Porcari was born into a wealthy family of Rome, and received a humanist education. He became an admirer of the ancient Roman Republic. In 1427 and 1428 he was elected capitano del popolo of Florence under the protection of Pope Martin V. He then traveled to France and Germany.
After his return in Italy (1430), he held several positions in Italian communes such as the podestà of Bologna (1432), Siena (1434), Orvieto (1435) and was also governor of the fortress of Trani. He came back to Rome under the rule of Pope Eugenius IV. When the latter died and before the new pope was elected, he repeatedly addressed the populace to overthrow the papal rule, and to replace them by one based on the ancient Roman republic.
The new pope, Nicholas V, pardoned him, but kept him away from Rome with several assignments. However, his participation in other plots (including one connected with the crowning of Frederick III in Rome), led the pope to exile him at Bologna. However, in the late 1452 Porcari was able to escape and return to Rome. Here he organized an insurrection whose result would be the proclamation of the Republic and, for Porcari, the title of tribune, the same held by Cola di Rienzo in the 14th century. The action was set for 6 January 1453, and would be backed by some three hundred mercenaries.
However, Nicholas V, warned by Cardinal Basilios Bessarion that Porcari had disappeared, ordered investigations. The conspirators were captured, including Porcari, who had tried to take shelter in the house of prince Latino Orsini. He was subsequently tried and hanged at Castel Sant'Angelo on 9 January 1453.
Of Porcari's literary works, sixteen concioni (discourses) have survived. The description of his revolt was provided by Leon Battista Alberti in the epistle De porcario coniuratione.
- Ferdinand Gregorovius, History of Rome in the Middle Ages.
- Machiavelli, History of Florence VI.43
- Il Giardino di Venere a Roma: Stefano Porcari: il sogno di una Repubblica Romana (in Italian)
- Speeches by Stefano Porcari
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