- De Viris Illustribus (Petrarch)
De viris illustribus (English: On Illustrious Men) is an unfinished collection of biographies, written in Latin, by the 14th century Italian author Francesco Petrarca. These biographies are a set of Lives similar in idea to Plutarch's Parallel Lives. The works were unfinished however he was famous enough for these and other works to receive two invitations to be crowned poet laureate. He received these invitations on exactly the same day, April 8, 1341, one being from the Paris University and the other from the Roman Senate. He accepted the Roman invitation.
It is composed of two books:
- Liber I includes 24 to 36 moral biographies (depending on version) of heroes of Greek and Roman antiquity (much like Polybius "The Histories" and Plutarch's figures in his Lives).
- Liber II includes 12 moral biographies of Biblical and mythical figures (much like that found in the Hebrew Bible, Greek mythology, and Islamic prophets).
These are 36 biographies of Petrarch's subjects starting with Romulus, the mythological founder of Rome, and going through Trajan. All of these are mentioned in Petrarch's epic poem Africa. He revised the list many times over the years in different "plans." Some "Illustrious Romans" ended with Titus. Another plan of "Illustrious Romans" added Julius Caesar as the twenty-fourth biography. The adjacent 1476 Table of Contents introduction is old Italian and says something to the effect: Repository of the book here present where will be shown the chapters on 36 "illustrious men" whose deeds are extensively described by the honorable poet, Sir Francesco Petrarca, and beginning as appears below. Listed among these are Titus, Pompey, Scipio Africanus and Julius Caesar.
Subjects of De Viris Illustribus in Latin Subjects of De Viris Illustribus appearing in Africa  Page references in Africa translation Romulo primo Romanorum rege Romulus 19, 20, 80, 116, 144, 232, 253, 270 Numa Pompilio secundo Romanorum rege . Numa Pompilius 244 Tullo Hostilio tertio Romanorum rege Tullus Hostilius 245 Anco Marzio quarter Romanorum rege Ancus Marcius 245 Iunio Bruto primo Romanorum consule Lucius Junius Brutus 66, 67, 68, 254, 269 Horatio Cocle Horatius Cocles 214, 269 Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Cincinnatus 253 Marco Furio Camillo Marcus Furius Camillus 213, 246, 247, 259 Tito Manlio Torquato Titus Manlius Torquatus 248 Marco Valerio Corvo Marcus Valerius Corvus 253 Publius Decius Publius Decius Mus 253 Lucio Papirius Cursor Lucius Papirius Cursor 253 Marco Curio Dentato Curius Dentatus 253 Fabritio Lucino Gaius Fabricius Luscinus 253, 270 Alexandro Macedonian Alexander III of Macedon 27, 185, 187, 252, 266, 267, 271 rege Pyrro Epyrotarum Pyrrhus of Epirus 152, 185, 190, 253, 264 Hanibal Carthaginensium Duce Hannibal of Carthage 123-129, 131-134, 142-145, 149-154 Quinto Fabio Maximo Cuntator Fabius Maximus Cunctator ("the Delayer") 14, 15, 144, 217, 244, 255, 263 Marco Claudio Marcello Marcus Claudius Marcellus 14, 130, 147, 244, 253, 261 Claudius Nero Gaius Claudius Nero 200-204, 246, 260, 268 Livius Salinatore Marcus Livius Salinator 135 Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus Maiore Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus 134-138, 163-164, 182, 189, 204 Marco Porta Cato Censors Cato the Elder 28, 59, 246, 253 Cesare Vlio dementflimor Julius Caesar 242, 246, 247 Tito Quinto Flimmio Titus Quinctius Flamininus 248 Anthiocore de Asiae Antiochus XIII Asiaticus 27, 193, 245, 246, 259, 267 Scipionenasiae Publius Cornelius Scipio Nasica 246 Pavlo Emilio Lucius Aemilius Paullus Macedonicus 14, 244, 265 Quinto Caecilo Metello Quintus Caecilius Metellus 135, 246, 254, 262 Scipioneafricano emilianae Scipio Aemilianus 204, 246, 249, 269 Mario Arpinater Gaius Marius 213, 246, 247, 259 Pompeo Magno Pompey 246, 247 Octaviano Auguflos Augustus 136, 195, 197 Vespasiano Vespasian 247 Tito Vespasiano Titus 248 Traiano Trajan 248
These are the subjects of Petrarch's 12 biographies starting with the first person of the Bible. Petrarch influenced Giovanni Boccaccio Lives On Famous Women of 106 biographies which starts with the first woman of the Bible. Below is the first person of the Bible and above in Liber I is the first mythical figures that started Rome.
Petrarch was working on De viris illustribus at the same time he was working on his epic poem Africa with Scipio Africanus being the center figure for both. The Africa was conceived as a poetic parallel of De Viris Illustribus. Petrarch conceived his first plan for De viris illustribus of biographies of illustrious men of Jewish, oriental, Greek and Roman famous figures in 1337-38. He wrote up his list of "Illustrious Men" from Adam to Hercules and Romulus to Titus in 1337-38 about the same time as he was writing up the Africa. Petrarch's earliest reference to writing a series of biographies of Lives can be found in the third book of his work Secretum which was originally written up around 1337. St. Augustine speaks to Petrarch
“ ...thus, putting your hand to even greater works, you have tied yourself to a book of histories from the time of king Romulus to the emperor Titus, a task of immense duration and of very great labor. ”
Petrarch went from these Lives of "Illustrious Men" into his work on the Africa using the research of De viris illustribus as the bases. Petrarch was preoccupied with this idea of a series of biographies of Lives of ancient heroes of generals and statesmen for almost forty years. There were several plans of De viris illustribus. In 1348-49 Petrarch made a larger version of Lives. Petrarch writes a letter to Luca Cristiani in 1349 concerning these Lives for De viris illustribus that he was doing in the valley at Vaucluse in France;
“ ...no place had afforded me more leisure or more exciting stimulation: that solitude has permitted me to collect in one scheme outstanding men from all lands and from all ages. ”
Petrarch mentions in letters from Vaucluse around 1350 that he was working on a De viris illustribus that was wholly committed to those who were illustrious "from every country" and that he was "bringing together illustrious men from all lands and centries." This is known to scholars as an "all-ages" plan. Petrarch added the "bio" of Julius Caesar, De gestis Cesaris ("On the Deeds of Caesar"), later as the twenty-fourth and last character of the Roman version finished about 1364 (fourteenth reigning year of John the Good) as an afterthought to his original "Famous Men." He wanted to depict events that were controlled by the Roman leaders, not events that happened by luck or fortune. He wanted to be a critical historian and convey these illustrious men in dignity. For these reasons he is considered the first historian of the Renaissance.
Petrarch worked on various "plans" and versions of De viris illustribus. He was not only influenced by ancient historians like Livy and Valerius Maximus, but by other historians of his time period that were working on similar ideas. In the early part of the fourteenth century in northern Italy it was fairly commonplace among historians to write a series of biographies on famous men. A friend of Petrarch's, Giovanni Colonna, authorized his version of a De viris illustribus before he left Avignon for Rome in 1338. Another of Petrarch's friends, Guglielmo Pastrengo, had two works on lives of famous men, De viris illustribus and De originibus. Petrarch's friend, Pastrengo, also wrote a work on De viris illustribus and De originibus. The previous historian's works of De originibus are about the origins and definitions of geographical sites, peoples, and certain stone structures.
Historian Kohn says that there was at least three different "plans" that Petrarch devised for his De viris illustribus. The first plan, prior to his famous epic poem Africa, was written around 1337. It is known as the "republican Rome" plan. The second plan started in 1350 entered in Christian figures, similar in style to Jerome's De viris illustribus and his "Church Fathers." It was finished around 1351-53 and called the "all-ages" plan. Petrarch enjoyed both the writings of ancient writers before the Christian era for their history of famous men and that of Jerome's Latin "Church Fathers" for their Christian viewpoints. He viewed both as a world being in decline. The third plan was a series of biographies of Romulus to Trajan and is referred to as "ancient secular heroes." In this plan most biographies are considered lengthy, while others are considered massive. For example, the biography of Cornelius Scipio is 20,000 words and that of the newly entered Julius Caesar is 70,000 words long. Petrarch's characters were of military heroes and civic leaders, while other authors wrote on most any notable men. Petrarch's overall goal attitude was to convey antiguity history balanced with the Christian tradition. He presented a moral aim of doing the right thing compared to actions of the past. He saw Jerome's "Church Fathers" as presenting moral virtues through Christian traditional viewpoints. He felt that by close examination of the ancient Roman leaders the reader could gain their virtues.
AIM PURPOSE SOURCE morals virtues Livy, Jerome aesthetic dignity Valerius Maximus, Cicero critical truth Cicero
Petrarch intended his work to be instructional for teaching moral righteousness. He found comfort in the misfortunes of Old Testament figures such as Jacob and Joseph. He showed to his fourteenth century readers the lessons of common sense morality that could be learned from the ancient Roman leaders and Old Testament figures. He stressed these points over that of victories on the battlegrounds, which he considered as mere luck and incompetence of the enemies. He saw his duty of his work to be "describing illustrious men, not lucky ones."
- ^ a b c d e "Francesco Petrarch (1304-1374)". http://www.litencyc.com/php/speople.php?rec=true&UID=3540. Retrieved 2009-01-03.
- ^ "Petrarch". http://www.humanistictexts.org/petrarch.htm. Retrieved 2009-01-03.
- ^ a b De viris illustribus / Francesco Petrarca ; edited by Silvano Ferrone
- ^ a b c d Kohl, p. 133
- ^ a b c d e f Kohl, p. 134
- ^ Bergin and Wilson
- ^ Kirkham, pp. 113, 385
- ^ Kirkham, pp. 114, 385
- ^ Warner, p. 221
- ^ Kirkham, p. 106
- ^ Kirkham, p. 107
- ^ Kirkham, p. 110
- ^ a b Kohl, p. 136
- ^ Kohl, p. 137
- ^ Witt, p. 282
- ^ Witt, p. 283
- ^ Witt, p. 284
- ^ a b Kirkham, p. 104
- ^ Witt, p. 285
- ^ a b Kohl, pp. 133-36
- ^ Witt, pp. 282-289
- The Histories (Polybius)
- The Histories of Herodotus
- Petrarch.freeservers.com, The Petrarchan Grotto
- Petrarch.petersadlon.com, Francesco Petrarch and Laura deNoves
- Plutarch's Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans
- The Histories or The Rise of the Roman Empire by Polybius:
- Preface to Petrarch's de Viris Illustribus by JSTOR
- Works by Livy at Project Gutenberg that have subjects of Liber I at Gutenberg.org
- Original displays of Petrarch's works at Cornell University Library Exhibition.
- The Catholic Encyclopedia, Published 1910 in New York by Robert Appleton Company.
- Made possible by support from the National Italian American Foundation Library.upenn.edu, Petrarch at 700.
- Polybius, Perseus.tufts.edu, Histories of Lives, Evelyn S. Shuckburgh (translator), London - New York, (1889)
- Both Liber I and Liber II of Petrarch's De Viris Illustribus in Latin only is located at Bibliotecaitaliana.it.
- Smith, William; Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, Ancientlibrary.com, "Logbasis", Boston, (1867)
- Kirkham, Victoria, Petrarch: a critical guide to the complete works, University of Chicago, 2009, ISBN 0226437418
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
- The New Testament has 27 books and the Old Testament has 39 books for a total of 66 books known as the Christian Bible.
- Warner, James Christopher, The Augustinian epic, Petrarch to Milton, University of Michigan Press, 2005, ISBN 0472115189
- Witt, Ronald G., In the footsteps of the ancients: the origins of humanism from Lovato to Bruni, Brill Publishers, 2003, ISBN 0391042025
- Kohl, Benjamin (1974). "Petrarch's Prefaces to de Viris Illustribus". History and Theory 13 (2): 132–144. JSTOR 2504856.
- Petrarch in Print display at the University of Pennsylvania Library of De Viris illustribus translated into Italian by Library.upenn.edu, Donato degli Albanazi.
- Bergin, Thomas G. and Wilson, Alice S., Petrarch's Africa English translation. New Haven. Yale University Press 1977. ISBN 0-300-02062-7
- Francis Petrarch Six Centuries Later: A Symposium. Studies in Romance Languages at Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Duke.edu, Petrarch: The German Connection.
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