" in Annali di Storia dell'esegesi and “Venezia nel pensiero politico ebraico rinascimentale: Un testo ritrovato di David de Pomis”, in Rinascimento. He is the author of La repubblica ebraica di Carlo Sigonio. Modelli politici dell’età moderna (Florence: Olschki, 2007).

Volume 3, Number 1 (Winter 2008) pp. 19-59