Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
The Origins of the Platonic Academy of Florence

The Origins of the Platonic Academy of Florence

ARTHUR M. FIELD
Copyright Date: 1988
Pages: 318
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7zvv10
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    The Origins of the Platonic Academy of Florence
    Book Description:

    Founded by Cosimo de' Medici in the early 1460s, the Platonic Academy shaped the literary and artistic culture of Florence in the later Renaissance and influenced science, religion, art, and literature throughout Europe in the early modern period. This major study of the Academy's beginnings presents a fresh view of the intellectual and cultural life of Florence from the Peace of Lodi of 1454 to the death of Cosimo a decade later. Challenging commonly held assumptions about the period, Arthur Field insists that the Academy was not a hothouse plant, grown and kept alive by the Medici in the splendid isolation of their villas and courts. Rather, Florentine intellectuals seized on the Platonic truths and propagated them in the heart of Florence, creating for the Medici and other Florentines a new ideology.

    Based largely on new or neglected manuscript sources, this book includes discussions of the earliest works by the head of the Academy, Marsilio Ficino, and the first public, Platonizing lectures of the humanist and poet Cristoforo Landino. The author also examines the contributions both of religious orders and of the Byzantines to the Neoplatonic revival.

    Originally published in 1988.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5976-4
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. PREFACE
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. NOTE ON THE TEXT
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. ABBREVIATIONS
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. PART ONE The Philosophical Renaissance and the Role of Intellectuals

    • I INTRODUCTION
      (pp. 3-9)

      In 1462 or 1463 the aged Cosimo de’ Medici (1389–1464) gave to Marsilio Ficino, the son of his physician, both the annual profits from a farm near the Medici villa at Careggi and a Greek text of Plato.¹ Ficino was supposed to translate the Platonic dialogues and thereby make them available for the first time to a Latin audience. Ficino immediately began to draft translations, and in his lectures, commentaries, treatises, and letters, he explained Plato to the Florentine public. A circle of acquaintances interested in these studies called itself the Academy.

      According to Ficino, late in life Cosimo...

    • II HUMANIST INTELLECTUALS AND THE MEDICI PARTY
      (pp. 10-52)

      In the Age of Lorenzo one may happily and readily find the philosophical expressions and intellectual settings that invite hypotheses about a new speculative culture. Set now in the villa, now in the court, this fashionable Neoplatonism honored its new Florentine prince. Whether such a depiction of the Golden Age of Lorenzo is true or false is not our subject here. In this chapter, instead, we shall look at the intellectuals and the Medici rather more broadly; at the same time we shall focus on that period when Florentine Neoplatonism first flourished, the decade from the Peace of Lodi (1454)...

  7. PART TWΟ The Florentine Lyceum

    • III THE STUDENTS OF JOHN ARGYROPOULOS
      (pp. 55-76)

      In the last chapter we looked at several strata of Florentine intellectuals in the mid-Quattrocento. There were those from the ruling class, for many of whom public intellectual activity meant simply giving political advice. Some of these, of aristocratic background, had political ambitions independent of the Medici family. Then there were those from “traditional intellectual” backgrounds: many—schoolmen, lawyers, and clerics—followed “traditional” pursuits. Some of these and others turned to the humanities and would use their humanistic training to support themselves. Those most responsible for the popular expression of the ideas of the philosophical renaissance either were from the...

    • IV THE STUDIO CONTROVERSY, 1455
      (pp. 77-106)

      Florence will never have a university as strong or as popular as Perugia’s, “joked” a jurist in the fifteenth century, as long as the wool in Florence is properly spun.¹ The Studio in fifteenth-century Italy was indeed a communal investment. Students seeking careers in law and medicine went where the housing was cheap and the professors expensive, and Florence rarely offered either. Founded in 1321, the University of Florence suffered from frequent closings and near closings—it was not that war was disruptive but that the Florentines often discovered that they had better ways to spend their money. At least...

    • V THE TEACHING OF JOHN ARGYROPOULOS
      (pp. 107-126)

      Let us now turn to the actual formal expression of the ideas of the philosophical renaissance, looking first at the mentor of the Acciaiuoli circle, John Argyropoulos. Of primary concern here is his role in the revival of Plato. But we shall also investigate his ideas more generally, in order to discover why Acciaiuoli and his circle were attracted to his teaching and how they would depart from it.

      In September 1463, about a year after Cosimo de’ Medici and Marsilio Ficino had founded their Platonic Academy, Donato Acciaiuoli described for a Castilian friend of Vespasiano da Bisticci recent intellectual...

  8. PART THREE The Florentine Academy

    • VI SCHOLASTIC BACKGROUNDS
      (pp. 129-174)

      In Marsilio Ficino’s earliest datable work, a letter of 13 September 1454 to his close friend Antonio Serafico, he contrasted their usual elegant and humanistic style of writing with a new form:

      Frequently when I contemplate what I may call the “necessity” of our friendship, my Antonio, that kind of writing we first employed is wont to seem entirely strange and different. For the letters that pass between us are crammed with those prefatory statements, circumlocutions, and overly obliging phrases. I confess that it is I in particular who have hitherto busied myself with this sort of writing and have...

    • VII MARSILIO FICINO AND THE PLATONIC ACADEMY
      (pp. 175-201)

      We have looked at the two worlds of Marsilio Ficino’s youth: first, the academic, where he learned scholastic categories and systematic thinking, and second, the religious, where he learned of the love of man and God and of philosophy’s role in knitting the two together. There was also the world of humanism, where Ficino could find, in mid-Quattrocento Florence, secular conceptions of the contemplative life and the dignity of man.¹ Humanism would also push him constantly toward a direct study of his revered philosophical texts. A fourth world was that of the Florentine patrician. Economic necessity forced him there in...

    • VIII DONATO ACCIAIUOLI’S COMMENTARIES ON ARISTOTLE
      (pp. 202-230)

      In his funeral oration on Donato Acciaiuoli (1478), Cristoforo Landino first named the public offices Donato had held in the Florentine territories: these were at Pisa, Volterra, the Casentino (at Poppi), San Miniato, Montepulciano, and Pistoia.¹ He then described Donato’s special embassies: he was a legate to Paul II, to the king of France, to Siena, to Sixtus IV, and finally to France again, a commission he did not survive. Landino next praised Donato’s virtues: his continence, justice, fortitude, assisted by his beauty (quoting Virgil: “gratior et pulchro veniens in corpore virtus”²). Then Landino changed directions: while in Donato we...

    • IX CRISTOFORO LANDINO AND PLATONIC POETRY
      (pp. 231-268)

      When the humanist Cristoforo Landino (1425–98) lectured on the poems of ancients and moderns (Horace, Virgil, Juvenal, Persius, Dante, and Petrarch), he often remarked on the “variety” of their style and teaching. The reader, he stated, can at times only be “stunned” (attonitus) by the direction a poem takes. As if following a poetic model, Landino had “variety” mark both his writing and his public career. He moved freely from Latin to Italian, from poets to orators, and from philosophical precepts to the art of writing letters. While seemingly preoccupied with composing dialogues in moral philosophy, he published an...

  9. CONCLUSION
    (pp. 269-274)

    Regardless of the particular vicissitudes of politics and society in the mid-Quattrocento, Florence’s expanding culture necessitated a speculative philosophical revival. The Greek world was being absorbed almost as readily as the Latin, and had not Cosimo de’ Medici happened to commission Ficino alone, another translator or expositor would have taken his place, or the Platonic dialogues would have been meted out among the Florentine and other humanists just as Plutarch’s lives were shared by their translators. Moreover, Ficino’s genius was not required to overcome natural impediments to a Platonic revival. When Plato’s Socrates pursued boys too avidly, others, like Ficino,...

  10. APPENDIX A: ONE OR TWO LORENZO PISANOS?
    (pp. 275-276)
  11. APPENDIX B: LORENZO PISANO’S DE AMORE
    (pp. 277-279)
  12. APPENDIX C: SOME NOTES ON MINOR WORKS OF LORENZO PISANO
    (pp. 280-282)
  13. SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 283-290)
  14. INDEX OF MANUSCRIPTS
    (pp. 291-292)
  15. GENERAL INDEX
    (pp. 293-302)