1300-1450 CE

Home Up Petrarch Boccaccio Hafiz Ibn Khaldun Bruni Manetti Valla

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Francesco Petrarca (1304-1374 CE) was born in Italy.  Being poor he became a priest; subsequently he gained the patronage of a Roman nobleman. With his first large scale work, Africa—an epic in Latin—Petrarch emerged as a European celebrity. At the same time his skill in writing sonnets in Italian became increasingly evident.  Petrarch traveled widely, served as an ambassador, and was a prolific letter writer. He collected manuscripts on his travels and was a prime mover in the recovery of knowledge from writers of Rome and Greece. He was a man with a rich love of literature and reading who could praise solitude but who could also provide others with advice and consolation. Petrarch once described himself modestly as not wise but "fertile in conjectures". 



Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-1375 CE) was born in Paris, France, to a Florentine father and a French mother.  As Florentine scholar, poet, and literary critic, Boccaccio is best known as the author of The Decameron, a collection of 100 stories which deal with humanity in all of its homely disorder, covering the plots and trials of lovers, adventures, tragedies, moral homilies, and descriptions of natural beauty. Boccaccio also wrote lyric poetry and The Genealogy of the Gods, a fifteen-volume encyclopedia of Greek and Roman mythology, which included a defense of poetry.



Hafiz (1320-1391 CE) was the pen-name of Shams-ud din Mahommed, one of the greatest of Persian lyric poets. He was born at Shiraz, where he spent most of his life. Hafiz began as a student of poetry and theology, enrolled in the Sufic order of Dervishes, and became a professor of Koranic exegesis. This may account for his pen-name, which means “one who remembers”—a term technically applied to a person who has learned the Koran by heart. However, Hafiz’s freewheeling lifestyle and love of wine—reflected in his poetry— caused him to be censured by his monastic colleagues. Hafiz's poetry also deals with the natural beauty, problems of aging and the loss of friends and loved ones. 


Ibn Khaldun

Abu Zaid ibn Mahommed ibn Mahommed ibn Khaldun (1332-1406 CE) was born in Tunis. He studied various branches of Arabic learning and held high positions in Tunis, Granada, Fez, and Cairo, where he became a judge of Muslim law in 1384 CE. Ibn Khaldun wrote A Universal History, which deals primarily with the history of the Arabs of Spain and Africa. In his introduction, he puts forward his views on the science of history and the rise and fall of nations. Ibn Khaldun felt that the study of history provided valuable guidance to one's life.



Leonardo Bruni (1369-1444 CE) was born at Arreszo and is representative of the third generation of humanist scholars in the Italian renaissance. He became secretary to the papal chancellory and later chancellor of the Republic of Florence. Bruni emerged as a eloquent spokesman for classical studies and humanism. He was skilled in Greek, translating works of Aristotle, Plato, Plutarch and Demosthenes into Latin. He promoted the importance of education, particularly in regard to an understanding of the past and being able to express oneself. Bruni’s moral philosophy took account of a variety of Greek viewpoints, laying stress on his concept of virtue.



Giannozzo Manetti (1396-1459 CE) was born in Florence. He served the Florentine Republic in various offices including an advisory council, diplomatic missions, and city governorships. As a prominent member of the Italian Renaissance, he was committed to reviving the learning of the Greek and Roman classics and to exercising the freedom of thought that these represented. In addition to Greek and Latin, Manetti learned Hebrew so that he could read the Hebrew Bible and the commentary of rabbis in the original language. He also translated Greek works, wrote a commentary on Aristotle, and produced biographies of Socrates and Seneca. His spirited rebuttal to the church’s On the Misery of Human Life captured the rising pride in humanity that characterized the Renaissance.



Lorenzo Valla (1406 to 1457 CE) was born and educated in Rome, became a priest in 1431, and later gained a professorship in eloquence at Pavia. In 1440 he wrote a discourse on the forgery of the alleged Donation of Constantine, a document that transferred Rome, Italy, and much of the Roman Empire to the Pope. This was a landmark in the rise of skepticism regarding "official" documents and in the application of critical scholarship to assess their veracity.  In his treatise On Pleasure, Valla produced the first scholarly work in Italy forcefully putting forward the views of non-Christian philosophers.