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Campanella, Tommaso

Entry updated 13 May 2024. Tagged: Author.

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(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, the publication history of its various iterations in different languages being exceedingly complex. The original Italian Città del Sole ["The City of the Sun"] (written 1602; 1904) remained in manuscript for centuries; a Latin version, Civitas Solis (written 1612) is the basis of the text first published in Latin in the third part of Realis philosophiae epilogisticae partes quatuor (1623); later, in Paris, a third version (1637) appeared. 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. Only with the publication of Dialogo Poetico: The City of the Sun; A Poetical Dialogue (full trans Daniel J Donno 1981) was the confusion effectively addressed.

Couched in the form of a dialogue between a Knight Hospitaller and a Genoese sailor who had accompanied Columbus to America – a distancing device modeled on Sir Thomas More's Utopia (1516) – the book describes a City on a great hill made up of seven concentric circular divisions separated by walls, all ruled by a philosopher-king or magus, the Hoh or Metaphysicus, from his vast central temple. At the very heart of this omphalos, which is heliocentrically aligned with the Sun, a mappemonde is displayed: demonstrating Campanello's identification of his ideal city as lying at the heart of, and in truth ruling, the real world. 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


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