Petrarch (Francesco Petrarca, 1304-1374)

Petrarch Demographics:
  • Name - Francesco Petrarca (known in English as Petrarch)
  • Born - July 20, 1304
  • Birthplace - Garden Street, city of Arezzo.
  • Died - July 19, 1374
  • Place of Death - Arquà, near Padua in Italy
  • Occupation - Italian scholar, poet.
  • Father - Ser Petracco (Lawyer).
  • Son - Giovanni (born 1337) died of the plague in 1361.
  • Daughter - Francesca (born in 1343).
Petrarch General Facts:
  • One of the earliest Renaissance humanists.
  • Petrarch is often called the "Father of Humanism".
  • Petrarch was also known for being one of the first people to refer to the "Dark Ages".
  • His brother was the only one of 35 monks left alive in his monastery following an outbreak of the plague.
  • Petrarch, referring to the plague, predicted that generations to come would not believe tales of such horrors.
  • He watched many of those close to him die of the plague, and listed Giovanni Boccaccio (A.D. 1313-1375) as his only surviving friend.
  • The image opposite is a portrait of Petrarch (ca. 1450).
Petrarch Childhood & Education:
  • Early childhood was spent in the village of Incisa, near Florence.
  • Petrarch lived much of his early life at Avignon & Carpentras.
  • His family moved to Avignon to follow Pope Clement V (moved there in 1309 to begin the Avignon Papacy).
  • He studied law at Montpellier (1316–20) & Bologna (1320–23) at his father's insistance.
  • Petrarch, however, was mostly interested in writing & Latin literature.
Petrarch - Adult Life:
  • Petrarch was a prolific letter writer and counted Boccaccio among his friends.
  • He traveled widely in Europe and served as an ambassador and has been called "the first tourist"
  • Petrarch is credited with creating the concept of a historical "Dark Ages".
  • In later years he spent his time journeying through northern Italy as an international scholar & poet-diplomat.
  • Around 1368, Petrarch & his daughter (with family) moved to Arquà , near Padua, where he spent his remaining years in religious contemplation.
Petrarch Literary Works:
  • Petrarch was an enthusiastic Latin scholar, writing mostly in Latin.
  • His works contributed to the creation & structure of the modern Italian language.
  • His first large scale work, Africa, was an epic in Latin about the great Roman general Scipio Africanus, though it was never finished.
  • Petrarch is best known for his Italian poetry, particularly the Canzoniere & the Trionfi ("Triumphs").
  • Petrarch's sonnets have been admired & imitated throughout Europe during the Renaissance; becoming a model for lyrical poetry.
Petrarch Literary Works (Selected):
  • Secretum ("My Secret Book") - a very personal, guilt-laden imaginary dialogue with Augustine of Hippo.
  • De Viris Illustribus ("On Famous Men") - a series of moral biographies.
  • Rerum Memorandarum Libri - an incomplete treatise on the cardinal virtues.
  • De Otio Religiosorum ("On Religious Leisure") - praising contemplative life.
  • De Vita Solitaria ("On the Solitary Life") - praising contemplative life.
  • De Remediis Utriusque Fortunae ("Remedies for Fortune Fair and Foul") - self-help book which remained popular for centuries.
  • Itinerarium ("Petrarch's Guide to the Holy Land") - a travel guide.
  • Carmen Bucolicum - collection of 12 pastoral poems.
  • Epistolae familiares & Seniles - 2 books containing many letters.
Petrarch Quotes:
Homer, Petrarch relates, "was dumb to him, while he was deaf to Homer".

"In my younger days I struggled constantly with an overwhelming but pure love affair – my only one, and I would have struggled with it longer had not premature death, bitter but salutary for me, extinguished the cooling flames. I certainly wish I could say that I have always been entirely free from desires of the flesh, but I would be lying if I did".

"O happy people of the future, who have not known these miseries and perchance will class our testimony with the fables." [writing about the plague]
Petrarch & Philosophy:
  • Petrarch is traditionally known as the "Father of Humanism".
  • Some scholars even consider him to be the "Father of the Renaissance."
  • Petrarch believed that God had given humans their vast intellectual & creative potential to be used to their fullest.
  • Although Petrarch was a devout Catholic, he did not see a conflict between realizing humanity's potential & having religious faith.
  • He was a highly introspective man, which lead to him tending to emphasize the importance of solitude & study.
  • Later, Leonardo Bruni argued instead for the active life, or "civic humanism" which would subsequently influence a number of political, military, & religious leaders during the Renaissance.

Posted by ALCHEssMIST.
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