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Jacob Acontius ( (or Giacomo) Aconcio; 7 September 1492 – around 1566) was an Italianmarker jurist, theologian, philosopher and engineer. He is now known for his contribution to the history of religious toleration.


He was traditionally thought to have been born at Trentomarker, although it was probably Ossanamarker.

He was one of the Italians, like Peter Martyr and Bernardino Ochino, who repudiated papal doctrine and ultimately found refuge in Englandmarker. Like them, his revolt against Romanism took a more extreme form than Lutheranism, and after a temporary residence in Switzerlandmarker and at Strasbourgmarker (between 1557 and 1558), he arrived in England soon after Elizabeth's accession (1559). He had studied law and theology, but his profession was that of an engineer, and in this capacity he found employment with the English government.

On his arrival in London he joined the Dutch Reformed Church in Austin Friars, but he was "infected with Anabaptistical and Arian opinions" and was excluded from the sacrament by Edmund Grindal, bishop of Londonmarker. He was granted naturalization on 8 October 1561. He was for some time occupied with draining Plumsteadmarker marshes, for which object various acts of Parliament were passed at this time. In 1564 he was sent to report on the fortifications of Berwickmarker.


Before reaching England he had published a treatise on the methods of investigation, De Methodo, hoc est, de recte investigandarum tradendarumque Scientiarum ratione (Basel, 1558, 8vo); and his critical spirit placed him outside all the recognized religious societies of his time. His heterodoxy is revealed in his Stratagematum Satanae libri octo, sometimes abbreviated as Stratagemata Satanae, published in 1565 and translated into various languages. The Stratagems of Satan are the dogmatic creeds which rent the Christian church. Aconcio sought to find the common denominator of the various creeds; this was essential doctrine, the rest was immaterial. To arrive at this common basis, he had to reduce dogma to a low level, and his result was generally repudiated.

Selden applied to Aconcio the remark ubi bene, nil melius; ubi male, nemo pejus. The dedication of such a work to Queen Elizabeth illustrates the tolerance or religious laxity during the early years of her reign. Aconcio later found another patron in the earl of Leicester, and died about 1566.


  • Stratagematum Satanae libri octo (1565)
  • De methodo sive recta investigandarum tradendariumque artium ac scientarum ratione libellus, in a collection De studiis bene instituendis (1658)
  • Somma brevissima della dottrina cristiana
  • Una esortazione al timor di Dio
  • Delle osservazioni et avvertimenti che haver si debbono nel legger delle historie
  • English translation, Darkness Discovered (Satans Stratagems), London, 1651 (facsimile ed.,1978 Scholars' Facsimiles & Reprints, ISBN 9780820113135).



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