This introduction contextualises the thirteenth-century Dominican Jacopo da
Varagine (also known as Jacobus de Voragine) as a historical figure and
author, introducing the history and urban culture of medieval northern Italy
as well as the genre of the civic chronicle. It outlines the history of
medieval Genoa, an Italian city-state developing in ways that were both
typical (in struggling with factional conflict) and atypical (as a hub of
international trade). Finally, the introduction provides a short biography
of Jacopo, reviews his vast scholarly output, and introduces his Chronicle:
its transmission tradition, methodologies, main sources, and chief
This book provides the first English translation of the Chronicle of the city of
Genoa by the thirteenth-century Dominican Jacopo da Varagine (also known as
Jacobus de Voragine). While Jacopo is better known for his monumental
compilation of saints’ lives, the Golden legend, his lesser known Chronicle of
Genoa exemplifies the important medieval genre of the civic chronicle. The work
mixes scholarly research about the city’s origins with narrative accounts based
on Genoese archival sources, more didactic and moral reflections on the proper
conduct of public and private life, and personal accounts of Jacopo’s own
experience as archbishop of Genoa from 1292 until his death in 1298. Divided
into twelve parts, the work covers the history of Genoa from its ancient origins
up to Jacopo’s own day. Jacopo’s first-hand accounts of events in which he
himself participated—such as the great civic reconciliation of 1295, over which
he himself presided—provide a valuable contrast to the more scholarly and
didactic sections of the work. Together they form an integrated, coherent
approach to urban history, which illustrates some of the most important styles
of historiography in the Middle Ages.
Part eight offers three chapters of advice for good citizenship: citizens
ought to be thoughtful and mature in making decisions; they ought to be
virtuous rather than slaves to vice; and they ought to have the greatest
zeal for the commonwealth.
Part eleven presents an annalistic narrative of Genoese history from its
origins to 1133, divided into nineteen chapters. Each chapter describes a
single bishop of Genoa and narrates city and world events during his
Part five reviews some highlights of medieval Genoese history by
teleologically addressing the city’s nature and size (qualis et quanta) at
the time of its foundation, in the time of its growth, and in Jacopo’s own
day (‘at the time of its perfection’).
Part four describes Genoa’s conversion to Christianity in late antiquity.
This part has three chapters: chapter one introduces Roman polytheism
(‘idolatry’ or ‘paganism’); chapter two claims that Genoa was the first city
in Italy, or one of the first, to be converted to Christianity. Chapter
three uses logic to make the same claim.
Part nine offers moral advice on domestic matters. Chapters one to four
addresses relations between husbands and wives; the fifth discusses
relations between parents and children; and the sixth deals with relations
between masters and servants or slaves.
Part one describes Genoa’s origins. It has four chapters. Chapter one
explains who the first founders and builders of the city were. Chapter two
relates how Janus, first king of Italy, constructed and built Genoa. Chapter
three relates how Janus, a citizen of Troy, expanded and improved the
original foundation. Chapter four relates how the god Janus, an idol of the
Romans, was once venerated in Genoa.
Part seven presents moral advice for civic magistrates in four chapters,
asserting that they should be powerful and magnanimous so that they can
govern without fear; that they ought to be God-fearing men; that they ought
to be truthful in all things; and that they ought to hate all avarice and
Part six describes the secular government of the city of Genoa. In three
chapters, this part recounts the various regimes by which the city of Genoa
has been ruled, presents basic principles of good governance, and explains