1 These titles do not belong to the original.
2 Pico is thinking of a future conference in Rome, in which his 900 theses will be discussed. He speaks of it as a senate, or a council (see ¶ 164).
3 Pico was studying Arabic, guided by Flavius Mithridates, see his letter to Corneus (see Latin text).
4 Various hypotheses have been formulated about the identity of this Abdallah, see Bori 1997 and Pluralità delle vie, Milano 2000, 43f.
5 «A great miracle....» see Asclepius VI, 1-2. The hermetic writings are ascribed to the Egyptian God Thot, in Greek Hermes Trismegistos, the inventor of writing, who was made to correspond to the Latin Mercurius. They are in Greek and in Latin, are dated between the 1st and the 3rd century AD and were highly appreciated during the Humanism and the Renaissance, thanks to Marsilio Ficino's translation of the most important among those writings, the Poimandres. Among those works there is the Asclepius (Asclepius, Lat. Esculapius, god of medicine and of prophecy).
6 Pico is here critically referring to the rich literature about the dignity of man (e.g. Bartolomeo Fazio or Giannozzo Manetti, who had ancient Christian authors at their background, see Garin 1938, and De Lubac 1974). Pico accepts the idea of man as a microcosmos, gathering in himself all the elements, mediator and interpreter of the universe (see below 17 and 28; Heptaplus V, 6, Picatrix III, 5, 1 ). This is also the central thesis of Marsilio Ficino's Platonic Theology, in which the soul is placed between matter and angelic intelligences (see Kristeller, 1988, 118-123); but Pico thinks that human vocation Pico does not consist in enjoying in a static way this central position, but in the dynamism by which the human creature in called to transcend the world of images and to become finally one with the Absolute which is beyond representation.
7 Remark the sequence: sense, reason, intellect, which will re-appear in the three stage ascension, according to the model of the angelic orders: Thrones, Cherubims, Seraphims. The same sequence is in ¶ 30f. (and then in ¶ 39-42), where man is meant to transcend even the angelic orders and to become one with God.
8 «Persians»: Pico is possibly thinking of a «chaldaic» source: the Chaldean oracles (a mystic writing probably of the 2nd century, very important for Proclus) had been attributed to Zoroaster by Gemistus Plethon, Ficino's source. See below 283 and Conclusiones, 114-116, Biondi. But we do not know exactly the Chaldaic texts Pico is referring to, see ¶ 135.
9 See Psalm 8: 5-8.
10 Remark the order: angels, stars, lower creatures, repeated below 11, in the opposite direction.
11 Remark the threefold structure (to ponder, to love, to wonder), repeated in ¶ 14 (archetypes, treasure-houses, seats), ¶ 15 (higher, middle, lower orders), 16 (power, wisdom, love, with a reference to the Trinity), and once more in 18 (seat, features, endowment). Underlining this structures, Bausi 1996, 115 thinks of the original redaction of the Oration, starting from three «anaphoric series».
12 This account of the creation depends on both the Biblical and the Platonic source (Bori, 1997 and Bori, Pluralità delle vie, Milano 2000, 35ff). a) Belonging to the Bible is the sequence of creative acts that place Adam at the centre of a creation already completed, even if the way the creative proceedings take place is different from Gen 1. The creation here occurs in a movement from up on high downwards: the area above the heavens, the animated heavenly bodies, the animals on the earth, and man, with a sort of ontologic degradation; b) the idea of God speaking to his new creature is biblical, but the contents are quite different: instead of prohibiting accession to the tree of knowledge, there is the invitation to direct desire, knowledge and one's whole being towards the highest possible aim. It is in this that the human vocation consists, and not in respect for the prohibition; c) the theme of the image is Biblical, although Pico's man has not been created in the image of God, but is opus indiscretae imaginis, he does not have a pre-defined image. d) the idea of sovereignty over things, which in Gen. 2, is also expressed with the faculty of naming, is also biblical.
As for the Platonic source, attention must be drawn to Timaeus 41b (man is created as the last of beings, as a mixture of mortality and immortality), Protagoras 321c-d (the myth of the creation of Epimetheus, created in condition of imperfection and need) and especially Symposion (interpreted by Ficino in his De Amore, as well as by Pico himself in his Commento, also in 1486). The account is well-known, according to which Eros was conceived by Poros (resource) and Penia (poverty) the day Aphrodite was born, in the garden of Zeus. Eros gets his imperfect nature from this intermediate position between ignorance and knowledge, and his always seeking the latter (Symp. 203 d-204c). Both in the Oration and in the Symposion: a) we find praise of someone - Eros, and the human creature, respectively - not for his real dignity, based only on stereotypes and clichés, but for his potential capacity to reach the highest of ends; b) we find someone who is in an intermediate condition, neither mortal nor immortal, neither of the earth nor of the heavens, Symp. 203e; c) we find someone placed in the midst (medium, metaxù in the Symposion), capable of reaching, through the love of knowledge, the supreme reality, Symp. 202d; d)we find the priority of love, of desire, of the will as the final essence of the human being, while the intellectual element is not against but inside the spiritual development, supported by the dynamic of desire (and here there is again a parallel between the ascent described at the end of Diotima's intervention and the exit from the cave described in theRepublic VII).
13 The idea of microcosmos is accepted by Pico, but in a dynamic funtion: the presence in the human creature of the principles of every being allows him/her, so to say, ascend through all beings.
14 Lat «indiscretus», gr. adiàkritos see Latin text. Gen. 1, 26 seems to be contradicted here (the human creature has no image): however, the human creature has no image precisely because he/she is called to become God, who is beyond any representation see 31, «caligo Patris».
15 Human centrality (see also ¶ 21) is statically affirmed, but in the perspective of the dynamic of freedom.
16This comes from the Symposion, see above 13.
17God is the «ordinary» creator, see Latin text.