Harvard University Press and Harvard's Center for Italian Renaissance Studies, the Villa I Tatti has created a new dual-language text series-- freely modeled on the Loeb Classical Library-- that will revolutionize the field of Renaissance studies. Timed to debut during the 40th Anniversary of the Villa I Tatti--donated to Harvard University forty years ago by Bernard Berenson, the eminent historian and art critic (Harvard class of 1887). The bequest included Berenson’s 16th Century villa near Florence, Italy, with its vast collection of books, photographs, and works of art. The Villa I Tatti Institute is dedicated to scholarship and the exchange of ideas in a variety of disciplines within Italian Renaissance studies.
The I Tatti Renaissance Library will make available to a broad readership the most significant literary, historical, and philosophical works of the Italian Renaissance written in Latin. The I Tatti series will present current scholarship in an attractive and convenient format. Each volume will provide a reliable Latin text together with an accurate, readable English translation on facing pages, an editor's introduction, notes on the text, a brief bibliography, and an index. In principle, the series will publish only complete texts, not excerpts, although it may also publish volumes consisting of selections from large collected works as well as thematic volumes containing work from a variety of authors.
Series General Editor James Hankins (Professor of History at Harvard University) confirms the importance of this series to scholars worldwide: "No similar comprehensive series of bilingual Renaissance texts exists. Many of the most basic works, fundamental to an understanding of the period, are unobtainable or untranslated or exist only in unsatisfactory or prohibitively expensive editions." With the inauguration of this series this library’s accessible and inexpensive volumes promises to radically change the way that the Renaissance is taught and understood. Forthcoming volumes include Francesco Petrarch's Secret, Lorenzo Valla's Dialogues, the Latin poetry of Angelo Poliziano, Flavio Biondo's Rome Restored, Cristoforo Landino's dialogues on the active and contemplative lives, Leon Battista Alberti's Momus, and Giannozzo Manetti's Lives of Dante, Petrarch and Boccaccio. The series will issue 2-3 new volumes per year.
The Latin works of Italian humanists and thinkers from Petrarch to Giordano Bruno constitute a major literary tradition, but one that has become a kind of Atlantis or lost continent, sunken between the two great continents of classical literature and the modern vernacular literatures. Yet for over two centuries the finest writers and intellectuals of Renaissance Italy devoted themselves to restoring and emulating the literary traditions of Graeco-Roman antiquity. Thousands of writers composed tens of thousands of works in Renaissance Latin, including many works of genius--a coruscating display of literary, historical, and philosophical talent that also provides a key to understanding the world of Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and other great artists of the Renaissance. The goal of the I Tatti series is to raise this lost continent of literature to the surface once more and allow students and scholars to explore its hidden treasures.
It is especially appropriate that the I Tatti Renaissance Library should begin its series with a work by Giovanni Boccaccio, for Villa I Tatti itself is located in the heart of the Florentine countryside Boccaccio knew intimately as a young man. Across a farm road from the property of the Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies is the rural house of Boccaccio's father in the hamlet of Corbignano, where the poet presumably lived when he returned from Naples in 1340 and the city of Florence was being ravaged by the plague. The lords and ladies who recount the stories in his Decameron similarly escape the plague-filled city by fleeing first to Villa Poggio Gherardo, which is the Harvard Center' next-door neighbor, visible today from I Tatti's garden. And Boccaccio metamorphosed the small stream that flows through the bottom of the garden, the Mensola, into an eponymous nymph to become the heroine of his pastoral poem, the Ninfale Fiesolano, probably written around 1345.
The first three volumes are a good sample of the riches afforded by the literature of Italian Renaissance humanism. Boccaccio's FAMOUS WOMEN is the first biographical collection devoted exclusively to women, and a source for later literary treatments of women's lives. Leonardo Bruni's HISTORY OF THE FLORENTINE PEOPLE is generally considered the first work of modern history, the work that invented the concept of the "Middle Ages." And Marsilio Ficino's PLATONIC THEOLOGY is the most important philosophical work to emerge from the great Renaissance project to revive the soul-philosophy of Plato.
FAMOUS WOMEN by Giovanni Boccaccio, was the first collection of biographies in Western literature devoted exclusively to women. Inspired by Petrarch's Lives of Famous Men, Boccaccio wanted to record for posterity the stories of 106 famous women, good and bad, wicked and virtuous, who were renowned for any sort of great deed FAMOUS WOMEN influenced many writers-including Chaucer, Christine de Pisan, and Castiglione-and was among the most popular works in the last age of the manuscript book.
From the time of Petrarch onwards, it was a conviction of humanists that contemporary education did too little to provide the moral and intellectual formation needed by social and political elites in Italian cities. The humanist movement, seeking to provide that missing formation, believed that a close study of classical literature and history would give the future leaders of Italian society (both male and female) the eloquence, prudence, and ethical models necessary for them to exercise power virtuously in the world. Seeking to fill this need and inspired by Petrarch's Lives of Famous Men, Giovanni Boccaccio produced FAMOUS WOMEN between the summer of 1361 and the summer of 1362. The very first English translation based on the autograph manuscript of the Latin, Famous Women records for posterity the stories of 106 famous women, good and bad, wicked and virtuous, who were renowned for any sort of great deed.
Although most famous for the Decameron, Boccaccio did not cultivate the novella genre over long periods of his writing life. While he consumed the earlier part of his career composing in Italian, Bocaccio devoted the last decades of his life, dominated by the influence of Petrarch's humanism, to compiling, in Latin, several large and learned tomes, including the biographical compendium of famous women translated here.
The series of lives starts with Eve, who is followed by the Assyrian queen Semiramis, and six pagan goddesses. There follows a series of 34 Greek and Roman mythological figures of heroic or semi-divine status, closing with Nicaula, a Biblical figure. Then there begins another long series of what may be termed "historical" figureshistorical in the sense that Boccaccio finds most of his information in sources usually classified as historical. The second series also includes Athaliah and Mariamme, two women who have Biblical associations as well. Only the last six lives are of women who lived in postclassical times.
The contents of FAMOUS WOMEN and Boccaccio's own explicit statements about the work show that he favored the pagan women of Greco-Roman antiquity over Christian women. "Pagan women," Boccaccio states, "reached their goal, admittedly with remarkable strength of character, either through some natural gift or instinct or, as seems more likely, through a keen desire for the fleeting glory of this world; sometimes they endured grievous troubles in the face of Fortune's assaults." Unflinching in his exclusion of Christian women from the collection, Boccaccio reasons that "Christian women, resplendent in the true and unfailing light, live gloriously in their deserved immortality; we know that their virginity, purity, holiness, and invincible firmness in overcoming carnal desire and the punishments of tyrants have been described in individual works by pious men outstanding for their knowledge of sacred literature and revered for their dignity."
The only explicitly stated sources cited are St. Paul, the Bible, and Jerome. However, the biographies themselves yield evidence that Boccaccio used classical authors such as Livy, Ovid, Pliny the Elder, Statius, Seutonius, Valerius Maximus, and Virgil. In addition, he drew upon late antique writers like Justinus, Lactantius, and Orosius. Famous Women influenced many writers-including Chaucer, Spenser, and Christine de Pisan-and was among the most popular works in the last age of the manuscript book.
The style of each biography is somewhat uniform: the life begins with the name of the woman, her parentage, and her rank. Next the reason for her fame is stated and then, in narrative form, Boccaccio explains, in detail, how her notoriety was acquired. He authenticates his accounts by frequent allusions to learned authorities, almost always unspecified. At the conclusion of the biography comes a moral lesson or a passage of philosophical reflection.
Highlights from Famous Women:
When her husband, Ninus, died of an arrow wound, Semiramis masqueraded as her son. In a rather unflattering story, Boccaccio tells that the jealous queen required all the ladies of her court to wear chastity belts so that they would not be able to have sex with her young son-instead, leaving the boy free for sex only with her. Although the end of her life is rather fuzzy, claims Boccaccio, he is certain that her son killed the queen because of his own shame from the incest OR because his mother's excesses with other men (the rumor is that she would kill them after sex) brought him shame.
The surviving widows of war-ravaged Cyria, stirred by a burning desire for vengeance, attacked and killed all the husbands who had survived the war. Afterwards, in order to assure the royal succession, [the widows] took turns sleeping with men of the neighboring regions and returned home as soon as they became pregnant. While male offspring were killed immediately after birth, females were carefully brought up for military service. The right breast of very young girls was withered by means of fire or medicine, so that it would not grow and hinder them in the use of the bow during adult life. The left breast, however, was left unharmed, so that they would be able to suckle their future children. This practice gave rise to the name `Amazon. "'
When Thisbe's parents planned for her future marriage, the maiden and her lover, Pyramus, decided to run away together. However, when Pyramus found Thisbe's bloody cloak, he mistakenly believed that a lioness had killed her. Rather than live without her, Pyramus plunged a knife into his breast. When Thisbe discovered her dead lover, she took her own life in the same fashion, thus joining Pyramus in death. At
the conclusion of this biography, Boccaccio instructs that "lcertamiyl tile impulses of the young should be curbed, . . . this should be done gradually lest we drive them to ruin in their despair by setting up sudden obstacles in their path. Passionate desire is ungovernable; it is the plague and the disgrace of youth, yet we should tolerate it with patience."
Born in Babylonia before the Trojan War, Erythraea, one of the Sibyls, had great skill at prophesying the future. According to Boccaccio, she "unveiled the secret of divine thought which had been foreshadowed among the ancients only in symbols and in obscure utterances of prophets, or rather by the Holy Spirit speaking through the prophets..." Erythraea went on to tell of the mystery of the Word, the life and work of Christ, the triumph of the Resurrection, and the Ascension. Because she spoke of her prophecies not as future events, but as "historical fact," Boccaccio maintains that "God loved Erythraea very much and that she deserves greater reverence than other pagan women."
Leonardo Bruni's HISTORY OF THE FLORENTINE PEOPLE, VOLUME 1, BOOKS I-IV, generally considered the first modern work of history, was widely imitated by humanist historians for two centuries after its official publication in 1444. Bruni (1370-1444), the leading civic humanist of the Italian Renaissance, served as apostolic secretary to four popes and chancellor of Florence (1427-1444). HISTORY OF THE FLORENTINE PEOPLE tells the story of Florence from its founding to the 14th Century. It is a work of critical importance for the history of republicanism as well as for the Western historiographical tradition.
Leonardo Bruni-scholar, statesman, orator, and historian-was the leading civic humanist of the Italian Renaissance and the best-selling author of the fifteenth century. The son of an obscure grain dealer, Bruni was born in Arezzo in 1370. He came to Florence in the 1390s originally to study law, but fell in with a circle of young literary men who surrounded Coluccio Salutati, the chancellor of Florence. Bruni became one of Salutati's disciples and turned his attention from law to the study of Roman history and literature. Salutati not only encouraged Bruni to learn Greek, but also helped him to obtain his first position, the post of apostolic secretary to Pope Innocent VII in 1405. Bruni served as apostolic secretary to four popes (1405-1414) and later become chancellor of Florence from 1427 until his death in 1444.
Bruni's true masterpiece is HISTORY OF THE FLORENTINE PEOPLE, a work that immediately achieved the status of an official civic history. Composed over a period of more than a quarter century, History of the Florentine People is generally considered the first modern work of history and was widely imitated by humanist historians for two centuries after its publication by the Florentine Signoria in 1444.
Bruni's major themes are the maintenance of Florentine liberty against foreign powers and the expansion of Florence's empire in Tuscany. He aims to teach prudence in the conduct of foreign affairs, to provide models of good conduct, and to celebrate the achievements of the city in war and peace. Much admired throughout Italy as well as within Florence, History of the Florentine People is today considered one of the great works of history produced by the Italian Renaissance.
Book I ranges widely from the foundation of Florence in the first century B.C.E. down to the early fourteenth century C.E. and is remarkable for its crisp and critical dismissal of the luxuriant founding myths so eagerly embraced in earlier Florentine chronicles. Books II through XII cover the history of Florence from the death of the Emperor Frederick II to the death of Giangaleazzo Visconti of Milan in 1402. These books move at a slower pace, chronicling each year's important events in the manner of Livy and Tacitus. They concentrate primarily on the military affairs and institutional development of the republic, but also discuss its internal political struggles. The political career of Florence's greatest literary figure, Dante, is analyzed in Book IV.
Platonic Theology: Books 1-4 (The I Tatti Renaissance Library, 2) by Marsilio Ficino, translated by Michael J. B. Allen and John Warden, edited byJames Hankins, William Bowen (I Tatti Renaissance Library, 2: Harvard University Press)
Platonic Theology: Books 5-8 by Marsilio Ficino, translated by Michael J. B. Allen and John Warden, edited byJames Hankins, William Bowen (I Tatti Renaissance Library, 4: Harvard University Press)
This present volume of
PLATONIC THEOLOGY is the first of five planned volumes: Volume 2 will
contain books 5-8; Volume 3, books 9-12; Volume 4, books 13-15; and Volume 5,
books 16-18, along with some attendant texts. Each volume will contain its own
notes and index of names, and the final volume will include a comprehensive
index of names and subjects, an index of sources, and a concordance to the Basel
edition of 1576 and the edition of Marcel.
see Marsilio Ficino for fuller account of contents.
PLATONIC THEOLOGY, VOLUME 1, BOOKS I-IV is a visionary work of the Florentine scholarphilosopher-magus, Marsilio Ficino, who was largely responsible for the Renaissance revival of Plato. A student of the Neoplatonic schools of Plotinus and Proclus, Ficino was committed to reconciling Platonism with Christianity, in the hope that such a reconciliation would initiate a spiritual revival and a return of the golden age. Of all of Ficino's writings, none had a greater impact than PLATONIC THEOLOGY, which contains Ficino's philosophy of the soul in its purest form.
The great philosopher and "doctor of souls" Marsilio Ficino (1433-1499) was the most important intellectual figure in the circle of Lorenzo de'Medici during the apogee of the Florentine Renaissance. After studying medicine and philosophy and preparing for the priesthood, he undertook to learn Greek. With encouragement from the Italian banker and statesman Cosimo de'Medici, Lorenzo's grandfather, Ficino made the first complete translation of Plato's writings into Latin (1463-69) and translated as well other central works of ancient Platonism, including the works of Plotinus and Dionysius the Areopagite. Ficino devoted his life to reviving the philosophy of Plato and gathered around him a group of distinguished disciples and devotees sometimes referred to as the "Florentine Academy." He believed that study of the writings of Plato would lead to a renewal and transformation of Christianity, and would help individuals acquire greater awareness of the soul within them and a deeper connection to the world of nature without.
Of all of Ficino's writings, none had a greater impact than PLATONIC THEOLOGY. Written in the early 1470s, it was the first major system of theology in the Western tradition constructed primarily around the study of the soul. A product of its Renaissance Italian and, in particular, Florentine context, it is a bold, sophisticated attempt to appropriate the therapeutic tradition in ancient philosophy for the intellectuals, the forward wits of the Florentine Republic, and its governing elites. In forming an extended argument for the immortality of the human soul, Platonic Theology is a complex blend of medieval scholastic philosophy, Augustinianism, and late ancient Platonism, and draws as well upon more esoteric magical and astrological sources such as Hermes Trismegistus. Ficino considered Platonic Theology to be his magnum opus and it is considered by many modern scholars to be the most characteristic work of Renaissance philosophy.
This present volume of PLATONIC THEOLOGY is the first of five planned volumes: Volume 2 will contain books V-VIII; Volume 3, books IX-XII; Volume 4, books XIII-XV; and Volume 5, books XVI-XVIII, along with some attendant texts. Each volume will contain its own notes and index of names, and the final volume will include a comprehensive index of names and subjects, an index of sources, and a concordance to the Basel edition of 1576 and the edition of Marcel.
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