Coluccio Salutati

Coluccio Salutati

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Coluccio Salutati was an Italian Humanist
Renaissance humanism
Renaissance humanism was an activity of cultural and educational reform engaged by scholars, writers, and civic leaders who are today known as Renaissance humanists. It developed during the fourteenth and the beginning of the fifteenth centuries, and was a response to the challenge of Mediæval...

 and man of letters, and one of the most important political and cultural leaders of Renaissance
Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

 Florence.

Birth and Early Career


Salutati was born in Stignano, near Buggiano
Buggiano
Buggiano is a comune in the Province of Pistoia in the Italian region Tuscany, located about 45 km northwest of Florence and about 15 km southwest of Pistoia.-Main sights:*Sanctuary of the Holy Crucifix...

 (today's province of Pistoia
Province of Pistoia
The Province of Pistoia is a province in the Tuscany region of Italy. Its capital is the city of Pistoia. It has an area of 965 km², and a total population of 268,503 . There are 22 communes in the province .-External links:...

, Tuscany
Tuscany
Tuscany is a region in Italy. It has an area of about 23,000 square kilometres and a population of about 3.75 million inhabitants. The regional capital is Florence ....

). After studies in Bologna
Bologna
Bologna is the capital city of Emilia-Romagna, in the Po Valley of Northern Italy. The city lies between the Po River and the Apennine Mountains, more specifically, between the Reno River and the Savena River. Bologna is a lively and cosmopolitan Italian college city, with spectacular history,...

, he began to work as notary in that town, then part of the Republic of Florence
Republic of Florence
The Republic of Florence , or the Florentine Republic, was a city-state that was centered on the city of Florence, located in modern Tuscany, Italy. The republic was founded in 1115, when the Florentine people rebelled against the Margraviate of Tuscany upon Margravine Matilda's death. The...

. His letters to Florentine scholars earned him the nickname of "Ape of Cicero
Cicero
Marcus Tullius Cicero , was a Roman philosopher, statesman, lawyer, political theorist, and Roman constitutionalist. He came from a wealthy municipal family of the equestrian order, and is widely considered one of Rome's greatest orators and prose stylists.He introduced the Romans to the chief...

", referring to his mastership of Latin style. Francesco Bruni took Salutati with him in Rome from 1368 to 1370, as assistant in the Papal secretariat. Having his career boosted by his stay in Rome, he was therefore appointed chancellor of Todi and then of the powerful Lucca
Lucca
Lucca is a city and comune in Tuscany, central Italy, situated on the river Serchio in a fertile plainnear the Tyrrhenian Sea. It is the capital city of the Province of Lucca...

.

Chancellor of Florence


In 1375 Coluccio was appointed Chancellor of Florence
Chancellor of Florence
The Chancellor of Florence held the most important position in the bureaucracy of the Florentine Republic. Though the chancellor was not officially a member of the Republic's elected political government like the gonfaloniere or the nine members of the signoria, occupying a role roughly equivalent...

, the most important position in the bureaucracy
Bureaucracy
A bureaucracy is an organization of non-elected officials of a governmental or organization who implement the rules, laws, and functions of their institution, and are occasionally characterized by officialism and red tape.-Weberian bureaucracy:...

 of the Florentine Republic. In his position, Salutati was responsible for the official correspondences with other states. His abilities as a statesman were soon tested as Florence was immediately faced with war with the papacy. Salutati was charged with addressing pope Gregory XI to assure him that Florence was still a loyal member of the Guelf party. Although he failed to prevent war with the papacy, Salutati soon became the most celebrated chancellor in all of Italy and a master of the formal letter. Florence's principal nemesis during his tenure, Giangaleazzo Visconti, Duke of Milan, once remarked that one of Salutati's letters could "cause more damage than a thousand Florentine horsemen."
During his life, Florence warred twice against its powerful northern rival, Giangaleazzo Visconti. His treatise De tyranno ("On the tyrant", published in 1400), has, most likely, its model in Visconti, although in it Salutati (despite being a republican) remains a supporter of the providential universal monarch already put forward by Dante
DANTE
Delivery of Advanced Network Technology to Europe is a not-for-profit organisation that plans, builds and operates the international networks that interconnect the various national research and education networks in Europe and surrounding regions...

.
Occasionally his letters had unintended consequences. When he wrote to the people of Ancona, asking them for military support against the pope, he called to mind the evils Italy had suffered on behalf of the French. Word of his nasty tone got to the King of France, which prompted a switch and most conciliatory letter from Salutati, assuring the King that he meant no harm and that Florence would always be a friend to France.
In testimony to his popularity as chancellor the city of Florence paid 250 Florins for his funeral in 1406.

Cultural Achievements


Coluccio's cultural achievements are perhaps even greater than his political ones. A skilled writer and orator, Coluccio drew heavily upon the classical tradition. An admirer of Petrarch
Petrarch
Francesco Petrarca , known in English as Petrarch, was an Italian scholar, poet and one of the earliest humanists. Petrarch is often called the "Father of Humanism"...

, he spent much of his salary on amassing a collection of 800 books, a large library by the standards of the time. He also pursued classical manuscripts, making a number of important discoveries, the most important being Cicero
Cicero
Marcus Tullius Cicero , was a Roman philosopher, statesman, lawyer, political theorist, and Roman constitutionalist. He came from a wealthy municipal family of the equestrian order, and is widely considered one of Rome's greatest orators and prose stylists.He introduced the Romans to the chief...

's lost Letters to his Friends (Epistulae ad familiares), which overturned the entire medieval conception of the Roman statesman. Coluccio also did important studies of history, tying Florence's origin not to the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

 but to the Roman Republic
Roman Republic
The Roman Republic was the period of the ancient Roman civilization where the government operated as a republic. It began with the overthrow of the Roman monarchy, traditionally dated around 508 BC, and its replacement by a government headed by two consuls, elected annually by the citizens and...

. In his lifetime, the study of secular literature, especially pagan literature, was discouraged by the Roman Catholic Church
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

. Coluccio played an important part in changing this outlook, frequently engaging in theological debates on the merits of pagan literature with Church officials.

He also brought the Byzantine scholar Manuel Chysoloras to Florence in 1397 to teach one of the first courses in Greek since the end of the Roman Empire. After Boethius, few Westerners spoke or read Greek. Many ancient Greek works of science and philosophy were not available in Latin translation. By Salutati's time, a few Latin texts of Aristotle had arrived in Europe via Muslim Spain and Sicily. These texts, however, had been translated from Arabic, rather than directly from the Greek. By bringing Chrysoloras to Florence, Salutati made it possible for a select group of scholars (including Bruni and Vergerio) to read Aristotle and Plato in the original ancient Greek.

He promoted the work of younger humanists such as Gian Francesco Poggio Bracciolini
Gian Francesco Poggio Bracciolini
Poggio Bracciolini was an Italian scholar, writer and humanist. He recovered a great number of classical Latin texts, mostly lying forgotten in German and French monastic libraries, and disseminated manuscript copies among the educated world.- Biography :Poggio di Duccio was...

, Leonardo Bruni
Leonardo Bruni
Leonardo Bruni was an Italian humanist, historian and statesman. He has been called the first modern historian.-Biography:...

 and Pier Paolo Vergerio
Pier Paolo Vergerio
Pier Paolo Vergerio was an Italian religious reformer.-Life:He was born at Capodistria , then part of the Venetian Republic and studied jurisprudence in Padua, where he delivered lectures in 1522. He also practiced law in Verona, Padua, and Venice...

.

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