At the Castel Nuovo of Naples in February 1441, Cipriano de' Mari of Genoa featured as Scipio Africanus in a play based on one of Lucian's Dialogues of the Dead, which was performed for King René of Anjou. When the play was over, Cipriano gave a humanist speech in which he likened René to Scipio, and René's enemy, King Alfonso V of Aragon, to Hannibal. This speech, published for the first time here, contributes to our understanding of the cultural–political programme pursued by René and his Italian allies. It also helps paint a remarkable picture of a poorly documented figure whose career nevertheless spanned the western Mediterranean. In this article, Cipriano de' Mari appears as a victorious naval captain who captured the infante of Aragon in battle; an ambassador and diplomatic intriguer whose contacts included members of the political and intellectual elite in Liguria, Provence, France and perhaps Castile; and a man of letters, versed in the works of Livy, Seneca and Valerius Maximus. In tracing the route taken by this Genoese jack‐of‐all‐trades, and exploring the connections he made along the way, a Mediterranean political, social and cultural world is brought to light.