The Age of Humanism: Petrarch’s Role

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Transcript The Age of Humanism: Petrarch’s Role

The Age of Humanism:
Petrarch’s Role
Gooch, Taylor, Sanju, Neena
Beginnings of Humanism
• Early Humanism formed in a culture
spiritually determined by mendicant friars
• Voluntary poverty was the center of true
Christian conduct
• In the fourteenth century, scholarship
shifted from the hands of the Church to the
hands of laymen such as lawyers and
– These men revived the classical studies of
Greece and Rome
– Instead of focusing exclusively on God and
religion, they were more interested in human
aspects such as culture, society, and values.
Principles of Humanism
• Salutati
– Man is responsible for his good or bad deeds
– God does not control a man’s will or morality
– It is better to benefit others by living an active
public life than to live as a monk, which does
not benefit anyone other than the monk
Principles of Humanism
• Bruni
– Medieval values of piety, humility, and poverty
not important
– Attitudes about wealth, credit finances, and
usury modified
– Pagan elements introduced into Christian
• Emphasized the dignity and worth of the
• People are rational beings who possess within
themselves the capacity for truth and goodness
• Emphasized the value of the Greek and Latin
classics for their own sake, rather than for their
relevance to Christianity
• Collection and translation of classical manuscripts
• Inspired by Plato (Aristotle inspired medieval
• Centered around education
• Attempted to develop the character and
intelligence of pupils by a general literary study of
the ancient classics
• Interested in grammar, rhetoric, poetry, history,
and ethics as an alternative to the Scholastic
curriculum which laid emphasis on logic, natural
philosophy (science), medicine, law, and theology
• Humanism was mostly a new educational
discipline, not a philosophy of life
• To write well and speak effectively, it is necessary
to closely study and to imitate the ancient classics
• Created a new mental outlook by establishing that
the study of ancient literature and the writing of
new works based on this inspiration contributes
directly to the dignity, usefulness, and happiness
of human beings
Factions of Humanism
• Stoic—Rely on the power of reason alone to
achieve contentment
– Neither material goods nor misfortune should have any
– Stoicism in a Christian framework was popular in
intellectual circles as a remedy for the affluent and
commercialized age
– Life of poverty is necessary for a wise man’s
independence of mind
– Every step from poverty to wealth was bound to
increase human desire, greed, passion, unrest, and
• NeoPlatonist- Focused on classical manuscripts
• Aristotelian- Academics
Francesco Petrarch
• Born in Arezzo in 1304
after his father was
banished from Florence
• Began to study law in
1316 because his father
wanted him to
• His father died in 1326
and Petrarch abandoned
his legal studies;
discovered Cicero, Vergil,
and the Latin classics;
began his exclusive
devotion to literature
• In 1327 he accepted minor ecclesiastical
vows but did not accept powerful or
prestigious positions
• Traveled through Europe 1327-1336
• Given the title of Poet Laureate in 1340
• Returned permanently to Italy in 1353
Two Periods of Petrarch’s Life
• Great boldness
Influenced solely by
ancient philosophers
• Ignored his “true self”
because of too many
distractions (fame,
success of Laura
sonnets, title of Poet
• Awareness of the
insufficiency of his
earlier way of life
• Need to identify more
closely with
contemporary ways of
thinking introduced
during the Christian
The First Modern Intellectual
• Petrarch had a deep understanding of what ancient
Latin and Greek literature had been in antiquity
• He was very interested in making literature the
greatest of intellectual activities
• Founded philology, the systematic and scientific
study of all literary and linguistic phenomena
• Made poetry his sole profession
Petrarch and Politics
• He was not involved in politics
• He had a sentimental and intellectual attachment
to Italy
• He was interested in individual affairs, not in
political affairs
• He viewed Italy as a centralized unity under Rome
and, influenced by the history of classical times,
had ideas of a republic or a universal empire
• Petrarch believed that the Vita solitaria was the
supreme standard for living
– A truly wise man is focused on intellectual and spiritual
matters, not distracting political problems
Petrarch and Solitude
• He felt that being alone, in the absence of
avarice, was the secret to happiness
• He was happiest when he lived by himself
in his country home
• He never truly integrated into any group or
society that he joined
• Autonomy and freedom were needed to
apply himself to his humanistic studies
Petrarch and wealth
• Petrarch hated wealth, power, and external honors
– It was not the wealth itself that he hated, but the
anxiety, toil, and trouble connected with it
• He said he would rather live in bitter, abject
poverty than be wealthy
• At another time, however, he said that he would
rather be wealthy because living in poverty is only
bearable for those who do it in the name of Christ
• One should not escape wealth, but one should not
possess it “with an avaricious mind”
Petrarch as a Humanist
• Felt that all of Medieval culture was uniformly
barbarous…classical-minded scholars and poets
were needed to lead humanity away from the arid
Scholastic rationalizing and the cultural
degradation into which it had been sunk
• Influenced by Horace, Lucan, Statius, Persius,
Juvenal, Martial, Cicero, Livy, Seneca, and Caesar
Petrarch’s Contributions to
• Recognition of the true features of classical Latin
prose and poetry
• Passion for collecting ancient manuscripts
• Perception that the future of classical scholarship
depended upon the recovery of Greek works
• Support for Humanism among the rich and
• Reconciliation between pagan and Christian ways
of thinking
Petrarch’s Influence on
• Petrarch was concerned with individual matters,
not general problems
• As a consequence, few humanists of the next
generations were directly influenced by him
• Petrarch did not influence many of his fellow
humanists, either, because his life was so different
than theirs (isolationism)
• However, Petrarch is still considered to be the
father of Humanism because he broke with
tradition and completely changed the way people
thought, learned, and lived.