The Wikipedia article about The Lusiads tells us that

Manuel de Faria e Sousa wrote a commentary about the work in the 17th century. Published after Sousa's death[a], the work was originally written in Spanish and eventually translated into Portuguese in the 19th century.

The Wikipedia article about Manuel de Faria e Sousa informs us that

some passages in his enormous commentary upon Portuguese epic Os Lusíadas, the poem of Luís de Camões,[1] excited the suspicion of the inquisitors, caused his temporary incarceration, and led to the permanent loss of his official salary.

Based on the source for the above statement, nobody would expect the Spanish Inquisition [b] to make its appearance in the above-mentioned Wikipedia article. But assuming that the above statement is accurate, what were the passages in Manuel de Faria e Sousa's commentary on The Lusiads that would cause this unpleasant run-in with the Holy Inquisition?

[a] His commentary was printed in Madrid in 1639. The author died in 1649. Did Wikipedia mess up again?

[b] Manuel de Faria e Sousa was Portuguese, but as far as I can tell, he lived in Spain at the time.

1 Answer 1



Faria e Sousa was interrogated about the presence of pagan gods in the Lusíads.

Camões and the Pagan Gods

Following the footsteps of predecessors such as Homer and Virgil, Camões had chosen to include gods among the characters of his epic. The chief deities in the Lusíads are Jupiter, Venus, and Bacchus, but Tethys, Neptune, etc. also make appearances. The Counter-Reformation was in full swing as Camões was writing, which made the inclusion of such gods in his poem a dicey proposition. Within his poem, Camões gave an explanation for the presence of these deities:

Que as imortalidades que fingia
A antiguidade, que os ilustres ama,
Lá no estelante Olimpo, a quem subia
Sobre as asas ínclitas da Fama,
Por obras valorosas que fazia,
Pelo trabalho imenso que se chama
Caminho da virtude alto e fragoso,
Mas no fim doce, alegre e deleitoso:

Não eram senão prémios que reparte
Por feitos imortais e soberanos
O mundo com os varões, que esforço e arte
Divinos os fizeram, sendo humanos.
Que Júpiter, Mercúrio, Febo e Marte,
Eneias e Quirino, e os dois Tebanos,
Ceres, Palas e Juno, com Diana,
Todos foram de fraca carne humana.

Mas a Fama, trombeta de obras tais,
Lhe deu no mundo nomes tão estranhos
De Deuses, Semideuses imortais,
Indígetes, Heróicos e de Magnos.     (9.90–92)

In White's translation:

Those immortals whom men of antiquity
In their love of great deeds, imagined
Living there on starry Olympus,
Soaring on fame's happy pinions
Through brave acts, or through
Mighty labours which were thought
Virtue's path, rocky and precipitous,
But ending in delight and happiness

Were enjoying only those rewards
The world bestows for the superb,
Deathless achievements of heroes
Who, though human, become divine;
Jupiter, Mercury, Phoebus, and Mars,
Aeneas, Romulus, and the two Thebans,
Ceres, Pallas, Diana, Juno, they
Were all composed of feeble human clay;

But fame, trumpeting their exploits
Everywhere added strange titles
Such as gods, demigods, immortals,
Deities, heroes, and the like.     (p. 195)

This explaining away of pagan deities has been treated as unsatisfactory by many critics. A suggestion is often made that Camões inserted these stanzas to get past the Portuguese Inquisition. C. M. Bowra writes:

The explanation is worse than an anticlimax; if we treat it seriously, it spoils much of the poem. For Jupiter, who has decided the future destinies of Portugal, and Venus, who has so nobly helped their fulfilment, are of no importance if they are human beings of whom only the glorious names survive. It has been thought, with good reason, that these stanzas are a late addition required by the censor or inserted to placate him. Rather than sacrifice his divinities altogether Camões explains them away.     (p. 117–118)

Bowra goes on to argue that the real role of the pagan gods in the Lusíads is allegorical:

his divinities are symbols for different activities of the one supreme God, subordinate powers to whom various special functions are allotted.     (p. 118)

Bowra cites Canto 10, verse 82, where Venus explains that Jupiter is an emblem for Divine Providence:

E também, porque a santa Providência,
Que em Júpiter aqui se representa,
Por espíritos mil que têm prudência
Governa o Mundo todo que sustenta

In White's translation:

Given, however, that Sacred Providence
—Represented here by Jupiter—
Governs the whole world it sustains
By means of a thousand prescient angels     (p. 213)

... and also verse 85, where the role of the pagan gods as representatives of God's power is made explicit:

Enfim que o Sumo Deus, que por segundas
Causas obra no Mundo, tudo manda.

In White's translation:

Ultimately, one all-powerful God
Works in the world through His agents.     (p. 214)

These two somewhat incompatible explanations for the presence of the pagan gods, first as humans memorialized, second as agents of God's power, were enough to keep Camões safe from the Portuguese Inquisition. The inquisition in Portugal in any case was never as severe as the Spanish Inquisition; it had been set up only as a condition of Manuel I's marriage to princess Maria of Aragon (see Heiple). Additionally, Camões had the imprimatur of the Portuguese king Sebastião I, who had ordered that the Lusíads be printed. Camões was, therefore, in relatively little danger from the Inquisition.

Faria e Sousa's Commentary and the Spanish Inquisition

Manuel de Faria e Sousa faced different circumstances. The Spanish Inquisition was considerably more severe than its Portuguese counterpart. As a Portuguese native, Faria e Sousa was considered an outsider in Spain. He had neither the poetic stature nor the royal backing that Camões did. Not surprisingly, his commentary on the Lusíads attracted the attention of the Spanish Inquisition because of the pagan machinery of the poem. Christopher Lund writes:

The heretical question of attributing blessings or evils experienced by da Gama to mythological figures instead of to God and the devil would be revisited. In 1640, a year after his monumental commentary on The Lusiads was published, Manuel de Faria e Sousa was called upon by the Inquisition to address the question of the pagan gods. In a thorough and masterful treatise, he offered numerous “proofs” of what he considered to be Camões’s obvious use of allegory. The treatise identified Jupiter as an allegory for Christ—the same Christ who presented himself to the first king of Portugal at the Battle of Ourique, and was now “choosing Portugal to take His doctrine to India” (Faria e Sousa, p. 3; trans. C. Lund). According to Faria e Sousa, Bacchus was the Devil trying to impede the mission. Venus was the embodiment of militant religious doctrine as well as a “Marian” advocate before God of the righteous desires of man. Mars was equated with St. James, and Mercury with one of the good angels. Faria e Sousa’s eloquent response to the Inquisition, written in 15 days, was successful. The Lusiads would face no more serious Inquisitorial challenges.

Lund is a bit too sanguine about the success of Faria e Sousa's defense. While it is true that he escaped condemnation as a heretic, he was nevertheless regarded with suspicion and lost the salary he had been receiving from his mentor, the Bishop of Porto.

Faria e Sousa's response to the Inquisition is available on archive.com. Sadly, I have been unable to find an English translation.

References (except Wikipedia)

  • @GarethRees since your Google-fu is better than mine: might you be able to dig up a translation of Faria e Sousa's response to the Inquisition?
    – verbose
    Commented Mar 20, 2021 at 12:35
  • 2
    Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition, but nobody's even heard of the Portuguese Inquisition.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Mar 20, 2021 at 12:38
  • 1
    (...) Halfway in page 14: «Introduzir DioSes Gentílicos en acciones Catolicas, es el achaque con que intentó enfermarle la emulacion, eStilo tan praticado de Oradores Cristianos, i Predicadores Evvãgelicos, que no ay sermon alguno donde no Se valgan de Sus mentiras, para Sus verdaderas enSeñanças».
    – ANeves
    Commented Mar 26, 2021 at 19:36
  • 1
    @verbose Because they're very similar languages; and because that's where I hang; and a bit as well because it's about portuguese culture, so others might be interested in helping too.
    – ANeves
    Commented Mar 28, 2021 at 19:38
  • 1
    My weak (because the language is dated) interpretation of the quoted passage is: "Introducing gentile (?) Gods into Catholic Actions, is the offense with with the emulation (??) attempted to contaminate (... what, the original play?), [which is] a style/approach so often practiced by Christian Prayers, and Evangelic Preachers, that there is no single sermon where they don't use his lies, for his/their true teachings." I read an opinion that puts emphasis on an insidious corruption of the original story by calling external gods where they have no place.
    – ANeves
    Commented Mar 28, 2021 at 19:54

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