Juan de Mariana

The Spanish Jesuit Juan de Mariana (1536-1624), a man of critical insight, accuracy, and courage, is well known as a historian and political thinker.

Juan de Mariana was born in Talavera de la Reina in the old kingdom of Toledo. He joined the Jesuits in 1554 and studied at the University of Alcaláde Henares. In 1561 he went to Rome, where he taught theology to, among other pupils, Robert Bellarmine, who was to become the most famous cardinal of his time. From there he went to Sicily, and in 1569 he was sent to Paris. His lectures on St. Thomas Aquinas were a great success, but in 1574, pleading ill health, he obtained permission to return to Spain. He retired to the Jesuit house in Toledo, where his literary activity was occasionally, and rudely, interrupted by the outside world. He died there on Feb. 16, 1624.

In Mariana's lifetime his writings had brought him into conflict with the Spanish monarchy, the French monarchy, and his own order. His first published work was Historiae de rebus Hispaniae (Toledo, 1592), in two different printings, one containing 20 and the other one 25 books. It reached to the conquest of Granada (1492). He then added 5 more books, making a total of 30 (Mainz, 1605) and bringing the history of Spain to the death of Ferdinand V and the accession of Charles V (1516). In a later abstract he brought events to the accession of Philip IV (1621). The success of the work was such that Mariana himself translated it into Spanish (the first edition was published in Madrid in 1601; J. Stevens translated it into English in 1699). Although uncritical about the legendary past, Mariana does try to bring the history of his country to the best standards of historiography and research of his times; the documentary part, however, is sadly lacking. Stylistically, it is a classic of Spanish prose.

In Toledo in 1599 Mariana published De rege et regis institutione, which was soon to become notorious. When Henry IV of France was murdered in 1610, it was quickly remembered that Mariana had advocated tyrannicide (book I, chapter 6); the book was burned in France, and it attracted considerable odium upon the Jesuits. His Tractatus septem (Cologne, 1609) again brought the author into the limelight of scandal, for two of the treatises (De morte et immortalitate and De monetae mutatione) were placed on the Index Expurgatorius, and the author came to grief with state and Inquisition alike. His tract criticizing his order (De los grandes defectos que hay en la forma del govierno de los Jesuitas, Bordeaux, 1625) came out posthumously, and it did not improve his standing with his own order.

Further Reading on Juan de Mariana

John Laures, The Political Economy of Juan de Mariana (1928), has valuable pages on Mariana's economics, but it has been largely superseded by Guenter Lewy, Constitutionalism and Statecraft during the Golden Age of Spain: A Study of the Political Philosophy of Juan de Mariana S. J. (1960). Indispensable background information is contained in Bernice Hamilton, Political Thought in Sixteenth-century Spain (1963).

Additional Biography Sources

Soons, Alan, Juan de Mariana, Boston: Twayne, 1982.