Marsilio Ficino (1433-99) directed the Platonic Academy in Florence and it was the work of this Academy that gave the Renaissance in the 15th century its impulse and direction. During his childhood Ficino was selected by Cosimo de' Medici for an education in the humanities. Later Cosimo directed him to learn Greek and then to translate all the works of Plato into Latin. This enormous task he completed in about five years. He then wrote two important books, "The Platonic Theology" and "The Christian Religion", showing how the Christian religion and Platonic philosophy were proclaiming the same message. The extraordinary influence the Platonic Academy came to exercise over the age arose from the fact that its leading spirits were already seeking fresh inspiration from the ideals of the civilizations of Greece and Rome and especially from the literary and philosophical sources of those ideals. Florence was the cultural and artistic centre of Europe at the time and leading men in so many fields were drawn to the Academy: Lorenzo de' Medici (Florence's ruler), Alberti (the architect) and Poliziano (the poet).
Moreover Ficino bound together an enormous circle of correspondents throughout Europe from the Pope in Rome to John Colet in London, from Reuchlin in Germany to de Ganay in France. Published during his lifetime, "The Letters" have not previously been translated into English. The letters in this volume cover the period from September 1477 to April 1478, months which culminated in the outcome of the Pazzi Conspiracy in which Guiliano de' Medici was assassinated in Florence Cathedral, and from which his brother Lorenzo only just escaped. Ficino, a non-political philosopher with no worldly amibions, yet found himself advising the two main factions struggling for political power in Florence. His appeal for respect for both human and divine law, and thus for a reawakening of spirituality was in marked contrast to the prevailing atmosphere of lawlessness and greed. It was symptomatic that those most involved in the Conspiracy included a pope, a cardinal, an archbishop and two priests. In his letter to the Venetian ambassador, Bernardo Bembo, Ficino commends him more than any of his correspondents for his humanity.
Indeed, it is the Latin form of this word, humanitas, which Ficino uses to mean "the love of mankind", and speaks of its enormous power. Another aspect of the word humanity is that it is human beings alone who have this power, and the penalty for man is that if he does not set out to realize his "infinite nature", his lot is far worse than that of the beasts. In his letter to Lorenzo de' Medici (the younger), Ficino urges - "approach the task with good hope, free born Lorenzo: far greater than the heavens is He who made you; and you yourself will be greater than the heavens as soon as you resolve upon this task. For the celestial bodies are not to be sought by us outside in some other place; for the heavens in their entirety are within us, in whom the light of life and the origin of heaven dwell."
Publisher: Shepheard-Walwyn (Publishers) Ltd
Number of pages: 216
Weight: 508 g
Dimensions: 230 x 150 x 20 mm