Galeotti, Marzio (or Martius) (ca. 1440–ca.
1494)
Italian astrologer and theologian who appears to have been
a native of Narni, in Umbria. It seems that while a young man
he settled for a while at Bologna, where he gave grave offense
to the Church of Rome by promulgating the doctrine that good
works are not the road to salvation, which is only to be obtained
by faith in Christ. Finding the priests around him growing daily
more and more hostile, Galeotti left for Hungary, where be became
secretary to the king, Matthias Corvinus, and also tutor
to the king’s son, Prince John.
His secretarial and tutorial duties did not occupy all his
time, so he was able to study astrology and also wrote a book,
De jocose Dictis et Factis Regis Matthiae Corvini. Some of the tenets
in this work caused further offense to the clergy, and eventually
their rancor was such that the writer was seized and taken to
Venice, where he was imprisoned for a while.
He was eventually released, chiefly through the influence of
Pope Sixtus IV, whose tutor he is said to have been at an earlier,
indeterminate date. Thereupon, Galeotti left for France, where
he came under the notice of the king, Louis XI, who appointed
him his state astrologer. He acted in this capacity for many
years, sometimes living within the precincts of the royal castle
of Plessis-les-Tours, sometimes at the town of Lyons. In 1478,
while staying at Lyons, he was informed that Louis was approaching
and he rode out to meet him, but fell from his horse
and died shortly afterward as a result of injuries sustained in
the fall.
A special interest attaches to Galeotti in that he appears in
Sir Walter Scott’s inimitable story of medieval France, Quentin
Durward. Early in the tale, soon after Quentin has entered the
Scots Guard of Louis XI, the latter and his new guardsman are
depicted as visiting the astrologer, the king being anxious for
a prophecy regarding Quentin’s immediate future. The scene
is a very memorable and graphic one, among the best in the
whole book, and it is historically valuable because it contains
what is probably a fairly accurate description of the kind of
study used generally by an astrologer in the Middle Ages.
Galeotti is represented ‘‘curiously examining a specimen,
just issued from the Frankfurt Press, of the newly invented art
of printing,’’ and the king questions him about this novel process,
whereupon the seer speaks of the vast changes it is destined
to bring about throughout the whole world.
This scene has a special point, since although the novelist
himself did not refer to the matter in his notes, nor did Andrew
Lang refer to it in his annotations to the Border Waverley edition,
it is known that Louis was keenly interested in printing.
Soon after the craft first made its appearance, the king commissioned
the director of his mint (one Nicholas Janson or Jenson)
to give up his post in favor of studying typography, with a view
to its being carried on in France.