It often happened that an individuals desire to achieve greatness as a ruler or to become famous as a condottieri tended to disrupt the chances of a peaceful existence being enjoyed many other persons. Afterwards Pomponius Laetus took up the same subject, and acted as producer when Plautus was put on the stage in the houses of great churchmen. He also found in the Renaissance a heightened interest in the world of nature and of man, including both the outer and inner aspects of human character. He conceived of it as a sudden leap forward from what he conceived of as the darkness and bondage of the Middle Ages, rather than a natural growth from medieval foundations. In this state of things, the first beginnings of a topographical study of the old city were made.
Hence, they sought the conception of an underlying truth that had been glimpsed and taught by wise men throughout the ages. But it was in lyric, and more particularly in elegiac, poetry that the poet-scholar came nearest to antiquity; and next to this, in epigram. But neither Italy nor Western Europe produced another Dante, and he was and remained the man who first thrust antiquity into the foreground of national culture. Writers, scholars, and artists thought that they were witnessing a renewal of much that had long been dead or dormant. Yet the same Ariosto who knew and ridiculed all this so well, gives in the sixth satire a longing picture of his expected intercourse with the accomplished poets who would conduct him through the city of ruins, of the learned counsel which he would there find for his own literary efforts, and of the treasures of the Vatican library. For instance, the Renaissance and the modern world are characterized by the presence and growth of cities.
Rich in its detailed account of the arts, fashions, manners, and thought of one of the most innovative eras in human history, this brilliant panorama of Renaissance life is also a thorough examination of the nature of civilization and of our place within it. The term Renaissance is a concept, which has proved reasonably useful in designating a phase of European civilization. While earlier historians had concentrated on political and military history, Burckhardt discussed the total life of the people, including religion, art and literature. The spirit and range of Roman elegy were best understood and reproduced by Sannazaro, and no other writer of his time offers us so varied a choice of good poems in this style as he. It was a change under which the good and bad suffered indiscriminately. It is well known that the collection, after the plundering in the year 1494, had to be recovered piecemeal by the Cardinal Giovanni Medici, afterwards Leo X. His Neapolitan successors inherited as little of this passion for antiquity as of his other good qualities.
In Padua a lawyer of the fifteenth century received a salary of 1,000 ducats, and it was proposed to appoint a celebrated physician with a yearly payment of 2,000 ducats, and the right of private practice, the same man having previously received 700 gold florins at Pisa. Despite this illegitimacy of so many Italian rulers, divine-right monarchy remained the model for much of Europe for hundreds of years. This double current of feeling is also recognizable in the 'Dittamondo' of Fazio degli Uberti, composed about the year 1360—a description of visionary travels, in which the author is accompanied by the old geographer Solinus, as Dante was by Virgil. The description is closed by a reference to the golden age, when no such thing as science existed on the earth. No conviction was more firmly rooted in the popular mind than that antiquity was the highest title to glory which Italy possessed. It is also important because it was the first modern work to give just as much weight to the social and cultural features of the time period examined as it did to the progression of political events.
At the court of Giovan Francesco Gonzaga at Mantua 1407-1444 appeared the illustrious , one of those men who devote their whole life to an object for which their natural gifts constitute a special vocation. One of his aims was to further the use of the vernacular language, and to this end he established competitions for poets writing in Italian, with prizes for the winners. This book was written in Italian, although Alberti could and did write also in Latin. A vast colonnade near the Minerva fell piecemeal a victim to the same fate. The addresses again which were delivered to the Florentine Militia, organized in 1506 chiefly through the influence of Machiavelli, and which were spoken first at reviews, and afterwards at special annual festivals, were of another kind. We are here occupied, not with the learning of the Italians in itself, but with the reproduction of antiquity in literature and life. It also places the umbrella of the Renaissance over the Catholic Reformation or Counter Reformation.
Burckhardt himself did not pay attention to the Renaissance outside Italy; in fact, in a letter he wrote to his friend Paul Heyse, he dealt rather scornfully with the idea of a Renaissance in France. It was now possible to touch and study paganism almost fere without danger. Epoch after epoch, camp, kingdom, empire, republic, democracy, are merely the application of his manifold spirit to the manifold world. Along with this classical revival, Oriental studies now assumed considerable proportions. Castiglione's Courtier envisages an individual who is accomplished in many fields; an ideal of all-around accomplishment was clearly not regarded as impractical or unrealistic. They wrote Italian, not only because they could not vie with the Ciceronian elegance of the philologists, but because, like Machiavelli, they could only record in a living tongue the living results of their own immediate observations—and we may add in the case of Machiavelli, of his observation of the past—and because, as in the case of Guicciardini, Varchi, and many others, what they most desired was, that their view of the course of events should have as wide and deep a practical effect as possible.
And this when in Northern countries nothing more was current than chronicles of the popes and emperors, and the Fasciculus temporum. On an excursion to Tivoli with the great Federigo of Urbino the time was happily spent in talk on the military system of the ancients, and particularly on the Trojan war. The Popes had migrated to Avignon. No importance was attached to a man's home or origin. We owe to him the later books of Ammianus Marcellinus, the De Oratore of Cicero, and other works; he persuaded Cosimo to buy the best manuscript of Pliny from a monastery at Lubeck. Other examples include: Wool manufacturers, and bankers. If those elegiac natures which long to see them return could pass but one hour in the midst of them, they would gasp to be back in modern air.
Such labels are useful to us only when we keep their limitations firmly in mind. Carlo Aretino and Leonardo Aretino were thus crowned; the eulogy of the first was pronounced by Matteo Palmieri, of the latter by Giannozzo Manetti, before the members of the council and the whole people, the orator standing at the head of the bier, on which the corpse lay clad in a silken robe. Pius himself through all his life did much by his oratory to prepare the way for his final elevation to the Papal chair. They needed it, if only to keep their heads above water, and were confirmed in it by the admiration which alternated with hatred in the treatment they received from the world. Never indeed was more expected from preachers than at that time—especially from the Lenten preachers; and there were not a few audiences which could not only tolerate, but which demanded a strong dose of philosophy from the pulpit.
He chose Marsilio Ficino, the son of his personal physician, to lead this enterprise. The inhabitants, 'who then called themselves Romans,' accepted greedily the homage which was offered them by the rest of Italy. Nicholas, and Monte Gargano of the archangel Michael, and in Rome the legends of Aracoeli and of Santa Maria in Trastevere are mentioned. The best thing that Giovanni Villani brought back from the jubilee of the year 1300 was the resolution to write his history which bad been awakened in him by the sight of the ruins of Rome. Even on his journey to the Congress of Mantua 1459 he searched, though unsuccessfully, for the labyrinth of Clusium mentioned by Pliny, and visited the so-called villa of Virgil on the Mincio.