Dr. Calo Kalonymos

Dr. Kalonymos den David Kalonymos (known as Maestro Calo) was a medical doctor, astrologer, linguist, translator and philosopher. His father David was granted citizenship of Naples as a court physician. Calo, referred to in Neopolital records as “doctor of the arts and of medicine,” began as the court astrologer to the Duke of Bari in the early 16th century. To avoid the Inquisition in Southern Italy he moved up to Mestre and Venice, where his name appears in the diaries of Marino Sanudo.

Maestro Calo was credited with predicting the war between Venice and the League of Cambria in 1509, and reassured the doge that no harm would come to Venice from a solar eclipse. As a result, Calo was given a ducal license to wear a black hat identifying himself as a medical doctor, indistinguishable from the ones that Christians used, but that right was expressly taken away from Calo in 1517 by the Council of Ten after the ghetto was established . From then on Calo and other Jews were required to wear only yellow hats. In February 1518, Calo was falsely accused of murder by Vita/Chaim del Banco, the brother of the wealthy banker Anselmo del Banco. Calo was released but Vita was banished from Venice for three years.

Besides being a doctor and astrologer, Calo also wrote and translated numerous texts. He completed a chapter on biblical accents in Abraham de Balmes’s posthumous work printed in 1523 by the famed publisher Daniel Bomberg, who also issued the first printed version of the Talmud at that time. Calo translated several philosophical and astronomical works from Hebrew to Latin, and contributed to Venetian editions of Aristotle and Averroes.

Kalonymos ben David Kalonymos


RAPHAEL (1483-1520)
‘The School of Athens’, 1509-11 (fresco)

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