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.