|(by Selkis; a detail)|
Renaissance Rome would have seemed science fiction to Dante, who saw the Eternal City in one of its worst states of decadence and abandon: underpopulated, with monuments in ruin, sheep grazing in the fields about the Colosseum, and the Pope residing elsewhere (in Avignon, France, till the late 14th century). The Rome described by Tasso, on the contrary, had regained all of its past glory, or even more -- with a side effect: Since Popes and Cardinals were now the official sponsors of literature and art, Renaissance authors in Italy could no longer attack the Church so overtly as Dante did (see e.g. Paradiso 21: 130-134). But, of course, they knew how to do it without attracting attention.