Leonardo Bruni

Leonardo Bruni

Overview

Leonardo Bruni (c. 1370 – March 9, 1444) was an Italian humanist
Humanism
Humanism is an approach in study, philosophy, world view or practice that focuses on human values and concerns. In philosophy and social science, humanism is a perspective which affirms some notion of human nature, and is contrasted with anti-humanism....

, historian
Historian
A historian is a person who studies and writes about the past and is regarded as an authority on it. Historians are concerned with the continuous, methodical narrative and research of past events as relating to the human race; as well as the study of all history in time. If the individual is...

 and statesman
Statesman
A statesman is usually a politician or other notable public figure who has had a long and respected career in politics or government at the national and international level. As a term of respect, it is usually left to supporters or commentators to use the term...

. He has been called the first modern historian.

Leonardo Bruni was born in Arezzo
Arezzo
Arezzo is a city and comune in Central Italy, capital of the province of the same name, located in Tuscany. Arezzo is about 80 km southeast of Florence, at an elevation of 296 m above sea level. In 2011 the population was about 100,000....

, 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 ....

 circa 1370. Bruni was the pupil of political, and cultural leader Coluccio Salutati
Coluccio Salutati
Coluccio Salutati was an Italian Humanist and man of letters, and one of the most important political and cultural leaders of Renaissance Florence.-Birth and Early Career:...

, whom he succeeded as chancellor of
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...

 Florence
Florence
Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany and of the province of Florence. It is the most populous city in Tuscany, with approximately 370,000 inhabitants, expanding to over 1.5 million in the metropolitan area....

. Bruni's years in office -- 1410 to 1411 and again from 1427 to his death in 1444 -- were plagued by warfare. Though he occupied one of the highest political offices, Bruni was relatively powerless compared to the Albizzi
Albizzi
The Albizzi family was a Florentine family originally based in Arezzo, who were rivals of the Medici and Alberti families. They were at the centre of Florentine oligarchy from 1382, in the reaction that followed the Ciompi revolt, to the rise of the Medici in 1434...

 and Medici
Medici
The House of Medici or Famiglia de' Medici was a political dynasty, banking family and later royal house that first began to gather prominence under Cosimo de' Medici in the Republic of Florence during the late 14th century. The family originated in the Mugello region of the Tuscan countryside,...

 families.
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Leonardo Bruni (c. 1370 – March 9, 1444) was an Italian humanist
Humanism
Humanism is an approach in study, philosophy, world view or practice that focuses on human values and concerns. In philosophy and social science, humanism is a perspective which affirms some notion of human nature, and is contrasted with anti-humanism....

, historian
Historian
A historian is a person who studies and writes about the past and is regarded as an authority on it. Historians are concerned with the continuous, methodical narrative and research of past events as relating to the human race; as well as the study of all history in time. If the individual is...

 and statesman
Statesman
A statesman is usually a politician or other notable public figure who has had a long and respected career in politics or government at the national and international level. As a term of respect, it is usually left to supporters or commentators to use the term...

. He has been called the first modern historian.

Biography


Leonardo Bruni was born in Arezzo
Arezzo
Arezzo is a city and comune in Central Italy, capital of the province of the same name, located in Tuscany. Arezzo is about 80 km southeast of Florence, at an elevation of 296 m above sea level. In 2011 the population was about 100,000....

, 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 ....

 circa 1370. Bruni was the pupil of political, and cultural leader Coluccio Salutati
Coluccio Salutati
Coluccio Salutati was an Italian Humanist and man of letters, and one of the most important political and cultural leaders of Renaissance Florence.-Birth and Early Career:...

, whom he succeeded as chancellor of
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...

 Florence
Florence
Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany and of the province of Florence. It is the most populous city in Tuscany, with approximately 370,000 inhabitants, expanding to over 1.5 million in the metropolitan area....

. Bruni's years in office -- 1410 to 1411 and again from 1427 to his death in 1444 -- were plagued by warfare. Though he occupied one of the highest political offices, Bruni was relatively powerless compared to the Albizzi
Albizzi
The Albizzi family was a Florentine family originally based in Arezzo, who were rivals of the Medici and Alberti families. They were at the centre of Florentine oligarchy from 1382, in the reaction that followed the Ciompi revolt, to the rise of the Medici in 1434...

 and Medici
Medici
The House of Medici or Famiglia de' Medici was a political dynasty, banking family and later royal house that first began to gather prominence under Cosimo de' Medici in the Republic of Florence during the late 14th century. The family originated in the Mugello region of the Tuscan countryside,...

 families. Historian Arthur Field has identified Bruni as a plotter against Cosimo de Medici in 1437 (see below). Bruni died in 1444 and was succeeded in office by Carlo Marsuppini
Carlo Marsuppini
Carlo Marsuppini , also known as Carlo Aretino and Carolus Arretinus, was an Italian Renaissance humanist and chancellor of the Florentine Republic....

.

Significance


Bruni's most notable work is History of the Florentine People, which has been called the first modern history book. Bruni was the first historian to write using the three-period view of history: Antiquity, Middle Ages, and Modern. The dates Bruni used to define the periods are not exactly what modern historians use today, but he laid the conceptual groundwork for a tripartite division of history. While it probably was not Bruni's intention to secularize
Secularism
Secularism is the principle of separation between government institutions and the persons mandated to represent the State from religious institutions and religious dignitaries...

 history, the three period view of history is unquestionably secular and for that Bruni has been called the first modern historian. The foundation of Bruni's conception can be found with 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"...

, who distinguished the classical period from later cultural decline, or tenebrae (literally "darkness"). Bruni argued that Italy had revived in recent centuries and could therefore be described as entering a new age.

One of Bruni's most famous works is New Cicero, a biography of the Roman statesman Cicero. It was Bruni who used the phrase studia humanitatis, meaning the study of human endeavors, as distinct from those of theology and metaphysics, which is where the term humanists comes from.

As a humanist Bruni was essential in translating into Latin many works of Plato
Plato
Plato , was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the...

 and Aristotle
Aristotle
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology...

. Bruni's translations of Aristotle's Politics and Nicomachean Ethics, as well as the pseudo-Aristotelean Economics, were widely distributed in manuscript and in print. His use of Aelius Aristides
Aelius Aristides
Aelius Aristides was a popular Greek orator , who lived during the Roman Empire. He is considered to be a prime example of the Second Sophistic, a group of showpiece orators who flourished from the reign of Nero until ca. 230 AD. His surname was Theodorus...

' Panathenicus (Panegyric to Athens) to buttress his republican theses in the Panegyric to the City of Florence
Laudatio florentinae urbis
Laudatio florentinae urbis is a panegyric delivered by Leonardo Bruni . The panegyric is modeled after Aristides' Panathenaic Oration, particularly with references to Florence's values and external threats...

 (c. 1401) was instrumental in bringing the Greek historian to the attention of Renaissance political philosophers (see Hans Baron
Hans Baron
Hans Baron was a German American historian of political thought and literature in the Italian Renaissance. His main contribution to the historiography of the period was to introduce in 1928 the term civic humanism .- Life and career :Born in Berlin of a Jewish family, Baron...

's The Crisis of the Early Italian Renaissance for details). He also wrote a short treatise in Greek on the Florentine constitution.

Bruni died in Florence in 1444, and is buried in a wall tomb by Bernardo Rossellino
Bernardo Rossellino
Bernardo di Matteo del Borra Gamberelli , better known as Bernardo Rossellino, was an Italian sculptor and architect, the elder brother of the sculptor Antonio Rossellino...

 in the Basilica of Santa Croce, Florence.

Latin texts online