In the Footsteps of the Ancients: The Origins of Humanism from Lovato to Bruni

By Ronald G. Witt | Go to book overview

CHAPTER NINE
LEONARDO BRUNI

Salutati's Tuscan disciples, primarily Bruni and Poggio, rescued humanism from the dead end where Salutati had left it. Unknowingly, they revived the earlier, secular spirit of humanism, which had been displaced by Petrarch's amalgam of Christianity and pagan culture. Salutati had endeavored to readapt Petrarchan humanism to the urban lay milieu where humanism had originated, but Ms mind, which was more dialectical and less aware of nuance than Petrarch's, found the inner contradictions too much, and ultimately Salutati was led to make statements whose import discredited much of Ms own life's work.

The beginning years of the fifteenth century marked the establishment of a new ancient model, in which Seneca was definitively replaced by Cicero. Although Petrarch only rarely imitated a Senecan text generically, the character of Petrarch's prose, with its fondness for sententious moralizing, copious allusions, and direct quotations, bore striking resemblances to Seneca's. Just as Seneca renounced the ancient Roman view of the primarily political individual in favor of a richer vision of human experience that enhanced the value of the private man, so Petrarch considered private life the central arena for Ms efforts toward moral improvement. Public life, fraught with temptations and dangers, remained for Petrarch an object of suspicion difficult to reconcile with the studies he felt essential to ethical reform.

Salutati believed that the modern age had no need of Cicero's oratorical skills except perhaps in preaching; in 1379, he praised Petrarch's “quiet manner of speaking” as appropriate to the times. Salutati's own prose, while less resonant with Senecan echoes and more given to contentious formulations, displayed a similar penchant for abstract ethical ruminations. The contrast between the mature Salutati's dictaminal public style and his private style reflected his struggle to reconcile his commitment to Petrarchan humanism with Ms daily life. Although in 1399, in De nobilitate, Salutati identified public service as a Christian duty, what might have led in the last years of his life to an appeal for vigorous political participation was

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In the Footsteps of the Ancients: The Origins of Humanism from Lovato to Bruni
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Table of Contents *
  • Acknowledgements vii
  • Abbreviations xi
  • Chapter One - Introduction 1
  • Chapter Two - The Birth of the New Aesthetic 31
  • Chapter Three - Padua and the Origins of Humanism 81
  • Chapter Four - Albertino Mussato and the Second Generation 117
  • Chapter Five - Florence and Vernacular Learning 174
  • Chapter Six - Petrarch, Father of Humanism? 230
  • Chapter Seven - Coluccio Salutati 292
  • Chapter Eight - The Revival of Oratory 338
  • Chapter Nine - Leonardo Bruni 392
  • Chapter Ten - The First Ciceronianism 443
  • Chapter Eleven - Conclusion 495
  • Appendix 509
  • Bibliography 515
  • Index of Persons 549
  • Index of Places 556
  • Index of Subjects 558
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