VANINI, LUCILIO, or, as he styled himself in his works, GIULIO CESARE (1585-1619), Italian free-thinker, was born at Taurisano, near Naples, in 1585. He studied philosophy and theology at Rome, and after his return to Naples applied himself to the physical studies which had come into vogue with the Renaissance. Like Giordano Bruno, though morally and intellectually inferior to him, he was among those who led the attack on the old scholasticism and helped to lay the foundation of modern philosophy. Vanini resembles Bruno, not only in his wandering life and in his tragic death, but also in his anti-Christian bias. From Naples he went to Padua, where he came under the influence of the Alexandrist Pomponazzi (q.v.), whom he styles his divine master. At Padua he studied law, and was ordained priest. Subsequently he led a roving life in France, Switzerland and the Low Countries, supporting himself by giving lessons and disseminating antireligious views. He was obliged to flee from Lyons to England in 1614, but was imprisoned in London for some reason for fortynine days. Returning to Italy he made an attempt to teach in Genoa, but was driven once more to France, where he made a valiant effort to clear himself of suspicion by publishing a book against atheists, Amphitheatrum Aeternae Providentiae Dimno-Magicum (1615). Though the definitions of God are somewhat pantheistic, the book is sufficiently orthodox, but the arguments are largely ironical, and cannot be taken as expounding his real views. Vanini expressly tells us so in his second (and only other published) work, De Admirandis Naturae Reginae Deaeque Mortalium Arcanis (Paris, 1616), which, originally certified by two doctors of the Sorbonne, was afterwards re-examined and condemned to the flames. Vanini then left Paris, where he had been staying as chaplain to the marechal de Bassompierre, and began to teach in Toulouse. In November 1618 he was arrested, and after a prolonged trial was condemned, as an atheist, to have his tongue cut out, and to be strangled at the stake, his body to be afterwards burned to ashes. The sentence was executed on the 9th of February 1619.
See Cousin, Fragments de philosophic cartesienne (Brussels, 1838-40), i. 1-99; French trans. M. X. Rousselot (Paris, 1842); John Owen, Skeptics of the Italian Renaissance (London, 1893), 345-419; J. Toulan, Etude sur L. Vanini (Strassburg, 1869); Cesare Cantu, Gli Eretici d'ltalia (Turin, 1867), iii. 72 ff. ; Fuhrmann, Leben und Schicksale (Leipzig, 1800) ; Vai'sse, L. Vanini (Paris, 1871); Palumbo, Vanini, e i suoi tempi (Naples, 1878); Passamonti in Rivista italiana di filosofia (1893), vol. iii.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)