Study Guide

Italia Mia Allusions

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Literary and Philosophical References

  • Mars (13): the Roman god of war
  • Fortune , or Fortuna (17): the Roman goddess of, well, fortune 
  • "the perilous pass" (102): This is the difficult journey of the soul after death toward the judgment of God. Dante Alighieri speaks of this in his work, Purgatorio.
  • Salve Regina (103): Petrarch references passing through "this valley," an image of earthly life probably taken from this prayer.
  • Eirene (119-122): She's the ancient Roman personification of peace. When Petrarch figures his poem as a woman crying out for peace, we're pretty sure he had this in mind.

Historical References

  • "the swords of strangers" (20): the German mercenaries, hired by the Italian houses of d'Este and Gonzaga to fight petty wars
  • "the unlawful people" (43): Petrarch refers to the Cimbrian War, fought between the Roman Republic and two Germanic tribes that invaded Roman territory. The current mercenaries are imagined to be descendants of these hostile troops.
  • "as the book tells us" (44): probable reference to Plutarch's Life of Marius
  • Gaius Marius (45): He's the Roman consul who married into the family of Julius Caesar and whipped German tribal backside at the Battle of Acquae Sextiae.
  • "when he thirsty and tired/ drank as much blood as water from the river" (47-48): Petrarch is talking about the Battle of Acquae Sextiae in 102 B.C.E. The body of water is the River Arc in Aix-en-Provence.
  • Julius Caesar (49): He's the statesman and general of the Roman Republic who had himself declared dictator for life. He had a reputation as a pretty brutal dude. Imagine that.
  • "Your disagreeing wills/ despoil the fairest part of all the world" (55-56): Petrarch is speaking of the petty wars between Italian nobility that took a heavy toll on their dependent citizens and destroyed the land.
  • "O noble Latin blood" (74): Petrarch feels nostalgic for the good old days of the Roman Republic, where a consul knew his civic responsibility and acted on it. He's hoping that some of that DNA has made it into the leaders of his day, no matter how recessive the gene.

Geographical References

  • Tiber (5): One of the largest rivers in Italy, the Tiber also flows through Rome.
  • Arno (5): One of the big three rivers in Italy, the Arno flows through Florence—the homeland of our poet.
  • Po (6): This is the big river that bisects northern Italy, flowing eastward into the Adriatic Sea. If Petrarch is really writing this poem from Parma, he could possibly have been gazing at a tributary of the Po, the Parma River.
  • "turn again to your dear, holy land" (9): Petrarch is speaking of Italy here—not Israel—as the country that houses the seat of the Catholic Church (in Rome).

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