Sunday, 3 February 2008

City of the Sun

Hello everyone.

It thought it might be useful to load up my notes for the presentation I gave on Campanella's City of the Sun. Please excuse its rather unrefined nature, it was written more to jog my memory than to be a polished piece of descriptive writing. Anway, i hope some of you find it useful:

Presentation: Tommaso Campanella’s City of the Sun


Campanella was born in Calabria, southern Italy, in 1568. At 14 he entered the Dominican Order. In the 1598 he was in Stilo, where he became the inspiration behind a vast conspiracy against the Spanish, who at that time governed the Kingdom of Naples. In August 1599 two of the conspirators revealed the plot to the Spanish viceroy, who sent armed forces into Calabria to repress it. Campanella was imprisoned and in November was moved to Naples, where he was tried for heresy and rebellion. He managed to avoid the death penalty by feigning madness and was instead condemned to a lengthy detention in various Neapolitan fortresses. City of the Sun was written 1602.


A ‘Poetical Dialogue’, told by Genoese captain to the Grandmaster of the Knights Hospitallers. An Ideal state for citizens guided only by reason. Its people left India, determined to live philosophic life. Set in the present day. Situated on large plain under equator, and has treaties with Siam and the Chinese. Is situated on a high hill, divided by walls into 7 rings with a temple at centre. Walls contain all knowledge: maths, geography, geology, medicine, weather. Thus a huge memory system and visual encyclopaedia.

Political hierarchy is based on intellectual capacity. Ruler ‘Hoh’ (Metaphysic) is chosen from priests who live in monastic seclusion in the temple. Rulers should have been philosophers, historians, politicians and physicists. 3 Priest-princes represent 3 primalities of being in Campanella’s philosophy (wisdom, power, love). Ruled also by magistrates, named after virtues (i.e. Magnanimity) All are judged by the 1st master of their trade. Few, simple laws. Severe patriarchy – execution for high-heels and make up, but no prisons.

All go out to plains to work fields. Man and women do common tasks, but men the active and women the sedentary. 4 hrs work a day. Common dwellings. Eat to satisfy hunger, but well – butter, cheese, meat. Moderate in drinking. Long lives, few diseases. Early lectures, education important – carried out by walking around the walls. Little commerce, but people know money. Always victorious in war, patriotic, venerate heroes – award crowns and celebrate triumphs. But wars are for just causes, and they are magnanimous in victory. Conquered states are given communism, magistrates and a garrison

Community of women is present. This conforms to natural law, not current law under the Christian dispensation. Marriages are determined by priests – eugenics. People hold all property in common, and clothes are distributed from stores. Highest grade of nobility is considered attained by those with knowledge of military arts and agriculture, while occupations which entail most labour are most praiseworthy.

Religion is literally the centre of the state. They believe in immortality of the soul. Consider Christ worthy and great, but the Christian law has not been revealed to them. Elements of magic and astrology. Human sacrifice is practiced but not actually carried out. Follow humanist belief in ability to read world as manifestation of God. Sun is image of God. They worship in trinity – power, wisdom and love. Astrology is used to determine times for breeding, agricultural tasks, festivals, and medical treatments.

Relations to Other Utopias

Follows Plato (who Campenella had read) on communism (but extends this to all society). Was attracted by naturalistic rationality of More’s Utopia. Similar physical settings, communism. But More has a decentralised vision. Monasticism an influence – Campenella emphasised its historical/theological role in other writings. May have been read by Bacon, who seems to be responding to City of the Sun in matters such as family and Christianity. They have similar features – people’s hospitality, the texts are similar lengths, both societies send out ambassadors. Unlike bacon, however, scientific activity has ceased in City of the Sun.


Olly Fayers said...

Cheers Rob. Appreciate the notes.

Sarah Rees Jones said...

Rob - welcome - and thank you. Would you be prepared to gloss a bit what you mean by 'natural law' and 'reason'? It would be good to have those two ideas, which we keep discussing, explained a bit on the blog.