Italy Renaissance humanism

Renaissance Humanism is the modern term for a powerful spiritual flow in the Renaissance period, which was first inspired by Francesco Petrarca (1304-1374). It had a prominent center in Florence and spread throughout most of Europe in the 15th and 16th centuries.

First and foremost, it was a literary education movement. The humanists advocated a comprehensive educational reform from which they hoped for an optimal development of human capabilities through the combination of knowledge and virtue. Humanistic education should empower people to recognize their true purpose and to realize an ideal humanity by imitating classic models. A valuable, truthful content and a perfect linguistic form formed a unity for the humanists. Therefore, her special focus was the cultivation of linguistic expression. The Language and Literature fell a central role in humanistic education program.

A defining characteristic of the humanist movement was the awareness of belonging to a new epoch, and the need to set itself apart from the past of previous centuries. This past, which began to be called the ” Middle Ages, ” was contemptuously rejected by the leading representatives of the new school of thought. In particular, the late medieval scholastic teaching operation, the humanists considered missing. The Middle Ages they were the ancientas the ultimate norm for all areas of life. One of their main concerns was to gain direct access to this standard in its original, unadulterated form. This resulted in the demand for a return to the authentic ancient sources, in a nutshell, the Latin ad fontes.

The not well-defined term “pre-humanism” refers to cultural phenomena in the pre-Petrarchan period, that is, in the 13th and early 14th centuries, which in some aspects foreshadow Renaissance humanism, although the protagonists altogether belong to the late Middle Ages. Since these phenomena have not shaped their time, one can not speak of an “epoch of pre-humanism”, but only of individual pre-humananic phenomena in the late Middle Ages.

The real humanism began around the middle of the 14th century with Petrarch. In contrast to the pre-humanists Petrarca contrasted sharply and polemically with the entire medieval scholastic education of his time. He hoped for a new beginning of culture and even a new era. This was not only culturally, but also politically linked to the ancient world, to the Roman Empire. Therefore, in 1347 Petrarch supported with enthusiasm the coup of the Cola di Rienzoin Rome. Cola himself was educated, fascinated by Roman antiquity, and a brilliant orator, by which he embodied an ideal of humanism. He was the leading figure of an archenemy tendency seeking an Italian state with Rome as its center. Although political dreams and utopias failed because of power relations and Cola’s lack of realism, the cultural side of the renewal movement, which was represented by the more politically cautious Petrarch, prevailed over the long term.

Petrarch’s success was based on the fact that he not only articulated the ideals and aspirations of many educated contemporaries, but also embodied as a personality the new zeitgeist. With him fully developed already meet the most distinctive features of Renaissance humanism:

the idea of a model of the old Roman state and social order
sharp rejection of scholastic university life, that is, Aristotelianism, which dominated in the late Middle Ages. Although Petrarch respected Aristotle as an ancient classic, he vehemently opposed his medieval Arabic and Latin-speaking interpreters, especially Averroes. Ultimately, this resulted in a fundamental criticism of Aristotle.
Rejection of the speculative metaphysics and theology of the late Middle Ages and of the logical delusions perceived as meaningless; thereby far reducing philosophy to the doctrine of virtue.
Rediscovering lost classic texts, collecting and copying manuscripts, creating an extensive private library. Return to direct, unbiased contact with the ancient texts through liberation from the medieval interpretive monopoly of ecclesiastical authorities. Boundless admiration Cicero.
The conception of encounter with the ancient authors as a dialogue. The relationship of the reader to the author or book in which the author is present is dialogical. In the daily dialogue with the authors, the humanist receives answers to his questions and norms for his behavior.
Like numerous humanists, Petrarch was self-confident, sensitive to criticism, and ready to exaggerate polemics against real or supposed envious enemies.
Petrarch also admired the Greek culture, but his Greek skills were modest, as with many humanists.

Emphases in Petrarch’s thinking were also:
the fight against the science concepts prevailing in the medical and legal faculties. He accused the doctors of ignorance and charlatanry, the lawyers nimble.
a civic and cultural pessimistic Christianity based on the attitude of the church father Augustinus with a doomsday atmosphere. Pessimistic attitudes are also found in some later humanists, although in the Renaissance humanism optimistic images of the world and man prevail.
Strongly influenced by Petrarch was the younger Giovanni Boccaccio. He also discovered manuscripts of important ancient works. His humanistic attitude was particularly evident in his defense of poetry. According to his conviction, poetry is not only of the highest literary importance, but also of a privileged position among the sciences, since it plays a decisive role in the attainment of wisdom and virtue. In it, language art and philosophy unite (ideally) and reach their perfection.

Florentine humanism
Between the death of Boccaccio (1375) and the rise of Cosimo de ‘Medici (1434), the Municipality of Florence further accentuated the oligarchic character of its institutions. Shocked by the infighting between the social classes in the mid-fourteenth century, and the latter acuta in recent years following a serious economic crisis resulting in the revolt of the Ciompi (1378), the old municipal magistracies became a monopoly of a few aristocratic families, between which excelled that of the Albizzi. In the following decades, Florence sharpened its oligarchic facet (statutesof 1409-1415) determining the dissatisfaction of that minute people silenced after the failed revolutionary experience of 1378. Of this state of social intolerance the rich merchant Cosimo de ‘Medici took advantage of it, the bearer of popular demands and bitter enemy of the Albizzi. Exiled by the Albizzi’s will, Cosimo succeeded in 1434 to return to Florence thanks to the support of his partisans and the minute people, establishing the “crypto-lordship” that would last until 1494.

From civil humanism to the Medici one
Following the magistery of Boccaccio and Petrarch on the circle of Florentine prehumanists, the new cultural movement assumed very precise connotations in relation to the republican constitution of the city, initiating the first phase of Florentine humanism, called “civil”. This programmatic line declined in the political commitment of Coluccio Salutati (1332-1406), chancellor of Florence from 1374 until his death (1406) and animator of the humanist circle of Santo Spirito, and of Leonardo Bruni then (1370-1444), both entusiasi patrons of classical languages as a vehicle for the diffusion of culture.

Coluccio, considered as the undisputed master of Florentine humanism thanks to the coordination of the Santo Spirito group and bridge between the season of the two Florentine crowns and the more mature season of the full 400, Coluccio Salutati perennially extolled the model of the Florentine constitution, based on the libertas and personal self-determination of the Roman Republic, against the absolute tyranny of the Visconti (incarnating instead the slavery of the Empire). Leonardo Bruni (1370-1444), also known as Leonardo Aretino for his origins, was the heir to the civil humanism of the Salutati. Active at the Council of Constance asPapal legate of John XXIII, Bruni obtained only Florentine citizenship in 1416, and within a decade he became chancellor (1427), a position he held until his death despite the victory of the Medici party. A profound connoisseur of ancient Greek, a tireless translator from this language into Latin from his youth, Leonardo Bruni demonstrated with greater vigor and effectiveness the excellence of the Florentine socio-political model than Salutati, culminating in Historia florentini populi. Alongside the exclusively Latin production of Salutati and Bruni, we must also remember the figure ofMatteo Palmieri, a well-to-do Florentine merchant who, in the 1930s, wrote in vulgar what is considered the manifesto of civil humanism, the Treaty of Florentine Liberty.

With the coming to power of Cosimo de ‘Medici, civilian humanism gave way to a form of humanism in which the elitist, abstract and contemplative dimension prevailed. Cosimo, holder of the effective power in Florence, favored a humanism that was at the service of his political cause and did not form a new autonomous ruling class inspired by the purest republican values. Offering protection to intellectual courtiers such as Carlo Marsuppini, Ciriaco da Ancona, Niccolò Niccoli, Vespasiano da Bisticci and, not least in importance, to the Neoplatonic philosopher Marsilio Ficino, whose influence on the Florentine culture was decisive in the shift of humanist interests from political participation to philosophical and Christian contemplation, Cosimo gave a turn to Florentine culture, which culminated with the Laurentian season and its most important protagonists: Pico della Mirandola, Cristoforo Landino.

Venetian humanism

A political, pedagogical and religious humanism
The humanism of Venice can be framed, in its geo-political declension, in a political humanism not very dissimilar from Florence. The difference between the two Florentine and Venetian republican models consisted in the flexibility of the social classes, an element that did not exist in Venice, making it a noble republic.

Following the military expansion on the mainland and the acquisition of Verona, Padua and Vicenza, the Serenissima allowed the fusion of the humanistic consciousness with the desire to make the State prestigious, with the aim of forming future leading classes that they supported, literally, the greatness of the homeland. In this sense, promoters of state pedagogy were Pier Paolo Vergerio the Elder (1370-1444), on the other hand the Venetian patrician Leonardo Giustinian (1388-1446), fervent promoter of the scholastic program advocated by the Vergerio and the Barbarian and friend by Flavio Biondo and Francesco Filelfo. Together with Giustinian and Vergerio, the figure of the other patrician Francesco Barbaro (1390-1454) is considered as the “champion of the interest of the ruling class of the Serenissima for the new culture”. Barbaro devoted himself body and soul to the concrete planning of Venetian political humanism through political activity (San Marco’s procurator in 1452) and literary activity. Among the main works of this period we mention the De re uxoria, a family treatise in which Barbaro underlines the importance of the mother in the education of the child according to the patriotic customs.

We must not forget also Vittorino da Feltre and Guarino Veronese, whose pedagogical experiences crossed the Venetian borders, going the first to teach in Mantua at the court of Gianfrancesco Gonzaga; the other, became the preceptor of Leonello d’Este. The result of these efforts was a veritable proliferation of writings celebrating Venice and its system of government. Among the most significant products of the Venetian humanism we remember that of Lauro Quirini (1420-1479) who, with the treatise De Nobilitate, exalted the function of the aristocracy. Another fundamental element of Venetian humanism was the strong religious dimension which, unlike what happened in Rome or Florence, did not result in a fusion between the pagan elements of the new culture and Christianity. Thanks to the action of some educated religious, such as Lorenzo Giustiniani and Ludovico Barbo, the interest in classical antiquity went hand in hand with the doctrinal aspect, contributing to the development of Christian humanism.

The second Quattrocento: Ermolao Barbaro and Aldo Manuzio
The second fifteenth century saw the consolidation of the prospects of Giustinian and Vergerius on education. The literary critic and philologist Vittore Branca speaks of the last decades of the fifteenth century in Venice as a golden period for the development of the arts, literature, philosophy and, above all, the nascent book publishing. The latter, after the impulse given by Johannes Gutenberg in Mainz in 1450, quickly spread to Venice first thanks to the work of some German and French publishers and, starting from 1490, thanks to the action of Aldo Manuzio, inventor of pocket editions (the Aldines) and rigorously edited by the major humanists of the time, including Erasmus of Rotterdam. The greatest personality of this period, at a cultural level, was Ermolao Barbaro the Younger (1454-1493), a proponent of the philological application dictated by Lorenzo Valla and of the reconsideration of the “true” Aristotle following the translation of his corpus of writings.

Roman humanism
Roman humanism can find its beginning with the foundation, by Pope Innocent VII, of the Greek and Latin chair in Rome. The years immediately following, after the pontificate of Innocent, were marked by an emptiness of power due to the culminating phase of the Western Schism, which ended in 1417 with the election of Pope Martin V with the conclusion of the Council of Constance. But it was under the pontificate of Martino, that of Pope Eugene IV, that the humanistic culture in Rome saw intensification around the Roman Curia, giving the papal humanism a cosmopolitan face that will distinguish it throughout the century. Among the main humanists, Poggio Bracciolini, Maffeo Vegio and Biondo Flavio stood out for their importance and significance.

Poggio Bracciolini (1380-1459), a native of Terranuova, a pupil of Salutati and a friend of Bruni, was for thirty years a prominent figure at the papal court, until in 1453 he accepted the position of Chancellor of the Republic from Cosimo de ‘Medici.. Poggio Bracciolini is remembered, principally, for being the most significant researcher and discoverer of classics of the fifteenth century, and for having been one of the most significant epistolographs among his contemporaries. Alongside Bracciolini was Maffeo Vegio (1406-1450), papal secretary who concentrated on the erudite literary production aimed at the celebration of Christian Rome (De rebus antiquis memorabilibus Basilicae Sancti Petri Romae). Finally, in the pontificate of Eugenio, humanist historiography was born thanks to the work of the Forlì artist Flavio Biondo (1392-1463). Thanks to his monumental Historiarum ab inclinatione Romani imperii Decades, he was confronted with the Brunico historiographical production, characterized by a strong ideological vein and therefore in contrast with the exactness of the historiographical method based on the consultation of historical sources.

The rise of Roman humanism found its fulfillment under the pontificates of Niccolò V (1447-1455) and Pius II (1458-1464): the first, passionate bibliophile and lover of Roman antiquities, proposed a renovatio urbis aimed at the glorification of Christian Rome: Leon Battista Alberti, Giannozzo Manetti, Pier Candido Decembrio and some Greek prelates such as Cardinal Bessarione, or the philosopher and cardinal Nicola Cusano (patron of a negative theology) were the principal animators of the pontificate of the first. Under Pius II, himself a humanist and author of the Commentarii, papal humanism found a less lavish patron of Niccolò but, at the same time, the first pope-humanist. Porcelio Pandone met around the court of Pius; Bartolomeo Sacchi, called the Platina, called to direct the Vatican Apostolic Library; and Giannantonio Campano (1429-1477), a faithful advisor to Pius II, reviewed the Commentaries of the Pope and wrote a posthumous biography.

After the death of Pius II, the crisis of the humanistic parable began in Rome. In fact, the popes will no longer have the same enthusiasm for humanistic culture, or at least protect it by considering it as an acquired cultural factor. Roman humanism, as in Florence and in other cultural centers of the peninsula, exhausted the propensity of the first half of the century, reducing itself to a pure and simple spirit of outward ornamentation of papal power, finding a last flash of originality with the Pomponio Leto Academy.

Lombard humanism
The humanism sponsored by the Visconti dynasty first, and then by the Sforza dynasty, sought to counteract the instrumental use of which the republics of Florence and Venice made classical ideals. Born thanks to the stay of Petrarca (1352-1360) and then developed by Pasquino Cappelli, a real propeller of the new culture in Lombardy, the first significant results were collected by the Vicentine Antonio Loschi, famous author of the Invectiva in Florentinos (1397) and fervid supporter of Viscontean absolutism. In fact, from Loschi onwards, intellectuals promoted the excellence of the Caesarean monarchic model (represented precisely by Julius Caesar) against the Republican model incarnated by Scipio Africanus. Gian Galeazzo Visconti first, and his son Filippo Maria later, favored the patronage of this political production, while encouraging the heritage of classical (and vulgar) culture in the Pavia Library on one side, and the Studium Pavese on the other, with the purpose to secure a stable intellectual base at the service of power.
The promotion of the new culture was not only sponsored by the ruling dynasty, but also by learned prelates and cardinals, such as Branda Castiglioni, Pietro Filargo (future antipope Alessandro V), the archbishops of Milan Bartolomeo Capra (1414-1433) and Francesco Piccolpasso (1435-1443), and the bishop of Lodi Gerardo Landriani.

Finally, another directive on which the first Lombard humanism was moved was that of the rediscovery of the ancient Greek, thanks to the three-year magisterium who practiced Manuele Crisolora from 1400 to 1403 and to the collaboration with the local politician Uberto Decembrio with Gasparino Barzizza and Guarino Veronese. As he did in Florence, Crisolora gave his students Erotèmata, encouraging the establishment of Greek in Lombard soil, thanks to the presence, during the Sforza age, of Francesco Filelfo and Giovanni Argiropulo.

Southern humanism

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Alfonso V and the Catalan humanists
Because of the wars in the Angiò dynasty, the Kingdom of Naples was late in acquiring humanistic knowledge. After the disastrous government of the last exponent of the House of Anjou, Giovanna II, the Kingdom of Naples fell into the hands of the Aragonese Alfonso V, called the Magnanimous, ruling it from 1442 to 1458. Man not endowed with exceptional political-military abilities, Alfonso tried to repair the damage caused by the war, establishing almost equal relations with the barons and culturally elevating the kingdom, determining the entrance of humanism.

Alphonsian humanism was not favored by the action of native humanists, but by Catalan intellectuals who loved the Petrarchian revolution. Sustainer of humanism understood as a cultural movement of ethical and professional formation of a political class that would support him in the reconstruction of the kingdom, Alfonso relied mainly on two humanists Giovanni Olzina, Alfonso’s secretary, author of a government manual and protector of the young Lorenzo Valla and the Panormita; and Arnau Fonolleda, a Catalan diplomat who edited relations with the Florentine and curial humanists.

A cosmopolitan court
Helped by his collaborators, Alfonso V created a vast royal library which was used by many Italian humanists passing through Naples: Giannozzo Manetti, author of the De dignitate hominis; Pier Candido Decembrio, during the exile from Milan; Poggio Bracciolini, who dedicated to the sovereign the Latin version of the Ciropedia of Xenophon; and the restless Lorenzo Valla.

Moreover, Alfonso favored the introduction of the Greek, thanks to the hospitality of Teodoro Gaza, author of the Latin translation of the De instruendis aciebus of Eliano and of the Homilies of Giovanni Crisostomo; and of Giorgio da Trebizond, a Byzantine nobleman of the Empire of Trebizond who had traveled to Naples to push Alfonso to a crusade against the Mamluks of Egypt, and who dedicated to the sovereign the Greek version of the Pro Ctesiphonte of Demosthenes.

Bartolomeo Facio and the Panormita
Besides Valla, the two main humanistic figures present at the court of Alfonso were Bartolomeo Facio and Antonio Beccadelli, known as Panormita. The first, a Ligurian transplanted in Naples, was a councilor and secretary of state of the Aragonese monarch. His main works include De rebus gestis ab Alphonso I Neapolitanorum rege books X (1448-1455), De bello veneto clodiano (published in 1568) and the moral treatises De humanae vitae felicitate and De hominis excellentia.

A more singular and eventful figure was that of Panormita who, after moving to Naples, opened his own literary salon, not unlike the Pomponio Leto Academy in Rome, known as Porticus Antoniana, where the Neapolitans gathered. In addition to his promotion of humanism, Panormita captured Alfonso’s mind with his De dictis et factis Alphonsi regis, but it also aroused his embarrassment and, in the humanist circles, he reproached him for his Hermaphroditus, a work of dubious morality, but worthy epigonic lyrics catulliane and epigrams of Martial.

The minor centers

Famous already for the ancient university studium, Bologna experienced a period of relative splendor under the Bentivoglio family that will maintain, on behalf of the Papal State, the noble power up to 1506. The Bolognese humanism, fruit of the patronage of the Bentivoglio, of the presence of the Studium and the commissions of important ecclesiasti, it was also animated by the presence of humanists coming from all over the peninsula, thanks to its strategic geographical position (halfway between Florence, Venice and Milan). The most famous Bolognese humanists of the fifteenth century, namely Filippo Beroaldo and Francesco Puteolano, took care of a cultural activity that went from the production of writings courtiers celebrating the Bentivoglio, to more specifically philological-literary activities. In fact, Beroaldo and Antonio Urceo Codro dedicated themselves to the vernacular translation of Plautus, Lucretius and Apuleius; while Francesco Puteolano had the merit of commenting on Catullus and Statius, besides being one of the first humanists to be interested in printing with movable type (publishing Ovid in 1471).

Ferrara: from Donato degli Albanzani to the threshold of the sixteenth century
The humanistic message in the land of Ferrara was spread by one of the closest friends of Petrarch, the educated Tuscan scholar Donato degli Albanzani. The latter, in fact, resided starting from 1382 in the Emilian city, giving rise to new knowledge: Alberto V founded the Studium of Ferrara (1391) and Donato was called as preceptor of Niccolò III (1393-1441), which will be a great admirer of humanistic culture.

The key turning point for the humanism of Ferrara was due to the permanence in the city, starting from 1429, of the humanist and pedagogist Guarino Veronese. The latter, importer of the new education and a great lover of the Latin and Greek classics, took care both of the Studium and of the education of the heir of the Marquisate Leonello (1441-1450), which became famous as an intellectual and model of the Renaissance prince. Guarino imported the ancient Greek to Ferrara, taking advantage also of the convergence of the Byzantine scholars in the Council of Basel-Ferrara-Florence, which between 1438 and 1439 was held in Florence, and taken as a collaboratorGiovanni Aurispa, Sicilian scholar and the greatest researcher of Greek codes of the century, and the poet-humanist Ludovico Carbone.

After the death of Guarino (1460), the cultural scene of Ferrara was dominated by Tito Vespasiano Strozzi (1424-1505), a poet in Latin and author of Borsias, a Ferrarese emulation of Sphortias del Filelfo; and by Pandolfo Collenuccio (1447-1504), operating under Ercole I (1471-1505) as jurist and composer of Lucianeschi dialogues. It was however under the reign of the successor of Hercules, the son Alfonso I (1505-1534), that the humanism of Ferrara reached its peak with the recovery of the classical theater with the action of Ludovico Ariosto, author in 1508 of La Cassaria, first example of pure Renaissance theater after the experiment of Poliziano in Mantua.

Rimini and “isottiano” humanism
The small lordship of Rimini, run by the Malatesta family, saw the flourishing of humanism under the chief exponent of the latter, Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta (1417-1468). The new culture was inspired by the biographical events of the Lord, both sentimental and warlike. In addition to poets such as Giusto de ‘Conti, Roberto Valturio and Tommaso Seneca da Camerino who, following the ovidiano model, celebrated the love between Sigismondo and Isotta degli Atti, the main exponent of Rimini’s humanism was Basinio da Parma(1425-1457). Basinio, a pupil of Vittorino da Feltre, concentrated, besides the relationship between the two lovers (from which the collection of Ovidian elegies Isoetteus was born), also on the vicissitudes of the Malatesta writing the Hesperis, epic poem written in 13 books celebrating the military imprints of Sigismondo against the Aragonese of Alfonso V and recalculating, for language and stylistic cues, the Sphortias.

Mantuan humanism arose from the 1930s when the Marquis Gianfrancesco Gonzaga (1407-1433) invited the famous pedagogue Vittorino da Feltre in 1423, who in Mantua will open the “Joyful Home”, a school in which the heir to the Marquisate Ludovico was educated together with youngsters from all social backgrounds. He lived in Mantua, albeit briefly, also the Greek Theodore Gaza, providing Mantuan humanism with the basis for a Hellenistic development of his culture. The two enlightened spouses Ludovico III Gonzaga (1444-1478) and his wife Barbara of Brandenburgfrom the second half of the century, Mantua made a small but vital center of Lombard humanism: they protected the Platina which, taking refuge in Mantua from the persecution of Pope Paul II, composed the Historia urbis Manutae Gonzagaeque familiae as a token of gratitude; they called Leon Battista Alberti; and the successor of Ludovico, Federico I (1478-1484), hosted the Poliziano, who in Mantua staged and dedicated the Fabula d’Orfeo to Federico. Apart from the presence of foreign humanists, the Mantova of the fifteenth century could boast, as an autochthonous humanist,Battista Spagnoli known as the Mantovano (1447-1516), nicknamed the “Christian Virgil” by Erasmus of Rotterdam because of the fusion between the Latin and the Christian themes and author of the Adulescentia, composed of ten bucolic eclogues dominated by a strong realist vein. The Mantuan culture, then reinvigorated by the polyhedral figure of the wife of Francis II (1484-1519), Isabella d’Este, began to assume that courtly face of the Ferrarese court, through the protection of the humanist and courtly poet Mario Equicola, author of the Book de natura de amore.

The case of Savoy
The only area in which the humanistic-renaissance movement found no field was that of the Duchy of Savoy, a state whose gravitational orbit floated between the French and Italian areas. The crisis of the Duchy of Savoy during the ‘400, gripped by internal rivalries, political and cultural dependencies from the powerful Kingdom of France and ruled by inept dukes, did not allow the Savoyard ruling class to incorporate the advantages of the new humanistic culture.

Lorenzo Valla and Leon Battista Alberti

Lorenzo Valla (1407-1457) and Leon Battista Alberti (1404-1472), for their eclecticism, cosmopolitanism and variety of interests, can not fit into a specific geographic or thematic category.

As regards the thought and activity of the Valla, it can be argued that the Roman humanist founded a sort of philosophy of the word based on its absolute pre-eminence over the philosophical and cultural discourses that can be developed later. The verbum must be investigated, studied etymologically, reconstructed on the basis of the usus of which it was made and to analyze, therefore, also the most particular semantic meanings. Only starting from this rigorous analysis, based on the lesson of the Quintilian Roman rhetorician in his Institutio Oratoria) the meaning of the text can be reconstructed. Impatient towards the philosophical authorities of Thomist culture, Valla did not stop even before the classical authors themselves (letter to Juan Serra, 1440) or the Gospels themselves (for which he made, for the first time, the emendatio of the errors made by Saint Jerome in the drafting of the Vulgate), if the humanist had found errors to be corrected: from this point of view, we can understand the courageous attack against the text of the alleged Donation of the Roman emperor Constantine of the western possessions of the Empire to Pope Silvestro I, a document on which the claims of thetemporal power of the popes. Valla, essentially, abandons the last mediating weapons of the first humanism, to fight openly against all that culture that could hinder the correct activity of his research, arousing the same ire of an extremely bizarre and nonconformist humanist, as was Poggio Bracciolini.

Leon Battista Alberti is considered one of the most multifaceted and significant European humanists. Intellectual who burned to realize humanistic knowledge in the most varied fields (art, architecture, medicine, law and sculpture), Alberti stands out for the unsuspected experimentalism, for the will to rehabilitate the Italian vernacular to the detriment of his humanist colleagues (see the unhappy episode of the coronary Certam) and an anomalous underlying pessimism on human nature. The reflection on man, declined in the treatises dedicated to social relations (De familia, De Iciarchia), or in those with a political flavor (Momus and Theogenius), shows the overcoming of initial anthropological optimism to embrace both the positivity and the negativity, ambivalence that generates the “double” conception of man. In addition to the speculative dimension, Alberti was concerned with combining this wisdom with practical activity and with the sciences, combining, specifically, the technical knowledge of classicism with the activity of architect and artist (De re aedificatoria, De pictura).

European humanism
From the end of the 14th century, humanism, a phenomenon closely linked to the Italic area, began to spread among other European nations thanks to the stay of foreign intellectuals in our country. In some of them (such as France and England) humanism was delayed because of the War of a hundred years ago, and of the struggles for the reconstruction of the national fabric; in others, however, the domination of scholastic philosophy and medieval culture generally did not allow humanism to penetrate until the end of the fifteenth century: it was the case of the Kingdom of Hungary with its sovereign Mattia Corvino and that of Poland, thanks to the queen’s actionBona Sforza, married since 1518 with Sigismondo I Jagellone.

Erasmus of Rotterdam
The leading exponent of humanism that had an international flavor was certainly the Dutch humanist Erasmus of Rotterdam (1469? -1536), called “the prince of the humanists”. Considered at the same time the leading exponent of Christian humanism Erasmus, who had a profound aversion to the scholasticism and corruption in which the Church of Rome was concerned, proposed to restore a faith that was truly felt in the heart (the modern devotee), even before in the outer forms, and then to return to the model of the apostolic age.

On the basis of this project, the Dutch humanist (whose correspondence contacts ranged from Colet to Thomas More, from Manuzio to the Swiss publisher Froben, from eminent ecclesiastics to princes) proposed his “ethical reform” of Catholicism through a philological re-examination of the New Testament; the creation of a manual for the formation of the Christian (the Enchiridion militis christiani) and the production of literary works, strongly marked by irony (remember the famous Eulogy of Madness), aimed at stirring consciences.

The combination of classical and patristic models with the sensitive attention to contemporary issues (the deploration of war among Christians, the attention to pedagogical and political issues) made Erasmus the champion of humanism until the outbreak of the Protestant Reformation and the its opposition to the extremists of the Lutheran and Roman Catholic factions, which accused the elderly humanist of being now secretly Protestant, now secretly Catholic. Despite Erasmo had defended, in the writing Diatribe de free willof 1524, the theory according to which every human being disposes freely of his own conscience and, therefore, of his own actions, going also against the divine moral, his protervia in remaining neutral in the dispute alienated the sympathies also of the Catholics.

Source from Wikipedia