Jovius (GIOVIO), PAULUS, historian; b. at Como, Italy, April 9, 1483; d. at Florence, December 11, 1552. Having completed his medical studies at Padua and received the degree of doctor, he was attracted by the princely liberality of Pope Leo X, and betook himself to Rome. Here he practiced his profession, but also devoted himself to historical studies, particularly as to his own time. Knowing how to secure access to rich sources of information, he resolved to utilize his extensive materials in a comprehensive work, which would embrace all the countries of Europe, beginning with the expedition of Charles VIII of France into Italy and the conquest of Naples. Having completed the first part, he managed to obtain permission to read it to the Holy Father. The latter was so struck by the elegance of the language and the skill of the narration that he conferred knighthood on Jovius, and appointed him professor of rhetoric at the Roman University. Adrian VI made him a canon of the cathedral of Como, and Clement VII appointed him Bishop of Nocera in 1528 to compensate him for the substantial loss which he had sustained in consequence of the capture of Rome. He sought under Paul III to be transferred to the See of Como; and, as his efforts to this end remained unavailing, he gave up Nocera in 1543 from sheer vexation, and went to Como, whence in 1550 he made his way to Florence.
He was, as his writings show, a child of his own time. He led a life of pleasure little in accord with Christian precepts, was in active touch with the leading humanists, and was a zealous collector of works of art—especially of portraits, which he brought together in a considerable museum. This did not, however, prevent him from laboring steadily on his main work and completing it with new material. Despite all urgings, he did not begin to print it until 1550, but completed this task very shortly before his death. Under the title, “Historiarum sui temporis libri XLV”, the work appeared in two volumes at Florence, and later at Basle (1560), an Italian translation also appearing in Florence (1551-3). He gives us here a very clear recital of events from 1494 to 1544, and, while he does not always succeed in unveiling the hidden and interwoven causes and effects of things, he shows himself a true historian. Naturally, very different estimates have been formed of his work. It has been at times sharply criticized, chiefly because Jovius is too enamored of himself, and does not hesitate to declare openly that he will dress up a character in gold, brocade, or common cloth, according to the fee which such portrayal may yield him as compensation. However, it is certain that he does not always follow so reprehensible a principle, for he not infrequently tells the bluntest truths to his own greatest benefactors. Of his other works we should mention: “Vitae virorum illustrium” (7 vols., Florence, 1549-57); “Elogia virorum bellica virtute illustrium” (Florence, 1554). His biography of the art-loving Medici pope is drawn with a background of such glowing colors, that one almost loses sight of the shadows which darken his reign. His Italian letters, in part highly interesting, were published by Domenichi, “Lettere volgari” (Venice, 1560). His collected works appeared in three folio volumes at Basle in 1678.