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Pyrrhus, Didacus

PYRRHUS, DIDACUS (originally Diogo Pires; also known as Pyrrhus Lusitanus and, from his birthplace, Évora, as Flavius Eborensis; 1517–1607), Portuguese Marrano poet. He is not to be confused with the more famous Diogo Pires (Solomon *Molcho) who was martyred in 1532. In order to escape the Portuguese Inquisition, Pyrrhus left Évora for Salamanca in Spain, where he began to study medicine in 1535 and eventually qualified as a physician. His movements during the following two decades are relatively confused, but he is known to have fled to Antwerp in about 1540. From there he made his way to Venice and Ferrara, and then lived for a time in Ancona; but the persecution of the local Marrano colony in 1555 obliged him to take refuge in the Dalmatian town of Ragusa (Dubrovnik), where he formally reverted to Judaism under the name of Isaiah Kohen. Pyrrhus, who had first achieved literary distinction with his volume of Carmina (Ferrara, 1545), spent about 50 years of his life in Ragusa, then a center of Neo-Latin poetic culture, and was mainly active as a teacher and writer. According to some authorities, Pyrrhus made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem in his last years before returning to Ragusa, where he died.

He published two humanistic works in praise of his new home: De illustribus familiis quae hodie Rhacusae exstant (Venice, 1582; 17092) and Excerpta ex Flavii Jacob Eborensis Carminibus ad Historiam Sacram Rachusinam aliquo modo facientibus (1596); Cato Minor (Venice, 1592), moralizing verse for children; and Jacobi Flavii Eborensis seu Didaci Pirrhi Lusitani Elegiarum Libri Tres… (Venice, 1596). Pyrrhus ranks among the outstanding Neo-Latin poets of the Renaissance. One of his rare works of Jewish interest was a Latin elegy composed for the tombstone of *Amatus Lusitanus in Salonika, but unfortunately no trace of it survives.


A. Ribeiro, Portugueses das sete partidas (1950), 223–85; M. Gruenwald and A. Casnacich, Didacco Pyrrho… ein Lebensbild (1883); JE, S.V. Flavius Eborensis; Roth, England, 137–8; Roth, Marranos, 298; idem, Jewish Contribution to Civilization (1940), 113; (19563), 82n.; idem, Jews in the Renaissance (1959), 109–10.