In Day 2 Story 3 of the Decameron:

There was formerly in our city a knight, by name Messer Tedaldo, of the Lamberti, according to some, or, as others say, of the Agolanti family, perhaps for no better reason than that the occupation of his sons was similar to that which always was and is the occupation of the Agolanti.

Original Italian:

Fu già nella nostra città un cavaliere il cui nome fu messer Tebaldo, il quale, secondo che alcuni vogliono, fu de' Lamberti, e altri affermano lui essere stato degli Agolanti, forse piú dal mestier de' figliuoli di lui poscia fatto, conforme a quello che sempre gli Agolanti hanno fatto e fanno, prendendo argomento che da altro.

The Agolanti family were a real family in Italy, but I couldn't find any information on their (real or reputed) occupation. What does this "occupation" remark refer to?

  • 1
    I was planning to ask another historical-context question from the same story, asking if "there broke out in England a war between the King and his son, by which the whole island was divided into two camps" was based on any real event, as I don't remember reading about any such war in pre-15th century England. But given that the story ended up involving the English royal family in a more intimate way, I realised that this is definitely a fictionalised version of English history.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Dec 26, 2021 at 10:03
  • 1
    --Sounds a bit like the rebellion of Henry the Young King against Henry II Commented Dec 26, 2021 at 18:55
  • @Randal'Thor: That isn't a fictionalised version of England history and I think that would be an interesting question. See, for instance, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Revolt_of_1173%E2%80%931174.
    – Charo
    Commented Dec 27, 2021 at 14:15
  • @Charo Your wish is my command :-) literature.stackexchange.com/q/21437/17
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Dec 27, 2021 at 20:32

1 Answer 1


In the introduction ("introduzione") to the article "Gli Agolanti" by Enrica Guerra you can find that they were usurers ("usurai"):

Boccaccio, [...], nel momento in cui menziona gli Agolanti conosce perfettamente la loro attività, sia, probabilmente, per le sue stesse esperienze in ambito mercantile, al servizio dei Bardi, sia per la fama, ovvero notorietà pubblica, che tale attività conferì loro: quella di usurai.

My translation:

Boccaccio, [...], at the moment in which he mentions the Agolanti, knows their activity perfectly, probably due to his own similar experiences in the mercantile field, at the service of the Bardi, and also because of the fame or public notoriety that this activity conferred them: that of usurers.

Also the note to your quoted text in BUR version of the Decameron (Italian original), edited by Amedeo Quondam, Maurizio Fiorilla and Giancarlo Alfano mentions that "which always was and is the occupation of the Agolanti" is

prestare denaro

that is, lending money at usury.

  • 2
    After asking the question, I found a source here which mentions that the Lamberti were merchants and the Agolanti were moneylenders. But, as usual, you've gone one better by being able to find sources in Italian. Thanks!
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Dec 26, 2021 at 17:14
  • Boccaccio would, of course, have known that Dante consigned Usurers to the 7th circle of Hell, Usury being a sin against nature. Commented Dec 26, 2021 at 19:06
  • @SimonCrase: Boccaccio knew almost every thing about Dante as he devoted a great deal of energy to the cult of the Poet: among other things, he transcribed a quite amount of manuscripts of his works, in particular the Vita Nova, the Divine Comedy and The Rhymes and composed very important critical works about Dante, in particular a series (unfortunately left unfinished) of lessons on the cantos of the Divine Comedy, which he read in public in Florence.
    – Charo
    Commented Dec 27, 2021 at 14:35

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