Pitying Antiochus: Italian Humanism and the Philology of Compassion

Gur Zak*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The study of emotions has been prominent within medieval and early modern studies. However, much remains to be explored, particularly regarding how literature might shed light on broader cultural outlooks and the construction and application of specific emotions in past societies. This article delves into Italian humanist culture’s comprehension and utilisation of a particular emotion: compassion. By closely examining the literary reception of an ancient story–Valerius Maximus’ exemplum of Seleucus, Antiochus, and Stratonica–in the writings of four humanists: Boccaccio, Petrarch, Bruni, and Manetti, the article proposes what might be described as a ‘philology of compassion’. It demonstrates how the various renditions of the tale predominantly revolve around compassion, revealing the debates within the humanist community concerning the nature of this emotion, its ethical and political significance, and those to whom it should be most directed.

Original languageEnglish
JournalItalian Studies
StateAccepted/In press - 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Auerbach
  • Boccaccio
  • Compassion
  • emotions in literature
  • Italian humanism


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