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From Jacob Burckhardt's 2nd edition of the Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy; edited for this on-line publication, by ELLOPOS
Part Three: The Revival of Antiquity
Propagators of Antiquity
» Full Contents of this Part
Part Three: The Revival of Antiquity » Introductory » The Ruins of Rome » The Classics » The Humanists » Universities and Schools » Propagators of Antiquity » Epistolography: Latin Orators » The Treatise, and History in Latin » Antiquity as the Common Source » Neo-Latin Poetry » Fall of the Humanists in the Sixteenth Century
We have here first to speak of those citizens, mostly Florentines, who made antiquarian interests one of the chief objects of their lives, and who were themselves either distinguished scholars, or else distinguished dilettanti who maintained the scholars. They were of peculiar significance during the period of transition at the beginning of the fifteenth century, since it was in them that humanism first showed itself practically as an indispensable element in daily life. It was not till after this time that the popes and princes began seriously to occupy themselves with it.
Niccolr Niccoli and Giannozzo Manetti have been already spoken of more than once. Niccoli is described to us by Vespasiano as a man who would tolerate nothing around him out of harmony with his own classical spirit. His handsome long-robed figure, his kindly speech, his house adorned with the noblest remains of antiquity, made a singular impression. He was scrupulously cleanly in everything, most of all at table, where ancient vases and crystal goblets stood before him on the whitest linen. The way in which he won over a pleasure-loving young Florentine to intellectual interests is too charming not to be here described. Piero de' Pazzi, son of a distinguished merchant, and himself destined to the same calling, fair to behold, and much given to the pleasures of the world, thought about anything rather than literature. One day, as he was passing the Palazzo del Podest`, Niccolr called the young man to him, and although they had never before exchanged a word, the youth obeyed the call of one so respected. Niccolr asked him who his father was. He answered, 'Messer Andrea de' Pazzi'. When he was further asked what his pursuit was, Piero replied, as young people are wont to do, 'I enjoy myself' ('attendo a darmi buon tempo'). Niccolr said to him, 'As son of such a father, and so fair to look upon, it is a shame that thou knowest nothing of the Latin language, which would be so great an ornament to thee. If thou learnest it not, thou wilt be good for nothing, and as soon as the flower of youth is over, wilt be a man of no consequence' (virty).
Cf. The Ancient Greece * The Ancient Rome
The Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantium) * The Making of Europe