By the way, you have not answered my question: when you say that "all of the earliest Italian explanations for this card call it SAGITTA" (or saetta?) which sources are you referring to?
on my stating sagitta
on the two c. 1560 treatises that Ross translated [edit, actually Fuoco
; finally dug up my copy of Ross's translation]. However the Steele sermon (I’ve seen no scholarly date besides Decker’s “ c. 1500”) which you already pointed out does show sagitta
(because of course it was written in Latin) is Italian in the sense that it is likely written in Ferrara….by an Italian. The earliest attested name for “the Tower” is the Latin sagitta
; but the Iater Italian names mean the exact same thing.
More to the point is the use of sagitta
in connection with God’s wrath by Filelfo – who at all events is the humanist closest to the Sforza court when the PMB was produced and whom I posit as behind the program of the PMB (which contains the earliest example of “the Tower). In the Ode
dedicated to Bianca Sforza, in which a request for money is made (and which I connect to his ultimately being commissioned for the PMB tarot program), the plague in Milan where Filelfo is stranded is likened to God/Jupiter who “lights up the sky with with arrows [sagittis]
that felled the savage Giants who dared to scale lofty mountains to shinng Olympus” (Ode
IV.9-11. Robin 2009: 221); Fiellfo goes on to note the cause of the plague: “O greatest Jupiter [maxime Iupiter], would suddenly kill us all with celestial lighnting [fulminis]. The ungrateful plebs are punished because they failed to honor the deserving shade of the sublime and celebrated Duke Filippo with funeral rites. But should Filefo suffer for the sins of the Milanese….It is yours to ward off evil so that the poet may avoid death by fiery lightning. Let him depart from the city since lightning does not know how to check its wandering missles” (Ode
IV.1.29-41, Robin, 223). Fielfo even dedicates an entire Ode, II.2, “To Jupiter: An invective against false liberty” in which he calls on the god to strike down the working class leaders of the Ambrosian Republic with bolts of lightning (lines 26-30, p. 103).
In Filelfo’s Sforziad
, written after the PMB appears but using the exact same metaphors found in the Odes
, he describes Sforza’s siege of Piacenza where his weapons of arrows and cannonball are specifically likened to lightning (fulminate pilulae
) (Book 3, line 82, tr. Robin in her Fiellfo in Milan
, 1991: 69); later on his siege weapons again “resembled lightning and left a trail of smoke under the massive mound” (369f, p. 74) – just like the crumbling tower in “The Tower” cards struck by lightning; finally the chorus of women trapped in Piacenza lament “…when savage Hamiclar lay siege to the city, and when the leader of the Insubrians [Milanese]– may the gods destroy that cruel folk with their lighning bolts! – turned everything into spoils, burning our houses as he went.” ( 699f, p 81).
Here we have the perfect literary cognates for “the tower” card in which God’s wrath is lighting – his tool of wrath described both as arrows (sagittis) and lightning; even the destruction of Piacenza – like a modern-day Sodom or Babylon – is reduced to rubble by the lightning employed by Jupiter’s earthly viceroy, Sforza. Sforza is of course the commissioner of the PMB and Fielfo allows for the use of Jupiters tools for the conceits of condottieri
who could cast themselves as carrying out God’s providential “justice”, as meted out through them. The 15th century tarot decks after all weren’t made for monks but for condottieri
– the former merely attempted to interpret them, usually negatively (but in the case of the arrow, they were essentially correct).
So we have Filelfo using arrow/lightning as God’s wrath, in Milan dujring the siege, after which he is Sforza’s most valued humanist, when the PMB was created. I still don’t see a single item in c. 1450 Milan pointing to lightning/star/moon/sun, other than Filelfo providing the rationale as to why those last two heavenly bodies would be placed near the top: he used them as metaphors for Sforza and Bianca (a classicizing touch he could have stolen from Plutarch who notes that Antony and Cleopatra named their children for the sun and moon in his Life of Anthony