This article focuses on diplomatic correspondence in order to explore the nuanced rhetorical strategies employed by foreign ambassadors to describe papal dissimulation under popes Paul II, Sixtus IV, and Innocent VIII (1464–92). Because they were aware that these popes acted largely according to the calculus of political princes, ambassadors expected to be misled by the pope and his curial or familial associates. The delicate business of reporting that the Holy Father was lying was an arte of its own, as ambassadors used a variety of formulations, describing the “sweetness” or “beauty” of the pope's words, or claiming that the pontiff had forgotten his “office” (offitio) in his pursuit of political and territorial ends.

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