Teaching Virtue from the Ignoble Nobility: Alberto Alfieri’s Ogdoas (1421)

  • E. Ann Matter
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


In 1431, barely three decades before the definitive fall of Christian Asia Minor with the entry of the Turkish armies into Constantinople, Alberto Alfieri, a schoolmaster in the Genoese colony of Caffa on the Black Sea, wrote a series of eight dialogues on just rulership, the virtuous life, and the nature of the afterlife. This odd set of dialogues, totally carried out by deceased members of the Visconti and Adorno families, is named for its eight parts, Ogdoas.1 The text is extant in only one manuscript, now in the Biblioteca Ambrosiana of Milan.2 This essay will explore the thoughts on virtue espoused in this text, especially from the point of view of Alfieri’s role as a teacher concerned with moral leadership.


Civic Virtue Slave Trade Moral Leadership Virtuous Life Deceased Member 
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  1. 3.
    see Michel Balard, La Romanie génoise (XIIe–début du XV siècle), 1 (Paris, Genoa: Società Ligure di Storia Patria, 1978), p. 375.Google Scholar
  2. 19.
    Cf. George Anderson, The Legend of the Wandering Jew (Providence: Brown University Press, 1965) in particular pp. 11–27, and R. Roberts, “Ahasuerus, the Wandering Jew” in The Wandering Jew, Essays and Interpretation of a Christian Legend, ed. Galit Hazan Rokem and Alan Dundes (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986), for examples of the later versions of the story. Ceruti conflates this figure with “prete Janni,” that is, Prester John, p. 308 n3.Google Scholar
  3. 20.
    Domenico Gioffre, Il mercato degli schiavi a Geneva nel Secolo XV (Genoa: Bozzi, 1971) pp. 68,71 n9.Google Scholar

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© Stephanie Hayes-Healy 2005

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  • E. Ann Matter

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