Giulio Camillo  

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Giulio "Delminio" Camillo (ca. 1480–1544) was an Italian philosopher. He is best known for his Theatre of Memory, described in his posthumously published work L'Idea del Theatro.

L’Idea del Teatro

Idea del teatro

Camillo's published output is small and L'Idea del Theatro is his most well-known work. L'Idea del theatro (The Idea of the Theater).

Camillo and Erasmus

Desiderius Erasmus, the philologist, probably met Camillo in Venice around 1506-9. Erasmus mentions "sharing a mattress" with Camillo as well naming him in his satirical Ciceronianus (1528). Erasmus was scathing of Camillo's work, and in a letter dated 5 July 1532 talks about the Theatre in terms of it being able to excite as great a "tragedy in study" as that which "Luther produced in religion".

Camillo’s response to Erasmus, Trattato dell’ Imitatione, written in Paris, was published in the year of Camillo’s death, 1544.


Camillo was born around 1480 in Friuli, in the north-east of Italy, and probably spent his childhood in Portogruaro. He took his family name, Delminio, from the birthplace of his father, in Dalmatia (in present-day Croatia). He studied philosophy and jurisprudence at the University of Padua in the years around 1500, and subsequently taught eloquence and logic at San Vito, an academy in Friuli. In 1508 he was involved in the short-lived Accademia Liviana at Pordenone. The Academy attracted an eclectic mix of brilliant and radical thinkers. Here, Camillo would have come in contact with astronomer and physician, Girolamo Fracastoro, and the poets, Giovanni Cotta and Andrea Navagero.

Around the first decade of the sixteenth century Camillo lived in Venice, where he was in close contact with some of the most influential writers and artists of Europe. He stayed near the house of the famous printer, Aldus Manutius, in the Sestiere di San Polo, in the centre of the city. He knew the philologist Desiderius Erasmus (although Erasmus and Viglius did not show much affection for Camillo's mysticisms) and worked with the painter Titian. He was part of the cultural circle that included Aretin and Bembo and had personal ties with the architect, Serlio, and his family. During this time, Camillo spent considerable care in charting regional differentiations in the Friulian dialect and was a champion of the local use of Italian, rather than Latin. Throughout this time he also worked on his ideas for the Theatre.

Camillo is believed to have held a chair of Dialectics at the University of Bologna from around 1521 to 1525; he attended the coronation of Charles V in 1529.

In 1530, Camillo journeyed to Paris at the invitation of Francis I of France. He produced a manuscript titled Theatro della Sapientia in 1530, for Francis, in which his ideas for the Theatre were outlined. He impressed Francis and was given funds to develop his ideas, remaining in France till around 1537.

Eventually, remuneration from Francis I began to dry up and Camillo decided to return to Italy. During the latter part of 1543, or very early in 1544, he accepted an offer to go to Milan. Here, after much persuasion, Camillo finally dictated his plan of the Theatre. The manuscript was completed early in February 1544. Three months later, on the 15th of May, Camillo died. L’ Idea del Theatro was finally published in 1550, in Florence, by Lorenzo Torrentino.

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