Search SFE    Search EoF

  Omit cross-reference entries  

Campanella, Tommaso

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

Icon made by Freepik from


(1568-1639) Italian philosopher, admitted into the Dominican order at the age of 14. Like Francis Bacon he attacked the reliance of contemporary science on the authority of Aristotle, advocating observation and experiment as the proper routes to knowledge in Philosophia Sensibus Demonstrata ["Philosophy as Demonstrated by the Senses"] (1591; in Latin); at about the same time he first met Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), and he supported him against the omnipresent Christian authorities, whose dominance at this period was particularly lethal to philosophers and scientists and humanists and writers. Campanella was soon in prison, in the hands of the Roman Inquisition; he was immured in the same prison that held Giordano Bruno (1548-burned at the stake 17 February 1600), though Campanella was released in 1597 for a while after he "recanted" (by 1627, when he was finally released from the talons of the Inquisition, he had spent 27 years of his life in jail; he was, it is understood, very lucky to have survived, at one point feigning madness under torture). The poetry Campanella wrote in prison is a significantly defiant human assertion of freedom against tyranny. From 1634, he lived in France under Royal patronage.

Because of the poisonous intellectual situation in the lands that would become Italy (they were mostly under Spanish rule during this period), Campanella's works remained for many years in manuscript, though a German, Tobias Adam (or Adami), eventually published much of this material in Frankfurt. This was the case with Campanella's most famous work, his important Utopia, Civitas Solis ["The City of the Sun"], two early manuscript versions of which (dated 1602 and 1612) were used in the version of the text first published in Latin in the third part of Realis philosophiae epilogisticae partes quatuor (1623); later, in Paris, a third manuscript (1637) was drafted, and translators of the Civitas Solis into English – such as the cut translation by Henry Morley as The City of the Sun in Ideal Commonwealths, coll 1885, edited by Morley – juggled variously with this material until the publication of Dialogo Poetico: The City of the Sun; A Poetical Dialogue (full trans Daniel J Donno 1981). Couched in the form of a dialogue between a Knight Hospitaller and a Genoese sailor who had accompanied Columbus to America, the book describes a city with seven concentric circular walls which is ruled by a philosopher-king, the Hoh or Metaphysicus; property is held in common; the elements of science are inscribed pictorially on the walls for educational purposes (recalling the ancient "Art of Memory" which associated mnemonics with architecture); affectionate relations between the sexes are encouraged, but Sex may only be consummated according to Eugenic precepts determined, impersonally, by means of astrology; ships which are able to navigate without wind or sails are mentioned in passing. The central principle argued is that of a harmony between the parts and the whole of the body politic which the city manifests in every detail. God evinces himself remotely as an expression of this harmony. Monarchia del Messia ["Monarchy of the Messiah"] (possibly written circa 1605; 1633) is a manifesto of Campanella's theocratic conception of politics that includes an account of a future Utopia ruled by a Priest King (not the Messiah; a future human ruler) who will unite the world in a golden age in which war, famine and plague will be things of the past. [JC/BS]

see also: Cities; Fantastic Voyages; Italy.

Tommasso Campanella

born Stilo, Calabria, Italy: 5 September 1568

died Paris: 21 May 1639



previous versions of this entry

This website uses cookies.  More information here. Accept Cookies