Webster G. Tarpley, Ph.D.
Appeared in Fidelio, Summer 1995
The British royal family of today typifies the Venetian Party, and continues the outlook and methods of an oligarchical faction which can be traced far back into the ancient world. Oligarchism is a principle of irrational domination associated with hereditary oligarchy/ nobility and with certain aristocratic priesthoods. At the center of oligarchy is the idea that certain families are born to rule as an arbitrary elite, while the vast majority of any given population is condemned to oppression, serfdom, or slavery. During most of the past 2,500 years, oligarchs have been identified by their support for the philosophical writings of Aristotle and their rejection of the epistemology of Plato. Aristotle asserted that slavery is a necessary institution, because some are born to rule and others to be ruled. He also reduced the question of human knowledge to the crudest sense certainty and perception of “facts.” Aristotle’s formalism is a means of killing human creativity, and therefore represents absolute evil. This evil is expressed by the bestialist view of the oligarchs that human beings are the same as animals.
Oligarchs identify wealth purely in money, and practice usury, monetarism, and looting at the expense of technological advancement and physical production. Oligarchs have always been associated with the arbitrary rejection of true scientific discovery and scientific method in favor of open anti-science or more subtle obscurantist pseudo-science. The oligarchy has believed for millennia that the earth is overpopulated; the oligarchical commentary on the Trojan War was that this conflict was necessary in order to prevent greater numbers of mankind from oppressing “Mother Earth.” The oligarchy has constantly stressed race and racial characteristics, often as a means for justifying slavery. In international affairs, oligarchs recommend such methods as geopolitics, understood as the method of divide and conquer which lets one power prevail by playing its adversaries one against the other. Oligarchical policy strives to maintain a balance of power among such adversaries for its own benefit, but this attempt always fails in the long run and leads to new wars.
The essence of oligarchism is summed up in the idea of the empire, in which an elite identifying itself as a master race rules over a degraded mass of slaves or other oppressed victims. If oligarchical methods are allowed to dominate human affairs, they always create a breakdown crisis of civilization, with economic depression, war, famine, plague, and pestilence. Examples of this are the fourteenth century Black Plague crisis and the Thirty Years War (1618-48), both of which were created by Venetian intelligence. The post- industrial society and the derivatives crisis have brought about the potential for a new collapse of civilization in our own time. This crisis can only be reversed by repudiating in practice the axioms of the oligarchical mentality.
A pillar of the oligarchical system is the family fortune, or fondo as it is called in Italian. The continuity of the family fortune which earns money through usury and looting is often more important than the biological continuity across generations of the family that owns the fortune. In Venice, the largest fondo was the endowment of the Basilica of St. Mark, which was closely associated with the Venetian state treasury, and which absorbed the family fortunes of nobles who died without heirs. This fondo was administered by the procurers of St. Mark, whose position was one of the most powerful under the Venetian system. Around this central fondo were grouped the individual family fortunes of the great oligarchical families, such as the Mocenigo, the Cornaro, the Dandolo, the Contarini, the Morosini, the Zorzi, and the Tron. Until the end of the eighteenth century, the dozen or so wealthiest Venetian families had holdings comparable or superior to the very wealthiest families anywhere in Europe. When the Venetian oligarchy transferred many of its families and assets to northern Europe, the Venetian fondi provided the nucleus of the great Bank of Amsterdam, which dominated Europe during the seventeenth century, and of the Bank of England, which became the leading bank of the eighteenth century.
ORIGINS OF THE VENETIAN PARTY IN THE ANCIENT WORLD
In the pre-Christian world around the Mediterranean, oligarchical political forces included Babylon in Mesopotamia. The “whore of Babylon” condemned in the Apocalypse of St. John the Divine is not a mystical construct, but a very specific power cartel of evil oligarchical families. Other oligarchical centers included Hiram of Tyre and the Phoenicians. The Persian Empire was an oligarchy. In the Greek world, the center of oligarchical banking and intelligence was the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, whose agents included Lycurgus of Sparta and later Aristotle. The Delphic Apollo tried and failed to secure the conquest of Greece by the Persian Empire. Then the Delphic Apollo developed the Isocrates plan, which called for King Philip of Macedonia to conquer Athens and the other great city-states so as to set up an oligarchical empire that would operate as a western version of the Persian Empire. This plan failed when Philip died, and the Platonic Academy of Athens decisively influenced Alexander the Great, who finally destroyed the Persian Empire before being assassinated by Aristotle. Later, the Delphic Apollo intervened into the wars between Rome and the Etruscan cities to make Rome the key power of Italy and then of the entire Mediterranean.
Rome dominated the Mediterranean by about 200 BC. There followed a series of civil wars that aimed at deciding where the capital of the new empire would be and who would be the ruling family. These are associated with the Social War, the conflict between Marius and Sulla, the first Triumvirate (Julius Caesar, Pompey the Great, and L. Crassus), and the second Triumvirate (Octavian, Marc Antony, and Lepidus). Marc Antony and Cleopatra wanted the capital of the new empire to be at Alexandria in Egypt. Octavian (Augustus) secured an alliance with the cult of Sol Invictus Mithra and became emperor, defeating the other contenders. After the series of monsters called the Julian-Claudian emperors (Tiberius, Caligula, Nero, etc.) the empire stagnated between 80 and 180 AD under such figures as Hadrian and Trajan. Then, between 180 and 280 AD, the empire collapsed. It was reorganized by Aurelian, Diocletian, and Constantine with a series of measures that centered on banning any change in the technology of the means of production, and very heavy taxation. The Diocletian program led to the depopulation of the cities, serfdom for farmers, and the collapse of civilization into a prolonged Dark Age.
The Roman Empire in the West finally collapsed in 476 AD. But the Roman Empire in the East, sometimes called the Byzantine Empire, continued for almost a thousand years, until 1453. And if the Ottoman Empire is considered as the Ottoman dynasty of an ongoing Byzantine Empire, then the Byzantine Empire kept going until shortly after World War I. With certain exceptions, the ruling dynasties of Byzantium continued the oligarchical policy of Diocletian and Constantine.
Venice, the city built on islands in the lagoons and marshes of the northern Adriatic Sea, is supposed to have been founded by refugees from the Italian mainland who were fleeing from Attila the Hun in 452 AD. Early on, Venice became the location of a Benedictine monastery on the island of St. George Major. St. George is not a Christian saint, but rather a disguise for Apollo, Perseus, and Marduk, idols of the oligarchy. Around 700 AD, the Venetians claim to have elected their first doge, or duke. This post was not hereditary, but was controlled by an election in which only the nobility could take part. For this reason, Venice erroneously called itself a republic.
In the years around 800 AD, Charlemagne, King of the Franks, using the ideas of St. Augustine, attempted to revive civilization from the Dark Ages. Venice was the enemy of Charlemagne. Charlemagne’s son, King Pepin of Italy, tried unsuccessfully to conquer the Venetian lagoon. Charlemagne was forced to recognize Venice as a part of the eastern or Byzantine Empire, under the protection of the Emperor Nicephorus. Venice was never a part of western civilization.
Over the next four centuries, Venice developed as a second capital of the Byzantine Empire through marriage alliances with certain Byzantine dynasties and conflicts with the Holy Roman Empire based in Germany. The Venetian economy grew through usury and slavery. By 1082, the Venetians had tax-free trading rights in the entire Byzantine Empire. The Venetians were one of the main factors behind the Crusades against the Muslim power in the eastern Mediterranean. In the Fourth Crusade of 1202 AD, the Venetians used an army of French feudal knights to capture and loot Constantinople, the Orthodox Christian city which was the capital of the Byzantine Empire. The Venetian doge Enrico Dandolo was declared the lord of one-quarter and one-half of one-quarter of the Byzantine Empire, and the Venetians imposed a short-lived puppet state called the Latin Empire. By this point, Venice had replaced Byzantium as the bearer of the oligarchical heritage of the Roman Empire.
During the 1200’s, the Venetians, now at the apex of their military and naval power, set out to create a new Roman Empire with its center at Venice. They expanded into the Greek islands, the Black Sea, and the Italian mainland. They helped to defeat the Hohenstaufen rulers of Germany and Italy. Venetian intelligence assisted Genghis Khan as he attacked and wiped out powers that had resisted Venice. The Venetians caused the death of the poet and political figure Dante Alighieri, who developed the concept of the modern sovereign nation-state in opposition to the Venetian plans for empire. A series of wars with Genoa led later to the de facto merger of Venice and Genoa. The Venetian bankers, often called Lombards, began to loot many parts of Europe with usurious loans. Henry III of England in the years after 1255 became insolvent after taking huge Lombard loans to finance foreign wars at 120-180 percent interest. These transactions created the basis for the Venetian Party in England. When the Lombard bankers went bankrupt because the English failed to pay, a breakdown crisis of the European economy ensued. This led to a new collapse of European civilization, including the onset of the Black Plague, which depopulated the continent. In the midst of the chaos, the Venetians encouraged their ally Edward III of England to wage war against France in the conflict that became the Hundred Years War (1339-1453), which hurled France into chaos before St. Joan of Arc defeated the English. This was then followed by the Wars of the Roses in England. As a result of Venetian domination, the fourteenth century had become a catastrophe for civilization.
In the midst of the crisis of the 1300’s, the friends of Dante and Petrarch laid the basis for the Italian Golden Renaissance, which reached its culmination with Nicolaus of Cusanus, Pope Pius II, and the Medici- sponsored Council of Florence of 1439. The Venetians fought the Renaissance with a policy of expansion on the Italian mainland, or terra firma, which brought them to the outskirts of Milan. More fundamentally, the Venetians promoted the pagan philosophy of Aristotle against the Christian Platonism of the Florentines. The school of the Rialto was an Aristotelian academy where Venetian patricians lectured and studied their favorite philosopher. Authors like Barbaro and Bembo popularized an Aristotelian “humanism.” The University of Padua became the great European center for Aristotelian studies.
Venice also encouraged the Ottoman Turks to advance against Constantinople, which was now controlled by the Paleologue dynasty of emperors. When Cusanus and his friends succeeded in reuniting the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox and other eastern churches at the Council of Florence, the Venetians tried to sabotage this result. The ultimate sabotage was the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453, which was assisted by Venetian agents and provocateurs. Venice refused to respond to Pope Pius II (Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini) when he called for the recovery of Constantinople.
The program of Cusanus, Pius II, Machiavelli, Leonardo da Vinci, and other Italian Renaissance leaders for the creation of powerful national states proved impossible to carry out in Italy. The first nation-state was created in France by King Louis XI during the 1460’s and 1470’s. The successful nation-building methods of Louis XI compelled attention and imitation in England and Spain. Despite their incessant intrigues, the Venetians were now confronted with large national states whose military power greatly exceeded anything that Venice could mobilize.
THE CRISIS OF THE WAR OF THE LEAGUE OF CAMBRAI, 1508-1529
The Venetians tried to use the power of the new nation-states, especially France, to crush Milan and allow further Venetian expansion. But ambassadors for the king of France and the Austrian emperor met at Cambrai in December 1508 and agreed to create a European league for the dismemberment of Venice. The League of Cambrai soon included France, Spain, Germany, the Papacy, Milan, Florence, Savoy, Mantua, Ferrara, and others. At the battle of Agnadello in April 1509, the Venetian mercenaries were defeated by the French, and Venice temporarily lost eight hundred years of land conquests.
Venetian diplomacy played on the greed of the Genoese Pope Julius II Della Rovere, who was bribed to break up the League of Cambrai. By rapid diplomatic maneuvers, Venice managed to survive, although foreign armies threatened to overrun the lagoons on several occasions, and the city was nearly bankrupt. Venice’s long-term outlook was very grim, especially because the Portuguese had opened a route to Asia around the Cape of Good Hope. The Venetians considered building a Suez canal, but decided against it.
REFORMATION AND COUNTER-REFORMATION
One result of the Cambrai crisis was the decision of Venetian intelligence to create the Protestant Reformation. The goal was to divide Europe for one to two centuries in religious wars that would prevent any combination like the League of Cambrai from ever again being assembled against Venice. The leading figure of the Protestant Reformation, the first Protestant in modern Europe, was Venice’s Cardinal Gasparo Contarini. Contarini was a pupil of the Padua Aristotelian Pietro Pomponazzi, who denied the immortality of the human soul. Contarini pioneered the Protestant doctrine of salvation by faith alone, with no regard for good works of charity. Contarini organized a group of Italian Protestants called gli spirituali, including oligarchs like Vittoria Colonna and Giulia Gonzaga. Contarini’s networks encouraged and protected Martin Luther and later John Calvin of Geneva. Contarini sent his neighbor and relative Francesco Zorzi to England to support King Henry VIII’s plan to divorce Catherine of Aragon. Zorzi acted as Henry’s sex counselor. As a result, Henry created the Anglican Church on a Venetian- Byzantine model, and opened a phase of hostility to Spain. Henceforth, the Venetians would use England for attacks on Spain and France. Zorzi created a Rosicrucian- Freemasonic party at the English court that later produced writers like Edmund Spenser and Sir Philip Sydney.
Contarini was also the leader of the Catholic Counter- Reformation. He sponsored St. Ignatius of Loyola and secured papal approval for the creation of the Society of Jesus as an official order of the Church. Contarini also began the process of organizing the Council of Trent with a letter on church reform that praised Aristotle while condemning Erasmus, the leading Platonist of the day. The Venetians dominated the college of cardinals and created the Index Librorum Prohibitorum, which banned works by Dante and Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini (Pope Pius II).
As the Counter- Reformation advanced, the Contarini networks split into two wings. One was the pro-Protestant spirituali, who later evolved into the party of the Venetian oligarchy called the giovani, and who serviced growing networks in France, Holland, England, and Scotland. On the other wing were the zelanti, oriented toward repression and the Inquisition, and typified by Pope Paul IV Caraffa. The zelanti evolved into the oligarchical party called the vecchi, who serviced Venetian networks in the Vatican and the Catholic Hapsburg dominions. The apparent conflict of the two groups was orchestrated to serve Venetian projects.
During the decades after 1570, the salon of the Ridotto Morosini family was the focus of heirs of the pro-Protestant wing of the Contarini spirituali networks. These were the giovani, whose networks were strongest in the Atlantic powers of France, England, Holland, and Scotland. The central figure here was the Servite monk Paolo Sarpi, assisted by his deputy, Fulgenzio Micanzio. Sarpi was the main Venetian propagandist in the struggle against the papacy during the time of the papal interdict against Venice in 1606. Sarpi and Micanzio were in close touch with the Stuart court in London, and especially with Sir Francis Bacon and Thomas Hobbes, who got their ideas from Sarpi’s Pensieri (Thoughts) and Arte di Ben Pensare (Art of Thinking Well). Sarpi’s agents in Prague, Heidelberg, and Vienna deliberately organized the Thirty Years War, which killed half the population of Germany and one-third of the population of Europe.
Sarpi also marks a turning point in the methods used by Venetian intelligence to combat science. Under Zorzi and Contarini, the Venetians had been openly hostile to Cusanus and other leading scientists. Sarpi realized that the Venetians must now present themselves as the great champions of science, but on the basis of Aristotelian formalism and sense certainty. By seizing control of the scientific community from the inside, the Venetians could corrupt scientific method and strangle the process of discovery. Sarpi sponsored and directed the career of Galileo Galilei, whom the Venetians used for an empiricist counterattack against the Platonic method of Johannes Kepler.
GROWTH OF THE VENETIAN PARTY
During the 1600’s, the Venetian fondi were transferred north, often to the Bank of Amsterdam, and later to the newly founded Bank of England. During the reign of “Bloody Mary,” the Stuart period, the civil war in England, the dictatorship of Cromwell, the Stuart Restoration, and the 1688 installation of William of Orange as King of England by the pro-Venetian English oligarchy, the Venetian Party of England grew in power.
During the first half of the 1700’s, the most important activities of Venetian intelligence were directed by a salon called the conversazione filosofica e felice, which centered around the figure of Antonio Schinella Conti. Conti was a Venetian nobleman, originally a follower of Descartes, who lived for a time in Paris, where he was close to Malebranche. Conti went to London where he became a friend of Sir Isaac Newton. Conti directed the operations that made Newton an international celebrity, including especially the creation of a pro-Newton party of French Anglophiles and Anglomaniacs who came to be known as the French Enlightenment. Conti’s agents in this effort included Montesquieu and Voltaire. Conti was also active in intrigues against the German philosopher, scientist, and economist Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, whom Conti portrayed as a plagiarist of Newton. Conti also influenced Georg Ludwig of Hanover, later King George I of England, against Leibniz.
The Conti conversazione was also sponsored by the Emo and Memmo oligarchical families. Participants included Giammaria Ortes, the Venetian economist who asserted that the carrying capacity of the planet Earth could never exceed three billion persons. Ortes was a student of the pro-Galileo activist Guido Grandi of Pisa. Ortes applied Newton’s method to the so-called social sciences. Ortes denied the possibility of progress or higher standards of living, supported free trade, opposed dirigist economics, and polemicized against the ideas of the American Revolution. The ideas of Conti, Ortes, and their network were brought into Great Britain under the supervision of William Petty, the Earl of Shelburne, who was the de facto Doge of the British oligarchy around the time of the American Revolution. The Shelburne stable of writers, including Adam Smith, Jeremy Bentham, Thomas Malthus, James Mill, John Stuart Mill, Charles Darwin, and other exponents of British philosophical radicalism, all take their main ideas from Conti and especially Ortes.
Francesco Algarotti, author of a treatise on “Newtonian Science for Ladies,” was another Venetian in the orbit of the Conti conversazione. Algarotti was close to Voltaire, and along with the French scientist Pierre Louis de Maupertuis he helped form the homosexual harem around British ally Frederick the Great of Prussia. Frederick the Great was Britain’s principal continental ally during the Seven Years War against France, when British victories in India and Canada made them the supreme naval power of the world. The homosexual Frederick made Algarotti his court chamberlain at his palace of Sans Souci. Maupertuis had become famous when he went to Lapland to measure a degree of the local meridian, and came back claiming that he had confirmed one of Newton’s postulates. Frederick made him the president of the Berlin Academy of Sciences. Frederick corresponded with Voltaire all his life; Voltaire lived at Sans Souci and Berlin between 1750 and 1753. Voltaire quarreled with Maupertuis and attacked him in his “Diatribe of Doctor Akakia.” The mathematicians Leonhard Euler of Switzerland and Joseph Louis Lagrange of Turin were also associated with Frederick’s cabal.
The Conti salon directed the activities of Venetian intelligence agent Giacomo Casanova, a protégé of the homosexual Senator Bragadin. Casanova was employed primarily in operations against King Louis XV of France. During the War of the Spanish Succession, the Venetians helped the British to emerge as a great power at the expense of Holland and Spain. In the War of the Austrian Succession and the Seven Years’ War, the Venetians helped the British to defeat the French as a world-wide naval power, ousting them from India and Canada. Later the Venetian agent Alessandro Cagliostro would destabilize Louis XVI with the Queen’s necklace affair of 1785, which according to Napoleon Bonaparte represented the opening of the French Revolution.
Venice ceased to exist as an independent state after its conquest by Napoleon in 1797 and the Austrian takeover of the lagoon under the Treaty of Campo Formio. But the influence of the Venetian oligarchy over culture and politics has remained immense. From 1945 to about 1968, one of the most important of these influences was the Societe Europeene de Culture, based in Venice and directed by Umberto Campagnolo. The SEC operated freely in eastern and western Europe, and agitated against the nation state in the name of supernational values. The SEC launched the career of Franz Fanon, author of the Wretched of the Earth, whose ideas form a justification for terrorism. The premier foundation of the world is the Cini Foundation, which provides ideological directives for the far wealthier but junior foundations with names like Ford, Rockefeller, Carnegie, MacArthur, Volkswagen, etc.
BEFORE BONAPARTE: THREE CENTURIES OF VENETIAN SUBVERSION OF FRANCE, 1500-1800
The War of the League of Cambrai proved that Louis XI’s modern French nation-state was a threat to the survival of Venice. The Venetians wanted to destroy France. But how? Direct military force was out of the question. The Venetians therefore decided on a strategy of cultural and political subversion. This subversion of France between 1500 and 1800 by the Venetians has few parallels in modern history.
Of all the national cultures of the modern age, the French is the most prestigious. In culture, the Anglo-Americans provide trash for the mass market, but the French provide the luxury goods for the elite. In Asia, Africa, and Latin America, intellectuals and elites who are tired of MacDonald’s look, above all, to France. French culture, however, has been polluted by centuries of unrelenting operations by Venetians like Paolo Sarpi and Antonio Conti and others. Century after century, the most famous French writers professed their admiration for Venice, and made their personal pilgrimage to Venice. Exceptions there are, but they are few and far between. As Machiavelli or Leonardo might have put it, “La culture Francaise e una porcheria Veneziana”: French culture is indeed a Venetian monstrosity.
British Prime Minister Robert Walpole gloated that “the French are ten times more idiotic than the British since they are so easily duped….” The French pride themselves on their knowledge and urbanity, on their glittering, cynical intelligence. They think they are true sophisticates and connoisseurs of intrigue. The worst thing that can happen to them is to be fooled. Well, the worst has happened, and the proud French are the dupes, fall guys, and suckers for the Venetians. British oligarchs who went along with the Venetians stood to gain. French oligarchs who went with the Venetians stood only to lose. The French are the pathetic losers.
The Venetians had been profiling the French since the Fourth Crusade of 1202, when Doge Enrico Dandolo duped the French feudal knights into capturing Constantinople for the Venetians. The old chronicles of Robert de Clari and Villehardouin show us something of the minds of the French dupes.
The heart of the Venetian cultural warfare after Cambrai was the no-soul thesis. Aristotle had taught that man has no soul. The Venetians taught the same thing. This is not theology, this is the essence of politics. The no-soul thesis means that man has no reason, man is an animal, man is a beast. But the soul is empirically there: You know it through creativity, through your own insights and discoveries, the fruits of which are permanent – immortal. You know your soul through love and charity and through your yearning for the good. If man is a beast, then the oligarchy and the empire are simply unavoidable. Venetians are materialists in this sense.
The no-soul thesis has technical names. It is called mortalism, annihilationism, thenetopsychism. All mean the same thing: no human soul. Around 1500, the University of Padua, the university of the Venetians, had a famous professor, Pietro Pomponazzi, warts and all. His doctrine was that there is no immortal human soul – in other words, that there is no soul at all. The whole person dies, body and soul. The main idea of what is called the Paduan school of Aristotelianism is that there is no human soul.
Around 1600, this was taught at Padua by Cesare Cremonini. When Cremonini died, he ordered a tombstone with the inscription: Hic jacet totus Cremoninus – “here lies all of Cremonini.” The idea was that there had been no soul, and that all of Cremonini had gone into the grave. Pomponazzi and Cremonini exercised immense influence on France.
The no-soul thesis is the one infallible marker for a Venetian agent. Every Venetian agent, every Venetian asset, claims man has no soul, including Pomponazzi, Contarini, Cremonini, and Antonio Conti. In England, the no-soul idea was proclaimed by Venetian assets like Robert Fludd, Thomas Hobbes, John Milton, Cromwell’s ally Sir Henry Vane, and various of the Cromwell- backed radicals including Richard Overton of the Levellers, Laurence Clarkson of the Ranters, Lodovic Muggleton and his Muggletonians, Gerard Winstanley of the Diggers, and Anne Hutchinson of Boston. Martin Luther had his own variation, that the soul slept until the last judgment. Every time you find the no-soul thesis, you have a Venetian agent, and generally also vice-versa.
The modern Venetian Party in France was founded by Paolo Sarpi (1552-1623), a no-soul Satanist and chief Venetian policy maker of the period around 1600. The best name for the Venetian Party of France is the cabal of the libertines. That is what they called themselves. Their creed was the no-soul thesis, mixed with various forms of Satanism and mysticism. To found the cabal of the libertines, Sarpi first needed a war of religion.
I have shown that Gasparo Contarini of Venice was the prime mover behind both Martin Luther and King Henry VIII, thus creating both Lutheranism and Anglicanism. Neither of these doctrines could be sold in France, so a new and more militant form of Protestantism had to be created. It featured total depravity and absolute predestination, and it came to be called Calvinism.
Calvin had to be taught how to create a synthetic religion. His teacher was Pierre Taisan de l’Estoile. This Pierre Taisan de l’Estoile was a Venetian operative; his son was an admirer of Paolo Sarpi. The younger de l’Estoile wrote in his Journal (after the Interdict crisis of 1606) that “Father Paul, the Venetian monk of the Servite Order… is, in my judgment, the one who has best and most sincerely written for my lords the Venetians…. The treatise of Paul Sarpi, a monk and professor of Venice, along with his other writings published at this time in support of the Venetians against the attacks of the Pope, are seen in Paris, and are praised and collected by all the men of character and learning…. Sarpi’s life is even more persuasive than his writings, and make him admired and revered in Venice as a holy man and give a great weight of authority to his books.” Thus wrote the son of Calvin’s teacher. Calvin was a Venetian agent.
The French King at this time was Francis I, who had been in Spanish captivity after the Battle of Pavia in 1525 in the Cambrai Wars. Francis I was inclined towards a reasonable policy of peace and tolerance until 1534, the year of the so-called Placards Affair. The placards were leaflets with violent protests against the Pope and the mass, put up in numerous public places and on the door of the King’s bedroom. Francis I went wild; 20 heads rolled, and Francis persecuted the Protestants. One of the provocateurs had been Jean Calvin, who had a previous arrest record for such actions. One of the victims of this operation had been Calvin’s own brother, who was executed and buried under the gallows.
The greatest French writer, Francois Rabelais, opposed Calvin. In the fourth book of his Gargantua, Rabelais condemned the “little Calvinist demons and other impostors of Geneva.”
Calvinism was directed much more against the King than against the Pope. The French Calvinists were called Huguenots, meaning confederates. When the Calvinists of Geneva became embroiled with the Catholic Duke of Savoy, these Calvinists, since they were Swiss, were called the Eidgenossen, citizens of the Confoederatio Helvetica, and, thus, confederates. For French speakers, Eidgenossen became Huguenots. Huguenots were drawn chiefly from the oligarchy; it is estimated that, around 1570, more than a third and possibly half of the French nobility were Protestant.
Huguenot ideology permitted a comeback for the French feudal barons who had been crushed by Louis XI. These barons had been fighting the central monarchy for centuries, and now they had a new ideology to rationalize their desire for civil war. Some oligarchs became Huguenots to spite their enemies who stayed Catholic. Many oligarchs wanted to determine the religion of their own peasants, as they could in Germany.
Admiral Coligny of the Huguenots called in the English, while the Guise, the leaders of the Catholic Party, called in the Spanish. Crushed in the middle was the state built by Louis XI, and crushed along with that state was the expiring Valois monarchy, a series of the sons of Catherine de Medici. Irrationality loomed large in daily life; this was when the seer Nostradamus acquired his reputation.
France had nine flare-ups of civil war between 1562 and 1598. The French wars of religion had no clear fronts and were marked by looting and raiding operations by groups of armed oligarchs on each side. All of the contending factions had leaders who were Venetian agents, and, as time went on, more and more were agents of Sarpi personally. Sarpi’s main French operative was Arnaud du Ferrier, who had been the French ambassador to the Council of Trent. Du Ferrier used his notes on the council to help Sarpi write his most famous book, The History of the Council of Trent. Arnaud du Ferrier was in direct personal touch with Jean Bodin and Michel de Montaigne. Sarpi’s friend, fellow monk, and biographer Fulgenzio Micanzio says that Sarpi was “intrinsichissimo” – extremely friendly – with Arnaud du Ferrier.
Among the Venetian operatives were:
Michel de l’Hospital, the Grand Chancellor of France during the 1560’s. He advised Henry II, Francis II, and Charles IX. It was on his watch that the weakness of the monarchy allowed the Guise to open the hostilities of the civil war. Michel preached moderation and tolerance; he has been called the first politique. We can imagine what would have happened to the United States if Abraham Lincoln had made tolerance the supreme virtue. Michel grew up in a family marked by treason to France: His father was a retainer of Duke Charles of Bourbon, the Constable of France, who went over to the Emperor Charles V and died fighting for the Hapsburg empire during the Sack of Rome in 1527. Michel had studied at Padua for six years; he wrote a Latin ode glorifying Venice:
“Salve, Urbs antiqua, potens, magnaeque urbs aemula Romae.”
Michel’s career benefited from early sponsorship by the Guise. According to the Venetian ambassador Andrea Barbaro, Michel was always a secret Huguenot. Even so, Michel took King Charles IX on a tour of France, allegedly to build his popularity and stability. In practice, the impressionable young king was shocked to see many churches that had been destroyed by the Huguenots. During the same trip, Michel left the suggestible Queen Mother Catherine de Medici alone at Bayonne in the company of the Spanish Duke of Alba, the butcher of Holland for Philip II. It is thought that the bloody-minded Alba directly or indirectly provided the idea for the St. Batholomew’s Day massacre of 1572.
Philippe Duplessis-Mornay, correspondent of Sarpi, was the leader of the French Calvinists after the death of Admiral de Coligny in 1572; his nickname was the Huguenot Pope. He had visited Venice at the age of 18. He was a direct correspondent of Sarpi. He was the finance minister and money man for Henry IV, who later dumped him in a process of rapprochement with the Pope.
Jacques-Auguste de Thou was in correspondence with Sarpi. He was taught by Scaligero and Cujas. He visited Venice in his youth, and went there again in 1589 to seek assistance as a minister of King Henry III. For five years, de Thou accompanied the future King Henry IV in his field campaigns during the civil war. De Thou helped to write the Edict of Nantes of 1598, which provided tolerance, meaning an armed Huguenot party in the state with its own armies and fortresses. At one time, de Thou was named ambassador to Venice. One of de Thou’s books was a life of Jean Bodin. Another was a monumental Latin history of France in his time, parts of which were translated into French by J. Hotman de Villiers, a Sarpi correspondent. De Thou bequeathed his library to his relatives of the Du Puy family, and it became an organizing center for the cabal of the libertines. De Thou’s son was part of the attempt to assassinate Richelieu by the Count of Cinq-Mars.
Tracing this network is easier if we recall that the Venetians first supported Henry of Navarre to become King of France as Henry IV and were the first to recognize him. The Venetians controlled Henry IV’s advisers. When Henry IV refused to back Venice in the Interdict, refused to start a war with Spain, and attacked Sarpi as a heretic, Venetian intelligence assassinated Henry IV, the most popular king in French history.
Sarpi held his French Calvinist network in contempt. He wrote: “The heretics of France are for the most part bad men….”
After the 1572 massacre of Huguenots on St. Bartholomew’s Day, there was a growing reaction against religious fanaticism. This was expressed by a third force called the politiques. The politiques are much misunderstood. They were not just fed up with religious fanaticism. Several of the politique leaders represented an early form of the cabal of the libertines under Venetian control.
The leading politique was Jean Bodin, the first philosophe and an intelligence agent who worked for the Duke of Alencon, the son of Henry II and for a time the politique candidate for the monarchy. Jean Bodin was a disciple of Contarini and of Pomponazzi. Jean Bodin was in close contact with Sarpi’s friend Arnaud du Ferrier, as well as with Cecil in London. Bodin was involved in plots to kill Queen Elizabeth of England, and was the judge in a trial in which a woman was executed for sorcery.
His Six Books of the Commonwealth talks much about sovereignty, but this is not the modern concept of sovereignty. For the Venetians, the slogan of sovereignty was used as a device to create conflict between any given government and the Pope. Sarpi, for example, posed as the defender of Venetian sovereignty against Pope Paul V Borghese during the Interdict. The Jesuit Cardinal Bellarmino had proclaimed that all temporal rulers were subordinated to the supremacy of the Roman Pope. Sarpi became celebrated in all of Europe by arguing that the Pope could not interfere with the prerogatives of the sovereign state. King James I Stuart of England and Scotland, who claimed to get his divine right directly from God without any papal intermediary, was one of Sarpi’s biggest fans. Telling the princes of the Holy Roman Empire that they were not really sovereign was also a great way to stir them up against the Hapsburgs. This close parallel between Bodin and Sarpi has been noticed by Italian writers including Federico Chabod and more recently Paolo Frajese.
Much of Bodin’s book is also devoted to a weird theory of climate, which appears as a racist determinism. Northerners succeed by force, southerners by cunning; “… southern peoples are cruel and vindictive in consequence of their melancholy, which engenders extreme violence in the passions and impels men to take vengeance for what they suffer.” And: “There is another very notable difference between northerners and southerners, in that the former are modest and chaste, and the latter very libidinous as a result of their melancholy temperament.” Or: “northern races, or those who live in mountainous regions, are proud and warlike, relying on their physical prowess, and so they prefer popular states, or at any rate elective monarchies, and will not endure to be ruled by pretentious boasters.” From such arid banality it is not far to Henry Kissinger’s idiotic dictum that “history is not made in the South.”
Bodin also talks of tolerance. As we can see in sixteenth- century England, tolerance often meant opening the door to gangs of Venetian madmen organized as religious sects. If Governor Winthrop of Massachusetts had caved in to Cromwell’s pressure to tolerate these sects, North America might have become a madhouse for depraved sectarians. In any case, notice that Bodin’s model for tolerance is none other than Gasparo Contarini, the Venetian patrician who started the Reformation and the Wars of Religion as a wartime measure against the League of Cambrai. Venice itself managed to be the most thorough totalitarian police state while at the same time tolerating the exercise of many religions.
The real Jean Bodin emerges in obscene relief in his long- unpublished Latin work, Heptaplomeres. (See Marion L.D. Kuntz [ed.], Colloquium of the Seven about Secrets of the Sublime, [Princeton, 1974]). There is no doubt that Jean Bodin was the author. The scene is Venice, famous for its atmosphere of perfect freedom, where a group of oligarchs discuss religion. They are Coronaeus the Catholic, Salomon the Jew, Toralba the naturalist or empiricist, Fridericus the Lutheran, Curtius the Calvinist, Senamus the skeptic, and Octavius the Moslem. According to some commentators, the tolerant Catholic Coronaeus “in several ways resembles the eminent Cardinal Gasparo Contarini.” [Kuntz, p. xlv]
If Coronaeus acts as ireneic mediator, it is Salomon the Jew who emerges as the dominant figure. This is because he is able to draw upon the Cabala, the mass of mystical writings much fetishized by Bodin and Postel. Cabala is of course not a part of Judaism, but represented an entirely different polytheistic religion much inferior to Judaism itself. Octavius, a convert from Rome to Islam, is the resident expert on mummies and other exotic spiritual phenomena of the East. This is completely unfair to real Islam. Fridericus, the Lutheran, is also a great expert on demons. Toralba recommends reverence for God and following the laws of nature. Senamus, the skeptic, accepts no religion but at the same time rejects none.
What they all agree on is that mummies can stir up storms and have miraculous powers of healing, that the world is full of demons, and that true wisdom is to be found in the mysticism of the Cabala. They are interested in necrophilia, sing hymns to Isis, talk of Cabbalist Hermes Trismegistus, and praise Gasparo Contarini. The first sentence of the actual dialogue is, “Don’t you think we have talked enough about the immortality of souls?” Voila: the Venetian party.
The dialogue is preceded by an introduction which sets the stage:
“You ask me in letters to write you about my foreign travel. Everything would have happened to my liking, if I could have taken delight in your companionship. If I shall ever meet with you again, I shall never allow myself to be separated from you. When we had a difficult time sailing along the coast of the Adriatic Sea, we reached Venice, a port common to almost all nations or rather the whole world, not only because the Venetians delight in receiving strangers hospitably, but also because one can live there with the greatest freedom. Whereas other cities and districts are threatened by civil wars or fears of tyrants or harsh exactions of taxes or the most annoying inquiries into one’s activities, this seemed to me to be nearly the only city that offers immunity and freedom from all these kinds of servitude. This is the reason why people come here from everywhere, wishing to spend their lives in the greatest freedom and tranquillity of spirit, whether they are interested in commerce or crafts or leisure pursuits as befit free man.” [Kuntz ed., p. 3]
There is also much praise for Cardinal Contarini, the Venetian intelligence chief of the Cambrai period:
“Fridericus: When, at the imperial Diet at Ratisbon the Emperor Charles V, in agreement with the German princes, had selected six most upright theologians of each religion to settle the religious controversies of the Romans and Germans … they thought they should begin with the question of human justification. When in this discussion three theologians of the Augsburg Confession had drawn the Catholics, Pflugius, Fabrus, and Groppeus to their position and had likewise persuaded Cardinal Contarini, legate of the Roman See of this point of view, namely, that man is blessed by faith alone and by no merit of his own, Eckius, one of the Catholics, became so angry against his colleagues that the Catholic bishops and princes, convinced by him, forced Charles V to dissolve the discussion twenty days after it had begun…. Cardinal Contarini, the most learned Venetian patrician who was said to have agreed with the Lutherans, died a little afterwards, and it was strongly suspected that he died of poisoning.” [Kuntz ed., 423]
It is no coincidence that Bodin puts this speech into the mouth of Fridericus, the Lutheran spokesman; Contarini was the founder of Lutheranism and assured the protection of Luther, through his agent Spalatin.
The first phase of the search for true religion in Book I of Heptaplomeres is centered on a discussion of the amazing powers of Egyptian mummies, as illustrated by the soi-disant Moslem Octavius, who tells of how he robbed a grave, stole a mummy, and tried to ship the mummy home by sea from Alexandria. He wanted the mummy because “there was so much healing power in these corpses that they warded off almost all diseases.” After Octavius left Egypt, the ship on which he was traveling with the mummy was overtaken by a terrible storm. The terrified passengers began praying for safety according to Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Jewish, Moslem, and even Venetian rite customs. A Spanish soldier even tried blasphemy of the Christian God. But, Octavius recounts, all prayers and incantations were useless until the ship’s captain threatened to execute anyone with a mummy in his baggage. At that point, Octavius surreptitiously threw his mummy overboard, and the storm calmed immediately. The captain later told Octavius that “the transportation of Egyptian corpses always stirred up storms and… that the nautical laws of the Egyptians scrupulously prohibited this.” [Kuntz, 14]
The message is clear: All the monotheistic religions put together are no match for even one good old-fashioned mummy. Mummies were a favorite theme of Bodin’s, since he also wrote about their powers in two of his other books, his 1580 On the Demonomania of Witches and his 1596 Universae naturae theatrum. With Bodin, we are not far from the later British intelligence stunt known as the “curse of King Tut’s tomb.”
From the mummies of Book I, Bodin moves on to the demons of Book II. Let us sample some of the exchanges:
“Fridericus: … those who have been present when magicians assembled together agree if anyone uninitiated to demonic rites is brought there and shudders at the detestable devotions, suddenly with a clap of thunder the assemblage of demons and magicians is dissolved…. And just as the assemblages of soothsayers and the dire poisons of magicians smell of sulphur, so also those places in which lightning has struck are filled with the foulest odor of sulphur. We have observed that those fiery rocks made by demon’s art smell of nothing but sulphur. Now, who is so blind that he does not see the actions of demons in the flashing of lightning…. the power of demons is also indicated when swords melt in an unharmed scabbard, when utensils burn in a closed and untouched cupboard, when the private parts lose hair though the skin is unblemished, when a wife recoils from the embrace of her husband. In countless actions which are most alien to nature, we must admit these things happen contrary to nature only by the force and power of demons or angels.
“Curtius: The ancient theologians identified three thunderbolts of Jupiter, namely white, red, black…. Since Pliny did not comprehend this, he thought that the white lightning fell from the body of Jupiter himself, an opinion too frivolous to deserve refutation.
“Octavius: I hear that Timurbecus, whom our people call Tamerlan, followed this method of imposing punishment….
“Salomon: Into their myths the Greeks wove the truth which they received from the Hebrews. They represented Juno as presiding in the air and hurling down avenging spirits from the midst of the air to keep them from flying into heaven. This indicated only that lesser spirits and demons were enclosed by their particular boundaries, to keep them from breaking out above the region of the clouds and were cast out by higher angels and powers and hurled down on the earth. By their fall they terrify mortals….
“Senamus: You have explained these matters elegantly and charmingly, but I do not know why demons pursue the bodies of Egyptians rather than Greeks or why they are accustomed to stir up tempests only when those bodies are stolen. Surely everyone knows that corpses are customarily carried on ships, sometimes to Asia, Greece, and even to Italy without a storm.
“Fridericus: But those corpses were not yet buried….
“Octavius: Perhaps demons envy men the salutary remedies which are recovered from those corpses of Egyptians. For they guard with unusual diligence the hidden treasures and kill those who dig them up…. George Agricola has many stories of this kind in which he relates that many people saw demons of pygmy size in the mines…. A long time ago, Apuleius, that greatest magician and poisoner, recalled this vexation. I find it strange, however, that no one who had sought a treasure with a demon’s help had ever found it or was enriched with the find.
“Curtius: Surely by Roman law money is denied to those who search out treasures by means of detestable sacrifices or from any other forbidden art.
“Fridericus: The Chaldeans say their terrestrial demons, supposedly the guardians of treasures and corpses, are more deceitful and cruel because they are farther from the purity of light and divine knowledge….
“Salomon: The divine law wholeheartedly curses this impiety and mischief that magicians used and those who thus feast on blood with demons.
“Fridericus: But if those demons are the souls of wicked men who either had placed all their hope in their buried treasures secured from plunder,… let them pay just punishments with daily torment. Or demons may be the spirits of those who must pay the penalties for directing all their efforts to building palaces and towers with the blood of the people…. Finally, I do not doubt that impure spirits wander around the foul and loathsome regions and stir up storms and winds.
“Toralba: …it was not without cause that Thomas Aquinas, famous even among physicists, wrote that demons stir up lightning and thunder.
“Curtius: Pliny and Strabo wrote something similar to this…. Plutarch thought that the causes of this extended silence [of oracles] must be attributed to the death of demons.
“Senamus: If demons disturb the visible sky, the seas, lands, fires, if they terrify men with thunder, lightning, winds, whirlwinds, earthquakes, and unexpected portents, if they hover over divine and human ambassadors, if then they regulate and overturn powers, states, cities, districts, families, finally if they are added to individual men as guardians and avengers, consider how great a multitude of demons and angels must be stationed up and down in all parts of the world and in individual places…. Fridericus has maintained that there were demons of each nature and sex, ephilates and hyphilates, in the unions of witches with incubi and magicians with succubi….
“Coronaeus: Senamus has proposed a very difficult but proper question. If Toralba will explain it with his usual care, he will render a great service not only to Senamus but to all of us.
“Toralba: … since a discussion of the origin of angels and demons, their place, condition, and death seems far removed from positive proofs, surely we ought to seek an explanation of these things from the Hebrews, who drank divine secrets from those very fountains and sacred sources….
“Salomon: After our ancestors returned to Chaldea as prisoners, they became acquainted with many things by divine communication. However, we received nothing which has not been common knowledge throughout the world and available to everyone.” [Kuntz, 83-89]
The “divine communication” which Toralba appeals to, and which Salomon declines to discuss is of course the Cabala. Of this latter Salomon says in Book III:
“Since that teaching is perceived only by hearing, it is called qabbalah (tradition). This is what Esdras meant when he said: ‘Some things you will make common knowledge; others you will relate to the wise’…. In like manner, the sacred books were written in such a way that those things which pertain to the salvation of everyone, such as the decalogue and everything connected with it are easily understood by all…. The occult rites and sacrifices which have less to do with salvation are understood only by the learned, and the knowledge of natural mysteries, the Cabala, is understood only by the most learned.” [Kuntz, 94-95]
In sum, we can see that all of the interlocutors of the Heptaplomeres, whatever their nominal religious affiliation, are Venetian cultist kooks. There is not one of them who stands up to confront the others with the plain fact that they are all wallowing in wild insanity and black magic.
As Jacques Roger wrote, “since he has assembled in his dialogue all the traditional arguments against the divinty of Jesus Christ, Bodin is a ‘rationalist’, probably a disciple of Pomponazzi…. The problem is that this modern thinker, this rationalist, firmly believed in demons and witches….”
Bodin was in a tandem with Guillaume Postel, the first Frenchman to read the Cabala and publish an edition of the Zohar, one of the classics of Cabala. Bodin and Postel shared the same patron; this was Gabriel Bouvery, Bishop of Angers, and nephew of Guillaume Poyet, Chancellor of France, who was Postel’s paymaster by 1538-40. According to various sources, the discussions described in Heptaplomeres were not a work of fiction, but had actually taken place in Venice. Postel had attended them. The goal of the discussions had been to create a new, synthetic, syncretic, and satanic religion using scraps of the three monotheistic faiths. After Postel’s death, Bodin got his stenographic notes and made them into the Heptaplomeres. Postel’s Venetian seminar could only have been sponsored by the Giovani Party of the Venetian oligarchy, the party of the Ridotto Morosini salon attended by Paolo Sarpi. Postel’s seminar was a founding constituent of the cabal of the libertines, the Venetian Party of France.
The goal of Bodin and Postel was to synthesize a new religion, as related by Antoine Teissier, Eloges des hommes savants, tires de l’histoire de M. de Thou, avec des additions (Leyden, 1715):
“Henri Etienne assures us that he saw Postel at Venice publicly proclaiming that if one wished to have a good religion, it would be necessary to compose a religion from those of the Turks, the Jews, and the Christians. Moreover, Mr. Naudé said that at the time when Postel was at Venice there were four men who gathered twice every week to discuss with complete freedom all the religions of the world, and that Postel wrote what took place in their discussions. After the death of Postel these writings fell into the hands of Bodin and became the material for the book entitled About the Secrets of Sublime Things….”
The same notion is conveyed by an earlier source, Diecmann’s 1684 De Naturalismo:
“And so it was pleasing to arrange his whole scene with Bodin as chorus-leader so that any religion might be applauded more than the Christian religion, or that religion might be mingled by Samaritan confusion with Jewish and Turkish treachery; that he seems to have wished to unite himself clearly to the intention of his most insane citizen, Guillaume Postel, whom Henricus Stephanus heard saying publicly now and then at Venice that whoever wishes to fashion a form of good religion ought to blend this from those three – the Christian, Jewish, and Turkish religions. I am not at all deceived in this conclusion which I learned not so long ago from a French manuscript which mentioned that Guy Patin, physician and royal professor at Paris, had heard from Gabriel Naudé whom he knew very intimately, that there had been at Venice four men who had met twice a week for the purpose of establishing philosophical discussions about the various religions. Among those were Coronaeus of Rouen and the one whom I mentioned, Guillaume Postel, who acted as stenographer. His [Postel’s] manuscripts, after he had died at Paris in 1584, came into the hands of Bodin and were used to complete this work.” [Kuntz, p. lxi]
As for Postel, he tried to start a cult around that rarest of commodities, a 50-year old Venetian Virgin – in this case a certain Mother Zuana, a woman he found working among the poor at the Ospedaletto of Venice. Postel came under the influence of Madre Zuana during 1549-1550. Postel identified her with the shechinah, the cabalistic term for the female aspect of the deity. Madre Zuana’s father confessor was a member of the Convent of St. Francesco della Vigna, which had previously been the base of operations of Francesco Giorgi, the relative of Contarini who had earlier moved to the English court as resident sex therapist for King Henry VIII. It is a safe bet that Postel imbibed the Francesco Giorgi version of Cabala and Rosicrucianism from Giorgi’s old colleagues at St. Francesco della Vigna.
Later, in 1552, Postel claimed that the departed spirit of Mother Zuana had occupied his body through a mysterious process he called “immutation.” Perhaps as a result, Postel became an early feminist. He was also Royal Lector for King Henry II of France and was close to the king, who died in a suspicious tournament accident which Nostradamus claimed to have predicted.
The exoteric ideas of the cabal of the libertines involved much verbiage around the idea of Nature. What was natural was good, what was unnatural was bad, etc. The state of nature was good, other states were less good, etc. St. Evremonde praised “la bonne loi naturelle.” The world is ruled by blind fate, which is amoral and cannot be opposed. Wisdom is a matter of giving expression to one’s own Nature by seeking enjoyment. Most of the so- called Enlightenment boils down to these few banal notions.
Parallel to Bodin, was Michel de Montaigne, the inventor of the essay form and the founder of the modern French ideology of the honnete homme – clever, urbane, cynical, skeptical, sensual. Bodin and Montaigne were linked by their common acquaintance with Sarpi’s favorite Frenchman, Arnaud du Ferrier. Montaigne was close to Sarpi’s correspondents DuPlessis-Mornay and de Thou, with the latter of whom he wanted to retire to his beloved Venice at the end of his life. Montaigne was Sarpi’s favorite writer, especially for his essay on friendship with its homosexual overtones.
It is quite likely that Montaigne met Sarpi when he visited Venice in 1580. There is a tradition that Montaigne was on a diplomatic mission; he might have been representing his king or perhaps a faction on the French political scene. Some of Montaigne’s ideas on magnetism are reflected in Sarpi’s Pensieri. Later, Montaigne’s disciple Pierre Charron wrote various tracts to popularize his master’s point of view, and these writings of Charron also find their reflections here and there in Sarpi’s notes for his neo-Aristotelian, neo-Ockhamite empiricist method.
Montaigne’s motto was “Que sais-je?”, what do I know? His answer reflected his pessimism about human knowledge and human creativity. Montaigne thought that even the “brutal stupidity” of animals assisted by their instincts could do better than “everything of which our divine intelligence is capable.”
Montaigne’s father had been a French soldier in the War of the League of Cambrai. The elder Montaigne had served with Lautrec; he kept a diary of his Italian years which has never been found. Montaigne’s father had brought back from Italy a system of education supposedly endorsed by Italian humanists. The main idea was to speak only Latin around the child so as to make Latin the child’s native language. Montaigne claims that he heard only Latin until he was six years old. Had the Venetians furnished the plan embraced by the elder Montaigne?
Montaigne wrote of cannibalism: While we think it is barbarous, many cultures think it is fine, so who are we to say? And, given our wars of religion, who are we to talk? “I think there is more barbarity in eating a man alive than in eating him dead; and in tearing by tortures and the rack a body still full of feeling, in roasting a man bit by bit… (as we have not only read but seen within fresh memory, not among ancient enemies, but among neighbors and fellow citizens, and what is worse, on the pretext of piety and religion), than in roasting and eating him after he is dead.”
Antonio Conti’s later assets, Montesquieu and Voltaire, paid tribute to Montaigne as the founder of their tradition. For two centuries, until the regime of Napoleon, the popularity of Montaigne in France survived, cutting across all changes in government or literary taste. Montaigne’s “honnete homme” remains the foundation of the French ideology to this very day, a fact that helps to explain the political success of such creatures as Georges Pompidou, Giscard d’Estaing, “Tonton” Mitterrand, and Jacques Chirac.
Montaigne’s partner was Etienne de la Boetie, another fanatical admirer of Venice. Only after de la Boetie died did Montaigne get married. Etienne de la Boetie wrote a praise of Venice in his Discourse on Voluntary Servitude, a book which still elicits enthusiasm from Murray Rothbard and other libertarians of today: “Whoever could have observed the early Venetians, a handful of people living so freely that the most wicked among them would not wish to be king over them, so born and trained that they would not vie with one another except as to which one could give the best counsel and nurture their liberty most carefully, so instructed and developed from their cradles that they would not exchange for all other delights of the world an iota of their freedom; who, I say, familiar with the original nature of such a people, could visit today the territories of the man known as the Great Doge, and there contemplate with composure a people unwilling to live except to serve him, and maintaining his power at the cost of their lives? Who would believe that these two groups of people had an identical origin? Would one not rather conclude that upon leaving a city of men he had chanced upon a menagerie of beasts?”
Etienne de la Boetie died in 1563. His remarks on Venice correspond exactly to the general political line of the Giovani Party, the patrician association meeting in the Ridotto Morosini. The agitation of the Giovani was that the Council of Ten and its Zonta (or Giunta) had robbed the Venetians of their ancient liberties. The Council of Ten was the organ of government that supervised internal security, spying, and surveillance; it could and did conduct secret trials of patricians and sentence them to death. The Giovani demand was, of course, that the members of the Vecchi Party who dominated the Council of Ten should be ousted and replaced by Giovani, along with some other formal changes. The reform of the Council of Ten was carried out in 1582, and marked the transition to overall domination by the Giovani. Etienne de la Boetie’s treatment of Venice shows that he was not only an admirer of the Venetian oligarchy, but also that he was a partisan of the Giovani Party specifically.
Montaigne wrote of his friend: “if [la Boetie] had been able to choose, he would have preferred to have been born at Venice than in Sarlat [near Bordeaux], and he would have been right.” For his own part, when Montaigne crossed the Alps for the first time in 1580, his paramount goal was Venice. His travel journal notes that Montaigne “was saying that he would not have been able to stop at Rome or anywhere else in Italy and be at rest if he had not first seen Venice.” The French writer who most distinguished himself in attacking Montaigne was Blaise Pascal.
Now for a few key figures from the cabal of the libertines over the centuries.
The Venetians sent Giordano Bruno to Paris. They later also sent Vanini, a disciple of Bruno. Vanini was accused of propagating the no-soul thesis and was burned at the stake, which spread sympathy for the libertines. Vanini’s doctrine was that men were without souls and died in the same way that dumb animals do. At his trial, Vanini testified that he had attended a Naples meeting of 12 operatives dedicated to spreading atheism in Europe, and that he had been assigned France by drawing straws. Bruno has since had a following in France, including Cyrano de Bergerac, and later Fontenelle, the permanent secretary of the Academy of Sciences and an ally of Antonio Conti.
In the wake of Bruno and Vanini, a nucleus of libertine poets emerged in Paris. These included Maynard, Boisrobert, Tristan the Hermit, Saint-Amant, and Theophile de Viau. Among the poets of the same time, there was Desbarreax, who had studied with Cremonini. Close to him was Theophile de Viau, who was almost burned at the stake himself. This Theophile de Viau was reputedly a bisexual and for certain Descartes’ favorite poet. The libertine poet Tristan was an imitator of the Italian pornographic poet Marino. In the same circles traveled the atheist and libertine Abbé Boisrobert, who, with the support of Richelieu, founded the Academie Francaise on the model of the Venetian controlled Aristotelian academies of Italy.
French intellectual life during the 1600’s was often centered in salons, academies, and cabinets. The procedure of the Venetian Party was to establish or take control over the most prestigious and fashionable of the salons, and then use the hegemonic influence of these Venetian dominated leading salons to set the tone the lesser and provincial salons and academies were expected to follow. A prime example is the leading cultural academy of the early 1600’s, the Academie Puteane. Its organizer was Elie Diodati of the infamous Calvinist Diodati family of Geneva, friends of Sarpi and controllers of Milton. Diodati was in direct touch with Galileo and hosted Milton during the latter’s grand tour. During the first phase of the Academie Puteane, Diodati functioned as its secretary. Another member was Gabriel Naudé, who had studied with Cremonini in Padua and admired him as a “deniaise,” meaning that Cremonini was an initiate who had seen everything. Naudé, who admired Cremonini’s powers of deception, was Cardinal Mazarin’s librarian, and anticipated several important ideas of Descartes.
A third member was the philosopher Gassendi, the dominant philosopher of the period from 1640 to 1660 in France. Gassendi taught an empiricism similar to Sarpi’s. This included a material soul which was as rarefied as the simplest atoms, but material nonetheless. LaFontaine, whose fables imitated not just Aesop but also much more recent Venetian models, was influenced by Gassendi. Other Puteane activists included Guy Patin, a professor of medicine, and the skeptic La Mothe le Vayer.
Patin had a joke about the immortality of the soul: He said that he once asked a moribund patient to come back and report on the afterlife. Patin said that the patient had indeed come back, but had refused to speak, leaving him ignorant about the immortality of the soul.
When Gassendi went out of fashion around 1660, he was replaced by the notorious Rosicrucian Descartes, who was also steeped in the Cabala. When he was at college with the Jesuits, Descartes had been a pro-Galileo activist. The turning point in Descartes’ intellectual biography was a series of three rapti philosophici, or philosophical trances, experienced on the night of November 10-11, 1619 in a heated room in a German village. November 11 was St. Martin’s day, and St. Martin’s eve was one of the great drinking bashes of the old Christian year – something like New Year’s Eve today. The three dreams were the sources of Descartes’ theory of vortices, among other things.
Descartes completed his own pilgrimage to Venice, and combined it with successful espionage for clients, including the French army of the Alps. Descartes visited the highly strategic Valtellina region of Switzerland, which was one of the nodal points of the Thirty Years’ War, then in progress. The Valtellina was the territory of the Protestant Grisons or Grey Leagues, a land corridor which permitted direct communication between the possessions of the Austrian archdukes, on the one hand, and Spanish-occupied Lombardy and Milan on the other. It had been seized by the Spanish in 1619. Descartes, by then an expert in fortification and siege warfare, sent back such accurate reports that a French force was soon able to seize the Valtellina, severing the Austrian-Spanish communications. Naturally, all this was perfectly coherent with the anti-Spanish policy of the Venetians. Descartes arrived in Venice to see the traditional yearly ceremony acting out the marriage of the Doge to the Adriatic Sea.
Soon countergangs emerged with the announced purpose of countering the cabal of the libertines. An example was the Company of the Holy Sacrament, created in 1629 by the Duke of Ventadour. This was a secret society and included a pervasive spy network. Mazarin formally dissolved the Company of the Holy Sacrament, but its networks were still active as the “cabal of the devout” at the court of Louis XIV. The playwright Moliere, who was for a time the director of Louis XIV’s entertainments, came into conflict numerous times with the cabal of the devout. Moliere, who was something of a libertine himself, satirized the religious activists in the figure of Tartuffe, the sanctimonious hypocrite who affects a mask of piety to pursue his often immoral goals.
After Richelieu died, the oligarchs rose up in rebellion against Mazarin under the leadership of the Cardinal de Retz, also a prominent author. This was the Fronde of 1650. Many rebellious nobles, like the Orleans, were atheists and libertines and frondeurs. Another famous frondeur was La Rochefoucauld, the author of the many cynical and worldly maxims.
Among the libertines of the second half of the 1600’s, we find Pierre Bayle, the antagonist of Leibniz. There is also St. Evremonde, a veteran of the Fronde and the de facto libertine envoy to London. St. Evremonde’s pose was that of the refined voluptuary. Under Louis XIV, libertines and atheists met at the Societe du Temple, where the dominant figure was the Grand Prieur de Vendome. Another center of the Venetian Party was the Palais Royal, controlled by the Duke of Orleans.
The cabal of the libertines, from the very beginning, had capabilities for espionage, assassination, and terrorism. A good example is the network of Pierre Jurieu, an espionage agent in the service of William of Orange active around 1700. The Public Record Office in London has thousands of pages of espionage reports from Jurieu’s extensive network. Jurieu was a Huguenot minister and a translator of Paolo Sarpi. According to one commentator, “Jurieu made himself the tenacious defender of Calvinist orthodoxy. He refused any compromise, any relaxation, any tolerance. But this intransigence, which gives him a somber grandeur, also led him, by apparent paradox, to the most revolutionary theses. Jurieu severed the French Huguenots from any duty of obedience to the King; he thus legitimized insurrection and was one of the fathers of democracy, and one of the most obvious precursors of the spirit of 1789.” (A. Niderst, Dictionnaire des Litteratures). Based on his reading of the Apocalypse, Jurieu announced that in 1689 both the regime of King Louis XIV and the French Catholic Church were going to collapse.
Jurieu on Sarpi: “…it hath pleased God in his Providence to raise up even in the Church of Rome, a wise, a moderate, a judicious and sincere man, one that in a word was the greatest man of his age, who hath carefully wrote this History. He has all the Perfections required to compleat an Historian….”
After about 1710, the Venetian networks of France were reorganized around Newtonianism by Antonio Conti. Conti worked with Montesquieu and Voltaire. Conti’s later network included Buffon, Diderot, Condillac, and other leading lights of the celebrated French Encyclopedia.
Venetian operatives like Giacomo Casanova moved through the network of the cabal of the libertines. Casanova’s mission for Venetian intelligence was to attack and undermine the regime of Louis XV. He was followed by the Venetian agent Cagliostro, who organized scandals that helped, according to Napoleon, to start the Revolution with the “queen’s necklace affair,” which generated widespread hatred against Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI. None of these operations could have succeeded without the cabal of the libertines, the ambient portrayed by Mozart in the “Viva la liberta” scene in Don Giovanni.
Finally, by about 1800, after three centuries of subversion, French society had been degraded to the point that Frenchmen were willing to submit to the dictatorship of a foreigner – of a Venetian. The cabal of the libertines had set the stage for the Revolution, the Terror, and for Bonaparte. France’s most famous dictator turned out to be a post-1380 Genoese Corsican and therefore a de facto Venetian, revealing the open secret that so much of the dark side of French culture had been produced by the Venetians all along.