Virgilio Malvezzi

Virgilio Malvezzi

Virgilio Malvezzi (1595-1653) was an Italian historian and essayist, soldier and diplomat, born in Bologna. He became court historian to Philip IV of Spain. He used the anagram-pseudonym Grivilio Vezzalmi.


He fought for the Spanish forces in Flanders.

Olivares called him to Madrid, where he arrived in 1636, to become the official chronicler to Philip IV. In 1640 he was one of the ambassadors sent by Philip to England, in an attempt to avert the marriage of Mary Stuart to William II of Orange.

He became adviser to the Cardinal-Infante Ferdinand of Austria from 1643.


Initially he wrote on Tacitus, in the tradition of Justus Lipsius, but as a Christian neo-stoic, and anti-Ciceronian. Olivares, who became Malvezzi's patron, was also a Lipsian. His style imitated Tacitus, too, in its dour compression, and was criticized for its opacity by the translator Thomas Powell; another view is that his prose was "elegantly laconic". John Milton referred to "Malvezzi, that can cut Tacitus into slivers and steaks".

His political thought was in the tradition of Machiavelli. His Tarquin argues the case for dissimulation in politics.

His biography of Olivares (Ritratto del Privata Politico Christiano) has been called hagiography. It argued that he was right to invoke the reason of state on behalf of the Spanish Empire.


He wrote in Italian and Spanish, and was early translated into Latin, Spanish, German and English, with a Dutch edition of 1679.

  • Discorsi sopra Cornelio Tacito (1622)
  • Il Romulo (1629),
  • Il Tarquinio Superbo (1632)
  • Davide perseguitato (1634)
  • Il ritratto del privato politico christiano (1635)
  • Succesi principali della Monarchia di Spagna nell'anno (1639)
  • Considerationi con occasione d'alcuni luoghi delle vite d'Alcibiade e di Coriolano (1648)
  • Introduttione al racconto De'principali successi accaduti sotto il comando del potentissimo Ré Filippo quarto (1651)


Further reading

  • Rodolfo Brandli (1964), Virgilio Malvezzi, politico e moralista

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