Antonio de Guevara

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Antonio de Guevara (c. 1481 – 3 April 1545) was a Spanish chronicler and moralist.


Born in Treceño in the province of Cantabria, he spent some of his youth at the court of Isabella I of Castile. In 1528 he entered the Franciscan order, and afterwards accompanied Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, during his journeys to Italy and other parts of Europe. He successively held the offices of Charles V's court preacher, court historiographer, Bishop of Guadix, Bishop of Mondoñedo and Charles V's counselor. His earliest work, entitled The Dial of Princes (Reloj de príncipes in its original Spanish), published at Valladolid in 1529, and, according to its author, the fruit of eleven years' labour, is a mirror for princes in the form of a didactic novel, designed after the manner of Xenophon's Cyropaedia, to delineate in a somewhat ideal way, for the benefit of modern sovereigns, the life and character of an ancient prince, Marcus Aurelius, distinguished for wisdom and virtue. It was often reprinted in Spanish; and it so speedily attained fame that before the close of the century there were published several translations in Latin, Italian, French, German, Dutch and English. The two earliest English translations are by J Bourchier (London, 1546) and by Thomas North. There is another version of this text, either earlier or later, Libro Aureo which José Luis Alberg claims Guevara did not want published, and which came out around the same time. That version in its definitive form was published by the great French Hispanist in 1929.

It is difficult now to account for the extraordinary popularity of the work. It gave rise to a great literary controversy, the author having tried to claim it as historically accurate, appealing to an imaginary "manuscript in Florence." Other works of Guevara are the Década de los Césares (Valladolid, 1539), or "Lives of the Ten Roman Emperors," in imitation of the manner of Plutarch and Suetonius; and the Epístolas familiares (Valladolid, 1539–1545), sometimes called "The Golden Letters," often printed in Spain, and translated into all the principal languages of Europe. They are in reality a collection of stiff and formal essays which have long ago fallen into merited oblivion. Guevara, whose influence upon the Spanish prose of the 16th century was considerable, also wrote Libro de los inventores del arte de marear (Valladolid, 1539, and Madrid, 1895).

In the same year, Guevara wrote a work of crucial importance called “Aviso de privados y doctrina de cortesanos”. In this work, Guevara laid the foundations for the concept of the courtier, and thus, also for the 'court society' described by the seminal and namesake work by Nobert Elias. Guevara, who most certainly had read "Il Cortegiano" (1518) by Baldassare Castiglione—whom Charles V called the greatest courtier of his age—brought a different aspect to the figure of the courtier: while the latter's work was a 'behavioral' guide, Guevara described the practical aspects of men surrounding a monarch and differentiated their duties from those who were part of religious orders, in a famous passage in Chapter 1:

"En la Religión si se levanta a media noche, es por loar al Señor en el culto Divino; mas en la Corte infinitas veces trasnochan, no por más de cumplir con el mundo."

(As far as religion is concerned, if one wakes up in the middle of night, it is to laud the Lord in the Divine worship. But at the court, they stay awake all night infinite times, for no other reason than to keep up with the world [el mundo: people/the world, i.e. the world that counts]).

Besides the above-mentioned controversy, there was another regarding the two chapters on the Danubian Farmer, which appeared in different versions both in the Libro áureo and the Reloj de príncipes in which, it has been argued, the Farmer is a metaphor for the New World indigenous peoples and the Roman Empire is nothing less than the Spanish Empire.

Antonio died in Mondoñedo. He was the cousin of Diego de Guevara.[1]


  • Libro áureo de Marco Aurelio (Sevilla, 1528).
  • The Diall of Princes, translated by Sir Thomas North, abridged by K. N. Colville (London: 1919) [1].
  • Reloj de príncipes (Valladolid, 1529)
  • Menosprecio de corte y alabanza de aldea (Valladolid, 1539).
  • Epístolas familiares (Valladolid, 1539 y 1541).
  • "Aviso de privados y doctrina de cortesanos” (Valladolid, 1539).
  • Una década de Césares, es a saber: Las vidas de diez emperadores romanos que imperaron en los tiempos del buen Marco Aurelio (Valladolid, 1539).
  • Arte del Marear y de los inventores de ella: con muchos avisos para los que navegan en ellas. (Valladolid 1539).
  • Aviso de privados y doctrina de cortesanos (Valladolid 1539).
  • Oratorio de religiosos y ejercicio de virtuosos (Valladolid, 1542).
  • Monte Calvario, primera y segunda parte.


  1. ^ Rivero, Horacio Chiong (2004). The Rise of Pseudo-Historical Fiction: Fray Antonio De Guevara's Novelizations. p. 22.

Further reading[edit]

  • Alborg, José Luis. Historia de la literatura española: Edad Media y Renacimiento. Segunda edición ampliada. Madrid: Editorial Gredos, 1981: 726-734.
  • Castro, Américo. Hacia Cervantes. Tercera (considerable renovada) edición. Madrid: Taurus, 1967: 86-142.
  • Guevara, Antonio de. Libro aureo. In Revue Hispanique. Ed. R. Foulche-Delbosc, n. 169, t. 76 (1929): 6-319.
  • Guevara, Antonio de. Obras Completas. 2 tomes. Ed. Emilio Blanco. Madrid: Turner (Biblioteca Castro), 1994.
  • Lupher, David A. Romans in a New World: Classical Models in Sixteenth-Century Spanish America. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 2003, pp. 50–56.